Tag Archives: Daniel Bentley

Sheer Bliss for Neal and Thomas. Who or what comes next?

6 Jan

Brentford 1 Oxford United 0. The Bees are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. It’s another clean sheet. It’s five games unbeaten. It could have been by more but in the end Neal Maupay’s penalty kick proved to be the crucial difference between the two sides. It never felt in doubt yet, but the same virtue, could have gone either way with the visitors pushing late on. Who cares though? I don’t. The most important thing is the Bees are ball number 4 of those to be decanted from the velvet bag into the tombola for Monday night’s draw. We’ve successfully navigated the potato skin already trodden on by the likes of Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and even divisional rivals Norwich City on Saturday. We can now start making another tin foil trophy and blocking out the diary for the last weekend in January. Start dreaming of a visit from the likes of Manchester City or Accrington Stanley. Start dreaming of another cup run.

img_0562

Buzz Bee was up for the cup before kick off

Brentford looked positive and were dominant without creating bucketloads of chances. Oxford United did sufficient to close us out and would slowly find a way into a game played out against a strong starting XI. Moreso, one which was bolstered from the bench by the arrival of Neal Maupay. Indeed it was our top scorer who would eventually prove pivotal. His mazy run through the midfield and into the box was brought to a crunching halt by the intervention of former Bee John Mousinho. Maupay made no mistake from the spot and with ten minutes left on the clock that was it, surely?

Indeed it was. Nothing further transpired and despite a late flourish from the visitors it always seemed as though we would progress. Brentford did what they needed to. End of. The game wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination but when the balls drop for Monday’s draw (live on the BBC from Molineux – hopefully not another dreadful crossover with TV’s The One Show) nobody will care how we got there. Nobody is going to begrudge us a visit from Manchester City or a trip to Accrington Stanley because we failed to feast at the Oxford United all you can score buffet. It’s massively disrespectful to both our opponents and to the team which Thomas put out. They did what they had to. They kept it tight at the back. They scored the winning goal.  

img_0615

Yesss!! 1-0 as we celebrate Neal Maupay’s penalty

What else can we take from this one? Neal Maupay is now cup tied. As are the likes of Ollie Watkins and Rico Henry. Good news all round on that front. Was there as much to be read into those who were left out of the 18 man squad altogether? There was no room for Henrik Dalsgaard, Nico Yennaris, Romaine Sawyers, Daniel Bentley or Chris Mepham. Was this injury, simple squad rotation or anything deeper, given the obvious lure these players offer to the top flight. Dean Smith, of course, is also rumoured to be sniffing around now that the transfer window is wide open. Given his own Aston Villa were tipped out by Swansea City availability for the cup (or not) won’t be on any list of his concerns.

Brentford and transfer stories go hand in hand at this time of the year. That will never change. With Ryan Woods having had his loan at Stoke City confirmed to a fully fledged sale earlier this week (who on earth saw that one coming?), have we perhaps already concluded our business? We live in hope although I can’t imagine we’ll have seen the last of such activity this time around. Even if it is simply rebuffing further approaches from Eddie Howe for Chris Mepham or politely telling Dean Smith that his money’s not welcome at Griffin Park. One can dream.

But that’s what it’s about at the moment. Dreams. Some are dreaming of keeping the squad intact. Others of a dream FA Cup draw again the likes of a Liverpool or Manchester City. Personally, I’ll be happy with a home tie and a chance of progression. There’s nothing to stir the blood and fire the imagination like an FA Cup run. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to really embark on one of these. The days of Martin Allen and a fifth round replay at home to Southampton, the winners knowing they would host Manchester United in the quarter finals. Of course, for those of us a bit longer in the tooth there was 1988 /1989 when we reached an Anfield quarter-final. Gary Blissett’s heroics that season are as fresh in the memory now as they were then. 

The fact that you can count these on the fingers of one hand show just how infrequent a Brentford cup run is. With league form starting to solidify and Thomas Frank’s new look defence having finally eradicated the silly mistakes that had been symptomatic of our game prior to the Christmas fixtures, could this be the year to finally focus on a stab at Wembley? No matter what our form at the ‘W’ place is ! 

Roll on Monday night. I can’t wait to find out….

Bliss Manchester City

The iconic Bees cup image as Bliss puts Manchester City to the sword

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

Five years of festive fun as Brentford do it again.

18 Dec

Whatever is happening on the pitch, off it there’s always one night a year that reinforces to me what a close knit family Brentford football club are. How well we look after our younger fans. How excited they are at the chance to meet their heroes. How great it is for parents and guardians to ‘unfortunately’ have to do the same – under the guise of simply being responsible for their little ones.

Last night saw the latest Junior Bees Christmas party at Griffin Park. It was, as ever, a quite wonderful event. Father Christmas was there. Buzz and Buzzette were there. Thomas Frank was there in the middle of the forecourt, talking to anyone and everyone. As importantly, the players were there. Hosting games, signing autographs, giving out presents, putting some huge smiles on the faces of our young fans and, in the case of Sergi Canos, our older ones too. There must have been as many pictures with him and Neal Maupay for the grown ups as the Juniors (although maybe that was just me).

I love our club for doing this and can’t thank everyone enough. Let’s hope it has provided some much needed Christmas cheer as we head into the festive period. Certainly, I saw nothing but happy faces as two hours shot by in the blink of an eye.

That the club continues to do this is nothing but brilliant. Yet, also, it’s given me plenty to embarrass Harry with further down the line. So if you’ll forgive the self-indulgence, here’s my favourite picture from each of the last five years of his own Junior Bees Christmas experience…..

HB with Buzzette

December 2014 – not the reaction Buzzette was hoping for

IMG_5647

December 2015. They kissed and made up 

image

December 2016 – foul throw?

IMG_E2555

December – 2017. Sergi and Josh on the ‘ being popular’ stall

IMG_E0008

December 2018 – all smiles

 

THANK YOU, Brentford.

Nick Bruzon

 

Tough questions to ask, and answer, after an insipid performance under the lights.

28 Nov

Well that was awful yesterday. And not the news that Mrs. Brown’s Boys leads the BBC Christmas schedule with two episodes of the alleged ‘favourite’ having been commissioned for the festive period.  Of course we mean football where, being honest, even after sleeping on this one I’m struggling to be positive this morning. That Sheffield United made it 6 defeats out of 7(seven) for Brentford since Dean Smith left is almost secondary. The 3-2 loss contained so many problems that even had we grabbed a last gasp equaliser, it would actually have masked the deficiencies as I’ve no doubt we’d be told how this team never gives up and keeps fighting until the end. Yet the simple fact is this game should have been well out of sight by half-time. How the visitors only led by a single goal as we went in for our bovril I’m still not sure. With a televised trip to West Bromwich Albion next up on Monday night, it’s not going to get any easier for Thomas Frank’s Bees.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 06.33.53

Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

It had all started off so brightly. Despite the sparce crowd, Buzz and Buzzette did their level best to get things going before kick-off. The team came out of the traps flying and it wasn’t long before we’d raced into the lead. With just 6 minutes gone, Romaine Sawyers played Neal Maupay through and there was no mistake as the Championship’s top scorer grabbed his 13thof the campaign. What a start. But what a response was to follow.

Straight from the kick-off, the Blades poured forward in a move which culminated with Daniel Bentley’s crossbar left quivering after John Lundstrum blasted it from ten yards out. By all rights he should have scored given the space and position in which he found himself in front of the goal. It was a massive let off for Brentford and alarm bells should have been ringing. If so, nobody was listening.

Just a few minutes later Sheffield United were level as Ezri Konsa turned a corner into his own net for 1-1. And then it was 2. Oliver Norwood giving the visitors the lead with just a quarter hour gone after hitting a beauty from outside the box. Catching it first time the ball rose, curled and then dipped past Bentley high into the back of the net. It was a magnificent strike but saw yet another game where we’d conceded a batch of goals in short space of time to throw things away.

It could, probably should, have been worse after Daniel Bentley made a wonderful save at close range half way through the opening period after denying United from close range with a huge stop.

Yet in return, we offered nothing. The goal aside Brentford were lacklustre. Abject. Masters of our own self-destruction. Sideways and backwards passing saw us unable to make inroads once the visitors had settled. The midfield lacked bite and a leader. Lewis Macleod lightweight. Alan Judge making the effort but getting drawn out of position time and again. Josh McEachran uncharacteristically tetchy. Lucky to escape a booking for a quite blatant push in front of the ref that gave away a free-kick in the heart of Saunders territory. Captain Romaine Sawyers conspicuous by his silence. Where was the desire? Where was the will to win? If it was there then I didn’t see it. And that’s the most disappointing aspect of the night.

IMG_9474

United were head and shoulders above Brentford in the first half.

Yet. Yet. Half-time came and it was only 2-1. Despite it all, we were still very much alive. Whilst United started brightly once more, Brentford soon stepped it up. This was more like it. The pressure built. The ball started to move forward. The crowd started to lift and just after the hour Romaine Sawyers saw his cross-come-shot turned in by John Fleck for the game’s second o.g. as parity was restored. That was better and there was only one team in it from here? Wasn’t there.

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

Instead of pushing on, Brentford allowed the frailties of the first half to return. Sheffield United were given the freedom of Griffin Park as our defence once more turned into vampires. Scared of crosses. If the first goal had seen us concede from a position where we’d have expected Mepham (who missed it) or Konsa (who gifted the goal) the opportunity to clear, Leon Clarke’s winner was even worse. I’ve seen caravans that were less static. Like Middlesbrough at the weekend, a well delivered ball into the box was our undoing.

Clarke may have been embarrassed by the copious space he was left in but he made no mistake. His shot was hard and low past the diving Bentley for 3-2. And that’s how it stayed. The subsequent substitutions making no difference to a Brentford team that limped towards the final whistle.

But for me, the most telling sign was at the death. With the Bees awarded a late free-kick, Thomas Frank was clearly telling Chris Mepham to push up into the box. There followed a quite bizarre looking argument of shrugging, arms open in the ‘what’s going on?’ position and the player refusing to move up. Eventually, he would but it did beg the question what all that was about?

Lack of respect? Frustration? Or just a general confusion about what we should be doing in a dead ball situation? Why isn’t this sort of stuff clarified on the training ground rather than in the public eye? If nothing else, football 101 says that when a team is goal down and awarded a dangerous spot kick at the death, everybody piles up. Sometimes even the ‘keeper. What you don’t do is argue with the boss and keep two defenders back.

I’m not a coach. I’m not a manager. I’m just the numpty on the terrace and you may think I’ve called this all wrong. Fair enough if so. It should have been a quite fantastic night under the floodlights. I take no pleasure from moaning about the team and have looked to remain upbeat this campaign. Yet that was painful last night and don’t let the closeness of the result fool anyone. Brentford were second in every respect. Goals scored. Cohesiveness. Attitude.

We don’t have a divine right to be any good. I’ve said this many times and it’s true. Yet to see players who we know are more than capable looking so out of sorts is just wrong. To see a team looking so bereft of ideas when we’ve torn rivals apart at times is a worry. And whilst Thomas may be on the business end of the bad run, let’s not forget that despite all the ‘deserving’, the culmination of Dean’s time in charge saw only 1 win out of 6. Even Marinus had a better track record at this stage of ‘games played’ into his own start – and that’s a scary thing to acknowledge.

We do have injuries, of course. Who wouldn’t miss the likes of Ollie Watkins or Saïd Benrahma? Rico Henry and Emiliano Marcondes are only just returning to action.  The ability is there amongst those who are fit.

The real question now is not the position of the head coach, which many fans are already questioning, but more what he does to unlock the talent and inspire his team.

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

IMG_9462

The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

The many reasons we must win. The one reason we will.

10 Nov

Saturday morning and the 237 derby awaits. West London’s finest, and also QPR, prepare to do battle. With tier-gate resolved and the away-end sold out (barring a few £37 ‘restricted view’ seats), Brentford can prepare for the trip to Loftus Road in high spirits. Last weekend’s dominant performance saw The Bees back to winning ways and assuredly looking to pick up where we left off against Millwall. That one finished 2-0 and could easily have been double, but for the woodwork. Yet in a build-up that has been dominated by Friday’s news of Chief Executive Mark Devlin announcing his own departure from Griffin Park after 7 (seven) years, are we all missing out on the key factor that may decide this one?

QPR Loftus Road

Off to Loftus Road again

First up, Mark Devlin. We’ve by now all heard the news of his own forthcoming departure which was shared yesterday morning. We’ve all read the praise being lavished upon Mark by everyone from Bees United to Matthew Benham and beyond. Understandably. The strides that Brentford have made in the last 7 (seven) years have been quite incredible. In no small part helped by his enthusiasm and dedication. His time taken to talk to anyone about everything – a spirit which continues to run through the club.

I’ve often maintained that if you want to know something at Brentford, just ask. Mark typifies this approach – where confidentiality allows, of course – whilst few could deny his openness with the fans at the forums, responding to email, on social media or in person. He’s a regular on the forecourt when there’s a game and will always stop for a chat. How many other clubs are fortunate enough to have this level of approachability from one of the men at the very top? There’s nobody doubting how much he’ll be missed whilst, personally, I’ll now need to find somebody else to harangue about the new kit. Good luck Mark. And thank you. Our loss is very much somebody else’s gain – even if it is Twitter spambots…

Mark Devlin weight loss

Open comms. On any subject !!

Before he goes, Mark has one last QPR match to sit through. Which of his teams (wink emoji) will emerge with the points today? Brentford, obviously. Aside from our own strength and goal scoring potential, Nico Yennaris used his own appearance at the press conference to reveal how the team were fully aware of what this one means to the fans.

He explained how, “We know the importance of the game. Peter Gilham reiterates that every time we play QPR ; how important it is …the likes of myself, we’ve heard it enough from Pete but it’s the new guys coming in. The one’s that haven’t really been involved in a QPR – Brentford game. He lets them know aswell…”   

If anyone knows the history between the two clubs then it’s Peter. The story of the failed takeover can’t be told enough. It’s over fifty years on from that now yet still things remain fresh. In part helped by QPR’s own ‘accidental’ celebration of this event on their own programme cover last year. Something that their own head of media would subsequently explain, “Isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order”. This, before going on share how the dog had just eaten his homework and he’d left his P.E. kit on the bus. Probably.

QPR programme Holloway

Old news on the programme cover. And the failed takeover

But then its all about the excuses with them. Who could forget the time they accidentally breached FFP rules after running up a deficit of £9.8 m aswell as owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders writing off a £60m loan? October 2017 saw the £58m fine deemed not disproportionate and upheld. This, despite Fernandes’ earlier assertion that “My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

 “If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.”

Ahhh. Poor QPR. If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em. In the end, the club and football league settled on a ‘mere’ £42m which included a £17m fine, amongst other measures. Perhaps a somewhat fortunate escape for a club who employed Harry Redknapp.

Whilst we all know this of course, there’s no harm reminding ourselves of the context. Moreso given our own efforts to comply with the financial regulations imposed on EFL clubs have often resulted in our own stars being sold to ensure compliance and fair play.

Recent form is very much with Brentford going in to today’s big game. Of the last 8 league and cup encounters, the record read W5 D2 L1 in favour of Brentford. The solitary blip in that run being Dean’s Smiths attempt to play Alan Judge as a false 9 in a 4-6-0 formation whilst the highlight being our April 2017 destruction of Rangers at Griffin Park. With Jota in inspired form that day, a 3-1 win was about as generous a scoreline to the visitors as they come.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 06.07.16

I wouldn’t disagree

I predict more of the same this afternoon. Forget form. Forget rivalry. Forget everything. There’s one fact more telling than any motivational speech Peter Gilham may give. More important than whether Thomas Frank starts with Yoann or Moses, Luke or Dan, Sergi or Said.

Put simply, Steve McClaren has just been named manager of the month for October.

What magnificent timing for yesterday’s announcement! Could it have been any better? We all know how this one works. Scoop the prize, fail to lose your next game. It’s a jjnx as long established as not shaving on a winning run, wearing the magic shirt, pulling on the lucky pants or whatever your own particular match day-ritual is. Yet none come bigger than having to make the awkward pose with the trophy, safe in the knowledge that the next points are sliding down the drain.

I’m pretty sure it’s a scientific fact. But don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on is that this will be another three points for Brentford. I don’t want to rain on Steve McClaren’s parade but back-to-back wins are heading our way. Roll on 3pm when it all starts again.

Sky Bet Championship MOTM October 061118

Incredible but true. It really has happened

Nick Bruzon 

Toothless Lions tamed with strike of Sergi-cal precision.

4 Nov

My word. What an afternoon. What a way to return to form. What a time to do it with the trip to QPR next up. Brentford beat Millwall 2-0 in a game that, as it progressed, could easily have seen that score doubled. It was a magnificent team performance exemplified by solid defence, rapid counter attack football and a forward drive that had been so desperately missing last weekend at Norwich. Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins took their chances brilliantly to give us the goals, each player clean through to tuck it home, but don’t underestimate the way the whole team played here. Said Benrahma must be wondering how his delicious first half curler from the outskirts of the penalty box stayed out (curse that far upright) whilst Said Maupay also touched wood in the second period. Even Daniel Bentley had to stay alert to make one smart save with the scores locked at 0-0. That’s not to overly lavish praise on one over another here. It was about as ‘team’ as it comes yesterday. You could see what this one meant to Thomas Frank at full-time, clapping all the home fans and acknowledging anyone who looked to single him out, as our new head coach got his first points on the board.

DSC03602

View from the Braemar – Said had a cracking game

That’s the game in a paragraph. As you know, we don’t do the full-fat match reports here. Go to the always wonderful Beesotted, the BBC or, of course, Brentford ‘official’ for that. Sky TV have the highlights here but I’m equally looking forward to seeing if we get a chance to hear what Mark Burridge and Greville Waterman made of this one when the 12pm ‘official’ coverage gets released into the wild. No doubt voluminous praise and excitement of ‘Jota at Blackburn’ levels will be the order of the day. It really was that sort of afternoon as the team returned to a style of play and clinical finishing that we’d become somewhat spoiled with over the early part of the season. Pity QPR on Saturday if we can keep this up. Millwall weren’t even given a chance to come second in this one as Brentford defended about as solidly as I’ve seen us do (some first half faffing across the box in search of the perfect distribution aside – sometimes, it’s not wrong to lump it up if there’s a defender closing in).

What else can we take away from this? Well, first up the celebration from Sergi was just a thing of beauty. With the net still rippling he tore over to the Braemar Road touchline, leaping high in the air as his teammates joined him. This was followed by a double fist pump and exuberant salute – the smile on his face broad. This one meant one hell of a lot. It was a moment of joy only matched by an equally emphatic routine from Ollie Watkins as he made the points safe late on.

Kudos, too, for Neal Maupay’s wonderful interplay in providing the assists for both our goals. He’s the Championship’s leading scorer and provider now. The adoration of fans in marked contrast to 12 months ago as a new signing beginning to find his feet in this division, the likes of Ian Moose pouring scorn and dripping poison.  

DSC03578

View from the Braemar  – Sergi salutes the fans

Romaine Sawyers was named captain, again. His third time in four games. Thomas Frank would later confirm that he has dispensed of our rotational captain system. Something that Dean Smith had specifically introduced but has now gone with him to Aston Villa. Instead, the pool of leaders has been whittled down to just two – Romaine and Henrik Dalsgaard (of Brentford). Romaine had a great game yesterday after what, it would be fair to say, had been a dip in the form of last season’s ‘players’ player of the year’. Long may this continue!

I thought Josh Dasilva really impressed on his debut, coming on late for Josh McEachran. He drove forward as he added fresh legs and further goalscoring potential with the Bees looking to close this out rather than sit back and allow Millwall to press. Interestingly, I’ve this morning had a message from a Lincoln City fan I work with, noting: “Young lad you have out on loan at Forest Green, Archibald, he can play the game! We won 2-1. Absolute smash and grab though as we were outplayed. He is a very good player, great balance and change of direction. Some would say a ‘typical Brentford player’. We couldn’t deal with him tbh.”

With Josh stepping up and Theo showing his own potential for Forest Green, it’s great to see the B-team system continuing to flourish.

I had fun yesterday. A lot of fun. It was just that sort of celebratory occasion. Moreso, coming after a rightfully sombre start with Peter Gilham leading a minute’s silence to recognise both Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and, especially, the 100 years since the end of WW1 as part of the Remembrance Sunday observations. It was impeccably observed by both sets of fans whilst due praise to Sam Marshall and his programme team in recognising this hugely significant event. The production that he – ably assisted by Paul Briers and Dave Lane – put together to recognise this was a quite wonderful piece of work and compulsive reading.  

IMG_E8835

Get one if you still can

The Millwall fans continued their respectful silence throughout the game. Aside from the odd chant of “No-one likes us, we don’t care” (really – then why do you persist in telling us so often?) they were largely as impotent as their team. Toothless Lions on and off the pitch, easily tamed by ringmaster Thomas Frank. Brentford, on the other hand, coming in for rightful recognition in his full time press conference.

There’s not much more to add after this one. On a personal note, Harry’s reaction to the game told me all I needed to know about how exciting it had been. He grabbed my phone, asking if he could call Uncle Tim to give him a full time update, then broadcast this to the Braemar Road forecourt (including one senior club figure whom I can only thank for his own subsequent observations and chat with an uber-excited five year old). He next proceeded to remove his coat to show the world his Ollie Watkins shirt and sung all the way home. Harry, that is.

Yet it was at Harry’s bedtime that I was given the sign that the Thomas Frank era is truly now underway. “Daddy” he entreated. ”As a special treat can I wear my Watkins shirt in bed instead of pyjamas?”

Yeah, he’s hooked. Thank you Sergi. Thank you Ollie. Thank you Thomas. Roll on Saturday and QPR.  

IMG_8821

Unconventional pjs but it would have been churlish to deny him

Nick Bruzon

What can you say? Where do you start?

28 Oct

Where to begin today? In the normal course of events, we’d start by talking about Norwich City v Brentford. Yet having gone to bed and then woken up with nothing but the horrific story from Leicester City at the forefront of the football news, I’m just in shock. As, it seems, is the entire football community. With no official word as yet, we’re still hoping for a miracle yet fearing the worst following the crash of club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter outside their King Power stadium following the Foxes 1-1 home draw with West Ham.

There are no words to describe what has happened. Moreso given how visible this was. We’ve all seen the images of the aftermath and they are terrifying. One can only feel for the families, the fans and all involved at a club who have done nothing but win friends over the last few years.

Who amongst us didn’t cheer when Leicester City defied those 5,000-1 odds to win the Premier league. Beat the top flight far cats time and again to keep up the pace, defy the pundits and win the league. What a refreshing breath of fresh air to those of us who don’t support the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City/United with their logic defying budgets and wealth of world stars at their disposal. What an inspiration to those of us supporting the likes of Brentford.

With the right stewardship, unfancied teams can triumph. They can beat the ‘bad guys’. They can make the dream a reality.

We went to Norwich City yesterday. We lost. 1-0. It wasn’t a great game in the grand scheme and it wasn’t a particularly classy goal to concede. Daniel Bentley’s penalty save from ex-Bee Jordan Rhodes one of the few highlights from a Brentford perspective. Neal Maupay somehow not equalising when most of us were already celebrating.

9553F95A-BD01-41DE-80C1-A8D5D818F050

Brentford press in the first half.

Despite this, it was what happened off-pitch at Carrow Road that showed me, yet again, how wonderful football can be. What an incredible family there is involved. From both sides.

It’s not even called into question that there will be no quarter given when the whistle blows. Nothing but backing the team, barracking the officials (in the unlikely event that they make a decision we can clearly see was incorrect) and enjoying the misfortunes that befall our opponents on the day.

Yet with HB fortunate enough to be one of two ‘away’ mascots on the day, there was only generosity and magnificence shown to him from start to finish on the occasion of his first Brentford road trip. Norwich were fantastic – let’s get that out there immediately. Staff, fans and players. Even manager Daniel Farke stopped by for a chat with HB, fellow mascot Harvey and Thomas Frank when the players arrived.

Nonetheless, it was Brentford who really raised the bar. The players all stopping for a photo and an autograph with a five year old who is fast shedding that customary shyness in their presence. A quick chance to stick our heads around the door of that infamous pink ‘away’ dressing room. A chance encounter with the ever friendly Chairman Cliff Crown (“Who’s that, daddy?” – sorry, Cliff). Kitman Bob being the legend that he always is and Peter Gilham clearing the scrum around the dugouts as the players warmed up, in order that Harry could get his picture with Thomas.

453F4935-DA12-4BC2-B87E-29F697D31770

Peter can now add ‘Minder’ to his many duties at Griffin Park

Big up to Harvey, too. The two lads were given the choice of who would get to lead out the team. He didn’t even question it but immediately offered the role to his younger counterpart. I can’t thank him enough but, equally, think this shows (once again) the attitude that runs throughout this club. Through so much of football. Yet which is so rarely seen in the wider world. Which needs to be talked about. That, actually, it’s not all those things the press love to highlight such as morons singing awful songs, chanting racist abuse and fighting. There’s a ton of great stuff happening too.

Which is as much as anything why, as an outsider looking in, we could all get behind what happened at Leicester City. They were an unfancied club but one doing things the right way. Doing it with the fans. And what a reward for doing so. Winning the Premier League. A Champions League run. Players now picked for England, and beyond, on a regular basis. And now this.

One can’t even begin to quantify the sheer awfulness of what we’ve seen unfolding. Of what may be announced over the next few hours or days. One thing’s clear though, the footballing world is united and sending nothing but love to Leicester City.

Nick Bruzon

New drums, same beat? Here’s hoping for some samba style.

20 Oct

And we’re back. Brentford host Bristol City today for our first taste of Championship action since being robbed at the death by then leaders Leeds United two weeks ago. A hard fought point at Elland Road something we’d probably all have taken before yet one which still feels a little disappointing given the conclusion and performance in the 1-1 at Elland Road. Still, that was then and this is now. Two weeks has seen a monumental change at Griffin Park with Thomas Frank now in the head coach role after Dean Smith followed his heart and his dreams to take over at Aston Villa. But what can we expect?

First up, Danish pastries. Oh wow. I’m still drooling at the thought of the Cinnamon rolls that Thomas was talking up in his press conference this week. This, after being presented with a gift from Bees United and then sharing the love for Ole & Steen bakery. It’s different I guess. But that’s a good thing. Great though Dean was, and he more than had his share of media soundbites, this was somewhat of a deviation from the norm. But perhaps we needed it. The one thing most people agree on is the consistency of Thomas’ appointment. Of how shrewd it was to appoint somebody from within the set up. A man known and respected by players and fans alike. Who has worked alongside Dean with the squad for almost two years.

As such one can only anticipate a segue as smooth, yet incredible, as that of Brazilian singer Wagner Carillho back in 2010 on TV’s The X-Factor. Who could forget the wonderful moment he burst into the public consciousness? The point at which he transitioned from butchering ‘She Bangs’ to seamlessly moving behind a pair of over-sized Conga drums that had appeared on stage and then proceeded to beat out smooth samba rhythms whilst singing the refrain from ‘Love Shack‘.

Wagner bongos

Love shack, baby

Whilst I can’t imagine we’ll see Thomas in a velvet suit, revealing a sweaty chest or chunky medallion, Brazilian beats are likely. The pass and move style of the Brentford team surely one which will continue today at Griffin Park. The main question being who plays in goal. Could Dan Bentley return to his usual position between the sticks or has Luke Daniels done enough to retain the position he has waited so long to make his own? Certainly, the performance at Leeds United will only have enhanced his reputation with a number of smart saves, one of which at almost point blank range.

For Bristol City, the BBC preview suggests that they will also have a goalkeeping question to answer. With both Niki Maenpaa and Frank Fielding out of action, 22 year old Max O’Leary is in line for a Championship debut. I’d expect the Bees to test him early. Those electric starts are something we’re already familiar with at home whilst the chance to unsettle a newbie before he’s had the chance to adjust, surely one we’ll be keen to try and take advantage of.

Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. What do I know? Cagey defence could well be the order of the day whilst happy news from the McEachran household yesterday might dictate a change in midfield.   

As ever, 3pm Griffin Park is the time when we see how it all pans out. How the new era begins. That’s not to see there won’t be half an eye on the midlands, either. Purely out of curiosity. With Aston Villa only three points (albeit vastly inferior goal difference) behind the 7th(seventh) placed Bees, will Dean Smith see his new team catch up a few places on his former one? Or will his dream job have a nightmare start when the Villans face Swansea City?

Ultimately, it’s a moot point. I wish Dean well but as long as Brentford keep winning then everything else is largely inconsequential. It sounds so simple. In theory.

In practice we all know that’s not how football works. And we love it. Roll on 3pm when we see how this one plays out. See you there.

And in the meantime. Here’s Wagner. Did somebody say #BeeTheDJ….?

Stick with it for those magnificent Congas

Nick Bruzon

All to play for on Saturday after a gritty night and controversy at Griffin Park.

3 Oct

Brentford climb the table after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Griffin Park but it was very much a case of Cheer up, Garry Monk. Or however it is the song goes. Blues manager Monk was left fuming after a red card for Maikel Kieftenbeld, following a clash with Neal Maupay, saw his side reduced to ten men. And his own subsequent dismissal from the touchline. Yet if it was a soft decision, and both managers’ words at full time were telling, The Bees were due something back after Saturday’s quite awful officiating in the 2-2 with Reading. As Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship, themselves 1-0 winners at Hull, Dean Smith has a lot to think about ahead of our trip to Elland Road on Saturday.

NEGO8366

View from one New Road observer.. fight,fight, fight….

If we were due a refereeing kick back (and in true Arsene Wenger style, I didn’t see the incident whilst even Sky Sports Leeds were somewhat selective with their post-match highlights package) then perhaps we were also due one on pitch. Dean Smith very much shuffled his after replacing Daniel Bentley with Luke Daniels. This, following Saturday’s double fumble. So there was no irony lost in Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp – a man who has had more clubs than Harlee Dean has had red cards – allowed Josh McEachran’s first half free-kick through his hands and into the back of the net for 1-1. It WAS a wonderfully hit effort from the New Road side but, being honest, should never have allowed a first goal in 188 appearances for a player who would rightly go on to scoop ‘Man of the match’ honours.

Prior to this, Michael Morrison had given the visitors the lead, heading home from a Jota cross. Or Hoe-ta, as Peter Gilham still insists on calling him. How I’ve missed that wonderful pronunciation from our redoubtable man-with-the-mic . Yet it was just about all the mercurial Spaniard did in the hour and a half he was on pitch. Yoann Barbet had him in the back pocket whilst Josh whipped the ball of his toes a number of times.

Daniels wasn’t the only change for the Bees. Out wide, we were missing both Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins (suspended and injured respectively). Whilst Alan Judge and Sergi Canos are both wonderful, it deprived Dean Smith his normal option to mix it up in the second half. And with Birmingham City packing 11 behind the ball, there was no third gear to accelerate into as the game progressed. Indeed, and you have to give credit to Monk, his stifling of the game meant our short sharp passing game had no way through. Our 74% possession unable to be turned into real chances. Only Henrik Dalsgaard, pushed forward towards the end with Maupay having little joy against the lumbering Birmingham defence,  came close to sending The Bees faithful home happy. Camp making amends for his earlier butter fingers to pull off a point blank save with the clock deep in injury time.

DoiRsTLX0AAmfIv

Brentford ‘Official’ capture the goal on Twitter

It was very much a case of parking the proverbial bus with the Bees unable to get past. That’s a tactic I suppose. Whatever you think, it worked. The only exception being with the goal where rather than parking the bus, Harlee and crew may aswell have parked a small car, slapped a bow on the front and left the keys in the ignition with the engine running. It was all the more silly given they’d had time to line themselves up and so, perhaps, as much credit needs to be given to Josh for pulling off something that nobody expected. Either way, in a scrappy match let’s be grateful for the opportunity.

One apiece at full time. The Ealing Road reminding Harlee Dean that “You can’t”. At least, I think that’s what they were singing. Another point gained and another place climbed in the table. We’re now up to fifth after other results went the way of The Bees. Yet, at the same time, Leeds and Middlesbrough have opened up a five-point gap on us in the top two slots whilst only two points separate The Bees from Bolton in fifteenth. The table really is that tight at present.

Dean Smith would use his own post-match interview to give credit to Birmingham for their game play which saw our own bright start snubbed out in a game that very much felt “Like one that got away again.” As for the sending off his opinion was that, “The lad raised his hands…so he goes down. Have a go at the fourth official”.

Dean talks to ‘official’ at full time.

For Birmingham City, Garry Monk had his own thoughts on the red card. He told reporters that “I thought the opposition player would be booked for feigning injury so to see a red card was a complete shock…After 23 years in football I know something when I see it.” Certainly, his reaction was one of fury as he was sent to join Kieftenbeld for an early bath. Or wherever it is red carded managers go to. I’ve no doubt the player’s ban will be appealed going by his own touchline explosion

As for Saturday, let’s hope Ollie is fit and able to rejoin Saïd in the matchday squad. Dean would tell ‘official’ how he had an injection in an ‘angry toe’ at the Reading game. By his own admission, the absences limited our own attacking options but, and it needs to be noted again, Birmingham City did a job on us. They were deserving of a point that makes it an incredible 8 draws out of 11 games for them. That record, I fear, something that is going to be trotted out as much as West Ham’s moving stadium West Ham’s winning the World Cup in 1966, Trevor brooking’s header in the cup final or The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard being a Brentford player. If only somebody had said.

There’s not much more to say. We didn’t win. We have a tough trip to Leeds United coming up. But nobody said it would be easy. More importantly, we’ve jumped another place in the league. I’m not quite sure how that has happened but the table doesn’t lie.

And that’ll do me.

DoiFdkuXsAE3t1O

Garry goes for a bath – c/o Matt Davis

Nick Bruzon

Back to league action. And ‘thanks’, Michael Palin. Way to try and ruin a great thing.

29 Sep

The cup runneth over. Kind of. With Arsenal out of the way (not the right way) it’s back to League action today as Brentford host Reading. The first of a double bill at Griffin Park over the next few days sees this one closely followed by Birmingham City on Tuesday. With Leeds United making it just one win from five last night, a great opportunity is opening up whilst Twitter has delivered not once, but twice, in quite wonderful fashion.

First up, the Reading game. This one has everything to play for and promises to be a stunner. In theory. Reading have started to win games after their abject start and have now escaped the bottom three. 6 points out of the last 9 sees them finding form and reaching the dizzy heights of 20th. Brentford will, of course, be hugely cheered by that fight back at Arsenal during the week. It was one-way traffic as we came that close to hauling ourselves into the fourth round after a blitzkrieg second half. The only downside being the first half! Oh well, that’s football. We go ag, ag, agai.. once more. The obvious question being one of whether Dean sticks or twists ?

Such was the fight shown in the second period, I do wonder if he’ll continue with any of his normal bench players? Whilst, surely, one would expect Neal Maupay, Henrik Dalsgaard and Daniel Bentley to return to the starting XI is that as far as it goes? I thought Kamo was superb whilst Sergi ran them ragged once the team got going. Mind you, so did Saïd Benrahma when he came on. Who’d be a head coach?

IMG_E7172

Yesssssss !!!!! Alan Judge’s free-kick sent the away end ballistic

Whomever starts, Brentford have even more incentive to go for it. Table toppers Leeds United being held at Sheffield Wednesday, Friday, means a win could take us to within a point of first place. Naturally, subject to other results. But the league is so tight at the moment that as far down as 14th, Swansea are only 6 behind Leeds. With Birmingham the same gap behind us, effectively 7(seven) when you factor in the draw specialists woeful goal difference, every game is crucial. Every point critical. Already. And its not even October. I love this division!!  

The cup was a lovely diversion and visiting Arsenal taught us a lot of things, as much off-field (see last column) as on, but it’s great to be feasting at the main table once more. Let’s hope Dean serves up a five-star banquet rather than skin and bone.

One of those Arsenal ‘things’ was giant flags at the home end. We’d seen similar before at Chelsea. Tucked behind the hoardings but then waved high to welcome the teams out or celebrate a goal to the home team. I’m not sure exactly what the benefit is or why they are needed – if you need a flag waver to generate an atmosphere (see also: the Mexican wave, England Supporter’s band,  goal music) then we’re already in trouble.

Thankfully, Matthew Benham is in agreement. The joy of Twitter where a casually asked question on Friday morning to the club owner brings about a response within minutes:    

@NickBruzon : Hi Matthew. You’ve often been quoted as (thankfully) saying there will never, ever be ‘goal music’ at Lionel Road. Is it safe to say the same will apply to Arsenal style ‘goal flags’ ?

@matthew_benham : Absolutely!

IMG_7165

Another Lionel Road crisis averted

Result! No flags and no goal music ! With Lionel Road looking bigger and better with each passing day, it’s great that he’s also on point about those matters that really count ! Here’s hoping the previously backed hot seat idea also comes to fruition. Even if Cameron Diaz won’t be the one filling it. That said, perhaps the sausage train remains a leap too far.

So that was yours truly feeling pretty pleased with the day’s social media activity. Easy come, easy go. As ever. No sooner had that gone up than it’s been blown out of the water first thing Saturday morning with a quite incredible spot on the social media platform from @HongKongBee , aka Andrew Cooper, after watching the Michael Palin In North Korea documentary from the BBC.  

Wow. There’s not much you can say here. Beyond a bit of photoshoppery just to really take a look at this in depth.

Whilst the North Korean regime of secrecy and oppression is totally abhorrent and about as far flung as you could get from all-embracing Griffin Park, that’s an eerie sartorial spot. Great observational skills, Andrew. It is incredible how something so wonderful in one format (our away kit) can look so awful in another. Thankfully, quality shines through and it will be the football kit that people remember long into the future rather than any quirky uniforms.

All being well Brentford official will be reporting a 7(seven) – 0 win for The Bees today for legitimate reasons rather than propaganda based ones.

North Korea Brentford away

Kit wrong-un

Finally, please don’t forget #BeeTheDJ today…..

Given the sad passing of Chas Hodges last weekend, what better way for fans to remember him than by bombarding the Griffin Park tannoy (other brands of p.a. system are also available) with the likes of Gertcha, Rabbit, Margate, Ain’t No Pleasing You, The Sideboard Song, London girls etc etc etc.

You can get choosing here. What better way to get the crowd buzzing prior to kick off whilst, more importantly, remembering the great man.

IMG_E6998

How do you even try and whittle this down to one choice?

Nick Bruzon

The lunchtime after the night before. Arsenal through despite storming second half from Bees.

27 Sep

If only….. So close….. Why didn’t he go for it from kick off?…. Why can’t we just enjoy a big game just even one fuc&ing time?…. I enjoyed half a big game – should have been a whole one but for team selection.” These, just some of the things I saw / heard after Arsenal beat Brentford 3-1 in Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup third round. It’s the obvious reaction to a game that, once The Bees stepped up in the second half, was about as exciting as they come. Likewise, and I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t disappointed on seeing that our usual starting XI weren’t in the frame for the opening period, it really has the feeling of an opportunity missed. In the immediate short term.

I don’t subscribe to any ‘big day out’ nonsense. This was a cup tie in an arena that was about as sanitised and sterile as they come and hardly the place where, but for a ball pulled from the hat, one would come to voluntarily. Giant ‘goal flags’, players giving out counter terrorism advice on the big screens and even mid-match graphics exhorting the home fans to ‘Come On You Reds.’ At one point I had to double check that the flag saying Arsenal Library actually said Arsenal Liberia. For me, this was all about the chance to progress against a club still labouring to escape the grisly shadow of, by their esteemed standards, recent mediocrity. A team sure to have been playing several reserves. They duly obliged.

082DFE90-BDEA-4769-9237-5B5BA1E6A64C

Arsenal library

Let’s be honest here, the first half was hard work. We weren’t even close to coming second as the hosts, helped by a very early goal, slipped effortlessly into cruise control. Reserves or otherwise. The Bees looked lethargic; the crowd subdued. That we were only two down at half time was as much thanks to Arsenal failing to put this one to bed. Halftime couldn’t come soon enough but, with it, Dean Smith seemingly delivered the mother of all team talks.

Sergi and, in particular, Alan Judge burst into life. Kamo mopping up the midfield. Dean’s initial selection more than justified as The Bees woke up. A goal threatened and came via a quite wonderful free kick from Judgey on the hour. Situated deep in the heart of Saunders territory, he was the last person anyone expected to hit it from the clutch of players gathered over the ball. But boy, what a sweet strike up, over and around the wall that left Jay Leno in the Arsenal goal with no chance. Sumptuous.

7DD807A3-BBC7-4FC9-894C-76B8C56F509E

Over the wall and en-route to goal

IMG_E7172

Yesssssss !!!!!

An immense knee slide followed as the Brentford fans exploded. Not literally. Although that earlier advice might at least have come in handy. Could we haul ourselves back into this? The addition of Henrik Dalsgaard adding further strength. Likewise Maupay and Benrahma. It wasn’t for a want of trying, that’s for sure.

Sadly though, it wasn’t to be. The prolific Lacazette putting it out of sight deep into stoppage time to give the game that final 3-1 score. No complaints from me with the end result but a lot to think about on the way home and a lot of time to do it thanks to the tube strike.

Dean’s team selection…. Absolutely I was gutted to see the likes of Said Benrahma, Neal Maupay and Daniel Bentley on the bench when the teams were announced. After all the hype, build up and ‘that’ Chelsea cup tie I really thought we’d hold firm. We didn’t. I understand why. These were still more than recognised players who came in at a point where the team are in the midst of a 7(seven) game run over 22 days.

Fitness and rotation are the obvious factors at play here whilst the second half proved that, actually, Dean called it right. He picked a side that had the ability to do a job. To a man they came out and put a stunning shift in after half-time with the performance further bolstered by later substitutions. It was the first half ‘no show’ that left us on the backfoot and with a mountain to climb. Rabbits in the headlights of slick, but comfortable opponents who play at that level for a reason.

We could have won. We maybe should have won. I’m still not sure why we took so long to start firing given how we came flying out of the traps in the second period. Would the team that lost at Frank Lampard’s Derby County on Saturday have fared any better? Alan Judge scored a wonder goal but that’s all I can take away from this in the direct aftermath. So close counts for nothing. That’s not to overlook the fact that, personally, I’m immensely cheered and proud by how we grew into this one.

As ever, some perspective. And as much to me. Whilst this was from many respects a chance to really make a name for ourselves, at the end of the day (Clive) we’re moaning about not beating Arsenal. Despite a moribund first half we were alive and in it until the final minute.

That’s no bad yardstick of progress in my eyes. We’ve got two more league games to come in less than a week. Thankfully, both at home. Get six points against Reading and Birmingham then we’ll be looking at last night less as an opportunity missed, less as us ‘not enjoying a big game’ as was earlier noted and more a stepping stone en route to bigger and better things.

0D831094-4F28-43D2-B4BE-9FDA461804AE

The moment- 2-1 and game on!!!

Nick Bruzon