Tag Archives: Dwight Gayle

Newcastle United share a pain that Brentford know so well as Keith does his thing once more.

6 Apr

Keith Stroud. A name to strike fear into football fans up and down the land has done it again. Of course, at Brentford we are well aware of the card happy man in black’s past form. Now Championship table toppers Newcastle United are the latest club to fall foul of his obsession with random decision making in last night’s game with Burton Albion.

Who could forget the infamous battle of Bramall Lane? Rather than a League One promotion shootout between the Bees and Sheffield United, it was another game that turned into the Stroud show. “The maddest game of football that ever existed” said Mark Burridge after that one as it finished with three red cards shown, four penalties awarded and 12 players booked (8 alone in the first half). That the Bees came out of it with a point,despite playing most of the second half with 9 men, was more down to our own character than any protection from the referee.

It was a game which, to the casual observer, would suggest one akin to the titular battle. In reality it was nowhere close to that, with the hardest fought contest being that between Stroud’s ego and the frustration of both sets of supporters.

Whilst he’s never topped that moment in Sheffield, his name is one that still brings an almost audible wince of negativity (should such a thing be possible) whenever he is announced as a referee for a forthcoming game. His card ratio alone is, season on season, higher than just about any other official to take charge at Griffin Park . The current campaign has seen him show an incredible 171 yellows and sent off 12 players during his 39 games officiated. Only Uber have more bookings than Stroud, it seems.

Then, last night happened. With Newcastle United hosting Burton Albion in a league fixture (a phrase in itself which bears more than a moment’s consideration) they were awarded a penalty. With Matt Ritchie subsequently finding the back of the net for 1-0, Stroud struck. Social media went into meltdown as , for reasons unknown, rather than declaring the goal he chalked it off and gave a free kick to Burton.

This was later revealed to be for what Mr Stroud considered encroachment into the box by Dwight Gayle. Whilst the rules of the game dictate that the spot kick should be retaken in such a circumstance, Keith’s head and the rules of the game are not things that always see eye to eye,

Unfortunately the referee has misapplied the law. Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake,” said a referee’s spokesman afterwards. Hmmm. Sorry about that folks. Imagine the furore had things then turned out differently to the eventual 1-0 home win for Newcastle?

I do feel sorry for Keith in many ways. To give credit, his recent performances officiating for Brentford have, by and large, been relatively restrained with no real controversy. He even changed his mind in our favour upon the advice of an assistant during the recent reverse at home to Wolves.  So we know he can do it. Unfortunately, there are so many games that see the other side of Keith.

The flamboyant flourish of a red card. The turning his back on a player he has just admonished. The random bookings and decisions offered out at a level not seen since Uriah Rennie. Yet he has been allowed to continue unchecked. Nobody has had a word and, instead, he has become almost a cult character. But for the wrong reasons.

People now expect bookings and oddity when Keith is in charge. People go into the game on edge. When he has a good one there’s a sense of relief more than a sense of pride. Season on season his statistics speak for themselves but no real action is taken to reign him in. Football isn’t that consistently dirty a game, except in Keith’s head.

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Keith Stroud – we all know the drill

Equally though, last night bears additional scrutiny. This was no heat of the moment decision. This wasn’t a foul that needed to be replayed in the head. It was a basic rule of football that he got backwards in the most glaring of styles. But what about his assistants? Was no support given ? No advice offered? Or was this a case where Keith’s rule was law?

Let’s be clear, I’d hate to be a referee. Balls of steel and skin as thick as rhino’s are the pre-requisites. With players, journalists and fans all thinking they know better the ref is only ever on a hiding to nothing. He clearly loves what he does although, whilst I’d hate to see any serious sanction as a result, that’s no justification for allowing anyone to run around unchecked.

Will Keith ever change? Unlikely. Will the FA do anything? Expect a week’s demotion to the lower leagues and then business as usual.

Yet, out of all this, Keith may wake up this morning and look himself in the mirror. You never know. Perhaps this will be the catalyst that triggers some self-reflection and a reigning in of Keith the card.

We know he can do it. We’ve all seen him have good games. Why not just go back to being the anonymous man in the middle rather than the reputational nightmare he has allowed himself to become.

Can a leopard change his spots? You never know.

 

Nick Bruzon

Mark Burridge wins Twitter for the day as Brentford prepare for trip to Ipswich Town

3 Mar

Roll on Saturday. Brentford travel to Ipswich Town looking to make it three wins in a row whilst, at the same time, building on a ‘goals scored’ record that has seen us find the net 16 times in the last 6 games. The last of which saw that smile inducing hat trick from Jota (just think of it and tell me you aren’t still grinning). And those of you up early may have spotted something on Twitter from the midweek win for Newcastle United at Brighton, c/o of our commentator par excellence Mark Burridge.

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View from the Braemer – unadulterated joy from Jota and the team on Saturday

But we can only start with Brentford and Ipswich Town. Last season saw a 3-1 win for Brentford at Ipswich, in a game that was marred by Luke Hyam’s horrific lunge through Alan Judge. It was a foul subsequently defended by Tractorboy’s boss Mick McCarthy who, even given time to reflect , made no attempt to reconsider his opinion.

Hyam was shown a yellow for the assault on Judge which broke his leg, ruled him out of EURO 2016 and 11 months later still sees him nowhere close to a first team return. The Ipswich man was eventually shown a second yellow for going at Ryan Woods just before half time.

Dean Smith’s suggestion that he had been  “a bit naughty” and deserved straight red prompted a somewhat bizarre reply in which McCarthy noted, “I’m disappointed if he’s said that. I don’t think it is. I think he’s won the ball. I’ve actually complained to the referee as to why it’s a booking if he’s won the ball. I don’t think it’s naughty at all. That surprised me and disappoints me if he’s said that, but we all have opinions”.

Hyam hasn’t featured this time around but don’t expect anything different from Mick and his team. If not career threatening injuries, certainly a side who are robust in the challenge and have lost the form that has seen them threatening the play offs in previous campaigns. Instead, a squad that contains Jonathan Douglas and Toumani Diagouraga have seen their stock fall and sit below Brentford in the league table.

As for Brentford, there’s been more than a touch of Keegan-era Newcastle United about us in recent weeks. Dean’s return to picking a four man defence has seen goals aplenty, at both ends. Is kamikaze football better than the turgid possession game? Absolutely. Is it just a matter of time before the team re-adjust to both their ‘new’(traditional) system and new faces  such as Flo Jo and Sergi ? I have no doubt. Which of those two Dean starts with on Saturday will be tough choice but, like Justin Shaibu, the impact made from the bench by the Spaniard was clear for all to see.

Harlee Dean has flourished in recent months. He really has been indispensable, both at the back and going forward. He’ll be missed in his second game out following his tenth yellow, but it gives Andreas Bjelland  and John Egan a chance to really give Dean another selection headache. Along with Yoann Barbet, we really have been blessed with centre backs – the trick for Dean being which combination to pick and which players to sit alongside them.

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Suspension saw Harlee spending Saturday very much put of position

And there’s another thing. Rico Henry. He’s barely featured on these pages since, finally, making his debut in the 2-1 win up at Sheffield Wednesday. Rico, if you are reading (you aren’t) I can only apologise.  Commentators and supporters alike were left enthusing about his performance. Those who saw him in the flesh against Rotherham could only agree. Pace, skill, tricks and tackles. In abundance.

Tom Field has been magnificent at left back but Rico really has thrown down a gauntlet. In doing so, he has shown just why the statistical model has identified a second Dean Smith ex-player as one we should move for.

As for Romaine Sawyers, his killer ball through for the goal to complete Jota’s hat-trick showed just why our head coach must have been smiling when ‘the model’ threw up his name over the summer. Like Brentford, consistency has been the main problem here in a tricky first season but we’ve nobody who can split a defence like Romaine when he is on his A game.

Rotherham, like Sheffield Wednesday, saw him very much a fish out of water. The ‘false 9’ formation is not one that we’ve been overly comfortable with and Saturday was the archetypal example. A set up that looked good on paper pre kick off clearly wasn’t working and Dean Smith really should have rescued his man earlier.

As for the experts, the bookies see Brentford as 39/20 to win this one whilst ‘over 2.5 goals’ is evens. And for those of you with a penchant for curse of the ex-player (as so ably demonstrated by John Swift at Reading) Toumani is 15/2 to score at any time. Whilst the big man was only the bench last time out, football being football then surely that’s where the smart money is?

Calling the shots will be Mark Burridge, as ever. With travel chaos expected thanks to the rail service, could Beesplayer be the best place to catch up on the action? Whilst there is no substitute for being there, the thought of spending the afternoon with Mark and his team is a tempting one. If for no other reason than we can expect quick off the mark observations from our man at the mic.

Does he ever sleep? Is his attention permanently tuned in to all things Brentford and Greyhounds ? We alluded to an early morning social media spot at the start of the article and sure enough, Mark / Newcastle United delivered.

Nice one Mark . Here’s to more zingers on Saturday. And goals.

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Nick Bruzon

Unlucky Bees end day with nil points but loads of positive Vibes. Is Scott Hogan on the way?

14 Jan

What an afternoon. What a game. How Brentford emerged from that with nothing is one we’re still chewing over hours after the referee blew the final whistle. How Newcastle United got away with all three points remains a mystery after a backs to the wall second half which saw the Bees do everything but add to Lasse Vibe’s equaliser. They won’t care though – and why should they? Balls in the back of the net and points in the bag are all that counts. And with Dean Smith choosing to keep Scott Hogan on the bench (Hello? Operator? Can I have the number for West Ham please?) there were more talking points than just the on pitch action.

First things first, well played Newcastle United. The defended like champions whilst Dwight Gayle’s first half opener was absolutely top class. We’ve bigged him up on these pages all season but here was yet another demonstration of why.

Cutting in from the left touchline he had no right whatsoever to shoot from that angle, let alone beat a keeper of Daniel Bentley’s quality from there. But what a finish – power and precision. It hurts to lose, really hurts, yet at the same time one can only extend the hand of sportsmanship to admire that finish (one to check on the video highlights).

Yet with the danger man going off injured after less than half an hour, Brentford woke up. The brand of cagey-sideways-backwards football made way for a more pressing form. A trend continued in the second half where, despite kicking ‘the wrong way’ (sneaky, sneaky from Newcastle at the toss) we came out like the proverbial express train.

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Brentford were compelled to attack the home end in the first half – never a popular move

Vibe’s equaliser after a goalmouth melee more than justified as the Bees continued to apply pressure on what was, being honest, a very solid side but one ultimately made to look quite average relative to the Bees. Certainly, on the day. Griffin Park erupted as he stabbed it home and then the atmosphere built as the Bees went again.

Ooohh. Vibe off the inside of the post almost gave us the lead – the ball somehow staying out with the home fans already cheering –  before Daryl Murphy rose between two defenders to nod home a cross in a rare Newcastle break upfield. With stonewall penalties being denied (again) it looked all up for the Bees.

Yet in an incredible 9 (nine) minutes of added time for injuries and stoppages mercurial midfielder Jota almost gave the consummate demonstration of his party piece. Weaving around the box and shrugging off defenders, he eventually found enough space to unleash a thunderbolt . Kudos to Newcastle custodian Karl Darlow, flinging himself to his right to deny the talismanic Spaniard with a quite magnificent save.

Jota in the last minute? Sadly not this time. There would have been scenes had he done it. And that’s just on the gantry where Mark Burridge would likely have self-combusted.

And there, it finished. Heads held high for Brentford yet Newcastle took all there points back to the North-East. With Brighton losing at Preston ( no surprise to regular readers given who had previewed them on Football Focus this morning…), the Magpies end the day at the top of the Championship table.

That’s the good stuff. The weird stuff surrounds Scott Hogan. After that buttock ‘injury’ that caused him to miss the FA Cup, he was declared fully fit by Dean Smith on Thursday. Indeed, our head coach had gone one better by telling us he was available and adding “I fully expect him to want to score a hat-trick against Newcastle United and show people who may question his Premier League credentials that he can do it.”

So how do we then get to a situation where he ends the day as an unused substitute?

I’ve no issue with him not coming onto the pitch today. Absolutely I’d have loved to see him involved  – especially in a game where we were pushing for a winner. Yet given the sums of money being talked up and a potential transfer still hanging in the air, the risk of getting hurt was too great. Something demonstrated by the visitors who lost three players (include substitute Vernon Anita) to injury.

But if that was the worry, as intimated in the post match interviews, then why name him on the bench at all? Either start him or give the place to somebody who might have had chance of making it onto the pitch.

We’re not stupid. We know he’s going at some point. That’s football. Maybe I’m being too simplistic but the second he was named as as substitute (and that’s with the utmost respect to Lasse Vibe who had a GREAT game) there was no chance we’d see him in action.

Why limit your options? Why not call one of the B-team back from Germany if the decision had been made on Friday ? That, something you can hear about in Billy Reeves’ post match interview.

As for those penalties, or lack of, well Dean was on the mark here when talking to the BBC man as he told  Billy, “Normal service was resumed in non-penalties for Brentford football club….. You have one careful what you say but a big club against a smaller club – there were three defies”. And you can listen to that one, here.

Well played Brentford. Yet again, an example of close but no cigar. Had we gone for it from the off then who knows? Had the ref done us a favour for once then who knows? Had Jota pulled that last minute moment of magic out of the bag then who knows?

Yet this time, defeat feels like a victory. Ok, we’ve got no points but I’m so proud of how our boys played for huge swathes of this one. Beautiful passing football and wonderful periods of domination.

So often we’ve said that balls in the back of the net are the only stat that counts. That remains true yet, at the same time, this really feels different today.

Positive vibes? He was brilliant today.

Bad luck, Brentford. Now let’s go and stuff Wigan next weekend.

Nick Bruzon 

Dean talking buttocks as Newcastle match day arrives and Chelsea details emerge.

14 Jan

Saturday morning, 7am. It’s cold out side, very cold, but thankfully the snow has failed to materialise in Brentford. With the FA Cup behind us for now (although the club did confirm details about the Chelsea game on Friday – more below) it is back to League action for the Bees as Newcastle United are the visitors to Griffin Park.

In the red corner, Scott Hogan. He’s the man, the man with the midas touch. Worth his weight in gold, and goals, he’s been finding the net for fun this season yet now finds himself the absolute centre of transfer speculation as those West Ham stories just won’t go away.

In the blue corner (with orange trim), Dwight Gayle. Outright occupant of the penthouse suite in the Championship leading scorer hotel. Scott’s 14 are still 5 behind the Newcastle United man who showed first hand back in October how deadly he can be. Gayle’s brace contributing to a 3-1 win over the Bees at St. James Park and he hasn’t looked back.

So the big question, will we see them face off today? From one respect the good news was Dean Smith’s confirmation in Thursday’s press conference that “Scott Hogan’s buttock is fine, he has trained all week and is available for selection,” The pair were due to speak yesterday to assess the situation and then, come 2pm (or closely after) we’ll get our first look at the team sheet to see if Lasse Vibe retains his place up top or Scott walks straight back into the side.

I can only expect the later. With no fee having been agreed or deal signed then one can only presume he’ll be leading the line. Unless Scott is having some form of hissy fit à la Diego Costa or Dimitri Payet (how angry must Chelsea and West Ham fans be today?) then surely the chance to prove his mettle against the second best team in the division will be the perfect shop window for a player harbouring dreams of top flight football at some point in his career. Whether that be next week or next season.

As Dean went on to add (and you can find the full article on ‘official’ ), “I fully expect him to want to score a hat-trick against Newcastle United and show people who may question his Premier League credentials that he can do it.”

No Brentford fan wants to see Scott leave but is anyone naïve enough to think we could turn down figures in the region of £15million? More to the point, given what he has been through in his career to date, would anybody really stand in the player’s way?  Scott will go to the Premier League at some point soon – whether January or the summer. Of that, have have absolutely no doubt. He’s just too good.

Today could well be our last chance to see him at Griffin Park. At least, in the red and white of Brentford. We’ve only one more home game until the transfer window closes and that’s an evening kick off, on January 31st, against Aston Villa. I’d love to see him starting that one but in my heart of hearts I fear we’ll have said farewell by that point.

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Come on Scott. Could today be the last time we’ll see scenes like this?

Instead, let’s just live for the moment. Can Harlee Dean and crew keep out Dwight Gayle at one end, leaving Scott free to try and catch Newcastle’s free scoring goal machine at the other? Here’s hoping. This  afternoon’s game has goals in it, no doubt. The only question being just how many?

The one piece of news that the club have been able to confirm is that surrounding the FA Cup fourth round tie at Chelsea. It was announced yesterday that that game will be a 3pm kick off on Saturday 28th January. A not surprising decision but, at the same time, given the home team’s subsequent league fixtures there was always the thought it might be brought forward to Friday night or even Saturday lunchtime.

As with our previous visit to Stamford Bridge, we’ve been allocated all 6,000 tickets in their ‘Shed’ end. Details of sale are yet to be released although with the game only a fortnight away expect this to be imminent. The pricing structure of £30 adults and £15 kids is (relatively) competitive – I’m still baulking at the £41 charged by Leeds United –  so filling that end to get Chelsea rocking won’t be an issue.

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Everything we know about the Chelsea game in two tweets

With a home game against Brighton and the aforementioned Villa match immediately after that one, it has all the potential to be a wonderful few weeks for Brentford.

This time ten years ago we were playing games against Leyton Orient, Yeovil Town and Carlisle United as the Bees eventually finished the season a the bottom of League One. Now we’re talking about selling players for £15million whilst taking on some of the biggest names in English football.

It makes you think.

For now, though, it’s all about Newcastle United. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Lewis will stay another day. How about Scott as Santa Saunds does his thing and FA get heavy

21 Dec

Well that was a day of seasonal good news. Brentford were very much in the festive mood as Lewis Macleod was given a contract extension despite his long term injury whilst down the road at West Middlesex Hospital, the squad were very much doing their own ‘Santa’ thing. Not so seasonal, but of equal interest to Bees fans, was the five match ban handed out to Jonjo Shelvey of Newcastle United for racial abuse. This, given a similar punishment suffered by our own Alan McCormack back in October.

First up though, the positive news. Brentford have shown many times how we look after our own. There  is the well documented way that Scott Hogan was treated during his own lengthy recovery period (18 months out) after suffering that awful injury just a few games into his Griffin Park career. First class medical treatment all the way and a contract extension were the order of the day as the club showed huge faith in a player who has since began to pay that back in bucketloads.

Scott’s goalscoring record is such that there is genuine worry amongst the Bees faithful we’ll be cashing in come January. He went on that stunning run towards the end of last season as he edged his way back to full fitness whilst now, only Dwight Gayle at Newcastle United sits above him in the scoring charts. Imagine those two together. Actually, don’t. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Then there was the contract extension offered to Jota as our talismanic midfielder (if Sam Saunders was Spanish….) was allowed to go back to Spain on loan, for personal reasons. Who could forget his letter to supporters at the time where he promised that , “This isn’t “goodbye” but more of a “see you later” ? Who could forget our own signal to the player in offering him a contract extension despite the fact he was moving away from Griffin Park – albeit a move that, despite our deepest fears, one still hopes remains a temporary decision.

And now Lewis Macleod has become the latest beneficiary of Matthew Benham’s backing of his players as the former Rangers man has been give a year’s contract extension which will see him tied to Griffin Park until the summer of 2019. This, despite like Scott at the time of his injury, barely a handful of appearances since joining the club and the youngster now facing a long period on the sidelines.

When the road to recovery must seem long and torturous, with no guarantees at the end of it, one can’t begin to imagine what a boost this faith in individuals must be. At a time when all around are getting on with what they do best – playing football – to see how much we value those on the sidelines and are prepared to make such a public statement of belief is a huge, huge thing. We’ve done it in thee past and no doubt will do it again.  Here’s hoping for a Hoganesque payback when Lewis is fully fit.

It was interesting, also, how he got into the festive spirit by emulating one time Christmas chart toppers East 17. The boy band, of course, occupying the penthouse suite at the hit parade hotel back in December 1994 with their ‘Stay Another Day’ single.

Despite being number one at Christmas, rather than an actual Christmas record in the vein of Slade, Wizzard, Coldplay or Shakin’ Stevens (whose own effort is not only the best Christmas song of all time but the best pop single. Ever), the band’s use of fake snow and furry parka jackets in the promo video now sees them embedded deep into festive culture. (See also: Frankie Goes to Hollywood – The Power of Love. Not a Christmas record yet still now considered one based upon the time of release)

As such, it was great to see Lewis getting involved with his own choice of seasonal attire at yesterday’s contract signing. As ever you can read the full story, with the proper photographs, on ‘official’.

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Next up, Sam Saunders. Can he do anything wrong? No, being the answer as the ever popular midfielder was amongst those who made the trip to West Mid to hand out Christmas presents to children on the Starlight Ward. The pictures and the comments from the players on Social media spoke for themselves and showed, yet again, just how much this club does for our own local community.

One can’t begin to think what it is like for these youngsters to be in hospital at any point, let alone during the Christmas season – a period that traditionally sees celebrations at home and time spent with friends and family over the prolonged school holidays. As such, a gesture of this nature is one that can only be very well received. Wonderful work from all at Griffin Park. Yet again.

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From the positive to the not so. The story of Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey being given a five game ban for what is described as : “Aggravated Breach as defined in Rule E3(2), as it included reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or nationality” is one that hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst our own support.

Of course, we have our own parallel with the five game sentence handed down to Macca back in October after he was found guilty of : Using abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official in the 52nd minute of the game against Cardiff City on 19 April 2016, contrary to FA Rule E3(1) . Moreso, given his offence was, “An “aggravated breach” as defined in FA Rule E3(2), as it included a reference to gender.

Back then this column wondered : This is a huge ban and if nothing else Alan would seem to be patient zero when the FA have decided to clamp down hard. Yet, also, they’ve now drawn a line in the sand which I’ll be very keen to see how strongly they enforce ongoing.

And here is your answer. Another breach of rule E3(2) and another five game ban. If players were operating in a new environment about what is deemed acceptable before, there can be no doubt now. Speak in such a manner towards officials or fellow pros – pay a very heavy penalty.

From an on-pitch perspective, it means Shelvey will be missing when Newcastle United come to Griffin Park for the televised game in January 16th. He’ll be a huge loss to the Magpies, if his performance on our own trip to the North-East was anything to go by. At one point it looked as though he was going to inspire a Geordie bracketing as the home team set off at 100mph, with the Bees caught cold in the starting blocks, and Shelvey providing ‘assists’ for fun.

I can’t pretend to take any pleasure from a story of this nature on a day of such seasonal goodwill. But, at the same time, it would be hypocritical not to realise what a helping hand it offers us. Knowing that Newcastle will be missing one of their danger men, and the architect of our own downfall last time out, when the battle of the Championship’s leading scorers takes place.

Still, all that is some time off. For now, we’ve got Christmas to look forward to and the hope that Scott is still a Bee by the time that game takes place. I’ve no doubt our faith in the player will be rewarded come January…..

Nick Bruzon

The good, the bad and the ugly. Bees undone by Leeds, Leicester City scoop more awards whilst this is one scary Santa. A week in football.

19 Dec

Brentford were hit by the ultimate sucker punch at Leeds United – an 89th minute goal from a short corner as the Elland Road outfit ran out 1-0 winners. At the tops its ‘as you were’. Dwight Gayle doing what he does for Newcastle United to move further ahead of Scott Hogan in the Championship scorer charts whilst Brighton kept pace with a 2-1 win at Birmingham City. At the bottom, Cardiff traded places with Blackburn Rovers who once again take up their place in the relegation spots alongside Wigan Athletic and Rotherham. Indeed, only the ongoing ineptitude of those teams stopping QPR from joining them although that gap now down to a mere three points….

That’s the latest Championship action in a nutshell. Yet there has been so much more going on in the division and beyond. In the latest edition of our regular, weekly feature we look back at those things you might have missed from the world of social media.

Actually, there hasn’t been that much this week. That, or the Christmas party season has meant social media usage is a lot less than usual. But we’ll root through the detritus to start with Brentford and the last knockings from the game at Leeds United.

Despite the incredible £37/£42 ticket prices, supporters were in good voice.

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Scott hogan’s goal WAS onside.

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Leeds supporters show just what the win means.

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Tom Field underlined his importance to this team.

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Off the field, there was exciting news on the injury front.

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Whilst, as you could almost have predicted, Martin Allen has done what he does best and now set up an FA Cup third round tie at Griffin Park.

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And one we missed last week but worth a look – just for a surreal headline / teaser line image c/o Beeschat. One can only imagine what takes place over there toast at Dean Smith’s domestic tactical workshop.

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Elsewhere, pickings were slim. Just what is going on at Birmingham City?

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What is going on at Leicester City?

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What is going on at Manchester City?

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Is Mike Phelan channelling his inner Fred Dibnah? Just a flat cap short of the full look…

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Up in Scotland, Santa has taken a very scary turn for the worst.

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Perhaps he’s been listening to the advertisers.

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In more advertising news , Nike have displayed incredible precognitive powers.

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Whilst on the BBC, Sunday night’s Sports Personality of the year saw Leicester City triumph (twice) and Andy Murray receiving his overall winner’s award via a video link up from a friend.

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But, as ever, we close with Ian Moose and his birthday friend of the week. Which of his good friends from the world of football did the Talksport DJ wish happy birthday to, via the medium of a Twitter post and picture of them together?

This week: Preston manager Simon Grayson.

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Nick Bruzon

As Dean prepares for City game, what has he learned from the weekend? Who starts?

13 Dec

Midweek decisions. With Brentford travelling to Bristol City tonight, I’ve got some sympathy for Bees boss Dean Smith. My own all conquering Fantasy Football team has suddenly been shot to pieces by the red cards for Manchester City duo  Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho combined with long term injuries to Philippe Coutinho and Charlie Austin at Liverpool and Southampton respectively. Seriously, you couldn’t make it up.

The danger of over tinkering to remedy this has already blown up in my face at the weekend  (yes Jermaine Defoe, you do seem to be a cheap replacement for the free scoring Manchester City man) and could get worse.  The Bees, meanwhile, are at Ashton Gate tonight with Dean facing a similar set of decisions.

Thankfully, there are no new injuries but with this being the middle game in a set of three within eight days (and that’s before you even hit the busy Christmas schedule – wonderful planning from the league) is it a case of doing some longer term planning? Will he change things around a bit or does he stick with more of the same and potentially run his team into the ground?

To be honest, I can’t see him mixing things up. Whilst Burton Albion didn’t provide the stiffest of opposition it was a case of getting back to winning ways. One of the oldest of football clichés says you never change a winning team whilst I’d also chuck in the one about taking each game as it comes. Besides, what should he actually do?

As in the game with Birmingham City, it was as much a case of celebrating what hit the back of the net as lamenting what didn’t but at least on this occasion we got out of it with points. Is it simple bad luck or something intrinsically flawed with his set up?

Personally I’m in the former camp. Mostly. The plan seems a simple one, play it through for Scott Hogan to get on the end of and, when it works, it does so to devastating effect. The goal machine is now three clear of Tammy Abraham who he’ll be up against tonight in the race for leading Championship scorer. Only Dwight Gayle at Newcastle United has scored more this season. That’s a  stunning achievement although one which does show our incredible reliance on Dean’s Plan A.

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The Bees celebrated more goals for Scott at the weekend

As in the Birmingham game, we saw  the return of the three centre back system and I’m sure Dean will give that another go. Should Tom Field (two wins from his two Brentford appearances) get a start or will he have to remain content on the bench? The system is one that needs to be persisted with – the opening goal against the Blues was horrible whilst the marking for Burton would have shamed a primary school team. Yet it is a system which looks as though it will have merit whilst solving Dean’s problem of how to play at least three, if not all four, of his centre backs.

As for the midfield, one can only guess at just what is it that stops KK even making it onto the field of play? But if he is to get a look in, it needs to be a decent run of appearances rather than a token cameo. It is one that has been much needed in recent weeks – if only to try and break up the poor run – but Dean has remained steadfast. And now, with the team back to winning ways, the Austrian may aswell take a pair of tweezers to Bristol in order to pluck the splinters from his backside.

Then again, the start against Burton (at least, until the substitutions) means no change will, or should, happen. Romaine Sawyers was quite wonderful, Nico was full of fight whilst Josh McEachran picked up where he left off against Birmingham. There was a strong case for Alan Mac but one that was resisted and it seems to have been the correct decision.

Let’s not pretend we were perfect against Burton. But we were much improved. Indeed, but for that twist of fate it could have been more. We can see from the stands how unlucky we are being although my slight concern is that listening to Dean speak and reading ‘official’ it is an element that is being heavily focussed upon. “We could have done this…. the referee should have done that…. how did the ‘keeper stop it?” rather than simply, asking the question – why aren’t we finding the net more?

In a column that has already mentioned double cliché, let’s go for the hat-trick. You make your own luck in this game. Create enough chances and, eventually, things will go in your favour. Something will go in off a defender’s backside. The referee will wave somebody on when they are five yards ahead of the last defender. The opposition goalkeeper will be distracted by chants of “It’s all your fault” and spill one on the line.

Over 500 hardy souls are travelling up to Bristol tonight. Many more will be listening on BeesPlayer. Here’s hoping they are rewarded for their efforts with another hard fought performance.

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View from the Braemar – it was full blooded on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

A goal, a goal is all we need…

23 Nov

It’s only Wednesday. The interminable wait until Brentford host Birmingham City on Saturday continues. If anything, it is a wait made all the more painful by our previous outings – the lacklustre defeat to Fulham followed up by Brentford going down by the odd goal in 5 at Blackburn.

In the understatement of the decade, Dean was quoted after that one as saying that he didn’t expect us to concede the goals we did. “I felt this was a place that we could come and score goals. Unfortunately, I didn’t expect us to concede the goals we did”, said Dean etc etc.

Just for good measure, we got a graphic of this one too.

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Whilst it seems obvious, and the gut reaction was one of contemplating whether this was even an act of parody, thinking about it more I think I get what he is trying to say. The goals were all sloppy, all unexpected and all out of character (other cliches are available). Indeed, of our 17 Championship games so far, 6 have seen us keeping clean sheets whilst it would be fair to say that Daniel Bentley hit the ground running between the sticks.

Further, only 7(seven) Championship teams have conceded less than our 19 goals over that period. That said, the left back situation is one I’d like to see cleared up sooner than lately. Nobody can doubt the international class and calibre of Andreas Bjelland but he is still a man pressed into an unfamiliar role. Roll on the return of Rico Henry and then the hope he lives up to all his plaudits . No pressure there.

It is up front where perhaps the situation is more interesting and different to any of our previous seasons playing at this level. In our first Championship campaign, Andre Gray was our top scorer in the league (16) but was ably supported by Alex Pritchard, Jota and even Jonathan Douglas who all weighed in with 13, 10 and 8 goals respectively . Last time out, it was another shared load. But for injury, who knows where Alan Judge would have stopped – he’d got 14 league goals up until that horrific broken leg. Lasse Vibe ended on the same figure whilst Scott Hogan, Sergi Canos and John Swift all managed 7 (seven)

Granted, we’re only just over a third of the way through the campaign but it doesn’t seem to me as though the same pattern is being repeated this time around. Rather than the shared workload, we are reliant on one man. And what a man !

Goal machine Scott Hogan is miles out in front with 10 league goals already. He’s picked up the baton from where he left off last season and is currently just a few behind Newcastle United’s Dwight Gayle in the race for leading Championship scorer. But after that it is a  case of slim pickings in the league. Centre back John Egan is next with 3, Josh Clarke and Lasse Vibe 2 before a handful of players have one apiece.

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Can one man do it all on his own?

It’s great that we have a free scoring centre forward. His timing and technique are clear for all to see. The question now is whether he gets the support that has been so much a part of our game over the last few campaigns ? Whilst, generally, we’re keeping it tight at the back up front we’ve drawn a blank 4 times out of the last 7 (etc) games . Is this a blip? Are teams getting wise to us? Does Dean have a plan B for getting the goals? Does he even need one?

At the end of the day, Clive, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I’ve no sort of tactical insight and what I know about running a football team you could write on the back of a matchbox. But for a club who, whether rightly or wrongly are held up as one for whom statistical analysis is a a key part of our make up, those are a few for thought.

I’m genuinely not sure which way will it go against promotion chasing Birmingham City. Will the goal machine keep on firing? Could somebody else get their name on the scoresheet? Will it be another blank for the Bees? The permutations in my head keep veering wildly between the three and I can’t call it at this juncture.

However, with our record against the Blues a less than favourable one in recent seasons W0 D1 L3), not to mention a fair amount of historic rivalry, I’d be well happy with a gritty 1-0. Hogan.

We can worry about the bigger picture after that.

Nick Bruzon

Bees come a sloppy second to Blackburn. Get me out of here…

20 Nov

Blackburn Rovers 3 Brentford 2. The scoreline does’t even begin to sum up a frustrating result after the Bees had taken the lead with barely half a minute of the game gone. That we then conspired to present our hosts with three goals (and no complaints about them for taking their chances – you can only put away what is in front of you) is something out of character with the Bees and hugely disappointing.

Equally, though, with still almost an hour to play at 3-2 down Brentford had plenty of time to salvage something. Instead, the records will show that we managed 3 shots on target all game.

Listen, I’ve no issue with holding up my hands and knowing when we’ve not deserved a thing. Look at our last home game, against Fulham, and then look away fast. There was no creativity and nothing to inspire. At least this time Dean loaded his team for attack, gave Romaine Sawyers a break for the first time this season and it paid immediate dividends. Lasse Vibe releasing Scott Hogan who sprung the offside trap and ran clear on goal to make it 1-0 Brentford after a mere 33 seconds.

Likewise, Hogan’s second, to level things up at 2-2, was the culmination of a beautiful move around the Blackburn midfield that ended with the striker taking his total to ten Championship goals for the season. With parity restored at 2-2 after just a half hour, and headline writers preparing the phrase ‘goal fest’ surely we were back in the driving seat? But no. Sloppiness followed just as sloppiness had preceded.

Sam Gallagher had been earmarked as the man to watch prior to this one but it was Danny Graham who took advantage of the huge holes in the Brentford defence to equalise on the quarter hour. It was marking that would have embarrassed a league two club, let alone a tier two Championship team, and the goal machine made no mistake. Five minutes later, he’d doubled his tally and given the home side the lead from the penalty spot. It looked a pretty innocuous challenge on the TV in what were slippery conditions – just check out the skid marks – but referee Chris Kavanagh had no hesitation and the penalty was dispatched perfectly.

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Bees hit the skids – did snow trail make it look worse than it was?

As for the winning goal though. The tales of Brentford centre-backs putting it past their own goalkeeper are legion. I’m not going to moan at Harlee Dean – the defensive o.g. has happened so many times before and will no doubt happen again. Indeed the biggest crime was even giving the ball away in the first instance, with the Bees in a very safe position on the half way line and taking it forward. Suddenly we were under pressure and paid the ultimate price as the ball was swept into the box.

Those of us watching back home could only mutter under the breath as this one popped up on the Sky Sports scrolly thing. Those of us wearing anoraks could only smile at the thought of Renton scoring in Edinburgh. At least one team displaying a lust for life there.

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The highlights of this one are on Sky now. Alternatively, if you prefer to see whether Mark Burridge and the team can salvage anything from the game, then there are double length highlights on Bees Player now we’ve got past the 12pm curfew.

Is it any better with Mark at the helm?

As for any more of an in-depth report,  regular readers know the drill. The BBC, Brentford official or Beesotted are your places. When even official lead with : Lasse vibe on “sloppy” defeat to Blackburn Rovers then it’s fairly safe to know what you are going to get.

Besides, yours truly wasn’t even allowed anywhere near Channel 5 for the highlights last night, with the remote control having been commandeered for watching Carol Vordeman (who seems to have been rebuilt more than the Brentford defence) and Danny Baker subtly attempting to wind up a daytime TV property ‘expert’.

An act which, if we’re being honest, they largely succeeded at under the watchful eyes of Ant and Dec. If only we’d had such acumen but alas it wasn’t to be. Then again, the thought of Harlee making a meal of pig’s anus or Sam Saunders standing in an oversized fish tank with an eel merging from his shorts are not the sort of images I particularly want so perhaps we park that analogy here, with apologies.

Can there be any positives from that? And by which I mean the Blackburn game rather than ‘I’m a celebrity’… ? Well, you have to start with two wonderfully taken goals. Scott Hogan is now in double figures in the Championship, level with Glenn Murray and just one behind Dwight Gayle at Newcastle United.With the Repulic of Ireland reportedly sniffing around, he is very much the ‘man of the moment’ in the Championship. January could be stressful..

Equally, at least, we can sleep that bit easier knowing that the media team won’t be dusting off the #Novemberkings moniker which was so cringe worthily chucked around during our first Championship season.

Beyond that though, it is a case of slim pickings. On a snowy day we weren’t even granted that rare treat of an orange ball. Instead, the mid-winter yellow version is deemed sufficient and I fear that really could be it now for this nostalgic favourite. Unless, of course, the FA Cup can produce something magical.

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Is the combination of snow and orange ball now a thing of the past?

So what next for the Bees? A win would be nice, for one thing. That wonderful victory over QPR has been our only real bright spark in a 7(seven) game run that has otherwise seen four defeats and two 0-0 draws.

Tablewise, we are now just into the bottom half. Five points shy of the play-off zone and six ahead of the basement clubs. With Blackburn, Wigan and surely doomed Rotherham United (already 11 points and vastly inferior goal difference off safety) still occupying those places, that’s not even a situation worth contemplating .

Yet, equally, complacency won’t win you games or keep you up. Look at Newcastle United last season. And Aston Villa. No club is too safe or too big to go down. Keep losing and that’ll happen. Not anything to worry about for now, that’s for sure, but a swift return to winning ways will be a good thing.

As the interview with Dean Smith on Brentford official noted:

Next Saturday The Bees return to Griffin Park to host Gary Rowett’s Birmingham City with Dean saying that he wants to see a response after consecutive losses.

“Next week’s game takes on extra importance because, after back to back defeats, we have to bounce back,” said Dean. “

Never a truer word and so important it had to be mentioned twice..

Nick Bruzon

As suspension bites, who plays in defence for Derby? Can Bees ‘go again’?

18 Oct

It only seems like five minutes ago we were making that huge trek up to Newcastle United (and that was just the staircase in the away stand). Now Brentford find themselves on the road once again – this time Derby County is the destination. An immediate chance to bounce back or too much, too soon? Either way, such are the rigours of this double header that Dean Smith has elected to keep his team on their travels rather than returning to Griffin Park between games.

Newcastle was always going to be tough but they were half way down the track with the Bees still crouched in the blocks, the sound of the starting gun still ringing in our ears. It was 2-0 to the home side within what felt like ten seconds and Dean has publicly acknowledged our own defensive failings in that one. For the record, something most uncharacteristic this season. Changes are coming for the Derby game, although enforced.

Harlee Dean is suspended whilst Andreas Bjelland, covering at left back, “Has been nursing an ankle for two weeks”.That was the update fro Dean Smith on ‘official’ yesterday.  Will he be fit enough for tonight? Will Yoann start? At left back or centre back? Could Tom Field appear once more? Do we need to defrost Kevin O’Connor?

Only Dean knows for sure but his selection will be carefully scrutinised when it is announced at 7pm. Likewise in midfield where, if we’re being honest, the team were stretched and a few of the players were definitely second best.

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Newcastle United – did the experience get to us?

There are plenty of positives. We’ve got to where we are on merit and there won’t be any tougher trip this season than that to Newcastle. Both in terms of atmosphere and opposition. Jon Shelvey and Dwight Gayle were amongst those showing their Premier League class. Let’s not pretend that they are anything but top flight players.

Scott Hogan scored, again, whilst the Brentford fans kept going until the end. Much closer to the pitch at Derby than at the weekend, we’re sure to make our voices heard.

As for the Rams, they have their own injury worries. Likewise the weight of expectation can only, one hopes, be growing following Steve McClaren’s winning start. Is this the second coming of the Messiah or will he choke it tonight? Here’s hoping for the latter.

One thing I can say for sure is that Saturday has left me wanting so much more. Despite the years kicking around the lower divisions, I’m now getting used to the Championship. Visiting new grounds, playing new teams and testing ourselves at a much higher level. Newcastle was a step up from even that, as was Aston Villa (at least, in terms of stadium).

Call me greedy. Call me unrealistic. Bournemouth did it (although at what price). Could Brentford also achieve an unlikely promotion to the Premier League? A win tonight would plunge us into the heart of the play-off zone , subject to other results. Just how much do the players want it ?

At 7.45pm, we find out.

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Villa Park – another ground I want more of

Nick Bruzon