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The return of ‘the ex’ presents a wonderful opportunity to show how we’ve moved on.

13 Feb

Like the return of Harlee Dean et al with Birmingham City last season, tonight’s game certainly has an extra level of spice. Brentford entertain Aston Villa and, of course, former head coach Dean Smith in front of the Sky cameras in a clash that has the imagination running into over drive. What a wonderful opportunity awaits Thomas Frank and his Bees team to show just how we’ve progressed. Just how much Dean left behind. 

Dean SMith and Mick

Dean Smith – friends with just about everyone

Dean Smith brings his Villa team to Griffin Park, having only tasted victory once this year. That, a 2-1 triumph over basement boys Ipswich Town. Indeed since our paths crossed in the Championship, the Villans are yet to earn all three points against Brentford. Three draws on the road and two home victories – including the 3-0 hammering administered on the day Scott Hogan left TW8 for Villa Park – sees recent form between the two sides very much in our favour. Not bad for a pub team !

Indeed, that 3-0 at the end of January 2017 was one of the finest displays that we’ve produced since our ascendency to this level of football. It’s amazing what a bit of inspiration or the desire to prove a point can do.

And if those are your motivating factors then they don’t come any bigger than chucking in the return of a manager who left us for another. We all know his reasons for leaving Brentford. Turning down the opportunity to take the reins at the club you supported as a boy (and beyond) would have been an incredible decision. Those sort of chances don’t come around every day and so one can sympathise with Dean in making that leap to what is one of the most famous names in club football.

Villa Park is a wonderful stadium with a huge fanbase and a club with genuine aspirations to return to the Premier league. Apparently they won the European cup once – if only somebody had mentioned. Who could forget the moment assistant coach John Terry lifted that famous trophy high into the Rotterdam night sky?

We’ve been consistently strong - especially against Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Rain or shine, we’ve had plenty of recent highlights against Villa

Yet as was noted in the previous column, all this doesn’t doesn’t change the fact that Dean left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where, quite fantastically, we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling earlier this season. He’d got the team playing some quite wonderful football, albeit we’d started to wobble as he left.

Now Thomas Frank has the hot seat. The team have been scoring goals for fun in a scintillating hot streak and face an FA Cup fifth round tie this Sunday. We’d gone ten unbeaten prior to the weekend’s trip to Nottingham Forest. Even that 2-1 slip up saw enough chances created (along with a couple of goals conceded that the coaches have no doubt been reviewing at the training round) in a performance that on another day would have seen us come away with at least a draw. 

Aston Villa on the other hand only have the aforementioned 2-1 home win over Ipswich and have to look back as far as Boxing Day (Swansea) since the previous time Dean was able to taste victory. No doubt I’m sure they’ll feel that they should have claimed a few more since then but the proof is in the ‘W’ column. ‘D’ counts for draw, not ‘deserved to win’. Their last run out, the 3-3 draw at home to Sheffield United, saw them at their best. And worst. Racing into a 3 goal deficit they somehow clawed things back to earn a point with goals on 82, 86 and then deep into injury time. 

Indeed, our own game at Villa Park this season ended in similar circumstances. Jonathan Kodjia popping up deep, deep into injury time to snatch a point after Neal Maupay had stamped his authority all over the game with another brace to give us a late lead. We all know what happened after that one when a retrospective red card was issued to the French man. I’ve no doubt he’ll be the subject of pantomime booing and niggly challenges tonight. That’s football. There’s nothing finer than trying to wind up one of the opposition – moreso when you have a point to make. Just ask Harlee and Birmingham City (5-0, wasn’t it…?).

On paper, this one has home win all over it. Current league form and recent performances against Aston Villa both see Brentford in the driving seat. Yet we all know that’s not how football works. Anything but. I can only imagine this one being tense. It’ll have goals but try to pick how many for each team and you may aswell stick your hand in the barrel marked lucky dip. The one thing you can be sure of is that there won’t be a repeat of  The Monkees. 

Will there…..?

 

Nick Bruzon

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BBC Wales stick two fingers up to The Bees ahead of Blackburn visit

2 Feb

Brentford host Blackburn Rovers this afternoon, looking to make it 9 games unbeaten and continue the climb up the table that Thomas Frank’s rejigged team have been enjoying since just before Christmas. It is a game that will see him looking to kick on from the disappointment of being held at Barnet in the FA Cup on Tuesday night. That in itself, a game which now presents a further headache beyond the forthcoming replay. Namely, BBC Wales selecting the fifth round tie at Swansea City for a Sunday afternoon, 4pm TV fixture. The reaction to that news one of universal frustration as a day of motorways or train disruption awaits anyone looking to make that trip.

First up, Blackburn. I have to be honest that their position in the table had escaped me. Instead thoughts of Rovers normally turn to Gary Blissett in the FA Cup, ‘Birdy’s date’ (THE single best kit launch video ever – Kitman Bob, if you are reading I remain available) and Jota causing Mark Burridge to explode in the commentary box. Yet a quick glance at the Championship standings shows them just four points behind Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) in the hunt for a play-off place. They’ve won four on the spin, conceding just a solitary goal whilst the BBC match preview tells us that they are the kings of the second half goal. Brentford, beware.

Come on Bob. I’m game if you are

Yet The Bees are no slouches either. With goals being scored for fun and Neal Maupay exhuding all the confidence and prowess of a Grand National winner, we’re a force to be reckoned with ourselves. The squad is now confirmed after what was, thankfully, one of the dullest deadline days in history. There was none of the alleged interest from Dean Smith up at Villa Park and so Thomas can be confident he has his boys until the rest of the campaign. Unless, of course, any of them fancy joining Nico Yennaris in China. That being the news that was confirmed on official yesterday but which even Matthew Benham had been tweeting about the day before.

The goals against Barnet were all great. Ollie’s strike from distance, Neal slotting home another ice cool penalty and then Sergi maintaining his composure after a quite delightful ball to feet from Henrik Dalsgaard. Then there were the three efforts against the post. Had Moses Odubajo found himself an inch or two luckier I think we may have had another ‘Jota moment’ in the commentary box. #burridgegasm. Instead, we’ve been left with a tricky replay and the image of John Motson talking tactics under the shadow of Ian Moose stuffing his face. For crying out loud man, at least chew.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

The goals against, and the midfield, were very much a case of ‘move along, nothing to see here’. I guess in part this was down to the slight squad rotation in a game played out against the backdrop of a passionate full house. One thing’s for sure, you can see the incredible difference Kamo makes to the squad. We’re a different team when he starts and one has to hope he’ll be back in the Brentford line up today.

I can’t even come close to calling this one. It promises to be a fascinating match up and I’m intrigued as to how hard we react after Tuesday night. The only thing you can be sure of is that’s going to be bitterly cold out there. Whatever you do, please take care and wrap up warm. The slush may have been cleared but I almost lost a few toes to frostbite on the school run past Griffin Park yesterday.

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A carpet of slush is clear from Griffin Park, Friday

From the league to the cup, next. “An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same…… As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off“. 

My words, written on Wednesday morning. Well that’s just another example, if one were needed, of why yours truly is the numpty on the terrace rather than any sort of informed source. As was revealed yesterday, whomever wins the replay on Tuesday night has now seen the match at Swansea City moved to 4pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Well thanks a bunch, BBC Wales. Talk about sticking two fingers up to the fans who now face the prospect of the three scariest words in the English language – ‘Rail replacement bus’- which we’re all thrilled to hear is operating between between Bristol and Cardiff on the Sunday. Expect a return home of about midnight if you chose to take the most godforsaken mode of transport since records began.

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Bad news for The Bees

The reaction has been almost universal. It all seems so pointless. A game that’s not even likely to sell out being picked for a regional arm of the BBC – albeit one available outside of Wales via the medium of Virgin and Sky. Yet we all know that watching it on the armchair is nothing like being there. And why do it at such a ridiculously inconvenient time, given the travel hell that is sure to unfold (see also: moving the cup final to an evening kick off). 

I’ve no doubt the club will point out that we are beholden to the rules of the competition and the whims of broadcasters. Broadcasters who clearly don’t give a monkey about the people that actually make the competition what it is – the fans. Let’s wait to see if BIAS swing into action. This would be the perfect forum for them to say their piece or, better still, our fans’ group get involved. Seriously Adam, if you are reading then you’ve got a quite wonderful opportunity to do something for the supporters. No matter that we already know it is a decision which won’t be over turned.

And yes, I realise that we have to get past Barnet first. They’re in exactly the same boat as us but there’s nothing to stop our clubs, and fan groups, presenting a united front on this one. At least until 7.45pm on Tuesday night.

Still, that’s for then. For now, we’ve got a visit form Blackburn Rovers to look forward to and I can’t wait. See you there.

Now, how about one more look at Jota…..

 

Nick Bruzon   

Quietest window in years still sees plenty of action – mostly off pitch with ‘that’ video.

1 Feb

It was less a case of the transfer window slamming shut (TM) and more one of it sliding gently to an imperceptible close. With Brentford concluding first team business once Chris Mepham had departed for Bournemouth last week, there was only the addition of B team striker Gustav Mogensen  from AGF Aarhus as the quietest deadline day since record began – probably – passed by with barely a flutter at Griffin Park. Albeit Nico Yennaris is as done a done deal as an unpublished deal can be – certainly going by Twitter rather than ‘official’. Dean Smith kept the Aston Villa cheque book under wraps as there was no last minute sortie for Neal, Romaine et al. And the video of the year has already been published – a quite wonderful riposte to those Birmingham City and Leeds United fans still moaning at the Bees. Yes. It WAS a penalty. And yes – it was an even ballsier reaction from Neal Maupay.

Embed from Getty Images

 

First up, deadline day. The squad remains largely intact. Great news for a team with the opportunity to embark on a quite wonderful FA Cup run and push for a fifth successive top ten finish in the Championship. Or beyond? What it means for the summer window  is another question of course but with our last full season at Griffin Park approaching, a push for the top ahead of the move to Lionel Road must be in the thinking.

The only real headlines about the in-door swinging, Gustav aside, were made with the announcement of our new chief executive Jon Varney. As one Braemar Road observer noted, “At least they didn’t troll us with an ‘incoming‘ message on Twitter. You can get the full facts on Jon, here.

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Our new CEO

For now though, we know who will be on pitch at Brentford. There was no late swoop from Aston Villa or, if there had been, it was repelled with barely a whisper. Fan favourite Neal Maupay remains a Bee which is wonderful news. The progression he has shown this season has been quite magnificent. There are the goals, of course, but also the passion and the balls. Finally, a penalty taker who doesn’t choke when looking into the eyes of the goalkeeper.

But then his reaction after scoring at Leeds United shows you all you need to know about his mentality and his guts. Sure, perhaps things can spill over at times but this young man is still only 22 years old. More games and more experience will help control that. Possibly. Although at the end of the day, Clive, who wants a neutered lion?

The one thing you can be sure of is that at one point Neal will move on. That’s football. That’s the Brentford model. If nothing else, the ‘one club player’ is about as rare as unicorn poo these days. Hopefully his eventual departure will be later rather than sooner, with The Bees firmly ensconced in the top flight and our name inscribed on the FA Cup.

Could his long term replacement have already arrived? Brentford official describe 17 year old Gustav as “An impressively tall and imposing front man for a player of his age, Gustav is a member of the Denmark Under-18 national team, following in the footsteps of fellow B Team players Nikolaj Kirk, Mads Bech Sorensen and Luka Racic.” He has an impressive tally of U-16 and U-19 appearances already notched into his metaphorical bedpost. You can read that one in full on ‘official’ .

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Unicorn poop – rare

The list of those who did exit was published last night and contained five names: Alan Judge (Ipswich), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Ryan Woods (Stoke City), Josh Clarke (Burton Albion – loan) and Reece Cole (Macclesfield Town – loan). Missing from that group was Nico Yennaris, who published his own farewell message on social media aswell as updating his own profile picture to show him now signed for Chinese super league club Beijing Guoan.

He told supporters: “I would like to say a big thank you to @BrentfordFC and all the staff for the last 5 years. It’s a special club with amazing fans and I’ve enjoyed every minute. So many great memories with the Club which will stay with me forever. Good luck for the rest of the season” .

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As Matthew Benham responded with a simple “Best of luck Nico, thanks for everything” rather than any comment about him still being signed at Griffin Park, this one would seem to merely be waiting for ‘official’ to swing into action. Quite probably with a showreel of blockbuster goals. Fingers crossed that comes soon. If nothing else the piledriver at Birmingham City can’t be seen enough times.

And finally, ‘that’ video. The Barnet game seems to have stirred up our divisional rivals a tad. With Leeds United fans still moaning about our penalty  and performance back in October,  supporter Tom Ritchie has put this incredible compilation together. It really is a work of art.

Whilst the Bees are still better placed than holier-than-thou Leeds United and Birmingham City in the divisional fairplay table, who doesn’t love it when we get our claws out. Rules are there to be broken every now and then. Aren’t they…?

Nick Bruzon

Tie of the round sees Sparkes fly as Bees sting Bees

29 Jan

We are all, presumably, bang up to date with events for last night. If you weren’t at the game, the TV option presented a warmer alternative whilst there was also Mark Burridge and co on the iFollow commentary. Yet it was one of those where a final score of Barnet 3 Brentford 3 doesn’t even begin to do justice to what was as pulsating an FA Cup tie as one could hope to see. Albeit with the winners now facing a tough trip to Swansea City in the fifth round, having to go the extra mile of a replay on Tuesday night was probably the last thing anybody wanted. Given the way this one ebbed and flowed (BBC Sport describing it at full time as ‘simply brilliant’) from some perspectives one could almost argue that for either team to still be in with a chance of winning should be cause for relief.

Barnet will be disappointed. Brentford frustrated. The hosts fought back from a 1-0 half time deficit (Ollie Watkins guiding it home from distance late on) to take the lead with a quick fire brace from Shaq Coulthirst. Game on and then some. It was pulsating stuff. Neal Maupay restored parity from the spot after Watkins was adjudged to have been tripped out wide. It was about as innocuous a connection as has been seen, with the player quoted as apologising afterwards for what looked like minimal contact. At best. Certainly we’d have been as incensed as the Barnet fans seemed to be on social media afterwards had it gone the other way. Yet how many times have we been victims of refereeing inconsistency? Far too many to count and whilst it looked shonky in hindsight, Maupay made no mistake as he added another million or so to his valuation. It was as cool and precise a penalty as you’ll see.

With that Brentford pushed on. A quite wonderful ball from Henrik Dalsgaard into the feet of Sergi Canos freed the Spaniard for 3-2 up. It was a wonderful pass and a calm finish under pressure. Surely that would be it? Or not. Just moments later Dan Sparkes stepped up to curl as magnificent a free kick as the Barnet fans could have dreamed of around the wall and past Luke Daniels. It was an incredible a strike and what a tie to get it. The crowd erupted. And rightly so. Full credit to the hosts who showed no signs of giving up despite Brentford’s domination.

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Brentford official capture the moment that Sergi restores our lead

So it ended 3-3. Brentford will point to also hitting the post three times – a header from Yoann Barbet and two from Moses Odubajo. The first of these, had it gone in, would have been a curling left footer to perhaps surpass even the brilliance of Sparkes’ free kick. Barnet will understandably point to the penalty spot and question, again, how referee Andy Madley was able to, ermmm, point to the penalty spot. Given the inconsistent use of VAR throughout the tournament – surely that in itself was a call for an all or nothing approach? See also: Everton at Millwall.    

Brentford should have won. Could have won. The defence seemed off the pace and out of sync. The midfield minus Kamo and Sawyers (although the later did appear from the bench in the second half) were out of touch with the game. On a slick looking surface there should have been more than enough to put this game to bed and lock out the non-leaguers. Instead, Barnet were fully deserving of their draw. They won’t make it any easier in a replay where Thomas Frank will be hoping that the old adage about lower ranked teams taking their chance when it presents itself proves true. On last night’s showing, I wouldn’t be so sure.

So what else happened? Well, kudos to Chris Wickham. I saw a great quote from Mark Burridge on Twitter prior to kick-off, noting how none other than John Motson himself described Chris’s run through of the Brentford line up saying: ‘Thank you, that’s the best explained team formation I’ve ever been given” . What wonderful words from one of THE most respected voices in football. 

It was a moment which also captured our good friend and favourite pantomime villain / ongoing critic Ian Moose in the background of the shot. In typical pose. And I don’t mean the one about taking selfies with footballers before wishing them happy birthday. Hey, at least he’s consistent. Although please chew – it doesn’t need to go in whole.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

Then there was the fifth round draw. An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same. Ironically, a game against the same opposition as we were due to play that weekend. The same opposition that we allowed to race into a 3-0 first half lead in early December before almost rescuing a game that ended 3-2. As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off. 

On the plus side, we were spared another trip to Chelsea. Assuming we make it through on Tuesday night. See you there.

Nick Bruzon    

Romaine and Kamo lead the charge as magnificent Bees dominate and ‘jinx’ rules are established.

12 Jan

Brentford 3 Stoke City 1. Where to even start with this one? It was a performance that was every bit as dominant as the reports will suggest. It was a game that saw Thomas Frank make it 6 unbeaten as his team scored two quite magnificent goals following a calamitous o.g. opener from Ryan Shawcross. Yet most importantly, we got as emphatic an answer as one could hope to the question, “Does the ‘manager-of-the-month’ curse travel if the winner changes clubs after being nominated?”. This, after Nathan Jones had of course scooped December’s League One honours for his ongoing heroics at Luton Town.

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Stoke were second to everything all afternoon

Brentford were magnificent. Slick. Irresistible. Irrepressible. Like a greyhound out of the traps, they were in the face of the visitors for the off. Much like the ball. With just 7(seven) minutes gone the Bees were ahead after an attempt to clear a corner (correctly taken ‘not short’) was simply hoofed into the face of Shawcross and returned straight back in the direction it had come . With interest. Boom. One-nil Brentford and more to follow. Neal Maupay almost made it two, forcing Jack Butland into a full length save to push the Frenchman’s goalbound strike from just inside the corner of the box around the post. 

With Brentford continuing to push (up) it wasn’t long before the lead was doubled. There was little over a quarter hour on the clock when Said Benrahma made it two. An exquisite first time connection from a slide rule pass into the box, delivered with aplomb by Romaine Sawyers, saw the ball steered wide of Butland for two. The crowd erupted. Benrahma followed suit, running half the length of the pitch to celebrate with his family. You could see the what this one meant from the smile on his face. It was a delightful moment but one which owed as much to the ball played in from his captain. 

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View from the Braemar – Said celebrates

Romaine may not have made the headlines today but he had a a game he’ll never forget. There were tackles, passes and sublime moments of skill that looked as though they had been made with the proverbial ‘ball-tied-to-foot with a piece of string. He was every bit of his very best, turning in a performance that has to be amongst his top three in a Bees’ shirt. Equal praise must be handed out to Kamo, who absolutely bossed the midfield. Looking through supporter comments on social media afterwards, MOTM award seemed to be very much a two way battle.

Yet nobody should be overlooked after Brentford put in what was about a complete a performance as they come. Thnas Frank will sleep well tonight, that’s for sure. Nathan Jones will still be having the nightmares that must have begun to haunt him within a minute of kick off.  Benik Afobe pulled one back in the first half but it was his and Stoke’s only meaningful contribution all afternoon. The rest of their game saw a reversion to the agricultural style of play we’d seen in the corresponding fixture up in the Potteries back in August.    

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Romaine was flying today

And then Rico Henry happened. The second half started much the same as the first had done. All Brentford. The highlights are up already c/o Sky but they don’t even begin to do justice to our play or the build up to Rico’s sizzling run that saw him cut into the box, keep on cutting before unleashing a low drive into the bottom corner. If the crowd had gone crazy for Said’s they were all on their feet for this one. What a move. What a noise. What a goal. 

It could have been more. Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins both hit the crossbar in a period that saw Brentford continue to take the game to their opponents. It finished 3-1. It could have been more. Like Oxford in the cup, it was never in doubt. The defensive trio of Jeanvier, Konsa and Barbet as rock solid as they have been since Thomas Frank changed our formation and his fortunes.

One does have to wonder how Chris Mepham will get back in to this team if they continue to play like that. The confidence emanating from the back line flowed through the entire team. Frankly, this is the easiest post-match column I’ve had to write in months – we really were that good.

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Neal pushed but didn’t get a goal his performance deserved.

How nice, also, to see the goals starting to come from other areas of the pitch. To see chances created by players other than Maupay. To see Jeanvier really starting to deliver and Kamo back to last season’s best. 

The other thing to come out of today’s game was an answer to the question posed in the previous column. Namely, “Is the manager of the month curse transferable? Or does it stay with the winning club”. This, after Nathan Jones – then of Luton Town –  was named as one of the nominees for League One manager of the month for December. He subsequently took up the reins at Stoke and picked up the award itself on Friday. Just over 24 hours later the trophy holder proved that the jinx travels. He saw his new charges played off the park to add another notch in the ‘L’ column whilst Luton picked up a point in the League One top-of-the-table clash with Sunderland.

But, to be fair, the Bees were so good today that Thomas Frank could have run over a black cat on the way to the ground whilst ducking under a ladder and we’d have still got the win. Even Mrs. Bruzon was allowed back into Griffin Park (by Harry) to see us at our very best.

Long may it continue. Roll on Rotherham next weekend when we find out.

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Mrs B. and Harry enjoy the moment as Rico makes it 3

Nick Bruzon 

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

28 Dec

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

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

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

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Stuart Dallas – one of THE Brentford moments

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

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

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

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

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Sky cameras caught how bad this one was

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

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

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

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Feliz Navidad

Nick Bruzon

With a key festive tradition denied, can we reach an all time high?

26 Dec

Where to go with this one today? By all rights we should be looking in depth at Brentford v Bolton. A 1-0 win for The Bees on Saturday saw Thomas Frank record a morale boosting win with the game’s only goal coming courtesy of Neal Maupay. Indeed, the closest in which lacklustre opposition got to scoring was via the head of their own goalkeeper Ben Alnwick who headed just wide as the game reached a buttock clenching (for some) denouement. Honestly, it was never in doubt and Bolton look to be in serious trouble whilst Brentford will no doubt have much tougher tests ahead in the coming days. Starting this afternoon with a Boxing Day trip to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City. Will the Bolton performance be the building blocks of a lengthy run up the table or a flash in the pan win against a team who will need something special to maintain their own Championship status?

Yet this morning (Wednesday, possibly…) yours truly is very much in relaxed mode. The thought of engaging the brain one which is very much playing second fiddle to drinking another coffee and just enjoing some contemplative time. Some time with the family. Some time off work and not getting upset by the pressures of life.

Why even last night, flicking through the TV selection (the first time in about four days the box has been on) we stumbled across Mrs. Brown’s Boys. A ‘hilarious’ ‘joke’ about an Alexa style device played out before we jumped onwards in a futile quest for a Christmas ‘Bond’ move. There was no rage. No rant. No observation that, “FFS. It’s a man. In a cardigan. And a wig. With one joke. One joke that has been spread thinner than a chunky tarmac driveway“.

Instead, we let it go in search of Roger Moore. Some traditions die hard in our house and whilst we were denied satisfaction in this instance, even ITV4 letting us down, perhaps it might be time to crack out the blu-rays later today. Nothing says ‘festive season’ like Victor Tourjansky trying to figure out whether 007’s latest bit of derring-do really happened or was simply the by product of drinking too much in the mid-day sun.

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And Brentford have won a game… Victor Tourjansky does his thing

 But then nothing says festive tradition like Boxing Day at Griffin Park. Sadly, after what seems like a good ten or so December 26th home games on the bounce (Luis / Jonathan – IF you are reading and could please confirm), we now have to do battle with the seasonal timetable and upsetting the family. And that’s a green card too far in our house. Moreso at a time when Mrs Bruzon has spoiled us fantastically. More than we have any right to expect. Indeed, a key part of her present to Harry and myself was not coming to the Bolton game given her own, alleged, albatross like qualities when it comes to home wins. Sure enough, three points followed. Although he showed bigger balls than me, and he’s only five, when replying to her own post-match question…   

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

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

A bit harsh? Or fair reflection? Personally, I’ve not been so calm at football in a long time. Honestly, the game never felt as though it was in doubt (at least through my eyes) despite Alnwick’s late foray upfield. Another goal or two would have been nice – if only to alleviate some of the stress from those sitting around us – but the three points came gift wrapped and we took advantage of a seasonal offering. Thomas Frank shuffled his pack and his formation. Three centre-backs were named with the wings back continuing to push high up the field – although this time not exposing the defence. Henrik Dalsgaard was finally given what we will politely call a well-earned rest whilst we still had the flexibility to introduce Yoann Barbet when Chris Mepham had to leave the field of play early. Let’s hope that one was purely a precaution.

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Bolton were industrial in the challenge but offered little resistance to a positive Brentford team.

It all counts for nothing if we put in a turkey of a performance at Bristol City, of course. Yet I’m feeling upbeat. Feeling confident. The good vibe of the Junior Bees Christmas party washed over Griffin Park last week and continued through to the Bolton game when Thomas and the boys gave us all the perfect present.

Today, I’ll be following via the medium of social media or possible sneaking a look towards three wise men shouting at their TVs on Sky Sports News. There’s always the commentary option, too, yet locking myself away with Mark Burridge and an earpiece for two hours will likely be received about as well as HB’s attempts at diplomacy. Moreso when Roger is saving the world.

For those who do travel, good luck. And enjoy! For those elsewhere, I wish you well in whatever option you undertake to follow this one. Here’s to three more points. And perhaps, a bit of Bond….

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You could do worse…

Nick Bruzon

Visitors inflict more pain as the record continues.

25 Nov

Brentford 1 Middlesbrough 2. What can you say? Bogey team? Curse of the cameras? That there was never any hope against a side we’ve not beaten in the league since a 2-1 win at Griffin Park back in December 1938? Or just an awkward game where, once more, a flurry of goals conceded in a short space of time (two in five, second-half, minutes) saw the result put beyond reach and the post Dean Smith era now see us with a record of P6 L5. With play-off chasing Sheffield United to visit on Tuesday, it is a record that is only going to come under further scrutiny.

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View from the Braemar – Henrik attacks

It had all started so promisingly. Even before kick-off, five-year old Harry had put possibly the biggest football-related smile on my face that’s been there in a while when he turned to Mrs. Bruzon over lunch and said, “Mummy. The best thing you can do this afternoon is watch it on TV. Because when you come to the ground, we lost”. It was a point he reiterated outside the clubshop at 5pm – both times, totally unprompted. He’s brave, I’ll give him that. Mrs. B (whose record isn’t, quite, that bad) duly stayed away. Sadly, it made no difference.

The first half was as cagey as a caged tiger watching the collected works of Nicolas Cage on video. Frankly, something that would have been infinitely more entertaining than a frustrating opening period where Moses Odubajo running for an impromptu toilet break was the highlight for many. Certainly, the subsequent song that broke out from the Ealing Road. He whatswhere he wants?  Yet aside from the relieved number 2 taking aim from distance with an effort that Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph had to push over, I don’t recall much else from the first half. It was just that low key an opening period with the visitors coming close-ish a couple of times but never, truly, leaving us with fear of the net bulging.

Instead, with the referee offering little protection, it was a case of trying to out-play the wall of muscle in front of us. With the stats all heavily weighted in our favour, it was an attempt that would prove futile in the one that truly counts – goals scored – as the teams went in for their half tea and a wee with the game goalless.

And then it began. 55 minutes gone, 0-0. 61 minutes gone, 0-2. The first goal given away down the left where despite questions about offside being asked, the Bees were sliced open with a combination of passes that allowed Jordan Hugill a tap in that even Ian Moose might have finished off. Scored rather than eaten, for the record. Five minutes later the lead was doubled when the Brentford defence allowed Marcus Tavernier all the time and space needed to direct his downward header past a diving Daniel Bentley. Game over, man. Game over.

To be fair, it was the kick up the backside we needed. The Bees pushed and pressed. Thomas Frank changed his team around. The momentum built. This was more like it. This was the Brentford we know and love. Alan Judge, who had a great game, pulled one back with a quarter of an hour remaining.  His goal a beauty as he drilled a low diagonal shot through a crowd and past goalkeeper Randolph. From a short corner. A short. Corner. This is not a drill. This is not a typo.

The words “Don’t take it short, it never blinkin’ works” hadn’t even emerged fully formed from my mouth before the usual exhortation was changed quite miraculously into a lungbusting scream of GOOOOAAALLLLL!!

Oh. My. Word. We’d seen one. It actually happened. This most maligned of set-pieces had actually worked. Moreso, the first goal Tony Pulis’s team have let in from a corner this season by all accounts.  Could it be? Was this THE sign that the Middlesbrough hoodoo was about to be lifted?

With the reinvigorated Bees chasing a point, former player George Saville put in an appearance for Middlesbrough. His presence was barely felt. Frankly, he could have dropped his trousers and he’d have made more of an impression. Instead, Brentford continued. Sergi Canos came close. Breaking through a crowded defence he perhaps snatched at it before the referee could blow his whistle. But Mr. Brooks wasn’t giving anything, to either team and perhaps, with the obvious benefit of hindsight, there was an extra touch available to be taken.  

Likewise Josh Da Silva came close. His own shot from distance forcing Randolph into a full length save. It was a moment that had the crowd gasping but was about as close as we would get. Instead, Middlesbrough had the wherewithal to close this one out and secure all three points. Points that, on the evidence of what played out, only the most churlish could have denied them. And it hurts to say it but their finishing when presented the space in that five-minute period was, ultimately, what decided the game. From that moment on Brentford were playing catch up and it was a race too far.

No sour grapes from yours truly. No whinging. We’re off the boil at present, that’s for sure, although I’m not sure I can put my finger on just why.  I have no doubt it WILL come good again whilst I’d also point to the performance of Alan Judge alongside josh and Emilian Marcondes from the bench as highlights. Chris Mepham had a bizarre rush of blood to the head just towards the end which earned him a yellow and, with a more Stroud-esque referee, could have been worse.

Sheffield United are next up. It’ll be interesting to see it Thomas restores captain Romaine Sawyers. Whether Josh Da Silva has done enough to earn himself a first start. How he toughens up the defence. Just how we fair against a side containing a pair of centre-backs and a reserve goalkeeper we know very well indeed.

No doubt Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Simon Moore will have a point to prove. Then again, I’ve no doubt Thomas Frank will aswell.

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Our visitors made themselves comfortable both before kick-off and early into the second half

Nick Bruzon

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever.

6 Nov

Good morning Brentford fans. And it is a very good morning. A quick look at the Premier league table following last night’s results shows Fulham firmly anchored to the bottom. Their 1-0 loss at a Huddersfield Town side (who themselves scored their first home goal since mid-April) sees our West London neighbours propping up the rest of the league. Statistically speaking, that’s 24 points behind leaders Manchester City after just eight games and with a trip to Liverpool next up.

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Happy Tuesday in the Premier League

The current predicament seems even more horrific when you look at the outlay from Fulham over the summer. It’s been widely documented that the £100.3m they spent has  been matched by a mere £4m coming in. They’ve kept their squad together and built on it. Hugely. A net outlay of £96.3m is only beaten by Liverpool who top the big spenders on £131m (161m out ; 30m in).  

And what is the result of this? A top flight record of ‘goals against’ for a Premier League start (29 conceded already), the worst goal difference in the division, a form record of LLLLL and a confidence level that saw the BBC match report subsequently describe them as: ”A fragile Fulham side, stripped of confidence and there for the taking.”  

It’s easy to laugh. Let’s be honest. Equally, let’s not make out we wouldn’t like to be feasting at a higher table. Yet that is something which I have no doubt will come. And, when it does, we’ll be competing rather than unable to scrap for the crumbs discarded by others. We’ve talked so often on these pages over the last couple of seasons about how Brentford are doing things. How we are spending cleverly, within means, and using our unique methods in order to stay afloat, comply with FFP but also build for the future at Lionel Road. It becomes a bit of a cracked record at times yet when you see the talent that has been uncovered, aswell as being sold for vast profit down the line as the team continue to step up, one has to step back and take notice.

Likewise, I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t love to have seen some of those heroes stay on. It still hurts so much to see Jota in the blue of Birmingham City although nobody could deny the form of our current widemen. Having the likes of Ollie Watkins, Sergi Canos and Said Benrahma as regular starters / first choice substitutes a luxury not many managers in this division have the benefit of. That, a situation which has arisen because of our ‘buy low and sell high’ policy. The departure of Harlee Dean (as much due to the the emergence of Chris Mepham) helped facilitate the return of Moses Odubajo and what already seems a huge bargain in picking up Ezri Konsa to further enhance the current squad. Then there’s Neal Maupay…

He’s the Championship’s leading scorer. He’s the Championship’s leading provider of assists. He’s the player who endured such a torrid start to his Brentford career last season – and that was just from Ian Moose. He’s the player who found his feet and perhaps, if anyone, illustrated just how fragile Fulham are when he bagged that late, late equaliser back in April  – ironically, the same day Huddersfield scored their previous home goal. It was a goal that deflated Fulham as easily as somebody letting the air out of a clacker or blow up hand and should have been seen as a warning sign.

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Mark Fuller’s picture captured THE moment at Fulham

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever. That’s for sure. Yet by the same virtue, look at Manchester City. Compared to previous ‘windows’ they’ve barely troubled the scorers over the summer. This, something very much in isolation for them. At the same time, I read a piece yesterday by Miguel Delaney of The Independent. It was an article described by the author himself on Twitter as an “Upbeat piece on football’s impending death”.

Click bait theatrics or genuine cause for alarm? The collapse at The Cottage is great value. For us, at least. The longer term prognosis in the top flight is, if you share Miguel’s opinion, a somewhat more concerning one. If you read one article today, make it his. You can do so here. Whatever your view on City’s approach, it’s well worth a look –  enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

Toothless Lions tamed with strike of Sergi-cal precision.

4 Nov

My word. What an afternoon. What a way to return to form. What a time to do it with the trip to QPR next up. Brentford beat Millwall 2-0 in a game that, as it progressed, could easily have seen that score doubled. It was a magnificent team performance exemplified by solid defence, rapid counter attack football and a forward drive that had been so desperately missing last weekend at Norwich. Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins took their chances brilliantly to give us the goals, each player clean through to tuck it home, but don’t underestimate the way the whole team played here. Said Benrahma must be wondering how his delicious first half curler from the outskirts of the penalty box stayed out (curse that far upright) whilst Said Maupay also touched wood in the second period. Even Daniel Bentley had to stay alert to make one smart save with the scores locked at 0-0. That’s not to overly lavish praise on one over another here. It was about as ‘team’ as it comes yesterday. You could see what this one meant to Thomas Frank at full-time, clapping all the home fans and acknowledging anyone who looked to single him out, as our new head coach got his first points on the board.

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View from the Braemar – Said had a cracking game

That’s the game in a paragraph. As you know, we don’t do the full-fat match reports here. Go to the always wonderful Beesotted, the BBC or, of course, Brentford ‘official’ for that. Sky TV have the highlights here but I’m equally looking forward to seeing if we get a chance to hear what Mark Burridge and Greville Waterman made of this one when the 12pm ‘official’ coverage gets released into the wild. No doubt voluminous praise and excitement of ‘Jota at Blackburn’ levels will be the order of the day. It really was that sort of afternoon as the team returned to a style of play and clinical finishing that we’d become somewhat spoiled with over the early part of the season. Pity QPR on Saturday if we can keep this up. Millwall weren’t even given a chance to come second in this one as Brentford defended about as solidly as I’ve seen us do (some first half faffing across the box in search of the perfect distribution aside – sometimes, it’s not wrong to lump it up if there’s a defender closing in).

What else can we take away from this? Well, first up the celebration from Sergi was just a thing of beauty. With the net still rippling he tore over to the Braemar Road touchline, leaping high in the air as his teammates joined him. This was followed by a double fist pump and exuberant salute – the smile on his face broad. This one meant one hell of a lot. It was a moment of joy only matched by an equally emphatic routine from Ollie Watkins as he made the points safe late on.

Kudos, too, for Neal Maupay’s wonderful interplay in providing the assists for both our goals. He’s the Championship’s leading scorer and provider now. The adoration of fans in marked contrast to 12 months ago as a new signing beginning to find his feet in this division, the likes of Ian Moose pouring scorn and dripping poison.  

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View from the Braemar  – Sergi salutes the fans

Romaine Sawyers was named captain, again. His third time in four games. Thomas Frank would later confirm that he has dispensed of our rotational captain system. Something that Dean Smith had specifically introduced but has now gone with him to Aston Villa. Instead, the pool of leaders has been whittled down to just two – Romaine and Henrik Dalsgaard (of Brentford). Romaine had a great game yesterday after what, it would be fair to say, had been a dip in the form of last season’s ‘players’ player of the year’. Long may this continue!

I thought Josh Dasilva really impressed on his debut, coming on late for Josh McEachran. He drove forward as he added fresh legs and further goalscoring potential with the Bees looking to close this out rather than sit back and allow Millwall to press. Interestingly, I’ve this morning had a message from a Lincoln City fan I work with, noting: “Young lad you have out on loan at Forest Green, Archibald, he can play the game! We won 2-1. Absolute smash and grab though as we were outplayed. He is a very good player, great balance and change of direction. Some would say a ‘typical Brentford player’. We couldn’t deal with him tbh.”

With Josh stepping up and Theo showing his own potential for Forest Green, it’s great to see the B-team system continuing to flourish.

I had fun yesterday. A lot of fun. It was just that sort of celebratory occasion. Moreso, coming after a rightfully sombre start with Peter Gilham leading a minute’s silence to recognise both Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and, especially, the 100 years since the end of WW1 as part of the Remembrance Sunday observations. It was impeccably observed by both sets of fans whilst due praise to Sam Marshall and his programme team in recognising this hugely significant event. The production that he – ably assisted by Paul Briers and Dave Lane – put together to recognise this was a quite wonderful piece of work and compulsive reading.  

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Get one if you still can

The Millwall fans continued their respectful silence throughout the game. Aside from the odd chant of “No-one likes us, we don’t care” (really – then why do you persist in telling us so often?) they were largely as impotent as their team. Toothless Lions on and off the pitch, easily tamed by ringmaster Thomas Frank. Brentford, on the other hand, coming in for rightful recognition in his full time press conference.

There’s not much more to add after this one. On a personal note, Harry’s reaction to the game told me all I needed to know about how exciting it had been. He grabbed my phone, asking if he could call Uncle Tim to give him a full time update, then broadcast this to the Braemar Road forecourt (including one senior club figure whom I can only thank for his own subsequent observations and chat with an uber-excited five year old). He next proceeded to remove his coat to show the world his Ollie Watkins shirt and sung all the way home. Harry, that is.

Yet it was at Harry’s bedtime that I was given the sign that the Thomas Frank era is truly now underway. “Daddy” he entreated. ”As a special treat can I wear my Watkins shirt in bed instead of pyjamas?”

Yeah, he’s hooked. Thank you Sergi. Thank you Ollie. Thank you Thomas. Roll on Saturday and QPR.  

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Unconventional pjs but it would have been churlish to deny him

Nick Bruzon