Tag Archives: FA Cup

Are we all set for a jolly boys (and girls) outing? The quarters are beckoning….

16 Feb

Oh my. The FA Cup fifth round is here. Opportunity is very much knocking. Watford are already through to the quarters after winning 1-0 at Loftus Road last night. Now we’re getting ready for our shot as Brentford fans begin to countdown for Sunday’s trip to Swansea City. There’s plenty to whet the appetite for that one today with Newport County hosting Manchester City and the visit of Millwall to AFC Wimbledon. That’s before you even get to the likes of Doncaster v Crystal Palace or Monday’s final game denouement that had TV producers reaching for the ‘coverage selection’ button the second Chelsea v Manchester United came out of the hat.

We can only start at the Liberty Stadium. On paper, there isn’t much to grab the neutral about the prospect of Swansea City v Brentford. Whilst both clubs and their fans will be viewing it as a wonderful chance to progress, it hardly has the upset potential of Manchester City at Newport County. The follow up story to Wimbledon’s wonderful humiliation of West Ham (winners of the trophy in 1980 and World Cup in 1966) from the previous round. Don’t let that fool you for a second. This one is huge and I can’t wait.

You could hear the collective groan echoing around TW8 and the GPG as the decision was made to move this to a Sunday afternoon, 4pm kick off for the benefit of BBC Wales. I’ve said my piece on that decision already and we just have to move on now.

With the prospect of a rail engineering works ruining it for everyone, the club sprang into action quicker than Neal Maupay running though on goal with the announcement of free coach travel to the game. Along with the reduced ticket prices , it was about as supporter-friendly a gesture as one could get. Consequently, myself and Harry are the ones now re-upholstering the tinfoil trophy that has seen us through the previous rounds. An £11 return trip for two of us, including entrance to the game, a bargain in anybody’s book and the reason The Bees will be there en-masse as the coaches filled up in nano-seconds.

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Who doesn’t love a coach trip ?

It’s not going be easy, that’s for sure. For either team. Only four points separate Brentford and Swansea City in the Championship table. Advantage traditionally favouring the home side as we’ll be running out in that glorious brown and orange. Here’s hoping for a repeat of the performance at Rotherham in that one, rather than a repeat of the performance just about anywhere else on the road whilst wearing this most stylish of shirts.

The good news for those deeming this to be some sort of jinx (honestly, I’ve never heard such nonsense, now where are my lucky pants?) being that we’ll have a new goalkeeper’s shirt making its debut. If what a source close to the club told us plays out, this one promises to have us kit nerds salivating.

The other factor to play more into the hands of Sunday’s eventual result is, of course, our recent form. We’ve only lost once in the last 12 whilst the midweek victory over Aston Villa was just about as comprehensive and stylish a performance as one could ever hope to see. Truly, Brentford were magnificent. Dean Smith left shell-shocked at full time and chuntering all sorts of nonsense about his team ‘deserving it’ (change the record) after Neal Maupay sent the hone fans wild in the 91st minute. Even now, Saturday morning as this is being written, I have a huge grin on my face thinking about that moment.

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This one from Brentford official said it all about Wednesday

Prior to that and, excusing the Forest game, it has been a case of scoring at least three goals a game in the previous five. A streak that coincided with Brentford playing stylish football with confidence and swagger. The ball being moved around the team for fun as we took the old mantra of “Push up, Brentford” to heart. It was a self-belief that was in evidence once more on Wednesday night. Here’s hoping Swansea City get to experience it themselves on Sunday afternoon. 

For sure they’ll be feeling as upbeat as we are. A home draw is the first thing any club hoping to progress would ask for in the later rounds of the FA Cup. Swansea have had that prayer answered  whilst on pitch have had a fairly strong start to 2019, winning five out of their nine games played so far in all competitions. They’ll no doubt fancy this in their own back yard whilst also have the benefit of ‘Mark’ Lawro Lawrenson using his BBC prediction column to back the Bees. Trevor Nelson and DJ Big Zuu (literally no idea – parents, ask a kid) going for the home side.

My main concern with this is Lawro’s assertion that, “I am backing Brentford to stay unbeaten, and get through on penalties.” We all know the nonsense he spouts these days and his presence as a pundit or co-commentator is generally greeted with the same fear felt by a pre-match press room buffet as Ian Moose approaches. But penalties? Seriously? You’ve got to think our name is on the cup if that’s going to happen. Here’s hoping he’s right. You can read that one in full, here.

Otherwise, its going to be a case of trying to make today feel as much like a normal Saturday as possible. I make no apologies for being excited or loving the FA Cup. Perhaps it’s an age thing but this tournament remains, for the supporters, about as exciting as it gets. The nostalgia, the romance, the potential, the shot at glory and even the cliches. 

I saw a quite wonderful tweet from @DeanCornish1966 yesterday about the Newport – Manchester City game, noting that:

ITV news preview on Newport v Man City just included:

2 x ‘The whole town is buzzing’

1 x ‘biggest match in history’

1 x ‘David v Goliath’

3 x ‘unbelievable’

1 x ‘dare to dream’

1 x ‘Gulf in class’

2 x ‘dreams are made of’

1 x ‘stacking shelves’

If ever there was close to a full house in cup upset bingo then here it was. But it’s what makes this trophy so special. Even now. It’s why I’m taking a five year old boy on a marathon coach trip to see if we can equal our furthest ever progression. Or perhaps even go beyond.

I’ve no doubt that when me and H are sitting down this evening to see if Newport can throw a potato skin under the feet of Manchester City (that’s one which ITV missed), the talk will be all about what awaits on Sunday afternoon. 

That, and maybe seeing if we need to add another layer of tinfoil to our replica trophy. 

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We’re all up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

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All good things come to an end. Now is the time to go ag, ag, ag.. once more.

10 Feb

So it wasn’t to be 11 unbeaten. It wasn’t to be another victory on the road in the incredible orange and brown. A 2-1 win for Nottingham Forest saw Brentford defeated for the first time since that mid-December trip to Hull (and back?) . With back to back TV clashes at home to Aston Villa and then up at Swansea City in the FA Cup to come, January’s manager-of-the-month nominee Thomas Frank is now tasked with the challenge of getting the momentum going once more.

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Thomas will need to go ag.. once more

Brentford official would describe this one as ‘Frustrating’ on the club Twitter feed at full time. The stats would certainly bear this out with the game ending on 70% possession and 21 shots for The Bees.  Ollie Watkins had a goal disallowed, the woodwork was hit twice and Daniel Bentley pulled off a magnificent double penalty save. Sergi Canos provided hope late on with his fourth in four games. Yet we all know that ‘deserving’ and ‘stats’ count for nothing if you can’t take your chances or if you give away sloppy goals.

Certainly, Nottingham Forest will be well pleased with their win and made no mistake when opportunity knocked. The highlights are up on Sky’s website already and are very much a case of – move along quickly, nothing to see here. At least, at the back.

The defensive coaches will no doubt be having words on Monday morning about what were two very soft efforts to concede. In the cold light of day we can’t be pleased about either but, at the same time, let’s not deny Lewis Grabban or Molla Wague any kudos here. They worked their chances, were perhaps given a helping hand but still had to put them away.

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Another penalty save counted for nothing in the end

On another day we might have won this one. The positive news being that there were chances to take. The run of goals, goals, goals had to end at some point. We’ll bounce back. The visit of Aston Villa on Wednesday night couldn’t have come at a better time. If we can’t get ourselves up for this one then what’s the point of bothering? Who doesn’t want to prove a point to Dean Smith? Player or fan?

We all acknowledge why he took the ‘dream job’ and I can’t imagine there’ll be any ‘ill will’  but that doesn’t change the fact he left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling and that mantle was passed to Thomas Frank. Now he returns with a team who are scoring goals, and shipping them, for fun. It could be a scintillating encounter.

Then there’s Swansea City in the FA Cup. What an incredible opportunity awaits in that game. A fleet of free coaches heading up the M4 in the hope of reaching the quarter finals in a winner takes all clash. there’s no chance of a replay now. It has to be sorted on the day, via the mediums of extra time and penalties if needed. No prizes for guessing which direction that one could end up heading. This is Brentford after all….

I’d love to have beaten Nottingham Forest. If only to extend a fine winning run in recent seasons agasint the Tricky Trees at the City Ground. There’s the personal reasons of wanting to get one over a few of their supporters whilst who doesn’t love extending an unbeaten run? Instead, It was former Bee Lewis Grabban who swung the axe to chop us down for the first time in five home games.

Now, we have to prove this was the blip that I am sure it will be after a fine run of form. Forest are pushing at the play-offs. Brentford looking at a cup run. As Harry said to me at full time, “Daddy. Was that a league game? … Thank goodness, so we’re still in the FA Cup then!

I can’t account for the naivety of youth and I’m certainly not going to dent his enthusiasm. Wednesday will be huge but Sunday could be epic.

Nick Bruzon

Bring on the rail replacement bus after another night of goals, goals, goals.

6 Feb

We’re through. On a night where the FA Cup headlines were made by a huge scare for Wolves and a massive slip up for Middlesbrough, Brentford dodged the potato skin that was a replay at home to Barnet and eased to a 3-1 win. But for a brief flurry later in the second half it was every bit as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. Indeed, it probably should have been more as the (proper) Bees made it 10 games unbeaten ahead of Saturday’s visit to Nottingham Forest and now face the prospect of a fifth round trip to Swansea City.

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There was no way through for Barnet on Tuesday

A game played out in the shadow of Tony Kleanthous’ crazed rant about ticket allocation, something caused completely by his own club’s somewhat free and easy approach to sales, had the potential to see Brentford caught with their pants down. The Barnet supporters certainly started off in vocal form before Sergi Canos took the wind out of their sails with the opening goal after 7(seven) minutes. A short corner routine saw the ball guided in as the Spaniard slid home his third goal in as many games and from there it was game over. 

This is not a drill. That is not a typo. A short corner worked. Repeat. A short corner actually worked. You got the feeling from that moment that this was going to be our night. When that most unsuccessful of set pieces pays dividends you know something special is happening. 

Brentford continued to push. Barnet weren’t even at the races in the opening period. The epic 3-3 of the original game being put into context as a near full strength Brentford team took the non-leaguers apart. Luke Daniels, Josh McEachran and Mads Bech Sörensen coming in to a team full of all those other names we know and love. Thomas Frank was certainly taking no chances on this one, even if he was able to see the likes of Ollie Watkins , Yoann Barbet and Kamohelo Mokotjo kept fresh for Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest.

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Mads Bech Sörensen looked comfortable filling in for Yoann Barbet

Julian Jeanvier made it 2-0 with half an hour gone as he executed a beautiful volley. Said Benrahma with the assist, yet again. How many times has that line been used in recent games? Five in the last five, being the answer. Indeed, per the BBC he’s actually had a hand in eight goals over that period. Aswell as the assists he’s also found the back of the net three times. A wonderful return for a player who has yet again proven the wisdom in our once maligned transfer policy. Hats off to Mr. Benham and the recruitment team for their vision.

Half time came and went. Brentford continued to push. The visitors began to up their tempo. An early contretemps on the Braemar Road touchline threatening to spill over as emotions got the better of Barnet and referee Roger East lost total control of a situation that eventually resolved itself in two yellow cards for our guests. Luke Daniels saw his crossbar rattled as Neal Maupay and Romaine Sawyers came close. Sergi and Said continuing to pull the strings. And then it was over. 

The goal machine that is Neal Maupay did his thing once more. This time it was The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford (TM) who turned provider. His ball into the box swept home by the Frenchman to make it five successive games where we have scored three goals or more. One can only presume Nottingham Forest fans are hoping Martin O’Neill has some added steel to his backline. On this run of form, you’d back Brentford to score against anyone.

With the Brentford fans still cheering, there was a glimmer of hope. David Tutonda firing home a quite exquisite strike to send the visiting supporters into rapture and offer some hope of salvation. Sadly, for them, it wasn’t to be. There were to be no further efforts or goals. No further FA Cup fairytale for the non-leaguers. Instead, it’s a trip from Griffin Park to Swansea City and their Liberty Stadium on the 17th for that infamous 4pm, rail replacement bus hit, Sunday afternoon fifth round tie.

Yet as we exited with the players celebrating and Peter Gilham exhorting us to check the website for travel news, could there be some salvation coming the way of anybody wanting to make the journey for this one? Here’s hoping.

All that’s to come. For now we’ve a trip to the City ground and a home game with Aston Villa to focus on before the visit to Swansea. The woes of November and December are rapidly disappearing over the horizon and Brentford are playing some incredible football.

Thomas Frank walked all round the ground at full time, following in the wake of his players to applaud the fans. There’s a real buzz around Griffin Park at present and it’s so nice to see him being able to enjoy it. Fair to say there’s probably a lot of egg on faces at present from those giving him a hard time after Dean Smith departed, with the Bees already tottering on the brink of that dreadful run. Instead, the defence has sorted itself out and the goals are flooding in.

What a time to be a Bee! Now bring on Swansea City. And Forest.

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View from the Braemar: Thomas and Said take the plaudits at full time.

Nick Bruzon    

Have the visitors scored an own goal before the game has even kicked off?

4 Feb

What links the Brentford away end with Chelsea and Everton? Quite simply, they sold it out in the cup and then didn’t go crying when there were no tickets left. Now what links the Brentford away end with Barnet? Quite simply, they sold it out in the cup, with reckless abandon given it holds twice their average gate, but then did go crying, threw their toys out the pram and their chairman launched a quite bizarre tirade against us.

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No tears from Chelsea (despite not beating us at Griffin Park

We’ve all seen that rant by now, I’m sure. Blaming everyone but themselves for the fact that not everyone can get along who may want to. Shock news : big match proves popular. It was a tirade that still included reference to Ollie Watkins being awarded a penalty although refusing to acknowledge that the player didn’t appeal for it or call foul play. A tirade that included the terrifying threat of a boardroom boycott. Oh well, all the more pies for Ian Moose should he sniff them out from the press box.

One can only assume it is, at best, a misguided effort to engender a sense of being hard done by. A feeble attempt to rally the Barnet fans and players further ahead of a game which, given the magnificence of the original tie, is one we’re all looking to see played out to a gripping denouement.

Instead, all it has done is elicit laughter from the Brentford contingent and unify us. If ever we needed more incentive to stick two fingers up and raise the roof then here it is. Served up by bucketload with a side salad of a swipe at our own Chairman, Cliff Crown.

The reaction on Twitter was as expected.

Justin(LionsAndBees) : Tell your Chairman to learn how to read full sentences, not just the bits he likes the look of.

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Jamie: What absolute shite. You get the same amount as every club that comes here. Including Chelsea a few years ago and Everton a few years before that. Did they complain? No of course not cause they sold their tickets the right way and didn’t offer 6 tickets person. Also there is no possible way you’ll ever get more tickets as there is no bloody segregation. I’d be embarrassed if this was our chairmen doing this, absolute joke.

Personally, I went for classic ‘Partridge’. One of the rare occasions a ‘gif’ is acceptable.

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Yet it was the team at Beesotted who pulled out the big guns. And I can’t top this. See you on Tuesday, Barnet. I can’t wait.

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Nick Bruzon

BBC Wales stick two fingers up to The Bees ahead of Blackburn visit

2 Feb

Brentford host Blackburn Rovers this afternoon, looking to make it 9 games unbeaten and continue the climb up the table that Thomas Frank’s rejigged team have been enjoying since just before Christmas. It is a game that will see him looking to kick on from the disappointment of being held at Barnet in the FA Cup on Tuesday night. That in itself, a game which now presents a further headache beyond the forthcoming replay. Namely, BBC Wales selecting the fifth round tie at Swansea City for a Sunday afternoon, 4pm TV fixture. The reaction to that news one of universal frustration as a day of motorways or train disruption awaits anyone looking to make that trip.

First up, Blackburn. I have to be honest that their position in the table had escaped me. Instead thoughts of Rovers normally turn to Gary Blissett in the FA Cup, ‘Birdy’s date’ (THE single best kit launch video ever – Kitman Bob, if you are reading I remain available) and Jota causing Mark Burridge to explode in the commentary box. Yet a quick glance at the Championship standings shows them just four points behind Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) in the hunt for a play-off place. They’ve won four on the spin, conceding just a solitary goal whilst the BBC match preview tells us that they are the kings of the second half goal. Brentford, beware.

Come on Bob. I’m game if you are

Yet The Bees are no slouches either. With goals being scored for fun and Neal Maupay exhuding all the confidence and prowess of a Grand National winner, we’re a force to be reckoned with ourselves. The squad is now confirmed after what was, thankfully, one of the dullest deadline days in history. There was none of the alleged interest from Dean Smith up at Villa Park and so Thomas can be confident he has his boys until the rest of the campaign. Unless, of course, any of them fancy joining Nico Yennaris in China. That being the news that was confirmed on official yesterday but which even Matthew Benham had been tweeting about the day before.

The goals against Barnet were all great. Ollie’s strike from distance, Neal slotting home another ice cool penalty and then Sergi maintaining his composure after a quite delightful ball to feet from Henrik Dalsgaard. Then there were the three efforts against the post. Had Moses Odubajo found himself an inch or two luckier I think we may have had another ‘Jota moment’ in the commentary box. #burridgegasm. Instead, we’ve been left with a tricky replay and the image of John Motson talking tactics under the shadow of Ian Moose stuffing his face. For crying out loud man, at least chew.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

The goals against, and the midfield, were very much a case of ‘move along, nothing to see here’. I guess in part this was down to the slight squad rotation in a game played out against the backdrop of a passionate full house. One thing’s for sure, you can see the incredible difference Kamo makes to the squad. We’re a different team when he starts and one has to hope he’ll be back in the Brentford line up today.

I can’t even come close to calling this one. It promises to be a fascinating match up and I’m intrigued as to how hard we react after Tuesday night. The only thing you can be sure of is that’s going to be bitterly cold out there. Whatever you do, please take care and wrap up warm. The slush may have been cleared but I almost lost a few toes to frostbite on the school run past Griffin Park yesterday.

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A carpet of slush is clear from Griffin Park, Friday

From the league to the cup, next. “An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same…… As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off“. 

My words, written on Wednesday morning. Well that’s just another example, if one were needed, of why yours truly is the numpty on the terrace rather than any sort of informed source. As was revealed yesterday, whomever wins the replay on Tuesday night has now seen the match at Swansea City moved to 4pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Well thanks a bunch, BBC Wales. Talk about sticking two fingers up to the fans who now face the prospect of the three scariest words in the English language – ‘Rail replacement bus’- which we’re all thrilled to hear is operating between between Bristol and Cardiff on the Sunday. Expect a return home of about midnight if you chose to take the most godforsaken mode of transport since records began.

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Bad news for The Bees

The reaction has been almost universal. It all seems so pointless. A game that’s not even likely to sell out being picked for a regional arm of the BBC – albeit one available outside of Wales via the medium of Virgin and Sky. Yet we all know that watching it on the armchair is nothing like being there. And why do it at such a ridiculously inconvenient time, given the travel hell that is sure to unfold (see also: moving the cup final to an evening kick off). 

I’ve no doubt the club will point out that we are beholden to the rules of the competition and the whims of broadcasters. Broadcasters who clearly don’t give a monkey about the people that actually make the competition what it is – the fans. Let’s wait to see if BIAS swing into action. This would be the perfect forum for them to say their piece or, better still, our fans’ group get involved. Seriously Adam, if you are reading then you’ve got a quite wonderful opportunity to do something for the supporters. No matter that we already know it is a decision which won’t be over turned.

And yes, I realise that we have to get past Barnet first. They’re in exactly the same boat as us but there’s nothing to stop our clubs, and fan groups, presenting a united front on this one. At least until 7.45pm on Tuesday night.

Still, that’s for then. For now, we’ve got a visit form Blackburn Rovers to look forward to and I can’t wait. See you there.

Now, how about one more look at Jota…..

 

Nick Bruzon   

Quietest window in years still sees plenty of action – mostly off pitch with ‘that’ video.

1 Feb

It was less a case of the transfer window slamming shut (TM) and more one of it sliding gently to an imperceptible close. With Brentford concluding first team business once Chris Mepham had departed for Bournemouth last week, there was only the addition of B team striker Gustav Mogensen  from AGF Aarhus as the quietest deadline day since record began – probably – passed by with barely a flutter at Griffin Park. Albeit Nico Yennaris is as done a done deal as an unpublished deal can be – certainly going by Twitter rather than ‘official’. Dean Smith kept the Aston Villa cheque book under wraps as there was no last minute sortie for Neal, Romaine et al. And the video of the year has already been published – a quite wonderful riposte to those Birmingham City and Leeds United fans still moaning at the Bees. Yes. It WAS a penalty. And yes – it was an even ballsier reaction from Neal Maupay.

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First up, deadline day. The squad remains largely intact. Great news for a team with the opportunity to embark on a quite wonderful FA Cup run and push for a fifth successive top ten finish in the Championship. Or beyond? What it means for the summer window  is another question of course but with our last full season at Griffin Park approaching, a push for the top ahead of the move to Lionel Road must be in the thinking.

The only real headlines about the in-door swinging, Gustav aside, were made with the announcement of our new chief executive Jon Varney. As one Braemar Road observer noted, “At least they didn’t troll us with an ‘incoming‘ message on Twitter. You can get the full facts on Jon, here.

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Our new CEO

For now though, we know who will be on pitch at Brentford. There was no late swoop from Aston Villa or, if there had been, it was repelled with barely a whisper. Fan favourite Neal Maupay remains a Bee which is wonderful news. The progression he has shown this season has been quite magnificent. There are the goals, of course, but also the passion and the balls. Finally, a penalty taker who doesn’t choke when looking into the eyes of the goalkeeper.

But then his reaction after scoring at Leeds United shows you all you need to know about his mentality and his guts. Sure, perhaps things can spill over at times but this young man is still only 22 years old. More games and more experience will help control that. Possibly. Although at the end of the day, Clive, who wants a neutered lion?

The one thing you can be sure of is that at one point Neal will move on. That’s football. That’s the Brentford model. If nothing else, the ‘one club player’ is about as rare as unicorn poo these days. Hopefully his eventual departure will be later rather than sooner, with The Bees firmly ensconced in the top flight and our name inscribed on the FA Cup.

Could his long term replacement have already arrived? Brentford official describe 17 year old Gustav as “An impressively tall and imposing front man for a player of his age, Gustav is a member of the Denmark Under-18 national team, following in the footsteps of fellow B Team players Nikolaj Kirk, Mads Bech Sorensen and Luka Racic.” He has an impressive tally of U-16 and U-19 appearances already notched into his metaphorical bedpost. You can read that one in full on ‘official’ .

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Unicorn poop – rare

The list of those who did exit was published last night and contained five names: Alan Judge (Ipswich), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Ryan Woods (Stoke City), Josh Clarke (Burton Albion – loan) and Reece Cole (Macclesfield Town – loan). Missing from that group was Nico Yennaris, who published his own farewell message on social media aswell as updating his own profile picture to show him now signed for Chinese super league club Beijing Guoan.

He told supporters: “I would like to say a big thank you to @BrentfordFC and all the staff for the last 5 years. It’s a special club with amazing fans and I’ve enjoyed every minute. So many great memories with the Club which will stay with me forever. Good luck for the rest of the season” .

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As Matthew Benham responded with a simple “Best of luck Nico, thanks for everything” rather than any comment about him still being signed at Griffin Park, this one would seem to merely be waiting for ‘official’ to swing into action. Quite probably with a showreel of blockbuster goals. Fingers crossed that comes soon. If nothing else the piledriver at Birmingham City can’t be seen enough times.

And finally, ‘that’ video. The Barnet game seems to have stirred up our divisional rivals a tad. With Leeds United fans still moaning about our penalty  and performance back in October,  supporter Tom Ritchie has put this incredible compilation together. It really is a work of art.

Whilst the Bees are still better placed than holier-than-thou Leeds United and Birmingham City in the divisional fairplay table, who doesn’t love it when we get our claws out. Rules are there to be broken every now and then. Aren’t they…?

Nick Bruzon

Tie of the round sees Sparkes fly as Bees sting Bees

29 Jan

We are all, presumably, bang up to date with events for last night. If you weren’t at the game, the TV option presented a warmer alternative whilst there was also Mark Burridge and co on the iFollow commentary. Yet it was one of those where a final score of Barnet 3 Brentford 3 doesn’t even begin to do justice to what was as pulsating an FA Cup tie as one could hope to see. Albeit with the winners now facing a tough trip to Swansea City in the fifth round, having to go the extra mile of a replay on Tuesday night was probably the last thing anybody wanted. Given the way this one ebbed and flowed (BBC Sport describing it at full time as ‘simply brilliant’) from some perspectives one could almost argue that for either team to still be in with a chance of winning should be cause for relief.

Barnet will be disappointed. Brentford frustrated. The hosts fought back from a 1-0 half time deficit (Ollie Watkins guiding it home from distance late on) to take the lead with a quick fire brace from Shaq Coulthirst. Game on and then some. It was pulsating stuff. Neal Maupay restored parity from the spot after Watkins was adjudged to have been tripped out wide. It was about as innocuous a connection as has been seen, with the player quoted as apologising afterwards for what looked like minimal contact. At best. Certainly we’d have been as incensed as the Barnet fans seemed to be on social media afterwards had it gone the other way. Yet how many times have we been victims of refereeing inconsistency? Far too many to count and whilst it looked shonky in hindsight, Maupay made no mistake as he added another million or so to his valuation. It was as cool and precise a penalty as you’ll see.

With that Brentford pushed on. A quite wonderful ball from Henrik Dalsgaard into the feet of Sergi Canos freed the Spaniard for 3-2 up. It was a wonderful pass and a calm finish under pressure. Surely that would be it? Or not. Just moments later Dan Sparkes stepped up to curl as magnificent a free kick as the Barnet fans could have dreamed of around the wall and past Luke Daniels. It was an incredible a strike and what a tie to get it. The crowd erupted. And rightly so. Full credit to the hosts who showed no signs of giving up despite Brentford’s domination.

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Brentford official capture the moment that Sergi restores our lead

So it ended 3-3. Brentford will point to also hitting the post three times – a header from Yoann Barbet and two from Moses Odubajo. The first of these, had it gone in, would have been a curling left footer to perhaps surpass even the brilliance of Sparkes’ free kick. Barnet will understandably point to the penalty spot and question, again, how referee Andy Madley was able to, ermmm, point to the penalty spot. Given the inconsistent use of VAR throughout the tournament – surely that in itself was a call for an all or nothing approach? See also: Everton at Millwall.    

Brentford should have won. Could have won. The defence seemed off the pace and out of sync. The midfield minus Kamo and Sawyers (although the later did appear from the bench in the second half) were out of touch with the game. On a slick looking surface there should have been more than enough to put this game to bed and lock out the non-leaguers. Instead, Barnet were fully deserving of their draw. They won’t make it any easier in a replay where Thomas Frank will be hoping that the old adage about lower ranked teams taking their chance when it presents itself proves true. On last night’s showing, I wouldn’t be so sure.

So what else happened? Well, kudos to Chris Wickham. I saw a great quote from Mark Burridge on Twitter prior to kick-off, noting how none other than John Motson himself described Chris’s run through of the Brentford line up saying: ‘Thank you, that’s the best explained team formation I’ve ever been given” . What wonderful words from one of THE most respected voices in football. 

It was a moment which also captured our good friend and favourite pantomime villain / ongoing critic Ian Moose in the background of the shot. In typical pose. And I don’t mean the one about taking selfies with footballers before wishing them happy birthday. Hey, at least he’s consistent. Although please chew – it doesn’t need to go in whole.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

Then there was the fifth round draw. An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same. Ironically, a game against the same opposition as we were due to play that weekend. The same opposition that we allowed to race into a 3-0 first half lead in early December before almost rescuing a game that ended 3-2. As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off. 

On the plus side, we were spared another trip to Chelsea. Assuming we make it through on Tuesday night. See you there.

Nick Bruzon    

Could Barnet serve up the final potato skin of a stunning fourth round?

28 Jan

Arsenal : out. West Ham : out. Everton : out. Tottenham : out. Wolves and Middlesbrough just about hanging in there. A weekend which has seen all manner of upsets and big names dumped on their backsides in the FA Cup comes to a frenzied denouement this evening as Brentford travel to Barnet for the final tie of the fourth round. Only Manchester City looked assured as they swept Burnley aside by five goals without reply. 

Tonight’s game is in equal measure just about as good a chance of progression as one could hope for (on paper) but also about as big a potato skin as could be lobbed under the feet of Thomas Frank. Just ask West Ham about that ! And please, stop sniggering. They did it win it back in 1980. A Trevor Brooking header, apparently. If only somebody had mentioned.

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Barnet represent a potato skin of the highest order

THE big question of course being whether Thomas will follow the fate of his predecessor Dean Smith and slip up on it or will safe transit to the fifth round be achieved for the first time in what feels like a long time? Brentford will be in the unusual position of knowing who we might be playing and where (subject to replays) before the Barnet game kicks off, given the draw takes place prior to kick off. We’re number 13 in that one, for the record. Wimbledon are 2, Manchester City 12 (oh to play them again), Manchester United 15 and Spurs are…out. 

Yet let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Whilst we may know who the potential opposition are going to be for this one, we still need to get past the current team in our way. Barnet will no doubt make it about as tough as they can with a full house roaring them on in a bid to make The Hive as intimidating as possible. 

Cripes, didn’t it work well for Wimbledon on Saturday. Facing a West Ham team who looked anything but up for it and playing like a beginner on FIFA 19, the higher ranked team were torn apart time and again before the goals started to flow. It was a quintessential example of playing the position rather than the situation and the Hammers came unstuck in quite glorious style. 

Brentford will be doing very well to learn the lessons from that one. You can bet that the press, BT Sport (who are showing this one live) and any neutral fan watching on TV will be desperate for a home win. Even if it is a non-Martin Allen year at Barnet. As noted at the top end, this one has the potential to see us left with as much egg on our face as those illustrious names to have already fallen this year. Just look at how Newport County took Leicester City part in the previous round to know that there is nothing guaranteed in football. No matter how lowly the other team may appear to be.

Even Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) were left hanging on during Saturday lunchtime’s game. That one was a classic cup tie played out on the proverbial quagmire of a pitch. Only some last gasp fouls and a cracking save from visiting ‘keeper Kelle Roos kept the Rams in the hat as they snuck through 1-0.

The point being that no matter how easy this one looks, it won’t be. The only thing that counts will be progression. Nobody will remember an unlucky loser when the fifth round kicks off in anger. Eyes will only be looking forward.

The FA Cup is that most incredible of tournaments. That most unique of formats. Think of all those combatants who have done battle through the preliminary rounds to bring us to the position we are now in. Their roles, perhaps, forgotten but pivotal to the rich tapestry of a competition which is still watched the world over.  Clubs and broadcasters may try to tinker with the format and the spirit of the tournament but at the end of the day (Clive) it boils down to a one off game of 11 v 11.

And I really can’t wait for this one.       

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Here’s hoping Brentford continue on the “Road to Wembley” .

Nick Bruzon

In the end the lure of the beach was too much.

23 Jan

What can you say? Congratulations Chris Mepham on finally securing his dream move to the Premier League. The Welsh centre-back completed one of the most expected moves of the season yesterday when he finally left Brentford for AFC Bournemouth with the fee reported at £12million plus the usual, copious add-ons. It was no surprise given Eddie Howe’s previous bids in the last two windows along with the player’s own omission from the squad that beat Rotherham United 4-2 on Saturday. This, following injury absence that had coincided with Thomas Frank rejigging his defensive line up and seeing his Bees finally return to unbeaten ways. Yet the gain here is all for Bournemouth as, despite a suggested higher offer from Dean Smith (something c/o my good friends at Beesotted, who are always on the money), the young Welsh International has declined a move to Aston Villa and chosen to take a trip to the beach. So to speak. 

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We can take consolation in great memories, lots of money and no hashtag

For Brentford, it means further shrewd transfer business as another player who we have picked up for minimal outlay (Chris joined as an under-16 back in 2014) has departed for the sort of money we could only dream about a few years ago. The club has made no secret of saying it will sell if the valuation and deal is correct and here we would seem to have another example. Bournemouth have made no secret of their intent to acquire a player whose rise has been, frankly, stratospheric. He hit the ground running last season and regular Welsh call ups were soon to follow. 43 games and one goal (oh, that knee slide against Sheffield United…) after his Griffin Park debut he has now reached the top flight with Bournemouth.

Eddie Howe must be purring like the metaphorical cat who got the cream. In one respect it is a gamble given Chris has played so few games but my word, what performances he has put in over that time. Last season, especially, where nobody could quite believe the confidence, precision and calmness of a player thrust into the squad and then the first team following the departure of Harlee Dean to Birmingham City. 

Things continued a pace this time around with Chris a regular call for ‘first name on the team sheet’ although, it would be fair to say, things did go somewhat amiss from mid-October. For the whole team. Thomas Frank’s first game in charge, a 1-0 defeat at home to Bristol City, saw Meps shown red for two bookings (the second somewhat innocuous) but from that point a malaise came over the Bees defence and midfield. It has something that has only been over remedied with the restructure of our our line up and with Chris having missed the resurgence through injury, perhaps the thinking is that with the fee on offer we have sufficient cover now in place to continue the upwards surge.

Whatever the reason, nobody can deny the talent that Bournemouth now have at their disposal. Chris has the potential to go all the way to the very top. On a personal note I’m obviously sad to see him go but it’ll be intriguing to see how quickly he adapts to life in the top flight. One can only assume he’ll take to things like a duck to water and despite the apparent ‘better terms’ offered by Aston Villa, taking the direct route to follow your dream is very much the way to go. As the ever eloquent Bernard Quackenbush put it on Twitter last night:

“As someone who has lived in Bournemouth for 38 years, with its miles of sandy beaches, warmer climate and with Sandbanks, The New Forest & the Dorset countryside on your doorstep.

Why the f@ck would you choose to live in Birmingham over Bournemouth. It was the only sane choice“.

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‘That’ knee slide

Elsewhere, we’ve had some downtime on these pages recently and so didn’t comment on the 4-2 win at Rotherham on Saturday. It was a result that saw our first win in the quite wonderful brown/orange kit as the unbeaten run continued to 7(seven) games. Those hardy souls who made the long trip to Yorkshire were treated to goals of the highest quality. Kamo’s second (our third) has to be the pick of the bunch  – a quite wonderful pass and move display direct form kick-off after being pegged back to 2-2. That Rotherham didn’t get a touch until fishing the ball out of the net tells you all you need to know about this one.  With an FA Cup fourth round trip to Barnet next up, what a time to find your form on the road. Wha ta time for the Jaffa cake shirt to finally come to the fore.

Albeit, the word on the street is that Thomas Frank has never tasted Jaffa cakes before. The training ground address is 100 Jersey Road, Osterley, TW5 0TP…..

Mmmm. Jaffa Cakes

Nick Bruzon

Sheer Bliss for Neal and Thomas. Who or what comes next?

6 Jan

Brentford 1 Oxford United 0. The Bees are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. It’s another clean sheet. It’s five games unbeaten. It could have been by more but in the end Neal Maupay’s penalty kick proved to be the crucial difference between the two sides. It never felt in doubt yet, but the same virtue, could have gone either way with the visitors pushing late on. Who cares though? I don’t. The most important thing is the Bees are ball number 4 of those to be decanted from the velvet bag into the tombola for Monday night’s draw. We’ve successfully navigated the potato skin already trodden on by the likes of Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and even divisional rivals Norwich City on Saturday. We can now start making another tin foil trophy and blocking out the diary for the last weekend in January. Start dreaming of a visit from the likes of Manchester City or Accrington Stanley. Start dreaming of another cup run.

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Buzz Bee was up for the cup before kick off

Brentford looked positive and were dominant without creating bucketloads of chances. Oxford United did sufficient to close us out and would slowly find a way into a game played out against a strong starting XI. Moreso, one which was bolstered from the bench by the arrival of Neal Maupay. Indeed it was our top scorer who would eventually prove pivotal. His mazy run through the midfield and into the box was brought to a crunching halt by the intervention of former Bee John Mousinho. Maupay made no mistake from the spot and with ten minutes left on the clock that was it, surely?

Indeed it was. Nothing further transpired and despite a late flourish from the visitors it always seemed as though we would progress. Brentford did what they needed to. End of. The game wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination but when the balls drop for Monday’s draw (live on the BBC from Molineux – hopefully not another dreadful crossover with TV’s The One Show) nobody will care how we got there. Nobody is going to begrudge us a visit from Manchester City or a trip to Accrington Stanley because we failed to feast at the Oxford United all you can score buffet. It’s massively disrespectful to both our opponents and to the team which Thomas put out. They did what they had to. They kept it tight at the back. They scored the winning goal.  

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Yesss!! 1-0 as we celebrate Neal Maupay’s penalty

What else can we take from this one? Neal Maupay is now cup tied. As are the likes of Ollie Watkins and Rico Henry. Good news all round on that front. Was there as much to be read into those who were left out of the 18 man squad altogether? There was no room for Henrik Dalsgaard, Nico Yennaris, Romaine Sawyers, Daniel Bentley or Chris Mepham. Was this injury, simple squad rotation or anything deeper, given the obvious lure these players offer to the top flight. Dean Smith, of course, is also rumoured to be sniffing around now that the transfer window is wide open. Given his own Aston Villa were tipped out by Swansea City availability for the cup (or not) won’t be on any list of his concerns.

Brentford and transfer stories go hand in hand at this time of the year. That will never change. With Ryan Woods having had his loan at Stoke City confirmed to a fully fledged sale earlier this week (who on earth saw that one coming?), have we perhaps already concluded our business? We live in hope although I can’t imagine we’ll have seen the last of such activity this time around. Even if it is simply rebuffing further approaches from Eddie Howe for Chris Mepham or politely telling Dean Smith that his money’s not welcome at Griffin Park. One can dream.

But that’s what it’s about at the moment. Dreams. Some are dreaming of keeping the squad intact. Others of a dream FA Cup draw again the likes of a Liverpool or Manchester City. Personally, I’ll be happy with a home tie and a chance of progression. There’s nothing to stir the blood and fire the imagination like an FA Cup run. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to really embark on one of these. The days of Martin Allen and a fifth round replay at home to Southampton, the winners knowing they would host Manchester United in the quarter finals. Of course, for those of us a bit longer in the tooth there was 1988 /1989 when we reached an Anfield quarter-final. Gary Blissett’s heroics that season are as fresh in the memory now as they were then. 

The fact that you can count these on the fingers of one hand show just how infrequent a Brentford cup run is. With league form starting to solidify and Thomas Frank’s new look defence having finally eradicated the silly mistakes that had been symptomatic of our game prior to the Christmas fixtures, could this be the year to finally focus on a stab at Wembley? No matter what our form at the ‘W’ place is ! 

Roll on Monday night. I can’t wait to find out….

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The iconic Bees cup image as Bliss puts Manchester City to the sword

Nick Bruzon