Tag Archives: football

The table doesn’t lie and the armchair provides an alternative view. Of sorts.

19 Sep

Ipswich Town 1 Brentford 1. The Bees stay second in the Championship behind Leeds United (themselves 3-0 victors over Preston last night) with a point at Portman Road. It was point that could well have been all three after a dominant first half but, in the end, we were grateful to take the one as our hosts cranked up the pressure in the second period. Indeed, they probably could have won it at the death when Kayden Jackson found himself clean through but fired high and wide.

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A draw on the road sees the Bees stay second

Full credit to those who travelled. This was a tricky/costly journey midweek in a period that has its share of road trips. We’ve Derby County on Saturday and then Arsenal, Wednesday (where the Piccadilly line strike currently scheduled looks like making this a circuitous one).  More telling, last night saw the first real chance for many of us to test the Sky Sports ‘red button’ option, now available for Championship games. With the somewhat dubious allure of Stoke – Swansea on the main screen, here was an opportunity for us to tap into the Bees feed from the comfort of our own armchairs.

Safe to say that, as it stands, this isn’t going to revolutionise football. It is, without doubt, a handy fall back option to have and one I was more than grateful for on a game that there was never any realistic opportunity of travelling for. Yet, perhaps spoiled by big production HD, the low res fuzziness made it hard to identify players whilst the lack of replays was an extreme frustration. The penalty denied Neal Maupay early in the first half a clear example. Moreso given the yellow card he subsequently earned for his trouble. Hmm

It would have been wonderful to see that one again. Likewise, a similar chance afforded to Ipswich just minutes later which the ref also turned down. There was no build up and no analysis at half time – just the TV equivalent of hold music. If anything, it was a slightly better version of the Saturday afternoon internet streams that used to be so prevalent a few season back, albeit with the added benefit of commentary.

That’s not to be ungrateful. Far from it. The picture was still more than watchable whilst it was a game under the belt where I’d otherwise have had no chance of seeing the action unfold. However, as the future of live broadcasting this has a long way to go and there is as much to be said for Billy Reeves and his BBC London crew or of course, where possible, actually being there.  However, when away clubs are going to start charging Leeds United or Sheffield Wednesday level prices for visiting fans, all of a sudden some smudgy-vision may not seem quite so bad. Moreso, if Sky get wise and look to improve the offering…

As for the game itself, this was very much the tale of two halves. The penalty incidents aside, Brentford dominated the first period. Neal Maupay’s header – his 8th goal in 6 games –  was the very least that our performance warranted. The Bees swept forward in waves, really cranking it up after the half hour, and even topped the league ‘as it stood’ when that one hit the back of the net.

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As it stood. Briefly….

It didn’t last. Just five minutes later, Liam Cooper unlocked the door to the Penthouse suite in the Championship table hotel for Leeds United as his own header put them in front against Preston. With both games staying 1-0 at half-time, more of the same was expected. It only came at Elland Road, sadly. Ipswich clearly hadn’t read the script and a couple of changes from manager Paul Hurst saw them looking like the promotion chasing side. Chance followed chance as the dead ball count started to rise. The woodwork was hit and shots were cleared off the line.

With just over a quarter of an hour to go, the inevitable goal arrived for the home team. 1-1 and now a case of hanging on. Moreso, with Neal Maupay replaced – presumably with Saturday in mind. Yet Yoann Barbet still managed to hit the bar with a quite delicious free kick late on before Jackson would spurn the aforementioned opportunity for Town at the denouement.

With Leeds cruising to a 3-0 win, the Bees ended the night in second place. West Brom humping Bristol City 4-2 to overtake their victims in third. Those ‘comedy’ gifs on Twitter not seeming anywhere near as impressive when you are on the wrong end of hiding.

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Nobody is laughing now. Or then, to be fair.

That could all change again tonight as Middlesbrough have their own chance to play catch up at home to Bolton Wanderers. Yet however that goes, nobody can deny what a quite wonderful start to the campaign this has been. The table doesn’t lie and Brentford are currently storming it.

This time last season we had 4 points after 8 games and were languishing in the bottom three. Now, we’re second with 15 points after the same amount played. That’s more than ten times better… We’ve the division’s leading scorer banging them in for fun and the prospect of a Royal visit on Thursday (more to come on that one).      

Chief Executive Mark Devlin summed it up on Twitter at full time, noting: “Could have been out of sight in the 1st half, but in the end the players  had to dig in for a hard earned point. Might have lost that type of game last season. Onto to Derby for another tough challenge Saturday. Thanks to the 453 travelling Bees for your support.”

That seems to be the theme of the campaign to date, though. A game we would probably have lost last season. Now, hard fought draws are being earned. Bully boy teams (we’re talking about you, Aitor Karanka) have been sent home empty handed with tails between their legs. That it has taken this long to drop our first points in red and white tells its own story – and not just that we should have worn brown/orange last night.

Things are good. The retro shirts have started to turn up in the mail, too. The game of size roulette seeing the ball drop in the right square. Thankfully. I’ll keep this one in the back of the wardrobe for now though. Instead, its more of that magnificent away kit for me. With Bob sure to be unpacking the brown for Saturday’s trip to Derby, I’m absolutely convinced we’ll be recording our first notch in the W column when playing away.

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One for the future – sticking to the brown/orange for now

Nick Bruzon    

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Prophetic Peter calls it and Matthew goes full Partridge as Neal and Josh do the business. Again.

16 Sep

7(seven) games down and Brentford are up to second in the embryonic Championship table after a fifth, successive, home win. This time, over Wigan Athletic. In a display of quite delicious passing football, Neal Maupay grabbed both goals to take his individual total to 7(seven) for the season and move clear in the Championship goalscoring charts. This, despite his missing two league games following the Villa Park affair. Just to put that into context, Neal already has two more than the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have scored all season. Then again, with four league wins under the belt that’s already four more than both the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have earned all season.

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View from the Braemer – Brentford strolled past Wigan on Saturday

The visit of Wigan was never going to be easy. On paper. Paul Cook’s team were only a point behind the Bees before kick-off whilst the visitors had ex-Bee Will Grigg in their squad. The inevitability of a former player doing the business is never a particularly enjoyable moment for home fans of any club. Even moreso in the case of Will when no doubt ‘that song’ would have been given a rendition.

Yet there was a comfort about this one, especially once the second goal had gone in, that is true testament to the confidence flowing through both Dean Smith’s squad and the home support. Maupay scooped man of the match honours but I thought Lewis Macleod and, in particular, Josh McEachran were quite wonderful. The latter starting the move for the opening goal with a cheeky nutmeg followed by a delightful crossfield ball forward to Said Benrahma. If only the sky cameras had captured the moment for their post-match highlights. Here’s hoping those on ‘official’ catch the full move when they appear at lunchtime. (12pm update: Yes! They did. Enjoy…..

 

Credit to Josh. If any player has taken his time to start winning over the critics it is him. Yet he has plugged away and the management have shown faith. With Ryan Woods having moved on the chance has been seized after what were, if we are being honest, a patchy couple of seasons. And how. We’ve already noted his increased presence this season on these pages a few times. The killer pass and/or move forward being a key change in his dynamic.

Indeed whilst being gently probed by Natalie Sawyer during this week’s TalkSport interview, Dean Smith was full of praise for a player who has admitted to still having England aspirations. Consistency will be key, of course, but for now one can only applaud a quite wonderful start to the campaign.

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Neal was MOTM but Josh played blinder, too

That Maupay goal came half-way through an opening period that Brentford dominated. Whilst it had felt as though the flood gates would open within seconds when the Bees swarmed forward from the kick-off, Christian Walton in the Wigan goal held back the tide. Something which proved to be the theme of a game in which, a brief first-half flurry aside, was about as one way as they come.

The threat of Grigg never materialised. He wasn’t so much on fire as on the bench. A place he never left, save for the warm ups. But then as Our Graham (a Huddersfield fan making one of his semi-regular but always welcome visits to Griffin Park) noted, perhaps the judgement here being that the ball needed to be near the Brentford goal in order for him to put it in it, and it was seldom in that vicinity.

One up at half-time became two just after the hour. That man Maupay with his second, this time against ten men rather than eleven. Sam Morsy having been sent off five minutes earlier for poleaxing Yoann Barbet with a head butt that had referee Darren England instantaneously calling for the medics before subsequently brandishing the red card. And from that point on it really was game over. Two clear and coasting. Despite Walton mountin’ a one-man resistance, in the end it was a case of goodnight Wigan Athletic. With other results falling kindly the Bees move up to second, just a point behind Leeds United.

What a time to be alive. What a time to be a Brentford fan. What a reward for all those who’ve been with us through thick and thin. Now able to enjoy what Matthew Benham would later describe on Twitter as “Liquid football” .

Back of the net, indeed ! There is no finer moment in life than anybody embracing their inner Alan Partridge. Accidentally or otherwise. All the while of course, just up the road our new home continues to grow. On current form I can only imagine Mr. Benham naming that one ‘Jurassic Park’.

Credit to Matthew and the current regime for allowing this to happen. There can’t be a fan amongst us who isn’t appreciative of what is being built here and how it has happened. Yes, there have been some tears and frustration along the way – this is football, we are passionate supporters who often think with our hearts in the heat of the moment rather than our heads  – yet only a fool would jump off this train now.

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The site at Lionel Road, (very) early on Saturday morning

Next up, Ipswich Town on Tuesday night. Whilst their record was mentioned in the introduction by way of comparison to Neal’s form, they also need to be recognised for the genuine threat they present to Brentford’s own aspirations. And as much, a mark of our own progress. True, they are bottom of the table but they are only two wins away from the top half. They may have lost to Hull City yesterday but the season is still young. They aren’t, surely, a bottom three side? If nothing else, we’ve the likes of Preston, QPR, Reading and Birmingham City for that particular task.

Last season saw Brentford take nine games before we got our first three pointer. It was a run which was typified by performances that Dean Smith swore by, maintaining we were deserving of victories. Eventually they came.

Yet the game at Portman Road was one of those from that early, ill-fated patch. It was a perfromance noted at the time on these pages as, “Wonderful attacking play (the first half especially). One-way traffic. The proverbial kitchen sink chucked at the opposition. 65% possession and twenty-one attempts at goal compared to Ipswich Town’s four. Yet it was the Tractor Boys who took the points and kept a clean sheet with a 2-0 win that left the Bees bottom of the pile in the Championship after four games

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Portman Road (and what Billy Reeves calls the best font in football) is next.

That was then. This is now. Nottingham Forest two weeks ago saw us win the sort of game that, last season, we’d have lost. Refusing to be outmuscled as the team converted chances into goals and, eventually, all three points. Could Tuesday night promise more of the same? It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. Yet on this sort of form I wouldn’t bet against Dean’s team.

As a final note of the day, could we see a new partnership forming at Griffin Park? Not so much the Ollie Watkins / Neal Maupay combo but that of Peter Gilham and Stuart Wakeford? Our own ‘man with the mic’ joining in during the #BeesLive segment prior to kick off where I walked in on his line: “I don’t know what the question was but the answer was Josh McEachran”.

How prophetic. On yesterday’s performance at Griffin Park the answer was very much Josh McEachran. With perhaps, a soupçon of Neal Maupay.

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Stu does his thing on #BEESLIVE – but what WAS the question?

Nick Bruzon

The tickets are flying and ‘that song’ approaches as something incredible is found in the office.

11 Sep

Fast work Brentford fans. Looks like tickets for the trip to Arsenal in the League Cup on Wednesday 26th are flying out of the door. In league action, where has the ref gone? With apologies in advance, but the second week of international break really bites hard. Indeed, things have got to the point where the semi-imminent visit from Wigan Athletic and Will Grigg is now a major highlight on the calendar.  Even if it does mean ‘that’ song will be doing the rounds. Assuming ‘that song’ is even a thing still. Best of all, a chance encounter in the office has led to the discovery of 2018’s ‘must have’ accessory. 

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Will Grigg missed out on a home debut hat trick. Form went south from there

First, the Arsenal game. After all the discussion over 5,000 or 9,000 tickets for Brentford fans, we received the latter. And they’ve been flying off the shelves. Or rather, the internet. I saw a post last night suggesting we are close to half-way selling out that allocation on day 1. Just to season ticket holders. Most impressive for a game that, ultimately, could be against the Arsenal B-team – certainly, if the club go to Wenger based form. Could a new manger see a new approach to a trophy his side have taken lightly over the years (at least, in the early rounds) and haven’t won since 1993?   

Regardless, we’ll be there en-masse and looking to equal a best ever run in a tournament that hasn’t treated us too kindly since inception. The fourth round defeats to Nottingham Forest and, erm, Birmingham City (urghh – that one really hurt) being about as good as it’s got. As an interesting aside, 80% of those early tickets sales were made online and, even if the confirmation mail looked forward to seeing us at Griffin Park (erm, we have got this one right?) it would seem to speak volumes about the ease of the system. As ever, big up to Mads and her team who would have still undertaken 800+ Arsenal sales in person (something that could also have been the title of Arsene Wenger’s autobiography).

Next up, Wigan Athletic. They visit Griffin Park on Saturday for a championship game where a win could see the Bees reach the ‘automatic’ positions, subject to other results. That’s by no means guaranteed, of course, and it won’t just be a case of turning up with the expectation of three points. Moreso, given the visitors are sure to have ex-Bee Will Grigg in their side. How things could have turned out differently for him. They didn’t, despite the bright start, and with the greatest respect there were few tears shed when news of his departure was announced.

Of course, he’s performed really well since dropping back in to League One since aswell as flourishing for Northern Ireland on the international stage. Despite not appearing for them at Euro 2016, ‘that song’ still follows him around like a bad smell. Yet with the highly rated Daniel Bentley in goal, Yoann Barbet (a magnificent captain last time out) at left back as well as Ezri Konsa (England U-21), Chris Mepham (Wales) and Henrik Dalsgaard (something, something, something, World Cup) its fair to say our defence will probably be less terrified and more simply aware of a striker who will no doubt have a point to prove.

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Captain Barbet played a blinder last time out.

For now, we’ve no idea who the man in the middle will be for that one. A quick check on the EFL website reveals that the referees are yet to be announced for the forthcoming fixtures. An unusual occurrence given these normally go up faster than Keith Stroud raising a yellow card.

Instead, there is simply the realisation that the EFL seem to opt for a certain style of photograph when leading the stories about who will be ‘in charge’ for future games. A term that was certainly at it’s loosest the last time we were all together, for the 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest. That was the one where Mr. Bankes led the mayhem. Even if ultimately it was us and fouling Forest who were deemed not have controlled the players.

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The long arm of the law

And finally, something quite amazing happened at work yesterday. Please note – your definition of ‘quite amazing’ may vary. However, I’ve got first dibs on this. It seems that it’s not just the Bees who have incredible taste when they are on the road. As if the brown/orange change shirt couldn’t deliver anymore, I was on a different floor in the office on Monday when I spotted something quite wonderful.

A good omen for the games at Ipswich (next league – a, and Arsenal)? Or simply the ideal accompaniment for when it’s… raining goals?

I’ll get my coat on the way out.

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Where can we get them?

Nick Bruzon

Want to see how Lionel Road looks at silly o’clock? Better than a talking dog.

8 Sep

International break. Time to down ‘Last Word’ tools for a while given there’s been no Brentford news of note (what £5k fine or website misdemeanour?). More telling, the school run being back in full force means that rather than writing nonsense, any spare time in the morning is currently spent persuading HB that getting up at 6.30 for Year One is an infinitely better prospect than laying in, watching some TV and then going to the park for a kickaround with his mates. Something he’s spent huge swathes of the last six weeks doing. Not. Jealous.

The plus side of this means no Paw Patrol. I can (just about) go with the fact that rather than employ the emergency services, the mayor of PP town has chosen to supply a bunch of talking dogs with jet packs, helicopters and JCB’s to resolve any crisis she faces. Usually involving a missing chicken.  As you do. Yet putting that to one side, there is no more annoying sound on TV than the dogs then laughing at one of their own jokes. Material which is generally about as weak as just about anything on these pages and, whilst clearly aimed at kids rather than adults, is still an unwelcome infliction on any parents within earshot. The things you have to put up with for father-son bonding.

Sorry. We digress. It’s not football but I needed to say that and enjoy the therapeutic relief of unloading.

Yet more importantly than no more of those infernal puppies, we get to go past the Lionel Road site on the way to school and, I have to say, things are looking fantastic. Progress is coming along at pace and to see Brentford’s new home rising out of the ground in front of us is an incredible thing to witness.

So much so that I was tempted out of bed on Saturday for an early morning sojourn at first light. Specifically, given how impressive the main stand had looked at 8am on Friday when the sun was already high in the sky.

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Friday morning, 8am. It was bright.

For me (Clive), it was worth the early start. Unlike Marshall’s stand up routine (one for the Paw Patrol victims amongst us).

Here’s a a couple of shots of how things were looking at a time when, ordinarily, I’d be imploring a young child that he needs to get out of bed for school.

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Friday, reverse view

 

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Saturday morning, silly o’clock

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Show’s over folks. Nothing else to see

Nick Bruzon

Natalie nails it as Forest fail to chop down the Bees.

2 Sep

What an afternoon. What a game of contrasting football styles. Brentford beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in a game which will be as much remembered for the three points that take us back into play-offs as it will an infuriating performance from ‘referee’ Peter Bankes. That, and a display of physical thuggery from the visitors which, as was said many times yesterday, came over as ‘a typical Aitor Karanka performance’. See also the phrase: Brian Clough would be spinning in his grave. It was an attitude which spilled over into social media afterwards where none other than Natalie Sawyer waded in to defend her beloved Bees in the face of what could, at best, be described as sour grapes from fans of the visiting team.

It gives me no pleasure in having to write about anything negative from yesterday. Especially about a club I’ve enormous respect for. Why would we want any form of downer after Brentford scooped the win that lifted us back into the play-off zone following last weekend’s blip at Blackburn? We’ve overcome the three game suspension of Neal Maupay and showed tremendous spirit to bounce back after an uncharacteristic fumble from Daniel Bentley allowed Forest to haul themselves into the game on the hour mark.

Yet it was the approach of the visitors which was so at odds with what we’ve seen from them over the years. A team who previously out-thought and out-played opponents to win the trophies for which they are so well known. A team who rightly earned the two stars that adorn their famous crest. Now, their manager has them playing not so much ‘kick and rush’ as ‘kick and punch’.

That there were only 7(seven) bookings for the visitors was a miracle in itself. They were cynical, scything and nasty. Mr. Bankes in the middle seeming to forget he even had cards in his pocket during a first half where Forest had no answer to wave after wave of Brentford pressure. Except, of course, the one shown to Lewis Macleod for apparent diving.

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Two stars, well earned. Plus a welcome return for the castle badge in the programme.

There was no attempt to tackle. The Bees were allowed to run at their opponents with the ‘permission to foul badge’ rotated between the players by manager Karanka. How nobody received a second yellow I have no idea. Yet it was an approach that also allowed us to see Brentford at their finest. And, in the end, crush the visitors as easily as they would a ripe avocado. 

Josh McEachran had an extremely positive game, making one incredible surge forward in the first half that must have seen him take the ball close to forty yards upfield as he rode challenges and played deft flicks. Romaine Sawyers did what he does. Sergi was felled time and again by the yellow shirted lumberjacks. Mepham and Konsa at the back continue to look as though they have been partners for years rather than weeks. Benrahma was magnificent, supplying the crosses for both goals and almost nabbing a couple himself. 

The first, a cross from the right that dropped perfectly for the unmarked Lewis Macleod to head home just before half time. The second, delivered to Ollie Watkins to stroke home with just minutes left on the clock. Between these, Peter Gilham’s quite wonderfully announced substitution of Lolley for Cash looked like it would be bang on the money for our guests. The hero of Forest’s midweek league cup win over Newcastle did it again. Yet the goal from Matty Cash proved to be a small change and, in the end, it was Watkins (nose stuffed full of gauze after receiving a boot in the face from Jack Robinson) who sealed the points that take us up to fifth place in the table.   

Again, I don’t want to come over as negative about the visitors and the ref. I’ve friends who are Forest fans and a healthy respect for the club that goes back to my own formative football years when they were THE kings of Europe. Perhaps they just had a bad day at the office whereby physicality was the only answer to the electric pace of a scintilating Brentford side.  Yet it was awful to watch them yesterday.

Equally frustrating was finding ourselves beholden to the whims of a referee whose performance switched between turning a blind eye and guesswork. All credit to captain Yoann Barbet whose cool head at the very end prevented a major case of handbags turning into a Keith Stroud convention. He led by example throughout although you could also praise the spirit of all Dean’s ‘leaders’. Our unique approach of rotating the captaincy providing its own demonstration of success.

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Yoann Barbet at FT. How was that for you?

I apologise. The point has been laboured and the point has been made. But it is done because so often over the last couple of seasons, we’ve had no answer to teams like this. We’ve seen points dropped and games lost when brute force has triumphed over attempts to play intelligent football. Yet we’ve toughened up and adapted, whilst still retaining that core belief. Being honest, this one never felt in doubt. Even at 1-1 or throughout the protracted period of stoppage time added on at the end. 

It was our own Natalie Sawyer who really summed things up nicely, taking to Twitter at full time to first note that: If ever there was a victory for football today it’s what I’ve witnessed at Griffin Park. Really surprised by how Forest played today considering I thought they’d give us a much better game following what I saw on Wednesday night..

Confronted by frustrated Forest fans, rather than sit on this one she continued to make her point (and rightly praise the Forest midweek match) before eventually going on to add: Excuse me you came not to win, you came to by physical and cynical. It’s the most disappointing performance I’ve seen from a team. I’m not saying that Brentford are wholly innocent in every game they play but today they outplayed a team that just wanted to foul and time waste.

Well said. Professionally put and spot on. There’s not much more one can really say after that. Perhaps a bit more praise for Dean Smith and his wonderful team. Kudos to Yoan Barbet and my man of the match, Said Benrahma.

Put your feet up and enjoy international break. Roll on the 15th for Wigan at home where it’s not so much Will Grigg as the Bees who are currently on fire.

Nick Bruzon

Arsenal and Leeds dates confirmed. Bees heading back to TV and the 70s as Forest visit.

1 Sep

Good news, Brentford fans. We’ve got a date for the Carabao cup tie against Arsenal which has been confirmed as taking place on Wednesday 26 September. Bad news, Brentford fans. Our game up at Leeds United has been changed and will now be a midday kick off on October 6th rather than the original 3pm start time noted when the fixtures were announced. And we’ve the small matter of a trip back to the 70s with our game against Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park this afternoon.

First up, the Arsenal game. The Gunners published a statement on their ‘official’ last night simply noting that:    

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There’s not much more to say about that beyond good luck to Mads in our ticket office and Chairman Cliff Crown today. Both will no doubt be plagued with questions, from different perspectives, in regards to that game.

One things for sure, there’ll be a huge crowd there. At least, from the away contingent. Whilst B-team games against the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and, on this week’s evidence, Bournemouth (whom King Kev’s boys beat 3-0 last night) are common place, this will be the first chance for the vast majority of us to see Arsenal reserves line up against the brown & orange army.

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A fine win at Bournemouth last night, via @BrentfordFC on Twitter

The other fixture news revealed yesterday saw the aforementioned update to our game at Leeds United. If ever a game was in doubt it was going to be the trip to Elland Road.

I’ve seen a stat that says Leeds were shown on TV an incredible 19 times last season. So far this campaign the’ve already been on at least (I may have missed one) four times – Stoke (h), Derby (a) , Swansea (a) and last night’s 0-0 with Middlesbrough. Then to come there’s a trip to Sheffield Wednesday in late September followed by the latest raft of games. Us and Nottingham Forest at home in October. Wigan and West Brom away in November. That’s 9 ‘main games’ already. And this before you discount the red button option which, to be fair, is available to all clubs for midweek Championship action.

Simply put, why? What is Sky’s obsession with Leeds United? They won something, once. Well done. Haven’t done in ages. There are plenty of other teams in the Championship who have done similar. The likes of double European Champions Nottingham Forest, West Brom and those other Sky regulars in Aston Villa.  Plenty of other, so called, ‘big clubs’. They don’t feature with anywhere near the same regularity. If it’s not Leeds, it’s not worth showing. Seemingly. Do the club just have a huge base of displaced  supporters? It’s not as though the footballing fare on offer is the sort to draw in the casual viewer, going by the Boro’ game last night.

Of course, that side of things is a matter of personal taste. If you don’t like it then don’t watch. Yet more pertinent is that fans of both Leeds and their opponents end up seeing travel plans in disarray. I know many Bees have already booked their trips to Elland Road to get in before prices go through the roof. I can’t see Sky or the train companies (LNER, in this case) refunding those. It would be great if they did or could team up with some sort of football related offer.  What a way to ‘give something back’ or show the fans they ARE thinking of them. No. Seriously.  One can only feel for Leeds supporters when their team are playing away – something they are infinitely more likely to fall foul of.

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The latest TV games are announced

On a personal note, whilst I’m in the minority this works out perfectly. Kind of. The Leeds fixture coincides with our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s a fairly safe bet Mrs. Bruzon isn’t reading this so I can continue with impunity.

The chance to travel for this game was never even an option. Not something even I’d been naïve enough to suggest. Now, there’s a chance of seeing the game. That rather than the special day out she (I mean we) had been planning there is the hope, albeit slim, that a trip to the pub could be on offer. Rather than a meal for two by the sea or at a swanky restaurant, how about a lunch of pork scratchings and Guinness? What better way of saying romance than finding a hostelry to show Leeds – Bees? Stranger things have happened…..

All that’s to come. For now, focus has to be on today’s visit of Nottingham Forest to Griffin Park where the club have announced that we’ll be going ‘Back to the 70s’. Hopefully this just means our ‘guests of honour’, a #BeeTheDJ special and the retro shirts that ‘official’ have suggested we wear rather than the dark days of hooliganism and vile chanting. Thankfully, those later elements have massively gone from the modern game whilst have rarely been an issue at Griffin Park – well done to the current regime for all their work on that front.

Given the advertising banner, I was wondering if Brentford were going to go for the controversial routine of wearing our quite magnificent ‘away’ colours at Griffin Park? Whilst there’s no doubt many would be in favour of an extra chance to see the incredible orange and brown in action, perhaps that is a flight of fancy too far. Instead, let’s just do the needful against Arsenal and hope for another away game.

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Nick Bruzon

Bring on the big guns. And also Arsenal.

31 Aug

Finally. It actually happened. The game that so many of us have been waiting for will finally take place. Brentford entertain Nottingham Forest on Saturday in a chance to head back to the very upper reaches of the Championship table. Elsewhere, and you may have missed this on social media last night, we’ve been drawn away at Arsenal in the third round of the league cup. It it is a tie that seems to be exciting just about everyone, no more so than our own chairman Cliff Crown.

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A fairly safe bet we’ll need to go brown for this one

You can understand the buzz around this game. We all know the history at Arsenal and of the many, many trophies they have won. Even if things have got (relatively) barren in recent years and Europa League qualification is the best they have to be content with. As the later end of The Wenger era saw them very much standing still, the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs have all overtaken Arsenal at football’s top table. With Tottenham currently sitting pretty as kings of North London football, I have no doubt current boss Unai Emery will view the Carabao Cup as a huge opportunity to try and start redressing that balance.

C137D36D-7E04-4531-81DE-C0D1C441FEA8For Brentford fans, this presents the rarest of opportunities. Our paths haven’t crossed in over 70 years and for many it is a chance to visit a new stadium. Whilst the records are under debate (certainly in regards to our own number of defeats) the one thing everyone agrees on is that Brentford have the lion’s share of victories. As much as five can be deemed any sort of lion’s share. Personally, I’m just grateful for a kind draw (the prospect of Boro’ away, urghh) , an eminently winnable game and the chance to return my books before they become overdue.

The other thing to catch my eye on Twitter was the number of people who already seem set to miss this one : New York, Vegas, Franz Ferdinand (the band rather than the deceased Archduke), recovering from a car crash……

These just some of the many, albeit wonderful reasons (perhaps not so much that last one), as to why people are now checking their diaries to see if there is any chance of avoiding a pre-booked clash. Yet with Arsenal playing on the Sunday, the game seems likely to be played on the evening of 26th September. A cup tie on a Wednesday evening is something that The Emirates won’t have seen for a few years, even if it does push yours truly dangerously close to the list of absentees.

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That’s the night of my own work Christmas party (being the last time all 11 of the team are in together prior to late December). And now I’ll have to let the team down. Them, not Brentford. Unless of course they fancy some celebratory cup football. Yes, do spare a thought for Mads and her team in the ticket office as all manner of strange(r) requests are likely to come out of the woodwork. I can only imagine the queue for this one being akin to the launch of our own brown and orange away shirt.

All of which is wonderful, but there is also the small matter of Nottingham Forest tomorrow. Of course I’m excited about the prospect of reaching the Carabao cup fourth round but the league campaign is where it’s all at. Can Brentford get back to winning ways after the slip up at Blackburn? Will we be able to inflict a first defeat of the season on a Forest team who themselves beat Premier League opposition in the cup this week. A very late brace from the wonderfully named Matty Cash seeing Newcastle United’s celebrations at a 90th minute equaliser being somewhat short lived. An eventual 3-1 win sees the Tricky Trees presented their own chance of further profession, with a home tie against Stoke City the reward.

I thought the Bees looked wonderful with the build up play on Tuesday night against Cheltenham. It’s great to see the players coming in adapting to the system used by the first team. I also think we were over elaborate, profligate and almost got caught out. Dean Smith will no doubt be making changes with Romaine Sawyers and Ollie Watkins amongst those sure to return.

There’s no Ryan Woods, of course. His own ‘loan to sale’ was confirmed last week Saturday and he is now a Stoke player. Let’s hope they don’t injure him. Although I’d imagine neck ache from looking up at the sky will be his main health concern.

There’s no doubt we’re all well up for that Arsenal game. Chairman Crown and his family may even don a half/half scarf (although hopefully not) whilst Nico Yennaris and Josh Dasilva have their own points to prove. Yet all that is to come. If nothing else, we’ve a score to settle after last season’s capitulation at home to Forest. 1-0 up after 40 minutes turned into 3-1 down after 47 and an eventual 4-3 defeat that was nowhere near as close as the score line suggests. Then (away) manager Mark Warburton doing his ‘Brittas Empire’ thing in a shirt / short combo that was tighter than the final score.

Still, that was then and this is now. Warbs has moved on from The City Ground. Brentford have moved up. Dean Smith and his team are playing some quite wonderful football. Here’s hoping we can find the back of the net and return to winning ways.

See you on Saturday.

Brittas Warbs

Mark Warburton – won at football but lost at fashion last time out.

Nick Bruzon

Dean’s Forss-Field keeps Cheltenham out as Forest await. Lionel Road delay sees extended life at Griffin Park.

29 Aug

Brentford ensured progression to the third round of the league cup on Tuesday night after victory over Cheltenham Town by the the odd goal in one, i.e. 1-0. It was as comprehensive a performance of build-up play as they come despite the solitary mark on the scoresheet. Only over complication in front of goal and a solid display from fan favourite Scott Flinders (who would have stopped just about anything coming at him, even a small child) kept the visitors in it until the final whistle. Yet with Nottingham Forest to come next in the league, perhaps the main thing was putting Saturday’s first Championship defeat (1-0 at Blackburn Rovers) behind us and marking a return to winning ways.

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Griffin Park always looking great under lights

Dean Smith was taking no chances on this one. The last thing we needed with a potato skin like this was his going ‘full Marinus’. Instead, the bench was chock full of first teamers whilst the likes of Chris Mepham, Nico Yennaris, Lewis Macleod and Said Benrahma all started alongside familiar faces Alan Judge, Josh Clarke, Tom Field and newboy Julian Jeanvier.  With Neal Maupay serving the second game of his three match stint out, Marcus Forss returned once more following his debut at Blackburn.

Indeed, it was French central defender Jeanvier who grabbed the game’s only goal, providing the final touch to a goalmouth melee just prior to half time. It was a strike that our performance had suggested was coming. Benrahma in particular enjoying the freedom of Griffin Park as the visitors sat deep and invited Brentford to come at them. Wave after wave of attack was repelled as our own pretty football was rewarded with everything but the finishing touch. Sometimes we don’t need to walk it in!

That said, final stats of 13 shots on target compared to none for Cheltenham tell their own story although it didn’t feel like that sort of game. Comfortable, yes. But without that second goal there was always the danger of being caught by the sucker punch equaliser. Had the visitors perhaps thrown the kitchen sink at it ten minutes earlier than the last knockings of a game they were always in,  there would have been a very real chance of taking it to those immediate penalties (no extra time here). But with a Brentford team including the combination of Forss-Field in the starting XI, perhaps there was never any danger of Luke Daniels’ goal being breached.

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Rare Cheltenham attacks were snuffed out

Still, we’re through and that’s the main thing. The draw for Round 3 is on Thursday evening at 7pm which is when all the Premier league’s top clubs, and also Arsenal, join in the fun. No doubt everybody will be hoping for a trip to an Old Trafford or Anfield. Perhaps a visit from Chelsea, Fulham or Manchester City. Instead, it’ll probably be Middlesbrough away.

Of more immediate interest is what Dean Smith learned about his side ahead of the visit from Nottingham Forest on Saturday. They are one of just three unbeaten Championship sides (see also: Leeds united and Middlesbrough) and now find themselves a point behind the eighth placed Bees as the table starts to slowly settle down. So who will Dean go with? The same XI as at Blackburn? A different option up top? Could he be tempted to entertain the return of Josh McEachran to his Championship team? How about Sergi Canos who must be chomping at the bit to get a run out in what will be the last game before international break? Whomever Dean picks, the Bees are likely to be facing infinitely more testing opponents. On paper.

Then again, on paper last night should have been a cake walk but Cheltenham contained us and almost nicked an equaliser late on. Don’t let paper or reputation fool you for a second. Goals are all what counts when it comes to winning games. Banging them in and keeping them out. A simple enough philosophy but all the pretty play in the world means naff all if you do get caught with your pants down at one-nil up. But we didn’t. We’re through and that’s the important thing. It was really nice also to see several familiar fan faces out and about in the second half – you know who you are if you are reading (unlikely, but..). It’s great that people retain that love for the Bees and always a mark of what the current regime are currently doing that they continue to inspire such passion amongst the fans.

These are exciting times at Griffin Park. We’ve had an impressive start in the league and are 90 minutes away from equalling our furthest ever league cup run (round four). We have a new home on the horizon, even if if our moving in date has been put back to the start of the 2020/21 campaign as was announced yesterday.  This is no surprise to anyone who has seen the, albeit impressive, work to date. Whilst the Lionel Road site is being developed at a rate of knots, we need to be realistic. Just look at the problems Tottenham now face as a result of trying to rush into their new home. You can read the full statement on Brentford official. No doubt more to come on this over the next day or so.

So one more full season at Griffin Park awaits once the current campaign comes to a close. Could it see top flight football? Who knows. Bring on Nottingham Forest this Saturday when we take the next step to discovering our football fate.

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Mark Fuller and Yoann Barbet do their respective things at full time

Nick Bruzon

Will Stoke get Woods? Does it have a beach? Can Bees push on at Blackburn?

25 Aug

Strap yourselves in folks, this could be some day. Brentford travel to Blackburn Rovers looking to continue that unbeaten run of early season form which currently sees us sitting fourth in the pack of twenty-four teams. Yet the big question is whether Ryan Woods will be travelling with The Bees as news of the rumoured interest from Stoke City cranked up a few notches yesterday when the Potters as good as let the cat out of the bag. If you believe them. Yet if this comes to pass, it will end one of the most protracted moves of the summer following the initial stories and bid from Swansea City. At the same time making somewhat of a mockery of a transfer window which contains the biggest hole this side of the QPR defence (nil points. P4 L4).

The trip to Blackburn represents the mid-point of an intense two-week period that has already seen us beat Wednesday on Sunday and then have victory at Aston Villa cruelly slip from our grasp deep into the 95thminute out of 95 on, erm, Wednesday. That was a game which will as much as anything else be remembered for the goals from Neal Maupay which took him to the top of the Championship scoring table. Likewise, his retrospective red card which means he is missing from today’s game aswell as the League Cup on Tuesday and then the visit from Nottingham Forest next weekend.

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The Villa game ended 2-2 (and with a retrospective ban for Neal)

So what does Dean do to compensate? Personally, I think he’ll push Ollie up top and mix the wingers up. Said Benrahma and Sergi Canos have been doing quite magnificent battle over that right hand berth but can they be accommodated at the same time? Will Alan Judge make a start (although hopefully not as a false 9 – see yesterday) ? Does Marcus Forss then come off the bench and Ollie go back to our traditional shape if we need to change things up? Or, indeed, might Dean start like that anyway?

Who knows? I’m just the numpty on the terrace rather than anybody with any real knowledge – whether behind the scenes or just of football in general. Whilst on the one hand it may expose our lack of an alternative out and out second striker, based on what we’ve seen to date, the one thing Brentford have always done is play as a team. Score (and show) goals from every angle. From every positon bar goalkeeper. And with the length he gets these days, one wouldn’t be totally surprised if Daniel Bentley was to find the back of the net.

The other change I would think may also come is in central midfield. Both Nico Yennaris and Kamo have been superb when they have come off the bench for Lewis and Josh. The step up in play at both Stoke and Aston Villa was demonstrable by their entrance to the field of play. Dean has a wonderful bench available and is yet to change his starting XI in four league games. Yet with the matches coming thick and fast, and one enforced move in Maupay already thrust upon him, don’t be surprised if Dean twists further when the teams are announced at around 2pm.

One player that even I’m not so naïve as to think will be starting is Ryan Woods. Sadly. As noted in the introduction, Stoke City seems to be edging ever closer to getting their man. BBC Radio Stoke were bigging it up on Wednesday evening (be glad you can’t get it down here, given the Bees observer they had to drag in to opine on that one) and then yesterday it was the turn of current Stoke manager Gary Rowett. He announced that Woodsy, who was of course an unused substitute for that Aston Villa game, has already had a medical. He went on to claim that, “We are quite close to concluding a deal but we are not there just yet.

Brentford official are, of course, saying nothing. The club never comment on rumours and whilst history teaches us that you’ll never learn anything from fanzines, this all has a somewhat familiar ring to it. I think back to July 2013 when Simon Moore was being linked with Cardiff City, Back then their manager Malky Mackay (who, for the record, is currently the performance director of the Scottish Football Association – good luck with that one) told the media two days prior to signing the player that, “It’ll be paperwork first thing Monday morning, that’s the only thing holding that one up.”

An odd statement to make when infact we all knew Simon was simply on holiday. At the beach. In Cardiff.

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Cardiff beach. Simon Moore once holidayed there. According to Uwe.

Unless Stoke does have a beach then it kind of suggests this one is all but nailed on. The fee reckoned to be £6.5-£7(seven) million depending on which which source you read. Presumably with the usual clauses that Brentford have the shrewdness to insert. Who’d have thought we’d get money from Alfie Mawson’s sale to Fulham after all this time?  

Do I want him to go? No. In a word. That’s me being an emotional, selfish fan. Will we miss Ryan? Absolutely. The tussle that has gone on for his services (and those of us looking in only know of Swansea and Stoke’s interest to date) show the regard with which he is held in this division. Would we cope? Well, here’s the thing. I don’t want to tempt fate overly but look at what we’ve already done this season and Woodsy hasn’t got close to the pitch. The first XI and oncoming substitutes have performed quite wonderfully. It has been our best start to a campaign since 2013/14 and we we ended that one with promotion to the Championship. The squad would be stronger with him, no question, but it has still had a stunning start without.

This club has made no secret of transfer strategy. That we won’t stand in the way of players who want to leave if the price is on our terms. That we have got the player replacement technique pretty much nailed on now. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to stay. But I also trust what we’ve seen before. Adam Forshaw, Simon Moore, Moses (welcome back), number 26, Andre Gray. The Birmingham three – Jota, Maxime and Harlee. Aww, I do miss those defensive wobbles. They’ve all gone. We’ve survived. If Ryan decides his time has come then good luck to him. And huge thanks. He’s a hero and an inspiration at Griffin Park.

Yet now it seems that chapter is coming to a close, should the announcement indeed be confirmed today. Stoke City need a player of his ability, that’s for sure. Despite the wealth of talent they already seem to have their midfield was conspicuous by its absence when we traveled up there the other week. Supporters disappointment at ‘only’ getting a draw, further exacerbated by then seeing Wigan hump them 3-0. Even Will Grigg scored a penalty. The reward for that a (surely temporary) place in the relegation zone.

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Stoke have bite. But not much more…at present

The one other thing this has exposed is just the vagary of a transfer window that shut weeks ago yet still sees players able to move between Championship clubs on loan or, as would seem to be happening here, ‘loan with a permanent contract in January’ deals. It does seem to defeat the purpose somewhat and one can only feel for managers trying to put their squads together when they now have not one but effectively two windows to cope with.

QPR themselves have signed strikers Tomer Hemed from Brighton and Burnley’s £5m man Nahki Wells on loan for the duration of this campaign. Not quite sure how that all works but it seems to be legal – an unusual strategy for them given the £42m fine and transfer ban they finally agreed to in July following the breach of FFP rules.

Still, that’s their issue. I’m focussed on Blackburn and Brentford. Regardless of whether Ryan Woods is in the squad or sitting in the bottom three with Stoke. That a position I can’t imagine that they’ll occupy for very long should the move go through.

As for us, I’m calling this one as an away win. Complete confidence for the boys in brown and orange. Maupay may be missing but this squad is just too good at present. Enjoy the game!

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The current table. Come on Ryan. If you go, at least leap frog 20th….

Nick Bruzon

Maupay banned. Funeral Directors appointed.

24 Aug

Brentford head to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday knowing we’ll be missing the services of the Championship’s leading goal scorer, Neal Maupay. A three game ban (which also takes in the Carabao cup tie at home to Cheltenham Town and then the visit from Nottingham Forest in the league) being the result of his accepting a violent conduct charge following the stamp on John McGinn at Aston Villa on Wednesday. In happier news, kind of, the club have announced G Saville and son as their latest commercial partners – the Official Funeral Directors of Brentford Football Club. Just for clarity, that’s Graham and not George. His career hasn’t died yet.

First up though, Neal Maupay and the incident at Aston Villa. The retrospective video review was no surprise to just about anybody who saw it on TV. Whilst referee Jon Moss missed this at the time, the subsequent going over and over in super slo-mo on Sky meant that there was only ever going to be one outcome. And understandably so on seeing the footage. It didn’t look good at all. There is a brief statement on Brentford official (you can read that in full here) although the jist of it confirms the games which will be missed, accompanied by an update from Dean in which he said that Neal understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games.

I reviewed the incident with Neal and spoke to him this morning. He understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games. We did not want to prolong the process so have accepted the charge immediately”, said Dean.

Nobody needs me labouring the point about what was an ugly incident which, despite the provocation, can’t be justified. The FA have delivered their verdict and so there’s nothing more to add on that aspect.

It’s a real shame for the team and a player who is the league’s top scorer (5) and also provider of assists (4). Instead, the conversation turns to how we replace Neal in terms of that centre forward role. In at the deep end for Marcus Forss or pull Ollie Watkins in from the left? It seems a shame to break up an otherwise winning formation but I suspect that’s the way Dean will go. Personally, I’d love to see Marcus given a chance in an otherwise retained shape. There’s also the option to stick Sergi up top although then we might be starting to stray into old ground….

Who could ever forget the the ‘false 9’ experiment? Few who remember ‘that game’ at QPR back in March 2016, in which Alan Judge was pressed into an advanced midfielder role (what was actually described as the aforementioned ‘false 9’) would be looking for a repeat. It was a nightmare afternoon where a striker free team were abysmal and, whatever the perceived logic from Dean, his gamble brought about inevitable consequences. Let’s please never, ever do that again.

That said, and we digress slightly, that afternoon sticks long in the mind for two other reasons. Both of which have been mentioned before and will no doubt again. But some things bear repeating.

Firstly, the magnificent Billy Reeves doing his zero-to-catwalk in three seconds shimmy along the touchline at half time. It was a move that was equal parts Zoolander and Moonwalk. Not even Ian Moose’s movement when the half-time pies appear could match this for impressiveness. Any excuse to drag out that picture once more.

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BBC Billy had provided the one moment of joy the last time we tried a ‘false 9’

Secondly, being ‘fly on the wall’ to a conversation taking place in the row directly behind me. There, the emotion had clearly got to another fan who had been giving a running commentary down the phone to his, presumably, better half during the second half. As the Bees collapsed his call, which had been getting more and more aggravated, reached a sad denouement with the line, “Yes. I love you my darling. But we’re sh*t. Now please f**k off”.

Whomever Dean starts with at Blackburn, it can’t be that bad. Instead, with our head coach now facing his first mandatory test of personnel, it will be very interesting to see which way he jumps. More importantly, how the team cope. Bring it on…

The other news of note was the announcement of the club’s official funeral partners. Whilst I’ve no doubt there will be some who think it is a commercial opportunity too far and indicative that the game’s gone, others will welcome it. Certainly I do, if only for the pun potential it now offers. It was something the club themselves have recognised, leading with the headline.: Brentford ‘til I die. Cue immediate references to dead ball specialists and experts in the box, although perhaps Will Grigg may not want to think about being on fire just yet. Urghh. Is that still a thing?

There have been the usual knockers but, frankly, who cares? It’s going to happen to us all one day so why not have a name ready for when that sad moment comes? Why shouldn’t the club explore unique and innovative opportunities that get people talking about both us and our partners?

Keen eyed observers had already seen the adverts at the Sheffield Wednesday game on Sunday. I was sent this picture, wondering whether George was currently lying low at the Holiday Inn ahead of the announcement of a controversial career change and forthcoming return to West London.

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Not George

Whilst it will be a blow to many, such flights of fancy are yet to transpire. Instead, the true meaning was revealed in yesterday’s announcement. And you can read that one in full on ‘official’.

Otherwise, there’s not really much else to say. Safe travels to Blackburn and roll on 2pm tomorrow when Dean announces his team.

Nick Bruzon