Tag Archives: Daniel Bentley

Could we have to make any tougher a decision? What a choice awaits.

25 Apr

Monday really was a day that saw us entering the final days of the current Championship campaign. Newcastle United confirmed their return to the Premier League, although the battle with Brighton to see which of the teams who achieved automatic promotion will be crowned champions is one which will could still go down to the final round of games. And on the subject of winning titles (oh, the subtly) Brentford have officially opened voting for the 2016/17 player of the year.

We all know what’s happened at Griffin Park this season. The second half of the campaign especially has seen some of the most free flowing and exciting football to be played by Brentford in years. This, despite the sale of top scorer Scott Hogan to Aston Villa in January.

Yet following that move, the Bees have flourished. Lasse Vibe has moved to within one strike of the former Bee in the Championship leading scorer’s table, with Jota just behind. Ah, Jota. To say he has had an eventful return to Griffin Park would be like saying the Titanic had a few stability issues.

Few of us honestly thought he’d be back after heading out to Eibar on loan, myself included. And even when there was talk of a possible return, being quite honest there was no way he could match former glories. Especially with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. Was there?

He hasn’t just matched them but taken his, and our, game to a whole new level. We’ve all seen the goals, the runs and the beautiful touches that have left opposition players floundering. Richard Keogh (Derby County) and Jake Bidwell (QPR) being just the latest to have been left with egg on face .

Yet Jota seems to play for pure pleasure. Something that could also be said of fellow Spaniard Sergi Canos out on the other wing. His return to Brentford has been an equally wonderful one.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 06.07.16

Danni showed perfectly how Twitter can be used to capture the current mood.

Then there are the new boys. Rico Henry has hit the ground running at 100mph whilst John Egan’s performance have propelled him toward selection for the Republic of Ireland. Romaine Sawyers has scored some stunners whilst, at times, totally bossed the midfield. His defence splitting passes are a thing of absolute beauty whilst Saturday against QPR saw me wondering if he had no fear, no danger sense or just supreme confidence – such were the deft touches and trickery he demonstrated.

How about Dan Bentley? What can you say about him beyond a huge doffing of the hat? The prospect of losing David Button was one that genuinely worried me but he’s not even been missed, such is the huge impact Dan has made. You could probably count the mistakes on the fingers of one finger yet the world class saves have been legion. He kept us alive on more than one occasion at the start of the season as the team found our collective feet and, right up to Saturday, has continued to pull top draw saves out of the bag.

As for the (metaphorical) elder statesmen, it really is a case of unsung heroes. Ryan Woods has, at times, seemed to be filling three midfield roles in his constant quest to tackle and distribute. He really is a serious contender for this season’s honour. Yoann Barbet has proven just why he was picked out in our new look recruitment drive with wonderful tackles and a fair few goals being added to his game. Pity Dean Smith having to pick between him, John Egan and Harlee.

Ah, Harlee Dean. The player on a one man mission to become the new Mr Brentford. He has been incredible. A colossus at the back this season, up there with the likes of Terry Evans. He’s had to learn his game over the last few seasons but now it is complete, just what a player. The tackles, the voice, the leading by example, the goals, the back heels (hmm, maybe not too many of those). He’s doubled up as a last minute target man whilst those driving runs forward have been a wonderful development to his style of play.

HB Harlee and Dan

Harlee – has led by example all season. A fine role model.

What about Nico? Josh? Max Colin? Any of them. It really is a tough call this time around. Reading the Ben Burgess article in the match day programme on Saturday, he was bemoaning the fact that so much player of the year voting takes place in February. Certainly, for the national awards. Yet this despite the season still having a third of the way to go.

It really was fascinating piece and, from a personal perspective, Ben’s column has been one of the standout features in the match day programme this time around. What an honour for the club to have some truly intelligent writing on the back page !

Well Ben, when it comes to Brentford you have your wish. The only question now being who to vote for. Good luck anybody trying to pick one out of those. And for those wishing to have their say, ‘official’ have the full details and form on the club website.

As for next season, the Championship has been nothing more than a one shot deal for Newcastle United. The Rafalution has been a triumphant one (despite the awful, awful hashtag) and at least we can rest easy in not needing to pack the mountaineering gear next campaign. Massive congratulations to the Magpies and, of course, Brighton for what was a supremely exciting battle.

rafa-hashtag

Worst. Hashtag. Ever. But a great performance from Newcastle United

Despite being Bookies’ favourites, Newcastle haven’t had it all their own way with pundits being reminded, yet again, that the Championship isn’t the cake walk a big club might expect. Aston Villa, we’re looking at you. Indeed, even the title looks a long way off with a four point deficit and two games to play keeping the Magpies just about alive in that race. Whilst you’d fancy the Seagulls to scoop the title, anything can happen in football and nobody at Griffin Park needs any reminders about what can happen in the final promotion shootout. I’m pretty sure there was something about a penalty?

Instead, they look certain to be replaced by Sunderland and Middlesbrough, at the very least. The trip to Sunderland one already being anticipated by many at Griffin Park whilst Middlesbrough will be very familiar territory.

Still, all that’s for another time. We’ve got two more games and a higher finish than last season to focus on. And, of course, deciding on just who to vote for.

I now know what my decision is, but I don’t fancy yours much. What a choice.

Nick Bruzon

Brilliant Bonham helps Bees take point at Barnsley.

17 Apr

Barnsley 1 Brentford 1 . A game where we might have taken all three points yet equally, were it not for Jack Bonham making his Championship debut for the Bees, we may well have been returning to London empty handed. It’s a point which guarantees we finish above QPR and whilst Fulham may now be too far ahead to catch up with in the West London mini league, the opportunity to put a dent in their playoff campaign remains a very distinct possibility.

As ever, go to the BBC, Beesotted, Brentford official etc for your full fat match reports. High level talking points for this one were a very accomplished performance from Jack Bonham between the sticks, an injury for Lasse Vibe that saw him replaced very early by Sergi Canos, a missed penalty early in the second half from Jota (with the scores locked at one each) and a sweet finish from Flo Jo to level things up just before the interval.

IMG_7069

Captain Fantastic marshalls the troops during that injury break

It was a goal that was somewhat against the run of play in terms of chances created. As was the opener from Barnsley. Certainly, these were rare highlights in a relatively low key first period that was full of effort but no real breakthrough. It was one that gave no indication of what was to come after the players had gone in for their cuppa and the mascots had come out for their own personal battle.

This, a 45 yard dash that saw Toby Tyke beat Buzz Bee by a short head. Ironic, given the anthropomorphic dog’s oversized cranium. But size is no indication of quality and sadly, despite the dispute over who came first at Griffin Park back in October, this time there was no doubting the winner.

IMG_7078

Toby got the better of Buzz, this time

But whereas Buzz had gone down, both teams emerged reinvigorated with clear intent to end this one victorious. An early penalty awarded after handball saw Jota step up to send the ball goalwards. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Barnsley shot stopper Adam Davies doing sufficient to keep the ball out and break Brentford hearts. But from there it went crazy. Canos headed against the bar from point blank range. George Moncur almost broke the one in front of the Barnsley fans. With the home side seemingly under orders to shoot on sight, Bonham was equal to everything that came near him. One effort seeing the Brentford defence stretched thinner than a pair of cheap curtains before a certain goal was denied by the onrushing ‘keeper.

In the end, a draw was a fair result. It was sufficient to keep us above QPR (permanently) and still with that hope of running Fulham out on Saturday week. As for Barnsley, nothing but fairplay to them for what really was a cracking game of football. Both teams went for it from the off and really stepped up their game in the second period. This was no stroll in the bank holiday sunshine.

Additional kudos for our host’s work in the official match day programme. Whilst we have, quite rightly, praised Mark Chapman for his own work at Griffin Park this season one does wonder if he’d ever go to this level? Specifically, a refusal to recognise former player Sam Winnall who scored for Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday against the Tykes side he’d left in January.

Certainly, it puts a spin on A.Trialist…..

IMG_7079

Nick Bruzon

What is our current hot ticket? Who will win the big one?

13 Apr

Exciting times lie ahead for Brentford. The Easter weekend double header against Derby County and Barnsley is almost upon us. The second fixture having a potential extra layer of spice, should the club decide to accept the gauntlet laid down by Toby Tyke after Buzz Bee was robbed of mascot race victory back in October’s reverse fixture at Griffin Park. Then there’s the small matter of West London derbies at home to QPR and across at Fulham. Those games always have an additional feel of frisson outside of the regular league table although the aim of finishing as West London’s top Championship side for the third successive season is an even bigger incentive for Brentford to pull out all the stops.

IMG_6216

He celebrates too soon? Did Toby really win last time?

Things come to a conclusion when we host Blackburn Rovers in early May. Following that game is, of course, the Player Of the Year Awards. Unlike at Loftus Road, where QPR have had to cancel their own event within a week of it being announced due to a lack of interest (no,please, stop. I’m still cringing) Bees fans have had no problem in snapping up the tickets for ours.

Highlight of that event is, as ever, the vote for Player of the year. Currently held by Alan Judge, his season long absence through injury means a new incumbent awaits. Have the likes of returning demi-gods Jota and Sergi Canos done enough to steal the vote at the eleventh hour? Will it be an unsung hero such as Ryan Woods ? International debutant John Egan? Or a.n.other?

Well, for me (Clive) if we are looking for season long consistency it comes down to a bunfight between Harlee Dean and Daniel Bentley. The former, our captain, has been a colossus at the back whilst adding an exciting attacking element to his game these days. Certainly one of the first names on the team sheet, its hard to remember he’s only 25 – so long has he been with us, so commanding has he appeared this season . Gone are the mistakes of old (who doesn’t make them as they learn how to ply their trade?).  Replacing them are supreme confidence and an equal level of ability.

As for Daniel Bentley, FourFourTwo magazine named him as Brentford’s outstanding performer in their run down of the 50 top football league players published in the current edition. The magazine even going so far as to note that England manager Gareth Southgate is keeping an eye on him. He has made the leap from League One new boys to a top half of the Championship side look effortless. Indeed, it was his own performances which saved us numerous points in the early part of the season as he took to the Griffin Park gives like the proverbial duck to water. No surprise that QPR made three bids for him following Southend United’s play off victory in 2015; no surprise their chairman turned them down.

Good luck picking a winner out of those. Good luck to your host for the evening, Natalie Sawyer, in measuring up to Buzzette in the style stakes.

Buzzette makes her entrance to the 2016 POTY awards

But if you can’t be there for that one then how about an alternative? Sunday 30th April sees Billy Grant and the Beesotted team hosting the final of this year’s ’socials’. Taking place at the Drayton Court hotel in Ealing from 6pm until 2am (I feel exhausted just thinking about staying out that late) guests of honour will be Brentford legends Francis Joseph, Gary Roberts, Billy Manuel & Graham Benstead.

There’s a dozen other ex-bees in the house along with a comedian, DJ and magician helping provide the entertainment along with the players doing their ‘in conversation’ segment . Add to that a hot buffet, a level of  complimentary beer and your fellow Bees’ fans then it is sure to be a cracking night out.

Full details of the event, including tickets, are available on the Beesotted website.

https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-29939923-194273231404-1-original

And talking of tickets (waiter, I’ll have the industrial crowbar please) don’t forget there’s only 11 and a bit days left until the ‘seat hold’ deadline expires for those wanting to retain their current place at Griffin Park. With dispensation given to retain the terraces for another season, there’s room for everybody to stay where they were should you wish to purchase a club season ticket. In addition, earlybird prices staying on hold until 31 May means you can get a season’s worth of Championship football for was little as £369. As for the kids. £90, including a home shirt, represents even better value.

Full details are on official, where there is also a link direct to the season ticket page.

I’ve seen some talk saying that the seat hold deadline still feels too soon, given the season is still running. Perhaps. But it’s a tricky line to walk given that the campaign will be over just two weeks after that. I can see the position out marketing team are in. Revenue is what helps keep us afloat, let’s not pretend otherwise, and this way looks to maximise take up whilst football remains fresh in everybody’s mind.

Besides, if you need a yardstick then look at Fulham. No, please. Their seat hold deadline has already expired, two weeks ahead of ours. As have their ‘early bird’ prices. Both of those slipping away on 10th April. I sympathise from one respect. It’ll be a tough job filling that neutral stand.

In my eyes, I think we’ve got the balance right. You won’t please everybody but, at the same time, barring disasters we’ll all be coming back again next season. One way or another.

Come for the football; stay for the social. Griffin Park is a way of life. It is as much about seeing your friends and familiar faces as it is in cheering on the lads. If this is our final season with the ground in the current form (would we get a fifth season of terrace? Will Lionel Road be ready this quickly?) , then I’ve certainly got every intention of being there.

Even if it isn’t, I’ll be back. There’s been too much blood, sweat and tears (mainly tears) invested into this club since 1979 to walk away from our firmest ever footing and most exciting time in most supporters’ living memory.

Win or lose. It is a part of us. I love it. We love it. Bring on 2017/18. Although, first, there’s the small matter of Derby, Fulham, QPR and possibly Toby to get past. Roll on Friday.

Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 05.14.15

Well said

Nick Bruzon

Can Lasse grab another pizza the action at Cardiff ? Brighton do Bees a favour.

8 Apr

Brentford travel to Cardiff City today. Brighton retook the lead in the Championship from Newcastle after despatching the Loftus Road mob last night (and do us a potential favour at the same time). And FourFourTwo magazine have published their list of the match day experiences at all 92 league grounds, ranked in order from worst to best . Coventry City, look away now.

First up Brentford. And we’ll keep this brief – I’ve got a train to catch. The trip to Cardiff represents an excellent chance to continue our rise up the table following three straight victories. The latest, our 2-0 win over Leeds United on Tuesday night, being one of the most complete Brentford performances seen in recent times. It really was that good. Romaine Sawyers, Harlee Dean, Sergi Canos and Lasse were amongst those taking the headlines but, in truth, we were wonderful to a man.

IMG_6728

Jota watches the action unfold against Leeds on Tuesday

The flip side to all of this was injuries to Nico and Ryan, which makes both of them unlikely to start today. Alan McCormack and KK being the obvious replacements and, if supplemented by Jota along with the aforementioned Sergi and Romaine that will still make a formidable five.

Expect an unchanged defence from Tuesday (Clarke, Barbet, Dean and Rico) with Dan Bentley between the sticks and Lasse leading the line. That is, on the assumption he hasn’t got his fingers burned in a little Italian restaurant. At Brentford Lock. I think it fair to say he’s more than earned that midweek pizza.

With Brighton condemning QPR to another notch in the ‘L’ column last night, Brentford remain 6 points above our West London rivals with today’s game to come. Victory could see us rise as high as ninth although, of course, it won’t be easy.

Dean Smith’s press conference on Thursday included the very telling observation that, “ “Neil Warnock teams are very difficult to beat. He has them well organised and they will be up for every game.”

There’s no doubting Mrs Doubtfire has the Bluebirds flying once more since their early season flirtation with the lower end of the table. It won’t be easy but the chance to draw further ahead of QPR and close in on both Fulham and last season’s 9th place finish is a huge lure. Can we do it? See you at the Cardiff City stadium this afternoon when we find out.

And for those of you travelling, it you’d like some reading material for the journey (no, not the book i although if you would like to read more about the last three seasons…….)   then could I suggest the online version of FourFourTwo magazine. Specifically, the aforementioned stadium guide they published this week.

Whilst, admittedly, being somewhat out of date it does hit the mark in most places. Certainly, I’d baulk at our performance relative to some of the soulless enormobowls we’ve had the pleasure of visiting this last few seasons. After all, this is a survey of match day experience rather than stadium quality.

Then again, if ever the Lionel Road team need some inspiration then here is a chance to see what the magazine deem the best and worst in English football.

Enjoy

Nick Bruzon

Realm of the defence. Let’s not overlook magnificent Harlee and co.

5 Apr

The morning after the night before. No, it wasn’t a dream. Brentford really did beat Leeds United 2-0 and, whilst producing another performance of two halves, this time it was different. Wonderfully different.

Ordinarily the Last Word gets written having slept on things. Last night saw immediate thoughts penned upon the return home and prior to bed, such was the excitement at the way Brentford had outplayed the opposition. Whilst I stand by that post-match column, indeed if anything our attacking prowess in the first half was probably understated, we do also need to look more at the other end of the pitch.

Scoring goals is what ultimately wins football matches. That we only (and that word is used in the loosest sense) managed it twice is as much down to the performance of Rob Green between the sticks for Leeds. The likes of Sergi, Lasse and Romaine were magnificent as they pulled the strings and took the game to the visitors. From the off. It was as pleasing a first half of football as one could hope to see and the only disappointment, if we can be overly critical, was Brentford being contained to a ‘mere’ two goal lead.

Yet equally, we need to note the way Brentford played in the second half. As mentioned, it was a performance of two halves but that is meant in a positive way. If the first was non-stop attack, having taken that lead the second was as much about nullifying the opposition, trying to pick them off on the break and maintaining our advantage.

And for this, we need to pay due credit to our defence. All of them. The post match article noted the magnificence of Harlee Dean and the prowess of Dan Bentley when called upon. However, such was the excitement surrounding the win, the goals and the first half its almost as if these were taken for granted.

The pair of them have already been cited on these pages as being contenders for player of the season. Last night was further evidence as to why. Praise for Harlee on social media was unanimous whilst the Beesplayer team, including a return to Griffin Park for Sam Saunders, named him as their man of the match. Personally, I stand by my vote for Romaine in this one but it was a very tight call.

On that note, it was interesting to read Harlee’s own comments on his team mate, which you can find in full on Brentford ‘official’. Amongst other praise heaped at the midfielder’s feet he noted that, “He’s one of the most intelligent players I’ve played football with…I know his demeanour may look a little bit laid back, but he’s never out of position, never lazy. People have the wrong perception of him and he’s slowly changing it. He’s one of the best players in the team.”

C8mnwiFWsAUaiER

Harlee says and does his thing on ‘official’

As for Dan Bentley, do we just accept his brilliance as the norm these days? He rarely, if ever, puts a foot wrong and last night was yet another example. It already feels as if he’s been here for ever whilst I recall at least three solid, solid saves that helped ensure there were no heart in mouth moments as we reached the closing stages.

Remember the worry many of us felt when it appeared clear over the summer that David Button was on his way? Nobody could deny how his own game had progressed at Griffin Park yet to see his own performance last night as Fulham went down 4-2 at Derby was a perfect demonstration of the gap between who we had and who we have. Whilst, ordinarily, I wouldn’t direct anybody towards Fulham, in this instance their own highlights reel is worth a watch.

Josh Clarke made the absence of Maxime Colin look like an irrelevance. Don’t under estimate the Frenchman’s talent or the just how ably Josh filled in for him. Rico Henry again showed how the stats computer identified him as a transfer target ( I do wonder if ‘former Dean Smith player’ is one of the variables currently programmed into it) whilst Yoann Barbet gave a further demonstration of the centre back talent at Dean’s disposal. With two full internationals in Andreas Bjelland (Denmark) and John Egan (Republic of Ireland) waiting to recover from injury to try and reclaim their places, I don’t envy anyone having to keep those four happy.

It’s no wonder Dean persisted with the ultimately doomed three centre back experiment for so long and the summer transfer window could be an interesting one. Given our propensity to sell when the price is right, are two out of four really going to be happy spending so much time on the bench? Hey, its a lovely problem to have.

In all of this, we’ve not mentioned Nico or Ryan, both of whom limped off early with injury. Here’s hoping this was nothing more than precautionary with a third game in eight days upon us at the weekend. Whilst the eyes are naturally drawn to the excitement of a Sergi or Jota , lets not forget what a solid yet often understated job this pair do in the middle of the park.

So often this season Ryan Woods has had to cover the space of two or three men as the midfield struggled to fully flow whilst who could forget the stick Nico came in for from many of our keyboard warriors at the start of his Griffin Park career? That seems a long, long time ago now and is testament to his self-belief, perseverance and talent.

So yes, it was an incredible first half. It was one of those that will go down in memory. Yet, as importantly, perhaps the relaxed looking, comfortable and totally in control second period is the one we should really be purring about now that the dust has settled on that result.

I have no doubt it was anything but relaxed for the players , who gave their all. But at no point did it feel as though Leeds were in with a chance of taking anything out of this.

Whichever part of this performance you celebrate. Whichever player was your vote for man of the match. Whichever way you look at it. This was as complete a team performance over ninety minutes as one could hope for.

Very well played, team. Spot on from Dean.

Smith, that is.

On a day that started with the B-team scoring 7(seven) goals, it ended with the first team in seventh heaven.

Roll on the weekend.

Nick Bruzon

Romaine and Sergi lead a full frontal assault as Bees do it to Leeds, again.

4 Apr

Another game, another 2-0 win for Brentford. This time Leeds United taking the place of Saturday’s Bristol City. It was a game that started in similar style to the visit from the Robins although one which, if anything, put one more in mind of the home encounter with fellow high flying visitors Brighton. As with the Seagulls, Brentford took a two goal first half lead but, this time, there was to be no reprieve for the promotion chasing side.

Poor Leeds United. Their form against Brentford hasn’t been great in recent years. The eight League games since the 2009/10 League One campaign have seen things go very much in our favour.

This one was no different and now sees us well ahead of our illustrious rivals with a record that reads : P8 W3 D4 L1 in favour of the Bees. Indeed, looking purely at the Championship, this was a third win from our six games. Not bad for a team considered ‘tin pot’ when paths first crossed. Even Marinus Dijkhuizen took a point from Elland Road last season (not a typo).

But Tuesday night felt additionally special. The table doesn’t lie and Leeds, spearheaded by the goalscoring prowess of Chris Wood, have been one of the Championship’s form sides as they’ve locked down that play-off place. So to see Brentford take them apart so clinically in that first half was a thing of beauty to watch unfold.

Sergio Canos was devastating down the left flank whilst Romaine Sawyers magnificent as Brentford came flying out of the traps in a full frontal assault on the Leeds back line. Despite the heroics of Rob Green, Brentford scored two deserved goals in the first half with Canos having a hand in both. The first seeing his shot parried out to Romaine Sawyers who had no right to shoot, let alone score, from that wide out across the face of goal. Sometimes, its all about the precision.

The second came from another Canos shot. This time falling kindly for Lasse Vibe who made no mistake after having seen an earlier chance drift agonisingly wide.

IMG_6723

View for the Braemar: We’ve got that Vibe (I know, I know)

Yet at 2-0 up and having dominated, the big question was whether Dean’s team would cruise home, go for broke or give us one of those half and half performances we’ve seen from time to time. Then, of course, was the Garry Monk factor. Surely he’d have launched a half time rocket up the backsides of his own team? Brentford fans strapped themselves in and waited. But nothing happened.

Rather than launch a Blitzkrieg assault Leeds remained contained. There was to be no Brighton style comeback. Instead, it all felt a bit Bristol City. Sure, United probably dominated possession a bit more in the second period but, realistically, never threatened. Harlee was magnificent, as was Dan Bentley when called upon, whilst Sawyers produced one of those wonderful defence splitting passes that only he can to free Lasse. A third might have spoiled us but nobody would have complained had the Great Dane found the back of the net once more.

Instead, we had to be content with a cameo from Macca which included a booking within 7(seven) minutes, another clean sheet and another 3 points.

IMG_6728

Jota and a floodlit Griffin Park – wonderful from any angle

That’s three wins in a row now for Dean Smith’s team as we climb 6 points clear of QPR and within 8 of Fulham. With games against both still to come, the title of Championship kings of West London still remains very much up for grabs.

Likewise, Dean Smith’s team are now just a win away from the 9th place we ended last season in and, whilst a run to the play offs is probably a dream too far (we’re ten points behind with 6 games left) emulating that previous finish has to be the very least of our aspirations. Certainly on this sort of form.

To overly single out anybody from what was a hugely impressive team performance would be unfair. Yet, by the same virtue, due credit to Romaine Sawyers. He’s had his critics over the season and, at times, can be the most incredibly frustrating player to watch. Equally though, when he does what he can do then there’s nobody you’d rather have in the side. Don’t forget also that this is a huge step up from League One.

Our players are only going to improve the more gameplay they get at this level. See also Rico Henry who,despite his slender build, has taken to this team like a duck to water. Oh to see what he can do when he hits the ground running at the start of next season.

That’s then, this is now. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Next up is Cardiff City away on Saturday. Despite their own mid-season flirtation with the bottom sides, the Bluebirds now find themselves just two places and four points behind the Bees. Whilst a repeat of the miracle at Burton on our last road trip is probably too much to hope for, carry on playing like we have done and Fulham might be looking nervously over their shoulders.

For now though, let’s just savour the moment. Take a look at Sky where the goals are already up . Then, when the morning comes around, really enjoy the full fat Burridge version on YouTube.

Well played Brentford. You were wonderful tonight.

IMG_6694

Buzzette was up for it from the off.

Nick Bruzon

Belated birthday greetings to a legend as April offers goals, derbies and more.

1 Apr

And relax. The weekend is here. Peter Gilham is here. Bristol City will be here at 3pm this afternoon as Brentford look to pick up where we left off before international break. April, weak jokes and, on a totally unrelated note, Fulham and QPR are all here. Of course we have a pair of West London derbies to come with the Loftus Road mob visiting the club they failed to take over 50 years ago before we head up the road to Craven Cottage. That, of course, a game with the wonderful potential to try and put a huge dent in the host’s own play off hopes. If they haven’t already shot themselves in the foot, of course.

But with due respect to Bristol City, Fulham et al we can only start with Peter Gilham. Yesterday saw the incredible occasion of his 70th birthday. 70? ! Peter Gilham is 70. I’m sorry but I just can’t believe it. What fountain of youth is he drinking from? Were it not for the fact that I’m now in my own fifth decade of supporting the Bees (first game in 1979), I wouldn’t believe it. But , of course, Peter has been around since long before that.

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 07.04.44

Peter Gilham – as seen in 1989’s ‘100 years of Brentford’ book

He is the living embodiment of the club. He’s still as enthusiastic as ever whilst performing his match day ‘man-with-the-mic’ duties although, as the years have progressed Peter has added a lot more dead pan humour to his delivery. Woe betide any off-target centre circle challenge participants, snapchat users (whatever that is) or tardy substitutes.

We all know him. We all love him. Peter has done just about every job at the club, barring caretaker manager. And whilst Dean Smith is carving out his own place in Brentford history at present, it wouldn’t be a shock to anybody outside of TW8 if, one day in the future, even that happened.

I can still hear the introduction to our own pre-internet telephone information line as Peter would announce in his ever dulcet tones, “Hello. And welcome to Brentford club call”. Then proceed to spin it out as the call box down the road ate through my coins with all the voracious appetite that a premium rate phone line would. Or am I getting mixed up with ‘chatback’?

These days, Peter’s calling card is “A little Italian restaurant. At Brentford lock’”. The more goals Brentford score, the more enthused he becomes as what should be the most cringeworthy and toe curling of sponsorship announcements is already becoming part of club folklore. Forget the pizzas, its all down to the delivery. And when it comes to delivery, Peter is first class.

Belated birthday greetings Peter. Here’s to many more. I can’t wait to hear you on the Lionel Road P.A. system….

Peter Gilham with Buzz and Buzzette

Peter, Buzz and Buzzette. The epitome of cool

As for today, its non-stop. Prior to the visit from Bristol City, we’ve got the Bees Fan Zone in Watermans Park. Just a short walk from the ground, this is always a fantastic event for our younger fans and I’d urge you all to get along. Brentford never fail to pull out the stops as a family club and this is yet another example of how well we treat our younger fans. Full details are on Brentford ‘official’.

And then we have Bristol City. Win, lose or draw about the one thing I’d bet the mortgage on(purely for research purposes) is that this one has goals in it. Brentford have been on fire since the end of January and the five goal comeback against Burton has fast overtaken the 4-1 win at Fulham (you know, when Stuart Dallas did that thing….) as many supporters’ favourite away game in recent times.

Team selection remains a tricky one today. If only for picking out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to genuine news v April Fool’s jokes. Jota out for 9 months? Sure…. Peter Gilham 70….?

I don’t envy Dean this one. Despite the wonderful news about Alan Judge signing a new contract he’s not match fit. With Jota, Lasse and Sergi chomping at the bit for another taste of the net, everybody else will have to fit around them. Good luck with those first goal scorer bets. Yet, by all accounts, the Bees were as horrific in the first half at Burton as we were simply incredible in the second. Do onconming subs Alan Mac and Nico retain the berths occupied by Romaine Sawyers and KK at the start of that one? Does Rico Henry walk back into the team ahead of Tom Field? How is John Egan’s head injury after his midweek exertions for Ireland?

Whomever Dean starts, let’s hope it ends with Peter Gilham having a very sore throat and more plugs for that little Italian restaurant. By Brentford lock.

As for the rest of the month. I saw a graphic yesterday advertising all the footballing treats awaiting the armchair viewer in April. All well and good, but nothing beats the thrill of a West London derby.  The prospect of hosting QPR followed by a trip to Fulham just a week later is a tantalising one.

April fixtures

Championship life has been nothing but exciting and those two games represent yet another wonderful example of why it continues to enthral us.  I’d rather be at those games than sat at home watching Arsenal, Manchester United, Barcelona and those other apparent big names.

Brentford may not have Ibrahimovic, De Gea, Neymar, Messi and whomever Arsenal’s marquee players are. And? We’ve got Jota, Harlee, Sergi, Ryan.

Plus, of course, Peter Gilham. Here’s to 3pm when it starts all over again.

3180-bfc-junior-club-day-2016-bristol-city-part-2-news-article-640x480-pixels277-3037166_613x460

Don’t forget the Fan zone prior to kick off

Nick Bruzon

From the best to the worst in football’s role of honour. Plus a new favourite site.

21 Mar

Whilst there were some Brentford fans upset about the recent sale of Scott Hogan to Aston Villa, one would hope that those concerns have now been dispelled. Ably abetted by the two amigos on the flanks, a rejigged formation and a great Dane up top, The Bees have money in the bank and 25 goals in the 11 games since the Scott moved to Villa Park. Things could have been a lot, lot worse as we’ll look at momentarily. At the other end of the field, there was great news for John Egan who was called up to the Republic of Ireland squad for Friday’s World Cup qualifier with Wales.

Nobody could doubt John’s performances this season. At one point he was neck and neck with Scott to be our leading scorer whilst, more importantly, has forged a wonderful partnership with Harlee Dean at the back.

Brentford ‘official’ share the great news on social media

I don’t envy head coach Dean Smith having to crowbar the pair of them, Yoann Barbet and fellow international Andreas Bjelland into his team. Perhaps the quality at his disposal goes someway to explaining our mid-season persistence with three centre backs. It was a valid attempt but one which persisted for far too long as it became clear it wasn’t working.

Yet, and with the greatest respect to Yoann and Andreas, John and Harlee are – at least in my opinion – our absolute nailed on first choice centre backs. Harlee has been magnificent this campaign and, along with Dan Bentley and John Egan, remains in my top three for player of the season. Although had Jota returned a month or two earlier then that competition would be an even stiffer one.

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-08-22-59

Jota – c/o Sky. Imagine if he’d come back earlier…..

So news of John’s call up yesterday was one that is thoroughly deserved but has only been a matter of time. John, if you are reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) congratulations. As for Harlee and Dan, give it another season or two playing like this and their matching him on the International scene, for England, is well within the bounds of credibility.

Next up Twitter. A popular subject on these pages for many reasons. Ease of use, interaction with the actual players, Kitman Bob and his BBB giveaways, banter with fellow fans and the most immediate means of learning news updates are amongst the many reason for the site’s popularity here.

For Brentford supporters, there’s a recent addition to our family of familiar faces (© the Middlesex Chronicle big book of ’80s alliteration) out there in cyber space. Brentford Bot.

In their own words, “Judging Positive and Negative mentions of Brentford“.And that’s about all there is to it. But very, very well executed, often deadpan but sometimes laugh out loud funny and showing a tireless dedication to keeping the Bees family updated. I’ve no idea who the power behind the Bot is, but it’s well worth a follow. You can find @BrentfordBOT here.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 07.00.41

Brentford Bot does his/her/its (?) thing

Ok – striker sales. We talked at the top end about the departure of Scott Hogan to Aston Villa. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth need no reminding of what has happened in the past – Nicky Forster, Carl Asaba, Gary Blissett, Robert Taylor, Dean Holdsworth, DJ Campbell and even Andy Scott are amongst those who have been sold in their free scoring prime. Goals aside, the other thing connecting these players was their lack of a like-for-like replacement.

To be fair, how do you replace the likes of Deano, Bliss or the FT index? Even for the player, following a fan favourite and goalscoring legend must be thankless task. Yet when this goes wrong it can be truly horrific.

FourFourTwo magazine have just started to publish their list of every league club’s worst ever player. The initial instalment, in a series which is now running daily, runs from Accrington Stanley up to Bury, taking in the likes of Aston Villa, Bournemouth and of course Brentford along the way.

On the Bees front, it feels somewhat awkward badmouthing one of our own yet for whatever the reason we’ve had some players over the years who really haven’t shone. Past their prime, over weight, over rated or just really, really bad. It happens. It happens to every club. So when FourFourTwo approached yours truly for the name of the Griffin Park protagonist, it was one that eventually came about as a result of a public vote. Too much power should not lie with just one man.

It was a top five that included, in no particular order : Nick Proschwitz, Paul Davis, Murray jones, Neil Shipperley and Steve Claridge. Yet in the end the ‘winner’ was a clear one.

And you can find out who, here…

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 06.30.54

Nick Bruzon

Solitary diamond atop a dungheap of a performance sees Bees devoured by hungry Wolves.

15 Mar

Brentford 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2. Let’s start immediately by saying well played to Wolves and that the points went to the right team. Much as it pains me to say this the visitors fully warranted the points on a night when only one side showed the desire, or the ability, to win a game of football.

We don’t deserve to ‘be any good’ by divine right. We don’t deserve to win every game of football, much as the fans would like it. Yet, by the same virtue, the supporters do deserve to see their team put a bit of a shift in.  Don’t let the Sky video highlights, or the stats, fool you. Wolves ended the game with an apparent 57% possession yet watching on from the sidelines I’d have said nearer 75%. It felt as though we were that much under the cosh, the second half especially.

Dean Smith would note afterwards in his BBC interview that, “That was certainly the worst performance at Griffin Park in my time here. I don’t even think we had a first gear and Wolves were better from start to finish….Normally we out-football sides but we couldn’t pass water.

Ha! Ha! Dean. Very funny. Everybody loves a comedian and, whilst honest, what was the reason your team were so flat? Why couldn’t we break down physical opponents who clearly wanted it? Why did we just sit back to try and ‘absorb’? There was plenty of finger pointing in his interview on ‘official’ Brentford and acceptance of poor performance but what was the reasoning behind us being so far off the pace? Why weren’t our basics good enough? Why were we so outmuscled?

It has been interesting to read Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola talking about his philosophy on the BBC today, ahead of the Champion’s League tie with Monaco. His own take on their situation is a simple one.“The best way [to defend] is score goals,” adding that “when one team scores many goals and you think about just defending, you kill yourself. The idea is to try and attack”.

The Brentford performance was an even odder one because we’ve all seen how good this team can be in recent weeks. I’m not going to slag off individuals. Players have off days but the rest of the group can soak it up. Yet when they all fail to spark, and the manager is unable to motivate them or change it, you get what happened here. It was quite apparent within the first twenty minutes that there was only one side in this. The biggest miracle of the night not being that that we went into half time one up but that we then held the lead right up until the 86th minute.

Maxime Colin’s goal was a thing of beauty. A flowing move (yes, we did have one) culminated in a delightful pass from KK before the full back broke free and shot across the goal into the far corner. Sadly, it was solitary diamond sitting atop an otherwise dung heap of a performance.

Despite Dan Bentley stopping everything that came at him, aided by some last gasp challenges and Nouha Dicko hitting the bar when it would have been easier to score, eventually the pressure told with barely minutes remaining.

Both Wolves goals came from balls down the right flank, crossed  into the box before being tucked home. The second, in particular, was shocking, Having already been reduced to a point by Matt Doherty’s 86th minute equaliser, Brentford then offered Helder Costa the freedom of the Griffin Park penalty box as he was left unmarked to volley into the ground and past Dan Bentley with just seconds of regulation time left.

With it went the chance of the most undeserved of points making their way into Dean’s back pocket.  Game over, man. Game over.

Even George Saville looked vaguely competent. The former Bee actually managed to tackle Jota at one point. Which probably tells you as much as you need to know. This, despite coming in for dog’s abuse on the Braemar Road side about an incident that had allegedly happened around the back of a hotel carpark, in Brentford lock.

IMG_6389

We may have lost, but I’d take Jota over Saville any day of the week

Only Keith Stroud’s assistant, who struggled on manfully despite being an accident waiting to happen with his clearly undone bootlaces, received more flak than Saville, Costa or any other of the players out there. Certainly it was more entertaining waiting for the inevitable ‘stack’ that failed to materialise, despite his steadfast refusal to do anything beyond eventually tucking the loose laces into his boot like a lazy schoolboy, than watching the game.

And talking of Keith Stroud, what of our favourite ref?  The diminutive man in the middle was somewhat restrained by his own reputational standards and had a generally good game. There were a few calls we all felt went the wrong way but that’s football. At one point, he even changed his mind in our favour following advice from the aforementioned assistant. I repeat. He changed his mind in our favour.

Instead, his convoluted prematch warmup routine of stretches, thrusts and synchronised dancing with his assistants was the highlight. Keith even went so far as to delay the prematch photos as he underwent one, final, shuttle run.

IMG_2350 (1)

Big bet ; diminutive ref. But a good performance from Keith Stroud

When the most exciting part of the evening was Buzzette dancing (in the most playful of fashion) with our Ealing Road wag, you know it’s one to file in the locker marked ‘painful’ and, instead, hope for some form of retribution up at Burton on Saturday.

Even the post match tweets from the players had a somewhat similar feel. Did Harlee and Sergi compare notes before tweeting? Are they handed these by the media team? Or is it just the ultimate summary of what happened – very disappointing tonight; can only apologise and say thank you.

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 05.14.32

Did the players compare notes?

Hey, at least we weren’t offered the chance to go again.

There’s nothing else to say on this one. This was less the proverbial bad day at the office and more one of being put on immediate gardening leave from desk based activity, pending a full enquiry. Instead, we can only put it behind us and await Burton. There’s no way it will be even half this bad.

Roll on Saturday. I certainly wouldn’t want be in Nigel Clough’s position when Storm Brentford approaches.

Nick Bruzon

Fine margins see Huddersfield staying alive as Brentford goal glut runs dry.

12 Mar

All good things come to an end and that was certainly the case on Saturday as Brentford saw their hot streak in front of goal stop with a juddering halt. Huddersfield Town shutting us out (and not just in front of goal, if we’re being honest) as they recorded a 1-0 win at Griffin Park. With Fulham, of all teams, doing them a stonking favour with a 3-1 win up at Newcastle United, there’s everything to play for in the top slots .Good luck to anyone trying to call the two automatic promotion places that the Terriers, Magpies and Seagulls are currently fighting over.

Still, promotion is nothing but a pipe dream for Brentford at present – albeit we have a wonderful chance to still impact the play off race later in the season when we travel to Fulham. Assuming they haven’t choked it by that point.

Instead, our aspirations are more about building for next season and, with safety all but mathematically assured, we’ve been doing this in fine style recently. Brentford entered this game off the back off a goal glut which had seen us rise to the top half of the Championship table. Then Huddersfield paid a visit.

Despite a lurid kit – think QPR with added highlighter pen – and the pressure of David Wagner having been named ‘manager of the month’ the visitors accomplished their sole aim. Win the game to keep the pressure on Newcastle and Brighton.

IMG_6343

View from the Braemar – three points and a lurid kit for Huddersfield Town

Whether it was exhaustion, a terrible display from referee Oliver Langford (who seemed to be set to ‘random’ mode), superior opposition or just a combination of all the above, we were second best on the afternoon. Despite a bright start to both periods, Huddersfield were soon able to control the game and snuff out our attacking threat. Indeed, it was the visitors who had the better chances even if the only way they did find the back of the net was via a combination of a Harlee Dean deflection and Dan Bentley.

It was a shame because the pair of them have been unsung heroes this season. The goals of Scott Hogan and the return of our talismanic Spaniards have dominated the headlines and perception of our team. Yet both Dan and Harlee have more than played their parts and are serious contenders for player of the season, when we look back over the entire campaign.

Things could have been different. Perhaps. Brentford had a bright start to both periods, Jota unleashing a drive from outside the box after three minutes that Danny Ward in the Huddersfield goal had to go full stretch to parry away.

Moments into the second half (the Bees having survived a huge scare almost from kick off) Lasse Vibe was presented a gilt edged chance.

Rico Henry releasing Flo Jo, whose slide rule pass across the box found the great Dane unmarked and Ward flatfooted. Yet instead of stroking it home, he somehow managed to sky it over the bar from eight yards out. In truth, the ball was travelling at him, at speed, yet even allowing for that movement one would still have hoped to see the net ripple. And that, a deflected effort that looped onto the top of the crossbar aside, was as good as it got.

After the game, Dean Smith would talk about fine margins being the difference. In the interview which you can find on Brentford ‘official’, he noted how:  “If the goal is given, if Lasse takes his chance, if the free-kick is given at the end of the game then it is different. Unfortunately we are not getting loads of those calls at the moment.

Was this a thinly veiled dig at referee Oliver Langford? A man who incensed captain Harlee Dean and the entire Griffin Park crowd with a series of odd decisions. Certainly, we’ve been getting the goals (and even penalty calls) in recent weeks. Yet even watching from the sidelines, Dean was more animated than I think I’ve ever seen him before as decision after decision went the way of the opposition. He was less Dijkhuizen and more Saturday Night Fever, such was the way he waved his arms around every time a crunching foul was overlooked.

Dean Smith travolta

Dean channeling his inner Travolta, with Huddersfield staying alive in the promotion race

I’ll be keen to see the official highlights later on today. The 90 seconds served up by Sky (in as much all you need to know about the game) glossed over any refereeing faux-pas. Instead, they are just a chance to remind ourselves about what might have been.

That said, I did find Dean’s assertion that, “I thought that we more than matched them today” a bit of an odd one. Statistically speaking alone, the visitors had more possession, more shots and more goals whilst just looking at the game as a supporter I can acknowledge when we’ve been nullified. Huddersfield weren’t streets ahead but they were the better team on the day, no question. They are where they are for a reason.

Instead, we’ll just have to regroup for Tuesday night’s game against Wolves. Expect personnel changes for no other reason than the amount of games we’ve played in such a short space of time. Again, something Dean alluded to in that interview. Could the likes of KK, Tom Field, Sergi Canos and Josh Clarke find themselves back in the starting XI?

Whoever he picks will have the somewhat dubious privilege of Keith Stroud being the man to wave the cards in that theatrical style of his. Here’s hoping Keith is the restrained man in the middle that we have seen on occassion rather than the Keith of Bramall Lane infamy.

This season his record is 161 yellows and 11 reds in his 35 games. That’s an average of 4.6 bookings per game. By comparison, Mr Langford has 113 yellows and 5 reds over the same period. I’m not sure which is better really, going on yesterday.

Instead, let’s just hope it’s our football that everyone is taking about once more come Tuesday night.

keith-stroud-referee-blackburn-v-burnley-24th-october-2015

Keith Stroud – your eyes aren’t wrong. There is NO card in hand

Nick Bruzon