Tag Archives: Harlee Dean

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

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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.

afcbrentweb

Next up…..

Nick Bruzon

The grass isn’t always greener. Time to let our football do the talking, again.

18 Aug

Brentford have a rare Saturday off with our visit from Sheffield Wednesday (all being well, bereft of ‘that’ band) being put back by 24 hours to accommodate the Owls league cup tie with Sunderland on Thursday. That hasn’t dampened the football spirit any in our house though, with Sky serving up the game between Birmingham City and Swansea last night as an aperitif to a weekend of gorging on the beautiful game. Even Mrs. Bruzon got involved in that one. At least, until (alleged) Celebrity Big Brother started. To be fair, she probably made the right choice in retrospect.

IMG_E5817What we got was a 0-0 that was as laborious as they come. Birmingham City were wasteful. Profilgate. Couldn’t hit a barn door in a brewery. Are yet to win a game all season and had already limped out of the league cup during the week c/o John Swift and his Reading team. Jota was named man of the match – presumably for his services to facial hair.

Swansea were turgid. Barely able to scratch the surface of a gritty, if functional, home defence. Yet at the same time one can only respect the fact that they secured another point. This taking their total to 7(seven) from three league games and up to second place in the nascent table.

We’ve said many, many times that goals and points rather than pretty play and chances are, ultimately, what decides the league placings. Whilst I’m waiting for that magical ten game mark, for now we can only judge on what we’ve seen and the Swans record of WWD is one that I’d be very happy if Brentford can match by the point Mr. Webb calls time on our game with Sheffield Wednesday.

It didn’t make for good viewing. A torturous showing that was edging towards a breach of the Geneva convention. Something perhaps anticipated by the home supporters, given the vast amount of empty seats on show. If you really want them, Sky have the highlights up on their website or you can watch them below.

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We go again. Birmingham City 0 Swansea 0

Yet none of this is mentioned to have a pop at Birmingham City. We all know what happened last season and how wonderfully that finished up. For us.

Let’s park the cheap shots for now. I won’t even include the Harlee video. Besides, there’ll be plenty of time for proper focus on their situation soon – 2ndOctober the date that the Blues visit Griffin Park.

Instead, it is mentioned more to talk about Brentford and what happened beyond that. Obviously the Bees chose to sell three players last season. They thought they could better themselves. We knew we could replace for a fraction of the price and, as would now seem infinitely clear, a huge raising of the bar in terms of quality. With Mepham, Benrahma and the World Cup’s Dalsgaard already earning rave reviews, it’s fair to say that has worked out ten times better for us than them. At least, in terms of football progression.

Ryan sums up our current situation in one tweet.

We all know money talks and if that is your motivator then happy days. It’s not for me to criticise an individual’s decision but what I can say as fact is that, and likewise with the incessant talk of Ryan Woods being courted by Swansea City hanging around like a bad smell, we all know who is playing the better football. Who are the team that people outside of TW8 are starting to raise an inquisitive eye towards.

That goal against Stoke City was less Barcelona – as I have seen touted around the internet – and more like watching 70’s Brazil. I have no doubt Soccer AM may feature it again this morning!

The Bees are scoring goals for fun and stroking it around like champions. Cool. Confident. Dare I say it, effortless. Brentford have managed 10 in the opening three games and looked ominously good in our two league outings. Playing with a level of confidence and charisma that one can only embrace. Whilst Sheffield Wednesday will, surely, be a sterner test than our previous home game against Rotherham, you can only play who you are put up against. And we have looked wonderful to date. Even better, getting the goals to match the performances.

Good luck to the Birmingham three. Whilst the money and the city may be nice, the style of football is certainly, erm, different.  I’m hoping Ryan Woods watched the game last night and it has perhaps caused him a moment of inward reflection in regards to his next steps. Imagine a midfield featuring him alongside the likes of Romaine, Said, Sergi, Ollie et al. I’m salivating at the thought.

At the end of the day (Clive) this is football. Money talks. Players move on. We get it. I get it. At Brentford we’ve been hammered more than anyone over this. It is our strategy as much as anything else. Sell, replace for less but continue to improve. Get mocked by the media for daring to be different.

Well, money isn’t the only thing that talks. Performances do, too. The banknotes may be greener elsewhere but the grass isn’t necessarily the same.

Here’s hoping for another stunner against Wednesday on Sunday.

Yoann free kick Sheff Wed

The Bees beat the Owls 2-0 at Griffin Park last season

Nick Bruzon

‘That’ day is here. Roll on 5pm.

9 Aug

Here we go, Brentford fans. Strap yourselves in and prepare for that bumpy ride until deadline day concludes at 17.00. With the talk of Ryan Woods to Swansea continuing apace, I’ve also seen plenty of ‘stories’ (hmm) about Chris Mepham to Leicester City (combined with their Harry Maguire to Manchester United) and Sergi Canos to Middlesbrough. We should be talking about the build up to Stoke City on Saturday yet all supporters are doing is crossing their fingers, sweating profusely (that could just be me) and preparing to listen to a day of bums squeaking. After last season’s triple transfer swoop by Birmingham City, one thing we’ve learned is that anything can happen before that accursed window ‘slams shut’ (TM).

Whatever happens today, there are plenty of positives. Plenty. For one thing, no deals have actually been confirmed as yet. Except, of course, that which brought Moses Odubajo back to Brentford for another season. This is a fantastic good news story and one can only hope that, for the player’s sake alone, he is finally able to put that injury hell behind him and get a hugely promising career back on track.

The one down side here was the use of an oh-so confusing hashtag to welcome him back to Griffin Park. Regular readers will know my feelings on these at the best of times. The event-specific comedy hashtag is the lowest of social media art forms (memes aside) and nobody needs another lecture on #trophyfriends (never, ever forget) or #novemberkings. Whilst we seem to have dropped these for a while, our own use of #MolsBack heralded an unwelcome return. Moreso, given the combination of the Twitter typeface and yours truly having a somewhat warped brain read it as Mols Back.

Who is Mol? I thought his name was Moses or possibly Mo for an abbreviation? And what’s up with his back?

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Mo’s back…

It brought all those horrible memories of Manchester United using the #Pogback hashtag to herald the £90m return of player they had sold for £1.5m a few season earlier. Compared to that, MolsBack (Mo Is Back, obviously) is worth every penny of a £3.5m sale turned into a free signing. Whilst in the minority, I wasn’t (quite) alone on this one.

The penny did eventually drop. Glaringly obvious once somebody pointed it out – thank you.

So whilst the out-door is yet to swing, could it? And how many times? The majority of, if not all, Brentford fans were gutted last time out when Maxime and Jota moved to Birmingham City at the death. Joining former captain Harlee who had moved a day or so earlier. Just about the only positives from that one were: the cash (so, so much of it), that Jota hadn’t joined Fulham (which was THE rumour doing the rounds in the few days prior), their subsequent horrific form combined with our own ascension up the table and, of course, THAT game at Griffin Park. Cheer up Harlee Dean etc….

Now we have several names in the frame with Ryan Woods to Swansea being the most talked about story of the summer in TW8. Rumours of an increased £7(seven)million bid were doing the rounds last night with their own Sam Clucas being an alleged target for Stoke. Then there’s suggestions of Harry Maguire moving from 2015/16 Premier League champions Leicester City to Manchester United (talk about a step down to a club who haven’t scoopped the top honour since 2012/13). Completing that merry go round would be our own Chris Mepham. Allegedly.

That’s before we even get to Sergi Canos to Middlesbrough or Romaine Sawyers to Everton. Hey, at least that one is a step up from last season’s rumour of a move to Southend United.

Will all of this play out? No. Will any of it? Quite possibly. The fact that Woodsy was left out from Saturday’s table topping annihilation of Rotherham United spoke volumes. Moreso when Dean used his post-match interviews to explain that, “We both felt it wasn’t the right thing putting him in the squad today.”

I don’t want him to go, let’s be clear on that one. If we get to 16.59.59 and Ryan is still at Brentford then I’m going to be an exceedingly happy man. Yet few could deny his wonderful service to the The Bees. If this one plays out. If Ryan wants to leave then it would only be with best wishes, albeit a few tears in the eye.

Ryan Woods celebration Leeds

Could it be an end to scenes like this?

For me, the real testing point will be Chris Mepham. Without a doubt THE shining star and most potential drenched player in the current squad, Meps is somebody who could go as far as he wants. He has already wowed the crowds, made his Welsh international debut and been the subject of several sky high bids from Bournemouth despite just a handful of league games under his belt. Will a bigger bid come in? Will we accept? Does Chris feel he is ready to step up so soon – he certainly has the talent.

With Ryan, there is a resigned inevitability. Saturday was the tell-tale sign of a wantaway player. With Chris, it is uber-angst about the great unknown playing out. Will he be in the squad for Stoke? Could his future lie elsewhere this weekend? There is absolutely no doubt he will play in the top flight. I just hope it is for Brentford.

And that’s before we get to any of the others. Who will Dean have left to pick from? Are the directors of football already padlocking the gates to Griffin Park, cutting off the phones and taking the players on a day trip to Brentford beach? Who knows? The only things for sure are that by 5pm it will all be over and we’ll know if anyone has ‘done a Birmingham’ to us.

I say it will all be over, that’s not strictly true. Whilst 17.00 is the formal cut off, that’s only for domestic sales and purchases. Reading the deadline day report on the BBC, it clearly notes how football league clubs can still sign loanees and free agents until the end of the month. Likewise, with the European deadlines later in August, they can also sign players after our own cut off this evening. Brentford lending Ryan to Swansea?  Meps to Madrid? Sergi to Barcelona? Stranger things have happened.

Yet if if last season and Birmingham City proved one thing, it is to expect the unexpected when it comes to transfer deadline day. More importantly that whatever short term pain we feel, things have a nice way of playing out…..

Brentford came out of deadline day with heads held high. And a bucketful of cash.

Nick Bruzon

Hashtags, bans, predictions and new signings (for some of us).

31 Jul

Finally. The Championship is back this weekend. There’s no doubting how fantastic the World Cup was yet, at the same time, I’ve a huge feeling of anticipation at the prospect of Brentford entertaining Rotherham United before our own trip to Stoke City the following Saturday. We’ve another new signing (which is more than Birmingham City can say after their own announcement yesterday) in centre back Julian Jeanvier from French Ligue 2 champions Stade de Reims whilst both Beesotted and the Brentford FC Drone also return.

We can only start with transfer news. No sooner has the out-door swung with John Egan heading to Sheffield United for a fee estimated at a minimum of £4million than his replacement has come in for half that – certainly if reports are to be believed. The Jeanvier speculation had been mounting on Twitter for the last few days and was confirmed yesterday with a series of photos (‘leaning on the terrace’ being a new addition to those other signing staples of : holding / wearing new shirt, scarf raised aloft or pen poised over contract) . There was also a hashtag. #JeanvierJoins. Boo.

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A new addition to the range of ‘signing poses’

Julian certainly has form. His Reims side ‘romped to the Ligue 2 title’ last season (those aren’t my words but the words of Brentford official in their own article of ten things you might not know about Jeanvier) , keeping 18 clean sheets and conceding just 24 goals. On a personal basis, he has been in the team of the season for the last two campaigns and would appear to be yet another success for our recruitment team who continue to hoover up quality talent on a more than sustainable basis.

The same can’t be said for Birmingham City who were forced to publish their own official statement yesterday, in which their own transfer embargo was confirmed somewhat obliquely. You can read their full comment here if that takes your fancy, yet the salient line would seem to be the point that: “Unfortunately and disappointingly the EFL are currently refusing to allow us to make additions which would enable us to strengthen the Manager’s squad”.

Oh dear. That’s not good. Even if it is painted in such a way, ending with a rather abrupt, “The Club will make no further comment”. Curse those naughty people at the EFL. All they did was try to make their squad ten times better and look what happens. Big spending Harry would seem to have gone well beyond his means and now, like QPR, no further investment is currently being allowed.

All of which is mentioned not to gloat at Birmingham City where their fans can’t be held responsible for the profligacy of the manager, the misguided indulgence of the board or Harlee Dean opening his mouth. Besides, there’s on pitch results for that. 2-0 and 5-0, wasn’t it?

Click at your peril. Oh, maybe once more….

Instead, it is mentioned more to reflect on how right we continue to do things. Big names and big spending are not the Brentford way yet, somehow, Phil, Rasmus and team continue to unearth the talent. I cannot wait to see how not only Jean but also the likes of fellow new boys Ezri Konsa and Said Benrahama slot into the team.

Saturday against Rotherham is the place to find out whilst 7(seven) days later we travel to title favourites Stoke City. My online bookmaker (purely for research purposes etc etc etc ) has the Potters as 5-1 to win the title. Next up are Middlesbrough at 8s whilst the Bees are 9th favourites at 18-1. At the other end of the spectrum, Birmingham are 50-1 whilst the only teams at a longer price are Hull City, Ipswich, Bolton and then Rotherham themselves at 200-1.

On paper, you’ll be doing well to find two as contrasting games. Being honest, we couldn’t have picked a more favourable start than a home game with the divisional long shots. I can absolutely guarantee it won’t be anywhere near as easy as those prices make out. If for no other reason than early season form needs a while to settle in whilst the Bees haven’t won an opening day fixture in 6 seasons. Likewise, Stoke City won’t fancy a visit from Dean’s brown machine. They’ll be adjusting to Championship life after long stint in the Premier League and this will all be a new experience for many of their fans. And that’s just the quality of the visitors’ shirts! If Stoke do turn out to be the form team predicted then I’d rather get our trip out of the way early.

Jota team Rotherham

Good times against Rotherham the last time they were in the Championship

It is way too early to predict results but, instead, I will do my Ian Moose thing. By which I mean directing you towards my good friends at Beesotted rather than wishing a footballer ‘happy birthday’ via the medium of a narcissistic selfie or banging on about half-time catering in the Premier League.

They have published their annual feature predicting what lies ahead for Brentford aswell as reflecting on the highs and lows from last campaign. Put together by a number of guest contributors, it is always a great read and if you haven’t already seen this one I’d thoroughly recommend you check it out. You can find that one here…

Finally, Lionel Road. The Brentford FC Drone (which you can follow on Twitter : @TheBFCDrone) is back with the latest video on everything that is happening up the road at our new home. It seems incredible to think how far we’ve come on this journey already. Likewise, that in 16 months’ time there will be a new stadium on this site. Yet that’s the aggressive timeline being aimed for and so this really is on track to be our last full season at Griffin Park. That’s not much more than 30 games and a couple of cup runs to go.

Starting with Rotherham on Saturday. I can’t wait. See you there.

Get your latest Lionel Road views, here.

Nick Bruzon

The three-five players our club can’t afford not to not sign/let go. Farewell John Egan. And Flo?

20 Jul

Welcome back to Championship life, Brentford fans. You can now ignore the weeks of clickbait as things have actually happened. With The Bees already accepting a bid for Florian Jozefzoon (Leeds United thought to be the original target but Derby County now in the box seat to complete that one) it was John Egan who was the first to leave Griffin Park yesterday. Sheffield United splashing out their record transfer fee (£4million is the word on the street) to take our captain up to Bramall Lane where he will line up in a defence featuring fellow ex-Bees Jack O’Connell and Simon Moore. Yet unlike last season’s summer sale (© the Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s alliteration) to Birmingham City, this feels totally different.

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The words of Sheffield United about John Egan

Four. Million. Pounds. Wow! Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has been quoted on the BBC as saying ,”We see him as a leader and he is worthy of the fee we’ve paid for him, in my opinion he is a better player than a couple of those who have already moved for bigger fees this summer”

Meanwhile, over on Brentford official I had images of Phil Giles being handed a hessian sack, over-flowing with bills and a dollar sign stenciled on the front. His take on it was a simple one – they offered what we wanted and so the club accepted. Noting specficially that, “We were happy to complete the transfer once our valuation had been met for a player who has done very well for us and who was our captain last season. The remaining group of centre backs are young but hugely talented so it will remain to be seen whether we need to replace John directly over the final weeks of the transfer window”.

You can read that one in full, here.

It marks a stark contrast to his approach when pressed on the Birmingham City transfers back in September. When last season’s summer window closed with ‘that’ 11th hour triple move to St. Andrews  his explanation was slightly different as to why it had happened in that fashion. Eleven months ago  – it had always been the plan to buy over the summer and sell just prior to the window closing. “Strategically it’s the ideal way to do it. Sell them late and buy them early.”

Now, with John gone to the Blades and Flo seemingly also out the door to Derby County, we’re doing business early. Likewise, let’s not forget that fellow centre back Andreas Bjelland has also departed after declining our new offer when his contract expired.

Am I upset? Yes, but no. On a personal note, John was always massively popular in our house. He visited Harry at Halloween and took great care of him when he was fortunate enough to be mascot last season (leading the team out rather than dressed up as Buzzette).  It will be sad to see such a likeable individual and talented player leave. Four million speaks volumes about his quality. Let’s not forget, either, that aswell as being Captain he is also a full international.

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Thank you, John. From HB (and dad)

Yet the reaction on social media seemed to be one of universal agreement – with that much money on the table, for a player who has given great service and that we picked up when his own contract had expired, this was great business. It is a view I absolutely concur with and as much because it really gives Chris Mepham a chance to make a huge name for himself this season. Whether alongside Yoann, Mads or new boy Ezri Konsa.

If nothing else, what must that say about his (Meps’) valuation? Eddie Howe has been well, well out of his depth if this is what our players are going for. As long as the first team stay fit  (and at Griffin Park) then this has the makings of a great defence.

Let’s just hope Dean doesn’t make Chris captain, though. Or Woodsy!  Jonathan Burchill (@Jonathan77777) on Twitter has done his own analysis and come up with the following gem:

Kevin O’Connor retired at end of 2013-14 promotion season. Since then every @BrentfordFC captain has left the club within 12 months of taking the armband:

14-15 Craig (& Douglas, who was capt more often that season)

15-16 Bidwell

16-17 Dean

17-18 Egan

Interesting stat, Jonathan. My own immediate question would be whether this mean Nico Yennaris and Josh McEachran, who stepped in as captain last time out, could be also be leaving before Rotherham visit?

Alfie Mawson to Barnsley (currently Swansea). Jack O’Connell and now John Egan. Both Sheffield United. Harlee to Birm… ok, maybe not that last one. Yet the list of quality centre backs that have left in recent years but will line up against us this season for famous clubs is one that is growing. You could also chuck in the likes of Andreas, Tony Craig and number 26 to that mix of quality, albeit their paths now lie elsewhere. It says how blessed we have been in this positon. How well we have continued to recruit.

The obvious question is, who next? Whether in or out. With Flo seemingly as good as gone, that’s two that have departed. The likes of Meps, Ryan Woods, Ollie Watkins and Daniel Bentley are amongst the other big names whom fans are, understandably, sweating on. Will these two sales have been sufficient to staunch the flow of departures? Are they enough to counterbalance inward movement that has seen Said Benrahama and Ezri already joining Dean Smith’s exciting young squad.

We’ve still a while to go until the transfer window slams shut. I’m sure this won’t be the last of it. This is Brentford. We are now well used to how things happen. Heroes leaving when valuations are met. Unknowns and young potential joining who then go on to become the next big thing. I’ve promised myself I won’t get upset this season. That we’ll really show some faith in what the club are doing. Four top ten Championship finishes in a row show they know an awful lot more than me about football, that’s for sure.

At the same time, keeping this squad together will only be seen as an immediate good thing. A chance for us to really build and make a push for that top six. Could we even strengthen further? Who knows? One step at a time.

For now, it is a case of thank you, farewell and good luck to John. And don’t even think about scoring against us. Please ! 

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That’s about as official as it gets

Nick Bruzon