Tag Archives: Harlee Dean

One shot. One goal. No excuses. No sales.

4 Aug

Every good run comes to an end. Birmingham City enjoyed that rarest of experiences on Saturday afternoon, victory over Brentford, after coming away from Griffin Park with all three points for the first time since 2016. It was our first home defeat on the opening game of a season since 1992 – that, a 2-0 loss to Wolves which ushered in the start of the post Dean Holdsworth era and saw talismanic Terry Evans crocked for the vast majority of the campaign. It almost felt like that with Neal Maupay missing amid the stories linking him with Brighton, Aston Villa et al not going away. Yet there was plenty to be encouraged by  from what was, ultimately, a frustrating afternoon. One not helped by referee Gave Ward doing his very best to lose control of the game in the second half.

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Deano and Terry  – their last game together as Bees

With transfer speculation hanging heavy in the air, there was an audible gasp when the team was announced 59 minutes before kick off. Or was that just my asthma? No Neal Maupay in the 18. A bench where Josh Clarke was the most experienced of those named by Thomas Frank. Kamo and Benrahma both absent (although that had been expected, given fitness reasons as much as anything else).

Despite those missing, Ollie Watkins (whose name has been linked with Crystal Palace on the clickbait sites all week) did start and hit the ground running. As did my man of the match, Sergi Canos. With Pontus Jansson named as captain at the heart of a three man central defence the new look Brentford  team still had a solid feel to it. And it WAS new look, with only three of those who started the equivalent game last season, the 5-1 pasting of Rotherham, beginning this one. Sergi, Ollie and Henrik – for the record.  

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View from the Braemar – Captain Jansson impressed.

But with Peter Gilham getting the crowd going, his task aided by the presence of Harlee Dean (C) in the blue of Birmingham City, Thomas Frank’s boys wasted no time in pouring forward. Surely it was only a matter of time. Boom – the crossbar hit not once but twice in close succession as the goal threatend. A clutch of great saves from Lee Camp. Another onto the post. Shots fizzing just wide. A goal was coming….wasn’t it?

We’re in danger doing a Brentford here”, I quipped to one Braemar Road observer sitting alongside after the second shot onto the bar. That, from Marcondes who may be disappointed not to have found the net in retrospect.  Within 30 seconds Kristian Pedersen had headed the visitors into the lead. A quickly taken free kick where I’m not sure if Mr. Ward had even blown was met deep. Nobody picked up Pedersen’s short run and his precision header looped over and in from distance. One effort. One goal. One nil to the visitors. 

Much like Shakira’s hips, the stats don’t lie. At least, the one that says ‘goals scored’.  Despite that being they solitary time Birmingham threatened, and our own first half dominance which saw the game end on 76% possession to Brentford, the only piece of data that really counts is balls in the back of the net. And Birmingham City edged that. Somehow. Yet goals win games and, as such, one can’t try to deny them the points.

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Brentford 0 Birmingham City 1

Looking across social media and match reports, the ‘d’ word is being floated around by all manner of observers. Deserved, not Dean. Yes, we looked fantastic at times. Yes, we DID play well in the first half. Very.  But NO, we didn’t deserve to win because we couldn’t score a goal. We slowed down noticeably in the second half and looked laborious in the build up where the cut and thrust of the wide men and wing backs had diminished noticeably. No matter how leaden, physical and solid Birmingham City looked, they did manage to score and then succeeded in closing us out. On the plus side, I take heart from the clear and almost universal recognition of the way played for a significant chunk of this game.

I liked the look of Mathias Jensen in the centre of the park when he was able to push forward although Romaine and Kamo were clearly conspicuous by their absence. Josh Dasilva struggled whilst one free kick that he took from the heart of Saunders territory ended up in the heart of Tarkowski territory as it cleared the Ealing Road stand.

Romaine’s not coming back – we’ll just have to get over it – but Kamo’s presence around the ground did put a smile on the face at full time. As did a chance encounter with Sam Saunders who was as amiable as ever when discussing the game with an enthralled HB. Something all the more special given that the uttering of standard line: “And this is Saunders territory…” when the aforementioned free kick was awarded was met with the response “Daddy? What IS Saunders territory?” Where do you even start? Just not with the wife….

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Ian Moose was loitering. Amazingly, a look at his Twitter feed this morning shows there’s no criticism of Neal Maupay’s performance. Despite the player’s absence it is a mode that seems so hard-wired into the Talk Sport shock jock that I half expected to see some form of negativity towards Neal. Perhaps the pillars were in his way.

For now though, there’s nothing more to do beyond clenching the buttocks ahead of our trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday.  We’ve another painful wait until the transfer window finally slams shut at 5pm on Thursday afternoon. Will Neal still be here or might Brighton make an offer we can’t refuse? Has Said’s absence made him invisible to big spending Aston Villa? Indeed, has Dean Smith run out of money after his latest acquisitions this week in Tom Heaton and Marvelous Nakamba ? Might the Griffin Park ‘in’ door swing further ? 

All or none of the above happening wouldn’t surprise me. The one thing to expect these days is the unexpected. Let’s not forget that despite all the rumours and whispers, nothing has actually happened as it stands. None of the names in the frame have left the club. All we can do is sit tight and wait to see who Thomas has available when the team sheet is handed in at the Riverside.

Enjoy.

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The look from Thomas says it all….

Nick Bruzon

Strap yourselves in. Here we go…..

3 Aug

Dear Gary Lineker and the Match Of The Day team. The football season has started. Whilst you’ll likely be telling us next weekend that the beautiful game is back when the top flight kicks off in anger, things are already underway in some style. Last night saw the goalkeeping calamity that was the 3-3 between Luton Town and Middlesbrough then this afternoon we have the small matter of Brentford v Birmingham City at Griffin Park as the Championship opens in style. Fulham travel to Barnsley and QPR are at Stoke as we once more enjoy the side-battle of seeing who is the best team in West London at this level. There’s the obligatory Leeds United TV game on Sunday before we round things off with the visit of Frank Lampard’s former club Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ to Huddersfield Town. As importantly, North of the border there’s a cry for help from my pal Kinglsey at Partick Thistle as he takes on Gunnersaurus (Arsenal) in the final of the Mascot World Cup. 

Oh, wow. This is it. We’re here. Season Ticket has arrived. Programme column has been submitted. Plans to meet up for pre-match beers locked in. Early morning stroll around Griffin Park taken.

I had to. One last chance to breathe in the start of a new campaign before the big move up the road. To enjoy the clam before the oncoming storm. It’s a glorious morning in Brentford with clear skies and the sun up just after 6am. Pack the factor 50. And that’s just for the action on pitch where the occasion of a visit from Birmingham City is always a special once. Even better, when it kicks off our season.

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Early morning, Griffin Park. Welcome home…

This one is sure to be sizzling. The game is close to a sell out and Birmingham will be on raucous form. If nothing else, it’s not very often they can say they are unbeaten in a Championship campaign yet that is, technically, what their record shows at present with Luton Town toping the fledgling table. So spirits will be high. At least, hopefully, until things kick off. Brentford are strengthened by the fact that, to date, only Romaine Sawyers and Ezri Konsa (£££ ker-chingg) have been sold whilst we welcome a host of summer signings of whom Pontus Jansson from Leeds United is the obvious high profile name.

I’m genuinely excited by seeing him in action. We all know Pontus of old. He’s one of those players who has always been a thorn under the saddle. A player who wears his heart on his sleeve. Who has broken ours in the past. Last season at Elland Road in particular. Who has captained his national side and played in the finals for the World Cup. See also: Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford.

And now Pontus is a Bee  – signed over the summer at short notice and on a (relative) cut price fee compared to the £10m valuation that was floating around last season. This is bonkers. But brilliant. Something special is happening at Griffin Park and if we can survive the next few days with the squad unscathed then it could be a very special campaign indeed.

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

Thomas Frank and the team ended on a real high last time. The second half of the season, trips to Swansea aside, saw us in buoyant form. The team were really firing with Said and Neal, in particular, on scintillating form. There will be no Benrahma today (fitness) but Thomas has already confirmed that both Ollie Watkins and the free-scoring French frontman – (c)  The Middlesex Chronicle big book of Brentford alliteration – are available. Whether they start remains to be seen but common sense dictates that it will be the bench, at best, simply given a lack of pre-season match prep. Then again, this is Brentford. Who knows? We do love a surprise or two.   

As for Birmingham City, there’s not much else to say. There’s an element of their fanbase who seem obsessed with Brentford, going by social media, but as much as anything else for me they are always a great yardstick of our own progress. As we’ve said before, the 90s were a period where our paths seemed permanently inter-twined and, sadly, it was Blues who came out on top more often than not. Albeit that last weekend at Peterborough was about as special as they get. Then they went up during the 94-95 single team promotion season. We came second after going neck and neck (including defeat at St.Andrews three games out from the end) so it was the play-offs. Hmmmm.

If those newer fans think ‘that penalty’ hurt (and it did) the prolonged agony of that campaign concluding and Bees just missing out as what would have been the toughest of promotions came tantalisingly close was another level of pain. Especially given our fate was then confirmed by Play-off semi-final defeat, on penalties, to Huddersfield Town. It was about as gut wrenching as it gets. Nobody needs any more reminder of that or the hero that is Bob Taylor somehow missing that unmissable open goal at the McAlpine in the first leg.

And that was it.  Until recently. We’ve been together for what is now a sixth season, despite Birmingham doing their level best to get relegated on more than one occasion. Yes. Harlee Dean did something stupid. Plus ça change. That’s something he’ll have to live with and which Brentford fans will never let him forget.

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How IS that working out?

That’s not obsession but more part of what makes football so magnificent. Those ad-hoc moments that turn into club folklore. Martin Rowlands kissing the badge. Saint & Greavsie prematurely awarding Birmingham City the 91-92 Third Division title before Gary Blissett did his thing at Peterbrough. Russell Slade whining about our celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup. Pontus Jansson’s half-chewed biro. And, of course, the Bees responding to his Birmingham City ‘ten times better’ claim by finishing above Blues for a fourth, and then last season fifth, successive Championship campaign.

No doubt #BeeThDJ will be filled with requests for Daydream Believer today. No doubt the club will ignore them. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. It WAS brilliant fun for the fans when it happened but let’s never go back. Instead, it should remain as another of those folklore moments those of us fortunate to experience will never forget. 

He said it. Not me.

History is great. It should be a means of measuring progress. A means of inspiring. That’s what Birmingham City are for me as much as anything else. Inspiration. Now the chance to write another page in our history begins today. Of course, it is the final season at Griffin Park. We’re going to see and hear loads about that this campaign. Take it all in. Enjoy every second. Once it’s gone, it IS gone. But at the same time, let’s not use it as a distraction. This is a unique opportunity to combine the inspiration with the history.  And I cannot wait for things to get going. Roll on 3pm. See you there.

And if you need something to do prior to kick off, this week has seen the World Cup of Football Mascots unfolding on Twitter. Whilst Buzzette was not selected for the group stage (are they mad?)  that perennial favourite of these pages, Kingsley, was.

The Partick Thistle legend is now in the final against Gunnersaurus of Arsenal and needs your help. Please. At the time of writing, the North London club’s dinosaur (their mascot, not Piers Morgan) is just ahead in the poll but there is still time to turn things around. You can vote below. As long as it’s for Kingsley.

I caught up with my good friend last night (with apologies for going Ian Moose there) and he has promised to visit Griffin Park this season should he end up lifting the trophy. So please, get involved. Imagine the union that would be a coming together of him and Buzzette. If nothing else, its nice to enjoy a ‘World Cup of…’ that’s NOT being promoted by Richard Osman. Much as I enjoy his Pointless show, and I do, the link to his team is always a disturbing one.

We all know Buzzette is awesome. I defy anyone to name a better mascot in the top four divisions. Nice try, Wigan Athletic, but no cigar. Yet things are pretty special at Partick Thistle, too. So please – a vote for Kingsley is a vote for mascot magnificence. Who else could get away with this?  

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Nick Bruzon

This is my last request. And have Beesotted seen the transfer vultures circling?

26 Jul

If you hold your breath, you can almost hang on until the season proper kicks off. Brentford have beaten Norwich City midweek. We host Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon as the final bit of prep ahead of ‘the big kick off’ ™ against Birmingham City. The squad numbers have been released and we’re good to go. All that is needed is for the accursed transfer window to shut and all will be good with the footballing world. Talk of West Bromwich Albion or Aston Villa nothing more than a passing reminder about the butt-clenching way in which business is now conducted.

What can we say at this juncture? Word on the street (and by which I mean Beesotted, so a ‘legitimate’ source in my eyes rather than the usual clickbait nonsense) suggests Romaine Sawyers is bound for The Hawthorns today.

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We don’t normally do rumours on these pages but Dave, Billy (Grant, not Reeves) and the gang are normally bang on the money when it comes to their information. £3million subject to medical is the fee in the air. With the centre of the park having been strengthened by Nørgaard, Jensen, McEachran leaving and Josh Dasilva getting stronger each game, one can see why this may well play out. Don’t forget, Kamo has been dominant there too. And with Romaine having a year left on the contract perhaps we have no real choice but to cash in on the silky-skilled midfield-maestro. (c) The Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80s alliteration (see also: Beleaguered Bees Boss).

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Romaine brings the ball out of the back

Whether it is a case of ‘done-deal’ of 2+2=5, remains to be seen, of course. The Beesotted boys are always a reliable mine of information so I’m only bracing myself for this one. Besides, it wouldn’t be pre-season if the previous campaign’s captain didn’t move on! And if it does transpire then it’ll be a case of trusting the DOFS, saying a huge ‘thank you’ to Romaine and moving on up. 

On the plus side, it does detract from all the talk about Neal and Said moving on. For now. With both players conspicuous by their absence over the pre-season games – even the 3-1 defeat of Norwich City – one can only curse those niggly injuries that have kept them out. Presumably that’s all it is.

No doubt the visit of Bournemouth tomorrow will see Thomas Frank trying out as much of his ‘first choice’ starting XI for Birmingham as is possible? Assuming he even has one. And that’s no disrespect to either him or the players but with the diversity of talent available, we are more and more approaching a position of choice in many berths. Whether it would be the supporter choice, of course, is another thing altogether. 

Neal and Said are without doubt amongst the first names on any and every Brentford fan team sheet. The flair and raw talent that both players have is undeniable. Their popularity unrivalled. Nobody can deny what they bring to the team and nobody wants to see them leave. If talk about Romaine is tempered by the fact that we’ve had the pleasure of seeing him grow over the last few seasons, to lose either or both of this pair after the impact made last season will be truly gutting.

No matter how much faith and trust I have in the upper echelons of the club, I can’t pretend it won’t be demoralising should either depart. Equally though, the ecstasy about somehow hanging on to beat the transfer window will be something else. 5pm on Thursday August 8th, that’s still almost two weeks, is when we have to hang on in there until. Nothing to it….

Next up, squad numbers. These have been now published although there are some noticeable gaps. Mainly at number 10 (unless that one has moved sideways and become 11). A shame that Marcus Forss wasn’t given this. Our goalscoring Force 10 from Navarone (as one Braemar Road observer noted) will have to wait for another day. Sadly.

I would also have accepted: Fox Force 5 but Ethan Pinnock has been given that honour. And with David Raya understandably bequeathed Daniel ‘David’ Bentley’s old number (sorry, Billy 😉 )(Grant), the cinematic trinity of bad puns has been missed as there can be no Air Force One. 

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Instead, we’ll just have to content ourselves with rushing out to get our number 19 shirts printed. Unless, of course, that news is confirmed. In which case it’ll be 9 or 21 for me. I’m trusting here. I’m convinced both will feature against Birmingham City next week. The transfer gods can do one! 

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Does this tell us anything…..?

Next up, and finally, this is the last time I’m mentioning this. It’s been a summer of me annoying you and you indulging me. The Last Word season review e-book (The Jaffa cake Shirt) has been limping off the cyber-shelves to ‘entertain’  – your definition may vary – dozens of you via the medium of kindle, i-Pod telephone or other electronic reading device. However, with all proceeds received from the £1.99 sale price going to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust I can only thank everybody who taken the time to download this already. 

I make no apologies for the fact that I’m still spotting typos in it. That some of the jokes are almost as weak as The Huddersfield ‘shirt launch’. That much of it has been seen before. Equally though, it does have new material in all the ‘Park Life’ programme columns (which have never been published on these pages) and, if nothing else, is simply a way to relive some of the exciting moments from last campaign as we wait for Harlee Dean and his Birmingham City team-mates to visit next weekend. Ahh, ten times better. 

Best of all though, it’s all for charity. I don’t like to overly bang on about ‘good deeds’ – that’s not my thing. But the chance to help the BFCCST, more than anything else, is why I keep on at you about getting hold of this. No more. You can now relax. I’ll be sending the BFCCST a postal order on Monday morning.

Just please go grab it now. You can download it here. Who knows, you may even enjoy it….

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Nick Bruzon

Farce of the missing game comes to an end. Can we end on a high ?

4 May

Pope declares his admiration for the Catholic faith. Bear defecates in small forest. Laurence Bassini has insufficient cash.  EFL call off Bolton v Brentford. The most obvious facts since records began were formally, finally, declared yesterday morning with the Bees being awarded a nominal 1-0 win and all three points for the game which will not be played and never had a hope in hell of happening the second it was called off last Friday. Instead, Sunday lunchtime’s visit from Preston North End will now become our final game of the season and, with it, the chance to secure a top ten finish is still on. Likewise, the chance to ensure that the nine points deducted from Birmingham City for breaking financial regulations give no chance of claiming ‘if only’ as we finish above them, again, with Bees already ten points better. 

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At least we got to play Bolton at home this season

What a mess. What a farce. What a shame. The only positive to come out of this in the immediate short term was the game being cancelled. Something which should have happened the exact same second Bolton Wanderers were unable to field a team. We all know the circumstances around why they did this, and there’s no vitriol being directed towards their first team, but the can of worms this opens with teams being able to cancel games unilaterally with no immediate form of solution, sanction or recourse available to the EFL is a worrying one. Might want to update that BCP plan, chaps.

Moreso, it begs the question as to how on earth they felt adequate safety personnel might be in place on Thursday afternoon when the next morning it was realised they wouldn’t. That being the formal reason the game was called off, rather than any considerations around fans, players or other clubs who now see Brentford climb to 12th after our third away win of the season.

Most frustratingly, there was no confirmation from the authorities as to whether we’d recorded the win in our magnificent away kit or who had scored the goal. With Neal Maupay (24) sitting four behind leading scorer Teemu Pukki of Norwich City (28) this would have been an excellent chance to try and narrow that gap. Instead, there’s only the Preston game left for Neal to try and finish top of the Championship pile .

Likewise, the brown and orange has been denied a triumphant farewell. Brentifrd fans were left crying into their beer last night at this devastating news, with Kitman Bob having used Twitter to declare that..

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For all I’m rooting for Neal in the goalscorer stakes, for the purposes of this result I’m pretty sure it was Sergi Canos on 7(seven) minutes who got this one. That said, it was @OllieW3BB on Twitter who probably wins the BBGiveaway this time around. His own shout for the time of the first goal deserving of more than a few ‘likes’ – something which at least one person seemed to appreciate.

Ollie: If my maths is right, the 8493rd min!!! Almost 6 days after KO 😂😂😂     

Kitman Bob: deserves a training top at least !!!

As for Brentford, like it or not as to how this happened we’re now up to 12th. I still say we would have won, regardless, and the point been Brentford’s had the game taken place on pitch.

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Brentford have won away?

If nothing else, The Trotters visit back in December brought about a most telling exchange in our house between Mrs. Bruzon and five year old Harry.

Rachel: “They won!! Does that mean the jinx is off and I can come back to football?”

Harry: “No mummy. Bolton were so bad that even if you’d been here Brentford would still have won”

Recent form and the current situation suggest nothing had changed on that front. Instead, we’re now in a position where, in theory, 10th place is still available. for that to happen we not only need to beat Preston on Sunday (something which is by no means a given) but also rely on favours. Including a win for Bolton at Nottingham Forest. With morale through the floor, the realist in me just can’t see that happening although I live in hope.

Regardless, our own victory is an essential. Primarily, to end the season on a high but as much to widen the gap over Birmingham City to a potential 13 points. That, an outcome which will please yours truly (at the least) for reasons which have been well documented on these pages and of which Harlee’s ten times better nonsense is only the most recent. Although at least on this day of piss weak ‘jokes’ (Star Wars fans, I’m looking at you) it has brought a smile to my face thinking about his interview and the on-pitch payback. Again. Thinking about their inability to beat us or finish above us. Again.

Roll on Sunday. See you there.

League after game 45

After 45 games, there’s still plenty to play for

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

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

23 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘That’ knee slide

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

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

Mmmm. Jaffa Cakes

Nick Bruzon

Football fans lost in the superunknown as Festive fixtures take hold.

28 Dec

Is it Friday? Saturday? Thursday? We’re in that dead-zone of the calendar where nothing makes any sense. A random televised game between West Ham and Southampton last night being the only clue that some half-arsed sort of normality is trying to be attained as the festive fixtures plough ever onwards. For Brentford, a 1-1 draw at Bristol City on, erm, let’s just call it Boxing Day for ease, saw The Bees make if 4 points out of 6 as our kamikaziesque tailspin was arrested and Thomas Frank pulled back hard on the rudder with his revamped team formation. i.e. he made us climb. But with a trip to play-off chasing Birmingham City (not a typo) next for Brentford will the return to more positive results continue ?

Fair dues to Garry Monk’s Blues. There’s no doubting we’ve enjoyed the lion’s share of points and jokes at the expense of Birmingham City on the pages over the last few years. How they swerved relegation to League One last campaign was a miracle akin to Christmas. There were the 7(seven) goals scored with none against. Four top ten finishes in the Championship for the Bees – each one above Garry Monk(/ insert name of previous incumbents) Blues. Then there was ‘that’ ten times better thing. 

Yes – I know Blues’ fans like to point it out as some form of ‘obsession’ every time it gets mentioned but football fans have long memories. As was written in the programme notes for Bolton, “The likes of Martin Rowlands, 10 times better Harlee and of course Mr. Moose’s own withering attacks on us have still not been forgotten.” . Even Dean Smith’s proclamation after his Aston Vila threw it away against Leeds United, causing him too declare that “From the celebrations, I thought they’d won the title” brought back found memories of Russell Slade after Leyton Orient had capitulated in that famous promotion clash six years ago. His own sour grapes are as much part of Griffin Park’s rich football folklore tapestry as the dog on the pitch, the hand grenade, badges being kissed or Mark Burridge exploding in the commentary box as Jota sliced through the Blackburn Rovers frontline… and midfield… and defence and goalkeeper… As magnificent as the time Stuart Dallas scored the best. goal. ever. at Craven Cottage.

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Stuart Dallas – one of THE Brentford moments

And so the somewhat meandering point is that whilst Harlee will no doubt continue to warrant a mention from time to time, don’t think there’s anything ‘exclusive’ about it. Don’t think it’s any form of singling out a player or a club. A club who we’ve more than held our own against in recent times. It’s just one of the many comedy moments to have graced our footballing experience that will no doubt be mentioned again and again over the years.

Although I do so this time around with some trepidation. One can only acknowledge current form and results where Birmingham City are flying. They’re up to 7th (seventh) in the table and know that a win could see them leap-frog Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM). Brentford, on the other hand…. Well, we all know what has happened since being named as joint favourites to win the Championship back in October alongside Leeds United. The bookies never get it wrong, supposedly. I’d imagine there were a few red faces at the Leo Vegas Christmas party this time around when reviewing that one.

Yet, yet, yet. Form can be temporary. Good or bad. The brakes are now on and the team set up has changed. We have the Championship’s leading scorer in Neal Maupay – a player who buried an absolute beauty at Bristol City. Mind you, it needed to be after the opening goal we conceded. A neon highlighter pen would have done a better job at being a a reliable marker as Eros Pisano was given all the time and room he needed to give the hosts an early lead. Just about the only positive to be taken from that one was that it wasn’t followed by a second within a few minutes – something else that has looked like becoming a trademark of our play in recent months. Instead, it was a case of start again and earn a hard fought point.

I take umbrage at Thomas’s post match assessment that “The header for Bristol City’s goal would have gone wide if it had not hit a defender and overall I thought we deserved to win the game”. We’ve done ur piece on ‘deserving’ many, many times over the years. It was a favourite of Dean Smith’s and a dangerous trap to fall into. Moreso, when ignoring the obvious shortcoming around the goal – every man and his dog could see that with all 11 players back in the box to defend a corner, allowing an opposition player to remain totally unmarked is nothing short of shambolic. Something that was also picked up on when  defending a free-kick at Hull City.

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Sky cameras caught how bad this one was

Still, the defence shortcomings have looked to be addressed. The switch to three centre backs to support the pressing full backs is one which has come at the same time as our switch in form. No bad thing either, given today’s game won’t be easy. By any stretch of the imagination. Garry Monk has his team eating up the table for fun and they are where they are on absolute merit. To make matters worse for us, Jota is back after injury lay off and whilst we all know he’ll look to cut in from the right wing, he is a luxury I’d still love to have available.

The bottom line is that going in to this one, Birmingham City are favourites. They’re the team on form. They’re the team gunning for promotion at present. They’re the team the bookies see as the one with most chance of picking up three points. If they do, it’ll be the first time since November 2016 that they’ve recorded a notch in the ‘W’ column when up abasing Brentford. 

That in itself will be reason alone to go for it once more. If Thomas Frank wanted to do anything to win over any doubters on the terrace, then three points on Saturday (I think) will be the perfect way to do it. 

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Feliz Navidad

Nick Bruzon

All to play for on Saturday after a gritty night and controversy at Griffin Park.

3 Oct

Brentford climb the table after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Griffin Park but it was very much a case of Cheer up, Garry Monk. Or however it is the song goes. Blues manager Monk was left fuming after a red card for Maikel Kieftenbeld, following a clash with Neal Maupay, saw his side reduced to ten men. And his own subsequent dismissal from the touchline. Yet if it was a soft decision, and both managers’ words at full time were telling, The Bees were due something back after Saturday’s quite awful officiating in the 2-2 with Reading. As Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship, themselves 1-0 winners at Hull, Dean Smith has a lot to think about ahead of our trip to Elland Road on Saturday.

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View from one New Road observer.. fight,fight, fight….

If we were due a refereeing kick back (and in true Arsene Wenger style, I didn’t see the incident whilst even Sky Sports Leeds were somewhat selective with their post-match highlights package) then perhaps we were also due one on pitch. Dean Smith very much shuffled his after replacing Daniel Bentley with Luke Daniels. This, following Saturday’s double fumble. So there was no irony lost in Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp – a man who has had more clubs than Harlee Dean has had red cards – allowed Josh McEachran’s first half free-kick through his hands and into the back of the net for 1-1. It WAS a wonderfully hit effort from the New Road side but, being honest, should never have allowed a first goal in 188 appearances for a player who would rightly go on to scoop ‘Man of the match’ honours.

Prior to this, Michael Morrison had given the visitors the lead, heading home from a Jota cross. Or Hoe-ta, as Peter Gilham still insists on calling him. How I’ve missed that wonderful pronunciation from our redoubtable man-with-the-mic . Yet it was just about all the mercurial Spaniard did in the hour and a half he was on pitch. Yoann Barbet had him in the back pocket whilst Josh whipped the ball of his toes a number of times.

Daniels wasn’t the only change for the Bees. Out wide, we were missing both Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins (suspended and injured respectively). Whilst Alan Judge and Sergi Canos are both wonderful, it deprived Dean Smith his normal option to mix it up in the second half. And with Birmingham City packing 11 behind the ball, there was no third gear to accelerate into as the game progressed. Indeed, and you have to give credit to Monk, his stifling of the game meant our short sharp passing game had no way through. Our 74% possession unable to be turned into real chances. Only Henrik Dalsgaard, pushed forward towards the end with Maupay having little joy against the lumbering Birmingham defence,  came close to sending The Bees faithful home happy. Camp making amends for his earlier butter fingers to pull off a point blank save with the clock deep in injury time.

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Brentford ‘Official’ capture the goal on Twitter

It was very much a case of parking the proverbial bus with the Bees unable to get past. That’s a tactic I suppose. Whatever you think, it worked. The only exception being with the goal where rather than parking the bus, Harlee and crew may aswell have parked a small car, slapped a bow on the front and left the keys in the ignition with the engine running. It was all the more silly given they’d had time to line themselves up and so, perhaps, as much credit needs to be given to Josh for pulling off something that nobody expected. Either way, in a scrappy match let’s be grateful for the opportunity.

One apiece at full time. The Ealing Road reminding Harlee Dean that “You can’t”. At least, I think that’s what they were singing. Another point gained and another place climbed in the table. We’re now up to fifth after other results went the way of The Bees. Yet, at the same time, Leeds and Middlesbrough have opened up a five-point gap on us in the top two slots whilst only two points separate The Bees from Bolton in fifteenth. The table really is that tight at present.

Dean Smith would use his own post-match interview to give credit to Birmingham for their game play which saw our own bright start snubbed out in a game that very much felt “Like one that got away again.” As for the sending off his opinion was that, “The lad raised his hands…so he goes down. Have a go at the fourth official”.

Dean talks to ‘official’ at full time.

For Birmingham City, Garry Monk had his own thoughts on the red card. He told reporters that “I thought the opposition player would be booked for feigning injury so to see a red card was a complete shock…After 23 years in football I know something when I see it.” Certainly, his reaction was one of fury as he was sent to join Kieftenbeld for an early bath. Or wherever it is red carded managers go to. I’ve no doubt the player’s ban will be appealed going by his own touchline explosion

As for Saturday, let’s hope Ollie is fit and able to rejoin Saïd in the matchday squad. Dean would tell ‘official’ how he had an injection in an ‘angry toe’ at the Reading game. By his own admission, the absences limited our own attacking options but, and it needs to be noted again, Birmingham City did a job on us. They were deserving of a point that makes it an incredible 8 draws out of 11 games for them. That record, I fear, something that is going to be trotted out as much as West Ham’s moving stadium West Ham’s winning the World Cup in 1966, Trevor brooking’s header in the cup final or The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard being a Brentford player. If only somebody had said.

There’s not much more to say. We didn’t win. We have a tough trip to Leeds United coming up. But nobody said it would be easy. More importantly, we’ve jumped another place in the league. I’m not quite sure how that has happened but the table doesn’t lie.

And that’ll do me.

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Garry goes for a bath – c/o Matt Davis

Nick Bruzon

Time for Brentford to let the football, not the music, do the talking.

1 Oct

Brentford host Birmingham City on Tuesday night, knowing the significance of a return to winning ways. The Bees are just four points off the top of the table, chasing new leaders West Bromwich Albion. Blues, five points off the bottom and looking to improve a record that has seen 7(seven) draws from their ten games played. But what can we expect, aside from the Griffin Park Oktoberfest Lederhosen? Surely there’s no way we’ll get a repeat of last season?

Let’s get one thing clear. The Monkees are old news. Fun though it was (and it was) let’s not get distracted by any of that stuff this time around. Too much. The last thing we need is Harlee Dean fired up, feeling hard done by and with a point to prove before the game has even kicked off. That’s when mistakes happen. I’m all for letting our football lead the way rather than #BeeTheDJ, which opened on Monday evening. Albeit there are some quite wonderful suggestions going up already. Aswell as the obvious.  Yet one would hope that the memory of our 5-0 victory at Griffin Park in February should be all the incentive needed to go again.

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The Bees celebrate the fourth last season. Or was it the fifth?

Besides, our old boys have been talking to the press once more. This time in an article that appeared in The Birmingham Mail on Monday. Whilst in no way anywhere near last season’s quite wonderful soundbite, there’s still enough in there for anyone looking to find a fuse for this particular powder keg of a game.  

We can only start with former captain Harlee, who tells the Mail that “The comments I made before the home game against Brentford were blown out of proportion, but that’s football.”

For me (Clive), that’s less football and more a matter of conjecture. One man’s proportion is another’s petrol poured on a chip pan. Thankfully, we did our talking on the pitch (and singing off it, at full time) with that epic 5-0 win last time out.  

It’s Jota who gives the numerical assessment of the current side this time around, saying that, ”It is 100 per cent a better Birmingham team going there on Tuesday than the one that lost last year.” Fair enough. Although does that then make them twenty times better than the Brentford team that finished fifth in the Championship, reaching the play-off semi-finals?

Oh Jota. What a hero he was back then. I still have his shirt and struggle to imagine him in anything but the red and white. Skinning Jake Bidwell. Causing Mark Burridge to lose himself in the Ewood Park commentary box. Writing that love letter to the Brentford fans when he left us the first time. The less said about his second one the better. He remains, from what I’ve seen of them this season, the most potent weapon in Garry Monk’s arsenal. A hero to many Bees and now, presumably, beloved by the St. Andrew faithful. Yoann Barbet’s ability to read that step inside will be key to stopping the visitors.

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Faster than a speeding bullet – the Spanish superman was a hero at Griffin Park.

Brentford, of course, are without our latest wing wizard. Said Benrahma misses out this time after running the gauntlet of Eltringham’s confetti card dispersement system on Saturday. Presumably Sergi Canos will step directly into the team in his place, looking to keep up the supply to the division’s top scorer Neal Maupay. With Ollie Watkins on the other side, we still have more than enough to give any defence in the league a run for their money. As long as we can stay fit and the referee can offer some protection. The likes of Aitor Karanka, Gary Rowett and Paul Clement have already set their teams to ‘hack’ mode in a bid to combat Dean Smith’s free flowing Bees. Cards have followed.

Yet, and this is nothing to do with our former players or what happened last campaign, I’m struggling to see anything beyond a return to winning ways at Griffin Park. This team has so much talent available when on song as we’ve seen numerous times already. Had the officals not got in the way on Saturday we’d more than likely have 15 points from 15 at home rather than a ‘mere’ 13. By the same virtue, Birmingham City are undoubtedly a tough nut to crack. Like our Bees, they’ve only lost twice this season. The key difference being we’ve scored double the amount of goals they have. And what do goals make….?

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Yoann Barbet is our latest goal scorer

Forget any monkeying around. It’s time to focus. To let the football, rather than the music, do the talking. Genuinely, I want a good game. I want to win, of course, but it would be great to do it on our terms. To beat a team going for it and playing football rather than a bunch of backs-to-the-wall hackers of the sort we’ve come up against several times already this campaign. Surely Monk’s revitalised Birmingham are better than that?

How many times, better I’m not sure. Roll on 7.45pm, Tuesday, when we can all find out.

Nick Bruzon

PS. That said, if anybody feels the need to sing then who am I to stop you….

Rams sting Bees and Leeds slip up as table has almost ‘taken shape’.

23 Sep

Presumably this is why it takes ten games for the table to have formally ‘taken shape’. On Tuesday Brentford were, briefly, top of the Championship and ended the evening in second place behind Leeds United. Fast forward to the next round of games and a 3-1 defeat to Frank Lampard’s Derby County on Saturday saw The Rams overtake a Bees team who slip to 7th(seventh). Game 9 of 2018/19 saw a performance, if that is the word based on feedback from those present, which was somewhat out of character by all accounts. One that when matched with a devastating 15-minute patch from our hosts, put this game well out of sight by half-time with no prospect of a Burton-esque comeback. Yet with perhaps half an eye on our mid-week trip to Arsenal, Birmingham City recording a win (not a typo) at Leeds United means the gap between ourselves and the Elland Road side remains just three points.

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One game away from fully ‘taking shape’, The Bees are a win off the top.

What’s to say? I wasn’t there for this one. Taking HB to football club in the morning was about as close to the action as it was possible to get this weekend. Seeing his elation at going 7-0 up, scant consolation for what followed at Pride Park. Moreso, given that in the excitement of his own celebration his forgot to reference the brackets. Where have I gone wrong? As ever, the likes of Brentford official, the BBC or Beesotted are your place for quality review whilst the highlights are up on Sky, too. You can catch them here.

They don’t show much more beyond the four goals, including Henrik Dalsgaard’s opener with less than a minute on the clock. How different the afternoon looked as though it may turn out at that point. Sadly, Frank Lampard’s Derby County had other ideas and started banging them in for fun. There’s no evidence of what Dean Smith would later describe as “A pathetic decision if I’m honest” that led to the free kick for their third on the half hour. Likewise, you can’t see that their second came from a Brentford corner.

That’s not to say we didn’t get what was coming. When ‘official’ use the terms ‘fully deserved’ and ‘worthy winners’ (something Dean would also agree with) then perhaps one simply has to doff the hat to the opponents. This time. Controlling second half possession, something Dean would also pick up on in the interview you can see below, is all well and good but as official would also note in their match report, ‘The game was won by then’.

As for Dean, he seemed a somewhat dejected character in this interview. Lost for words, almost. That’s not to criticise him. More to note that he is normally so upbeat post-match. Perhaps the stunning start to the campaign has now hit a bit of a bump after two tough performances on the road. The second half at Ipswich midweek immediately followed by a first half at Frank Lampard’s Derby Cou….etc. that has been at odds with how we’ve performed previously. That perhaps, as some were saying last night, Ryan Woods isn’t as easy to replace as we’d all hoped.

Dean seems a bit out of sorts , despite acknowledging deserved winners.

But if it is a bump, then we’ve every chance to get back to winning ways. Two home games follow in the league and I still maintain we’ve played some quite scintilating football this season. Next up in the Championship are Reading at home on Saturday. That’s the all-important ‘game ten’ when, conceivably, we could be at the top of the table once more should results all go our way. Game 11 sees the visit of Birmingham City the following Tuesday. No other words are needed about that one. For now.

Prior to all of that is the trip to Arsenal in the cup on Wednesday. Whomever Dean starts with and regardless of their team selection, rest assured that the Jaffa Cake army will be there in force. The full 8,000 plus have been sold for this one with plenty more still looking for tickets. No doubt we’ll be up for proving ourselves against one of the most famous clubs in the land in a game that is sure to be one typified by attacking football. Although should Nico not win the team vote for Captain there’ll be something seriously rotten in the state of Denmark.

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Here’s hoping Mark Devlin and his crack team have got McVities locked in for this one

Still, all that’s to come. For now we’ve been beaten. Well beaten, seemingly. With Dean admitting that Frank Lampard’s Derby County deserved to win this one, it’s three points dropped in both the real table and the justice league.  

How we go from here over the next ten days is going to be crucial. I know the Arsenal game is the obvious highlight on the calendar that it has been for the last few weeks. Whilst I can only concur with the exuberance and potential that goes with that one, the league is (cliché alert…..) the bread and butter. Personally, I’ve as much riding on that Reading match whilst the subsequent return of Jota, Maxime and Harlee promises to be an occasion that could even be ten times better than mid-week at the Emirates.

One things for sure. These are exciting times to be a Brentford fan. We may have lost yesterday. We may have been beaten by a side who nobody is denying deserved it. We may have dipped below the dizzy heights of our other performances this campaign. And?  We’re three points off the top of the Championship table. Read that last line again. Three points off the top.

Nobody said it would be easy. Not every result is going to go to form or go our way. Just ask Leeds United. Reading the interview with their manager Marcelo Bielsa this morning, he’s the first to admit to tactical errors and has told the media that, “The proposal I chose for this game at the beginning was not the right one,”

That’s football. It happens. What is important is how a team picks itself up off the back of that. Whilst also acknowledging that, sometimes, the opponents are better than you. Nobody has a divine right to be any good, every time.

Brentford have three huge games coming up. I can’t wait to see how we go. Again.

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Next up…..

Nick Bruzon