Tag Archives: Dean Smith

Head in the sand? Or glass half full optimism?

20 Aug

The morning after the night before. Brentford returned home empty handed from Portman Road yesterday as a 2-0 defeat saw Ipswich Town continuing their 100% record in the Championship. With Wolves, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday next up for the Bees in the league, can we expect any respite from our own bad luck and bottom of the table placing? Are we just a bounce of the ball away from administering a tonking and picking up our first three point haul of the season? Or are we locked in a downward spiral of self-pity with no means of arresting a slide?

First up, we’re only four games in. Four. Games. That wonderful attacking intent of pre-season has continued. So have the buckets of goals going in. Having now had a chance to see yesterday’s highlights which are up on Sky, the first was a complete horror show. A sloppy moment in midfield; an unfortunate bounce from Nico’s challenge; a lethargic foot out from Harlee who couldn’t have trapped a bag of cement on that effort. Yet it was more the amount of Brentford players around Martyn Waghorn, who still somehow managed to wriggle through and home, that was as bad as any individual contribution to that one.

See also : the third goal scored by Nottingham Forest. The 98th minute equaliser scored by Bristol City. It is something Dean would afterwards describe to Brentford official as a little bit of déjà vu.

First-half I thought we were tremendous: we created a lot of chances but didn’t take them. They have one ricochet and score. It is a little bit of déjà vu.” said Dean in an interview you can read here.

That’s the downside. Sloppiness is being punished consistently. Sometimes a simple hoof or a foot in the right place is all you need. Possession and stats count for nothing if we can’t put them away. We shouldn’t have to rely on scoring to both win the game and over compensate for those random moments of the defence going awol.

But the plus side is the way we are playing going forward. That we are still looking like a very dangerous team despite the absence of Sergi Canos and Jota out on the flanks. Just remember how our team set up was transformed last season after we ditched the central play through the middle to Scott Hogan and used two natural wide men. Hogan’s sale to Aston Villa could well have been the best thing that happened all campaign. The consequential performances, and results, were there for all to see following a woeful run prior to New Year.

The team would go on to blitz the likes of Derby County, Leeds United, QPR and Villa at Griffin Park. Stunning performances where blitzkrieg assault was rewarded. Where the defence held firm.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 06.22.24

Dean’s squad pulled out all the stops after Christmas

Those players are all still here. More have come in. Here lies Dean’s challenge. How does he combine them? How does he pick his best defensive combo and then stick with it. How does he stop the ‘senior moments’ before they become a mindset rather than an ad-hoc glitch?

The wrangling around Harlee’s contract hasn’t helped. He’s lost the captaincy as a result although at least is playing now. That said, for how long with talk of rival Championship clubs sniffing around?

I’ve genuinely no idea what is going on there – have we made a derisory offer that sees him off the pace compared to marquee signings who have since come in over the last few seasons? That we should be doing everything we can to keep him? Or does the player’s agent have unrealistic expectations and is holding the club to ransom over the prospect of losing a terrace legend, our captain, our most experienced team member and our player of the season?

Either way, the sooner this is sorted and we know what is happening the better. Once this blinkin’ window closes and we know who is part of this squad.

harlee-dean-rainbow-laces-v2-4x3277-3434277_613x460

Will Harlee stay a Bee and win back his armband?

I don’t envy Dean Smith. In his previous two campaigns we’ve had horrible runs. Pre-Christmas last time out and then spring time the season he took over after the Marinus experiment. Both times he turned it around and got us playing out of our skin. One point out of four games this time around isn’t so much a run as a series of unfortunate events conspiring against us.

I’ve read some ludicrous comments on social media at the moment. That Dean should be sacked. That King Kev should be installed as head coach . That it’s all doom and gloom. I take you back to the earlier comment – we’re only four games in. Come back to me in a month and we’ll have a much better idea of how the land lies.

Then again, what do I know. I tipped Ipswich Town to be relegated.

IMG_9810

My relegation tip have four wins from four . Move along etc

Nick Bruzon

More domination. More defeat. Thoughts after Town sting Bees.

19 Aug

Brentford fans, fire up the ‘copy/paste’. Wonderful attacking play (the first half especially). One way traffic. The proverbial kitchen sink chucked at the opposition. 65% possession and twenty-one attempts at goal compared to Ipswich Town’s four. Yet it was the Tractor Boys who took the points and kept a clean sheet with a 2-0 win that left the Bees bottom of the pile in the Championship after four games.

Ipswich aced the one stat that counts, goals scored. They played us like a fiddle. Martyn Waghorn’s 35th minute opener was so far against the run of play Mick McCarthy must have been almost embarrassed to take it. But we know better than to expect embarrassment from Mick. Who could forget his shameless comments about Luke Hyam’s assault on Alan Judge two seasons ago? And we know just what to expect from his Ipswich teams.

Solid at the back, we just couldn’t break them down in that final third. Cynical in the challenge, with minimal protection offered by referee Oliver Langford. The man in the middle seemed set to ‘press and guess’ mode. Forget Oliver, Bonnie would have done a better job.

But let’s not gripe. With no Jota (dodgy lower back. Apparently) no Josh and no Rico once more it meant further changes were required. Maxime had to continue at left back with Dalsgaard at right. Flo Jo ahead of him with Ollie Watkins pushed out left. Despite all the pressing, nothing came. The Bees couldn’t find a way through despite Nico rattling the bar, Kamo coming close and Jozefzoon somehow conspiring to head straight down the keeper’s throat when unmarked in front of the goal.

We had chances; we couldn’t take them. Ipswich got their game together. Got their defence organised. Brentford couldn’t adapt. Too static. Too many players out of position. Even Lasse Vibe suffering an injury related ‘sub subbed’ that saw a debut for Theo Archibald.

IMG_9839

There was little return in the second half

By this point we were two down. Rather than come flying out of the traps to pick up where we’d left off, Brentford were bogged down. Joe Garner headed home a corner on 51 and that was it. Mr. Langford’s assistant confirming the validity of his effort via the medium of goal line technology and with it, consigning us to another nil points.

Try as we might, nothing came. Ipswich had it on lockdown. A fourth Championship win on the spin that sees them second only to Cardiff City in the fledgling table. Coming out of the stadium, there was nothing but plaudits from the home fans for our play. Acknowledgement that they’d ridden their luck early on.

All nice to hear but it doesn’t gloss over the fact that we haven’t scored and we’ve gone home empty handed with nothing but memories of good pies and what I saw BBC Billy Reeves declare as the “Best football font.” All very frustrating but take nothing away from Town.

IMG_9811

Nice font. Shame about the score

So what next? Even allowing for the absences, Dean has enough talent in his squad to fashion a wonderful team. Kamo, Romaine and Nico all looked a cut above. The first half especially. The second was typified by our inability to get in behind a progressively deeper and deeper Ipswich defence. By the lack of any real runners.

Bur he needs to get the tactics right. To get the selection right. Perhaps just get that run of luck – with injuries and even refereeing.

Am I worried? No. Look, I’m not a (complete) idiot. One point and bottom of the table isn’t anyone’s preferred position. Certainly not mine. But the first half was one of quite breathtaking forward play where we did everything but score. As with Forest, we conceded well into the first half and early into the second. Neither were particularly good goals to look back on and I’m sure Dean will have words. I hope he does.

The questions being, what does he learn and what does he do next? Can he eradicate these sloppy moments?

Equally, how is Jota’s back? Will it be a similar injury to Scott Hogan’s buttocks? Could Sergi return? Will we keep a clean sheet?

Talk to Brentford fans at the moment and the subject on everyone’s mind is, of course, Lionel Road. It would be great if we were discussing three points.

Roll on next weekend and Wolves when we get the chance.

IMG_9817

The first half, at least

Nick Bruzon

Bees get off the mark with plenty of positives on show.

16 Aug

Well, that was some day. We had contrasting announcements made about Lionel Road whilst on pitch Brentford hosted Bristol City and ended the game having taken a point but feeling, quite honestly, as though we’d lost. This after Bobby Reid delivered the ultimate kick to the knackers with his 98th minute equaliser. Yet it all seemed inconsequential given the desperately sad news announced by Ryan Woods just before kick off.

First up, Bristol City . What can you say? Well, Dean Smith has come out fighting with the observation that, “If we play like that, week in week out, then we will be a top six team“. Adding , “It was the most one-sided game in the Championship I have been involved in. How we didn’t get three points is beyond me .”

All true Dean. All true. You can read his full piece on Brentford ‘official’ but there was an almost inevitable familiarity about the way this one ended. Inability to clear the ball led to Brentford conceding an early goal courtesy of right winger Josh Brownhill but from that moment on it was the proverbial one way traffic.

IMG_9726

Josh Brownhill’s opener is celebrated on twitter

Brentford were quite delicious going forward. Jota and Romaine amongst those really testing Frank Fielding (whose name conjured up images of some Victorian musical performer) in the City goal. Both the keeper and the framework denying the marauding Bees who ended the half a goal down but with 69% possession and 13 attempts to City’s 1. Surely our luck would change as the game wore on?

Sure enough, it did.

With the quite wonderful Romaine Sawyers and Ollie Watkins pulling the strings – both of whom were among five changes for a Dean Smith team that also saw the return of Harlee Dean (although Nico retained the armband) – it took just ten minutes into the second period before parity was restored.

IMG_9732

Harlee was back in the starting XI

Jota, whose game plan seemed to consist of either shoot on sight, cut inside or ping it to the back stick opting for the last of these tricks as the modern day Paul Daniels dropped a ball onto the head of Ollie Watkins to power home. Griffin Park erupted. Better delivery than Postman Pat. Better execution than John Wilkes Booth. They were my words on Twitter at the time and I stand by them.

But the Bees pushed on. Chance followed chance before Neal Maupay, barely on the pitch for five minutes after replacing Lasse Vibe, fired home from the edge of the box. Back of the net. Pick that out. 2-1 Brentford. Perhaps, finally, our possession, domination and chances would be rewarded.

Alas, no. A lengthy injury to Josh McEachran (ankle) saw a butt clenching 8 minutes of added time shown on the board. Even Fielding joined the attack as the Bees held on. And on. Until virtually the last kick of the game when Bobby Reid did that thing. Urghh.

A combination of ricochets and inability to hoof clear a ball bouncing around the box after a fine save from Daniel Bentley saw silence decend on Griffin Park. Except from the away fans who were understandably ecstatic. What fighting spirit from the visitors.

It was oh so reminiscent of the 3-3 with Brighton last season where we were left feeling as thought we’d snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. As ever, the goals are up on the internet c/o Sky .

IMG_9738

Brentford had most of the control but ended with a share of the points

87 minutes on the back foot and one spawny goal. Their ‘keeper had nothing to do all second half.” Not my words but those of one Bristol City fan in The Griffin at full time. Even this morning I feel as though I’ve taken a massive punch to the gut, such is the feeling of numbness about the result although that could just be the five slices of cold pizza that Mrs B left for me to hoover up upon the return home.

Yet whilst I expected Dean to come out with the lines he did – he’s head coach – hearing this view from the other side gives some comfort today. Somebody is going to get a proper spanking soon. The preferred starting XI is beginning to take shape with Sawyers and Watkins surely nailed on. We’ve Sergi to come back and, likewise, Ryan whenever he is ready. This is still very much a squad and a force to be reckoned with.

Next up, a trip to Ipswich Town. They’re one of three teams with a 100% record – along with Cardiff City and a Wolves side who come to Griffin Park on Saturday week .

The Championship doesn’t get any easier. But it certainly keeps us on our toes.

Off field, there was the stadium news. Two very differing announcements were made by the club and BIAS in regards to the proposed changes in plans for Lionel Road (including capacity reduction from 20,000 to 17,500) and the details around this. Our fans’ group very much delving into the logistics which made for some confused reading. Surely they’ve got this wrong? And if not, why would the club only share part of the announcement ?

At the end of the day (Clive) I’m just the numpty on the terrace. The likes of Beesotted and BIAS do a great job supporting the fans and promoting the club. It’s great they’ve been involved in getting the news out although presumably there’s more to come clarifying the detail?

Putting this nonsense together the morning after the night before is fun, but its not a job. I’m not a journo. I’m not Billy Grant who never seems to sleep, such is his prodigious output. Something as emotive and important as this needs to be digested. Properly. More to follow on this one tomorrow.

As for Ryan Woods, there are no words. All we can do is respect his privacy and know that the entire Brentford family is thinking of him. Know that there is copious amounts of love heading the way of him and his family.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Bruzon

Nottingham Forest 4: The invisible defence. And is this the Lionel Road news?

13 Aug

1-0 up on 40 minutes. 3-1 down after 47 minutes. Brentford not so much threw this one away as gift wrapped it, wrote ‘SWALK’ on the label and hand delivered the points to Mark Warburton in the Nottingham Forest dugout. One of only three teams in the Championship without a point, the Bees will be looking to get off the mark against Bristol City on Tuesday night. Moreso, given so much of our attacking play in the opening two league games has suggested we deserve an awful lot more.

But regular readers know the drill here. Deserving counts for nothing. Balls in the back of the net are all we look to when the points are being counted up. Likewise, the table only starts to take on a real shape when we are ten games into the campaign.

Put it this way, at this stage two seasons ago we were four points better off and with Marinus at the helm. And look how that opening period to a season would eventually play out…

We will look back the goals that we conceded and see if we can improve from there”, Dean Smith told ‘official’ after the game. Dean, if we can’t then there is something seriously wrong. If Billy Sharp’s winner for Sheffield United saw us go walkabout, then this was the stuff of the worst horror sequels. Nottingham Forest 4 : The invisible defence.

The 1st team defence – static

The fourth goal in particular was one which would see the word ‘shambolic’ trending on Twitter. At least, in TW8. Sky have the video highlights up already. Do take a look. If you want a lesson in how to coned a goal then here it was. More frustrating was the fact that it came after Brentford had hauled themselves back into things at 2-3 down. Andreas Bjelland’s effort correctly adjudged to have crossed the line, even though it looked a close call from the Bramear Road and those Ealing Road wags situated directly behind the goal. It was no more than the build up of pressure had suggested would be coming until it then all went South. Again.

Positives? Well, first up let’s give due praise to Forest and, in particular, Andreas Bouchalakis. His brace helped secure the points but the second, just after half time, was a beautiful strike from distance that even had some of the home fans clapping. Credit where it’s due – it was a wonderful finish.

For Brentford, there was no shortage of effort going forward. Ollie Watkins impressed, along with Flo Jo and Kamo. There was a first league goal for Neal Maupay and it wouldn’t surprise me to see all four start against Bristol City. Along with Romaine Sawyers who gave his all and got stuck in, coming on from the bench.

IMG_5571 (1)

View from the Braemar – Rico Henry helps Brentford ‘push up’ in the first half

Yet these are all nice problems to have. It is the back four where Dean has real decisions to make. He stuck to his guns in benching Harlee but would also note afterwards that, “You have to play to the best of your ability to keep the shirt. It is too early to say for Tuesday but maybe conceding four goals we need to change things.”

Is this his way of welcoming the former captain back into the fold? Have Harlee’s contract negotiations now moved further in the player’s favour?  Could Maxime Colin win back his place in the starting XI ? Is it simply a case of ‘a bad day at the office’ in a season that is only 180 minutes old?

Certainly, I’m not overly stressed although would much rather be winning than losing.  We’ve a lot of new players come in over the summer. The attacking intent is clear for all to see and this is, as much, all about the team gelling. First things first though, let’s get the basics right. And that starts with not conceeding silly, soft goals.

The other two big talking points were Mark Warburton and Lionel Road. The former making his return to Griffin Park after leaving us at the end of 2014/15. Yet despite all the talk prior to kick off, in the end his presence seemed to be largely treated with the ambivolence reserved for a.n.other manager.

Indeed, the main subject for discussion was his attire – which consisted of a green polo shirt tucked deep in to his sports shorts. If anything, he looked less table topping manager and more ’extra from TV’s The Brittas Empire’ (one for the over 30s amongst us).

Brittas Warbs

Mark Warburton – always one to pursue new options

As for Lionel Road, everybody seems resigned to Tuesday’s stadium announcement being a capacity reduction. Although in what specific context? Could this be to accommodate any form of ‘safe standing’ zone?  Could Get West London journalist Tom Moore have been miles off the mark from his scoop during the week? And if not, how has he got hold of this news, let alone been allowed to leak it (unless this was to ‘soften the blow’)? Or could it be something else?

Something like a monorail?

Being a long standing fan of the club, Matthew Benham will be more than familiar with that story which was originally proposed as part of a new ground as far back as 2002. But that’s a scheme which has long since died a death – if for no other reason than the emergence of Cross Rail. And the chances of this one resurfacing are likely to be slim to none.

Certainly, the tweet from Independent fans group BIAS during the week suggested they weren’t happy about what is to come: We’ve been told of stadium changes & concerned at lack of consultation. We’ll work with ‪@beesotted & others to get info to fans + fan views.

Which blows my theory out of the water. Tuesday could be interesting. Of pitch, a potential announcement and on field the visit of Bristol City.

Here’s to getting everything back on the rails. Although perhaps not of the mono variety.

Lionel Road monorail

Could THIS be the Lionel Road news?

Nick Bruzon

Dean’s captain call. The right decision or is there more afoot?

9 Aug

Brentford progressed to round 2 of the Carabao cup with a 3-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon, albeit needing extra time to complete the job. Yet with Nottingham Forest next up, the talk remains around that of captain Harlee Dean. Or, rather, former captain Harlee Dean. With the Sheffield Wednesday rumours hanging around like a bad smell and the player out of contract at the end of this season, Dean Smith has chosen to hand the armband to Nico Yennaris.

League cup progress was nice. Very nice. Even if we are going back to August 2013 for the last time we won a tie in regulation time. Farid El-Alagui popping up to get a 90th minute winner in a 3-2 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge at Griffin Park. But going through is all you can ask for and a rocket for Romaine Sawyers, followed up by an extra time beauty from Ollie Watkins and Justin Shaibu (in the very last minute) were sufficient to achieve that aim.

But it is the captaincy where the talking points remain. Dean Smith confirmed to Get West London that Harlee ”Is in a bit of limbo with contract negotiations. With that going on it’s right that someone else carries the armband.” This, before adding that, “I’m sure his representatives are pitching him around to other clubs as well”.

A reference to the Sheffield Wednesday rumours? Great bluffing by Harlee’s ‘people’ in contract talks? Who knows? But with three other quality centre backs in the wings, its not a game of bluff I’d overly fancy playing. Certainly, if my long term future was at Griffin Park. Might Dean and Matthew actually just decide to ‘cash out’? Should they?

You can’t criticise a player for exploring opportunities. That’s human nature. If, indeed, these are available. Could it simply be a case of holding out for the best offer Brentford are prepared to put in front of him? Only Harlee knows that and only time will tell. But with the Bees travelling to Sheffield Wednesday on 12th Sept, after the transfer window has slammed shut, it will be very interesting to see the shape of our squad at that point.

For me, the choice of Nico was as intriguing a one in as much as who wasn’t picked. For me, and regardless of transfer talks, Harlee wouldn’t be my captain anyway. Unless truly exceptional, no defender would.

Whilst he had a wonderful season last time out, culminating in those player of the years awards, there was still the odd rush of blood to the head. Nobody can doubt he wears his heart on his sleeve and stands up for his team mates but with referees taking a harder line stance, shouting loudest isn’t necessarily the only tool in the captain’s box.

img_4043

Leading by example? Or a rush of blood?

For me, positionally, I’d want my captain at the centre of the action. Sure, he still needs that Harlee style ‘bite’ but, as much, the ability to help dictate play. To carry out the manager’s orders. To be where he can be most effectively seen and heard. And that for me is midfield. Preferably centre. That for me is Nico, Josh, Kamo or Ryan Woods.

Kamo is too new. Josh too inconsistent, for now. Nobody can doubt Nico has been around this squad for a few years and more than earned his stripes. He has shown wonderful maturity in overcoming those initial boo-boys to make a centre midfield berth his own.

The goals are equally impressive. It’s a surprise call but a good one aswell as recognising a player who has shown long term commitment to the club. A player who has, almost by stealth, become a ‘King Kev’ style part of the furniture. And that’s meant in a complimentary style.

Yet, equally, I’d have to ask why Ryan Woods has been overlooked. He started on Saturday against Sheffield United. Nico didn’t. John Egan was captain. Woodsy was man of the match in the eyes of many observers – despite the vote going to the ever popular Jota.

True, he didn’t make the team last night but even at the start of last season I’d gone on record of saying Ryan was my choice. For whatever that is worth. He went on to have a blinder, culminating in his being named ‘player’s player of the year’. With a long contract under his belt and this clear demonstration of respect from his team mates, surely he’d have been nailed on if Harlee was having this privilege removed?

Which begs the question of why? Is there an ulterior factor at play? Sunderland talk was rife a few weeks ago although, thankfully, that has gone quiet. For now. Could it just be that Ryan doesn’t want that extra responsibility? Or is it simply that Nico is deemed the best man for the job in Dean Smith’s eyes?

If so then I’m chuffed to bits for him. What an honour. He’ll absolutely do us proud.

At the end of the day (Clive), I’m just the numpty on the terrace with no access to the club inner circle or what gets said behind closed doors. It’s just a question being thrown out there as to what people think and who would they choose?

Instead, I can only call it as I see it from the stands. As a supporter. Whilst Ryan would have been my pick, bring on Captain Nico. Bring on Nottingham Forest. Let’s see what he can do in the league.

I can’t wait for Saturday.

Nick Bruzon

Football is back as Blades set the standard and Bees miss out.

6 Aug

Another season begins, another round of opening day disappointment for Brentford. The Bees left Sheffield United on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat which could have been more – the second of the hosts two disallowed goals subsequently being deemed very unlucky to be chalked off. Yet on a day dominated by home teams where only three away goals were scored in the Championship, including one for Hull City in their 1-1 at Aston Villa (as predicted yesterday – I’m still in shock), Bees fans should remain upbeat.

As ever, Sky have the highlights online already whilst the BBC, official, Beesotted and the likes are your place for match reports. This one moreso, where the long arm of the wife and her plans meant it would have been easier to escape from Alcatraz than TW8 yesterday. Yet despite an enforced absence from Bramall Lane, I was full of optimism.

Even the London Evening Standard had failed to put me off my stride on Friday’s journey back from work. Their typically supportive piece on the Bees highlighting our opening day win record. Or, rather, our opening day lack of win record.

IMG_9299

And now make that six. Yet it so easily could have been at least a point.

Most people will point to the double opportunity presented to Nico Yennaris and Lasse Vibe in the second half. Understandably so. It was the proverbial gilt edged chance. With Jota’s shot from outside the box only parried by Blackman in the Sheffield United goal, and the aforementioned players in acres of space just yards out, the ball was headed first against the crossbar and then over.

I’ve rewatched it a few times. You can look to the looping trajectory and height of the ball as it approaches our players. Blackman did well to put them off their stride, too. Yet being honest, one would still have expected to see the net ripple. Only the good people at TheIntakeGroup, Pinders, H.E. Barnes and Sky Bet taking any pleasure from seeing this one again….

Lasse and Nico at Sheff U

If ever an image summed up an afternoon. Sky have it in full

That’s football. Let’s not forget the staggering miss from Lucas João at Griffin Park last August when that other Sheffield side, Wednesday, were the visitors. Just yards out and unmarked in front of the goal, the back of the net was at his mercy as a Fernando Forestieri pass found its way past Daniel Bentley. João was even afforded the luxury of having a couple of stabs at the before somehow conspiring to hoof it clear of the bar.

I could also refer you to Daryl Murphy at Ipswich Town a few seasons ago. One that still sticks in the mind as the Bees were, once more, the beneficiaries of an impossible to miss opportunity being somehow missed with goal gaping and an unmarked player just needing to tap it it in.

It happens. A lot. Obviously we’d have preferred a goal but I’m not going to get hung about it. Besides, overall performance comes across as a largely positive one with the Bees dominating possession and shots at 59%/41% and 12/9 respectively.

Probably not what our performance deserved” said head coach Dean Smith after the game and while he may well be right, as we’ve said many times on these pages that its balls in the back of the net being the only stat that really counts. Sadly for us, Sheffield United aced that column by 1 to 0.

Still, at least our head coach acknowledged this too, noting: “Unfortunately, it’s about putting the ball in the back of the net and we didn’t take our chances today. Billy Sharp’s had one and has ended up winning the game.” And you can read read/see his interview in full on official.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 08.31.45

Dean does his thing at full time

Fair play to the Blades for doing so, too. The warning about their form and their packed house was there for all to see in advance. Safe to say they didn’t let the occasion get the better of them and, subject to the result of the Bolton – Leeds game, are one of eight sides on three points after this opening round of games.

I’d have loved three points. You can bet Sheffield United will be chuffed to bits with their win. And rightly so. On the plus side, we’ve now got a brace of home games in quick succession. Mark Warburton brings his Nottingham Forest team to Griffin Park on Saturday before we host Bristol City three days later. And there’s the small matter of the League cup first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday night.

After months of inactivity, the games are suddenly approaching us thick and fast. And I love it .

Nick Bruzon

Bring on the Blades. Time to chop down the Forest

5 Aug

For gods sake… you don’t want to go up Brentford’. ‘Smith out’. Just some of the tongue-in-cheek comments after Brentford crashed out of the play-off zone and down to eighth place as the Championship kicked off in anger on Friday night. A win for Nottingham Forest combined with a point apiece for Sunderland and Derby County saw the Bees overtaken before we’ve even got our boots on. But with the trip to Sheffield United finally here, the moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived.

Of course the table is purely in an embryonic and predominantly alphabetical state at present. Whilst Mark Warburton and his Nottingham Forest team will undoubtedly be pleased with the win that sends them temporarily top of the pile, it is nothing more than a statistical nicety for now. Newcastle United were bottom of the lot with nil points after two games last season and look how that all turned out.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 06.39.18

Forest top the lot. Temporarily, I’m sure

Yet to see things event starting to move around after months of 24 teams showing P 0 has got the spine tingling. Months of Aston Villa topping the lot by virtue of their place in the dictionary over the rest of the Championship. Thankfully, that statistical glitch has been resolved and the normal order of things can start to take hold once more with, for the record, their standard score of 1-1 available at 11/2 this afternoon when Hull City are the visitors. I mention this purely for research purposes.

But we digress. As ever. Today is all about Sheffield United and Brentford. Thankfully Keith Stroud is not in charge – and for anyone late to that party, let’s just say that when our big chance came a few years ago, he saw red. Plus ça change. Regular supporters know the drill at this point so let’s leave that one here. Another rant on his performance won’t help today’s proceedings.

Instead, Stephen Martin is in charge. His own record in 2016/17 was a very healthy 78 yellows from 35 games officiated. He only showed 3 red cards all season – ironically, the same amount as Stroud showed in that one night at Bramall Lane back in April 2013.

Mr. Martin was our own man in the middle just once let time out, as The Bees secured a 2-0 win over Ipswich Town in our opening home fixture of that campaign. John Egan grabbed a brace then but could he do it again today ?

Well, the one thing we can say is that Harlee Dean won’t feature today following his one match suspension that carried over from the end of last season. Given that ban and the injury to Sergi Canos, my own personal selection would be a starting XI comprising: Bentley, Colin, Egan, Barbet, Henry, Mokotjo, Woods, Jozefzoon, Jota, Wakins, Vibe.

Will Sergi be fit? Is Dean able to fit the wonderfully impressive Kamo and player’s player of the season Ryan Woods in the same team? Has Josh done enough pre-season to make it a real selection dilemma? Might we actually be able to hang on to Jota ? Who’d be a head coach? Tough decisions to be made today but what a nice position to be in.

IMG_9201

Jota impressed in the rain against Celta Vigo

As for Sheffield United, they’ll be up for this and then some. Of course, we all know Jack O’Connell and Simon Moore from Griffin Park, but the Blades are so much more than that. 100 points from a League One title winning campaign tells its own story whilst the likes Preston, Burton, of course the Bees and even Rotherham United (for a while) have shown how well teams can do when making that step up.

I very much expect Sheffield United to be in that category rather than joining the likes of Yeovil Town and Doncaster Rovers in bombing straight back out of the Championship and further down the leagues. Boo hoo. Shame. Move along now.

I’m struggling to call this one. The heart says Brentford, both teams to score and a narrow victory. But aswell as strong team we’ll be playing to a packed house and a crowd chomping at the bit for a taste of higher division football. Could the anticipation and expectation work to our advantage? Will it be the proverbial 12th man for the home side? Would we be happy to come home with a point ?

One things for sure, we’ve had three year’s experience playing at this level and at these marvellous stadia. Whomever Dean picks will be key. An obvious statement but he has as many personal decisions as tactical ones to make. The likes of Josh, Ryan, Andreas and Yoann will all be expecting too play. What about ever reliable Nico Yennaris?

Roll on 3pm when we find out. I cannot wait !

And as a foot note, huge congratulations to long time local boy Sir Mo Farah after his stunning performance in the World Championship athletics last night. There can’t be anyone who hasn’t warmed to his infectious enthusiasm and vast determination over the last ten years as he has made scooping gold medal after gold medal look almost effortless. His ‘golden’ post box near Isleworth station on the way through to Griffin Park is a constant reminder of just what he has achieved. Last night was yet another example of his incredible talent.

Nice one, Mo !

Nick Bruzon

Who will win the Championship? Who will go down? What about the Bees? Who has the best new kit?

3 Aug

Almost there, Brentford fans. It’s Thursday morning. The Championship kicks off tomorrow evening before The Bees travel to Sheffield United on Saturday afternoon. But with three top ten finishes under our belts, is it now the time to look at stepping up? Or should we remain content just to swim in the same waters as Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and all those other famous names? To stay safe. To look at holding station until such time as Lionel Road is ready for us to move in to?

Yesterday’s column on Jota and not ‘Jota’ ended with several questions of this nature. The predominant one being, what are your hopes for the forthcoming season? Well for what it’s worth, here’s my take on how the Championship is going to pan out.

Starting with Brentford, the summer has been an exciting one. On the transfer front it has been one way traffic inward with, to date, nobody leaving bar The Hoff. Even KK and Jack Bonham have only gone out on loan. There has been no Jota to West Ham. No Ryan Woods to Sunderland. No Harlee Dean to Sheffield Wednesday. No Rico Henry to Hull City. No Romanine Sawyers to Southend United (and apologies – but that one really did appear) . So far…

Instead we have bought what would seem to be incredibly astutely. The EFL young player of the year in Ollie Watkins and South African international Kamo Mokotjo are the two names immediately grabbing our attention. The former because of the potential and our beating off a host of other clubs to his signature. These include a Nottingham Forest side who let Britt Assombalonga go to Middlesbrough and are now relying on veteran striker Daryl Murphy. Prolific in his day although never forget ‘that’ miss.

Murphy miss FLS Ipswich

And Murphy must score. Erm….

Kamo is getting Bees fans excited simply due to the fact of how skillful and how comfortable he already looks. Translating pre-season into real life form will be another thing, but the early signs are wonderfully positive. We seem to have genuine competition in pretty much every position. Just the amount of different stories that have appeared about our players over the summer show how strong our squad has become.

Of course, let’s not rest on our laurels here. The season may begin this weekend but that godforsaken transfer window still remains open until August 31. As we’ve seen in the past, players can come and go well after the campaign has begun. Andre Gray being a most recent example where, despite his two goals in two games at the beginning of the Marinus era, the inevitable sale to Burnley went through straight after.

Yet, at the same time, the current signs are positive. Fingers crossed it can stay that way. If Matthew Benham can juggle the finances to keep this squad together then we have the potential to be amongst the best in the league.

Little Brentford punching above their weight”. Not my words but those of just about every pundit outside of TW8 in recent times.

B*llocks” . They’re my words.

The last three years we’ve done what we have on merit. Reaching the play-offs for the Premier League in our first Championship season may have caught a few people unawares but it was fully deserved on our play. Coming out the other side of the Marinus experiment to end ninth, equally justified – despite that post Christmas wobble.

But for a ropey patch in the autumn last time around we could well have pushed on then. The football in the second half of the season, freed from the understandable obligation to play everything through Scott Hogan and reinvigorated by the returning Spanish duo of Jota and Sergi, was simply breathtaking.

We destroyed Aston Villa at Griffin Park. Absolutely destroyed them. You could say the same for the home games with Derby County. With Leeds United. With QPR, for whom Jake Bidwell probably has ongoing nightmares. Police still involved in that one (not literally), after reports of Jota picking his pocket more than once.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 06.22.24

‘Official’ love him, too

I don’t buy any of this small club nonsense. I fully know our history and have been coming to Griffin Park since 1979. Absolutely, it is a privilege to play at the level given some of the low points we’ve been through. But that doesn’t mean we should be showing any defference, any OTT respect, any form of “we’re just happy to be here’ humility. Just as nobody has a divine right to ‘be any good’ (see: Arsenal), equally just because you have humble origins you shouldn’t go into it expecting bad things to happen. Have some confidence in our ability. Our perceived size is an advantage. It is an advantage we should play up to.

We’ve taken so many teams and pundits by surprise already. I’m convinced it will happen again. My call for the Bees was initially 6th at the start of the summer. In recent weeks I’ve revised that to fifth. I’m sticking to that and nailing my colours to the mast here. Brentford to finish fifth.

Optimistic? Stupid? Naive? Whichever – I’m here to have fun this season and am only looking upwards.

Casting the net further afield, it is not a view shared by other sources. Middlesbrough and Aston Villa remain favourites to win the league. The former, I can fully understand. They’ve only ever been a force at this level (move along, nothing to see here….) whilst boosted by both the goals of Assombalonga and the parachute payments from the Premier League will be exceptionally strong . I’m agreeing with the experts on this one.

Villa though? No. No. No. I can’t see them finishing in the top six. The were horrific last season. Only good for betting on 1-1 scorelines, <2.5 goals and away L. The hype around John Terry surely more distraction than yardstick of genuine aspiration. I find it inconceivable that Steve Bruce will have turned things around this much over the summer. Stranger things have happened, of course, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Instead, Sheffield Wednesday are the team that will finally come good and take the second spot. Celebrating their 150th year with some cracking new kits, to boot (in my opinion, and not including our own, the best shirts in the Championship ) they’ll go up after knocking on the door for so long. Joining Brentford in the play-offs will be Norwich City, Fulham and Leeds United. Pick your order for these three. Much as I’m loathe to admit it, the Cottagers played some wonderful football last season. Their stadium may well be a hotbed of neutrality but, on the field, they showed they can more than do their stuff these days.

image

Sheffield Wednesday to play as good as they’ll look?

Bottom three. Millwall, Ipswich Town and QPR for me. The former just too out of their depth whilst the Tractor Boys and not so super hoops have only gone backwards. With no real inward investment and a team that has only stagnated, those days of top flight football are a long, long way away.

Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. What do I know? Not much. I’ll happily hold up my hands when this all gets proven wrong, One man’s opinion is another’s comedy.

Club sponsor LeoVegas has us ranked joint 11th to win the league at 25/1. Do they know something we don’t?

Likewise FourFourTwo magazine have just published their season preview. Available now from all good newsagents, they call Brentford to finish 10th. Don’t let that or the fact that yours truly wrote the piece on The Bees (Klanggggggg; the sound of a name being dropped) put you off, though. It’s actually a great read.

442

Season preview edition now available

The other follow up we need to do from yesterday is in regards to Jota. Or, specifically ‘Jota’. Of Wolves. You may recall that the EFL have told Wolves that he needs to have his real surname, Silva, on his shirt rather than what they deem to be his nickname.

All well and good, although my own subsequent thought was what this might mean for us? Should we even be able to hang on to him, of course. An awkward look in the other direction being the immediate reaction.

However,Twitter user Ben (@BenPlumb97) has put the question out there in cyberspace. Thankfully, the legend that is Kitman Bob has stepped up to answer.

And relax 🙂

Bob Tweet re Jota

Nick Bruzon

Mamma Mia, here we go again. Brentford score big but who are this season’s dark horses?

1 Aug

With the Championship season almost upon us, it would be fair to say that anticipation is rising. Nowhere moreso than at Griffin Park where last night young Brentford fans were given the chance to meet their heroes at the now traditional summer ‘open day’. Sky Sports have launched their own season preview (remember the one Ian Holloway did last time out?) where along with the standard installation of Middlesbrough and Aston Villas as favourites, there’s no surprise for Bees fans. And the EFL have announced a shake up to penalty shoot outs that will have local journalists and bad bloggers in pun heaven.

First up, last night at Griffin Park. What can you say? It never ceases to amaze me just how incredible our players are. I’ve said this before but it needs to be said again. What for them could have been a tedious contractual obligation became a wonderful hour and a half (if not longer) for all those young fans lining up to get a peak behind the scenes and a photo with the stars. Not to mention an autograph or two.

IMG_9247 (1)

They were all, without question, wonderful. We got along quite late in the day yet the enthusiasm of the squad was infectious. Whatever Dean Smith and his staff are doing for squad morale is just incredible. What a brilliant group of players who went out of their way to welcome young supporters who might have been bit nervous / awestruck. (and that was just dad, although perhaps not so much of the young).

The entire squad was pretty much all there. Even new dad Maxime Colin, who one could have understandably expected to be on paternity leave. I don’t want to overly single anybody out although big thanks to Harlee, Lewis and Jota for their help with the picture. Hitting peak tiredness, somebody went very shy before composing himself after some enthusiastic words from his heroes.

Would you get this at another Championship team? Would the players be so welcoming? Would the club be so relaxed and open ? Would the club make such a great effort for their fans?  There was nothing corporate about this, it was just beautifully arranged. It was just Brentford. THANK YOU.

HB, Harlee, Lewis, Jota

Sky Sports. We all know what happened this time last season. Pundit Ian Holloway wrote his pre-season review in which he tipped the Bees for a poor season and relegation to League One. The rest is history.

Fast forward twelve months and whilst not the QPR boss with pen in hand, the TV company have published this year’s version. Divided into four categories of : Title contenders, Play-off hopefuls, Dark horses and Potential strugglers it looks at the so-called runners and riders in each category. So where do Brentford fit in?

The answer is a simple one. Nowhere. Not surprisingly they have Middlesbrough as favourites (I’d agree) along with Aston Villa – whom everybody is backing. I’m sorry, but I genuinely don’t get it. They were awful last season. Is a geriatric defender going transform them? Bring on Jota to run at him – Jake Bidwell, round 2.

But that aside, where are The Bees? Quite simply we don’t even warrant a passing mention.

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 05.18.40

Whilst I’m tipping us for fifth, I can sympathise with their reticence to perhaps label us play-off contenders. But for a team that have had three top ten finishes over our Championship life (including that play-off with Middlesbrough) and have bought exceptionally over the summer to not even be deemed a ‘dark horse’ is odd.

Then again, if you do want to see Brentford as a dark horse Rod Liddle in The Times has us marked up. Or should that be down? He has us as relegation candidates and scoops this year’s Ian Holloway award.

DGAyAwnXkAExLJv

Look – I love all this. Three full seasons in and still nobody fancies us. Nobody gives us a hope. We are the stealth bombers of the Championship. Flying very much undetected, under the radar and all the way to the top. Keep on ignoring us – even the TV channels don’t give us a look in over August and September – and that’s just fine by me. If we can say the same to the end of the transfer window then all the better.

Finally, penalty kicks. You may have seen this yesterday but the EFL have announced they are switching the traditional shoot out to the ABBA system for the Carabao Cup, Checkatrade Trophy (should anybody be watching) and play-offs. Effectively, the shoot out will be contested like a tennis tie-break where after the first team starts, teams then get two consecutive kicks each and then continues as such until we have a winner.

The blurb on the EFL site tells us that “The trial of the new system is being backed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in response to a hypothesis that the player taking the second kick is under greater mental pressure in the current format. Therefore, a different order of kickers will be trialled in an experiment to reduce any apparent advantage the team taking the first kick may have”.

Regular or ABBA. It’s still nerve wracking and exciting in equal measure. Although with the League cup starting next week, this doesn’t give huge amounts of time to prepare. Personally, I’m more interested in the pun potential off the back of this. Which manager will be sending out an SOS? Who will meet his Waterloo? At the end of the day (Clive), the winner takes it all.

Whatever your thoughts on the new system, I can see those headlines being crowbarred in already. Answers on a postcard to the Middlesex Chronicle, marked ‘pun’.

Then again, the only way this could have been bettered is rather than ABBA, the EFL had gone for Diana Ross on the penalty front…..

Nick Bruzon

Adios Celta. Bring on Sheffield United. Brentford win again.

30 Jul

Brentford 2 Celta Vigo 1 . With our attention split between Griffin Park and Dulwich Hamlet yesterday, those who opted for the First XI over the B-Team were treated to a fine performance. The first half especially, with The Bees dominating last season’s Europa League semi-finalists (as we seem contractually obliged to call them). With the warm up to the Championship now complete, Brentford remain unbeaten heading into those first few games with Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest.

As ever, for your big match reports go to ‘Official’ or the likes of Beesotted and the BBC. I’m just the numpty on the terrace although to my eyes the stand out points were:

Jota. Obviously. Looked wonderful in the rain, something he would later say really assists his game, and scored that delightful free kick from the heart of Saunders territory to double our lead. It was an absolute beauty, curled over the wall and into the net to double our lead before half time.

IMG_9201

Jota does his thing in the rain against Celta Vigo

Serge Canos. Tore Celta apart down the other other flank. Really impressed and just seemed to drift through the Spanish defence at will. Here’s hoping that the injury which caused his first half substitution, and one which Dean Smith would later describe as the player having ‘rolled his ankle’ is a mild one rather than something which will preclude him from the game at Sheffield United.

Kamo Mokotjo. Have we already picked up the bargain of the season in the South African international? Early days, obviously, but how comfortable does he look on the ball? How strong taking it forward? How effortless in holding things up when the opposition were in control ?

The watching Rasmus Ankersen must have been very pleased with this particular member of the summer talent pool. The recruitment team have been very vocal over the close(d) season and this is why.

IMG_5345

Rasmus. Summer chic despite the English weather

The first half. Brentford were in complete control. Waltzing through defenders and passing it beautifully. Credit to Josh McEachran, too, as he was able to break further forward than the normal ten yard radius around the centre spot he so often seems tethered to. His pass to free Lasse Vibe for the opener being a particularly exquisite one although Jota was also the beneficiary of one delightful cross field ball. Celta didn’t get close to us.

The second half. Why do we switch off? Was it a case of taking the foot off the gas or had Celta been given the proverbial rocket? Certainly, they stepped up their performance and made a much closer game of things. 2-1 being about the right result on the balance of play although how many times did we see last season that balance of play, possession and shots on target count for nothing? It’s only the ‘goals scored’ column that is of ultimate interest and so form that respect, great job from Dean Smith and the boys.

Peter Gilham. As with Southampton he was in top form on the microphone. Performing his public address duties in that wonderful style we know and love him for, he seemed in fine fettle. At one point reeling off a good half dozen Celta substitutions before concluding in his customary deadpan, “And if that’s wrong, don’t blame me.

The only down side to his/our afternoon was, as with Southampton, the axing of Siracusa (Its a little Italian restaurant. At Brentford Lock) from the goal scoring announcements. What had become a wonderfully kitsch part of the goal scoring routine has now been replaced by something infinitely corporate – LeoVegas taking on a much more sterile role in proceedings. That’s progress and money, I suppose. RIP Siracusa, the restaurant may still be there but your announcements are not forgotten.

The Celta Vigo fans. That was dedication from a small group who were in wonderful voice. Especially in The Griffin at full time. A beautiful shirt, too. Where can I get one? Although ours looked equally resplendent, nowhere moreso than in the club shop which is now fully stocked with the new home, away and GK variants.

As for Sheffield United, Dean was quoted on official at full time saying that he doesn’t know his starting 11 at the moment :

“I don’t know the 11 at the moment,” said Dean. “That will start coming to me on Monday or Tuesday when we start building for the game.

For me, I’m expecting the return of Maxime Colin at right back after he missed this one for quite a special reason….

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 07.25.44

Injury to Canos aside (where Flo Jo will come in should the ankle prove problematic) the only question is whether Ryan Woods is able to oust Kamo or Josh from midfield. The former is surely nailed on yet the possibility of starting without our player’s player of the year seems an unthinkable one . Who’d be a manager?

And finally, yesterday’s column referenced the mid 90’s Brentford song, Saturday Afternoon Red Army. Specifically, who had sung this? Of course it was Robb Johnson (many thanks for the reminders) and it is one you can hear on Spotify now. Or for posterity, buy the ‘live’ version from Amazon.

With Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park in less than two weeks, I have no doubt #BeeThe DJ will return. It might be time for yours truly to replace perennial choice ‘Down, Down’ by The Quo with a new selection.

If Siracusa can be given the boot, then maybe its time to say adios to The Quo. For a while…

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 07.44.42

Nick Bruzon