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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

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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

Here we go. Again. Cup shocks abound and potato skins await.

26 Sep

Could the big one be on? After a Tuesday night run of Carabao Cup shocks that saw Frank Lampard’s Derby County™ beat Manchester United, Burton overcome Burnley and QPR go down at Blackpool (please, stop sniggering) Wednesday night could see the biggest of them all. Is it just possible, if all the stars are aligned and the footballing gods are smiling, that Arsenal could beat Brentford? Stranger things have happened.

One thing’s for sure, if Manchester United came unstuck at home last night then it can happen to anyone. Fair play and hats off to Derby. Their own win over Brentford on Saturday being put all the more into context after a game which saw them go behind, come back and then concede the ultimate sucker punch – a 95thminute equaliser for the hosts after themselves going ahead on 85 – to take the game to a penalty shootout in which they eventually triumphed.

They’re the headlines. Nobody wants to get overly bogged down in pages of Mourinho misery or the family Lampard celebrating. That’s for those two teams to both enjoy. Right now the focus is, of course, on Brentford at Arsenal. Assuming Brentford can get to Arsenal with the Piccadilly line out of commission due to strike action – there goes that easy hop from West to North London.

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Have vodka bottle, will travel. Alternate travel to Highbury & Islington needed tonight

Still, the ghost of Bob Crow shouldn’t get in the way of what promises to be a special night. For Arsenal, a high pressure potato skin against Dean Smith’s hotly tipped Brentford side. Currently three points off the top of the Championship table and playing some quite wonderful football. Manager Unai Emery faced with the quandary of picking the reserves or risking the fitness of his more established names. Don’t forget that they’ve a game against top four Watford and then the excitement of a Europa League trip to FK Qarabag to follow this one.  

For Brentford, nothing to lose and everything to gain. With over 8,000 away tickets sold (and who knows how many more dotted around the stadium) it promises to be a vocal affair. Those stunning brown/orange shirts out in full force and not to mention a few faces from the past in the stands. The team, surely surely captained by Nico Yennaris, with a chance to prove how far they’ve really progressed. To see how worthy of all the praise that has been coming their way they actually are. Saturday’s result wasn’t great, that’s for sure, but if anything it’ll give Dean and his team even more incentive to prove what a blip it was with a chance to get back to winning ways in a consequence free environment.

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The Bees have been head and shoulders above most opponents this season

Excited? Yes. As much as anything it’s a chance for bonus midweek football and a visit to a new stadium. At least, with the Bees. A chance to see if we can carve out a famous victory. Blah, blah. Cliché, cliché. Yet perhaps as much as anything else, an opportunity to erase the painful memory of the anti-football we played at Chelsea in the fourth round of the 2016/17 FA Cup. A 4-0 defeat where we were lucky to get the proverbial nil.

There’s not much more to say, really. We all know the scoop and there’s only so many ways you can dress it up. Yet if tonight didn’t have you salivating already, there’s even more great news to follow. Football’s greatest competition (with all due respect to the Carabao Cup) is back. Saturday’s game at Reading sees the return of none other than….Centre Circle Challenge.

I should be fully focussed on Arsenal. Yet the prospect of seeing two supporters pinging balls from the corner flag to the heart of the meridian line, all soundtracked by Peter Gilham’s deadpan commentary, has me as excited as the trip to The Emirates. Almost. Brentford official has all the details including, most importantly, how you can enter this ultimate of fan participation events on the hallowed turf of Griffin Park.

All that’s to come. For now though, focus on whether we can emulate those famous League Cup nights against the likes of Hull City and Everton. Right down to the mascots…. 

Nick Bruzon

Arsenal and Leeds dates confirmed. Bees heading back to TV and the 70s as Forest visit.

1 Sep

Good news, Brentford fans. We’ve got a date for the Carabao cup tie against Arsenal which has been confirmed as taking place on Wednesday 26 September. Bad news, Brentford fans. Our game up at Leeds United has been changed and will now be a midday kick off on October 6th rather than the original 3pm start time noted when the fixtures were announced. And we’ve the small matter of a trip back to the 70s with our game against Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park this afternoon.

First up, the Arsenal game. The Gunners published a statement on their ‘official’ last night simply noting that:    

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There’s not much more to say about that beyond good luck to Mads in our ticket office and Chairman Cliff Crown today. Both will no doubt be plagued with questions, from different perspectives, in regards to that game.

One things for sure, there’ll be a huge crowd there. At least, from the away contingent. Whilst B-team games against the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and, on this week’s evidence, Bournemouth (whom King Kev’s boys beat 3-0 last night) are common place, this will be the first chance for the vast majority of us to see Arsenal reserves line up against the brown & orange army.

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A fine win at Bournemouth last night, via @BrentfordFC on Twitter

The other fixture news revealed yesterday saw the aforementioned update to our game at Leeds United. If ever a game was in doubt it was going to be the trip to Elland Road.

I’ve seen a stat that says Leeds were shown on TV an incredible 19 times last season. So far this campaign the’ve already been on at least (I may have missed one) four times – Stoke (h), Derby (a) , Swansea (a) and last night’s 0-0 with Middlesbrough. Then to come there’s a trip to Sheffield Wednesday in late September followed by the latest raft of games. Us and Nottingham Forest at home in October. Wigan and West Brom away in November. That’s 9 ‘main games’ already. And this before you discount the red button option which, to be fair, is available to all clubs for midweek Championship action.

Simply put, why? What is Sky’s obsession with Leeds United? They won something, once. Well done. Haven’t done in ages. There are plenty of other teams in the Championship who have done similar. The likes of double European Champions Nottingham Forest, West Brom and those other Sky regulars in Aston Villa.  Plenty of other, so called, ‘big clubs’. They don’t feature with anywhere near the same regularity. If it’s not Leeds, it’s not worth showing. Seemingly. Do the club just have a huge base of displaced  supporters? It’s not as though the footballing fare on offer is the sort to draw in the casual viewer, going by the Boro’ game last night.

Of course, that side of things is a matter of personal taste. If you don’t like it then don’t watch. Yet more pertinent is that fans of both Leeds and their opponents end up seeing travel plans in disarray. I know many Bees have already booked their trips to Elland Road to get in before prices go through the roof. I can’t see Sky or the train companies (LNER, in this case) refunding those. It would be great if they did or could team up with some sort of football related offer.  What a way to ‘give something back’ or show the fans they ARE thinking of them. No. Seriously.  One can only feel for Leeds supporters when their team are playing away – something they are infinitely more likely to fall foul of.

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The latest TV games are announced

On a personal note, whilst I’m in the minority this works out perfectly. Kind of. The Leeds fixture coincides with our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s a fairly safe bet Mrs. Bruzon isn’t reading this so I can continue with impunity.

The chance to travel for this game was never even an option. Not something even I’d been naïve enough to suggest. Now, there’s a chance of seeing the game. That rather than the special day out she (I mean we) had been planning there is the hope, albeit slim, that a trip to the pub could be on offer. Rather than a meal for two by the sea or at a swanky restaurant, how about a lunch of pork scratchings and Guinness? What better way of saying romance than finding a hostelry to show Leeds – Bees? Stranger things have happened…..

All that’s to come. For now, focus has to be on today’s visit of Nottingham Forest to Griffin Park where the club have announced that we’ll be going ‘Back to the 70s’. Hopefully this just means our ‘guests of honour’, a #BeeTheDJ special and the retro shirts that ‘official’ have suggested we wear rather than the dark days of hooliganism and vile chanting. Thankfully, those later elements have massively gone from the modern game whilst have rarely been an issue at Griffin Park – well done to the current regime for all their work on that front.

Given the advertising banner, I was wondering if Brentford were going to go for the controversial routine of wearing our quite magnificent ‘away’ colours at Griffin Park? Whilst there’s no doubt many would be in favour of an extra chance to see the incredible orange and brown in action, perhaps that is a flight of fancy too far. Instead, let’s just do the needful against Arsenal and hope for another away game.

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Nick Bruzon

Dean’s Forss-Field keeps Cheltenham out as Forest await. Lionel Road delay sees extended life at Griffin Park.

29 Aug

Brentford ensured progression to the third round of the league cup on Tuesday night after victory over Cheltenham Town by the the odd goal in one, i.e. 1-0. It was as comprehensive a performance of build-up play as they come despite the solitary mark on the scoresheet. Only over complication in front of goal and a solid display from fan favourite Scott Flinders (who would have stopped just about anything coming at him, even a small child) kept the visitors in it until the final whistle. Yet with Nottingham Forest to come next in the league, perhaps the main thing was putting Saturday’s first Championship defeat (1-0 at Blackburn Rovers) behind us and marking a return to winning ways.

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Griffin Park always looking great under lights

Dean Smith was taking no chances on this one. The last thing we needed with a potato skin like this was his going ‘full Marinus’. Instead, the bench was chock full of first teamers whilst the likes of Chris Mepham, Nico Yennaris, Lewis Macleod and Said Benrahma all started alongside familiar faces Alan Judge, Josh Clarke, Tom Field and newboy Julian Jeanvier.  With Neal Maupay serving the second game of his three match stint out, Marcus Forss returned once more following his debut at Blackburn.

Indeed, it was French central defender Jeanvier who grabbed the game’s only goal, providing the final touch to a goalmouth melee just prior to half time. It was a strike that our performance had suggested was coming. Benrahma in particular enjoying the freedom of Griffin Park as the visitors sat deep and invited Brentford to come at them. Wave after wave of attack was repelled as our own pretty football was rewarded with everything but the finishing touch. Sometimes we don’t need to walk it in!

That said, final stats of 13 shots on target compared to none for Cheltenham tell their own story although it didn’t feel like that sort of game. Comfortable, yes. But without that second goal there was always the danger of being caught by the sucker punch equaliser. Had the visitors perhaps thrown the kitchen sink at it ten minutes earlier than the last knockings of a game they were always in,  there would have been a very real chance of taking it to those immediate penalties (no extra time here). But with a Brentford team including the combination of Forss-Field in the starting XI, perhaps there was never any danger of Luke Daniels’ goal being breached.

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Rare Cheltenham attacks were snuffed out

Still, we’re through and that’s the main thing. The draw for Round 3 is on Thursday evening at 7pm which is when all the Premier league’s top clubs, and also Arsenal, join in the fun. No doubt everybody will be hoping for a trip to an Old Trafford or Anfield. Perhaps a visit from Chelsea, Fulham or Manchester City. Instead, it’ll probably be Middlesbrough away.

Of more immediate interest is what Dean Smith learned about his side ahead of the visit from Nottingham Forest on Saturday. They are one of just three unbeaten Championship sides (see also: Leeds united and Middlesbrough) and now find themselves a point behind the eighth placed Bees as the table starts to slowly settle down. So who will Dean go with? The same XI as at Blackburn? A different option up top? Could he be tempted to entertain the return of Josh McEachran to his Championship team? How about Sergi Canos who must be chomping at the bit to get a run out in what will be the last game before international break? Whomever Dean picks, the Bees are likely to be facing infinitely more testing opponents. On paper.

Then again, on paper last night should have been a cake walk but Cheltenham contained us and almost nicked an equaliser late on. Don’t let paper or reputation fool you for a second. Goals are all what counts when it comes to winning games. Banging them in and keeping them out. A simple enough philosophy but all the pretty play in the world means naff all if you do get caught with your pants down at one-nil up. But we didn’t. We’re through and that’s the important thing. It was really nice also to see several familiar fan faces out and about in the second half – you know who you are if you are reading (unlikely, but..). It’s great that people retain that love for the Bees and always a mark of what the current regime are currently doing that they continue to inspire such passion amongst the fans.

These are exciting times at Griffin Park. We’ve had an impressive start in the league and are 90 minutes away from equalling our furthest ever league cup run (round four). We have a new home on the horizon, even if if our moving in date has been put back to the start of the 2020/21 campaign as was announced yesterday.  This is no surprise to anyone who has seen the, albeit impressive, work to date. Whilst the Lionel Road site is being developed at a rate of knots, we need to be realistic. Just look at the problems Tottenham now face as a result of trying to rush into their new home. You can read the full statement on Brentford official. No doubt more to come on this over the next day or so.

So one more full season at Griffin Park awaits once the current campaign comes to a close. Could it see top flight football? Who knows. Bring on Nottingham Forest this Saturday when we take the next step to discovering our football fate.

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Mark Fuller and Yoann Barbet do their respective things at full time

Nick Bruzon

Maupay banned. Funeral Directors appointed.

24 Aug

Brentford head to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday knowing we’ll be missing the services of the Championship’s leading goal scorer, Neal Maupay. A three game ban (which also takes in the Carabao cup tie at home to Cheltenham Town and then the visit from Nottingham Forest in the league) being the result of his accepting a violent conduct charge following the stamp on John McGinn at Aston Villa on Wednesday. In happier news, kind of, the club have announced G Saville and son as their latest commercial partners – the Official Funeral Directors of Brentford Football Club. Just for clarity, that’s Graham and not George. His career hasn’t died yet.

First up though, Neal Maupay and the incident at Aston Villa. The retrospective video review was no surprise to just about anybody who saw it on TV. Whilst referee Jon Moss missed this at the time, the subsequent going over and over in super slo-mo on Sky meant that there was only ever going to be one outcome. And understandably so on seeing the footage. It didn’t look good at all. There is a brief statement on Brentford official (you can read that in full here) although the jist of it confirms the games which will be missed, accompanied by an update from Dean in which he said that Neal understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games.

I reviewed the incident with Neal and spoke to him this morning. He understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games. We did not want to prolong the process so have accepted the charge immediately”, said Dean.

Nobody needs me labouring the point about what was an ugly incident which, despite the provocation, can’t be justified. The FA have delivered their verdict and so there’s nothing more to add on that aspect.

It’s a real shame for the team and a player who is the league’s top scorer (5) and also provider of assists (4). Instead, the conversation turns to how we replace Neal in terms of that centre forward role. In at the deep end for Marcus Forss or pull Ollie Watkins in from the left? It seems a shame to break up an otherwise winning formation but I suspect that’s the way Dean will go. Personally, I’d love to see Marcus given a chance in an otherwise retained shape. There’s also the option to stick Sergi up top although then we might be starting to stray into old ground….

Who could ever forget the the ‘false 9’ experiment? Few who remember ‘that game’ at QPR back in March 2016, in which Alan Judge was pressed into an advanced midfielder role (what was actually described as the aforementioned ‘false 9’) would be looking for a repeat. It was a nightmare afternoon where a striker free team were abysmal and, whatever the perceived logic from Dean, his gamble brought about inevitable consequences. Let’s please never, ever do that again.

That said, and we digress slightly, that afternoon sticks long in the mind for two other reasons. Both of which have been mentioned before and will no doubt again. But some things bear repeating.

Firstly, the magnificent Billy Reeves doing his zero-to-catwalk in three seconds shimmy along the touchline at half time. It was a move that was equal parts Zoolander and Moonwalk. Not even Ian Moose’s movement when the half-time pies appear could match this for impressiveness. Any excuse to drag out that picture once more.

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BBC Billy had provided the one moment of joy the last time we tried a ‘false 9’

Secondly, being ‘fly on the wall’ to a conversation taking place in the row directly behind me. There, the emotion had clearly got to another fan who had been giving a running commentary down the phone to his, presumably, better half during the second half. As the Bees collapsed his call, which had been getting more and more aggravated, reached a sad denouement with the line, “Yes. I love you my darling. But we’re sh*t. Now please f**k off”.

Whomever Dean starts with at Blackburn, it can’t be that bad. Instead, with our head coach now facing his first mandatory test of personnel, it will be very interesting to see which way he jumps. More importantly, how the team cope. Bring it on…

The other news of note was the announcement of the club’s official funeral partners. Whilst I’ve no doubt there will be some who think it is a commercial opportunity too far and indicative that the game’s gone, others will welcome it. Certainly I do, if only for the pun potential it now offers. It was something the club themselves have recognised, leading with the headline.: Brentford ‘til I die. Cue immediate references to dead ball specialists and experts in the box, although perhaps Will Grigg may not want to think about being on fire just yet. Urghh. Is that still a thing?

There have been the usual knockers but, frankly, who cares? It’s going to happen to us all one day so why not have a name ready for when that sad moment comes? Why shouldn’t the club explore unique and innovative opportunities that get people talking about both us and our partners?

Keen eyed observers had already seen the adverts at the Sheffield Wednesday game on Sunday. I was sent this picture, wondering whether George was currently lying low at the Holiday Inn ahead of the announcement of a controversial career change and forthcoming return to West London.

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Not George

Whilst it will be a blow to many, such flights of fancy are yet to transpire. Instead, the true meaning was revealed in yesterday’s announcement. And you can read that one in full on ‘official’.

Otherwise, there’s not really much else to say. Safe travels to Blackburn and roll on 2pm tomorrow when Dean announces his team.

Nick Bruzon     

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

18 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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We go again. Birmingham City 0 Swansea 0

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

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

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

Ryan sums up our current situation in one tweet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

What a week. What a 16 years. Why today is more than just ‘another’ game.

11 Aug

Stoke City here we come. Brentford hit the road today, safe in the knowledge that Ryan Woods remains a Bee after a somewhat uneventful, albeit tense, transfer window slammed shut on Thursday ™ . That said, there can’t be one Bees fan who doesn’t know full well there still remains a gaping hole in the middle of it through which a player could still leave before month end. This, whether to / from another Championship club. Or Lower. Whilst we may be out of the woods in terms of the ginger Pirlo heading to Swansea City, that still remains a theoretical possibility for a few weeks. And with Sam Clucas leaving the Swans for today’s hosts after initially failing to agree terms with top flight Burnley, could their interest in Woodsy now be renewed?  Or might today see a renaissance for Ryan?  

First up, Stoke City. We’ve not had a competitive fixture with the Potters since the 2002 play-off final. That was the one we lost. 2-0. Although we had the unique experience of getting beaten in Cardiff, rather than in the semi-finals or at Wembley. That was the one I attended with my Stoke supporting flat mate Phil and HB’s now godfather, Colin. Where Jack Segal of First Great Western trains tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home by taking the train out of commission at Newport. Amongst his lesser offences. How DID that evening all work out, Jack? How much did that taxi cost? The one where Steve Coppell’s squad was not so much broken up as splintered into a million pieces immediately afterwards. 

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Move along – nothing to see here. Again.

It wasn’t a great day all round by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, I was glad to be clear of Stoke. They changed managers a few times but would hold station until the enigmatic Tony Pulis out shone their divisional rivals to make it into the Premier league in 2006/07. It was a position the Potters would maintain until their love-in with the top flight ended in a bitter divorce at the end of last season i.e. they were relegated. And now our paths cross once more. Sixteen years later.

Cripes, Stoke look tasty. Unlike most relegated teams, they’ve been able to keep the majority of their squad together. Clucas has come in from Swansea whilst they had already strengthened with the £6m+ purchase of midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo. In addition, Dean Smith was quick to recognise other new boys including Tom Ince and Ashley Williams in yesterday’s press conference. That’s before you factor in the likes of Joe Allen or England World cup squad member, goalkeeper Jack Butland.  

Then again, the Bees look equally impressive. You can only play the opposition presented yet Saturday’s 5-1 obliteration of Rotherham was about as one-sided as it gets. This despite Ryan Woods not being named in the matchday squad after the interest from Wales. Frankly, that we ‘only’ scored five is still about as confusing as it gets. Brentford were insatiable when pushing forward and could really have made a claim on those beautiful brackets that come with a 7(seven) goal score. Yet three points and top of the table after the first round of games are about as much as one could hope for.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance against Rotherham

Today will be an infinitely sterner test. Just where is that dividing line to be drawn between Rotherham being awful and Dean Smith’s team being considered able to take that next step up? Will the team change now that Woodsy is available? Even just the bench?  Dean told the media team yesterday that “Ryan is a full member of our squad. I am very pleased he didn’t leave. We had bids and there was an unsettling period for Ryan but nothing has happened. Our valuation was not met so he remains a Brentford player.

What that means for today is unclear. I just can’t see a winning team being changed but equally, and has been noted many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. One thing Dean does is surprise us with his choice of personnel. Last season’s opening period was punctuated by no team being the same in successive games for a stretch that seemed to last about two months, if I recall correctly. Might we see more of the same?

There’s only one place to find out and that’s 3pm at the bet365 stadium (things to note not to call Lionel Road – I think I’ll cry if we run out at the LeoVegas Arena). I can’t wait for this one. If for no other reason than we get to see how well the boys do in that quite magnificent brown and orange away shirt.

Roll on kick off and see you there.

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Looking forward to seeing more of Said in the brown today

One final note on the Woodsy situation. Or, more specifically, the Swansea City situation. What mess must they be in at present? I’m not close enough to be in any position of knowledge but looking in, it seems staggering. They’ve had years in the Premier League. They have those god awful parachute payments to help keep them afloat. Former Bee Alfie Mawson was sold to Fulham for a fee noted at close to £20m. Clucas for another £6m+, yet they couldn’t reach to Brentford’s valuation (thought to be £6.5m) for a player they had been courting all window.  Then again, that Clucas deal represents a somewhat awful turnaround for a player who cost £16m from Hull City (along with Stephen Kingsley heading in the opposite direction) just 12 months earlier.

That’s not to have a dig at Swansea. Far from it. We all know what it’s like being on the wrong end of your best player leaving or financial mismanagement. More, to note once more how well we are being run and how relatively stable things are at Brentford compared to a lot of other clubs.

Great job, Mr. Benham. Now here’s to three points  today.

Nick Bruzon

 

 

Brentford experience a touch of the Arsenal with new shirt. And Saïd joins. Nice.

7 Jul

Well that was unexpected. What a warm up to the biggest England game in I don’t know how long. Uruguay out! Brazil out! The new Brentford home shirt – out! And there’s a new signing to boot, with attacker Mohamed Saïd Benrahma joining from OGC Nice. All of which were brought to us in quite unique social media styles – a fan announcing the kit and Saïd (as he is apparently better known) announcing himself to a fan.

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#WelcomeSaïd (sorry – we don’t do that anymore. Thankfully)

First up, Brentford. The new shirt. No sooner had I got home from picking up mine and HB’s away shirts from the club shop than the phone went off. And again. And again. Something was clearly afoot.

Whilst we’d been given the home shirt teaser photo in the morning, with a promise of the big reveal on Monday, the club had gone early. Or, rather, supporter Lucy Draper had after dropping this tweet mid-afternoon……

Wow. As a means of doing this it was a great idea. Out of nowhere and via a fan rather than a week of snippets and moody looking shadow drenched pictures that no amount of fiddling with photoshop can enhance to reveal more clues. Been there, done that and it’s a lot of time that can never be got back. I have to be honest that, much like novelty hashtags, the tease routine is starting to feel as though it has had it’s day. Just rip it off and show us your kits, Brentford.    

Well, the club would seem to be heading in that direction and we now know what we’ll look like in 2018/19. If it was love at first sight for the beautiful brown and orange, I’m more cautiously reserved when it comes to the home variant. The gut reaction for me was one of personal anti-climax. White sleeves and not enough black trim. Barely any (and that’s assuming the Draper family weren’t all wearing low cut black vests). All this before we’d even seen the red back.

Yet, seeing it as the match action photos from our game at Boreham Wood began to come in later that evening I have to say it started to grow on me. The all white sleeves looking better and the black shorts helping break it up more.

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Much better in full frontal

The problem being, of course, that full kit w@nkers aside, no supporter goes out on match day wearing much more than replica shirt and jeans. Perhaps it’ll be a case of breaking out the black wranglers rather than the blue next season.

For me (Clive) there’s just a touch too much of 1970s Arsenal about it. The red back, the white sleeves, the red trim. With a striped back this could have been superb. Instead, with the all red derriere (thanks, Adidas) it looks almost like two different kits mangled together. Something that became more apparent as we saw those ‘side on’ / reverse shots. ‘A cut and shut’ as one New Road observer would later opine.

That said, supporter opinion on social media seemed to be generally in favour and it’s impossible to please everybody. Likewise, in this era of clubs changing shirts every campaign there’s only so much you can do to update red and white stripes. Only so much you can do for the likes of Brentford, Sheffield United and Sunderland to not look as though they are wearing some variant of each other’s back catalogue – even if the Arsenal look was one that Adidas have dropped on us.

With the club’s current deal with our kit partner due to expire at the end of this season, and assuming a new contract hasn’t been signed already, perhaps a clause insisting on a striped back might be the way forward with whomever our next supplier is. Adidas or other.

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One shirt – two teams?

Ultimately, it’s a shirt. An absolutely key part of the club and our heritage but at the same time, there could be a lot worse things to happen.  I’ve loved many before. I’ve hated others on sight. This one falls somewhere in the middle. Having told people to reserve full judgement on the away until they see it, now is the time to take that advice myself.

Perhaps this one will prove to be a grower in our house. One really does hope so as with the away shirt proving a classic (and HB wanting to wear his to bed last night – that wasn’t happening), how nice to have a pair of iconic kits to celebrate our journey to the Premier League.

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The away shirt is a ratings winner in TW8

If choosing a fan to reveal our shirt was a novel touch, there was more to come. With speculation about the signing of Saïd Benrahma rife on social media this week, the player himself revealed his arrival – direct to supporter Ryan Gaffney after he’d questioned whether a signing really was imminent. Albeit with the full story coming shortly after on official (and you can read that one here).

This sort of thing is great. Like sending away shirts and jaffa cakes in the post to those whose first reaction wasn’t favourable, the club are really driving fan interaction to a new level. Gone are those awful hashtags – farewell #trophfyriends and #Novemberkings – and instead we have fans right at the heart of the action. No staid press release but instead a devastatingly refreshing break from the norm.

Traditionalists may not agree. Personally I’m loving what we are doing here although don’t deny it is a tricky line to stay the right side of. As noted by one observer (below). But if you can get it right, what a great tool. Social media is well and truly here to stay – let’s embrace it.

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Next up. The World Cup. The trophy IS coming home. Or, at least for now, to Europe. Brazil and Uruguay both crashed out last night (I would also accept: ‘limped’) to Belgium and France respectively. Now’s the chance for England to go again.

It promises to be shirt launch levels of excitement. Pubs full, barbecues sizzling and supermarket beer shelves cleared. That’s just Gareth Southgate’s big match build up routine.

In all seriousness though, I can’t wait. The World Cup is always huge and with England one of just six teams left alive, the excitement sweeping the nation is palbable. Everybody knows what is at stake and with football already having been formally declared to be packing her cases for the flight back to England, it would be fair to say that optimism levels are through the roof.

There’s not much else to say on that really. It’s all about the anticipation for now.

Wherever you watch it, enjoy. No doubt he game will provide a story and some sort of discussion point come 6pm.

This is England, it always does.

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Scenes we’ll be hoping to avoid later today

Nick Bruzon

All of which brings us with sledgehammer like unsubtlety to the Last Word season /five-season reviews which remain available for download. ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so why not help out this wonderful part of our club whilst providing yourself with some relief for the commute, the bathroom or just whilst relaxing on holiday.

Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

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

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

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began.