Tag Archives: Derby County

Football is back. Bees all set to sting the Lions.

14 Oct

And we’re back in the room. After a two week lay off for Brentford thanks to International break, the Bees welcome Millwall as Championship football returns to Griffin Park. So much has happened since the last time we were all together (the 2-2 draw up at Middlesbrough) and I cannot wait to get back to action.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. So often, the International football served up over the break is no substitute for being at Griffin Park. I’ll park that one here for now, suffice to say that when the highlight of the Lithuania game was wondering why it was taking place in front of the marquee from the Great British Bake Off then you know things are grim.

That said (and to coin an old phrase) if you would like to read more then those World Cup qualifiers are amongst the topics under discussion in the ‘Park Life’ column from today’s match day programme.

Programme v Millwall
You can get the programme in and around the ground

Chock full of other features, new editor Sam Marshall and the club media team really have done a cracking job with this season’s publication (yours truly’s nonsense aside). What else would you buy on match day?

Off field, work is stepping up on the site at Lionel Road. Last week the club published a series of photographs showing the demolition of the ‘Capital Court’ office underway.I t is work that is continuing on a daily basis and can be seen by anybody walking past the site.

Certainly, it is a journey that my family now undertake Monday to Friday as part of the school run. Seeing where ‘Daddy bees’ are going to host all manner of ‘naughty teams’ in the next couple of years is now very much part of the morning ritual.

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Diggers at work on site at Lionel Road, Friday

Like Brentford, the Last Word has also had few weeks off – although this down to nothing more than laziness – but the thought of Millwall visiting has the blood pumping once more. The thought of seeing if the Bees can continue our unbeaten run and even pick up a first home win means I cannot wait to get down to Griffin Park. Moreso, as George Saville is likely to feature for the visitors.

It would be fair to say the former Bee had a torrid time the last time he visited. At least from the crowd, where he came in for dog’s abuse on the Braemar Road side about an incident that had allegedly happened around the back of a hotel carpark, at Brentford lock. Italian restaurants not the only little thing around there, if eye witness testimony is to be believed.

There’ll be no such chanting towards Tony Craig, should he feature. The ever popular centre back has helped both clubs earn promotion over the last few seasons. I still wager that had Mark Warburton stuck with him in our first Championship season then we’d have gone all the way rather than our eventual play-off defeat to Middlesbrough.

A dismal run towards the end of that season saw Tony dropped to the bench in favour of Harlee and number 26. It was a run punctuated by a series of defensive cock ups and 2-2 draws, including a shocker against none other than Millwall where the Lions held a 2-0 lead until a late, late resurgence from Brentford earned a lucky point.

But that was then and this is now. Nobody can deny that despite just missing out that time, to be in a fourth successive Championship campaign is nothing but impressive for a club under estimated by just about everybody outside of TW8. Dean Smith will be desperately keen to get another win under the belt. Moreso, given the amount of possession in our previous Griffin Park outing – the 1-1 draw at home to Gary Rowett’s bus parking Derby County.

He’s going to have to do it without Rico Henry. The injury suffered by our left back at Middlesbrough means he is now out for most, if not all, of the season. It’s desperately sad news for Rico. He really has looked the part since joining from Walsall and has fast become a fan favourite – especially over on the New Road side.

This does mean that Dean has a selection poser. With Tom Field on loan at Bradford until Christmas and unable to be recalled, who does he go for? Josh Clarke filled in at the Riverside rather than playing on his traditional right hand side. Andreas Bjelland and John Egan are both fit once more, having missed out in recent weeks. As such, could Yoann Barbet be shunted across? Or will we see a first league start for Ilias Chatzitheodoridis?

Having already featured in the League Cup, it’s highly likely we’ll see yet another B-team player make the step up into the first team. Dean has shown time and again he isn’t afraid to blood Kevin O’Connors kids and I think today will see another such occasion. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Just look at the impressive start made by Chris Mepham.

With striker Lasse Vibe also available again, we have a few more choices. Finally. Rico’s loss is a huge one but overall the squad should have enough about it to record that elusive home win today. The bookies have us as odds on favourites in a game that they also predict to be a goal fest. So, 0-0 then?

Well, I can advise that my Cousin Charles is coming to the game today. And whilst the stats about his attendance/win ratio probably don’t form part of Matthew Benham’s model, all I’ll say is to lump your money on three points to the Bees. For research purposes.

See you at 3pm.

matchday timings

Cut to the chase – it’s all about what happens at 3pm

Nick Bruzon

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Bees get a draw, ref has a stinker and Matthew Benham says his piece.

27 Sep

Brentford 1 Derby County 1. Another game, another draw. We’ve now reached that magic 10 played marker, have eight points and sit in 20th place. Barring the statistical miracle of Birmingham City winning by 6 goals tonight when Sheffield Wednesday visit St. Andrews, it means that’s where we’ll be heading into Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough.

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Griffin Park always wonderful under floodlights

But if Birmingham winning by 6 would be a statistical miracle (come to think of it, the Blues just winning at the moment would be a case for the Pope in itself) then last night’s encounter at Griffin Park could be deemed much the same. Brentford ended it on 76% whilst the first half alone concluded with Derby seeing just 17.3% of the ball. Talk about one way traffic. On paper. Yet there was no irony lost in the Rams going in for their half time cuppa with a one-nil lead under the belts after Joe Ledley was given the freedom of Griffin Park to head across the goal and past Dan Bentley with little more than a quarter hour gone.

It was goal that sparked fury amongst the Brentford defence. Well, certainly hand waving and accusations at each other. But then when you watch the Sky Highlights you’ll see why. Truly, schoolboy defending given the space afforded to the Welsh international.

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Sloppy defending gifted Derby the lead

But from there, that was it from Derby. Rather than play to win they seemed intent on playing to foul. One would have thought it was Keith Stroud in the middle rather than, apparently, acting as fourth official given the flurry of first half yellow cards and poor decisions made by referee Andy Davies. Andre Wisdom in particular can count himself very lucky that his own poor judgement, charging in on Romaine Sawyers by the angry mob in the paddock, saw him given just a caution.

It was a refereeing performance that continued right to the end where, with Ollie Watkins bearing down on goal, the ref called time as the wideman was about to shoot. It was a decision which summed up his night – Davies, not Watkins. The youngster having minutes earlier scored an equaliser for the Bees from close in that our balance of play, if not our shots, had suggested would be coming.

Derby were big, dirty and physical. Brentford were given minimal protection from the ref. How this one ended 11 v 11 I still have no idea. Yet, equally, Gary Rowett’s men did a job on us. They were solid, resolute and Dean Smith’s team had no way past them. Balls were passed sideways and backwards time and again in a bid to break through. Substitutions were lacklustre and like for like, with no visible attempt to change formation or tactic. Purely adjustments to personnel. That said, Chris Mepham really did impress when he came off the bench for Andreas Bjelland at half time.

Our own shot target wasn’t in the same ball park as our possession but you can’t deny this team keep on going. This team have guts. This team kept playing. And eventually our persistence and domination was rewarded by that man Watkins as he slid home FloJo’s cross.

Should we have won? Possibly. Did we deserve more? Well, no. Sadly. Goals are what win games. Not stats. There is a grudging respect to Derby for playing a certain way. A way we couldn’t get through. Gary Rowett had done his homework and set out his stall. Poor Neal Maupay, dwarfed by the Derby defence, struggled desperately and needed either support or to be given a break. Josh Clarke and Ryan Woods, both amongst our most positive players, were removed early. At one point the disembodied voice of Peter Gilham , commentating on our Oktoberfest Oompah Band from the back of the stand, was the highlight of the first half.

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The extent of our first half oomph, ah

But the team kept going. The team plugged away. The team would eventually get the equaliser that sent the fans home relieved.

Matthew Benham would later make a rare foray onto Twitter where he had a few things to say. Alongside his own criticism of the ref there was more than a fair share for the supporters as he noted :

A really excellent performance tonight from a young, hungry side, created the vast majority of chances. Think the moaners must’ve been watching a different game! #brentfordfc

1. Yes I know boos at the end were for the ref 2. Can’t see how constantly getting on the backs of players DURING the game helps the team.

Fair? Well, I thought we struggled at times. Not in terms of being outplayed but in terms of trying to break through the opposition. As a football fan, I’m somebody who has been brought up on the unconventional tactic of trying to get the ball into the net. Perhaps I’m just out of touch. The self-confessed numpty on the terrace rather than Head Coach. Indeed, at full time Dean would talk about how well we’d stuck to our game plan and the quality of the opposition.

That latter point in particular, one that can’t be ignored. Yet what Dean and Matthew both, perhaps, overlook is that as paying fans we go into a game with a certain level of expectation. Winning the game. That’s what football is about. Surely?

We don’t have the involvement of almost being too close. Of being within that inner circle. Of seeing what goes on behind the scenes. Of being the ones stumping up the cash for the players and the stadium. What we have seen so far is our heroes sold from under our feet (for well documented reasons), some shocking defensive lapses that have turned potential victories into defeat or draw and an average of less than a point a game after reaching that magical ten game mark with a solitary victory under the belt.

That’s not to say we’ll support them any less. That’s not to say we have that divine right to ‘be any good’. I love watching the Bees but do reserve anyone’s right to shout at times. This is West London, not North Korea. I have huge respect for our owner and understand the frustration from his perspective.  But I think he was wrong on this one. If nothing else, I didn’t even hear that much moaning from my seat on the touchline. It wasn’t a great game to watch. It was a physical battle that we were often second best in. It was also a game where our team were offered minimal protection from a fussy referee.

But it was also a game that showed we keep going. So often, Brentford teams of old have just given up. Have accepted defeat. This isn’t the Butcher era. The days of Leroy are gone. I don’t agree with everything Dean does tactically in his role as head coach. But I support this club come thick or thin. I’m well pleased with another point in what were really tricky circumstances.

At the same time, I’ll never admit that last night was any form of classic. It wasn’t. It was a game that shows just how tough this league can be. It was game where we eventually got what, on balance, we deserved through grit and determination.

Saturday will be another tough challenge, no doubt. But with Middlesbrough losing at home last night (0-1 to Norwich City) is there a chink in their armour we can exploit?

Roll on the weekend when we find out.

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Matthew says his piece on Twitter at full time

Nick Bruzon

Enjoy Championship action….after dark. Strange thoughts abound ahead of tonight’s game.

26 Sep

Brentford Nights. It goes without saying that an evening game at Griffin Park is always a special occasion and tonight’s visit of Derby County promises to be just that. With confidence high following Saturday’s demolition of Bolton Wanderers, the bar of expectation will have been raised and fans will be hoping for more. In our way stand a Rams side who also played a basement club in Birmingham City and came away with a point themselves.

I really can’t wait for this one. The marketing campaign – Brentford Nights – has given added spice to this one with the lure of Oktoberfest mentioned in the build up and an image of those iconic floodlight pylons on the promo poster. Much as I love the thought of German hot dogs and beer, I’d happily settle for a goal fest or a flood of points.

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For Brentford, back to back league wins can only be the target. Full time will see us having reached the ‘ten game’ mark and the table having officially ‘taken shape’. Will the Bees be heading towards mid-table with another win and just four defeats from this opening period? Will we be starting to look like draw specialists? Or will we be sucked back towards the Birmingham zone at the foot of the division?

If nothing else, yet another changed line up is sure to come. Whether because of ongoing injury to John Egan or Dean Smith quite rightly rewarding the performance of his replacement at Bolton, EFL Star of the day (their words), Yoann Barbet. The BBC report Lasse Vibe and Sergi Canos as still injured and so I can’t see any further changes beyond the return of the Frenchman.

But then, why would you? Saturday’s game saw all the potential that Dean had talked about. You can only beat who you are up against and 3-0 away from home is as comprehensive as it comes. I can’t see any goalkeeper in the land as having been able to stop any of those goals. It just shows what happens when you have the confidence to shoot. I’m still in awe at all three strikes.

The Rams won’t be any form of rollover. Far from it. That same BBC report also suggests that there’ll be no Lawrence, no Davies and no Thorne in the side tonight for Derby. For which we can only be grateful as Tom, Curtis and George all remain doubts. Quite frankly, the less options available to manager Gary Rowett the better.

Yet you can still be sure that he’ll have any team he selects fired up and ready to go for it. If nothing else, the 4-0 tonking administered at Griffin Park last season will be a performance they’ll want some form of pay back for. Truly, the Bees were magnificent that day. More of the same will do very nicely, thank you.

The one disconcerting thing about this evening’s game is the club’s aforementioned strapline of : Brentford Nights.

It may just be me, but I can’t read it without thinking of bad TV. Very bad TV. So bad it’s beyond bad and is genuinely compelling TV. Namely, the David Hasselhoff spin off show: Baywatch Nights. A two series run in which Mitch Buchannon (the Hoff) swaps his red lifeguard’s shorts to form an after dark detective agency in Malibu. As you do.

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Baywatch Nights. The Hoff. It really happened

As career changes go, it was leftfield. The strangest Hasselhoff vehicle since Kitt, the back talking car. Yet if the opening season plots – about serial killers, robbery, and Hasselhoff going undercover in the drag queen circuit (episode 10) were your standard Miami Vice lite – the second series went truly bizarre. Rather than drug rings and kidnapping, the show took an X-files twist as Hasselhoff and his team investigated vampire sightings, Werewolves, a museum mummy and a time travelling log cabin.

Odd doesn’t begin to describe it. Baywatch  Nights never got a third series. Sadly. Mitch returned to the beach and the only surreal happening involving The Hoff were the four goals he scored in red and white. Yet it goes to show that the strangest things happen after dark.

Here’s hoping for more tonight. Strange things going on. Such as a home win. As for the Vampire sightings, I’ll settle for Scott Carson being scared of crosses.

I’ll get my coat.

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The Hoff. Gone but not forgotten

Nick Bruzon

Bees win at Bolton but Barbet wins at Twitter

24 Sep

And relax. Brentford thumped Bolton Wanderers 3-0 at the Macron on Saturday to record an opening league victory and move out of the bottom three. With Birmingham City failing to win (again), this time at a Derby County side who come to Griffin Park on Tuesday, it marked a quite wonderful afternoon for Bees fans. And players – for whom three stunning goals scored by Ollie Watkins, Nico Yennaris and Yoann Barbet were the icing on the cake of a performance that head coach Dean Smith has been promising for weeks.

If it was vindication for Dean Smith then what must it have been like for Yoann Barbet? The Frenchman started on the bench after taking what was, quite rightly, considered to be one of the all-time worst penalties ever seen at Griffin Park on Tuesday night. How he got such height from just 12 yards out was beyond the laws of physics in itself.

An early substitution for John Egan (Dean Smith telling BBC Billy Reeves that “He felt dizzy, felt coming off was for the good of the team” after getting a cut lip) saw Yoann enter the field of play. It saw him leave it at full time having been named ‘STAR of the day’. Not my words but those of the official EFL twitter feed. Although words I’d happily agree with.

Barbet EFL

Took his chance – and then some…

Sometimes, you just have to hold up your hands. Tuesday’s penalty was horrific. It lead to my own post match column noting that : “We’ve a tradition of centre backs hoofing dead balls over the bar. See also that ill-fated period of giving spot kick duties to number 26 … Likewise Miguel Llera and his attempts to channel Sam Saunders but which were more akin to Jonny Wilkinson. Why not just give it to a striker? A player whose job it it to strike the ball. To find the back of the net“.

Hmm. Ok. That’s why I’m the numpty on the terrace and Dean is the head coach. Clearly there’s something that we don’t see on the training ground because this effort, to open the scoring, was just about as good as it got.

Pick that out. Just about unstoppable and given the space available on the other side of the goal, the last thing any of us expected. More importantly, the last place Bolton expected it to end up. It was a truly wonderful effort.

It was an effort that would later see Yoann win at Twitter. For all the cracks from supporters about the Norwich effort, he nailed things with a clear demonstration of that team spirit Dean has been telling us about week in, week out.

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Yoann wins Twitter

It was a strike that made the final four of ‘goal of the day’ on Sky Sports news and was joined by our second. Step up Nico Yennaris. He doesn’t seem to do easy, that’s for sure. If the one against Birmingham City at St. Andrews last season was special, then this just about blew it out of the park. How does he do it? And so often?

You really had to feel for Ben Alnwick in the Bolton goal. If there had been little chance with Yoann’s curler, then he was left equally helpless here. They could have had two goalkeepers and it still would have gone in. 2-0 up and surely, now, the points secure.

But with the first half delayed by 7(seven) minutes and the second half starting late due to a kids penalty competition still taking place whilst the players were lined up to start, this had all the elements of squeaky bum time in it.

Anything but. Here came Ollie Watkins to heap further misery on Bolton. Ben Alnwick must have run over a cat on the way in because here was another thunderbolt to take the back of the net off. What a strike. You’ll have to catch the highlights on Channel 5 for that one but do take a look. They’re well, well worth a viewing. I’ll update this at mid-day once the Mark Burridge version goes up. It promises to be something very special….

Yoann and team do their thing, officially 

Three nil. Three points. Brentford finally finding their shooting boots and keeping it tight at the back. Dean Smith’s faith was unshakeable, as demonstrated in that aforementioned interview with Billy.

Our head coach was also honest enough to tell ‘official’ that: “I didn’t think we started very well in the opening ten minutes. They got into our faces and we didn’t move the ball as we would have liked but after that we took over the game.” This, before going on to enthuse about “three valuable points with three wonderful goals.” Do check out the full article. It’s been a while coming.

All very well and very easy to do after you’ve won. But still on message. We’ve criticised our indecision when it came to shooting after that Reading game. Even 7(seven) year old Felix Watts getting in on the act when he noted that , “The only thing we had to do today was shoot. Really quickly. When they were in the penalty box at Griffin Park all we had to do was shoot but we kept passing it.

What a way to answer that. But, more importantly, was it a flash in the pan? Or have we now turned the corner? The visit of Derby County on Tuesday night promises to be a huge test for the Bees. But a fascinating one.

Will Dean change his starting XI, again? This was our 12th different line up in 12 league and cup games. Might he have no choice if Yoann has played his way in past John Egan? Were Bolton Wanderers the cannon fodder that many expected or a strong team that felt the wrath of what can happen when we play as well as we’ve done in training, do it for 90 minutes and have that run of good fortune?

Without wanting to get ahead of ourselves, victory for Brentford would take us to within a point of Derby. Victory for the Rams would take them to within a point of the play-offs. This one will be huge and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. See you there….

And on a purely personal note, I’d like to thank Bolton for featuring my own thoughts as ‘away fan’ in the programme column yesterday. Moreso, the picture they used, in the Spall 87-88 away shirt. I apologise for the somewhat gratuitous size – nobody needs yours truly that close up. Yet it is included in today’s column as I’m pretty sure we’ve seen that picture and shirt somewhere before.

Fulham, wasn’t it…..?

Bolton and Fulham programmes

Nick Bruzon

Decisions to be made. Will we get off the mark today?

23 Sep

Matchday. Winless Brentford travel to, erm, winless Bolton Wanderers with Dean Smith in confident mood. He used yesterday’s press conference to tell us: “In terms of how we play, then more of the same will certainly put us on the road to getting a win“.

Agreed, IF we keep up the good bits for a full 90 minutes. IF we are able to change how we play should things not be going to plan. IF we don’t need to rely on refereeing decisions to sink or save us.

As a management team and playing squad those people out there pulling the strings and kicking the balls need to take collective responsibility for performances. It’s not the fault of the paying supporters who, being honest, have been remarkably fair. Whatever has been said on social media where the keyboard warrior is king (and nobody forces anybody to read that), there hasn’t been any dissent where it really counts – the game.

Outside of the Norwich ‘performance’ in the cup (and I use that word at its loosest after we’d aped the Marinus/Oxford farce), there’s been none of the booing or moaning one might expect for a side at the foot of the table and without a win after almost 20% of the league campaign.

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No real booing to date.

It was interesting to note Dean used his briefing to also note this, saying “On the whole, our supporters have been very patient” as well as adding that “expectation and pressure is only built up from outside. The pressure we put on ourselves in the eighth or ninth game is no different to the first game”. You can read this in full on ‘official’

Expectation IS building up on the outside, Dean. Of course it is. This is our team and we want to win. Especially given the much touted quality of our squad. Indeed, I expect a win. Wins even. No question. I’m realistic enough to think the title may be a step too far but does that make me a bad person for hoping we should be able to pick up three points every now and again?

Even prior to the transfer window closing, where we still had the likes of Maxime Colin and Jota available. Stupidity at the back against Bristol City and Nottingham Forest saw us pick up 1 point instead of 6. The opening periods in the games at Ipswich Town and then the visit of Reading should have had us out of sight. By all accounts we dominated Aston Villa and were unlucky not to leave that one with a W.

So today is the day. Today IS the day. The BBC tell us that super computer SAM, the Sports Analytics Machine, is calling this as 54% chance of an away win. Having checked my online bookmaker (for research purposes only), they see Bolton at 5/2 and the Bees at evens for the win. However, having done that I made my excuses and left. If Mrs. Bruzon is reading, no bet was placed. Honest.

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SAM calls this one as ‘away’

It won’t be as simple as the odds make out. Dean was the first to acknowledge how determined Bolton will be to break their own duck whilst admitting that he’s “clashed swords with Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin many times. You know you are going to be in for a battle.

With our head coach confirming there’s still no Sergi Canos or Lasse Vibe, it’s a case of as you were for his selection options. Which two of three play at centre back this week? Surely Josh Clarke to push up on the right ahead of Henrik ?

Does the (currently) misfiring Neal Maupay keep his place up top? Could there be a start for Justin Shaibu who was denied a beauty against Norwich by the thickness of paint on the inside of the post. Curse that meddling groundsman. Had it not been for his attention to detail we might have scored. Or how about goal scoring Ollie Watkins?

As for midfield, the impressive Romaine Sawyers was off this season’s pace against Reading but I’m sure he’ll be back in alongside Ryan and Nico with the likes of Kamo and Josh (M) on the bench.

And this is as much our problem as Dean’s . Just who is the starting XI? Who is the preferred team? It’s great having a squad but you also need some consistency. Chopping and changing every game , whether forced by circumstance or through deliberate choice, is not an ideal means of playing football.

But if we and Dean (at least, in public) don’t know, then you can be sure Bolton do. And, being quite honest, whatever pressure and expectation there is I still think we’ll have far, far too much in us for this one.

Prediction time: I’m with SAM. Dean will be able to sleep easy tonight. The Bees will open the gap over Bolton to five points and, with Tuesday’s visitor Derby County hosting Birmingham City, there could be further distance made between us and Brentford reserves. Gary Rowett will no doubt be desperate to prove a further point to his former employers and it’s a result that I for one could also get behind.

It’s one theory. I hope for all our sakes that at 5pm it proves to be the correct one.

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Dean Smith – hopefully he’ll inspire us to victory today

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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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

I’m glad I support Brentford rather than one big fish in a rapidly stagnating pond. And Dean speaks

5 Jul

Football is slowly waking up. This time last year, we were talking about Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar beating Celtic 1-0 in the Champions League qualifiers. Quite possibly the most embarrassing results in Scottish football history (to add to an already long list) yet last night they were equalled by fellow Glasgow side Rangers when the fourth best team in Luxembourg, part timers Progrès Niederkorn, knocked them out of Europe. And closer to home, Brentford boss Dean Smith has been up in front of the Sky sports cameras.

Ordinarily these pages wouldn’t look at the Scottish game but Rangers have held a bit of a fascination in recent years, given the circumstances which saw former Brentford boss Mark Warburton both join and leave the Ibrox club. “You walk around the stadium, the first time for me this morning, and you smell the history” he said upon becoming their manager in June 2015.

I’m sure this morning they’ll be smelling something rather different North of the border and Warbs will be very pleased with his decision to resign prior to joining Nottingham Forest. Internet bookmaker PaddyPower have already declared Celtic as league Champions prior to a ball being kicked although, to be fair, most bookies have them as 1/9 on at best to lift that particular silverware.

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Other bookmakers are also available

For all the ongoing talk about these two ‘giants’ of Scottish football joining the English Premier League, the totally one sided nature of their domestic league along with results such as those against Progrès or Lincoln show how out of touch they sadly are these days. A point made all the more apparent as after limping past the Gibraltarians last season, Celtic then endured complete capitulation in the group stages, failing to reach the Europa League whilst also suffering a 7(seven) goal bracketing.

Winning at home is nice, but to watch such consistently uncompetitive football must become a somewhat soul destroying affair. Where’s the genuine competition? Where’s the excitement? What’s the point when you win your league by a country mile or get kicked off the park the moment the competition hots up a bit. With your closest historical rival a shadow of their former selves, it really gives off the impression of going through the motions. Give me the Championship any day of the week.

Which is why the return to our own league campaign cannot come soon enough. Nobody could claim this division is one sided. Anything but, with Newcastle United’s title win going right down to the wire last season whilst Brentford have claimed more than their fair share of illustrious scalps over the last three campaigns. Three top ten finishes have surprised more than a few people outside of TW8 (most notably Ian Holloway) and I’m desperate for us to give this division another try.

The good news is that the Bees are now back in training and yesterday, ‘official’ released a video of head coach Dean Smith talking to Sky Sports News.

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Dean Smith spoke to Sky

In the interview, which you can see below, Dean sounds über positive. He talks about having had lots of fresh ideas and sharing our own sentiments that its good to be back after a long break. He has confirmed his top six aspirations along with a desire to keep hold of last seasons squad. Moreso given our strong finish to the campaign.

Then, somewhat randomly, the interview changes tack with the second half being taken up with a discourse on penalties. The recent England – Germany U-21 game. Dean Smith’s philosophy on penalty taking. As a player and as a head coach. It went on. I was half expecting him to be quizzed on Marcello Trotta.

A shame really,, as this was a somewhat wasted opportunity from Sky to dig into our plans, our set up and mindset. To find out how Dean has continued the great work already done by Warbs, Lee Carsley and, of course, the team behind the team.

A missed opportunity?

Then again, I’m more than happy being the underdog. Being that unfancied, under the radar team. Catching the likes of Leeds United, Derby County, Aston Villa, Mr Holloway et al with their pants down.

Nobody can deny the likes of Rangers and Celtic have huge stadiums, even bigger fan bases and plenty of historical honours. Likewise that Griffin Park is still only a 12,000 capacity ground with a trophy cabinet that is emptier than Arsenal’s.

But who wants to be the one big fish in a rapidly stagnating pond of tadpoles? A fish that gets gobbled up the moment any invasive species appears from the continent. The Championship, and beyond, is where it’s all at. Where the real action happens. Where real football takes place.

It’s July 5th. This time next month proceedings begin in anger with out trip to Sheffield United. I really cannot wait. It promises to be even bigger and better than ever before.

Nick Bruzon

This is the big one (for Wagner). And a special ‘thank you’ for Bees fans.

29 May

This is it. Today’s the day Brentford discover their final Championship opponent for next season. The play-off final sees Huddersfield Town and Reading doing battle in the, so-called, £100million match. Certainly, that’s the figure usually quoted in TV revenue for the team fortunate enough to come out on top in the choke off (there’s no other word for it) to reach the Premier League. That said, reading an article in The Independent last week, they are quoting it being as much as £170m rising to £290m. That’s just incredible.

For the winner . Riches and acclaim. Then the chance to see if they’ll emulate the likes of Watford, Bournemouth or Burnley in survival rather than Hull City and Middlesbrough with an immediate return. For the loser there’ll be tears, ‘if onlys’, the chance to come back Griffin Park (see – its not all bad) and inevitable comparisons to Derby County.

As a neutral, I love watching the play-offs. Moreso, this match. The FA Cup on Saturday was fantastic. Much as it loathes me to say it, Arsenal fully deserved their victory as Premier league Champions Chelsea were swept away. Victor Moses performing the worst dive since Greg Louganis cracked his head on the board during the 1988 Olympics pretty much summed up their effort.

Yet talking to a friend in The Griffin (other pubs are available) during the game, the conversation turned to the relevance of that tournament. It is the world’s oldest cup competition and, as a Brentford fan, I’d simply love us to do well. To embark on an epic cup run. To perhaps emulate that wonderful run of 88/89 or even go one better. To take a tinfoil cup to Wembley itself.

Liverpool v Brentford 2

The Bees haven’t reached an FA Cup quarter final since Liverpool in 88/89

But for other teams, certainly at the business end of the top flight, it is treated largely as an afterthought throughout most of the campaign. Weakened teams are fielded in what has become more of a nice to win than a need to win. Qualification for the Champions league, and the riches/prestige that come with that, is very much viewed as the ‘must have’ prize by many.

Did Spurs have a better season by finishing second in the Premier league and reaching that European tournament? Or could Arsenal, who played like they really wanted it, be argued to have been the more successful through getting their name on a trophy but missing out on the big one in Europe? The romantic in me says it is the FA Cup. The realist in me knows just what the Champions league can bring in terms of revenue and reputation to those clubs whose financial model and being able to compete absolutely rely on repeat qualification.

As it stands, Brentford are yet to make an FA Cup final (I’m not counting the War cup) or reach the play-off for the Premier League. That said, we gave it quite a go in 2014/15 when Middlesbrough were all that stood between us and a trip to Wembley for a crack at the top flight. Move along. Nothing to see here beyond another notch in the bedpost marked ‘challenging record’ after 8 attempts made.

Yet I’ll absolutely be glued to the screen this afternoon when Huddersfield and Reading walk out. This is no ‘nice to have’ match. This is all about the pressure and the reward that comes with victory. Everybody knows what is at stake. It is a game that combines the prestige of winning the FA Cup with the finances that come with making the Champions’ league.  There’ll be a global audience tuned in to this in a battle of who can hold their nerve.

Let’s be honest, nobody could pick a definite winner out of these two. I’m still amazed Reading made it, certainly based on the way Brentford played against them this season. Huddersfield led the table early and did the double over the Bees, yet it was the Royals who came third and despatched a very, very good Fulham team along the way. Much as it pains me to admit.

Instead, we’ll just have to leave this one to the players on the day. Who wants it more? Personally, I’m backing David Wagner’s team. And for no more illogical reason than the oft made reference on these pages to him and that one time X-Factor singer, err, Wagner.

Well, it seems that now worlds have actually collided. And how!! I’m not sure if this is car crash or sheer brilliance. Enjoy…

And finally.. a HUGE thank you to call those who have already downloaded this year’s e-book: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all funds from this one (and the previous titles) are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17 you can pick it up, here. Along with all the usual Brentford stuff, we look at how the Championship season played out as teams came and went aswell as the ‘other stuff’ (fans of Mrs. Brown and her boys should probably look away now).

Hearing Yoann Barbet and Lasse Vibe speak at the player of the year dinner after sharing the Community player of the year award for the work they do with the Trust was truly inspirational. We all know how wonderful our club is and so, from a personal note, I’d love to make some gesture back – no matter how small.

Downloading any of the titles is now for a great cause. Hey, you may even enjoy reading. Funnier things have happened.

THANK YOU

This is it - the latest version now available. For a great casue

The latest version now available – for a great cause
Nick Bruzon

King Jota is the star of this year’s e-book (and it’s for a great cause).

27 May

What was your highlight of the season?  The double over QPR ? The win at Brighton? Crushing Aston Villa, Preston, Derby County and Leeds United (amongst others) at home? The trip to Burton United? Or something else?

How about those outstanding on pitch displays from the likes of Ryan Woods, Harlee Dean, Lasse Vibe and Daniel Bentley, to name but a few? Villa fan Simon Hateley self-combusting on Twitter? The return of Mrs. Brown and her boys in the hilarious : “All round to Mrs. Brown’s” (please note: your definition of hilarious may very well vary).

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Mrs Brown. It was worse than any of us could imagine

If everybody’s ‘favourite mammy’ (they’re the words of the BBC, definitely not me) struggled to provide laughs, at least they came thick and fast c/o eventual QPR boss Ian Holloway. His pre-season prediction as to how Brentford would end the campaign, made in an article for Sky Sports,  was one that came back to haunt him time and again. So much so that he would eventually deny even making it.

But for me the real pick of the bunch was not one moment but a feeling of momentum that built thanks to the return of those two wonderful Spaniards – Sergi Canos and, of course, King Jota. The sale of goal machine Scott Hogan to Aston Villa would barely cause a ripple on the Griffin Park seismograph as our new look team started scoring, and playing, for fun.

How wonderful to see Sergi and Jota play with such freedom of expression down the flanks. To see how much genuine pleasure they derived from every touch and from every goal. Moreso, as Lasse Vibe started to do his thing to incredible effect. And setting Peter Gilham off on more than one occasion. Never has a little Italian restaurant; at Brentford lock, been plugged with such gusto.

It was a pleasure shared by the fans and one which even inspired BBC Billy Reeves to form a supergroup (alongside Adam Devlin from the Bluetones and Rich Hard-Fi) to pen the gorgeous charity single, ‘Welcome home, King Jota’.

Rich Adam Billy

Musical genius: Archer, Devlin, Reeves (l-r) c/o The Jolly Baker, Ashford

Which brings us neatly/with all the subtly of a sledgehammer (delete as applicable) to this years e-book: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17).

Before you glaze over, this time things are different. It is now available for download on kindle from the Amazon store but all sale proceeds from this latest version, priced at just £1.99, are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise anything else raised by the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also going to the BFCCST.

I think we all appreciate just how much our club does off-field and in the local community. Barely a day goes by without seeing one of the players at a local school, visiting sick children in hospital or making pizzas at the aforementioned restaurant (Lasse Vibe, I’m looking at you).

Indeed, to hear Yoann Barbet and Lasse speak at the player of the year dinner after sharing the Community player of the year award for the work they do with the Trust was truly inspirational.

I love this club. I love the feeling that everybody knows everybody and looks out for each other. From a personal perspective, I’m overawed everytime somebody reads my nonsense or says a nice word in the street about The Last Word column. At the end of the day (Clive) it is just a bit of fun although with an occasional venting of frustration. Short corners. That Band. Mrs. Brown. To name but a few.

So with that in mind, if people are somehow interested in one supporter’s view of what happened between the end of last campaign to the end of this one (essentially the least bad of the blogs with a bit of new stuff in there), then you’ll be doing it for the Sports Trust.

And you can get it here.

Enjoy. Thanks for reading over the years.

Welcome Home, King Jota book page

Nick Bruzon