Tag Archives: Ezri Konsa

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

12 Jul

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

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Nice work. Nice training gear. Sponsored by Wolves?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nick Bruzon

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Interceptor Jensen signs – with a proper pen. Tour diary continues to delight.

11 Jul

Raya – In. Nørgaard – In. Jansson – In. Pinnock – In. And yesterday Brentford continued with the summer shopping following the acquisition of midfielder Mathias Jensen from Celta Vigo . Hot on the heels of signing Pontus Jansson from Leeds United, Matthew Benham has flexed the Griffin Park chequebook once more with the addition of another player who very much fits our bill. With the likes of Josh McEachran and Lewis Macleod departing over the summer, the midfield has been more than boosted with the Danish contingent of Christian Nørgaard and now, of course, Mathias. It’s wonderful news and if for no other reason than unlike with the Pontus signing, we were even able to use a proper pen rather than a half-chewed biro found down the back of the sofa.

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Mathias brings quality, and a proper pen, to the squad

Crack open the big book of Brentford summer bingo:  Matthew Benham. Statement of Intent. Going for it. New signing. Incoming. Welcome. Exciting times. Final season at Griffin Park.

These are all words we’ve become very familiar with over the last few weeks and they were trotted out once more by the bucketload as yesterday’s news was formally confirmed. The story had been doing the rounds a few days prior and had been hinted at with Matthews ‘duel’ (dual) cryptic video clue. At least, I’m assuming that’s what he meant. Even when you know the answer these things are harder to unravel than a pair of i-Pod headphones that have been left unattended in a draw for 24 hours. Oh, Apple. If only they played music as well as they knot themselves. Projecting the sound inwards, into the ears of the person intending to listen to Drake’s Greatest hit, rather than outwards – in the direction of fellow commuters.

Thomas Frank and Rasmus were, understandably, enthusing about our latest bit of business the newest signing. In the story which you can read in full on ‘official’, Thomas noted how “With Mathias’ arrival, we have a group of top-quality central midfielders with different skill sets which we can use in various combinations” whilst Rasmus went even stronger. “He is technically gifted and has a great football brain. In many ways we believe he is the perfect fit to Brentford, and we are really pleased that it was possible to sign him this window.

Wow. No pressure! But high praise indeed.  The obvious question off the back of all this is whether the door might swing the other way? There’s not been a day go by over the summer without one of Ezri Konsa, Romaine Sawyers, Neal Maupay, Ollie Watkins or Said Benrahama being linked with a move somewhere. Usually Aston Villa, Wolves or Sheffield United.

We all know the club modus operandi when it comes to business but having already trimmed the wage bill when contracts expired (farewell, Yoann Barbet) and sold Daniel Bentley, might this be it? Or could the signing of two central midfielders and two centre backs be an indication as to what may happen next?

It goes without saying that I hope nobody leaves. It also goes without saying that if somebody does, then more than a huge dollop of faith in the squad needs to be put in place. The club have consistently shown how well we recruit, sell and replace. How players continue to be better than those who had come before. How we balance the books whilst building the team.  Something I learned the hard way after the Birmingham City business a few years back. How much egg on face?

Yet in this final season at Griffin Park, might Matthew Benham really be going for it? Has he laid down an early statement of intent with his latest new signings and now be in the process of applying a heavy-duty padlock to the out-door? Who knows? These are exciting times and I can’t wait for the season proper to start in less than a month. If only for the prospect of seeing Pontus and Neal on the same team – the photo published on ‘official’  Twitter this week was just magnificent.

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I can’t wait for that first goal celebration….

Actually, that should read photos.

The one of Peter Gilham and Thomas Frank meeting Pontus just smacked of a burgeoning bromance. As did Peter’s tour diary, where the oblique reference to Drake (Charlie) had me chuckling more than it should have. Then again, so did his reference to The Pointer sisters. You can read that one, here. Keep up the great work, Peter.

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Ahhhh..

I’m so excited, indeed. Birmingham City and August 3rd can’t come soon enough.This really has the potential to be the big one….

511568510Until then, perhaps you may want to kindly please download the annual Last Word season review for e-book for your kindle, iPod telephone or other electronic reading device. You you can do so, here, with the important bit being that all proceeds received from the £1.99 sale price go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

It’s shonky, there are typos in it (still) but what better way to while away your time on the commute to work, the toilet, holiday or just simply relive some of the exciting moments from last campaign. And then prepare to see them blown out of the water in 2019/20

Nick Bruzon

Luis on fire. Pontus on the move? Matthew one step ahead? New ‘keeper lost in the gossip.

7 Jul

Ok. So this bonkers. All the talk on Saturday has been of Brentford signing Pontus Jansson from Leeds United . A story which has emanated from BBC reporter Adam Pope, amongst others, rather than the usual clickbait grabbing rumour mongers that dominate the headlines at this time of year in a desperate quest for ‘hits’. It is one which has blown the signing of goalkeeper David Raya from Blackburn Rovers somewhat out of the water. Whilst we don’t normally do those stories on these pages – Ezri Konsa to Wolves and Neal Maupay to anywhere after missing the Wimbledon win (AFC ; not Andy Murray) being the latest offerings from the scaremongers – could there be any truth in this one? Or is it another case of better transfer news being found in a packet of cereal?

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The normal sort of transfer stories

The head says absolutely no chance. Jansson, whilst being a class act, is a player so far removed from the Brentford transfer model that any talk of Leeds United letting him come to Griffin Park is one that would need to be met with a huge pinch of salt. And an even bigger dollop of cash. £10m was the offer that Leeds reportedly turned down last season for the Swedish International. Everybody knows we buy low (relatively) and sell high, once the price is met. We’ve already picked up a new centre back in Ethan Pinnock whilst at 28, Jansson would be heading towards the upper end of the squad in terms of age range. I can’t imagine he’s earning peanuts, either.

Yet, Phil Hay (formerly of the YEP) is saying that the player is leaving. BBC Pope is quoting Brentford. Everybody else is jumping on the back of it with relationships between Leeds and Jansson said to have broken down following the Aston Villa ‘open goal’ incident. A player who clearly wears his heart on his sleeve, he was the only one to try and stop the equaliser ordered by Marcelo Bielsa following the Kodjia affair and Bamford Incident  (both of which were on pitch matters rather than prog-rock bands favoured by Billy Reeves).

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Touring soon – The Bamford Incident

Then there was his equaliser at Elland Road agasint the Bees, back in October. Despite his late strike earning a point for Leeds, after Neal Maupay’s penalty (awarded for the foul on Ollie Watkins). Instead of celebration, his interview with Sky Sports was somewhat direct:

Jansson: “It feels sh*t to be fair.”

Sky: “Mind your language please.” 

Jansson: “No, no, no, I don’t care man.”       

Fair enough. And another reason to question the accuracy. The right side of dressing room passion? Or disruptive influence that would upset the harmonious applecart that Thomas Frank is currently pushing. Take your pick. I like the view adopted by fellow supporter and kit nerd, Luis Adriano on Twitter yesterday.

 It’s not for me to say but the story is of huge, huge interest for two reasons. IF by any chance this one turns out to be true it would be a huge statement of intent from Matthew Benham. That Brentford really are going to go for it in our final season at Griffin Park. After Championship consolidation, we are really going to make a push for the Premier League. 

Likewise, that he has revamped his model to now factor in established marquee players. It’s just not something that we’ve really done before. Players join from League One, from France and Spain. From Denmark. From clubs we’ve not really heard of. That’s not to say that the likes of Jota, Benrahma, Barbet, Maupay and Colin – amongst others – haven’t more than proven their worth. They’re all class. They’re also players that we didn’t really know existed before Matthew brought them to Griffin Park. Pontus Jansson is the complete opposite. And, as we said at the top end, so far off our sale that it deserves no credence. 

Yet, equally, as we also said on these pages just last week, “One thing we continue to do is surprise with our transfer policy – both in and out.” Could Matthew be keeping one step ahead of his rivals, yet again, by bucking the trend he has made oh so clear? Or is it just smoke and mirrors?

Ultimately, I have no idea. I honestly can’t see this one happening but I’d love to be proven wrong. If nothing else, it has got us all talking. David Raya’s signing from Blackburn has barely touched the sides – lost in a sea of Leeds gossip.

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We have a new man between the sheets

Likewise,  Neal Maupay has recovered from the injury (hmm) that saw him and Said miss Friday’s 3-0 win at Wimbledon. There he was stepping off the plane at Munich airport ahead of our pre-season training camp in Austria. 

This, something we were all very much pleased to see and subtle as a ton of bricks from ‘official’, but especially given another earlier tweet from the aforementioned Mr. Adriano. Forget Will Grigg (presumably, ‘that song’ is no longer a thing), Luis was very much on fire when he summed up what we’ve all been thinking with this one ……

And I can’t top that. So I’ll simply sign off by kindly asking you once more to please download the e-book for your kindle, iPod telephone or other electronic reading device (which you can do, here, with all proceeds go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Now we can all leave each other to enjoy the next few days*. Regardless of what happens off pitch.

*Please note. I reserve the right to bother you all once more should anything happen.

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Nick Bruzon

Leeeeeeds. Leeds are falling apart. Again.

23 Apr

Not just my words but those of the Brentford fans ringing around Griffin Park through most of the second half and well after full time last night. This, after the Bees beat Leeds United at home (yet again) by two goals to nil and, in the process, dealt a massive blow to the visitors hopes of automatic promotion whilst offering a huge boost to both Norwich City and Sheffield United in the top two slots.

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Sergi and Ezri celebrate

Whilst, naturally, anybody looking in will focus on Leeds United hitting the skids so close to the line (let’s not forget their incredible home reverse against 10 man Wigan on Friday) take nothing away from a Brentford team who were up for this from the off. One penalty shout aside, Leeds offered nothing. Even then, referee Keith Stroud called ‘no foul’ as Julian Jeanvier and Patrick Bamford came together in the box. Whilst it looked an iffy one for The Bees from where I was, on the half way line, the man in black was perfectly placed. Move along, nothing to see here.

But that’s football. They’re the breaks. We’ve had copious stonewall shouts denied this season. Duffers given against us. Ultimately, as was the case at Elland Road, a spot kick decision went our way. Leeds heads dropped. The Bees kept going and who else but that man, Neal Maupay, to give us the lead just before half time.

Sergi Canos (a deserving man of the match) played it through the middle to the talismanic Frenchman. He made no mistake as he got on the end and, running through on goal, steered it past Casilla for 1-0 Brentford. The crowd erupted as Neal made it deja-vu in front of the Leeds fans with a mirror of his celebration after putting us ahead in the reverse fixture. It was also a mirror of their reaction with several making hand gestures that, presumably, were to recognise how many times he had found the net against them.

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Pick that one out ! (thanks, Matt Davis

It was a strike that takes him to 24 league goals for the season, a figure which is the best from a Bees’ player since Nicky Forster reached the same total back in 1994-95. Only Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa) and Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) lie ahead of him on a Championship top scorer’s race that is sure to run until the very last kick of this season.

If the Brentford fans went in for their HT cuppas in ebullient mood, things were to get even better soon after. Sergi Canos doubled the advantage as he finished off a wonderful move involving Watkins and Maupay to dink it past Casilla for 2-0.

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Yessssss. 2-0 !!

The celebration from crowd and players alike said it all and was the perfect reward for a top class performance from Sergi. This was him at his very best although – to be fair – you could say that in regards to just about every player in the team yesterday. 

From that point there really was no way back. It was a two horse race where Leeds couldn’t even come second. Brentford played with confidence and calmness whilst Bielsa’s boys visibly wilted under pressure. When they did get through, Luke Daniels was authoritative. The defence an impenetrable wall of red and white. Mads Bech having his best game in a Brentford shirt by some distance. Jeanvier and Konsa were rock solid throughout. Moses and Rico pushing up the flanks with abandon. 

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View from the Braemar – Josh also impressed when he came off the bench

As for Romaine Sawyers in the middle. My word, it was one of THOSE games. Filthy flicks and silky tricks had the fans drooling. On this sort of performance I’ve no doubt that Dean Smith will be itching to get his hands on the player once more when the summer transfer window opens. It really was sublime performance and one of utter confidence.

There’s not much more to say here, really. Brentford were magnificent. We’ve beaten Leeds United more times than I care to remember in recent times. Last night was probably the best of these. Not only the way we played but a wonderful riposte to all this ‘tinpot’ jibes and conspiracy talk after the game back in October.  Don’t let one potential penalty call take anything away from how we played yesterday. The crowd were up for it from the off and kept going all game. Even Mr. Benham made his way on to the pitch at full time, heading down the touchline towards the dressing rooms.

The Championship promotion race may have a few more twists in it but I’m not sure where these will come from. Sheffield United play bottom club Ipswich Town next whilst Norwich City only need one more point to absolutely guarantee it. Goal difference for both teams is already significant as to make that three point gap from Leeds in third to  the Blades in second, effectively four. 

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, there are two games left to get the four points needed for another top ten finish. We’ll need results to go our way, too, but put in any sort of shift like we did yesterday and I wouldn’t bet against even that happening.

Bring on Bolton and then Preston for our last hurrah of 2018/19. If they’re even half as much fun as yesterday then it’s going to be a cracking finale. See you there.

 

Nick Bruzon

Bees blunted by Blades as goals fly in elsewhere but the dream remains alive.

13 Mar

On a night where most of the headlines were grabbed by Manchester City hitting brackets as they beat Schalke 7(seven)-0 in the Champions League, there was as telling an encounter playing out at Bramall Lane where Brentford succumbed 2-0 to hosts Sheffield United. With Leeds United winning on the road and reclaiming top spot in the Championship, there was as much pressure on The Blades to secure their own victory and keep pace with those teams in ‘automatic’ as there was on The Bees to close in on a play-off spot that had seemed totally improbable going in to Christmas. Yet our performances since then have propelled us to the position where last night had more than just the chance to get one over our old boys riding on it. Alas, it was not to be. 

First off, credit to Sheffield United. They took their chances and defended like Titans. For all that Brentford dominated the latter stages of the first half and most of the second, there was no way through. When there was, Dean Henderson was quite magnificent in goal for the hosts. Two wonder saves from Neal Maupay were equalled by one from himself as he skied a clearance high into the air and back over his head towards the unguarded goal. With the question of ‘backpass’ (can you even be penalised for doing one to yourself?) clearly going through his head, it was almost the most comedic of equalisers. And when he was beaten by Mokotjo, the post was there to preserve his own impregnability.

We’ve likely all seen this one. The already flimsy match reviews normally found on these pages are probably best sourced from the usual sources if you somehow haven’t – the BBC, Beesotted or  Brentford ‘official’. Alternatively, the highlights and goals are up here. Those hardy souls present deserve the maximum of respect. Making that long trek to Yorkshire on a Tuesday evening, when the last train home would have been missed by anybody wanting to stay until full time, is a big ask. Moreso, off the back of Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough and the fact it was available on the Sky red button.

Mind you, not that there was great service provided by the broadcaster on this occasion. The red card awarded to Gary Madine just after the half hour was totally missed by our commentator, who called it as a yellow before making an astonished outburst two minutes after the event. At least he had the good grace to acknowledge that later on but the first most of us realised were via the updates coming through on social media. Personally, I’d thought there was trouble with my eyes / TV contrast button as I could have sworn it was an immediate red that had been waved in the air for the lunge on Konsa. Sure enough, it was.

It DID happen, Sky.

Prior to this, Oliver Norwood had opened the scoring from the spot following a clumsy, at best, challenge from Yoann Barbet – or Benrahma, as Sky called him. It had seemed innocuous at best watching first time and even the referee turned away before being advised of the alleged indiscretion by his linesman. Penalty it was and Luke Daniels, deputising for Daniel Bentley, was beaten by Norwood’s firmly driven penalty. 1-0 Sheffield United.

The timing of that one was pivotal. After being dominated for the opening twenty minutes, Brentford had begun to find a way through. It was a theme that continued after the goal and well in to the second half. Indeed, The Bees managed an impressive 29 shots and 69% ball control but could find no way through a rock solid and disciplined defence. When they did, Henderson or the woodwork were on hand to thwart Thomas Frank’s plans. Despite his most attacking substitutions yet (Canós and Marcondes on for Odubajo and Konsa), there was no way through. Lots of puff, huff, oohs and aahs but United held firm and with the clock running down, a rare sortie upfield saw them secure the points. 

A mix up between Jeanvier and Daniels ended with a potentially simple clearance being headed past the onrushing ‘keeper for a corner. From it, David McGoldrick made no mistake with his head from close in and that was it. Game over bar the shouting and all three points to the hosts. With Leeds United recording a 3-0 win at Reading, the relief was palpable albeit the win was throughly deserved. When opportunity came knocking, United were able to convert the chances. Brentford, for all we played well, for once didn’t have that cutting edge. Our normally prolific frontline blunted by the resilient Blades.

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‘Official’ also kept us appraised on Twitter, but it wasn’t to be. This time.

There are no complaints from here. This was always going to be a huge ask yet one we almost pulled off. On another night we might have done it. Had we found the equaliser I have no doubt that screw would have been turned and all three points secured. But it wasn’t to be. Compare this to Manchester City who I couldn’t help but admire upon seeing how their game ended up.

It was the third time they’ve hit 7(seven) or more goals this calendar year whilst they have a fair few sixes under the belt since the season began. Oh, to have that sort of consistency in front of goal. That’s not to knock our boys who have seen them flying in from all angles. Indeed, our goal difference is bettered by only six teams in the Championship and so there are few complaints from yours truly. It’s more a case of awe for a team that, no matter how much they have cost, can dismantle their opponents so consistently and emphatically.

Money doesn’t buy automatic success but, as Brentford know so well, it is more how you spend it and how you earn it. There was one moment last night where the commentary team made the most incredible statement when decrying our own transfer protocol  when nothing that “Yennaris went for five and a half million to China.” Seemingly, this wasn’t another mistake but more the most incredible bit of business I think we’ve pulled off in the last few years. I liked Nico, a lot, but £5.5m is just staggering. That must have been one hell of a show reel (and rewind to Birmingham City….).

Whilst we may not have riches of the sort Manchester City enjoy, with the gap still six points and ten games to play, that GD figure could be worth more than its weight in gold when the final table is declared. If there is to be any hope of continuing an unlikely resurgence towards the upper reaches of the table, then Saturday’s visit of managerless West Brom now has even more riding on it. Leeds United, Norwich City and Sheffield United are all duking it out over the top two positions. That’s their battle, sadly, although sixth place is still within grasp.

It is something I just couldn’t see coming two months ago – even allowing for optimism, the maths seemed against us. I’m the first to admit that, despite the regular admonishment on this fact from correspondent David Carney. Hats off for your faith, sir. Win after win has now seen us given a fighting chance. All of a sudden we’ve started reeling them in and the gap to sixth place has got smaller. Whilst last night may have seen us stumble, we’re by no means down and out. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Roll on Saturday. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

There are games of two halves and then there was that. Bees baked in Wales.

18 Feb

A day that started with such promise. An afternoon that saw us forty-five minutes away from an FA Cup quarter final. An evening that ended with a press of the self-destruct button the likes of which Brentford haven’t seen since, well, the trip to Hull or more pertinently, the opening twenty minutes of the home game with (erm) Swansea City. And it was the Swans who once more provided the catalyst to our undoing as Ollie Watkin’s magnificent opener was rendered meaningless by three second half goals and a red card for Ezri Konsa in little over a quarter hour phase. It ended 4-1 to Swansea. It could have been five but for a very delayed call from the linesman. What can you say? Beyond me having to console five year old HB after his own pre-match prediction of 3-4 was thrown back into his face in as dramatic a style as one could ever see.

It’s a fair bet we’ve all caught the game by now. The free to air broadcast on BBC Wales meaning that anybody who wasn’t able to travel on the resultant free coaches would have had ample opportunity to watch it live. It was the consummate example of that old cliche about football being a game of two halves. With the opening salvo from Swansea snuffed out at little more cost than a yellow card for Yoann Barbet, the Bees got going. In style.

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Swansea had come forward early but made little progress

With the exception of Luke Daniels retaining his FA Cup place, Thomas Frank named the same team that tore Aston Villa apart for fun on Wednesday evening. It was a decision that was proven correct as we went for it. Swansea City barely had a look in as slick passing and wonderful interplay from the attacking quartet of Said, Sergi, Neal and Ollie suggested a goal was inevitable. When it came, on the half hour, it was beautiful. Benrahma breaking forward at pace, feeding the ball forward to Maupay on his right. The Frenchman then provided the same to the overlapping Watkins who burst into the box and fired it across the face of goal high into the far side of the net.

Yesssss !!! 1-0. We’re on our way. The fans erupted. Tinfoil trophies (of which there were plenty in evidence) thrust high into the sky. Strangers hugging strangers and the dream was on. Swansea looked dead on their feet. Impotent. A flaccid reminder of the team who had obliterated us in that opening twenty minute spell at Griffin Park back in December when they’d raced into a three goal lead without reply. Half time came with optimism high, the fans in wonderful voice and a chorus of boos rising around The Liberty stadium from the home contingent. Surely this was it? Surely….?

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Yesss!!! 1-0. Ollie Watkins you beauty.

What happened at half-time will, forever, remain as unfathomable a mystery as Stonhenge, the Pyramids and Ian Moose’s narcissism. Brentford gave the appearance of a team who had forgotten how to play football. Graham Potter in the home dressing room, presumably, delivering the mother of all team talks. Either way, it was a different Swansea City who emerged.

They were level within five minutes from a free-kick awarded in the most dangerous part of Saunders territory. Daniels unable to reach the ball as it fizzed past him, hit the post but rather than bounce clear hit the back of his head as he was still diving and pinged back into the goal for 1-1. It was a hammer blow. It should have been a warning that we were now very much in a game. Alas, it got worse.

An immediate goalmouth scramble aside, there was little further response from, or respite for, Brentford. Daniel James gave the home side a 2-1 lead shortly after with a quite remarkable effort. Picking up the ball just outside our box, he ran full length and full tilt up field. The acceleration was incredible, even running wide at one point with three players left trailing in his wake, before turning back inside and leaving Luke Daniels, caught in no mans land, for dead. Hats doffed to James for pulling this one off. It was brutal. With it, any remaining psychological stuffing that had been left after the unfortunate o.g. was truly knocked out of us.

Minutes later that man James broke clear once more. This time, he was stopped. But at the expense of a red card for Ezri Konsa as the defender took the last desperate measure available to him in order to try and preserve the narrow deficit. Referee Stuart Atwell has no choice but to show the red card. It was a challenge that, at least, succeeded in the aim of keeping our opponents at bay. For five minutes.  Sergi Canos, again filling in at wing back, was played twice by Bersant Celina who also danced past Julian Jeanvier before slotting home for 3-1. Urghh.

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Even the scoreboard was trolling us

With the attacking threat of Benrahma and Canos removed just moments later as the substitutes came on, the game was effectively dead. If it hadn’t been already. If Thomas had gone almost full strength with his starting XI, the bench offered little in big game experience or match saving nous. Whilst most of these young players will have their time, throwing them in to a game that was only being kept alive on life-support was never going to change anything. And , sadly, it didn’t. 3-1 became 4-1 became 3-1 as the linesman eventually intervened. It made little difference with Swansea grabbing the fourth goal that their second half domination suggested would come as the game limped towards full time.

Even then, Neal Maupay had a chance to restore some pride. His decision to chip the ‘keeper when put through, not quite coming off as the beaten Bees saw it loop over the bar. He made a call. He tried his luck. It didn’t happen. Boo-hoo. The subsequent highlighting of this by the BBC in a standalone video clip entitled , “How did he miss this? Watch Maupay’s terrible effort for Brentford” as cheap, unnecessary and out of context a feature as Ian Moose talking about that Cardiff game last season. No recognition of his quite incredible form this campaign or when it actually happened, with the players physically and emotionally drained after an absolute pummelling. 

Likewise, no mention of what he was clearly feeling as he ran to the Brentford fans at full time to hand over his FA Cup shirt to one lucky supporter. Poor show, BBC. Keep up the wonderful work, Neal.

It was an awful experience to be part of. The second half, I mean. I had tears to cope with at full time from a distraught HB who managed to compose himself and eventually clap his heroes off, despite the clear upset he felt. Looking around, he wasn’t alone. The club’s magnanimous gesture of laying on the coaches and cheap tickets felt very much secondary at that juncture.

I’m gutted this morning. Even now after trying to sleep on it. Swansea ran the second half show ; we handed them the tickets. The dream of the cup quarter-finals disappearing as quickly as it came. HB’s tin foil trophy stuffed into a dustbin on the way home.

Talking to supporters after the game, there seemed to be very much an expectation that this column was going to be used to ‘put the boot in’ today. But I just can’t do it. To coin that well worn of parental phrases, it not so much that I’m angry as disappointed in you. The chance was there and we couldn’t take it. Instead, to collapse in a combination of errors, bad luck, subsequent no-show and of course, the pace of Daniel James has left me feeling broken. A numb feeling in the pit of the stomach that will pass with time but at the moment feels far, far too raw.

I’m just hoping HB uses his half-term break to sleep in. About a week should do it….

Nick Bruzon 

Romaine and Kamo lead the charge as magnificent Bees dominate and ‘jinx’ rules are established.

12 Jan

Brentford 3 Stoke City 1. Where to even start with this one? It was a performance that was every bit as dominant as the reports will suggest. It was a game that saw Thomas Frank make it 6 unbeaten as his team scored two quite magnificent goals following a calamitous o.g. opener from Ryan Shawcross. Yet most importantly, we got as emphatic an answer as one could hope to the question, “Does the ‘manager-of-the-month’ curse travel if the winner changes clubs after being nominated?”. This, after Nathan Jones had of course scooped December’s League One honours for his ongoing heroics at Luton Town.

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Stoke were second to everything all afternoon

Brentford were magnificent. Slick. Irresistible. Irrepressible. Like a greyhound out of the traps, they were in the face of the visitors for the off. Much like the ball. With just 7(seven) minutes gone the Bees were ahead after an attempt to clear a corner (correctly taken ‘not short’) was simply hoofed into the face of Shawcross and returned straight back in the direction it had come . With interest. Boom. One-nil Brentford and more to follow. Neal Maupay almost made it two, forcing Jack Butland into a full length save to push the Frenchman’s goalbound strike from just inside the corner of the box around the post. 

With Brentford continuing to push (up) it wasn’t long before the lead was doubled. There was little over a quarter hour on the clock when Said Benrahma made it two. An exquisite first time connection from a slide rule pass into the box, delivered with aplomb by Romaine Sawyers, saw the ball steered wide of Butland for two. The crowd erupted. Benrahma followed suit, running half the length of the pitch to celebrate with his family. You could see the what this one meant from the smile on his face. It was a delightful moment but one which owed as much to the ball played in from his captain. 

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View from the Braemar – Said celebrates

Romaine may not have made the headlines today but he had a a game he’ll never forget. There were tackles, passes and sublime moments of skill that looked as though they had been made with the proverbial ‘ball-tied-to-foot with a piece of string. He was every bit of his very best, turning in a performance that has to be amongst his top three in a Bees’ shirt. Equal praise must be handed out to Kamo, who absolutely bossed the midfield. Looking through supporter comments on social media afterwards, MOTM award seemed to be very much a two way battle.

Yet nobody should be overlooked after Brentford put in what was about a complete a performance as they come. Thnas Frank will sleep well tonight, that’s for sure. Nathan Jones will still be having the nightmares that must have begun to haunt him within a minute of kick off.  Benik Afobe pulled one back in the first half but it was his and Stoke’s only meaningful contribution all afternoon. The rest of their game saw a reversion to the agricultural style of play we’d seen in the corresponding fixture up in the Potteries back in August.    

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Romaine was flying today

And then Rico Henry happened. The second half started much the same as the first had done. All Brentford. The highlights are up already c/o Sky but they don’t even begin to do justice to our play or the build up to Rico’s sizzling run that saw him cut into the box, keep on cutting before unleashing a low drive into the bottom corner. If the crowd had gone crazy for Said’s they were all on their feet for this one. What a move. What a noise. What a goal. 

It could have been more. Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins both hit the crossbar in a period that saw Brentford continue to take the game to their opponents. It finished 3-1. It could have been more. Like Oxford in the cup, it was never in doubt. The defensive trio of Jeanvier, Konsa and Barbet as rock solid as they have been since Thomas Frank changed our formation and his fortunes.

One does have to wonder how Chris Mepham will get back in to this team if they continue to play like that. The confidence emanating from the back line flowed through the entire team. Frankly, this is the easiest post-match column I’ve had to write in months – we really were that good.

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Neal pushed but didn’t get a goal his performance deserved.

How nice, also, to see the goals starting to come from other areas of the pitch. To see chances created by players other than Maupay. To see Jeanvier really starting to deliver and Kamo back to last season’s best. 

The other thing to come out of today’s game was an answer to the question posed in the previous column. Namely, “Is the manager of the month curse transferable? Or does it stay with the winning club”. This, after Nathan Jones – then of Luton Town –  was named as one of the nominees for League One manager of the month for December. He subsequently took up the reins at Stoke and picked up the award itself on Friday. Just over 24 hours later the trophy holder proved that the jinx travels. He saw his new charges played off the park to add another notch in the ‘L’ column whilst Luton picked up a point in the League One top-of-the-table clash with Sunderland.

But, to be fair, the Bees were so good today that Thomas Frank could have run over a black cat on the way to the ground whilst ducking under a ladder and we’d have still got the win. Even Mrs. Bruzon was allowed back into Griffin Park (by Harry) to see us at our very best.

Long may it continue. Roll on Rotherham next weekend when we find out.

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Mrs B. and Harry enjoy the moment as Rico makes it 3

Nick Bruzon 

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

28 Nov

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

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Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

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The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

Another defensive copy/paste but at least we’re getting good at kick-offs.

11 Nov

QPR 3. Brentford 2. What can you say? Not much. Try the BBC, Beesotted or ‘official’ for your match reports. Results saw The Bees end the day in 15th whilst our next opponents, Middlesbrough are up to second after their own win. Only Norwich City, our previous ‘away’ opposition, stand between them and the table top. Nobody said Championship life was easy, that’s for sure. But those goals against yesterday. Ewww. Not pretty. It felt like Preston all over again. If you want to see them once more then the defensive highlights are below.

Defensively challenged

It had all promised so much. The Bees back to winning ways and picking up the first points for Thomas Frank after steam-rollering Millwall last weekend. The team flying once more after being bundled (and rained) out of it at Norwich City. QPR with the somewhat dubious lure of having just seen Steve McClaren named as October’s ‘manager-of-the-month’. We all know what ‘should’ happen after that.  Everything was in place for another win. And then disaster struck as the defence went walk about for a ten-minute spell in the second half.

You were there. You don’t need me to repeat the obvious or dissect this further. It was something that Thomas had no choice but to acknowledge in his own post-match interview –  which you can see in full further below. That chat, one which looked like it was taking place in front of a room previously occupied by the Loftus Road firing squad.  

Yet more agonising was the fact that this was the second time in the last three away games that we’ve gone awol for a short period, during which time three goals have been conceded and the game effectively lost. Don’t forget there was also the trip to Preston last month where the score reached 3-0 to the home team before we’d even left the changing room.

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Thomas  updates us. (But has anyone seen Ian Holloway or Chris Ramsey, recently?)

That we almost turned that one around and gave ourselves hope yesterday when the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford made it 3-2 with 82 on the clock makes it all the more frustrating. All the more confusing. Similar happened at Deepdale. We can score goals. We play beautiful attacking football at times. Our young centre backs are quite magnificent whilst it’s wonderful having Moses Odubajo back aswell. We all know how strong Daniel Bentley has been for us. Just why do we have these blips?  

Well, as Thomas noted in that video, “The most important thing for me at the moment is the desire to get better”. Likewise, his comments on the BBC after both yesterday’s game and the one at Preston have a very similar feel.

Preston: Three goals away from home should be more than enough to win three points but we need to defend better in general. In this league you need to be on it.

QPR: In the second half we had a blackout more or less for 10 minutes, where we defended way too soft for all three goals. We need to do that better in general.

Doom and gloom from me? No. Frustration and confusion. That’s for sure. As much due to the injuries. Ollie Watkins, who had a blinder after he came on against Millwall, was missing due to what Thomas described as, “A toe issue where the joint in the toe is twisted“. So nothing to do with any rumoured transfer interest, which is good….

Yet it was those injuries that occurred once the game had started that caused as much concern. With Brentford heading towards half time one up c/o Neal Maupay (now up to 12 Championship goals already) things were looking good. Then, with the tea brewing, he collapsed to the floor unchallenged and ended up being stretched off. The concern was palpable and was later confirmed as the result of a concussion.

Sadly there was worse to come with Said Benrahma taking his place on the stretcher after rolling his ankle in the build-up to Henrik’s goal. Thomas would later confirm that the Algerian had rolled his ankle although, as yet, there’s no prognosis as to severity or recovery time. Here’s hoping it’s not as severe as first thought. The only saving grace here being that we’ve two weeks off thanks to International break for that recuperation process to begin in earnest. And to practice defending…..

From 1-0 up on fifty minutes, Brentford were then given three further attempts to perfect our kick off routine as the clock reached the hour mark. Whilst we’d lost Neal Maupay, that shouldn’t stop goals going in. Should it?  

Well, with no viable alternative then taking the option to push Sergi (or anyone) up top would only ever have an impact on the shape. But who else was there to fill that void? With absolute respect to Alan Judge, we’ve tried him there at Loftus Road and things didn’t exactly work out well for the team. The lack of alternate striking option has long been flagged on the terraces as a concern. Moreso, with Ollie also sitting this one out. In this instance, the percentages backfired.  

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Recent periods of the defence going awol have been a gift for our opponents

But I still maintain we have absolute quality in this squad. On its day, our first team is about as strong as we’ve seen. Talking to a fellow dad (and former Bee) at Harry’s football training in the morning, he was enthusing about the quality of football he’s having the pleasure of watching at present. On the way home from that, we happened to spot Neal Maupay whose enthusiastic hello to HB and chat about what was coming up that afternoon suggested everything was set for a fairytale ending.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. A frustrating finish to a day that had promised so much but, equally, one step missed in a longer journey being taken. The forthcoming Middlesbrough game is about as tough as they come. Moreso, given our own recent form against them. It would be great if for that one the defensive blips could be cured on the pitch rather than afterwards in the post-match analysis.

We’ve two weeks to really figure them out and get our players fit again. There’s been a hell of a lot of football played in the space of a few weeks. Perhaps all of us recharging would be for the best.

In the meantime, here’s that interview with Thomas…

Thomas talks

Nick Bruzon

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever.

6 Nov

Good morning Brentford fans. And it is a very good morning. A quick look at the Premier league table following last night’s results shows Fulham firmly anchored to the bottom. Their 1-0 loss at a Huddersfield Town side (who themselves scored their first home goal since mid-April) sees our West London neighbours propping up the rest of the league. Statistically speaking, that’s 24 points behind leaders Manchester City after just eight games and with a trip to Liverpool next up.

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Happy Tuesday in the Premier League

The current predicament seems even more horrific when you look at the outlay from Fulham over the summer. It’s been widely documented that the £100.3m they spent has  been matched by a mere £4m coming in. They’ve kept their squad together and built on it. Hugely. A net outlay of £96.3m is only beaten by Liverpool who top the big spenders on £131m (161m out ; 30m in).  

And what is the result of this? A top flight record of ‘goals against’ for a Premier League start (29 conceded already), the worst goal difference in the division, a form record of LLLLL and a confidence level that saw the BBC match report subsequently describe them as: ”A fragile Fulham side, stripped of confidence and there for the taking.”  

It’s easy to laugh. Let’s be honest. Equally, let’s not make out we wouldn’t like to be feasting at a higher table. Yet that is something which I have no doubt will come. And, when it does, we’ll be competing rather than unable to scrap for the crumbs discarded by others. We’ve talked so often on these pages over the last couple of seasons about how Brentford are doing things. How we are spending cleverly, within means, and using our unique methods in order to stay afloat, comply with FFP but also build for the future at Lionel Road. It becomes a bit of a cracked record at times yet when you see the talent that has been uncovered, aswell as being sold for vast profit down the line as the team continue to step up, one has to step back and take notice.

Likewise, I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t love to have seen some of those heroes stay on. It still hurts so much to see Jota in the blue of Birmingham City although nobody could deny the form of our current widemen. Having the likes of Ollie Watkins, Sergi Canos and Said Benrahma as regular starters / first choice substitutes a luxury not many managers in this division have the benefit of. That, a situation which has arisen because of our ‘buy low and sell high’ policy. The departure of Harlee Dean (as much due to the the emergence of Chris Mepham) helped facilitate the return of Moses Odubajo and what already seems a huge bargain in picking up Ezri Konsa to further enhance the current squad. Then there’s Neal Maupay…

He’s the Championship’s leading scorer. He’s the Championship’s leading provider of assists. He’s the player who endured such a torrid start to his Brentford career last season – and that was just from Ian Moose. He’s the player who found his feet and perhaps, if anyone, illustrated just how fragile Fulham are when he bagged that late, late equaliser back in April  – ironically, the same day Huddersfield scored their previous home goal. It was a goal that deflated Fulham as easily as somebody letting the air out of a clacker or blow up hand and should have been seen as a warning sign.

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Mark Fuller’s picture captured THE moment at Fulham

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever. That’s for sure. Yet by the same virtue, look at Manchester City. Compared to previous ‘windows’ they’ve barely troubled the scorers over the summer. This, something very much in isolation for them. At the same time, I read a piece yesterday by Miguel Delaney of The Independent. It was an article described by the author himself on Twitter as an “Upbeat piece on football’s impending death”.

Click bait theatrics or genuine cause for alarm? The collapse at The Cottage is great value. For us, at least. The longer term prognosis in the top flight is, if you share Miguel’s opinion, a somewhat more concerning one. If you read one article today, make it his. You can do so here. Whatever your view on City’s approach, it’s well worth a look –  enjoy.

Nick Bruzon