Tag Archives: Griffin Park

Don’t let patchy away form mask longer term potential. Are we preparing for take off?

14 Apr

There’s not much to say about the result, really. Let’s look at the positives. Another goal for Neal Maupay. Another chance for Brentford to make the short trip to Reading next season. Who knows how important it may be to have the 2000+ fans we’ll take to the Madjeski rather than the 500+ we’d likely take to a Wigan Athletic or Rotherham United, for example. That is, assuming of course, that there are no further twists in a Championship race that is reaching an intriguing denouement. Likewise, and we spoke about this yesterday, the position of Charlton Athletic was further strengthened on a Saturday that saw them record a handsome victory over all but promoted Luton Town in League One. With even Millwall hanging in there via a last gasp equaliser at Bramall Lane, our final season at Griffin Park looks like it could have all the makings of a campaign that is played out very close to home.

Ruddy hell, even QPR won yesterday (not a typo) as did Fulham (not a typo). For the former, Championship football is all but a mathematical formality whilst the Cottagers have already been plugging the likes of Stoke, Swansea and Preston into the sat-nav following their rapid demotion from the top flight. And, of course, Brentford. See you next season, chaps. Whilst it would be trite to ignore our own blip in form that has seen the campaign very much decelerating to a gentle halt after briefly teasing a stab at the top six, the focus surely has to be about looking forward.

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See you next season…..

Thomas Frank alluded to this in his own post match press conference. Trying to pluck positives from a 2-1 defeat at Reading, he praised our second half improvement whilst making his intentions clear. “We now have four games left and we need to do everything we can to get 12 points. That’s the aim.” With trips to Millwall and Bolton aswell as visits from Leeds and Preston to come, it’s still possible. With the exception of the Leeds match, you’d bet on victory for the Bees in each of those. Theoretically. Of course Marcelo Bielsa is going to be about as formidable an opponent as they come but we’ve had home advantage over Leeds United in recent seasons and with our visitors having the added pressure of a promotion shoot out (3 into 2 just won’t go) to contend with, who knows what could happen in that one.

Ultimately, it counts for nothing in the short term beyond the mathematical nicety of ending the season as high as we can and increased prize money.  Of course finishing in the top ten once more will be a tremendous notch on the progress chart of Matthew Benham and his directors of football. We’ve done it in the previous four seasons and that must be the final objective for this campaign.  Whether we make it it or not won’t really change what comes next though. Whatever that is. And therein lie the biggest questions as to life at Brentford. With Season Ticket sales racing ahead of previous levels, the fans are already well up for 2019/20. Whatever that brings. 

Will there be more sales? More accumulation of untapped talent that has served us so very well in recent years? For all the derision and scorn poured at Brentford over the years as we moved away from traditional management and scouting techniques, the acquisitions and subsequent sales have more than proven we are on to something. Now, with Lionel Road on the horizon, might the top brass be tempted to ‘stick’ for a season rather than twist? The likes of Daniel Bentley and Yoann Barbet are already amongst those presumed to be on their last knockings. Sadly. Josh McEachran is who knows where (mini golf course?) whilst Ollie, Neal and Said are a holy trinity of players very much coveting some admiring glances from the wider footballing wolrd. That’s before you even factor in Dean Smith. With Aston Villa well set for a play-off push this time around, could he be thinking about using the Villa Park cheque book? Regardless of how that attempt turns out? 

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Whatever else happens, we’ll always have this

For all the paper talk, gossip and click bait nobody actually has a clue what is going to happen. Beyond Mr. Benham and his inner circle. One thing he has done consistently is surprise us all. Flip, we don’t even know what next season’s kit is going to look like or who will be replacing Adidas? How on earth are we meant to be able to figure out a recruitment strategy that has always been played very close to the chest when we don’t even know the colour of the shirt.

Just because we have sold when the price is right in the past, doesn’t mean we’ll do so again when there’s a new stadium on the horizon. How incredible would it be to start life at Lionel Road in the top flight. To make those “Bees up, Fulham down” chants a reality once more.

The fact we’re even having this conversation is ridiculous enough. In the nicest sense possible. That some fans were losing their heads as Autumn turned to Winter because we’d embarked on a bad run of Championship form. Three months later we were talking about play-off potential. That’s life at Griffin Park though. After years of underwhelming performance on the field of play (albeit a whole load of fun off it) we’re now well established. The kids don’t know they’re born.

I apologise for going all ‘during the war’ but some of those league one / two (or equivalent) campaigns over the years have been hard work from a footballing perspective. Some of the players we’ve had plying their trade, whilst full of commitment, did make you wonder just ‘how’ in retrospect. But that’s the level we had to operate at then. This is the quite wonderful scenario we are in now. Where success and victory is the expectation. Multi-million pound players , and sales, are the norm. Even if carried out within a very controlled environment. Nobody wants another Birmingham City or QPR…. 

So we lost to Reading yesterday. Bugger. Away form has been a challenge this time around, certainly compared to previous seasons at this level. There almost seems to be an acceptance amongst fans that we’re weak away from home. Which is not to have a pop at our supporters who have been consistently magnificent on the road . More, that the inability to consistently channel home performances into similar on our travels is perhaps the biggest frustration of all.

Then again, we won at Middlesbrough this season. If we can do that, and if we can hold on to this squad, then who knows what could happen next time around? Either way, I can’t wait. Once we’ve got the small matter of those final four games out of the way. How wonderful will it be to head into the summer holidays smiling, with the prospect of more to come…..

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Despite all the unknowns about next season, it’s a safe bet the Jaffa cake will be retired. Sadly.

Nick Bruzon 

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Of course the football is interesting but what about the other matter…?

10 Apr

Sure, Liverpool and Spurs may have both recorded Champions League victories last night (Porto and Man City respectively) . There’s the potentially intriguing visit of Barcelona to Old Trafford where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team will continue their post-Mourinho resurgence. Manchester United playing with the shackles off once more  – (c) the entire internet. So whilst one could be forgiven for thinking that this week may have been all about the Champions’ League, those focussing on Europe have missed what is, without a doubt, the BIG one. A clash between two of football’s top clubs with a prize bigger than silverware at stake – namely, Championship survival. Forget the UCL, Wednesday evening sees Brentford play host to Ipswich Town.

This is the game that has it all. There’s the return of Alan Judge to Griffin Park. The chance for Thomas Frank and his own boys to get back to winning ways. Biggest of all, Ipswich Town will be relegated should Brentford record the win and the three teams sitting directly above the relegation trapdoor (Reading, Millwall and Wigan) all pick up three points themselves. Even if not tonight, surely it will only be a matter of time before the Tractor Boys find themselves ploughing a lone furrow into League One.    

What else is thee to say about this one? Not much, really. For Brentford, top ten is about as much as we can hope for now. A disappointing run of recent results following that magnificent surge which began just prior to Christmas have seen the slim dream of the play-offs evaporate. Yet by the same virtue, Saturday’s game against Derby County saw us at our attacking best (and defensive worst). No doubt Thomas will be hoping to pick up where we left off in a game that saw us somewhat unfortunate not to end it with all three points whilst the visitors can count heir own blessing that they ended it with all eleven players.

Top ten for a fifth successive season would still be a wonderful achievement. We have a team with an attacking set up to die for. Indeed, it has been the form on the road  – which could be described as patchy at best – that has been our achilles heel this time around. Even yours truly has finally consigned the brown/orange colours to the draw for retired kit. Magnificent though it sill is, even I can tell when the battle is over. Here’s hoping for more change next season.

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All good things come to an end

If nothing else, there’s the mystery of who takes over as kit supplier with our Adidas deal finally set to expire. I’ve heard everybody from Hummel, Puma, Nike, Umbro, New Balance and beyond chucked into the mix. For now, nobody outside the club inner circle knows who it will be and nobody is revealing. Although if Mr. Benham or Kitman Bob are reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) and would like to share the news early then that would be welcomed by all. 

Then again, with Mark Devlin now plying his trade at Dundalk it poses a further question. And not the one of whether chief executives would even ply their trade or if another phrase should be used? With a new team at the top, could this spell an end to the late-summer drip release of the new kit via the chief executive’s proverbial strip tease? We’re normally well behind the other clubs in the annual beauty pageant as the guessing games go on well into the close/closed season. If Jon Varney is reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) then how about bucking the trend? How about going early? How about starting his tenure with about as big a mission statement as one could ask a chief-executive to make?

Come on Jon, get your kits out! 

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Could anything top the 2011 away shirt launch in a bathroom shop window?

Nick Bruzon

Anything but a bore draw as feisty Rams held by Bees

7 Apr

Well wasn’t that the game that had it all?  Aside from, perhaps, a red card. Three times Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) led Brentford. Three times they were hauled back with neither team able to quite make the final breakthrough in a pulsating clash that finished 3-3. On an afternoon that started so brightly with the quite wonderful recognition of the Kick It Out campaign (something we’d been building up to all week) yet ended with the fetid whiff of racism after an individual sitting behind the dug outs was arrested for an aggravated offence against Duane Holmes, the 90 minutes in between were about as pulsating as they come. And as physical. That Derby in particular reached full time with 11 players is a mystery to rank up there alongside how Stonehenge was built or why would anyone chose to watch Mrs. Browns Boys. The answer to both questions presumably involve whips. Being subjected to the alleged comedy about everyone’s ‘favourite’ Irish ‘mammy’ (man, wig, cardigan) must surely by now have been declared as some form of corporal punishment.

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The perfect message before kick off

Brentford did what Brentford do at Griffin Park. Namely, attack without fear of consequence in the knowledge that if we were found wanting at the back (another of our ad-hoc character traits) then there is more than enough presence up top to make ‘goals against’ nothing more irritating than turning on the TV too early for Match Of The Day and coming across the last knockings of Mrs Browns Boys. So to speak. With Said and Ollie pulling the strings out wide, supported by Sergi from the bench, the blistering form of Neal Maupay and our overlapping wingbacks in Henrik Dalsgaard  and the returning Rico Henry it was about as positive as it gets. That’s before you factor in Romaine Sawyers who was at his midfield string pulling best.

It was a very welcome return for Rico Henry, whose role in the second goal showed just how valuable a player he is to this team. On the other flank that rare, for Griffin Park, occasion of a battle between World Cup players  – one past and one present. Early substitute Ashley Cole found himself up against Denmark’s Dalsgaard  in a duel that saw the former Mr. Cheryl Tweedy very much second best. Not for the first time in his life, I’m sure.

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Another player poleaxed

The first half started at 100mph with first Julian Jeanvier and then Neal Maupay levelling things for The Bees after what we could politely call some questionable defending allowed the visitors to nudge ahead. The second goal against us, one which will very much give our defensive coach sleepless nights. In between the game was punctuated by a level of physicality and rogue challenges from the visitors that we’ve not seen since erm, well the visit of West Brom last time out. I guess we should take this as a massive complement. That the only way to stop Brentford at Griffin Park is to foul us. Would that the referee had offered us more protection but with even the linesman failing in his primary duty, that of assistant to a referee who was clearly incapable of doing his job properly, it is no wonder Frank Lampard’s team took advantage.

Yet if County started the opening period taking the game to Brentford, the second half saw roles very much reversed. It was backs to the wall stuff as chance followed chance  and the pressure built.Ooooh. So close. Penalty!!? No. Denied. Great save. Another corner  (don’t take it short, they never f*&king work). Then Derby broke and with the first real attack it was 2-3 . Oh Brentford. You do it to yourself, you do. And that’s what really hurts. Thoughts that this is what you get when you mess with us (like in that film) from the visiting fans as the Derby Karma Police came calling.  But fear not. It was all to be OK. 

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View from the Braemar – Brentford push up in the second half

Who else but Said Benrahma breaking through to fire home for 3-3 with just 7(seven) minutes on the clock. The eruption of joy that followed that one was about as emphatic as they come. And that was just Peter Gilham on the public address system who seemed to have ben set to ‘rogue’. His announcements all game being delivered with an exuberance and joie de vivre that only this most popular of announcers could get away with. Yet this seemed to be theme of the afternoon, with even ‘official’ twitter getting in on the act….

As for those allegations afterwards, such a vile act as racism has no place at Brentford. Or anywhere. We all know what a wonderful place this is for football – it is a furrow that has been ploughed many, many times on these pages. I’ve never watched football at a place where everyone is made to feel welcome regardless of race, colour, creed or preference.

Whilst this allegation seems as alien to me based on anything I’ve ever seen or felt at Griffin Park , if it is found to be true then let’s hope the book is thrown. Even if not, then following on from the recent England games and story at Wigan it has been a sobering reminder for all of us of how much good work is still to be done.

Until more is known, that’s a topic for another day. For now though, it simply remains to bask in the enjoyment of what was a quite wonderful game of football. On this form, I can’t wait for the visit of Ipswich on Wednesday.

Nick Bruzon

 

 

Off-field matters for Brentford (and Liverpool) provide main talking points ahead of Derby County visit.

6 Apr

There’s not too much to say about on-pitch matters today. With Brentford set to welcome Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™, the hope is a simple one. Please, please, please , pleeeease just be better than the last week’s games at Wigan and Swansea. Even slightly. It’s not that much to ask, is it? Elsewhere, Liverpool got the weekend’s proceedings under way at Southampton last night where they duly returned to the top of the Premier league. Their battle with Manchester City proving as intriguing as the one at the top of the Championship – just who is going to blink first? And once more, Matthew Benham proved why he is the club owner like no other.

Hulk_(comics_character)First up, matters at Griffin Park. Brentford have been like the Incredible Hulk this season. At home, a side that seem permanently set to ‘rampage’ mode. An irrepressible, destructive force beating back all comers as easily as a cat toying with a spider. Yet away from home, we’ve been that other side of his alter-ego, Doctor Bruce Banner. All the right ideas but none of the physical prowess.

Last week was the consummate demonstration of our split personality this campaign (I would also accept: Jekyll and Hyde team). I’m sure there may even be a few supporters wishing we were still bedecked in 2017/2018’s gamma ray green rather than the current brown & orange (best. away kit. ever).

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We did ok in green….

Thankfully, we are back home today. This time around Frank Lampard’s etc etc are the visitors. Even allowing for the traditional Leeds United ‘choke’, automatic promotion is probably an aspiration too far. However, sitting 7th(seventh) in the Championship, Derby still have a quite magnificent chance of making the play-offs. It is no doubt a position they will look to strengthen this afternoon although, as ever, might the pressure of a ‘must win’ game play into our hands?

For Brentford, the season is all but mathematically over. The ten points to sixth place just too big a gap to reel n with just 7(seven) games to go. It’s a massive shame that we hit the skids after having hauled ourselves back into contention but that’s how football works. Consistency is rewarded with league position. The table doesn’t lie (obvious, but….) and unfortunately we’ve not been able to do it on the road this time around.

I saw a stat on the BBC which was a damming indictment of what happened on Tuesday evening at Swansea – namely that the Bees attempted just six shots as we went down 3-0. Our lowest in a league match since performing the same feat  having six against Middlesbrough. That’s one attempt every 15 minutes – not great. To put it mildly.

The plus point from that game is that a reaction must surely be imminent. Thomas Frank pulled no punches after the game and has since used his press-conference to note : “We need to bounce back, everyone can see that.  . Add to that our own form at home combined with the aforementioned knowledge that Derby really have to win and I think we’re going to be going home very happy at 5pm. 

It has been a long, long season but a thrilling one. Mostly. If only we’d been able to pick up few more wins away from home then who knows what might have been? Yet with the nucleus of a wonderful squad at his disposal (for now), should Thomas be allowed / able to keep them together, our final season at Griffin Park could be a most incredible one. Here’s hoping that push starts today.

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View from the Braemar – I’m expecting a happy Thomas at full time.

Moving on. I watched the Southampton – Liverpool game last night. Jürgen Klopp’s team showed a relentlessness that money can’t buy. Despite conceding an early goal from Shane Long (not a typo) they just kept going and going until the points were secured. It was a performance that showed them as Hulk like on their travels as they are at home. Anyway, I’m not here to specifically bang about Liverpool – beyond admiring their travelling form. Such chat usually leads into a rant about the media love in and we end up playing Anfield bingo – tick one of your cards for every reference to the Kop being like a twelfth man, “Glory, glory European nights”, the miracle of Istanbul, Shankley, Paisley, Klopp getting over-excited etc 

Instead, it was more just a chance to tear the hair out in regards Jamie Carragher. Back in the early 2000’s Sky TV had a brief flirtation with the red button option for ‘fan commentary’. Should you have been crazy enough to select this, the reward was a supporter from each club pouring forth on their team and the game in question. It was horrific although, to be fair, still better than Richard Keys and Andy Gray. This ‘service’ was quietly pensioned off but now seems to have returned – specifically in the guise of the former Liverpool defender. 

Oh. My. Word. Could he have been anymore biased? Could he have been any more fanboy? We all know he used to play for Liverpool but plenty of ex-players have made that transition from pitch to commentary box. None have quite matched his level of reminding us all how amazing his former are. How excited he is is that they are winning. Even full time saw him running on to the pitch to interrupt Kelly Cates and Gary Neville in the middle of their own post-match interviews as he attempted to take centre stage.

Contrast this to the erudite views, opinions and questioning of Neville (even when Manchester United are on). I’m sure Gary would like to remind us he used to play for a successful team and still follows them, but that’s not the job of being a commentator or a pundit. Likewise  quite wonderful Kelly, as the daughter of Kenny Dalglish, comes form a footballing pedigree that would more than entitle her to rave about Liverpool. Whilst you could understand her wanting to enjoy the moment, there was but nothing beyond consummate professionalism here. 

Look, I’m all for a bit of excitement and enthusiasm but have some class. Have some decorum. Know your audience. If nothing else, Jamie has played the game at the highest level and won some major honours. He’s been there and done it so knows what he is talking about.

Yet instead of this, it was almost like the early days of Beesplayer when from time to time they had to draft in the more excitable elements from the media team. Being able to write about a game isn’t the same as being able to talk about. Before Sky made the quite ridiculous decision to let Natalie Sawyer go, you could see her almost itching to reference the benefit to Brentford every time she was  involved in a game where one of our rivals was shooting themselves in the foot. Instead, she kept it classy. 

I’m sure Carragher has his fans. Good luck to them. And him. You can’t deny his passion but when it comes at the expense of proper analysis then doesn’t it kind of defeat the point? At least, for those of us who just want to enjoy a game of football. Perhaps it’s just me.

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The king and queen of Griffin Park commentary. Jamie could learn a thing or two

And finally, Matthew Benham. We all know our owner has a quite special means of using social media. He doesn’t say too much on Twitter these days but when he does, it’s always worth a look. As happened yesterday evening.

I’m not sure what else I can say, beyond this is quite magnificent. Only at Brentford……

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Nick Bruzon

Could it have been any worse? Well, I’m smiling this morning.

3 Apr

What a night for Brentford fans. Simply magnificent. Twitter was awash with celebrations well into the small hours. Nothing to do with the performance at Swansea City, if one can even call it that, but more the fact that Fulham are down. Officially. They will now have to spend the last five games of the season being described as Fulham (R),  after their inevitable return to the Championship was confirmed at Watford. With Huddersfield Town already doomed, we now know two of the teams that we’ll be lining up against next time around. It’s just a shame that we’ve not been able to fulfil the opening part of the “Bees Up Fulham down” refrain, this time around. Woeful away form will do that to you though.

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Watford administer the fatal blow

The magnificent post-Christmas run that saw us within sniffing distance of the top six has well and truly come to a halt. We’ve not scored in four games whilst away from Griffin Park have been on the wrong end of some pretty turgid performances. Last night’s obliteration by Swansea City had been preceded by the stinkfest at Wigan (0-0), a 1-0 home defeat to West Brom and the post Middlesbrough 2-0 loss at Sheffield United. That’s one point earned in four games where we’ve failed to trouble the scorers. To this we can now add the latest, a 3-0 battering at Swansea City that saw us a goal down within a minute and that lead then doubled in a first half which also saw the hosts hit the crossbar twice.

The ‘highlights’ are here if you can do it to yourself. Oh, those first two goals are awful. One has to feel for the fans who travelled for this.  And the players, although at least Thomas Frank recognised that they knew the level of under. His post-match interview was pulling no punches as he noted,  We can lose. Ok, that’s football but I think the performance we put into the first half was under our normal standards. It was slightly better second half but first half is not good enough, no matter if you concede an early goal or not…we are definitely not satisfied with that and we need to sort it out as soon as possible”.

His interview, which you can see below went on to describe how we had played without intensity or belief. All well and good but why? Is it simply exhaustion as the squad, which has also seen Ryan Woods & Chris Mepham sold for many, many millions, is stretched to the very limits after a long season? Why have we had such a devastating contrast between home and away form? 

Thomas tells it like it is.

Let’s not forget how this season Griffin Park has borne witness to us scoring goals for fun and taking teams apart as easily as a kitten toying with a spider. Rotherham, Hull City and Blackburn Rovers (the latter two as recently as February) were all on the wrong end of five goal hauls. QPR were obliterated last month in a game where the most confusing factor was how we only managed three. The combination of Neal Maupay and Said Benrahma has fans purring like the aforementioned kitten, such has been the prolific nature of their form in recent months. 

So how does wonderful home form (mostly, let’s not linger on the visit from Swansea City where we were three down in about twenty minutes) translate to death on the road? I wish I knew. The second half at the Liberty Stadium in the FA Cup being about as horrific and shambolic as it has been.

That had seen us 1-0 up at HT and heading into the quarter-finals before the self-destruct button was hit and Luke Daniels was left scooping the ball out of his net four times. Five if you count the offside.

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Swansea in the FA Cup wasn’t good.

That’s not to get on the back of the players or the management. The former are amongst the most exciting we’ve had in years. A team packed full of young internationals and goals, goals, goals. Mostly. Thomas, a wonderful orator and that rare quality of being a head-coach who tells it like it is rather than how he would like it to be (#deservedtowin) . How the fans see it. A man who exudes confidence and faith in his squad. We’ve a new stadium being built at Lionel Road, for which surely next season will see a big push in order to open preceding in the top flight. That, in itself, a quite outrageous thing for those of us a bit longer in the tooth it even be considering !

Ultimately, we’ve not blown £100m on players. Oh dear. We’ve not been divisional whipping boys. We’ve not had an owner who has felt compelled to argue with supporters on social media as to whether he attends games or performs unspeakable with dogs. 

For all that Fulham slipped into the Premiership last time around, they’ve dropped out as quickly as they entered. Noses very much bloodied, foam fingers wilting and clappers crushed. The coffers emptied and a third manager now in charge. Scott Parker unable to arrest the dreadful form seen under Claudio Ranieri who himself had been unable to arrest the dreadful form seen under Slaviša Jokanović. 

Swansea City may have ensured that it won’t be Bees up but Watford definitely pressed the button to make it Fulham down. The season has had plenty of smiles and despite our own performance last night, I’ve woken up with another one across my face.

Here’s to a few more against Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ on Saturday. 

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The season has still had plenty of smiles

Nick Bruzon

Deploy the fishing rod emoji and brace for impact after points deduction

22 Mar

Poor old Birmingham City (yeah, yeah, yawn – I’’m “obsessed”). With Brentford having caught right up with our Championship rivals, to the extent of being a single point behind them with a game in hand as we head into international break, that gap has suddenly leapt to a whopping 8 in our favour. This after Sky and BBC WM (amongst others) today reported the point deduction awarded to the St. Andrews outfit for breaching profitability and sustainability regulations. It is a sanction meted out as a result of the club losing  £37.5m in the 12 months up until June 2018 after Harry Redknapp had gone shopping the previous summer. That, of course, a spending spree which saw Jota, Maxime Colin and Harlee Dean added to a wage bill that may have been ten times better for the players but has proven anything but for the club. With any punishment for the fan led assault on Jack Grealish in the Aston Villa game still lurking in the wings, who knows if there could be more to follow?

Yeah, yeah. I’m obsessed. Apparently. I love it though and don’t deny focussing on Blues. A lot. If for no other reason than they are a great yardstick as to our own progress. Can a team who plays fair and invests wisely, yet frugally, out play a free spending outfit with Premier League experience and a big stadium? A team who once had their moment in the sun but are now very much in the top flight shadows. See also: Leeds united, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough.  

Having finished above Birmingham for the previous four seasons in the Championship we’re now in serious danger of making that five out of five since promotion from League One. And it is magnificent.

Of course there’s the arrogance of so many fans on social media. Of course there are the cracks about being ‘tinpot’. About ‘little’ ‘teams like Brentford. But they are an irrelevance to me and to most Bees. Bring it on. All day long. We eat that crap for breakfast. It keeps us going. Inspires us. See also: Leeds United, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough. Size counts for nothing. Quite frankly,  the bigger you think you are the harder you fall. As is now being proven. The Twitter tears today are a quite magnificent thing to behold.

Of course there was big mouth Harlee Dean and his infamous ‘ten times better’ quote. As diplomacy goes, it was up there with Martin Rowlands and Russell Slade in the cult hero stupidity stakes (typo). Henry Kissinger, he ain’t. But we more than made our point about that in the two games which followed as Brentford scored 7(seven) without reply to secure another win double for the season. The post match lap of honour and singalong, as Big Bee Radio went rogue, the stuff of legend.

Yet for me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things bear repeating. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day.

1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning ,  there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a  3-1 aggregate win.

Deano and Bliss

The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as  Birmingham edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.

However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the campaign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.

Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).

Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..

And now, bringing things bang up to date, the nine point deduction sees us overtake Birmingham City once more. It is as familiar a tale as Brentford cocking up a play-off campaign. I’m not going to deny a smile upon hearing the news yet equally, I’m now desperate to make sure we finish the campaign ten times better off then them. Points wise. Let’s make sure that we’d have made it five successive finishes above Birmingham on playing ability alone, regardless of any punishment. 

So, yes. I DO focus on Birmingham City. A lot. But it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. The current rumours about Saïd Benrahma are proof alone of that.

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Just how much is he worth now?

Ultimately, a nine point deduction will make no immediate difference. City won’t go down whilst they were never in any real danger of assaulting the play-offs. Current form alone (LLLL) was conspiring against them. Yet this does, at least, look to mitigate against those trying to buy their way to success without having the resource to do it. Trying to consistently spend beyond their means, whatever the consequence . However fairly the others are doing it. Aka – cheating.

Big spenders, beware. And also owners looking to hire Harry.

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Not my words but those of the BBC

Nick Bruzon

Uncanny parallels on a day of Gayle v gale as the run comes to an end.

17 Mar

And with that, the home streak was over. After 7 (seven) straight wins at Griffin Park, Brentford went down to West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in a game dominated by two goalkeepers and awful conditions. On a day windier than a naughty puppy at Christmas after snafflling an entire family size tub of Roses, it was West Brom who played both the conditions and the ref to win the game with their one moment of true quality – Kyle Edwards embarking on mazy run through the midfield and the Brentford defence to steer it past Luke Daniels six minutes into the second half. Elsewhere, there was more than a passing interest in how our own FA Cup conquerors, Swansea City, would fare in the next round at home to Manchester City. It would be fair to say there was no irony lost in how that one turned out. But we can only start with matters at Griffin Park.

The writing was on the wall before the game even kicked off in anger, if we’re being honest. And not just the appointment of Andy Madley as our ‘referee’. There was that lowest of low tricks at the toss – changing ends. I’m not a fan of having to kick ‘the wrong way’ in the first half. It doesn’t feel right and gets everybody’s back up. Especially given it meant we’d spend the second period kicking into the wind. And it was strong, very strong. The trees behind the away end were bending double whilst three balls were lost over the stadium roof after being hoofed high into the gusty stratosphere.

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View from the Braemar – West Brom had it when to counted. Sadly.

It was a bad start to the game but entirely understandable given the circumstances. Despite pressure and chances, the Bees were unable to find a way past Sam Johnstone in goal for the opposition in that opening period. It was another game where we went for it from the off.

Yet where previously we’ve had the ability to step it up in the second period, this time there was no way through. The elements providing a massive help to a team who defended with strength whilst cynically running down the clock at every opportunity. The ball was kicked away whenever possible, the ref allowed The Baggies to get in his ear and under his skin, throw ins were delayed and dives that would have had Tom Daley smiling were common place.

Much as against Sheffield United midweek, Brentford were locked out by well drilled opponents. When the chances came, the ball didn’t quite fall right or Johnstone was on hand to pull off top drawer saves. One in particular, from a Yoann Barbet free kick, had the fans out of their seats for 1-0 Brentford before the diving’ keeper’s outstretched palm managed to guide it to safety at the explosion of the ‘goal’ celebration. Canos and Maupay also came close but it wasn’t to be. 

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View from the Braemar – Yoann comes close. So close.

When West Brom had their own opportunity, Edwards took it with style. There can be no complaints about the way he started and finished the move. Even if there were plenty afterwards as the clock headed towards it’s inexorable denouement with all the pressure and tension of a losing Countdown contestant trying to make a last round word out of JKXDZBEIO.

More so, when referee Madley followed a strong first hour with a final thirty minutes which suggested his focus was anywhere but on ensuring the game could flow. His own performance very much going to the dogs as Brentford battled against Dwight Gayle, a roaring gale and a rogue ref.

So after the play-off dream had briefly raised its head in recent weeks, we’re now nine points off the top six with nine games to go. Given the way this team can play, I’m not going to say it’s over until it’s over. But being realistic, things are going to need a remarkable swing.

On the plus side, we’ve got international break to all catch our breath and recuperate before that final push begins at the end of the month with two away games – Wigan Athletic and then a midweek trip to Swansea City. At the very least, another top ten finish is more than attainable. Another finish over the likes of Birmingham City and QPR well within our grasp.

Yesterday was frustrating and notably so, given the conditions we had to watch the game in. Whilst I’d never trade being at Griffin Park for TV, there was a pang of jealousy about the comfort of those watching ‘on screen’ from sunnier climes.

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Not exactly TW8….

Still, if it was all about the comfort then you may aswell stay at home. Something a group of West Brom fans must have been wishing after putting on the worst pre-match display for TV’s Soccer AM since, well, that day we don’t talk about against Doncaster Rovers.

With football done, it was back home to catch up on the FA Cup action. In particular, the game between Swansea City and Manchester City. That one being of particular interest to Bees fans after we’d seen a 1-0 half time lead at the Liberty Stadium in the previous round turn into a 4-1 fifth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where a free kick had beaten Luke Daniels, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 1-1.

So there was no irony lost as Swansea saw a 2-1 second half lead at the Liberty Stadium turn into a 3-2 sixth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where Sergio Aguero’s penalty had beaten Kristoffer Nordfeldt, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 2-2.

That the penalty decision, like Aguero’s late winner, had probably been made the wrong way can only have added to the sense of frustration felt by the home fans. Tell me about it. Yet another two fingers up delivered from VAR or, more the case, the lack of VAR. The FA Cup only allowing the system to be used in games players at Premier league grounds. Nothing like keeping the competition consistent, eh? 

For Manchester City, an incredible opportunity to scoop a quadruple still awaits. For Brentford and Swansea City, we’re back to the drawing board. The Championship play-offs remain a mathematical possibility but are going to take an incredible combination of wins and favours from other teams.

 With Leeds United and Frank Lampard’s Derby county still to visit, who knows what might sill happen…..

Nick Bruzon

Bees hoping for more, more, more as West Brom visit this afternoon

16 Mar

What a run it has been for Brentford. 7(seven) wins in succession at Griffin Park. The crowd behind the team. The team playing for fun. Those full time celebrations and walks around the paddock now becoming a very welcome, and regular, feature. Most of all, it’s fun. The smiles are broad and the goals are flying in. I love it and can’t wait for the next game to come around. However, promotion chasing West Bromwich Albion are in town today and will be the latest team looking to put a spoke in the wheel of Thomas Frank’s runaway home form. Everybody needs to be on red alert for this one. Despite relieving manager Darren Moore of his duties last week, they got back to winning ways on Wednesday night against Swansea City. It was a game which featured what must surely be a contender for worst. penalty. ever as the Swans missed out on the opportunity to equalise in quite spectacular style. When you have that level of fortune smiling on you, it’ll be no surprise if The Baggies come in to this one with their tails up. Yet with the table still tight and The Bees 7(seven) points off 6th with a game in hand, despite our own midweek slip up at Sheffield United, there’ll be no excuses for not going at this one full tilt.

And full tilt is what Thomas Frank specialises in. Our home record speaks for itself whilst last month saw Brentford hit five goals at Griffin Park on two separate occassions. Hull City and Blackburn Rovers being the teams to take that pummelling at the back. QPR were put to the sword with what looked like consummate ease last time we were all here. Then, of course, there was the win on the road at Middlesbrough. Finally, it happened. What a reward for all the hard work, effort and self-belief.

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Thomas celebrates at home. Again

Even our substitutions are positive. There’s no looking to run down the clock or grind it out in the last few minutes with additional defenders or holding midfielders. Instead, Thomas is swapping one attacking player for another. It worked a treat in that QPR game whilst was a tactic deployed very early up at Sheffield United. It was a tactic that almost paid off against a side whose own defence is tighter than a pair of 80’s football shorts.   

As for the team, Saïd Benrahma has been on fire and this week captured the Championship goal of the month award for February aswell as also being earlier nominated in the ‘player’ category. Neal Maupay is becoming a cult hero to rival the best of those we’ve seen over the years as he mixes fighting spirit with goals. His 20 in the league, to date, is a figure beaten only by a small clutch of players and the crowd love him. Sergi is once more playing like the Sergi of old. Romaine is the absolute unsung hero of the side. The choice of wing backs and three centre backs is giving both added protection in along with another option of being able to turn defence into attack. 

The squad is about as full strength as one could hope for at this point in the season. Rico Henry remains absent whilst, of course, Daniel Bentley is a casualty of that game at Middlesbrough. Luke Daniels came in for the Sheffield United game and Thomas has already confirmed he’ll be starting again today. We’ve all see what Luke can do over the last couple of seasons and he can, perhaps, count himself unlucky not to have been given a chance earlier on this tie around. The life of a goalkeeper must be a frustrating one at times.

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Saïd, Neal and the team are providing goals and smiles

So it all sounds very promising for The Bees but let’s not forget the small matter of our visitors. West Brom almost pulled off an 11th hour stay of execution from Premier League relegation last time out and they’ve picked up where they left off. At least, in terms of position. The play off zone has been an almost constant feature this time out, something that their illustrious neighbours (please note, your definition of illustrious may vary) have really struggled with in recent seasons following their own demotions from the top flight. Aston Villa and Birmingham City, I’m looking at you. 

Dwight Gayle is still banging them in, sitting just behind Neal in the Championship goal scorers table. He has managed 3 from his last 2 games against The Bees and will no doubt be looking to improve on that today. The run of results that saw Darren Moore pushed out was immediately reversed with that 3-0 defeat of Swansea City. If nothing else, could the change of manager (given what many fans were describing as confusing tactics) and the huge slice of luck in ‘that penalty’ prove pivotal in lifting them back to a position of being promotion favourites ?

All is forgiven, Marcello…

My heart says ‘home win’ today. Brentford have been on fire, especially at Griffin Park, whilst West Bromwich Albion are still dusting themselves down after the upheaval and wayward performances of the last few weeks. Yet with the visitors looking to lock down their play-off position and the Bees still with hopes of ghosting up the table to sixth, could pressure and expectation be the biggest factors here? Will the winning team be the one the handles this the best? Or will Thomas Frank have more of those wonderful motivational cards up his sleeve to inspire the team and the fans to another home win?

I’m just the numpty on the terrace and have no means of being able to answer that with any form of accuracy. But I tell you what, I can’t wait for kick off to find out how this one is going to go. It promises to be as exciting a game as any we’ve had to date.

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Last Tango In Brentford ? Or dancing in the streets of Algiers?

8 Mar

Bring on Middlesbrough. Brentford are back in action on Saturday after what has felt a somewhat disjointed week in terms of footballing action. For the interested observers / half & half scarf wearers amongst us, there was the excitement of Manchester United doing their thing in the Champions League as Real Madrid failed to do theirs. Yet for us Bees last weekend’s thumping of QPR now seems as far off as the chances of Fulham staying in the Premier league. Keep up the good work, Scott. That victory over the Loftus Road mob was another emphatic notch in Thomas Frank’s metaphorical bedpost as he made it 7(seven) wins in a row at Griffin Park. Yet the big questions as we head up to the Riverside were whether that form could be replicated on the road this season, would Saïd Benrahma scoop the Championship’s player of the month award for February and is it going to be a case of ‘Au revoir, Yoann Barbet’ ? 

First up, Middlesbrough. If ever there was to be a test of our credentials then here it is. If ever there was to be a question as to whether the play-offs are a genuine aspiration then here it is. The game marks a run of three in two weeks against sides going for promotion. Boro’ are currently in the zone, as are Tuesday night hosts Sheffield United and then next Saturday’s visitors in West Bromwich Albion. It is about as tough a run as we could have served up yet the price for success needs no spelling out with the gap to the top six currently reeled in to eight points.

We all know our Championship record against Middlesbrough doesn’t make great reading. We all know that Brentford playing away from home this season doesn’t take a genius to predict how we’ll perform – regardless of the kit colour we turn out in. Had we been able to translate home form to away then the top flight would be beckoning. So this one will be about as tough as it comes. Moreso given the home sides’s miserly defence. Thomas Frank used his press conference to note that “I can only praise Tony Pulis (for Boro’s defensive record) because it’s fantastic.

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Thomas celebrates at home. Away would be wonderful !!

Indeed it is. Sadly. Only 24 goals have been conceded in 34 league games. Yet there are positives to be taken, too. Firstly, past form counts for nothing. Brentford may not have beaten Boro’ since our paths have crossed in this division but that was then and this is now. Players change and the squad we have now is not the one it was then. Results from seasons gone by count for nothing more than statistical niceties / horror shows (delete as applicable). Believing they are anything more is akin to suggesting that the colour of our away kit dictates performance. Jinx shirts? Never heard such nonsense. Move along now. Nothing to see here. 

The other topic of conversation that came up in Thomas’s ’ press conference was that of Yoann Barbet. His contract is up at the end of the season and the word on the terrace is that he won’t be staying. Which would be tragic given his relative longevity at Griffin Park, his popularity, his versatility and the role in our new look defence that he has made his own. If ever there was a player who embodied that cliche about cutting them open to discover that they bleed red & white / brown & orange it is Yoann.

So when pushed on the point yesterday the answer was one which suggested the clock is ticking and farewell collections are going around the changing room. Thomas has been quoted as saying :”We know that Yoann is very popular among the fans. He is very popular among the staff too. He has done very well in the back three. He is a player that we would like to keep at the club but there needs to be two to tango”.

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View from the Braemar – Yoann sums up the spirit in the Bees camp

We all know the club model. That players come and go – especially if valuations are met. New talent emerges to replace that which has departed. Contracts may not necessarily be offered or, certainly, at the level asked for. Nobody knows for sure what is happening here but the words from the club suggest the ball is in the player’s court. Whether it is one he wants to pick up remains another thing.

Personally, I’ve heard a lot of terrace talk (conjecture rather than the much lamented matchday video feature) and of course, have no idea what is true. So it doesn’t get published. Do we take the club’s words at face value? Would Yoann want to stay? How hard do we fight? Or is this simply part of the ongoing cycle of players coming in, impressing and eventually moving on. Whatever happens, you can absolutely bet he’ll be giving his all until the end of the season. And hopefully beyond.

The final news heading in to the Boro’ game was that of the monthly EFL awards. There was genuine surprise when Saïd Benrahma wasn’t even nominated for January’s player of the month prize following a quite magnificent start to 2019.

As such, there were belated plaudits when he was named on the shortlist for February’s award earlier this week. Surely this time the honours would be Saïd’s?

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View from the Braemar – Saïd is as popular with the fans as Yoann

Sadly not, as it transpired this morning. The club breaking the news on twitter (below) although there’s still a chance to sweep our man to some deserved glory. The chance to vote for him to scoop ‘goal of the month’ is still available, if you follow the link. Whilst he’s up against some divisional rivals with huge fan bases, as Ajax proved at Real Madrid this week it isn’t always the biggest club that wins. Whatever they may expect. So go on – get voting.

Then onwards and upwards to Middlesbrough.

Nick Bruzon 

Bees put a quarter pound of rubbish back in the bin as Thomas makes it 4 and 7(seven) in a row.

3 Mar

This is getting embarrassing now. Another home game, another win for Brentford. That’s 7(seven) on the bounce. Another visit from QPR, another win for Brentford. That’s four on the bounce. The latest, Saturday’s 3-0, was about as one-sided as they get. But for a somewhat moribund first half performance from both sides, with neither willing to concede first blood in the penultimate 237 derby to take place at Griffin Park, it could likely have been another 5 goal finish for the Bees. In the end we had to settle for goals from Sergi, Saïd and Neal’s 20th of the season – from the spot – to keep the points safe and see Queens Park Rangers fans streaming out early as though the proverbial fire-drill was taking place. Elsewhere, the excitement continued North of the Border where Partick Thistle and their ebullient mascot Kingsley even got in on the act.

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Thomas celebrates at full time

But we can only start at Griffin Park. It was magnificent. Again. That’s starting to become a regular phrase on these pages but when you see Brentford scoring goals for fun then it’s no surprise. The approach play has the crowd on the edge of their seats ; the inevitable finishes have them leaping high into the air. The excitement palpable. The celebrations euphoric.

Once more it was Neal Maupay who lead the charge. The first came from the penalty spot after Keith Stroud decreed that Ollie Watkins had, indeed, been thrown to the ground. The finish was as calm and comfortable as they have been all season from the spot. If ever there was a moment when the occasion might get the better of him then here it was. Instead, the net rippled and the crowd exploded.

The poacher turned provider for our second, breaking down the right and riding a challenge from goalkeeper Lumley outside the box that would have had Keith reaching for his red had the Frenchman tumbled. But no, with the scent of goal in his nostrils Maupay evaded the lunge and squared the ball for that man Benrahma to fire home. 2-0 and game over.

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Yesssss!!! HB celebrates at 2-0

It could have been more even prior. Dalsgaard producing a stunning save from Lumley with a point blank header whilst Kamo, amongst others, came close after the Bees had opened up our opponents as easily as somebody deploying an umbrella when the heavens open. 

QPR had no response. If they had looked out of it after the penalty, they were dead and buried now. All they could produce was gallows humour from the away end as they started singing about having had one shot. That, from Jake Bidwell, causing more danger to his own fans sitting in the upper tier than Daniel Bentley and his rock solid defence.

Yet rather than attempt to lock it down, Thomas Frank kept going. With just shy of ten minutes to go, the stage was surely set for Josh McEachran. But no. Instead we were treated to more pace as Emiliano Marcondes and Sergi Canos were introduced to the field of play. The crowd celebrated (and consulted the big book of Brentford tactics).

It proved to be inspirational stuff as the fresh legs mad further inroads into the already porous blue and white ‘defence’. More importantly, keeping the ball down the correct end until Sergi wrapped things up with another word class run and finish deep into injury time. 3-0. Dead and buried. Game over. 

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Sergi (and team) celebrate the third

The goals are up on the Sky Sports website. Enjoy them again. Please. With them comes a win that sees Brentford up one place in the table to sit four points off tenth and eight off the play-off zone with twelve to play. Is that possible? 

Well, if home form could translate to away then who dares to dream. Next up is a trip to Middlesbrough. If there is to be any aspiration of reeling in our rivals and making an incredible leap towards the top flight then now is the time to find our feet on the road. Moreso given that the game immediately after is a midweek trip to Sheffield United. By the time we all come together at Griffin Park once more, Thomas Frank could be planing for next campaign in the Championship or masterminding a blitzkrieg assault on the upper echelons of the table with only one target in sight. Sixth place.

That’s to come, of course. For now I’m still buzzing about another stunning performance from Brentford. Griffin Park is certainly the place for goals, points and excitement. Off the pitch as well as on it where man-with-the-mic Peter Gilham, for whom the attempted takeover of ’67 is still fresh in the mind, was steadfast in his refusal to acknowledge QPR. At various points in the afternoon he described them as the visitors, the opposition and just about anything else he could find from a well thumbed thesaurus. Kudos to the legend that is PG for sticking to his principals so strongly.

We all know what this one means to him. Even the players. Saïd celebrated his goal by running the entire length of the Braemar Road touchline. Whilst we weren’t sure what that particular celebration was about at the time, Thomas Frank would later reveal that the player had gone in search of Peter. To give him a hug and celebrate together. What a club !! 

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Saïd celebrates whilst looking for Peter

He wasn’t the only one celebrating. Hats off to football’s best mascot (that isn’t Buzzette). North of the border it would be fair to say that Partick Thistle’s Kingsley seemed pleased about his mention in the match day programme. 

If the  potential of Brentford going up a division is one to tantalise, equally exciting is the prospect of one day getting Buzzette and Kingsley together. What a photo-op. What an image.

Full time saw the players perform their now customary lap of Griffin Park at full time. The smile on Saïd’s face, in particular, almost as broad as those on the faces of the fans he stopped to talk with. Which was just about everyone along the Braemar Road paddock.

Thomas Frank was sporting an old school Bees scarf he’d, presumably, picked up from somewhere along the way before making his way to the press box for a chat with the BBC Radio London team of Billy Reeves, Sam Parkin and Phil Parry.

I can’t wait to hear that one in full. Just to see him walking around the ground and talking to fans, you can feel how much this all means to Thomas. How much he is enjoying life but, also, empathises with the supporters and the players. The aforementioned double-substitution was yet another demonstration of his ability to buck the trend and deviate from the Brentford norm.

Then again, the performances his team are puling out of the bag are evidence of that. Get things right away from Griffin Park and this could be a run-in to end them them all

As the song goes, “I did it myyyy wayyyyyy”. And yesterday, he certainly did.

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(with thanks to the brilliant BBC Billy)

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Saïd and young fans enjoy the moment at full time

Nick Bruzon