Tag Archives: Harry Redknapp

Snow day for Brentford still sees carnage at Birmingham City. Again.

4 Mar

So Brentford need to ‘go again’ with Cardiff City. The wintry conditions in the preceding few days putting paid to any chance of the game going ahead. And whilst hindsight may be a wonderful thing as things thawed rapidly on Saturday, making the call early was the correct decision. Moreso given the icy blast that was still blowing through TW8 at the weekend. Yet, with two away trips to come this week (Burton Albion on Tuesday and Millwall, Saturday) perhaps a day off was a blessing in disguise. Even without our game there was still plenty to keep us entertained in the Championship – starting and ending with Birmingham City who went down at Nottingham Forest.

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Griffin Park was among the places caught in the snowy conditions this week.

Positives for the Blues were that they scored their first goal in five games. Unfortunately, their opponents managed it twice, consigning the division’s lowest scorers to another defeat. Five in a row. Anti-manager of the month form for Steve Cotterill who despite embarking on a post-match Kevin Keegan style ‘I’d love it’ rant on BBC Radio, was consequently sacked. It is a decision which leaves Birmingham City looking for their fourth manager of the season and the club firmly locked in the bottom three. With a visit from Middlesbrough next up, it certainly won’t get any easier for whomever comes in next.

Garry Monk is hot favourite. His name being added to the mix over the last few days was something which proved the catalyst for Cotterill’s frustration. “If that’s been going on behind my back, it’s best for them to get on with it”, he told BBC WM 95.6FM. Gordon Strachan and Mark Warburton are names that have also been bandied about.

The latter’s selection, if it somehow happened, would certainly make things interesting for ‘BeeTheDJ’ (or at least, at full time)  – assuming our club paths crossed next season. The respective directions that Birmingham and Brentford are currently heading, could conceivably see a two division gap between us for 2018/19.

It finished 5-0. It finished loud…

Then again, the knee jerk actions of a board whose hiring and firing policy could be written on the back of a fag packet mean nobody is safe for any amount of time. Even if the Bees and the Blues are both in the Championship next time around, there’s no guarantee that whomever inherits the manager’s office will still be there when we play each other once more.

Since the incredible decision to jettison Gary Rowett with the team on the fringe of the play-off race back in December 2016, they’ve been through more incompetent henchmen than a Bond Villain. Think Max Zorin in his zeppelin, finger poised over the ‘eject’ button.  There was the disastrous Gianfranco Zola period, Harry Redknapp (but only after he’d splurged the the transfer budget and wage bill – mostly towards us), three games for Lee Carsley and then Cotterill’s ill-fated period at the helm. Talk about self-inflicted suicide.

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Max Zorin – any excuse

Our own model – in terms of management and spending – proving to be the infinitely stronger tactic. A fourth, successive Championship top ten finish, with the possibility of a second play-off challenge, is more than on the cards. Contrast this to a team who despite their huge reputation and even bigger spending, have finished below us every year since our paths re-crossed at this level

Brentford fans had been quick to request the likes of ‘Price Tag’, Money’ and ‘I need a dollar’ as pre-kick off song selection for our recent game with The Blues. What had happened over the summer still so very fresh in our minds. As such, there was no irony lost yesterday in Joe Lolley and Matty Cash getting the Nottingham Forest goals that would ultimately prove the final nail in the Birmingham coffin. Certainly, this this latest incarnation.

Can they pull themselves out of this downward spiral? Barnsley above them have a game in hand, are already two points better off and have infinitely better goal difference. Likewise, Hull City (who entertain Millwall on Tuesday) are starting to see a bit of clear air. Burton, one point below them, also have a game in hand but are the bookies favourites, along with seemingly doomed Sunderland and the Blues.

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The current relegation prices. For research purposes.

Still, that’s their problem. The only downside out of all this for the Bees being our own trip to Burton on Tuesday. Whilst the table suggests this will be a formality, a team with their backs to the wall and staring into the abyss always have that potential to come out all guns blazing. They really are entering ‘do or die’ territory now as games start to run out. Whether the target is one of still harbouring play-off aspirations or consolidating another top ten finish, then these are the sort of games that need to be won.

To even be talking like this is, I still think, incredible. And as much in the show of faith invested by the club in our players and staff. We all know the horror start that the Bees had. Four points and in the bottom three after eight games. A wealth of experience and talent sold. Yet we’ve put out heads down, not panicked and built on the base of shrewd acquisition, experience and belief in our own process. The evidence has been tangible.

I’m gutted that yesterday’s game was cancelled. I’d love to have seen how we went against Cardiff City. Yet, perhaps it has also given us a chance to take stock. Both on and off the pitch. To look at what is happening around us. With the first shovel due to be planted at Lionel Road on March 19th, it’s fair to say things are looking positive!

Moreso, compared to some of our divisional rivals.

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Until next time, Cardiff….

Nick Bruzon

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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…..

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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.

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

Nick Bruzon

As Blades go top, will Brentford enjoy more success at Preston?

28 Oct

There’s been a lot going on this week and that’s before a ball has even been kicked : all fine at Loftus road whilst Harlee seems to have forgotten his history and manners in Birmingham. But relax. The latest round of Championship action can now take place, having kicked off last night with Sheffield United winning at Leeds to go to the top of the table. It was a largely one way performance and a deserved win for the Blades. Yet whilst we’ll look a bit further at that shortly, our main focus has to be, as ever, on Brentford and our trip to Preston North End.

It would be fair to say that, after a somewhat rocky start Dean Smith’s Bees are beginning to find their feet. The squad has settled down after a frenetic summer of activity which culminated in that last minute triple cash in to Harry Redknapp (a man currently residing in the ‘where are they now?’ files). Yet with the uncertainty done, spleens vented and players returning from injury things are starting to get back to normal.

Brentford are six unbeaten and have even started to have some of that ‘luck’ whose absence had been frustrating our Head Coach. We’ve 10 points out of the last 18 and will be looking to take the current run of form to 7(seven) games when we play Preston on Saturday afternoon.

There’s more good news for Dean Smith. Specifically, no new injuries. Might he be able to name an unchanged starting XI (following last Saturday’s 3-3 with Sunderland) for the first time this season? Or will Sergi Canos be pushed back into the first team after his substitute’s appearance against the Black Cats?

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A sight for sore eyes last weekend

Having played and scored in the B-team’s 3-1 win over Inter Milan during the week (and count the things right in that sentence) might a first team start be a step too far at present? Moreso with games to come against Birmingham City on Wednesday and then Leeds United next Saturday. We’re all desperate to see Sergi back in action but having already been spannered by injury the last time, up at Aston Villa, caution will surely be the order of the day as he rebuild s match fitness.

With Lewis Macleod also getting B-team minutes under his belt after that long, long recuperation there’s more good news on the horizon for Dean. I’d imagine that Preston will be a trip too far for Lewis, at least now, but the midfield options available in a few weeks time could cause some real selection posers.

Still, all that is then. This is now. Let’s focus on the present. With many Brentford fans already licking their lips at the prospect of our midweek trip to Birmingham following Harlee’s comments on Thursday, keeping our focus today will be imperative. Preston are no slouches and know that a win will take them into the play off zone, potentially as high as fourth place following that defeat for Leeds United last night. This, after finishing just below our own top ten Bees in a more than impressive 11th place last season.

Whilst we’ve had plenty of joy against Preston in recent seasons (including that penalty – for Alan Judge, in League One) past performance is not indicative of current form. “It will be a tough ask for us” said Dean in Thursday’s press conference and he’s not wrong. But he has the options at his disposal to answer that ask. As long as he locks it up at the back.

Some people are on the pitch - Juge's penalty v Preston saw a wonderful denouement

Happier times at the denouement of out promotion campaign

Yoann Barbet and Chris Mepham can both count themselves very unlucky to have lost out in recent weeks. With three first half goals shipped against Sunderland last Saturday, could this be today’s ‘change’? Or has Dean nailed his selection colours to the mast and this is it? At 3pm, we find out.

We couldn’t end today’s column without a brief nod to the Sheffield United connection . Not so much Jack O’Connell and the magnificent Clayton Donaldson (who I STILL miss) or Keith Stroud (who I don’t) but more their form. Like Brentford three seasons ago, The Blades have come up from League One and taken the division by storm. But whereas we missed our chance to go top in the Boxing Day game with Ipswich Town (move along, nothing to see there) there was no fluffing of the lines for United last night.

Their performance against Leeds was fully deserving of their position and whilst things may have shifted around come 5pm, nobody can deny who is currently top of the table. Yet for me (Clive) the telling stat is in that L column. United have lost four games. Brentford have lost 4 games. The difference being the ability to turn draws into victory. The Blades have proved to have the cutting edge in the box, winning their other 10. If we can get that bit right then who know how high we can go?

The draw at Middlesbrough last time we travelled showed just what this side can do. Here’s to more of that spirit this afternoon. Moreso, given Deepdale has been a relatively happy hunting ground for us in recent seasons whilst, for personal reasons, Preston are always a club I’ve followed with particular interest.

Preston letter

Keith never did write back. Or did he…?

To date, my first and only foray into the world of professional football club management. It was an application that would eventually prove fruitless. I never heard back with an interview date and can only assume that, in those pre-internet days the follow up letter got lost somewhere in the Royal Mail. Had the postal service done their job properly, who knows how things might have turned out had  a then struggling North End taken that gamble?

Not well, being my guess.

Nick Bruzon

 

Stop sniggering at the back. FFP pigeons coming home to roost for QPR.

25 Oct

Well. That just got interesting for Brentford fans. The chance to sit back, watch potential carnage ensue and be reminded once more of the Financial Fair Play rulings. Whilst most Championship eyes were probably focussed on Crystal Palace (L) being thumped 4-1 by our divisional rivals Bristol City in the League Cup last night, a huge story had already unfolded in West London. Namely , that of hapless QPR and the fine of up to £58 million for breaching divisional FFP rules back in 2013-14.

The BBC sum things up nicely, but in a nutshell clubs were allowed losses of up to £8million that season. QPR ran up a deficit of £9.8million aswell as then seeing owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders write off an additional £60million loan, deeming it an ‘exceptional item’. As you do.

The case has dragged on for the last three years. So much so that, speaking about it recently to a fellow Brentford fan, gut reaction was that Fernandes had just paid the fine ‘under the counter’. Do it discreetly and make it go away. Save some face. Surely that was the only reason we’d heard nothing else about this?

Sadly not, for QPR. An arbitration panel has now given their verdict that the fine was correct for the offence committed. They may have edged their way into the Premier League but having dropped out of it, that pigeon has now come home to roost.

Not surprisingly, there has been little comment out of the Loftus Road club although plenty on Social media. Chief Executive Lee Hoos has issued a short statement , expressing the customary disappointment aswell as noting that “We will be appealing“. Surely a first for a club normally about as appealing as finding a maggot in an apple.

Back at the time, Fernandes was all blood and thunder. There’s a piece in The Guardian where he denounced how unfair this all was. His team had been a Premier League club but after employing the likes of Neil Warnock and Harry Redknapp (not for the first time) were relegated (not for the first time).  Yet despite the rules in place they chose to breach them to suit their own situation.

My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

“If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.

Boo-hoo. Welcome to the real world of football. It’s not ‘fair’. Don’t clubs like Brentford, trying to compete on a level playing field with the likes of over spending QPR and Bournemouth, know that? We’ve had to watch for year on year as our best players are sold to balance the books. The likes of Moses Odubajo, Scott Hogan, Andre Gray, Jota, Maxime Colin, number 26 and Stuart Dallas. To name but a few.

How nice would it have been just to spend beyond our means and then cry ‘unfair’? Instead, despite huge frustration as to the individual sales, the update from Loftus Road shows the longer term reasoning behind such decisions. We’ve made no secret of buying low to sell high. Of using this model to keep ourselves afloat and build for the future. It has been frustrating at times for sure, I’m the first to admit that. Yet, also, there’s now a wonderful opportunity for a line to be drawn.

Will QPR be able to wriggle out of this one? Will a further appeal be successful? Will their board pay the fine through gritted teeth? Do they even have any money left to do so? Or is a points deduction and demotion the alternative?

One things for sure, when Brentford travel to Loftus Road next month (assuming QPR are still in existence at that point) it’s going to be tasty.

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It has been a troubled few seasons for QPR

Nick Bruzon

Bees have to settle for another point as Birmingham lose (but win the sack race).

17 Sep

Brentford 1 Reading 1. Eight league games down and the Bees still to register a win. Yet a point was, at the least, sufficient to take us above a Birmingham City side who lost their sixth successive game and consequently sacked manager Harry Redknapp. Oh please, stop sniggering. And with basement club Bolton Wanderers losing again, it puts even more significance on our own trip to the Macron this Saturday.

What can you say about our own performance at Griffin Park? Well, the first half was as good as the second was poor whilst referee Tony Harrington had a stinker. It’s a shame that the highlights now available on Sky don’t show either of the two seemingly nailed on penalties denied the Bees – Romaine Sayers in the first half and Neal Maupay in the second. Gut reaction to both was that a spot kick should have been awarded but, instead, he ruled in favour of Reading.

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Reading were the latest visitors to Griffin Park

As for their penalty to equalise Josh Clarke’s sublime opener, it was about as soft as they come. Rico Henry alleged to have shoved Tyler Blackett as a free kick drifted past and into touch. The Reading man pulling off a Norman Wisdom pratt fall to fool the ref and present his team the chance to level things up. It was a chance that was gratefully accepted.

But again, we’re hanging on arbitrary moments of refereeing indecision. The game should have been put to bed long before that. The Bess dominated and the goal from man of the match Josh no more than our pressure and play deserved. An exchange of passes with Neal Maupay in the box saw him fire home from a tight angle with defenders bearing down.

At the risk of cracking out the ‘déjà vu’ line once more, this is exactly what we got. Tons of possession. Tons of pressure and despite a first half lead (Reading still remain the only Championship club not to get a goal in the opening 45) there was a sense of the inevitable about what came next.

Whilst Jaap Stam read his team the riot act, Dean Smith seemed to have read his a bedtime story. Talk about the game of two halves. The pressure game disappeared and instead we seemed content to try and contain. To be fair, this was working ok until the ref intervened. And at that point you then pay the price for not killing it off.

Dean would later lambast Mr Harrington and his officials to the BBC, telling them that: ”Two of our boys have been tackled from behind and we get nothing”. “Three of their players were already on bookings and some of the tackles were just allowed to go on. All we are asking for is consistency. I didn’t think the referee was very good today”. “We are talking about five big decisions and only one has been given and that can’t be right at this level with professional officials”.

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The Bees had to rely on themselves rather than the officials

Fair enough and true enough. But it goes back to the same old adage about taking chances when they present themselves. Yet again there seemed this endless desire to pass it across the face of the box and walk it into the net when just shooting would have been the order of the day.

Here are three more quotes for you.

7(seven) year old supporter Felix Watts summarising at full time : “The only thing we had to do today was shoot. Really quickly. When they were in the penalty box at Griffin Park all we had to do was shoot but we kept passing it.

Fulham manger Slavisa Jokanovic after his team’s midweek 2-1 win over Hull City: “You cannot create 100 chances before scoring. You must be clinical and show more quality…..This is a similar story (to other games this season), we are dominating. I was worried and it was not a healthy game for us and our supporters.

Dean Smith (in an article you can read in full on ‘official’) : “We are eight games in and I haven’t seen a team that is better than us so far. I feel we were on a par with Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are a really good team, but we are still waiting for our first win.”

I’ll leave it to you as to who is talking most sense at this point.

Genuinely, I feel for Dean. His team aren’t getting the breaks. Reading had only two chances of note and took one. His team WAS denied by a referee set to ‘random’. At least he has said his piece on that, no matter what retribution may follow.  Watching from the stands, it was infuriating how many decisions seemed to go the wrong way. Having now seen the full highlights (below) with the mid-day curfew having been met, the non-penalties look even worse. The foul on Romaine especially whilst the decision to penalise Mauapy at the end one I’m still struggling with.

One can symapthise with Dean over the refereeing performance

But at the same time the malaise and self-pity now seems infectious. The second half performance was just phoned in with little attempt to change formation or tactics and we paid the ultimate price.

Did the Bees deserve to win? Probably. Dean can count himself very hard done by. Yet by the same virtue results have to be earned. Stats, possession and percentages count for naff all compared to balls in the net. We are only eight games in but if we are talking stats then an average of 0.5 points per game is not the mark of a team better than the third of the division we’ve already played.

Still, let’s look positive. We’ve received £12million from Birmingham City (going on the figures quoted in Ben Burgess’ programme column) for three players who are yet to pick up a point. The Blues lost again – that’s all three since they concluded their transfer business – and Harry has now been shown the door at St. Andrews following his team’s 1-3 home defeat to Preston. Hey, at least they got their first goal since the window slammed shut.

“Another rebuild. More turmoil after bringing in all those players. No time to gel. #Crazy. #JustCrazy”. Not my words but those of BBC roving reporter Clem on Twitter as the news broke of this and two other sackings yesterday as Chesterfield and Port Vale also pulled the plug.

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Clem’s gut reaction says it all

This, some something he would later change to: Horrible run. But is this chopping & Changing really workable? 

Sadly, I fear it is . In this instance.

Birmingham City have now slid beneath The Bees with only Bolton Wanderers keeping the pair of us off the bottom. The same Bolton Wanderers we travel to on Saturday. However, the Blues moved quickly  with Lee Carsley taking temporary charge at St.Andrews. We all know what he can do and you can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll get them firing quicker than you can say ‘transfer window.’

Lee more than steadied the ship at Griffin Park after the woeful Marinus experiment came to an end, even scooping the October 2015 manager of the month award. There were many who hoped he would stay on full time although that was something never in his scope, a point that was made clear from the off. But now Birmingham have the opportunity to benefit from a similar stint – presumably until Steve Bruce becomes available soon.

Lee will no doubt re-inject some vitality and confidence into Birmingham City. The big question is whether Dean can do the same to his ‘unlucky’ Bees before the chance to nail Bolton to the bottom presents itself on Saturday.

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A point sees the Bees rise above big spending Birmingham

Nick Bruzon

7(seven) and 0. But is it as bad as it looks or is the table lying?

13 Sep

7(seven) games in and Brentford remain locked on three points, sit second bottom in the Championship table and have still failed to record a league win. Our latest attempt saw a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday where despite taking an early lead via Nico Yennaris, normal 2017/18 service soon resumed. The only consolation of the night was another blank and another defeat for a Birmingham City side who now join us in the bottom three.

But first, matters closer to home. Another game, another defeat for Dean Smith and his new look Bees. A trip to Sheffield Wednesday was never going to be an easy one but we were given a gift wrapped start after Nico gave us a 9th minute lead from outside the box. It was less a piledriver and more a bobbling grass cutter but, somehow, Owls ‘keeper Kieren Westwood conspired to let it squirm under his body.

Do check out the Sky highlights package (at least, until ‘official’ are allowed to do their thing) to see just how much of a gift this was. Still, who’s complaining? Not me. After all the patches of brilliance and bad luck we’ve seen to date then perhaps this was it. Something had gone our way. The dam had been breached and surely normal service would resume. Alas not.

The longer it stayed 1-0 the louder the inevitable equaliser began knocking on the door. And then, with first half injury time being played, we welcomed it in. Despite Wednesday charging through, John Egan was still able to clear Gary Hooper’s goal bound effort off the line. Sadly, it was only cleared as far as the near post where it bounced back to the grateful player who bundled it home for the equaliser.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 07.12.44Ph-eep. (I would also accept: Ph-hew). Half time. 1-1 The proverbial stuffing knocked out of the Bees and a psychological mountain to climb. K2? Or should that be Wednesday 2 ? Ross Wallace capitalised on our ongoing inability to clear a ball played into the box as he stabbed home a corner with 20 minutes left. Despite Brentford’s best efforts, that was it. 2-1 Sheffield and Dean Smith looking to rationalise more dropped points.

Speaking to the press afterwards (and you can read his thoughts in full on ‘official’) there was more talk of us creating chances but just needing to take them. Of being unlucky. Of our play deserving more than it has achieved in terms of results : “We didn’t take our chances and then gave away a soft goal. ….. Not concentrating from a corner lost us the game. We were then the better team again after they went in front and deserved to score another goal, but it wasn’t to be”.

Sorry, Dean. But let’s have a bit of context here. We don’t deserve to win every game. Sometimes we’ll play well and lose. Others, we’ll play badly and win. But this season we’re making basic mistakes and we’re not winning in the league. And even just acknowledging this would be a start. Surely? Instead, it feels as though we are wallowing in self pity.

Let’s have a bit more context. At the same stage of the 2015/16 season, 7(seven) games in, Marinus Dijkhuizen had taken the Bees to 8 points and 2 wins. It was horrific to watch at times and, whilst nobody wants to see a manager lose his job, it couldn’t end soon enough. Likewise, I’m not for one second calling for his return or hoping Dean suffers a similar fate.

Far from it. We are still three games short of the magical ‘played 10’ marker. That position where the league table is finally deemed to have taken shape. A time where bad luck has had a chance to iron itself out. Where updated squads have had an opportunity to gel.

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Dean v Marinus. If we are looking at stats

I’m sorry. I don’t believe our squad is stronger. I believe our squad is potentially stronger although, to date, this is yet to be demonstrated. How can we dominate, always be told we deserved to win but so far fail to accomplish this? Being honest, the team that ended last season would wipe the floor with this one. At present.

Yet equally we know why departures happened. Money talks; players walk. The rest of the squad are still adjusting. As much to those exits as to each other and the lack of any settled team. This was the ninth line up change in nine games since 2017/18 began. It is only natural that it will take time for things to come together.

At the end of the day (Clive), let’s have one final piece of context. It’s only early September. Trips to Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday, immediately after the transfer window, were never going to be easy. More importantly, we’ve a home game with Reading followed by a trip to basement club Bolton. Surely if we follow Dean’s beliefs about bad luck, great play and keeping on doing what we are doing these will be the games to put that into practice? Boom. We’ll be off the mark, up and running.

Besides, it could be worse. We could be Birmingham City. Harry Redknapp’s expensively put together new look team lost. Again. This time to Leeds United. His team failed to score. Again. Clayton who now? His defence were as generous as he is with the club’s chequebook as they continued to leak.

The Birmingham boss was in fighting form afterwards, reading from the big book of Smith as he told the press: “We completely dominated the second half. It was one-way traffic, wasn’t it?

As for our former captain, he must have been itching to ‘go again’. Instead, we got another of the twitter ‘faves’. See also: “It wasn’t good enough” for a full house in post defeat bingo

Sound familiar?

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Nick Bruzon

If you promise the earth, then you’d better be able to deliver.

3 Sep

The morning after the morning after the night before. Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin are still at Birmingham City and have left Brentford. It wasn’t a bad dream. It really happened. There’ll be more than a few eyes on the Championship’s 20th placed team when they visit Norwich City on Saturday. As there will be on the Bees for our own trip to Aston Villa.

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It really happened

So what to make of it having had 48 hours to take it all in? What do we think after Phil Giles has undergone a very gentle probing from Ciaran Brett? That, on a YouTube video that we’re probably all seen already but is further below.

Well, initial feelings from yours truly were of understanding our ‘model’ yet also a feeling of utter deflation at the way it has been implemented this time around. So close to the line of looking like we’d have an incredible squad, this has happened. Feelings of confusion as to how this tallys up to those previously quoted statements that included the proclamation from Rasmus that the goal is to get stronger each transfer window. Feelings that, whilst obvious, it really is just all about the money. I wrote a column about it – you can find it here – which has generated a lot of reaction. It was angry. It was passionate. It was what being a football supporter is all about.

It was packed full of typos. I apologise. Try writing on an iPhone in a Belgian hotel room. But sometimes, thoughts need to be documented. Moments need to be captured and that’s how I was feeling about what happened between Brentford and Birmingham City at that point. I’m certainly not going to apologise for giving a damn about a team I’ve supported since 1979. I know Matthew Benham can’t keep pumping money into the club to prop it up and revenue needs to come from elsewhere. Yet the whole thing felt so cold, so calculated, so businesslike and it hurt. That’s as much from the players.

Reading Jota’s subsequent letter he may aswell have just published a tweet saying ‘Kerchinggg’. “The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” he told us in his latest farewell.

Really Jota? Really? I’d rather you hadn’t bothered. You’re just hurting us now. We know how passionate you can be and how much love you have. This is agent speak.  It was as opposite to “This isn’t ‘goodbye’ but more of a ‘see you later’ or ‘hasta luego’ as we say in Spain because I have just extended my contract for an extra year.” as one could imagine.

In time I’ll remember all those wonderful memories. Right now it still all feels too raw. Birmingham City can afford to pay him a reported £40k a week, We can’t. Simple economics and you can’t blame him for taking it. Yet after all the love for the club. All the support offered when we’d supported his loan return to Eibar, something which in his own words at the time, was “based solely on personal circumstances” , there was a thought that perhaps he might sign another year’s extension. Pay back that love and loyalty or even give the Premier League a shot with Brentford.

Yeah, I know. Cloud cuckoo land. I’m a supporter. I care. There’s the obvious mistake. It is based on fantasy rather than the balance sheet. That’s not how football works in the real world. This week has shown us that in spades. Without passion and heart it is nothing more than a money making machine. We emotionally invest in these players, we get their names on our shirts and then they chip off for the next big pay day. That’s football. It happens. It hurts.

But taking 48 hours away from the last column, it has given the club a chance to say a few more things. The video with Phil Giles has been published in which he explains how the reasoning for the sales was to keep the money coming in before contracts expired. That 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.

As noted in that previous column, I know this is how football, especially at Brentford, works. I know we’re all about ’sustainable’. I understand a lot of what Phil, who acknowledged that fans will be deflated by the moves, was trying to say.

But what was as telling as anything else was what the video didn’t say. Whether because Phil wasn’t asked or couldn’t answer.

Fairplay to Ciaran for asking if we were stronger after this window. After a pause, the answer was a less than convincing one. “Well we retain a squad of young players. I don’t see weaknesses in our squad. I don’t see finished players. I see a strong set of B-team players ready to come through. So from that point of view it provides a really good platform. Not just on the pitch but for the sustainability of the club in the future. It’s not an old squad who’s depreciating in value

By which I read it as : No. But hopefully down the line we will be.

Phil spoke about how Harlee had stepped up when number 26 was sold to Burnley. How we’d survived the Scott Hogan sale to Aston Villa. Indeed, we’d immediately gone out and thrashed them.

I’d love to have found out why we chose to sell three players to Birmingham City. What the strategic thinking in strengthening a team that sit just above us in the table was? Or were these simply the best/only offers for the players?

Phil says his piece. Very much like the Curate’s Egg

Reading Maxime Colin’s article in The Birmingham Mail he claimed that there had been offers from France that the club turned down. And he’d been unaware of the wider wheels in motion: “It wasn’t a plan or something prepared in advance….
“It wasn’t something prepared in advance and I wasn’t told about them, especially Jota which I didn’t know until the end”.

You know what? It feels somewhat redundant asking about it now. Phil’s video is quite clear about how we operate. Bring them through, sell them on and pay the wages at the club. That the definition of a post window squad is somewhat of a fluid one, open to interpretation. This is how Brentford FC works.

However, it would be nice to know what our aspirations are. Is Championship survival the way forward? At least until the stadium at Lionel Road is built? If that prediction from Rasmus of being in the Premier League by the end of this campaign is to come true, then selling established, settled players aren’t the actions of a club looking to make that step up. At least in the immediate short term.

I feel for Rasmus. He’s come out with some key mission statements that Brentford fans will not forget. If you promise the earth, then you’d better be able to deliver. Yet there has been no attempt to realign those aspirations. Short of the phrase #bignewambitions being airbrushed from history (and that’s no bad thing in anybody’s eyes). Why not just come out and talk to us? Speak to us openly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. And again. And again.

rasmus-goal-stronger

So here we are. The squad is what the squad is. No amount of wailing or gnashing of teeth will change that. I for one will be 110% behind the players when they run out. As noted on Friday, we have newcomers Kamo, Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins already doing great things. We’ve got Ryan back in the team, the centre back situation is clearer and Romaine Sawyers has come out the blocks flying. The option of Flo Jo and Sergi out wide is a delicious one. Start to get the wins under the belt against Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading then this will all be a storm in teacup. Move along, the model works.

Let’s just hope the model doesn’t break….

Oh , and if Norwich City are reading (they aren’t ) you’ve no idea what a boost it would be at Griffin Park if you could please pick up three points next Saturday.

Nick Bruzon

Would the last person to leave turn out the lights. Not even Chelsea have these headaches as Brentford up sticks to Birmingham.

1 Sep

“Most of the big moves expected on transfer deadline day didn’t happen”. Not my words but those of Matt Dyson on the Absolute Radio sportsdesk as he cited the failure of Manchester City to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and Ross Barkley walking off the treadmill and out of his medical at Chelsea after personal terms and a fee had been agreed. How we laughed. Although not at Brentford where a fire sale has seen Harry Redknapp feasting at the all you can buy buffet. Not one, not two but three of our best players have all been sold to Birmingham City before the transfer window closed last night.

Harlee Dean – sold. To Birmingham City.
Jota – sold. To Birmingham City.
Maxime Colin – sold. To Birmingham City.

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Hola, Harry

With the B-team also stripped back and bids also coming in from the two Sheffield clubs – John Egan, United and Ryan Woods, Wednesday – those players who didn’t receive an offer must be waking up with somewhat of a complex .

With Harry Redknapp charming the pants off this side of West London, I wonder if he didn’t put in a cheeky call to Stamford Bridge. Wantaway star Diego Costa remains a Chelsea player this morning although that remains somewhat of a different problem to that faced in TW8.

And it is a problem. Fans are devastated. We’ve sold big names in the past but never like this. Never en-masse. Never to a divisional rival. A rival who we have finished above the last three seasons. Just look at he respective placings of Birmingham and Brentford before reading all the gumph about the size of the club. Their ambition. Their Premier League potential. Hmmm. Hasn’t worked out too well for Leeds United. As we’ve said many times before, nobody has a divine right to be any good. These are all pure and simple moves for financial gain. Football a secondary consideration. For both clubs and players.

Obvious. I realise. “It’s business” will no doubt be thrown at me. There’ll be talk of ‘sustainable football’ (which seems to be the bingo phrase of choice at present). Talk of this being our model and never standing in the way of a player. Perhaps even talk of further de-risking the Lionel Road project. Only last Saturday Nity Raj went on record at the fan forum as saying:”What we are talking about is a bet on football. It happens to be with Matthew’s money. He’s pretty good at bets on football and in his opinion we have reduced the risk by following this path.”

I’ll also refer you to previous statements to come out of Griffin Park.
Rasmus Ankersen: “the goal is to get stronger after each transfer window.

The same Rasmus who also told supporters in 2015 : “It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.

Chuck #BigNewAmbitions into the mix and I’m struggling to see how all his marries up.

Yes, we’ve bought in advance. The likes of Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay ooze potential whilst Kamo has won over supporters in his first few games. Yes, we have proven time again that we have a knack for unearthing gems, sometimes even leaving them to fester (see: KK).

Yet these are players who have taken time to bed in. Romaine Sawyers came in for buckets of stick last season. Andreas Bjelland is yet to set the world on fire. Maxime Colin and Yoann Barbet took time to find their feet before becoming nailed on choices. Is it fair to expect the latest raft of new players to hit the ground running?

I know we have financial challenges . I know we are up against it. I know we are a small club, historically. So are the likes of Burnley, Watford and Bournemouth. I know we should never, ever , ever forget rattling buckets. That without Matthew’s money we’d likely be playing Rymans Premier League football. At best. That we’ve always been a selling club and this is our model.

Yet this time it feels so, so different. It feels as though we are a cheap Vegas hooker and Harry Redknapp, some doddery kneed tourist, has gone on holiday with the company credit card. And boy has he filled his boots with no fear of personal liability as he can claim it back on expenses later. (That’s an analogy; I’m not suggesting in any way Harry would act in an untoward manner.)

I really thought this was it. Such a positive summer of acquisition and pre-season form. Finally, the fans had bought into the club model and could see what we were looking to do. We were slowly building a top class squad. One that would finally ally to Rasmus’s Premier League talk. Justify his much mocked quote about getting stronger each window. Prove we really do have big new ambitions.

Boom. Back to square one. We’ve been given these wonderful toys to play with and then had them snatched away. Sorry Nick, Harry Redknapp wants to play with your Star Wars figures. You can have this pile of Lego bricks – see what you can build.

Yet, as ever, we’re struggling to understand the sound bites coming out of Griffin Park. The Rasmus remains in the shadows, Dean Smith has expressed his disappointment whilst Phil Giles has said his piece on ‘official’.

Phil on Jota : “When it becomes clear that a player has outgrown the financial constraints of the Club then it is usually best that they move on for a better contract and for a transfer fee that helps to keep us financially viable in this division.”

Phil on Maxime: “We were aware that Maxime could be a target for other clubs this summer. This is why we made a pro-active decision to bring another right back in earlier in the summer“.

Cold? Realistic? Ok, now to catch breath and attempt a bit of perspective.

Harlee Dean. I’m m’eh about our decision to sell. A great servant and I stand by what I said yesterday. He’s been through it with all of us and was very, very capable at this level. But we have been overloaded at centre back , especially once Andreas returned from injury. Even without a sale, Egan and Barbet would be my absolute nailed on choice for those starting positions. Dean tried to crowbar 3 of his 4 into a starting XI last time out. Hmmm..

Jota. Tears are flowing. And that’s just from reading Sergi’s tweet. All that talk of going to the Premier League. All that talk of the clubs loyalty when he returned to Eibar on loan. A second coming that was bigger than The Stone Roses. And now it is all over. At Birmingham.

Sorry. Birmingham City??!! Historically big club but hardly Premier League. That love letter he wrote fans has been scrunched up and thrown in the bin. No new contract signed and the club cashing in while they still could. Before he walked on a free.

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Nooooo

And in that, it tells you all you need to know about our Premier League ambitions this season. Jota is, sorry was, the most talented of all our players. Probably in the last 70 years. Rather than see if he can help push us up, we’ve sold him on. One football bet the club haven’t been willing to take?

Maxime Colin. This for me being the biggest of all kicks. Why? Why? Why? Contract clause triggered, presumably? A sack of money offered? The untested Dalsgaard already bought in as cover. Phil’s words smacked of a dispassionate approach. Something I hope isn’t the case.

Which brings me onto the same old story. Talk to us. Just talk to us. Cut the sound bites. Cut the crap. Cut the buzzword bingo. Explain your choices. How about, and call me controversial, disclose some transfer fees….

Make us realise why the departure of our heroes makes such sense. Show us the huge profits we have made. Explain how the new look squad will immediately gel and attain those Premier League aspirations. If, indeed, those are our aspirations today.

Sorry. I love this club. Fan since 1979. I know we’ve been poor in the past. I know we’ve been broke. I know we have a remodelled stadium on the horizon. But waking up this morning I feel devastated. I’ve no desire to think about taking my daily walk past Griffin Park.

I can’t, anyway, but that’s not the point. I’m in Belgium, having watched Gibraltar go down 9-0 last night in a game where, but for goalkeeper Ibrahim, it could have been double that. There you go Rasmus, perhaps you could sign him for Daniel Bentley? Have that one on me.

My team got a dicking yesterday. But it wasn’t at the hands of Romelu Lukaku. It was at the hands of Harry Redknapp.

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Lukaku makes it 9 . 4 less than Harry signed

Nick Bruzon

 

Farewell, Harlee Dean. Will it be adios Jota next?

31 Aug

Sad times for Brentford fans.  As anticipated these last few days, Harlee Dean has joined Birmingham City for an undisclosed transfer fee thought to be £2million. He joins Sam Saunders in breaking my four year old’s heart as two of his three favourite players departed Griffin Park to join what is known as ‘The naughty team’ (i.e. anybody who isn’t Brentford). That was a ‘fun’ conversation last night. Good luck and everything Harlee, genuinely, but the fallout from your move has been catastrophic in our house.  I’m only hoping that Jota doesn’t make it a full house today. Where, on the positive side, after yesterday’s early morning stories there has been tumbleweed out of Fulham.

With the transfer window due to slam shut(tm)  today, have Cottager’s fans been getting themselves excited a bit too early? Could the talismanic Spaniard be heading elsewhere? Or might, just might, there be a chance of him defying all expectation and staying at Griffin Park? Still, that’s to come. First up, Harlee.

I can only wish Harlee Dean the very biggest of thanks and the best wishes for the future. With the obvious exception of when he plays against us. I get the feeling already that he is going to be one of those players applauded back onto the Griffin Park pitch in the warm up when Birmingham come to visit in February, such has been the outpouring of love from the vast majority of supporters on social media. Although what happens once the real action kicks off, who knows?

The love for Harlee is obvious. What hasn’t he done at Griffin Park? There are those obvious staples of a Brentford centre back – the red cards, the own goals, the air kicks. But those were the thin end of the wedge. And besides, if he was the finished article from day one he wouldn’t be at Brentford or Birmingham City but Barcelona or Bayern.

Yet what we got day in, day out was passion. Was commitment. Was guts. Was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve when wearing the red and white. Was a man whose game improved so much that it culminated in him being named player of the year. How wonderful to see him develop as a player over those six years.

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Harlee Dean – never backward in coming forward.

A man who has been through it all with us. ‘That penalty’. Play-off heartbreak. Yet, at the same time, along with Robbie Cooke becoming only the second Brentford player to score a goal at Wembley in a competitve fixture. That being the ill-fated game agasint Yeovil Town (how is that working out for you, Glovers?).

He was there for the resurgence at Leyton Orient when we celebrated like we’d won the FA cup. Coming off the bench to shore up our ten man team in a backs to the wall siege following a red card for number 26.  There to see us gain promotion to League One. There when we humped Fulham time and again. There to see us finish above Birmingham City in the Championship these last three seasons.

Six long seasons. Six wonderful seasons. A man who won an ‘unsung hero’ award for his actions after a young supporter was hit by a car. A man who, himself, was hit in the face with a fish by Will Grigg on one pre-season tour (below). A man who would always take time out for fans and, as noted, was a hero to my son when we went to watch the Bees.

Birmingham fans wondering what sort of player they are going to get, Harlee is certainly one of a kind. In these days of identikit and bland footballers simply in it for the money and the next big move, you’ve got a wonderful addition to the dressing room and a player with the potential to make your armband his own, just as he did ours.

I could talk about Harlee’s positives for hours. But, frankly, you’d get bored. Players come and go. That’s football. I get that. But, like Sam, he was one of our few remaining links to the past. To the League One days. To the times we were building a team and a squad to try and escape the lower leagues. All that is gone as he has now joined Birmingham. A team he would yesterday describe as, “A massive club, obviously the biggest one in Birmingham.”

Still, time to put all that behind us. Instead, we’ve a deadline day to sweat through. Although, perhaps, if there is one image that sums up Harlee. One that shows off his cheeky side. Reminds us of the odd gaping hole (sorry), it was the time he decided to join club captain Kevin O’Connor in an interview with Chris Wickham. Except King Kev wasn’t aware he had company…

Kev coach

Farewell, Harlee Dean

Nice one Harlee. Good luck, so long and thanks for all the memories.

But wait, there’s more. Or there could be. Whilst we may have been denied the opportunity to see Harry Redknapp leaning out of a car window on Wednesday, there’s always today. Transfer deadline day. And for Brentford and Fulham fans, the word on everybody’s lips remains: Jota.

Will he go? Will he stay? Where might he end up? Is there any hope he’ll be running out against Aston Villa next Saturday? And if he does, will it be his choice or simply down to a lack of acceptable offers?

Yesterday was bad. The tension, the pressure, the scares coming across my twitter timeline. The constant observations of Ian Moose being retweeted over my social media feed. His presence about as welcome as a visit from Mrs. Brown. With or without ‘her’ ‘boys’. The only positive there being he wasn’t talking about pies or wishing a happy birthday to ‘his good friend’. But there were still the obligatory photographs of him with just about anybody who was the subject of a rumour.

Well if there’s one straw we can grasp at, then looking through Twitter I can’t find a picture of the Talksport shockjock posing alongside ‘The King’ for an obligatory photo. Should the sale happen, then at least we won’t have Moose rubbing our face in it with pictorial evidence.

Then again, that could just be my terrible ‘search’ skills.

Today promises to be long. It promises to be angsty. It is crying out for a cryptic tweet from Matthew Benham. A reassuring word from Jota. IF the Fulham story has any truth, then it promises to unleash cyber civil war across TW8.

So instead, let’s just share this beauty from iFollow’s own Mark Burridge. If anyone knows a thing or two about Jota it’s him..

  Nick Bruzon

 

 

 

Harlee to Birmingham? Jota to Fulham? Brace yourselves after overnight update

30 Aug

The talk on everybody’s lips these last few days has been the prospect of Jota leaving Brentford for, of all places, Fulham. Unthinkable in the eyes of many. The ultimate smack in the face to others. Or just good business for a player whose contract is fast expiring? Then, yesterday, radio silence. Indeed, all the talk was about Harlee Dean. His apparent medical at Birmingham City with a £2million fee having been agreed. So what to believe as the transfer window creaks closer to that ‘slam shut’ ™ ?

Jota Fulham last minute

This is our sort of Jota / Fulham story

Centre back is, of course a position we are well catered for whilst somewhere we’ve struggled to lock down in recent weeks. Harlee is (or was ) club captain and is player of the year. Rightly so based on last season although, equally, it was a campaign that saw him massively raise his game from those moments of ‘random error’ we’d seen in the past.

That’s part of learning your trade. Learning the game. He is still only 26 and it seemed as though we finally had the player we had all hoped he could be. Consistent. Strong. Mature. But with contract running out it has put Dean in a hole. And it is hole that Harry Redknapp and Birmingham City would seem happy to start shovelling cash into.

Funnily enough, looking around cyberspace there isn’t the doom and gloom one might expect. Certainly not compared to the Jota / Fulham story. There is a resigned expectation to this one, with suggestions that the player is being offered substantial wages at Birmingham City whilst the new contract on offer from Brentford was still below the top earners at Griffin Park.

From many respects, the emotional attachment to losing our longest serving player (and one only on an upward trajectory) is balanced out by the thought that at least he can better himself financially – if not in terms of destination. That at least it gives us no choice but to stick with Yoann Barbet and John Egan as our regular, first choice centre-back pairing.

It might makes Dean’s job that bit easier and, whilst maybe not the centre back that many would prefer to see go, given the player’s contract situation then perhaps this is the best way to close out an awkward situation. Whilst, of course, giving Harlee a new challenge and the financial rewards he may well feel he is due.

And if not, at least then we can focus on a first choice pairing by the time the Villa game comes around. Leaving two players to keep the B-team warm. Regardless of any sale, Dean Smith needs to stick and stop twisting.

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Harlee – heart on his sleeve. As ever

As for Jota, well this now gets interesting. And not in a good way. Specifically on account of a long conversation I’ve had in the small hours with the team at Beesotted who have been advised by a source in SW6 that the move is looking as though it will be on. Yes, you read that correctly.

Ordinarily we don’t do transfer speculation on these pages. Yet this one is well beyond the norm. And in trying to corroborate this story – basically, is it true or is it bullshit? – it seems as though there may be some substance. Their sources at other clubs are well known to be very accurate, as are their stories in general.

And in this instance their SW6 contact suggest that some sort of movement may be imminent. That an offer is about to be submitted. From a club who have just coined in £6.5million from selling Sone Aluko to Reading. Although, of course, even if it is then would it be sufficient to force Matthew Benham’s hand?

Middlesbrough have already been knocked back. As was also proven with Scott Hogan to Villa Park, we leave things late and we don’t give away our prize assets for small change.

IF he goes anywhere – Fulham, Boro’, other, then the one thing you can say is that it won’t be for nothing. Other than that, we’ll just wait for Dave, Billy and team to bring us the big facts as they learn more.They know I’m writing this. I’m not stealing any thunder here.

It may still prove to be a massive wind up. Our respective sources do all have form at this sort of thing. The name Brian Guest springs to mind. But, equally, if it is going to happen then let’s just brace ourselves.

Today could be a long one. Do check the Beesotted website where their update is now live. No doubt they’ll be updating their own story further with what they know and, of course, if/as either story develops.

In the meantime, strap yourselves in…..

Jota v Forest

Jota. Look away Brentford fans. It might get ugly

Nick Bruzon