Tag Archives: Harlee

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.

View from the stand - Stuart Dallas celebrates doing that thing.....

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.

Screenshot 2018-12-28 at 09.26.04

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. 

DPE3B5xW0AE7Fz4

Feliz Navidad

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

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.

NEGO8366

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.

DoiRsTLX0AAmfIv

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.

DoiFdkuXsAE3t1O

Garry goes for a bath – c/o Matt Davis

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.

Tumbleweed-862x574

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

So….who fancies going to Swansea beach and who’s staying at home?

2 Aug

The last knockings of pre-season. There’s just a couple of days to go until things kick of in anger once more for Brentford fans. On pitch, that is, where Saturday sees the visit of Rotherham United to Griffin Park. Off-field it seems to be a case of Swansea this, Swansea that. All served up with a side salad of Leeds United and a smattering of Middlesbrough as the transfer speculation, gossip, guesswork and predominantly click bait continues at pace. As we sit tight and wait for the transfer window to ‘slam shut’ ™ the likes of Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos are the ones very much in the shop window and heading out of Griffin Park. If you believe what you read. Which I don’t.

IMG_E5025

Griffin Park looked gorgeous during the week

Urghh. Transfer crud. Every season it is the same. Somebody will go. It always happens. That’s how we work. But there’s no point getting upset over whom it might be, to where or when. Besides, even if we do survive unscathed after August 9th, the European clubs remain able to to buy players from any league – including our domestic ones –  until the end of the month.

Yet with John Egan and Florian Jozefzoon having already departed for fees reckoned to be over £6million, might we have already completed our outward business? Might it be done, dusted and hidden in plain sight? Unless, of course, it is a player who wants to leave rather than the club needing/choosing to sell?

One thing Brentford fans should have learned over the years is that we’re bloody good at picking up players and selling them on for much, much more than we have paid for them. As importantly, unearthing talent to replace those that have gone before. That’s not to say I’m advocating a wholesale clearing of the decks. Quite the opposite. My own preference would be to shut the gates now and have Buzzette imprison the first team squad in the changing room for a week. But enough about my fantasies.

Of course last year was the ultimate leap in faith for Bees fans but it was one which was more than amply rewarded. Once the dust settled. The manner and timing of magnificent Maxime, talismanic Jota and, erm captain Harlee to Birmingham City tested the best of us. I’d absolutely include myself in that group and would be more than happy to eat those words now. It was Brentford who were left with all the money, almost hit the play offs after a lousy start to the campaign and had a ten times better season. Birmingham only just swerved relegation and now have a transfer embargo in place.

I hope nothing happens. Absolutely. But if it does then it’ll just be a case of ‘C’est La vie’, as former hit parade favourites B*Witched once sang. Although perhaps with just a shrug of the shoulders rather than a clunky segue from stone cold pop classic to Irish jig interlude* . If nothing else, I can’t do the kind of stress and angst as we saw when Harry came knocking last time around.

On a totally unrelated note, Swansea beach does look quite magnificent. You can see more at visitswanseabay.com .

66a1e700a1b96465c7462851fc8f28e4

Swansea – has a beach. A nice looking one, too

Two other bits of business for today’s article. First up, fantasy football. And no, I don’t mean Buzzette. If anybody is playing in this year’s official Fantasy Premier League game then I’ve set up a Last Word League. It would be great if anybody wanted to take part and join in – see which Brentford fan has the best knowledge of a division we’ll, no doubt, be aiming for.

It all kicks off on Friday August 10th so there’s time to get your team in still. You can sign in at fantasy.premierleague.com, and then the league details you need are…

League name: The Last Word – Brentford

League code: 707088-156816

If we get a few people in before their big kick off, I’ll see if I can dig a prize out of the cupboard. And if not, we’ll just pretend this conversation never happened.

IMG_5044And finally, FourFourTwo magazine launched their season preview edition yesterday. You can pick this up now from all good newsagents. And probably some bad ones too. It is worth picking up as much for their in-depth Championship preview where they are tipping Brentford to finish 3rd. That’s third (not a typo).

Whether it happens or not remains to be seen – although personally I’ve called us fourth in the ‘fans’ segment of the Bees preview. However, it’s just nice to be recognised for four successive top ten finishes and be seen as a side now ready to look at taking that next step. Certainly, the opposite to that infamous quote from Mr. Holloway. Or that other one from Harlee Dean.

IMG_5032

No pressure, Dean

Predictions mean naff all if we can’t turn performances into wins but it means we start on an optimistic note that, for once, extends beyond well beyond the normal bubble of self-confidence that is TW8. Keep the likes of Romaine, Meps, Bentley and Sergi together and who knows? I’d be partial to a little bit more of Woodsy too, of course.

For the record, Swansea are tipped to finish 13th. Just saying.

Nick Bruzon

*Note to self. Pick this for #BeeTheDJ v Rotherham

 

Black Cats roll over to have their tummies tickled. Birmingham City are on the way down (to Brentford). Plus FA Cup oddity.

18 Feb

Is everybody back from Sunderland yet? A 2-0 win for Brentford at the Stadium of Light on Saturday was the perfect way to bounce back from a mini blip that had seen The Bees pick up 1 point from the previous three games (although fully deserving of all 9, if Dean Smith’s post-match press conferences were to be believed). Yet this time it was Chris Coleman using his time with the media to put the black cat amongst the pigeons. The former Fulham man opining about the Bees that: “I don’t think they’ll ever get promoted, I could be wrong, because they don’t have the finances but, if they keep doing what they do, they won’t be relegated either. Elsewhere, I woke to news of Manchester United drawing Brighton in the FA Cup. Somehow….

First up, the Sunderland manager. West London’s Premier Journalist Tom Moore ran a story last night that included Coleman’s claim – a statement worthy of Steve Evans at his finest. We’ve all been here and done this so many times yet it never fails to amuse. The suggestion that playing your way to the top isn’t possible without gargantuan levels of spending. Little Brentford. Teams like Brentford. Even Sky Sports haven’t bothered to update our crest on their graphics package – and we’re two thirds of the way through the campaign. The awful ‘cluttered clipart’ crest still hanging around like a bad smell. Every time you think it’s gone, it comes back. Had it been around 65 million years ago, one can only suspect it would have survived the asteroid .

DWQAKxoWsAUOqgi

Curse that clipart graphic.

But enough of dinosaurs. Instead, Chris Coleman. Whatever his thoughts, we are seeing more and more that you can’t put a price on shrewd and innovative acquisition. On bringing the right people into the right set up. Look at how the Bees have continued to flourish season on season. Look at Birmingham City for the closest possible parallel to what happens when you just lump cash at it.

We’ve all had our doubts about the Brentford model over the years. Myself included. This summer in particular felt like a particular low point. Yet we’ve picked ourselves up and gone again.

Neal Maupay, now pretty much guaranteed a long run with the departure of Lasse Vibe, scored his eighth goal of the season with the cheekiest of back heeled efforts to go top of our scoring charts. This, after Kamo had opened the scoring with less than a quarter hour gone. Firing home hard and low from outside the box, he broke his Brentford duck and has given Dean Smith a real selection poser from the visit of Birmingham on Tuesday.  Brentford sit 10th in the Championship for the fourth successive season and with 42 points still available, there’s still a chance at the play-offs.

DWU7MxRW0AAgt-_

Neal celebrates another goal.

Tom’s story also sparked the clickbait-gate debate on Social media once more. You can read that one here – the story rather than the clickbait chat. Personally, I’ve said my piece on that in these pages previously. The likes of Here Is The City and Football League World don’t even warrant a read these days, such is the eventual anti-climax that follows upon selecting one of their ‘stories’.

These publications so often tempt the reader with what transpires to be worse transfer news than the demise of the Letraset ‘action’ range.  News Now is littered with headlines which lead to nothing more than the regurgitation of the same footballer’s twitter feed we all have access to. Is the need for ‘hits’ and internet traffic THAT desperate?

On a totally unrelated note, I did enjoy Alan Judge’s retort to Coleman on the Social media platform last night. A simple but deliciously sweet: Yeah but we won’t be goin down. Certainly it makes a wonderful difference to the usual ‘we go again’.

Top-003

Letraset Action Transfers – a sadly missed treat from the 70s

That said, even Brentford official have been guilty of it in the past. I’ll never forget the moment back in November 1991 when the club proudly announced that we’d be signing a Division One (now Premier League) player. The excitement. The calls to 0898 121108 (at 33p a minute). The tension. Who would it be? Gary Lineker? Lee Chapman? Gazza? Gary McAllister? With the greatest respect to the legend that he is, the return of Bob Booker was hardly one to have supporters dancing in the streets of Raith when he was revealed.

Getting back to events at Sunderland, you have to feel for a team who were in the Premier League last season and are now on a fast track to League One along with Burton and Birmingham City. Talking this morning to one Bees insider (a man with his finger very much on the pulse of relevance) his considered opinion was that Black Cats are doomed, describing them as a shadow of the team that played at Griffin Park for the 3-3 back in October. Something that is desperate to see, especially given they’ve such great fans too.

Yet as we’ve seen with the likes of Wolves and Southampton (who played alongside us in League One) or Newcastle and Leeds United, former glories count for nothing. Having a huge stadium and great fans mean naff all if you can’t get the spending right, keep the team motivated or perform on the pitch.

With the greatest respect, that’s their issue. Not ours. Brentford are safe and looking upwards. Barring a remarkable reversal of fortune, Sunderland can start programming Birmingham, Accrington Stanley and Luton into the Satnav for 2018/19.

Who are they? Sunderland might be about to find out.

This weekend has also seen the FA Cup fifth round ties taking place. It really has been a TV overload with Sheffield Wednesday – Swansea providing a low key start before things kicked off on Saturday. Manchester United got past Huddersfield despite some dubious use of VAR. One does have to wonder how hard it is to get watching a TV replay wrong. Yet here we went. Again.

If VAR was confusing, it was nothing compared to waking up on Sunday to news that the draw for the sixth round had already taken place. This, despite a quarter of the ties yet to have taken place. Is nothing sacred anymore? Like semi-finals at Wembley and virtual reserve teams taking the field of play (although that didn’t work out too well for Tottenham at Rochdale on Sunday evening), it’s yet another subtle erosion of the gilt from this famous old trophy. We still love it, of course, yet I can’t help feel the FA are allowing their tournament to become tarnished. Even if squad selection isn’t in their hands, other factors most certainly are.

Still, for me its all about looking forward. About getting ready for that Birmingham City game. This is one we’ve all had in the diary since the transfer window slammed shut. If ever there was time to avoid the whiff of slippage then it is now.  #BeeTheDJ selections are being lined up and the vocal chords loosened. Victory for Brentford will take us to the 50 point mark, 20 better than our old boys at St. Andrews. That’ll be twice ten times better.

See you on Tuesday, Harlee. Forget Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League. Griffin Park is very much going to be the place for a blood and thunder encounter. It’s going to be a lively one, that’s for sure, and I can’t wait. Bring it on.

Embed from Getty Images

Nick Bruzon

How times change. What a way to end the year.

30 Dec

How times change. The last time Brentford played Sheffield Wednesday (September’s game at Hillsborough) we came back on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat and ended the night sitting in the bottom 3 of the Championship table. Our hosts meanwhile, using the victory to climb into the play off zone. The Bees had acquired a mere 3 points from the opening 7(seven) games as we struggled to adjust to that triple sale of Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin to Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City. It was a period that even saw the statistical horror of Dean Smith having picked up less points than Marinus Dijkhuizen (8) at the same stage of the 2015/16 season. Things weren’t pretty. Moreso given our subsequent game with Reading which saw an early lead squandered in a tame draw that kept the Bees in the basement – only Bolton and Birmingham below them.

That was then. This is now. Suddenly, things clicked. Dean got his boys firing and the Championship is a much brighter looking place. A win today against the now managerless Owls could see us move to within 4 points of the play-off zone. Confidence is high following a run of just 2 defeats in our last 17 league games. Moreso, coming off the back of successive wins at Norwich (Oh, Romaine Sawyers. I’m still dreaming of THAT pass) and the Boxing Day knockout of Aston Villa.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Will who, now? Sergi was on fire against Villa, despite the torrential rain

That one in particular, as satisfying for the way we outplayed our opponents as much as the sour grapes (before and after) from manager Steve Bruce aswell as the self-entitlement from an element of the Villa fans.

Yes. You used to be good. You did win something, once. But that was then and this is now. Brentford are the progressive club, adapting to their circumstances. The likes of Villa, Birmingham and, to a lesser extent today’s visitors, amongst those who have experienced the good times and now finding things much tougher to adjust to when the boot is on the other foot.

We went into the Christmas period off the back of that awful draw with Barnsley. The 0-0 at Griffin Park was not a good game in any respect. That said, it WAS another point. The table doesn’t lie (whatever you may hear from much wiser people than yours truly) and we are where we are for a reason. Despite some wonderful play when we are on fire, failure to punish slack opposition or hang on to leads HAS hurt us.

Yet, at the same time, despite continued sales over the last few years (and some very tasty acquisitions, it must also be said) we have this wonderful knack of building team spirit and a squad which can more than compete on its day. We already have Emiliano Marcondes to come in, Lewis Macleod inching his way back into the team and Alan Judge on the bench following a 16 month recovery from that horrific leg break. There’s even the prospect of Konstantin Kerschbaumer to make a Toumani Diagouraga-esque second coming after a period out on loan. One has to live in hope…..

Judge pic 2

Could we see scenes like this once more?

So I go into the game today fuelled with optimism. Excitement approaching peak levels. I have to be honest, I didn’t see us ending the calendar year like this after that Reading result back in mid-September. Yet now we are in a position where Brentford are the ones with a tentative glance being made towards the upper reaches of the table. With a squad that have picked themselves up after a shaky start to show some quite wonderful form. And with big spending Birmingham City now nailed to the bottom of the table. Barring a statistical miracle today, they’ll end the year in the relegation zone.

We may have lost Jota and Maxime. Harlee may think his new squad is ten times better than that which made the play offs under Mark Warburton. But I know where I’d rather be right now. A chance to go in to the top ten of the Championship with the right result and then a home FA Cup tie next weekend.

No doubt Sheffield Wednesday will be out to stop us in our tracks. The Owls will have more than a point to prove and, let’s not forget, caretaker boss Lee Bullen saw his team romp to a 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest last time out. This is by no means the stroll in the park that recent form may suggest. Brentford can do it today, no doubt. But blind optimism can be a dangerous thing if you are expecting a win – just look at Aston Villa. Dean and his team still need to be on their A-game.

Will we do it? Roll on 3pm to find out. See you there. I can’t wait for this one.

DSC00017

More of the same from Boxing Day would be great. Apart from the rain

Nick Bruzon

“Thrilled for Woods” as Brentford beat Leeds United whilst Birmingham City learn their 10 times table.

5 Nov

Thrilled for Woods”. Not my words but those used by one New Road observer outside The Griffin last night to summarise a wonderful 3-1 win for Brentford over Leeds United. And with a Birmingham City side featuring Harlee Dean going down 2-0 at Barnsley, it means the Bees are now ten points and ten places better than the Blues in the current Championship table.

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 16.13.22

IMG_1782

View from the Braemar – Ryan Woods and team mates also thrilled

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 08.17.37

 

Ryan Woods celebration Leeds

Ryan and fans enjoy the moment

 

10x table

The table doesn’t lie

Nick Bruzon

What happens on the Blues cruise, stays on the Blues cruise. At least, until full time.

1 Nov

Birmingham City 0 Brentford 2 . Let’s repeat that, for clarity, just in case anyone was distracted by the likes of Tottenham v Real Madrid or Liverpool v somebody tonight.

That’s  : Birmingham City 0 Brentford 2 . And to summarise the game , here you go…….

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

 

As Bees beat Preston, brilliant Billy cuts to the chase about Birmingham.

29 Oct

Bring on Birmingham City. Brentford keep marching right on! Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Preston North End saw it 7(seven) games unbeaten in the Championship and 13 points out of the last 21. Our third win over this period saw the Bees move to within six points of the play off zone. Although with the bottom three the same distance behind us, things are still far too tight to be getting too excited. In either direction.

Preston away was always going to be a tough one. With Dean Smith changing his team once more, as he has done every game this season, Romaine Sawyers was dropped to the bench in favour of Kamohelo Mokotjo. But whilst the team was different, the outcome was the same. More goals and more points for Brentford.

As ever, the BBC, Beesotted, ‘official’ etc are your places for the full match report. Or you could catch the highlights on the internet c/o Sky – at least until the league allow the club to do their thing at mid-day. Yet what you get are another goal for Nico Yennaris (that’s four now) and Romaine Sawyers hitting a beauty from the edge of the box to restore our lead in the second half.

The sun is now past the yard arm

There was no irony lost in it being a year to the day since Brentford had beaten QPR at Loftus Road and he’d scored an absolute wonder goal that night. Twelve months later and another netbuster. Whilst it wasn’t quite in the same ball park, it was still a delicious strike. How nice to see Romaine continue to prove all the doubters wrong. He took an inordinate and unfair amount of flak last season. Some fans should now be eating humble pie.

Equally pleasing is being able to see our goals/shots ratio creeping up. A lot had been made in the opening phase of the season about how we’d had the most attempts of any Championship club despite failing to find the back of the net as frequently. 13 goals over the current unbeaten run certainly suggests this stat is changing for the better.

Yet the pick of the goals was, in my opinion, the third. “An absolute peach from a coaching point of view .” Not my words but those of BBC Billy Reeves as he probed head coach Dean Smith after the game. A beautiful exchange of passes at speed between Kamo and Flo Jo saw Preston carved open as easily as a Halloween pumpkin. The move culminated in the Dutch master delivering a ball across the face of the box which Ollie Watkins slid home.

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 07.17.29

Ollie, Flo Jo and Lasse celebrate a wonderful winner for the Bees

Three more points and Brentford continuing to impress. The only sour note being the foul on Nico Yennaris that saw the player poleaxed by Jordan Hugill before going off after a lengthy period of treatment. Dean Smith would tell Billy in the aforementioned interview that : “For me its a possible red card because he could easily have got out the way, He’s dipped his shoulder into Nico’s head.”

More importantly, confirming that Nico is ok. Although with a similar injury being suffered by Henrik Dalsgaard recently he also added somewhat tongue-in-cheek that : “I spoke to the players earlier. A few of them have got be able to take one on the chin and not go down.”

Yet it wouldn’t be a Billy Reeves interview without him asking what the fans wanted to hear. There’s no sycophancy when the BBC man has the mic in his hand. And its why we love him so much. Master of the gentle probe, he gets the answers to the questions we all want to know. And there’s only been one subject on everyone’s lips this week. “10 times better” Birmingham City. Not my words but those of Harlee Dean etc etc etc

Billy cut to the chase. As he does. “For the fans, and maybe yourself, Wednesday’s a grudge match, isn’t it?”

Deans’ answer was as expected. “No, It’s just another game” and was meet with an immediate retort. “No, it isn’t”, pushed back Billy . At the same time echoing exactly what every Brentford supporter is thinking at the moment.

The man is a national treasure. A cat playing with a mouse. And whilst Dean’s answer was ever professional, we all know full well what is at stake this Wednesday. Not just three points but consummate bragging rights. The chance to really try and prove something. Not just following that deadline day triple transfer swoop but, probably of greater ire to supporters, Harlee Dean’s nonsensical claim this week about the current Birmingham City squad compared to our own from 2014/15.

DO listen to Billy’s interview. Not just for the probing but for Dean’s responses. Our Head Coach really is in good form at present. Not surprising, given the results. And with games against Birmingham and then Leeds United to come, things could get even more exciting.

But so is Billy. We are undeniably fortunate to have a local journalist who is a true fan. Somebody who asks the same questions that suporters would if we were lucky enough to be in his position. There’s no clickbait grabbing gumph lifted from twitter and padded out into a ‘story’ . Just a steel fist wrapped up in the most delicate of sik gloves, using the microphone like some form of journalistic broadsword to cut straight to the heart of the matter.

Here’s to Wednesday night. Whilst the players will, no doubt, be as level headed as ever, expect our fans to have an extra level of bite to them. And, perhaps, more of Billy’s oh so gentle probing.

It’s going to be fun.

DMqPyeMWAAEOUE2

Billy – the Bard of Brentford did his thing quite superbly. Again

Nick Bruzon

Has Harlee scored a huge own goal (or is he just talking b*llocks)? As for that cup draw….

27 Oct

It says something when the Haribo cup draw was only the second most nonsensical thing in the football world on Thursday. Harlee Dean, perhaps sore at missing out on this season’s Brentford captaincy to Nico Yennaris, has done some silly things in his time. Namely the ogs, suicidal back passes, red cards, woeful positioning and ‘going again’. But his motivational speech for Birmingham City prior to their forthcoming derby with Aston Villa has potentially topped the lot.

I’m not going to sit here and overly slag him off. His words generate their own, natural, reaction. Besides, despite the errors from somebody learning the game Harlee more than had his positive moments over six years at Griffin Park. Very much the unsung hero, he was one of my son’s favourite players (after Sam and Jota ). He is  also one of a very elite group – a Brentford player to score at Wembley – and, of course, would later help us to promotion. Let’s not forget our former captain is the current Bees player of the year. And now he is at Birmingham City.

img_4043

Harlee – heart on his sleeve.

Perhaps it is having to be content with a place on the bench that has triggered him to show some ‘passion’. To try and endear himself to a home side whose supporters must be frustrated at their current anti-form. Moreso, having spent huge amounts in the summer transfer window. To try and build some positivity at St. Andrews ahead of the Aston Villa game on Sunday lunchtime.

Anyway, there’s already enough flak out there for the player without me adding to it. This, after his claim that the current Birmingham City squad  – who still sit below the Bees in the table – is 10 (ten) times better than that which he himself was a part of when we finished fifth in the Championship under Mark Warburton.

His interview, which you can see below (and skip to about 1.20 to bypass the rest of the nonsense) , contains the gem:

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. and this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right”.

On the one hand, a Brentford squad containing the likes of: David Button, Jake Bidwell, Number 26, Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jon Toral, Jota, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan. That’s before you add the experience provided by the likes of Dougie, Macca, King Kev and Toumani.

On the other, a Birmingham City squad whose record in the league since Harlee joined has been: LLLDWLWL. Five defeats out of eight. Including the 6-1 humping at Hull City and most recently a 2-0 loss at Millwall (although he was only part of the squad that day). Even we’ve beaten them this season !

Deluded? Desperate? Or just panicked? Looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights, the famous 1000 yard stare coming to the fore, was this simply a case of opening his mouth then engaging brain in order to fill dead air? Or just some misguided attempt to win over the fans before a game which will finish 1-1 (standard Aston Villa result).

One expects a player to back his new team. I’m not that naive. Yet this came over as a cheap dig and crass stupidity. Forgetful of his own past where, but for some of our own defensive errors at a time when Tony Craig was bizzarely kept out of the team, a squad that could well have reached the Premier League.

With Brentford travelling to Birmingham on Wednesday night, all he has done is further galvanise the already vocal Bees support ahead of that one. Dean Smith must be sitting back and chuckling at his own team talk having been delivered already. Don’t be surprised to see Nico given the captain’s armband in that one.

Nice one, Harlee. And thank you. For once I’m hoping you really have scored another own goal.

Bees 1-0 v Watford Warburton

Warbs’ squad. Apparently, a tenth of the talent as that now at Birmingham City

Back in the world of real football, the draw for the fifth round of the Haribo sponsored EFL cup look place yesterday. Eventually. In yet another publicity stunt masquerading as an ‘error’, the draw was massively delayed due to what was described as a twitter glitch. This, a competition, where previous draws have seen the live Facebook feed from Thailand (count the things already wrong with that sentence) mysteriously drop as Charlton were seemingly drawn against both Exeter AND Cheltenham. The confusion of round two with the three ball system.The third round taking place at 4.30am, from China. But not televised.

All of which has, coincidentally, got the drinks company name trending on social media. Something which once again happened yesterday before the draw would eventually take place over an hour after it was due to start. Who’d have thought it?

Yawn. Boycott.  I’m certainly not going to start buying their product now. Out of principal. And taste. If nothing else, they sponsor Reading.

Although perhaps, in retrospect, this is all Harlee is guilty of. Talking something up to get us publicising it. Let’s be honest, Birmingham City on a Wednesday night probably wouldn’t have been top of the list a month ago.

Now though… Things have just got very tasty. Unlike a certain soft drink.

Buzzette REd Bull

No C****** for this Bees fan. It’s Red Bull all the way

Nick Bruzon