Tag Archives: Dean Smith

Tin foil? Check. Sofa? Check. Corona Virus? Check.

9 Jan

The FA Cup third round is here. It began last night at Aston Villa (we’ll get to Dean Smith in a bit) and now Brentford host Middlesbrough this evening. Another run at the stadium in North London near Ikea awaits. Memories of the epic afternoons against Manchester City and Sunderland flooding to the fore every time this competition is mentioned. Even last season’s game with Leicester City at Griffin Park is up there – if only for the fact it was one of the last occasions we were all together. Now, we begin another journey although one I get the feeling is going to see a lot of less familiar faces helping us along the way. A side much more akin to the one that started the early rounds of the League Cup likely to be the direction chosen by Thomas Frank. Albeit, he won’t be there to put an arm around the shoulder or impart some top, top words of advice. Yesterday’s news certainly put paid to that. Award winner in the morning followed by the confirmation he has tested positive for Covid 19. Ten days self-isolation now follow and, of course, everybody wishes him nothing but the best. Talk about the ‘curse’ of manager of the month ! For once, it really is a case of ‘Frank out’. In all seriousness though, one can only hope our inspirational head coach is back amongst us as soon as possible and not suffering any ill effects.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

Yet whomever is picked for Brentford – and even Charlie Goode has noted in his programme interview that “I am sure the squads will be very different today” (from ‘that’ 0-0 with Middlesbrough – the game that dare not speak its name) it is still the FA Cup. It is the third round. It is the single most exciting weekend in the football calendar. The chance for the mighty to fall. For heroes to be made. For the armchair fan to sit back and gorge on all that the cup has to offer. Every game will be available to sofa dwellers and, with nothing else to do, why not. A cup tie is the one occasion where you can dip into a random game and pick a side. The desire to see an ‘upset’ is almost instinctive.

 For example, next weekend sees Sheffield United host Newcastle United in the Premier league. Honestly, is anyone outside of their own fans going to think that looks like an attractive means to spend two hours? Cripes, talk about boredom on a plate and I wouldn’t go near it with a barge pole. Personally speaking. I’ve suffered enough already this season when Middlesbrough came to visit in the league  – and that was my own team dragging themselves through 90 minutes – so have no desire to inflict similar on myself. Yet offer up the prospect of this afternoon’s encounter between Bristol Rovers and Sheffield United, then all of a sudden the chance to watch the Blades limp through a game takes on a whole new level of intrigue. And with our own kicking off at 6pm, it means both can be watched. If you want.

We won’t be there in person. Nobody will. One has to feel for the fans of Marine in particular. Hosting cup kings Spurs yet forced to watch it from the safety of home. There’s an entirely different question out there as to whether football should even go on hold for a while, as it did last season, with more and more clubs returning positive tests. Or, in the case of Bristol City, sore throats. Yet until, or if, that happens, we’ve got this. Watching on from home and hoping to progress. Hoping to get through without injury or suspension that has already robbed us of Josh Dasilva.

I’d still love to be there and would have gone like a shot had we been able. The chance to see Brentford, against anyone, always a pleasure. The opportunity to wield that tin foil trophy – something our Harry has done every season – one that is always grabbed with relish. The creation of the trophy a  Saturday morning ritual of gluing and cutting that we’ve always enjoyed but, alas, not this year. Or maybe we will anyway. Just because.  

Win or lose, we’ve had our moments. Hosting Marcus Gayle and Staines Town. The aforementioned game with Leicester City. Even being dumped out by Walsall. As much because of their own reaction to recently departed boss and ‘Ginger Judas’ Dean Smith who had joined us at Griffin Park. A quite remarkable reaction, a cracking afternoon of cup football and one it would be fair to say that the Saddlers ‘deserved to win’. 

Dean certainly upset the Walsall fans

The league cup run has certainly lifted spirits, that’s for sure. Coming so close to a Wembley final with Manchester City one that, whilst everyone is rightly still looking at with pride, would have been a quite incredible experience had we managed to pull it off. Now, we must go again.

I’m not an idiot. The absolute 110% priority is the league. We’ll never have a better chance to reach the hallowed ground of the top flight and I have no doubt Thomas will juggle resources accordingly. Yet, at the same time, that’s not to say I won’t be investing any less in the FA Cup. Our squad have shown what they can do already and I‘m sure they’ll be out to do the same again this afternoon. Bring it on !!

Now, where are the scissors…?

Another FA Cup journey on the road to Wembley begins.

Nick Bruzon 

It was Boy’s Own stuff on Thursday but who starts now ?

3 Oct

The League Cup has been and gone. Brentford are through and that’s fantastic but that’s also as far as it goes. For now. Thoughts of a Christmas quarter-final with Newcastle United can wait for another month or so. Instead, the focus is back on the Championship and Sunday afternoon’s visit from Preston North End. With the mood at Lionel Road one of optimism – as much due to the performance of Said Benrahma as off-field updates that came in a new signing and the David Raya to Arsenal story finally being put to bed – the big question being who starts? And up at Aston Villa, the love story between Dean Smith and  Jota has come to an end.

First though, Brentford. Cripes. Who’d be a head coach? What lovely problems for Thomas Frank to have. What decisions to make. Everyone’s a manager and will have different options as to the team. Sergi Canos has been wonderful but Said Benrahma sent a reminder about what he can do in the most jaw-dropping style.

‘That’ goal against Fulham, with Michael Hector humiliated by the backwards nutmeg, before the Algerian lashed it low and hard into the bottom corner from distance was pure Boys Own stuff. A more incredible return than the second coming of Jota.

Benrahma’s skils – an obscene publication?

Then there’s Mbeumo and Ghoddos. The waiting for Saman was rewarded as he provided the perfect tee up for Marcus Forss to open the scoring on Thursday.  Bryan is immense though. We all know his pace down the flanks and prowess in front of goal. Could Emiliano be sweating tonight as we at least try to fit three of the four into the starting XI? That’s before you even consider Toney v Forss. The big money replacement for Ollie Watkins or the young pretender with the thunderbolts in his boots and the habit of scoring whenever he takes the field?

Dominic Thompson had a great game whilst in goal, David Raya has shown just why Arsenal were so heavily linked. Those rumours should now be dispelled for a while after it was confirmed our number one had signed a four year contract extension on Friday. Pity Luke Daniels who has done a fine job deputising in the league for a man who has pulled off some world class saves during the Cup run. A man who, don’t forget, is the current holder of the Championship golden gloves.

Luke, of all, has most to lose should Thomas twist rather than stick when it comes to selection for Preston. Having waited his turn, it has finally come. Drop him back to the bench and you may aswell start looking to the B team for our reserve ‘keeper. That is, assuming Luke wants first team football. He’s more than good enough for it at this level, that’s for sure. I don’t envy Thomas that choice or that conversation – with either ‘keeper.

For me, Clive, assuming there are no injury doubts I think he’ll go :

Raya, Henry, Dalsgaard, Pinnock, Jansson, Norgaard, Dasilva, Marcondes, Benrahma, Mbeumo, Toney.

It’s going to be harsh on anybody who misses out after Thursday but with international break approaching, this is the time to go for it. Personally speaking, I’d love to see Marcus Forss start but if nothing else the bench should be tastier than a slice of sour-dough toast smeared in marmite i.e very.

Elsewhere, there’s been more transfer news. The bees have signed German Under-21 Vitaly Janelt from VfL Bochum. There was no pretence about the  midfielder’s skillset from Thomas, describing him as “Dynamic in his play and strong in the middle when it comes to duels. Most importantly, he has the aggressiveness and intensity in the high press that we want to have”.

Another classic set of signing photos suggesting we’ve picked up a player who would fit in as well as alongside a Jonathan Douglas or Christian Norgaard as he would in a cold war era spy thriller. Think the Man From Uncle or anything from the second best Bond, Connery.

All being well Vitaly is as stylish on field as he is off it

700 words in and no mention our opponents. Well, those early season results are tricky to get too much of a reading from. The Lilywhites have only managed a single point so far but that was up at Carrow Road – not a performance to be sniffed at. Are home defeats to Stoke and Swansea the sign of a team on the way out or simply one finding their feet in another bizarre season of behind-closed-doors football?  

We’ll find out on Sunday afternoon, that’s for sure. Season ticket holders should have been sent their I-follow codes by now. Don’t forget those all important tricks to ensure stress free sign on… Firstly, use Chrome. Not Safari. Surely something as simple as an internet browser thingy shouldn’t make such a significant difference but, as we now know, it does. Secondly, even though the codes allow you to watch for free, credit cards details are still required. Presumably supporters wanting to watch the Huddersfield game the other week will have now bypassed that pitfall but for anybody just coming in from work, please be aware.

And talking of watching football over the internet… Rasmus, bring forth the crowbar. The latest edition of ‘The Warm Up’ has now gone live on YouTube. Marcus and Stu are again joined by Karleigh Osborne for a look back at Fulham and Millwall along with a couple of very special challenges. Even  Harlee Dean, sorry Crash Bandicoot, puts in an appearance in the ‘nutmeg’ challenge. There’s another competition and the results of last week’s. Plus a forfeit that must now be paid. And how……

Finally, Jota. I make no secret of the fact he has been my favourite Brentford player in years. As much for the hair. The excitement of Benrahma, the last minute goals, the leaving opponents for dead (poor Jake Bidwell) and the return from loan after his love-letter to the fans. It all ended on somewhat of a disappointing note with the triple transfer swoop by ten times better Birmingham City before the King finally found his place in the top flight with Aston Villa. 

Sadly though, it wasn’t to be. After just 16 appearances his contract has been cancelled a year early by mutual consent. He is a free agent and surely Spain beckons? I mean, there’s no way he’ll come back here a third time. Is there…?

I’ll never forget all those good times and wonderful moments. Hail to the King. Wherever he goes.

Oh Jota…. Any excuse

Nick Bruzon

Needless to say, he had the last laugh.

10 Sep

And with that, Ollie Watkins was revealed at Aston Villa. The latest Brentford star to make the step up to the top flight. These days,  the Villans rather than Wycombe or Birmingham City are the ones becoming our ‘B’ team. He joins Jota, Ezri Konsa and manager/ head coach Dean Smith in a squad that could be argued as , if not ‘ten times better’, certainly one chock full of talent. England debutant Jack Grealish the most prodigious of the stars that will be playing alongside our (former) man.

That’s about as ‘official’ as it gets.

There was nothing but good wishes from all at , err, Lionel Road when the news was announced. A low key statement from Brentford, “All the best, Ollie. The striker has this morning completed his move to @AVFCOfficial for an undisclosed fee” was followed by a much more in depth piece detailing the move. Albeit, the fee of £28million with a further £5million in add-ons was not confirmed. Kerr-chinggg! 

After the season he had, and that unmentionable final game, it was unlikely Ollie would be staying. No complaints here. Quite the opposite. He has his dream move and a well deserved reward for all the hard work and good times. Brentford have shown we are no longer the pushovers in the transfer market that we were in days gone by. Now, there is no need to sell. Just the knowledge that we help players progress, with replacements lined up, and release them when it is mutually beneficial. 

Cripes – what a price. I saw a comment that says it is the 12th highest ever paid for an English player. Aston Villa have absolutely got an international star in the making. If he can continue his goal scoring hot streak – and Dean will know what his man can do – then the England shirt will be beckoning. Neal Maupay showed last season how that step up to the top flight can be made. I fully expect more of the same from Ollie. 

There was a graphic from Sky Sports on Twitter yesterday, declaring Brentford to be ‘Masters of the transfer market’. 

Looking at it in cold, hard figures you’d be doing well to disagree. Not just with the fees but , as much, our recruitment process. How far away do all the sneers now seem? The talk of Matthew Benham’s system being nothing more than robotics and Moneyball? Of him inhabiting a Doctor Evil style ‘lair’? That one was Clem, I recall. Needless to say, he’s had the last laugh. (Matthew, rather than Clem).

Talk to the hand – a strange analogy once made about Matthew Benham’s HQ

So who next? Joel Valencia seems set for a loan out to Legia Warsaw. Talk on Said Benrahma has gone quiet. Very quiet. Is he also Aston Villa bound? Somehow, possibly, maybe sitting tight? Hey, one can dream. David Raya still seem inexorably linked with Arsenal although the club have made it absolutely clear we are not interested in even considering a sale. It’ll be telling to see what happens when we visit Birmingham City on Saturday lunchtime. For the record, I expect David to start and be with us all season.

As ever with Brentford, this is all out of our control. Stressing about it won’t do any good. Confidence in who will comes in to replace those that have moved on is something which should remain sky high. Past seasons have more than proved that, now we’ve got the Proschwitz style kinks out of the system. Ivan Toney is the latest of those to join us and I can’t wait to see how he goes in the red and white.

That’s all to come. The season proper starts on Saturday. The transfer window remains open until early October. That’s a LONG time. Urgh. Still, heads down. Teeth gritted. Move along, nothing to see here. Nothing to worry about if it does happen. He says….

Until then, it’s a case of one more ‘Good luck’ Ollie. Not that he needs it. Perhaps more a case of ‘So long and thank you for everything’. Here’s to seeing you on Match Of The Day.

And finally, don’t forget that all The Last Word season reviews remain available, for free download for your kindle e-book reader. There’s only a day or so of this to run so please help yourselves – if you want. You can pick up 2013/14 – 2017/18 here, there’s 2018/19 here whilst the latest effort (which is probably the word), covering 2019-20 is here. These are free so get in now. Once these go back to ‘regular’ price (the Amazon store gives five free days every three months) then any monies received go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust…

Thanks, as ever.

You can read about all this sort of stuff once more

Nick Bruzon

Farewell to a hero.

9 Sep

Will Ollie Watkins earn that most special / awful of honours today – a personalised transfer signing hashtag? Word on the street is that he will complete his move from Brentford to Aston Villa, for a fee that keeps rising and rising – depending on where you read. Elsewhere, Christian Nørgaard mad his full international debut as England were held 0-0 in Denmark. And there’s more e-book updates (thank you !).

Ollie – a hero to all at Griffin Park

First up, Ollie. Dean Smith will no doubt feel he deserves a reunion with his ex and is certainly prepared to pay handsomely for his man. The latest reports suggest he’s prepared to break the bank for this one (Premiership survival will facilitate that, I suppose). The price is thought to read: 

£28million, rising to £33million based on add ons.

The Kitchen sink

Some tracksuits

Jota (hey, one can dream)

An arm and a leg  

Whatever the fee actually reads in the end, it will be another incredible reward for the Brentford system. Aston Vila have been made to sweat for their primary target, with no urgency to sell. Now, valuations would seem to have been met and Ollie has his well earned move. When the GPG are calling it then that’s as close as you can get to a ‘done deal’ beyond seeing a shirt photo or one of those awkward #partofthepride type messages (stick to a chewed BIC – much classier).

We’ve been here before

Nobody could doubt what Ollie, an absolute hero at Griffin Park, did for the Bees. Nor can there be any bitterness about him taking the step up that came so close to being made at Lionel Road.  Ah, but for that play-off final. Even then, he bust a gut covering just about every blade of grass. 

His goals speak for themselves – the work rate, probably under-rated to the casual observer. Then there’s the fact that he’s just an all round good egg. The Brentford policy of ‘no dickheads’ – where personality and group spirit has always been a key part of our acquisition strategy – as key to his approach as anything else.

I’ve no doubt Exeter City will also be salivating at their own cut, should it have been written in, but if nothing else the step up made by yet another of our players should hopefully give incentive to those below us looking to sell in future. Likewise, those considering a move to Griffin Park. The conveyor belt of talent progressing through the ranks and up into the top flight, at vast profit, is a well documented effect of Matthew Benham’s system. Crazy stuff ! Who’s laughing now?

The one real downside being that we’re going to need a new car. The BMW will be no more. Still, at those prices perhaps the directors of football will have earned a Porsche or two. 

BMW etc etc etc

In all seriousness, one can only wish the very best to Ollie. He has been an absolute phenomenon at Griffin Park, stepping up when Neal Maupay left for Brighton and more than making the goalscorer’s position his own. Aston Villa have got an absolute gem and I can’t wait to see how he goes in the top flight.

The other news from last night was the England – Denmark game. Ordinarily, condolences would be offered to anyone sitting through a performance from tGareth Southgate’s team which has universally described as ‘turgid’.  

Yet, as ever, let’s try to look positive. For one thing, ‘that’ band were, ermm, banned. (Copy, paste, add usual rant about Bernie Clifton, unwelcome horns and off-key renditions of the Dambusters theme). True, so were ALL supporters but if there’s one thing Covid has done it is, at least, to ensure that the awful noise to simulate atmosphere is limited to that being piped in by Sky.

Christian Nørgaard joins the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford in representing his country. His debut was as solid as those performances for the Bees and there’s a strong case for him winning now of the many man-of-the-match polls doing the rounds. We all saw what he did last time around. Could 2020/21 see him as one of our key players in that push for the top? Roll on Saturday when we find out.

Elsewhere, e-books. The Last Word compendiums are already available for free (for a couple of days) on the Kindle store. You can pick up ‘There Is No Plan B – Brentford FC season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18’ and also ‘The Jaffa cake Shirt – Brentford FC season review: 2018/19‘ for free. Now. 

But, like an advert for kitchen knives, there’s more. The latest version ‘Farewell, Griffin Park – Brentford FC season review: 2019/ 20’ is also up and is also now free for a few days. It would normally retail for £1.99 (with all money received going to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust) but life’s too short. If you want this one, too, and the chance to relive all those amazing Ollie Watkins moments (via these dodgy sources) then fill your boots at no expense.

Enjoy.

Until then, the only other thing to say is goodbye and good luck to Ollie. Thanks for everything. Here’s to crossing paths in 12 month’s time.

Nick Bruzon

Have we just been given a cup boost?

9 Jan

With Lionel Road season tickets now on sale and the 237 derby approaching, for Brentford fans there was interest away from Griffin Park last night. Our FA Cup opponents Leicester City were in EFL cup action at home to Aston Villa. The Foxes were unable to rise to the occasion and left with a semi that is very much in the balance after the first leg ended 1-1. The chance to play Manchester City in the final (we’re all agreed United are dead in the water, yes?) as  wide open for Brendan Rodgers as it is Dean Smith.

This is great news for Brentford. That second leg at Villa Park is scheduled to take place the Tuesday after Leicester visit Griffin Park in the FA Cup. With the Foxes also having a midweek league match in the run up to their game with the Bees, any thoughts about their resting players may just have been cranked up a few notches. Three games in six days is a huge ask of anybody. Moreso given the intensity of the  battle for the Premier League top spots and already being a mere 90 minutes from a Wembley final.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. For all I know Thomas Frank may have a similar mindset and prefer to give his star men a breather. Personally, I don’t think that will happen though. I’m pretty sure we’ll go for broke. The BT cameras are rumoured to be lined up for this one (don’t take that as gospel, yet) and it is a wonderful chance for us to test ourselves against one of the best teams in the country. As importantly, we have no midweek action prior (although I’ve have subsequently been reminded that the fixture v Forest has ben moved to the following Tuesday – oops!) . Equally, the disappointment of our ‘doing a Leeds’ ( i.e. falling apart) in the second half of last season’s fifth round at Swansea City still burns strongly. A 0-1 half-time lead ending in 4-1 devastation and the tin foil trophy ending the night stuffed into a bin.

IMG_1833

Swansea in the FA Cup wasn’t good.

For now, we have to sit tight and wait for the time and date of this one to be formally announced. All being well that will happen soon and plans can be made. Favours called in for those looking to come out of the woodwork and see The Bees in action. As an advert for the Lionel Road tickets, the Leicester City tie couldn’t have come at a better time for the marketing team should anybody currently be undecided. There’s nothing like an FA Cup run and a spicy draw to generate buzz and interest.

Chuck in the visit of QPR on Saturday lunchtime and it would be fair to say that it’s all happening in this little corner of TW8 at present. With Ollie Watkins seemingly happy and no real talk about anybody else (thankfully), even the transfer window isn’t bothering us. Yet. Move along, nothing to see here.

Things are going well. I’m absolutely set for a stunning January. On paper. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. Roll on Saturday. See you there….

Screenshot 2020-01-05 at 08.37.24

More of this would be fantastic

Nick Bruzon

Away win? What’s the fuss about? Easy!

11 Aug

That’s one jinx well and truly laid to rest. Not just last season’s awful away record but, it would be fair to say, Middlesbrough have had the psychological advantage over Brentford since our paths crossed in the Championship. Of course, The Bees ended that one in some style, and a rare three points, with a 2-1 win at the Riverside a few months back. Fast forward and we’ve done it again. Three more points on the road against our one time nemesis in what was almost a mirror of last Saturday’s visit from Birmingham City. Domination from the home team that should have seen them out of sight before being caught out and then unable to get back in to the game. This time, though, the architect of victory was the the ever enthusiastic Sergi Canos who did magnificent work down the flank to serve it up Ollie Watkins, yards out from the goal. He needed no second chance and that was it. 1-0. Game over. And elsewhere, have you got anyone from Aston Vila or Brighton in your Fantasy Football team as yet?

Screenshot 2019-08-11 at 07.10.50

Not my words etc….

Whilst we don’t do full-fat match reports on these pages anyway, I wasn’t at this one due to a prior family commitment in a gale on the South coast. However, what has become evident from the mid-match messages being received, intermittent Twitter updates when the 3G was in the right spot and a subsequent watch of the highlights is that Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough (TM) are likely to be fuming over their cornflakes this morning. Two disallowed first half (handball and offside) were marginal as David Raya was on hand, with the woodwork, to keep them out after the home team opened the game in rampant form. Sound familiar? As the shot count ranked up in their favour to our nil, it had the fetid whiff of Birmingham City all over it.

Even official would take to Twitter at half time to declare: “We’ll be happy to get into the break on level terms after a disjointed opening 45 minutes on Teeside.”  

Few could disagree but football is a game played out over 90 minutes. A game of taking the opportunities when you can. As Thomas Frank’s unchanged team started to find a way in to the game during the second half we did wonder if something might happen . And then it did…

WATKINS…. read the text message. This was either really delayed news coming through about his recent contract extension or something even better. The internet signal couldn’t be that bad? Could it?

We’d been following the game together in a cafe and when that one flashed up on the phone it was enough to make a bored 6 year old leap up from the swivel chair he’d been practicing his Blofeld ‘reveal’ in – albeit, I’d been unable to persuade him that uttering the words, “I’ve been expecting you” was a really cool thing to do – to see what the fuss was about.

Goal, was the answer. And from there followed as anxious a countdown for the final half hour, and five minutes of injury time, as has ever been squirmed through. It can be tense enough at a game but when you are out of touch with nothing but a flaky Phone reception and trusted friends to keep you abreast of proceedings, it’s tough. Yet by all accounts, like Birmingham the week before the Bees really snuffed out the hosts and made the denouement a comfortable one. Perhaps. I’ll never know but I’ll also take those three points all day long.

Ultimately, it was a conversation between Harry (6) and Mrs. Bruzon as we watched the highlights together later that evening which summed it all up:

Rachel: Blimey. It’s all Middlesbrough.

Harry: But mummy, WE got the only goal.

Captain Pontus Jansson had taken to Twitter before the game where he declared: Such an important decision. Will be really important for us the coming years! Let’s go Ollie.

Spot on, Pontus. It was a comment borne out during the game and cemented afterwards by Sergi:  Who needs a striker? Myyyyyyy guy OLLIE WATKINS!!!! “

True enough, although hats off to Brighton who of course have signed the aforementioned missing striker. Their own 3-0 win on the road at Watford was rounded off with a goal from none other than Neal Maupay. What a start to his top flight career. Now our paths have gone in separate directions but we’ll survive. I’ll take the FPL points c/o Neal and, more importantly, the Championship points c/o Brentford.

For all that yesterday made me smile a lot on the footballing front, it was one comment just prior to the Spurs – Aston Villa game that really showed why it has been such a special few days,

OH Fuffuxake! On Twitter (aka @TheChauffeur) noting : They just announced the Vila team. Benrahma must be on the bench.

Whilst Neal did the Fantasy Football business for Brighton, Dean Smith didn’t use Ezri Konsa and Jota had to wait for a hour before getting on the pitch as a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-1 defeat at the death. For me, there was as much interest in the post match interviews in this one. Would Dean trot out the standard line about his team deserving to win after going down to the Champions League finalists ? Well, “The better team won on the day….” he noted before continuing with “in the second half”.

Oh Dean. You are great. I loved his tenure at Griffin Park and, like Neal, was sad to see him go. That’s football. Players and coaches move on. It’s how you adjust to it that’s important. As we saw yesterday.  

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The view into Harry’s room this morning whilst he sleeps. That was him. Thanks Sergi & Ollie.

Nick Bruzon

Seagulls follow the trawler and end up with more than sardines. Au revoir, Neal.

5 Aug

There was an almost inevitable end to Monday with the news finally announced that Neal Maupay has left Brentford. His non-appearance over most of the summer, followed by his absence from the squad at the weekend, left the writing somewhat on the wall and now it has been confirmed. The Premier league is the destination. Brighton and Hove Albion the choice, in a deal reported as being worth £20m. At least it wasn’t Dean Smith and Aston Villa although until that window slams shut on Thursday, one can only envisage Said Benrahma continuing to be linked with a move to the Midlands. On the plus side, we have not one but two news signings. Midfielder Dru Yearwood makes the switch from Southend United whilst French youth international attacker Bryan Mbeumo joins from Espérance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne.  Or Troyes AC, as ‘official’ helpfully confirmed they are better known.

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I feel for Dru and Bryan. Both look like more shrewd acquisitions from Matthew and the Directors of football. Southend and Troyes’ loss, very much our gain given how well our acquisitions over the last few years have turned out. Yet all anybody is talking about today is Brighton and Neal.

Oh, how we loved him. The shithousery – there’s no other word for it. The speed. The work rate. The aerial prowess from one so small. The goals. The balls. Oh my, the size of those balls. What a way to celebrate not once but twice against Leeds United. Both times, right in the faces of their rabid support. 

And that equaliser at Fulham wasn’t bad either. ‘Limbs’ as I believe the kids call it. What a moment. What a celebration. What a photo from Mark Fuller. What a way to seal your place in club legend. To ensure that whatever came next (what stamp at Aston Villa ?) could never tarnish your reputation. Would only make you even more universally loved.

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What balls

Yet it was a love that seemed to go both ways. Talk to Neal and he would only enthuse about all things Griffin Park. Promises were made at the end of last season about his return for this one. Sadly, now, things have moved on somewhat. Money talks but so do agents, it would seem.

And whilst that may be bleedin’ obvious, the Twitter thread published on Monday night by the GPG makes for very interesting reading as to how this all played out. About how things have changed as this marriage made in footballing heaven between player and club has ended in the Bees being jilted for the Seagulls.

Do read the thread. In full. It starts below and makes for a fascinating insight as to what went on with this one. There’s no animosity towards player, Brentford or Brighton – for what it’s worth. But, as has been noted part way through, “ In this day of low morals in football these days – I’m glad that we demonstrated that we are a decent club with manners. The fact that we have done right by the player demonstrates to future signings that we provide a potential route to PL, it keeps us in business of course. 

There’s not much else to say at this point. There’s a genuine feeling of good luck to Neal, from me. Of course I’m absolutely gutted to see him go. No question. I was itching to see him stay put for one more season. To guide us to the top flight. Now that responsibility rests elsewhere.

In my heart of hearts I really did think he might stay until January. Mind you, I think the same about Said and Ollie. At least the latter started on Saturday and looked formidable during that opening salvo. I’m sure Dean Smith is opening the Aston Villa cheque book we speak but I’m also, perhaps naively, thinking this really is it . 

We’ve sold Ezri. We’ve sold Romaine. Of course we’ve sold Neal. We’ve also invested very wisely with the likes of Jansson, Jensen, Pinnock and Norgaard now joined by Blackwood and Mbeumo. Keep Benrahma and Watkins amongst their ranks and we will remain more than a force to be reckoned with.

Sell either/or and, you know what, there’ll be no meltdown from me. As with Neal this evening,  I would be gutted with further departures. Yet our DOFs and Matthew Benham have shown us time and again that they are three steps ahead of everybody else when it comes to doing the business.

I really didn’t think it could get any more depressing than selling Jota and Maxime to Birmingham City (and Harlee makes three) but we survived. We got stronger despite the crushing blow of seeing our hero put out to pasture. That trust is there and I cannot wait to see how the next chapter in the Brentford story plays out.

Until then, we’ll always have Fulham.

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What a moment. Thank you, Neal

Nick Bruzon

Neal going? Neal staying? Names – and nonsense – all over the place.

14 Jul

Yawn. Rumours. We should be talking about amazing things such as how the live YouTube stream of Dynamo Kyiv v Brentford (0-0) held stable throughout Saturday morning’s game. About how solid we looked at the back – second half especially (sadly, HB’s football club meant I missed a first half that Thomas Frank would later describe in glowing terms). We should be talking about the wonderful new home strip that the team wore and whether this may be the week where the ‘away’ colours finally put in an appearance (Come on Umbro, do your thing. Please). About our first proper look at the likes of Pontus Jansson and David Raya. But instead, it is all Neal Maupay – Sheffield United, Leeds United, Aston Villa and now even West Ham are being added to the rumour mill. Presumably as a result of their non-purchase of Scott Hogan a few years back.

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Still hoping to say happy birthday to my good friend next season – to coin a phrase

OK – let’s just cut to the chase and deal with the Neal Maupay situation from this perspective. That of outsider looking in and, as such, not privy to any club knowledge. Oh to have Phil Giles or Matthew Benham’s numbers in my i-pod telephone now. But, to be fair, even if I did I can’t imagine either party would be letting any cats out of bags. Why would they? This is a football club – not a committee meeting between supporters and top brass. Strategies and models have been laid out, precedents have been set and trust has long been earned. The amount of money invested in this club over the last 10 years and the players we have seen are a thing to behold. The sight of the new stadium springing up at Lionel Road, something to make the heart beat a little bit faster every time I walk past it.

I’m not in the employ of the club. Yes, I write in the match day programme but that’s voluntary and as much for my own pleasure or the chance to sneak past the editor some ‘in jokes’, a couple of references that only two or three other New Road Observers, Ealing Road fans & Braemar Road residents may get or simply a few open digs at our rivals. Thanks, Sam 😉

If something needs to be said on these pages then it’ll be said. But frankly, it hasn’t in recent years. The team are magnificent. Our top brass open and engaged. Our transfer business phenomenal. We’ve shrewdly and carefully built this club up. Improved and strengthened . Seen new heroes created. And, yes, leave. I still weep at the though of Jota sent to St. Andrews but take comfort in the fact that he is, at least, now an Aston Villa player. There’s one name going straight into my Fantasy Football team. Perhaps alongs side Chris Mepham, Ezri Konsa and number 26.

Jota team Rotherham

Oh, Jota….. Any excuse

I also know that, like myself, we’ve a hardcore of long standing supporters for whom this positive period is something that still feels somewhat unusual. That success is brilliant but odd. That we’re only a moment away from selling Dean Holdsworth and replacing him with Murray Jones. To saying farewell Nicky Forster, Andy Sinton, DJ Campbell et al. That it’s Brentford, innit. Something is bound to go wrong. We’ll discover that Lionel Road is built on the site of an ancient burial ground. That somebody messed up the bluerprints and got the cms / inches mixed up a la Spinal Tap. That Neal Maupay’s contract was signed with invisible ink that is slowly disintegrating before our very eyes.

But it won’t. The evidence is there before our eyes. The difference is that when things happen that supporters may not like  – primarily the sale of a fan favourite – we now have a Plan B and C already lined up and in operation. Sometimes we sell early. Sometimes we sell late. Always we invest in potential. Now we are also investing in experience. The signing of Pontus Jansson a huge marker post that things continue to evolve at Griffin Park. 

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The final piece is lowered in to place at Lionel Road. Errrr “Chaaaaappp-mannnnn”

It is so apparent how things work these days. That Brentford still feels very much our club despite Matthew Benham and his team being at the helm. That they are deserving of our faith and trust. Be honest, NO football club is going to share transfer plans and divulge details of bids to supporters or journalists. Not even Brentford. Ignore the clickbait. Ignore the rumour. Trust the system.

Sure, Neal Maupay may well end up leaving us imminently. He may not. He was missing from the Dynamo Kyiv game, with Thomas conforming at full time that he had gone back to France for a couple of days but that there was nothing wrong with his approach and he’d be in training next week. Likewise, Said Benrahama although Kamo will be out for a few more weeks given his extended progress at the African Cup Of Nations.   

I’m not an idiot. I know we’re in clickbait season and that all manner of publications publish all manner of nonsense. Some of it may stick in hindsight. Most of it won’t. Maupay can’t be going to Aston Villa, Sheffield United AND West Ham. Romaine Sawyers can’t be going to Leeds United AND Aston Villa. Somebody might move. They might not. I’d love it if Neal lines up against Birmingham City on August 3rd. Absolutely love it. If only because I think he’ll destroy Harlee Dean and that’s worth anybody’s entrance fee. Let’s be blunt – I do NOT want him to leave. No matter how strong my trust in the system.

But, at the same time, IF he does then it’s not going to be a case of wailing and moaning. Most of our fans seem to get it, too. A twitter poll set up by the GPG (below) showed only 29% of voters saying that Neal must stay whatever. Likewise, the piece published by fellow blogger Luis Adriano – which you can read here – really hits the nail/neal on the head.

The last few years have more than shown that the board know what they are doing. Without Matthew Benham there probably wouldn’t even be a club now. We’d likely be watching AFC Brentford Phoenixes running out against Dulwich Hamlet or some such. Look at how Leyton Orient’s fortunes changed as a result of roping those three points to Marcello Trotta’s goal when we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. Look at how Doncaster and Yeovil have fared since being promoted at our expense the season prior.

We may not always do it immediately. But we ARE doing it right. I’d love Neal and/or Said to stay and really hope they do. Yet if they don’t, we’ll survive and who knows who we’ll unearth next….  

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The mutual love at Brentford is palpable – from Neal to Said and beyond

Nick Bruzon

The Brentford transfer machine rolls on. Will Dean swoop again?

12 Jul

And then the door swung the other way. Following the sudden influx of players to Griffin Park, it was perhaps inevitable that Daniel Bentley would not be alone in leaving Brentford. Sure enough, the expected sale of Ezri Konsa to Aston Villa was announced yesterday. With Pontus Jansson ( thanks, Leeds United ) and Ethan Pinnock (c/o Barnsley) having been unveiled in recent weeks, something was going to give. With the BBC reporting a sale price of £12million, a year after Ezri joined us for £2.5m from Charlton, Dean Smith has got his man and Matthew Benham has more than balanced his books.

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Nice work. Nice training gear. Sponsored by Wolves?

Much as when Dean himself moved to Aston Villa in October, the universal reaction seems to be one of positivity and well wishes from the Griffin Park faithful. The arrivals of Ethan from Barnsley and, especially, Pontus from Leeds United had more than boosted morale whilst signposting a back three that will presumably feature Julian Jeanvier as the final part of this defensive Holy Trinity. Likewise, turning around a price differential of close to £10m in such a short space of time for a player who is already part of the England U-21 set up. Very much a case of win-win for all parties. 

Presumably we’ve added the usual sell on, appearance, international clauses that seem to be our way these days. Whether Charlton Athletic did the same last time out, who knows, but I’ve seen words out there to suggest this was not the case. Then again, that could be the usual conjecture and clickbait that is so prevalent at this time of year so perhaps best to draw a discreet veil and move on. Ultimately, we’ve got a price we’re happy with and Ezri has a dream move to the Premier League. 

If selling a CB seemed an obvious move , what about central midfield? With Dean Smith having already taken old boys Jota and Ezri to Aston Villa, could he be looking to a third? Is there any substance to the Romaine Sawyers / Leeds United stories that are flavour of the week? Again, dispensing with all gossip the fact that we have picked up Nørgaard and Jensen makes us suddenly look very strong in that area with Romaine and Kamo already in situ. Especially given the Thomas Frank preference for a plethora of centrebacks and wide men.

Clickbait journos are putting 2+2 together . Strength in depth. Our approach of selling on. Dean Smith hoovering up his old boys. The Leed United rumours. As an outsider looking in, I can see why. As an outsider looking in, I’ve no idea whether they have got 4 or 5. And I don’t particularly care. 

By which I mean that I obviously want the best for the squad. I want to see how it all plays out and who will be in that starting XI to face Harlee Dean and whoever else is left at Birmingham City when they visit on August 3rd. But to overly expend energy following clickbait and rumour or upsetting myself over what is so clearly outside of any control is time that could be infinitely better spent. There are away shirts to launch, pre-season friendlies to follow, Tyrolean tour blogs to read, Leeds fans to get upset and season review e-books (all proceeds to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust) to download here.

Subtle as a Neal Maupay goal celebration but I thank you for your indulgence.

There’s not much else to say today beyond a final good luck to Ezri. I’m sure there may be more to follow but until they do, life’s too short to get stressed by rumour and rubbish. We’ve an incredible squad at our disposal and every day that passes is one closer to the accursed transfer window ™ slamming shut. I’d also offer you these words of comfort / approach from Phil Giles , given at last year’s fan forum when the news of Dean’s departure for Aston Villa meant players would follow despite our strong start to that campaign. 

He was unequivocal about the situation in regards to a promotion push, saying that “If we are in the top six in January we won’t be selling players….If we’ve a high likelihood of getting promoted we’d be very reluctant to sell.”

That was then. This is now. Of course things change but given the gauntlet already being placed in front of our Championship rivals, do we honestly think the club will then look to cut off a metaphorical arm and haemorrhage the very life blood of a promotion push?

Ultimately, the answer to that depends on what plans are being forged behind the scenes. Obvious, I realise. Yet those words from Phil are quoted to illustrate that we’ve stayed strong and shown positivity before. Here’s hoping we can do it again.

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Nick Bruzon

Free agent joins new team. Club sack manager (again).

19 Jun

What’s there to say after Tuesday’s double whammy of Championship news? Yoann Barbet was the name in the frame for Brentford fans once it was announced that he had signed for QPR. There was always a fair chance our paths were going to cross again but Loftus Road was the last place anybody expected him to pop up, with Leeds United being the name that has appeared on more than a few occasions. I guess it just goes to show, once more, that the clickbait is nothing more than that. Elsewhere, Birmingham City will no doubt have somebody ten times better lined up for their own hot seat after sacking Garry Monk. I hear Gary Rowett is available.

So, Yoann Barbet. Emotions were mixed on social media after the news was revealed via the medium of cringey hashtag. #BonjourBarbet being the offending article this time around. You have to feel for Yoann. Whatever snake emojis were offered in his general direction (and there were a few) nobody deserves that. It put one in mind of the #JakeJoins they used when Jake Bidwell moved to Loftus Road.

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Urghh – hashtags

Personally, I’m not in the snake camp. If anything it’s an attitude of general ambivalence. He was a hero to us at Brentford and provided plenty of good times. Enthused team spirit. Was nothing but welcoming and friendly when approached by supporters – young and old. He could even smile at himself (if you recall the reaction to his goal at Bolton following ‘that’ league cup penalty v Norwich City’) . We had the chance to retain him if it was one we had both wanted to take but, for whatever reason, Yoann’s contract was allowed to run out and he became a free agent.

From there, he has taken the decision to join Mark Warburton at Loftus Road. A place where he will no doubt find himself having to do Plan A better. A lot. There’s no ill will pointed towards him – just surprise at the destination and a lot of good luck offered. He’ll need it. If nothing else, it’ll make the 237 derbies even more interesting than they had already become following the news about their new manager.

That’s the thing. Of all the clubs there had to be a better option. Surely? Leeds were rumoured. There was talk of Aston Villa looking to take him up a level. Then again, who hasn’t Dean Smith been linked with? Or Mark Warburton, for that matter. I’ve also heard Alan Judge’s name in the frame to reunite with his former manager. It’s an inevitable part of the transfer window as lazy journalists look for stories where none are even close to existing. Perhaps Yoann’s link to those clubs was nothing more than ‘fake news’. Urghhh.

At the end of the day (Clive), the player has made his choice. Whatever the motivation – be it money, staying local or maybe there were just no other offers. Who knows? Yoann will be well aware of the history between our clubs but as long as he doesn’t do anything along the lines of Martin Rowlands or Harlee Dean (surely nobody could be that stupid) then presumably we’ll all move on. Albeit, If Said wants to recreate Jota v Jake Bidwell then that would be nice.

 

Instead, it is left to Bernard Quackenbush on Twitter to sum up what many of us are thinking: Feel somewhat deflated by this. I wanted to give the guy a warm welcome if he ever returned with an opposing team. But just cannot applaud anyone wearing those hoops.

No meltdown – more an opportunity lost.

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Better times

As for Birmingham City…wow!!  The tailspin they’ve been in since relieving Gary Rowett of his duties in December 2016 has been well documented. From a Premier league chasing position, they’ve gone on to flirt with relegation a couple of times, over spent, seen points deducted and consistently finished below Brentford (that’s five seasons in a row, now).

With Garry Monk, it looked as though he might arrest that decline. Instead, the sale of Jota to Aston Villa has been seen as the catalyst for a bizarre parting of the ways with the club formally announcing that: “The board of directors are hopeful that over time the team can adopt a fresh and modern footballing philosophy,“. Hmmmm – read as much between the lines on that as you can.

You couldn’t make it up after the Rowett affair but instead, another promising manger has gone.  No tears here – any rival choosing to weaken themselves through sackings and sales is only a good thing for us. The BBC report tells us how owners Trillion Trophy Asia are calling for a change in “footballing philosophy”. Good luck with that. It could be a long and painful season ahead at St. Andrews.

And finally, with a sledgehammer like unsubtle change of direction, huge thanks to all those who have downloaded a copy of the Last Word season season review – containing the least bad of these columns from the World Cup to Aston Villa deserving to win the play offs. It also includes the World Cup aswell as all the ‘Park Life’ articles submitted for the matchday programme and so not previously available on these pages.  

ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time on the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here.

At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99 – which then goes to a great cause anyway. Many thanks again. And enjoy.

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Nick Bruzon