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One down. Five to go. We’re still in this.

8 Apr

One down, five to go. Brentford made it back to back wins as Neal Maupay’s penalty and Daniel Bentley’s record (at this level for a Bees ‘keeper) 14th clean sheet of the campaign proved to be the difference over an Ipswich Town side that began the game with Luke Hyam in the team and ended it with 10 players after running out of substitutes. Whilst, as ever, the likes of Beesotted and ‘official’ are usually the places to go for your match reports, in this case they really are. For reasons out of my control I had to miss this one. Instead of sitting at Griffin Park, I found myself holed up in a random pub with some random Barnsley fans (amongst others), watching the Merseyside derby and getting somewhat over excited by the Tykes comeback against Sheffield United. This before Birmingham City managed an 87th minute equaliser against fellow relegation candidates Burton Albion that brought everybody present back down to earth with a bump.

By that point though, it was too late to be overly concerned. Much as I’d love to see ‘ten times better’ Birmingham slip through the relegation trapdoor, primary focus has to be on Brentford. We’d absolutely done the needful despite a butt clenching final few minutes of time added on that had been spent waiting for the scores to refresh and confirm our 1-0 victory.

To be honest, I had considered spending the afternoon with Mark Burridge sneaking into my ear via a discreetly placed headphone. However, despite the wise words normally spoken by our commentator par excellence the lure of another beer in the afternoon sunshine and the somewhat less appealing prospect of Stoke City v Spurs on TV won out.

In a way, I’m glad. Not so much the sitting through the Stoke game (if ever there was any added incentive needed to go for the play-offs then just the prospect of bypassing them in the divisions should be sufficient) but more missing out on a match that sounded hard work. With Mick McCarthy setting his Ipswich team up on us man for man, it was always going to be a tough one for the fans. If you had to miss a game then in retrospect, and from a footballing perspective, this one sounds like it was up there.

Flicking through social media at full time, Chief Executive Mark Devlin seems to have summarised the feelings of most fans when he noted : “Thanks for your support and well done to the team. It was by no means a classic but the players got the job done.”

Likewise, Bees boss Dean Smith was quick to pay tribute to both his counterpart and the opposition. His post match interview (which you can catch up on in full over on ‘official’) includes the observation that Ipswich “Made it very difficult for us to get our free-flowing football going. We found chances hard to come by. We were due a penalty like that; it was soft and I would be slightly annoyed if it was given against us.

Hey, sometimes you just have to take the chances when they are offered. At this stage in the game, a win is a win. Whether scrappy, deserved, fortunate or other. That gap to the playoffs remains five points with five games to go. It’s all about getting the result and that’s what Brentford did. Whilst it may not have sounded like the most aesthetically pleasing performance, you get a feeling of what this one meant to all concerned. MrJamie88 summarising it quite beautifully on Twitter, with a bit of help from Sergi Canos.

Next up, the trip to Nottingham Forest awaits on Tuesday. There are five games to go. Five mini cup finals. Keep picking up the wins and I’ve no doubt we’ll be celebrating like a certain Russell Slade once so famously opined. Cliche alert but…..it really is about taking one game at a time whilst, perhaps, hoping for a favour along the way. It happened in 91/92; it could happen again.

Yet without wanting to get too far ahead of ourselves, at the bottom end of the table I’ve got half an eye on Barnsley. Yesterday showed yet again why I’d love them to stay up. Great fans and great camaraderie. There’s the added incentive that their safety would put even more pressure on Garry Monk’s Birmingham City team. With our final away game of the campaign being a trip to Oakwell, how big could that one turn out to be? Hopefully their fate will be well sealed by that point – in a positive way. Hopefully we’ll have carried on picking up the points that will make that game of quintessential relevance.

Before that, though, we’ve the Forest game and then a West London derby double header . First the trip to Fulham and then the home game with QPR. With just that handful of games to go, the season has got a ridiculous amount of fun left in it still and I can’t wait.

As one final word of note, how great to have Alan Judge back in a Griffin Park starting XI. Moreso given the opposition and their own line up. I won’t deny I felt a genuine pang of excitement when the team sheet was published at 2pm. What a journey back from the depths. What a team to do it against.

Nice one, Alan.

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The view from Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

 

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Bring it on. West London’s biggest game in years has more than just a result to play for.

19 Feb

Tuesday night in West London and there’s one of the biggest football showdowns to have been seen in years. Whilst the casual observer might think its all about Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League, they’d be wrong. Of Course. Instead, we’ve the quite delicious treat of Brentford v Birmingham City. More importantly, the return of not just Maxime Colin, not just Jota (the real one rather than the Wolves version) but also former skipper Harlee Dean. Forget Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi visiting Stamford Bridge. The emotional significance of this trio returning, along with the circumstances of their deadline day departure, have been lost on nobody.

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We felt the same way too

“The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” Not my words but those of Jota upon his £6.8million (allegedly) sale to the St. Andrews outfit.

“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.” Not my words but those of Harlee Dean after a Birmingham supporter’s ‘Blues Cruise’ back in late October.

We all know the scoop. 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 who are now just 2 points outside the relegation zone and 17 (seventeen, why not) behind Brentford. A win for the Bees will put us 20 clear. That’s twice ten times better. What better incentive could there be for us to really go for it?

Whatever happened back in the summer has happened. I can’t deny any less how I felt back then although how great to see how the Bees have gone on to bigger and better things. The squad has come together in the most wonderful way to stick a metaphorical two fingers up to the Midlanders. Yet at the same time, I can’t forget the wonder of Jota at his very best.

Those goals against Derby. Against QPR. Leaving Jake Bidwell flat on his backside. The infamous Burridgegasm at Blackburn. Even if those memories do still feel slightly tarnished for now, you can’t deny how, on his day, Jota was just about the most skillful and exciting player many of us ever had the privilege of watching.  Name me somebody who wouldn’t want him or Maxime in the squad and I’ll show you a liar.

Mark Burridge and Jota’s infamous moment

As for Harlee, I feel for him. Genuinely. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot with that ill-fated quote. What a way to make Dean Smith’s team talk the simplest he’ll ever need to give. What a way to wind up the crowd.

Despite the red cards, ad-hoc positional awareness and own goals, you can’t deny Harlee was Brentford through and through. He gave his all. Not just on the pitch but off it, too, where he was so famously an unsung hero after a car accident outside Griffin Park. Where he was a total hero to my son and always made time to chat with the young fans. Try explaining to a four year old why his idol has left to join ‘the naughty team’.

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The smile says its all (apologies again for the sticky fingers)

He was there as we held the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, in the FA Cup. It was Harlee who scored at Wembley in the play-off final against Yeovil following ‘that penalty’. He was the man to help shore up the ten man Bees at Leyton Orient the day we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. He was a Championship regular – almost pulling off an unlikely ascension to the Premier League and eventually showed his true potential ending last season as our Player of the Year.

Then he opened his mouth and, with it, undid all the positivity with a moment as significant in our history as Martin Rowlands ‘kissing the badge’.

No doubt, he’ll have a point to prove. No doubt, so will we. Expect it to be lively. Very. Expect the songs to be loud. Expect the Terrace wags to have their fill on #BeeTheDJ before kick off. And not just for Harlee.  From my perspective, any of the following would be good :

Pink Floyd – Money

The Doors  – Love Me Two Times (although that may need five plays)

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

Aerosmith – Big Ten Inch Record

Dusty Springfield – I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten

Herb Alpert  – Spanish Flea

Blake Shelton – Ten Times Crazier

The flipside is that Birmingham City will be as up for it as we are. Their season has reached a place where, with two thirds gone, they are in very real danger of slithering into League One. Of demonstrating that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

Every point will be vital and they’ll be doing everything possible to get at least one. Picking up all three will necessitate being able to shoot at goal, something they’ve struggled with this campaign. Saturday’s home defeat to Millwall saw them manage just one shot on target whilst, with a mere 22 netbusters, they are the division’s most goal shy team.

So if you haven’t got a ticket yet, what are you waiting for? Sure, Chelsea – Barcelona , in the armchair, might be the comfortable option. It might have some of the World’s biggest names.It might have huge global viewing figures. But it won’t have the passion that this one does and it certainly hasn’t got the sub-plot.

I’ve had this date in the diary for a long, long time. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

Is this a chance to get back to winning ways? Or will the table talk?

3 Feb

Brentford travel to Derby County safe in the knowledge that, a mass exodus to China aside (and Lasse Vibe is still very much flavour of the month there, per Phil Giles’ interview during the week), we know the make-up of our squad for the rest of the Championship campaign. It’s a good thing too, because things don’t come much tougher than a trip to Pride Park where the Rams have remorselessly climbed the table to the point that only Wolves sit above them. And even there the gap is closing. Yet as last night’s game between Bolton and Bristol City showed, anything can happen in this division. Anybody can beat anybody. Few people expected the Trotters to beat City but their reward for a 1-0 win was an escape from the bottom 3. The Bees don’t need to worry about relegation but that’s not to say our job is any easier. Equally though, the reward for victory could be a fantastic one. As for Leeds United, you’ll have to wait for the Preston matchday programme for thoughts on them – I’m sure we’ll all cope.

However, today is all about Brentford and Derby County. Whilst other teams have started to reel them in over the last few games, it is still our hosts who occupy an automatic place in the promotion race. At present. The gap to Wolves still 11 points and one would think it’ll take a choke worse than Wayne Rooney’s form at a World Cup finals for them to blow that one. Yet the race to second place is still wide open. Aston Villa are just a point off whilst Bristol City would have started the day level with County had they done the needful last night. Cardiff City are in a similar position, going into their own game at Leeds United today. Expect them to come away from that one with all three points.

Pressure and expectation can do funny things, though. I reference this a lot on these pages but I’ll never forget that final weekend of the 2014/15 Championship campaign. Derby didn’t need to do much more than just turn up to confirm their place in the play offs in a home against a Reading team with nothing to play for but Pride. Yet they didn’t even manage that, missing a penalty en-route to a 3-0 capitulation that saw them miss out on a promotion shot as Brentford were amongst the teams to overtake them en-route to the play offs for the Premier League. It still seems incredible, even now.

Might knowing that they have a chasing pack breathing down their own necks increase the anxiety for the home support? Could Brentford sweep in and clean up just as Reading did three seasons ago? Whilst we’ve had it tough against County in the past don’t forget we have our own, huge incentive. Prior to last week’s game with Norwich we’d been flying. Our own victory then would have taken us all but into the top six . Instead, it is Fulham who now sit in that slot whilst The Bees faced with the toughest of tasks, on paper, if we are to get back to winning ways.

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Harlee and the Judge – not a 70s cop show but a tough trip to Derby from days gone by

Whatever happens, it is just one game. One, tough game but that hasn’t phased us before. We know how well we have been playing at times. How poorly in patches. On the whole though it has been a pleasure watching Dean Smith’s team these last few months. We’ve a great run of fixtures coming up and what better incentive to hit them with than performing some sort of Ram Raid today to take the points from the hosts.

Yet bludgeoning our way through isn’t the Brentford style. There’s no crude unsophistication. A lack of tactical imagination at times, perhaps, but if we were perfect then we’d be top of the Premier League and lifting trophies. Instead, we have a team who play for each other and can play some quite breath taking football when we hit peak flow. The challenge today will be just who Dean starts with and how he sets them up.

An obvious point, perhaps, yet the first half against Norwich was as gloomy as the second was bright. Ok, we didn’t get the goal but at least we went for it. I like Dean a lot and he generally talks very objectively. But I didn’t buy his post-match analysis about Brentford being the better team over 90 minutes and deserving to win. We lost to a belter of a goal against a team who out played us in the first half. A team who out thought us in the second despite our wonderful approach play and infinite step up in both personnel and playing style.

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The Norwich game has been and gone

That was then and I don’t want to labour the point. Instead it’s just a case of taking that one on the chin rather than dwell on what was a first home defeat since August. Of, dare I say it, going again. The only other team to beat us in recent months have been Wolves, and nobody needs a lecture form me on how well they’ve been doing this season.

So we are more than set up for today. We more than have the talent in this team. Who sits up top is going to be an interesting decision for Dean. As will be choosing who provides the width, how defensive his centre midfield is going to be and whether he has anybody to offer Neal Maupay support. Then again, I wouldn’t bet on him surprising all of us.

All this shows however is that like most of us, I have no clue who Dean will start. Does Neal continue up top? Will Josh McEachran retain his place in the starting XI? Could, no should, Sergi Canos be promoted from the bench?

Roll on 3pm when we find out.

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

Could a returning Sergi see it raining goals?

Nick Bruzon

Table makes wonderful reading as Brentford beat Bolton to tighten the gap.

14 Jan

Brentford 2 Bolton Wanderers 0. Another league game unbeaten at Griffin Park (that’s 13 now, our longest run since 1951) and The Bees a mere three points outside the play-offs. True, that gap is tighter than a duck’s behind at the moment.  The same winning margin divides all six teams from Sheffield United down to ourselves in 11th. Yet with victory (and other results going our way)  all that stands between Brentford and a place in the promotion slots, let’s not pretend things aren’t getting very exciting as we enter the second half of the season. Saturday’s trip to Reading already can’t come soon enough.

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Form an orderly queue. Bolton were the visitors on Saturday

It was a game where victory eventually came to the team who bossed it yet nobody would have been surprised had we left Griffin Park with a point. Brentford had taken the lead just before half time. Flo Jo picking up a sweet pass from Lasse Vibe to hammer home high and hard from the cusp of the six-yard box and into the far corner of the net. It was a powerful finish to light up what in truth had been a somewhat turgid opening period. But a 1-0 lead going into the break was all that mattered and as the players re-emerged, it seemed only a matter of time before that was doubled.

Kamo fired straight at goalkeeper Ben Alnwick from yards out with the whole of the goal to aim at. Nico saw a shot bounce of the post. The Bees pressed. The Bees came close. Then the balance of play began to swing as Bolton sensed a glimmer of hope. Dean stuck to his starting XI as the pressure built.

The away fans gasped. The home support clenched buttocks. If the first half had been a damp squib then this was very much exploding into life. A freekick was headed wide, I forget who, as Bolton came oh-so close. Barbet and Bjelland the unfortunate victims of a bouncing ball as Daniel Bentley came to the rescue.  Bolton, cynical in the challenge, but desperate for a point.

And then it was over. Sergi Canos, a late sub for Florian Jozefzoon, squaring it for Neal Maupay to double our lead with the sweetest of backheels. Being honest, there had been a slight suspicion of offside from where we were sitting but nobody cared. The execution had been delicious and the sense of relief was palpable. Besides, watching the video highlights afterwards (Sky Sports have theirs up already; 12pm for the league to let us put the ‘official’ version up) there was nothing wrong with the goal. Perfect positioning and the calmest of finishes. Stick that in your pie and eat it, Ian Moose.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

It’s hard to find fault on what was a wonderful afternoon. Brentford continuing their fine, fine form ahead of Saturday’s trip to Reading. There’ll be over 2,000 Bees fans at that one. A quite wonderful effort for a game where the reward for another win is there for all to see. If I have any ‘negative’ (and the word is used in the loosest sense) it would have been in the delay to making any substitutions.

Whereas the Warburton era saw you able to set your watch by his making changes within ‘the zone’ (60-70 minutes on the clock), regardless of how the team were doing, these days there seems to be almost a reluctance to switch things around until late on. Even when the opposition are turning the screw as we saw yesterday. Sitting where I was, there was a definite upping off the the ante from Bolton that might have seen us pay pay the price with the Bees continuing as was.

It’s a small observation and, ultimately, one that will be dismissed by the fact we came away with a 2-0 win. That will be proven as Dean having faith in the players he picked to do a job and their following it through. And on that point I can’t disagree – they DID. Yet equally, football is a game of fine margins. We all saw how tense it got for a while and there have been times this season when it’s felt as though we’ve been slow to react to what is happening in front of us.

But as we all know, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I couldn’t manage a beer yesterday (it’s dry January) let alone a football team. Perhaps that is just part and parcel of being a Bees/football supporter – we’ve been conditioned over the years to fear the worst. To expect that kick in the nuts; that ultimate sucker punch. Defenders are paid to defend and they did that admirably. Chris Mepham in particular having yet another stand out game. Talk about a wise head on young shoulders. Dean made his calls and the result shows he got them right. Again.

Equally, the Warburton era saw a team picked by numbers even when perhaps a change might have been due. Jonathan Douglas (at the end) and Harlee Dean (when he was at the more unpredictable end of the scale) seemingly nailed onto the teamsheet. Dean isn’t afraid to mix things around as was seen with Sergi tied to the bench for most of yesterday’s game. With Mepham continuing to keep out more experienced colleagues.

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Late sub Sergi – insert your own caption

But we digress. That’s the price of writing these things on the hoof. Mark Warburton was a hero to pretty much all of us at Griffin Park. He did his thing his way and we all know how close Brentford came. Likewise, we all know how things ended.

That was then, this is now. Dean Smith is the man in charge. Along with his coaching staff, he’s more than getting the results. More than building a quite wonderful team spirit. He has his team set for a second half of the season that could, if things continue, eclipse any that have come before.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be saying this back in September given the start that Brentford had. Players sold, bottom of the table and four points from eight games. Then, we went to Bolton and won 3-0. How things have turned since that point. Could Saturday’s win over the same opposition prove an equally telling catalyst ?

One things for sure, it’s going to be fun finding out. Here’s to Reading and that gap towards the top getting even tighter.

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The red and white express raced to another win on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

Tin foil ready? The FA Cup third round is huge in our house. Could this be our year?

6 Jan

The FA Cup third round is upon us as Brentford host Notts County. Infact, it has already begun although any lingering thoughts about being able to watch Friday night’s game between Liverpool and Everton were extinguished as quickly as they arose. Only one person rules the remote in our house and suffice to say: 1) It isn’t me, and 2) Jamie Oliver’s Friday night food thingy was on at the same time as James Milner and Virgil van Dijk were doing their thing at Anfield.

But that was then and this is now. Nothing is going to get in the way of the big one at Griffin Park this afternoon. With last year’s cup ‘run’ ending somewhat underwhelmingly at Chelsea, could today be a springboard for bigger and better things?

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Another Wembley dream continues today

I’m not going to pretend I was overly disappointed about missing out on the Liverpool game (he says, grabbing the crowbar), given my own thoughts on the TV selections which you can read in today’s copy of BEES – available on the forecourt and around the ground.

Besides, I’ve also got a lot to thank Jamie Oliver for. He is directly responsible for my own getting married to the ever understanding football widow Mrs B. Although that’s a story as convoluted as the naked photo shoot with Graham Norton and probably best left for another time.

But whereas Friday was nothing more than a passing interest in Everton attempting to upset the odds, today is totally different. It is as much about progression for our beloved Brentford as it is in erasing a personal ghost from the past (not Jamie Oliver).

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Jamie Oliver (right) – has his moments. Not many, but….

Daddy? Why did Brentford play rubbish and why did the trophy end up in the bin after the game?” Not my words but those of four year old HB as we had one of those key chats in father-son life yesterday morning – did he want make a tinfoil FA Cup for today’s game?

Whilst there’s only ever one answer to that question, the conversation then moved on to how Daddy Bees have fared over the years and just what happens if we can win just 6 games in this most famous of competitions.

Good questions, son. ‘Bin day’ had been the third round back in January 2016 when relatively new head coach Dean Smith came up against his former side Walsall at Griffin Park. Like Notts County today, they were divisionally lower than us and like our visitors today, the Bees were hot favourites. At least to those, looking in. If ever there had been a potato skin waiting for us to slip up on here it was. Brentford duly obliged.

From an early morning high of Bacofoil based cup construction and optimism about potential fourth round opponents, a passionate visiting support and Saddlers’ team who had more than a point to prove left our dreams crushed. Our replica trophies in the bin. Could Notts County do the same today?

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Third round day 2016 had started so well. The ending was rubbish.

Well, go into this game with anything less than full focus and it could well happen. Dean Smith has already promised changes although those players likely to come in have more than enough first team experience between them. Josh Clarke will surely return. Could Alan Judge start? Neal Maupay up front? Josh McEachran and Lewis Macleod in the middle? Luke Daniels between the sticks? There’s Flo Jo and a certain Emiliano Marcondes lined up to make his debut. Could it be today? How much will Dean rotate or could his press conference proclamation simply be an attempt to throw Notts County off the scent.

He used yesterday’s build up to note that “We will patch the players up as best we can for Saturday and we have others wanting minutes. We will go in to the game to try and win it. We will make some changes but that is more to do with players being spent after what they have put in over the past four games.

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Passionate away support can be key – as we’ve learned

Not entirely unexpected given the huge exertions we’ve been through in the league over the last two weeks. At least due reward was given there. And at least Dean further acknowledged that, “Notts County will be a potential banana skin for us. They will be very tough. They have done fantastically this season. They have good, experienced players, we have to make sure there is no complacency and play to our strengths.”

Whatever happens today, I just want our boys to give it their all. Whomever starts, I DO expect to win. The again, I always expect to win regardless of the opposition ! We limped out at Chelsea last season where, despite the obvious calibre of our opponents, no real attempt to even try and go for it was made. Brentford sat back and paid the ultimate price. The tie was less a banana skin for Chelsea and more a delicious peanut butter and banana sandwich served up for our hosts to enjoy en-route to the final.

Losing to Walsall and Chelsea both hurt. Yet as much for it being another year until we get the chance to ‘go again’ in the Cup. Well now that chance is on us and I can’t wait. Roll on 3pm when it all starts once more.

See you there.

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Buzzette – up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

Brentford leave Aston Villa feeling under the weather. Again.

27 Dec

“I think it’s hard, no disrespect to Brentford, Barnsley, but this is a different kettle to those clubs where there’s no real expectation… Staying in the division is probably the expectation”. Not my words, but those of Aston Villa manger Steve Bruce in the build up to the visit of his team to Griffin Park.

How they had a hollow ring as yet another former Premier League club under-estimated ‘teams like Brentford’. The Bees made it 6 points from 6 over Christmas with a fine 2-1 win under the floodlights (and the rainclouds) at Griffin Park on Tuesday night. It was a victory that, but for a brief flurry in the dying moments, was never in doubt. Brentford, inspired by Sergi Canos and shored up by the quite sublime Chris Mepham, blew aside Aston Villa as easily as though they were a crisp packet caught in the breeze.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park

Canos – possessed once again by raw energy, blistering pace and consummate skill – did everything but score the goal his performance so warranted. As it was, he played a key role in our opener. Winning the ball back to find Ryan Woods, the Ginger Pirlo’s pass was met by Romaine Sawyers who fired it hard and low from outside the box into the bottom corner to give Brentford the lead with just over twenty minutes gone.

It was as precise a finish as one could hope to see and another moment of genius from a player who continues to impress. That’s five goals now this season for Sawyers and Brentford really are scoring from every angle. Whilst Josh Onomah would level things up for Aston Villa just before half time, normal service was restored soon after the break. Lasse Vibe followed up Friday’s brace at Norwich City, firing home the loose ball in the box as Villa failed, quite spectacularly, to clear a Canos corner.

Watching the highlights on Sky afterwards (and they are now available on the internet until the official, Mark Burridge infused version can be released), the phrase “I can’t quite believe the shodiness” is used to describe Villa’s defence. They’re not wrong but you’ve still got to be there. You’ve still got to put them away. And Lasse did that to send the Griffin Park crowd wild.

It was a game played out in quite torrid conditions. The rain didn’t let up for the entire 90 minutes and so fair play to Dean Smith’s Bees for just getting on with it. The visitors, on the other hand, struggled to find cohesion and to find shape. They were second to everything, including the final result. But you can only play who you are up against and if the Bees continue to face teams like Aston Villa then happy days.

Just because you once won the European Cup and played in the top flight, doesn’t give a divine right to ‘be any good’. You can’t just win by turning up. The footballing world has long changed and if dinosaurs like Steve Bruce want to keep on living in Jurassic, rather than Villa, Park that’s just fine by me.

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The rain, and Flo, didn’t let up

The ironic thing being that this is now the second time in 11 months we’ve done a job on Aston Villa at home. Who could forget the 3-0 humbling handed out back in January, just about the time of Scott Hogan’s sale?  To misread the opposition once is unfortunate but to do it twice is downright shabby.

Still, that’s not my concern. Long may it continue. Dean Smith and his boys got it bang on last night. The aforementioned Mepham, who made his mark on Hogan early then never looked back, and Andreas Bjelland were both sporting ‘blood’ shirts by the time Keith Stroud ended the six minutes of injury time. There was no quarter given at the back where Nico also shone, covering in the right-back position which he first filled what seems like all those years ago. Flo Jo, Romaine, Ryan. Dan Bentley pulled off a couple of fine saves when they were needed.

To overly single out anybody would be unfair. It was just that sort of night where everybody did what was expected. Even Norwich City, who had earlier beaten Birmingham City to leave them rock bottom of the division. With Brentford now in 12th place on 34, that’s twice as many points as the hapless Blues who are 3 from safety on just 17.

Those comments about being ten times better are looking a long way off at present. Oh well, that’s their problem. We’ve got bigger fish to fry and with another home game approaching, the visit of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, here’s hoping for more of the same from Dean and his boys.

And, could we perhaps see Alan Judge at some point? One of the loudest cheers of the night was reserved for his announcement on the substitute’s bench. If not Wednesday on Saturday, then by the time we’ve hosted Notts County in the FA Cup I’ve a feeling we’ll have seen him in the red and white once more.

That, if anything, would be THE miracle of Christmas. At least, in TW8.

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Captain Nico – too many mince pies or making the best of the conditions?

Nick Bruzon

Vibe has Bees buzzing at Norwich as QPR plumb new depths.

22 Dec

Well this has been a somewhat bizarre evening. Onfield, it was spent listening to Brentford dismantle Norwich City. If ever there was a polar opposite to last season’s 5-0 humbling at Carrow Road it was this as a brace from Lasse Vibe gave the Bees a first half lead that never sounded in doubt. Not even late on when Nelson Oliveira pulled one back with four minutes of injury time to go. Off field, Queens Park Rangers were doing their very best in the ‘how to make friends and influence people’ stakes after a quite blatant dig at the Bees on the programme cover for Saturday’s impending defeat by Bristol City.

Who’d be a programme editor or work in a club comms role? Thankfully, poor form in that field not something Brentford have to worry about at the moment. Sadly, the same can’t be said at the other end of the 237 bus route following the release of QPR’s matchday magazine ahead of the weekend visit from Bristol City. Clearly visible alongside a gaudy picture of Ian Holloway is an extract from a historic newspaper. Specifically one recognising the Loftus Road mob’s attempt to put us out of business in their ultimately doomed takeover attempt.

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Ian Holloway and old news on the programme cover

Why would QPR do this, if not a thinly veiled attempt to stick two fingers up at their local rivals? I have to be honest, the gut reaction was to laugh. Genuinely. From a fanbase that claim to have no interest in us, this certainly suggests otherwise. Was it small penis syndrome? Jealousy of recent form? Inferiority? Insecurity? Ineptitude? Whatever the explanation, it immediately parachuted us into moral high ground. It immediately made the hoops look pathetic.

Memories of this period in our history are still very raw. Just look at the stories that were told at the recent 50 year commemoration of these events. Of how supporters came together in the face of adversity. Of how we stood our ground. Raised funds. Came together and saved our club.

So for our failed aggressors to highlight this, just weeks after once more failing to beat us in their own back yard, was at best odd and worst a cheap publicity stunt. There was just no need. Has the recent run of poor results against Brentford got to them that much?

50 years on, who now has the upper hand?

But then Ian Taylor, their head of Media & Communications, took to Twitter with an explanation and an apology. Albeit one that was about as sincere an act of contrition as South West Rail attempting to placate passengers via one of those tedious, automated announcements. Apparently, and I quote, ”We certainly didn’t set out to incite with tomorrow’s ‪#QPR programme cover – I’m sure the likes of ‪@markdevlin7 & ‪@chriswickham1 would vouch that this is not our style. Thanks and apologies for any offence caused

He goes on to add how, “We are picking out the key moments from out time at LR. This isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order. We apologise if this has caused offence, but this really wasn’t our intention. Earlier in the season, for our EFL Cup game, we paid tribute to Peter Gilham and Ryan Woods in the programme, wishing them our very best.”

Bulsh*t. Was that seriously the BEST justification they could come up with? If recognising a centenary in their stadium was the intention, they could have picked anything . A promotion or cup final. Perhaps even a game in the Premier League. Incredibly, they’ve done all these things – although helped massively by breaching FFP rules (hmm – when WILL that fine be paid?). Instead, they went for the most inflammatory ‘key moment’ in the last 100 years to grace the front cover.

We’re expected to believe this was nothing more than coincidence? The words Jimmy and Hill spring to mind. What next Ian, did the dog eat your homework? The lightweight explanation being given apparent justification by the fact that they were nice about us when two of our most important people were in as low a personal place as one could ever imagine being.

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Jimmy. Hill.

No doubt this is all a publicity stunt to get people talking about their publication. From that respect, well done. But if those are the lengths you need to stoop to in order to get attention then it’s a desperately sad way of doing so.

Instead, let’s focus on a wonderful 2-1 win for the Bees. Norwich City away was never going to be an easy game. Moreso on a Friday night with Christmas at the forefront of many supporters’ attention. Now, we move up to 11th and clear of both our West London rivals. Highlight of the night being the pass form Romaine Sawyers to set up Lasse Vibe for the second. It was ridiculous; sublime; filthy; outrageous. Take your pick. Words can’t do it justice. Even on smudgy twitter vision it looked magnificent.

Roll on Saturday morning and the full fat Burridge version of the highlights. I can’t wait.

Nick Bruzon

The top talking points from the World Cup draw (and the small matter of Brentford v Fulham).

2 Dec

Brentford v Fulham. Derby day pt.2. It must be rare for a local game to have been less under the spotlight during the build up as this one. First up, we’ve had the residual bad taste of Monday night’s 2-2 with QPR. Not so much the result as Ian Holloway doing that desperate back pedal after slagging off his own supporters for ‘sneaking out’. And then there was the small matter of yesterday’s World Cup draw for Russia 2018.

We’ll start with Fulham. A win will take Brentford above the Cottagers in the league table and, subject to other results, into the top half of the Championship. I can only call this one as three points for the Bees. Lasse Vibe had two wonderful finishes against the not so super hoops , with the assist from Romaine for the second being something quite special. Sergio Canos showed his class, starting a game for the first time in I don’t know how long. Expect more of the same. Just perhaps, not, the 93rd and 94th minutes.

And if you’d like to read more…. there’s talk about both games in the ‘Park Life’ column that appears in today’s match day programme. Whilst I’d crave your indulgence for that self-promotion it is mentioned more for a sledge hammer like unsubtle link to, erm, today’s match day programme. (#seamless).

With this edition highlighting the ‘Rainbow laces’ campaign (and on that subject, don’t forget to check out the Beesotted podcast this week – below), cover star is none other than Andreas Bjelland. Danish International Andreas Bjelland. The World Cup’s Andreas Bjelland.

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This week’s cover star…

Yesterday’s draw saw England line up against Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. A kinder draw you couldn’t have asked for, on paper. Moreso when the two teams who get through will play one of Poland , Senegal, Colombia or Japan in the last 16. On paper, as kind a start as one could hope for. On paper…..

Yet for Andreas, things are slightly different. Whilst there doesn’t seem to be an out and out ‘group of death’, Denmark won’t have it easy agasint France, Austrlia and Peru in Group C. Mind you, I’m sure they’ll all be thinking the same about Denmark in group that Nick Harris ( @sportingintel on Twitter) has noted is the rankings tightest.

Also clear is what Harris declares to be “A clear Group of Life – the Group A of hosts Russia”. I would also accept: ‘The Group of dull’

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Along with the hosts it is a pool that features Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay. Luck of the draw is, indeed, a wonderful and fortuitous thing.

Yet it is a group that also gives us our first chance of that World Cup staple: “For those of you just coming in from work, the score is….. “ Expect that at about 5.17pm on Thursday 14th June during the opening a game. A 4pm kick off between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

That opener is, likewise, a game you can expect to see on ITV. Certainly, if the BBC ‘live updates’ are to be believed.

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And talking of the BBC (Nurse, bring me the industrial crowbar) Phil Neville may have been England’s dullest pundit at France 2014 but there was no doubt he was on form during the draw. Robbie Savage sticking his head above the parapet and getting immediately slapped down.

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Savage and Neville weren’t the only pundits getting involved. Anybody worth their salt had an opinion. And also Ian Moose. Sadly, there was to be no picture of him and ‘My good friend, Vladimir Putin.’ (Something Diego Maradona did achieve, for the record). Instead, the best Talk Sport’s ‘finest’ could do in that ongoing quest to blow his own trumpet was a snap with Carlos Valderrama.

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Other things to look out for will be FIFA no doubt calling the first knockout stage ‘The round of 16’. Like the Fake Olympic terms : Team GB and ‘to medal’ (see also: Wednesday’s column – I’m still thankful for the chance to vent) something that is both wrong and which has been allowed to seep into popular parlance over the last few events. It’s actually the Last 16. I would also accept: The second round.

Have selfie stick, will travel. Brentford fan Billy Grant will be one of many Bees in attendance. He’s already confirmed he will be in attendance. His roving reports providing an wonderful flavour of what happened last time out in France – the great and the not so. Stan Collymore, he ain’t. Expect more of the same this time around (all being well, the great) .

Still, all that’s to come. There’s over six months until we start sticking wall charts to fridges, whip ourselves into a lather of excitement before an eventual quarter final capitulation for England.

Until then, here’s to forgetting about QPR on Monday. There’s a West London derby to win. Fulham are on the way over to Griffin Park. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

And if you need some more listening before kick off, here’s the link to that Beesotted podcast….

Nick Bruzon

Are we taking our new shirt back to the 80’s?

21 Jun

The dust has settled on the new Brentford shirt and the results would seem to suggest these are nothing but hugely popular with the supporters. However, elsewhere things aren’t so cut and dried. We’ve my favourite tweet of the campaign from one Sunderland fan whilst Cardiff City appear to have done their new adidas creation on the cheap. At least when it comes to the sponsor.

First up though, one last thought on our new home and away kits. My views on this are clear and haven’t diminished any – basically fantastic. That said, I’ve seen some commentary talking about the sponsor’s logo. Not so much ‘Who are LeoVegas?’ ( as I’ve no doubt we’ll learn all about them over the coming two seasons) but more whether their branding had been airbrushed on a bit too high after the photos had been taken. Moreso, given the launch video shows the players in unbranded kit.

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Brentford kit – 2017/18

Well, from what I understand the image in the photos is at the correct height and what we can expect to see next season. Personally (and, to be clear, no cash/kit has changed hands) I’m not bothered by this. In my opinion, for whatever it is worth, this makes the rest of the shirt look uncluttered and cleaner. Concentrate all the logos in one place.

Besides, it’s not as though we haven’t been here before. Not only does our new shirt bear a very familiar look to the 1984/85 kit but looking through the archives, a high sponsor was a trait common to many previous Brentford shirts. The 80’s especially saw the replica kits with the sponsor practically in line with the badge and maker’s logo. And whilst the nostalgic in me would yearn for a return of KLM (or, for that matter, how about any of our local firms along the golden mile – a Sega, GSK, JCDecaux for example?) the placement of the logo is not anything that is going to be causing me sleepless nights. The current weather does more than a good enough job of that.

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High sponsors are not a new thing

Next up, Cardiff City. Whilst our logo may sit a little higher than some people are used to, in South Wales their new shirt has seen a different problem. Namely that of looking like it has been handprinted on the cheap by a bunch of bargain priced student designers.

As the Bluebirds have done since 2011, their shirt promotes Malaysia. No surprise given the connections of owner and poor man’s Bond villain Vincent Tan. But could they have chosen any more basic a font?

Wow. This really must have taken all of ten second for Cardiff to knock out. It’s unsubtle and to the point, I’ll give it that. Even if it did then put me in mind of the Viz t-shirts from the late 80s.

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Cardiff City keep it basic

We’ve also looked at the new Sunderland shirt on these pages in the build up to our own launch. The high level verdict is – stinker. It would seem this is a view shared by many fans at the Stadium of Light. Yet this, for me, encapsulated it all in one tweet.

Great job, Kitman Bob!

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AUTHOR’S PLUG: Along with kit talk, the other traditional thing at this time of year is the plugging of the season review e-book. Please. Stay with me – this time around it is for a great cause . All funds raised are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Likewise, any subsequent sales form the previous versions.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 2016 to May 2017 and a bit of new material too, you can pick it up, here. It’s all for a great cause and, hey, you may even enjoy it.

So why not do something great to help our club. What else will £1.99 get you? What better way to spend some time on the commute to work, the beach, by the pool or even hiding out in the toilet at work? You might even enjoy it !

For less than the cost of half a pint on match day, it’s the season review that has been designed to fit in your pocket (if you are using an i-phone).

HUGE thanks to everyone who has downloaded it so far.

Nick Bruzon

The new Brentford kit is out. What do we think?

19 Jun

The new shirts are here. Finally. Brentford fans have now learned what we’ll be wearing for the forthcoming season and, in the eyes of the kit nerd, we’ve hit the jackpot. What a pair of stone cold stunners. There’s a new sponsor and a goalkeeper’s shirt that catapults Daniel Bentley straight into Fyfees territory.

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The new shirts have been revealed

Whenever we launch a new kit, there’s always a personal decision to be made about which shirt to go for first. Home or away? This time around, my gut reaction to that question is a clear one. Both! They really do look that good.

The home version puts me in immediate mind of the Osca produced effort from 1984/85. And that’s a very good thing. Broad red and white stripes are accompanied by a black v-neck collar and matching sleeve ends.

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A flashback to 84/85?

Even the new sponsor’s logo for LeoVegas (not one I’m familiar with, even from research purpose based investment), is sympathetically incorporated into the design in red and white, rather than mounted on a panel. We’ve the famous adidas stripes on the shoulder blades (in white) and, of course, the new crest.

Personally, I love it. Great work all round! But then we get to the away kit. What can you say? Oh, wow. That is just gorgeous. There’s no other word to describe this one. Kitman Bob has pulled a thing of absolute beauty from his locker in giving Brentford our first green away shirt since the ad-hoc effort worn in 80/81.

From the strip tease published on Friday it looked as though it might be good. Further tweakery through photoshop (and a fiddle with the ‘shadows’ setting) really had hopes building. But to see it for real is just stunning.

We really have kept this simple but consummately stylish. The adidas side stripes were a common feature in the Premier League last season and I’m really pleased we’ve gone there too. Nice to see the sponsor in home trim whilst the colour of the shirt itself makes me think of Germany ‘away’. I love it. Absolutely love it. Think Kevin Keegan ranting levels of love.

Then we get to the goalkeeper’s kit. In my eyes I’m always expecting this to be green although that’s as much a long expired byproduct of growing up watching football in the 70’s. Given the away kit design then this was unlikely to happen and instead it’s yellow. Very yellow. Shorts and socks to match that shirt.

Perhaps it was just being spoiled by last season’s incredible red ‘away’ version but this may take a bit of getting used to. Then again, I’ve rarely bought the gk top and so as long as the team are happy with it, then so am I.

Overall, we’ve really hit the sartorial heights this time around. The only slight disappointment being what I gather will be a lack of long sleeved option. Then again, that seems de rigueur for adidas these days. But that’s a small gripe and certainly won’t stop me picking up both home and away.

As for the ‘third’ shirt, I understand that should one be needed then we’ll revert to last season’s ‘away’ kit. It was something we also did in 2016/17 – Newcastle away, for example. It’s hard to imagine a scenario when that might be the case this time around, given our colours, but handy to know nonetheless.

Kitman Bob, Mr. Benham, Mark Devlin and the rest of the team responsible. If you are reading (you aren’t) then for what it’s worth, I’m a very happy man today.

Now, any chance of a word about 2018/19…..?

Along with kit talk, the other traditional thing at this time of year is the plugging of the season review e-book. Please. Stay with me – this time around it is for a great cause . All funds raised are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Likewise, any subsequent sales from the previous versions.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 2016 to May 2017 and a bit of new material too, you can pick it up, here. It’s all for a GREAT cause.

So why not do something great to help our club? What else will £1.99 get you? What better way to spend some time on the commute to work, the beach, by the pool or even hiding out in the toilet at work? You might even enjoy it !

For less than the cost of half a pint on match day, it’s the season review that has been designed to fit in your pocket (if you are using an i-phone).

HUGE thanks to everyone who has downloaded it so far.

Nick Bruzon