Tag Archives: Hull City

Bees and Tigers share points in the proverbial game of two halves.

18 Aug

Brentford 1 Hull City 1. Whilst it wasn’t the 5-1 trashing of last season, the finish to this one was as exciting as the previous time these two teams had come together. Something all the more pleasing as it had started with all the excitement and enjoyability at a studio recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Yet in the end, Ollie Watkins and Julian Jeanvier came within inches of giving Thomas Frank a second league win on the bounce following last Saturday’s despatch of Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough.  

There was good news from the off. Kamo and Said Benrahama named as available, albeit having to be content with a place on the bench. Bryan Mbuemo starting. As did Christian Nørgaard in the centre.  Yet if the announcement of the team had us salivating, the mood dipped with a first half performance that both teams may aswell have been dialled in from last Thursday. Chances were at a premium and that’s the polite version. The moment Mbuemo left his man for absolute dead and pointing the wrong way was a crown jewel atop an otherwise staid opening period. 

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View from The Braemar… Mbuemo does his thing.

Yet as at Middlesbrough, the second half saw Brentford crank it up. Even if we did concede the opener. Jarod Bowen being given the freedom of the penalty box to fire home and give Hull City the lead on 52. It wasn’t pretty defending and looked worse on the highlights but at the same time proved the catalyst  for the Bees to wake up and start playing as we know they can.

Thomas Frank shuffled the pack and went for a Plan B. The defensive switch from three centre backs saw the midfield boosted. Josh Dasilva and that man Benrahma coming on to a heroes welcome in a seventieth minute double substitution. Little more than 60 seconds later and we were level. Sergi Canos performing wonders down the right hand side to place an inch perfect pass through to Ollie Watkins. The timing was magnificent. The calls for offside ignored. The goal stood as he swept home to joyful response from all around Griffin Park. 

Sergi has begun this season on fire. Ollie has his second goal in as many games. It could have been a third. Just moments later but for a quite wonderful save from Hull ‘keeper Long. Both teams pushed on and pushed up. Benrahma not quite fully fit but still had the crowd on their feet with every surging run. With every bit of trickery. The smile on his face returning although, if anything, he was perhaps guilty of trying to hard. His time will come and what a welcome return. Mbuemo grew into the game and it was great to see  Christian Nørgaard in action. 

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But despite all the attacking intent on display as the game reached a gripping denouement, it was the post (officially, but looked like a fine save to me)  that kept Brentford in it following a fiercely fired free kick from Kamil Grosicki taken deep in the heart of Saunders territory (with thanks to the Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s alliteration). But the with the clock ticking onwards, we had our own chance. A beautiful cross onto the head of Julian Jeanvier with the goal gaping. Surely? Surely?? Surely??? Nooooooo!!!  If anything he headed it too well and angled his effort just past the post when straight into the back of the net would have produced the necessary outcome. 

It was an afternoon where football was played in a good spirit and even the players got in on the humour. There’s no-where to hide at Griffin Park, as Hull’s Kingsley discovered upon hearing the shout “You’re not Kingsley. There’s only one Kingsley….” He turned to confront the Braemar Road with an angry scowl on his face before the shout continued… “and he’s got spikey yellow hair”.  Cue the look of confusion turning into a smile of appreciation. At least, I hope that’s what it was. 

It was also an afternoon where I thought we were somewhat unlucky in the end, even if Hull manager Grant McCann did feel that “I think we deserved to win the game. I’ve seen it back and their goal is a yard offside. It’s really disappointing at this level to get a decision like that wrong.”. Hmmm. Perhaps upon review he may feel differently. Ollie’s goal WAS tight but it was onside.

Deserving to win is as false a concept as the possibility of a joke appearing in an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys. The Bees had their chances but couldn’t quite take them. There was no ill-will directed towards the team. This is still a group of players finding their feet together and adjusting to life after Maupay. Leeds United are next up and that one’s only going to be wonderful. Assuming you can afford the £37 away ticket prices. I have no doubt there’ll be plenty of scores to settle from the Elland Road side following the events of last season and, of course, the acquisition of our own new captain over the summer.

Enjoy that one. For now, time to regroup and reflect on the positives

Nick Bruzon

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View from the Braemar. Captain Pontus cools down

Thomas the frank engine aiming for full steam ahead against Hull.

17 Aug

It’s time for Brentford to exorcise the memory of the League Cup. With Hull City set to visit Griffin Park on Saturday afternoon, thoughts will be along the lines of last week at Middlesbrough or last season’s 5-1 thrashing of The Tigers rather than the midweek draw with Cambridge United. That one’s been and gone. Ground that has been covered and no real tears shed. Move along, nothing to see here. We can concentrate on the league etc etc. No bad thing given the tough run of fixtures now upon us with Leeds United away on Wednesday and then the trip to Charlton next weekend.

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Brentford were head and shoulders above Hull last season

First things first. Today. Like Brentford, Hull have picked up three points from their opening fixtures following a win (Reading) and a defeat (Swansea City). Two games in, the nascent state of the table makes it impossible to get a genuine fix on who is in with a chance of going up, who are dead certs for the drop and who is going to be the recipient of the annual Leeds United choke award. Presumably, Leeds United for that last one. So it really is a journey in to the unknown for Brentford and as much for Thomas Frank on his team selection.

He named an unchanged side to the one that somehow lost the season opener to Birmingham City for the subsequent trip to Middlesbrough. Whilst we may have ridden our luck early into that one, nobody who saw it could deny how we grew into the game. The wonderful way we took the lead with Sergi and Ollie combining magnificently for the goal (kudos to Emiliano Marcondes, too, for luring the entire Boro’ defence out of position) and then closed it out with some comfort. Thomas was purring like a kitten at full time and understandably so. 

That said, he now has more players with time under their belts. That being one positive to come from the performance against Cambridge United. And with a busy week to come (those trips to Leeds and Charlton await) could changes come? Thomas used his press conference to confirm that Ethan Pinnock was doubtful, Kamo and Norgaard need to be assessed whilst Said is getting closer and closer. How good will it be to have any combination of those players available for selection ?  

Talking about last season’s 5-1, he was quick to recognise the performance but not dwell on it. Instead, calling it a “New game. New history  although going on to add that , “so we never know what is going to happen but the aim for us is for us to dominate and play with intensity.  Positive sounding for sure, in an interview packed with talk of attacking intent and maintaining the performance for the entire game. You can see that one here….

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Whilst the 5-1 may now be deemed history, the BBC match preview does give some very telling statistics. You can see the full piece here but the one that really grabbed me were the facts that the Bees have allowed our opponents just 15 touches in their box in their first two Championship matches. That’s six fewer than any other team. If any evidence was needed of the immediate impact being made by Pontus Jansson and the new look defence then here it is. I still maintain that picking him up from Leeds Untied was the Championship signing of the season.

The evidence to date has been quite telling. The skill, the passion, the heart on the sleeve, the armband being immediately awarded. His reaction on pitch after Birmingham and on social media after Middlesbrough tells you all you need to know about his attitude. Magnificent. Elland Road on Wednesday could be fun 🙂  

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View from the Braemar – Captain Jansson has impressed.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. All that’s to come and there are more pressing matters at hand. If nothing else, the question of what kit the visitors will turn up in. Their magnificent Umbro home shirt with the return of the Tiger strip design ? Or the new third kit that was launched this week? Something the club describe as  a contemporary design in deep lagoon, accompanied by medieval blue shorts. Hats off to Umbro, as with the Bees they’ve designed some stunners this season. 

Nice though it is, here’s hoping that it’s the performance rather than the shirts we’re drooling over today. Wit the weather set fair and blue skies already over Griffin Park, the conditions should be perfect. I can’t wait for this one. See you there.

Which will we get this afternoon? Home or third?

Nick Bruzon

Cambridge follow Oxford in giving Bees the third degree.

14 Aug

Well that wasn’t great. Cambridge United reached the second round of the League Cup at the expense of a Brentford team chock full of new signings yet tinkered with to such an extent that it was almost at the level of  Marinus and the car keys in a bowl team selection of Oxford United from the same stage a few season back. Almost. At least this time we held on for a 1-1 draw before succumbing to fatal spot kicks taken in front of an ecstatic away support. On the plus side, the arrival of alleged Celtic target Rico Henry and long term signing Ollie Watkins put some much needed spring in the step to a game we almost won but, obviously, didn’t. 

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Griffin Park looked great under lights. Despite the result.

Upset? In a cup sense then of course but personally I slept well upon returning home. Dru Yearwood’s mistake early on presented Cambridge a chance from which they made no mistake but then they barely had a look in. Dru himself looked composed after that and grew into the game but the challenge of throwing so many new faces together was one that Brentford struggled with. Thomas Frank would later describe it as a disjointed performance and few present in the 5000+ crowd could argue with that.

Trying to look on the bright side this morning, there are still plenty of positives. Thomas was always going to play the new boys  – even this self-confessed numpty on the terrace called that one out yesterday – so it was a self-imposed challenge. The visitors came at us from the off and got the early goal as we struggled to settle in. Fair play to them in doing what they needed to but after that there was no more. Rather than turn into an Oxford style car crash (3-0 down after 12 minutes with Kemar Roofe’s 40 yard lob of Jack Bonham the ultimate slap in the face for the hapless head coach back in 2015) Brentford put the brakes on. Even though we struggled to get through our opponents, looking to walk it in rather than shoot, at least it stopped the goals going in.

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Marinus and the Oxford fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never, ever forget

Thompson, Mbuemo, Valencia and Yearwood in particular all grew into the game and now have vital minutes under the belt. Zamburek and Racic stepped in and stepped up to a line up which was very much one for this evening only. Rico Henry and Ollie Watkins made a huge difference when they came on and showed what might have been had Thomas not used the game to try out new faces and give his starting XI a break after their exertions in the weekend win at Middlesbrough. Hull City on Saturday is going to be a tough one so you can understand why he has done this.

Outside of the rested faces, we’ve still got the likes of Said and Kamo to come back in to the team. And Marcus Forss scored another goal for the Bees. Huge news there with a starting berth possibly up for grabs in Thomas Frank’s all attack front line for Hull.

The subsequent second round draw saw Cambridge United drawn away to Swansea City. That in itself a reason to be grateful for crashing out. After last season’s horror shows against the Swans (home, away and FA Cup trip) the less we see of them in the short term the better. Besides, it also means we are now free to concentrate on the league.

And, of course, Celtic lost. Knocked out of the Champions League at home by CFR Cluj of Romania. Their own collapse at the death seeing them fail to make the group stages once more. This in itself of huge importance to Brentford, given the apparent interest in Rico Henry and the fact that their window remains open for a few more weeks so anyone could still leave for the Scottish top flight. Should they desire.

With the lure of Europe’s top table no longer available (as ever at this time of year), might a move to Glasgow be quite so appealing for Rico?  If, indeed, it was? The way he played last night, he is somebody who will surely be part of Thomas Frank’s plans this season so hanging on to him will be another boost.

Also, the cover of the programme looked great. Clutching at straws now, granted, but it was that sort of night. Some would say ‘couldn’t be bothered’ . Personally, I’ll go for slight over-tinkering in a bid to get new blood circulating. Another time we may have got away with it but not this time and there’s not much else to say, really.

Well done to our visitors. No gripes for me there. Bad luck Bees. We tried but much like Oxford, Cambridge gave us an education in how to play cup football and it was Brentford left with the blues. Nobody needs any further lecture from me on the subject.

Roll on Saturday and Hull City. See you there.

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Nice artwork

Nick Bruzon

Let’s be Frank. Hats off to Thomas ahead of Wednesday on Tuesday.

26 Feb

Here we go again. To coin a phrase. No sooner has the dust settled on yet another five goal spree for Brentford (Saturday’s tonking of Hull City still fresh in the memory) than we’re back on the road. A trip to Sheffield Wednesday, Tuesday, now awaits Thomas Frank and his free scoring Bees. The big question tonight being whether our home form can be translated into that on the road. And before we go any further, let’s not start blaming the brown shirt. I love it. You probably don’t. However, the only crime it can be blamed for is, possibly, one against sartorial elegance. Or stealing my heart. I guess it all depends on your point of view.

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Saturday was fun….

But we digress. As ever. We all know our record on the road isn’t the best this season. Likewise, recent trips to Hillsborough haven’t seen it the happiest of hunting grounds. As a general rule. Yet with our tails up, is this the time for the form book to go out of the window? Who knows? I’m just the numpty on the terrace and any perceived expertise could be consigned to the back of an envelope. (I would also accept: postage stamp / matchbox).  

Yet what we also know is that Thomas Frank has pulled Brentford out the slump that Dean Smith’s side began nosediving into during the last few games of his own tenure. His enthusiasm is absolutely palpable. You can see what every game, every goal, means to him. Those full time sorties around the pitch at Griffin Park seeing him lauded as a hero. His desire to win clearly translating to the players where broad grins are as de rigueur a fashion item as our away kit (sorry). How distant the negativity from so many angles back in November and early December must now seem. How much egg has been wiped off faces and hands since held high in acknowledgement? 

One thing that has remained constant on these pages over the last few years has been faith in our model. Faith in the management and the team behind the team. Trust in what we are doing as a club. Whilst I’m the first to acknowledge my own personal views were somewhat tested (that’s the polite term) after the Birmingham City triple transfer swoop of summer 2017, it would be absolutely fair to say we’ve kicked on since then. And how!! 

Hats off to the current regime but, more importantly, no surprise that when Thomas was coming in for dog’s abuse from all angles, with more calls for his head than Henry the Eighth in the mood for a wedding, the top brass didn’t even flinch. Not even a vote of confidence. Instead, he was allowed to go about his business as sanity prevailed and the points began pouring in.

Now, we’re flying. This is in part down to the players (of course) but as much to Thomas and his staff looking at who we had. Looking at how we were playing. Rebuilding the system. Even the enforced placement of Sergi Canos as emergency wing back has proved a masterstroke. Albeit, we’ll draw a discreet veil over the second half of the FA Cup – en masse (in case you are reading, Sergi. You aren’t, obv).

I cite two personal examples. First up, the away game at Norwich City back in October. With HB fortunate enough to be mascot for that one, we were afforded a unique view behind the scenes. We’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating. Thomas was nothing but the consummate host in the early stages of the build up. Welcoming, cordial and talking with enthusiasm about the job in hand after taking over from Dean. Even in those early stages, his desire to progress and knowledge of the task ahead was apparent to even a numpty such as yours truly. 

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When Harry met Thomas

Secondly, the Junior Bees Christmas party in December. It would be fair to say that moment in time was probably about the low point, results wise, for Thomas and his team. Yet there was no hiding behind the safety of an autograph table or a sanitised photo op with officials on hand. Instead he stood slap back in the middle of the forecourt, willing to talk with anybody who approached. Others may have hidden away or ducked questions. Not Thomas. And let’s not pretend there weren’t as many adults as children there – obviously, in the guise of guardianship! 

Since that moment, the points have come thick and fast. The morale has soared. The smiles have returned. Even at Swansea City last Sunday, his arrival was greeted with applause. The first thing he did upon exiting the team bus was to head across to the waiting supporters for autographs and photos – especially with the tinfoil FA Cup that proudly bore his image.

Let’s make no mistake. Sheffield Wednesday away is about as tough as it comes. Moreso for a midweek fixture where travel is a gargantuan challenge for supporters. To compound our watching woes, it’s not on either the ‘red button’ or the Ifollow streaming service. Whilst there may (apparently) be other ways of following the action, I’d suggest it’ll be e a significant audience share for Mark Burridge and his commentary team.

However this one ends, it won’t be season defining. Yet with the table very much locking up towards the top ten, it presents a quite wonderful opportunity to really close in our rivals. I can’t wait to see how it turns out (plus ca change) and whilst am unable to say “See you there” this time, will instead sign off with another thought – stolen directly from the BBC Match preview (let’s not take any credit for picking up on this otherwise).

Since last season, this is our fourth successive game against Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship with their having a different manager at the helm. Carlos Carvalhal, Lee Bullen, Joe Luhukay have all held the reins prior to the current incumbent, Steve Bruce. Compare that to the solidity of the Brentford model to see who is taking very much that long term, sustainable, approach.

Here’s to seeing how it can be rewarded this evening.

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Thomas celebrated with the fans at full time on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

Tigers mauled by the Bees as Saïd inspires mayhem.

24 Feb

It really doesn’t get much more enjoyable than that. If Aston Villa had been fun, this was next level excitement. The memory of Swansea City in the FA Cup well and truly exorcised by a rampant Brentford side, inspired by Saïd Benrahma. Three wonder goals and one assist for the Algerian put a huge dent in the scoreline that saw Hull City heading towards brackets and lucky to leave with just a 5-1 reverse to their name. Brentford were scintillating. Magnificent. Insatiable. Choose any positive adjective and it applies to this.  A second five goal haul in less than a month at Griffin Park (and our third this season) were the very least Thomas Frank and his team deserved after a performance that was very much men against boys.

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Saïd definitely enjoyed this one

Where do you even start with this? Benrahma will understandably grab the headlines. His goals and approach play dictate that. Peter Gilham losing himself on the public address system, prefacing the announcement for our second goal and Saïd’s first with a shocked “Wow!!”.

But it was stunning. Waltzing through a crowded penalty box. Dancing around the Hull City defence until the smallest of gaps opened up, he pinged it into the top corner.

It took the breath away. The crowd erupted. The Bees turned the screw.

Saïd had already set up our equaliser, opening up the Hull defence to free the General. Kamo made no mistake as he virtually passed it in from distance. Parity restored after the visitors had, to be fair, controlled the lion’s share in the early stages. Their goal had threatened and eventually came via the head of Fraizer Campbell as a rare slip from Yoann Barbet gave the Hull man all the room he needed and left Daniel Bentley with no chance. Yet from that moment it was game over. Albeit the Tigers has no idea what was about to be unleashed.

The third came just before half time. That man Benrahma firing home as 0-1 down after 25 minutes became a 3-1 lead when the players headed in for their half time cuppa. There was a serious danger of the supporters running out of ‘goal sweets’ at this rate (one Haribo Supermix every time the net ripples, being the tradition in our block). There was a serious danger that the brackets would need to be defrosted.

Moreso when Maupay made if four just after the break, guiding home from close range after top work from Ollie Watkins. Watching the build up on the highlights (available now via Sky’s match report), the work Neal does to even get in position is great. He delivers the pass that sets the move in motion before breaking up field through the middle to get on the end of the eventual finish. The finish may have been (relatively) simple but it was all about the approach play

Peter Gilham was practically self-combusting at this rate. Freestyling on the mic with all the panache of a man who knew how exquisite this performance was turning out to be. How wonderful the interplay across the team was. Sergi roasting his man time and again. Romaine having one of those beautiful games where the passes flowed as sweetly as honey off the back of a spoon. Liquid football. Ollie and Neal linking up the play as Moses continued to push up on the other side. 

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The high-flying Bees were rampant

We said after the Aston Villa game how good this team can be when they get going. That time, they were only rewarded with one goal. This time out, it was carnage. The fifth and, ultimately, final strike being on a par with everything that had come before. Whilst the second took the breath away at the time, the hat-trick strike was just beautiful.

Romaine’s pass through was stopped dead, Saïd spun and curled it from the edge of the box into the top corner. One touch. Barely looking up as he hit it. Pure instinct and what a finish. What a celebration as he ran full tilt towards the dugouts to celebrate with Thomas.

You could see what this one meant to them both. Likewise at full time where the players did the lap of Griffin Park to rapturous applause. Every one of them enjoying the moment, talking to the fans and enjoying very well deserved acclaim. It really was a devastating afternoon and one had to feel for the visitors, now facing a long shlepp home.

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Thomas celebrates with the fans at full time

Brentford remain 16th, with the prospect of a trip to Sheffield, Tuesday, and then the visit of “The team from West London” (as PG called them) next weekend. The table above us is really getting congested now with the gap to the top ten now just four points away and, for the dreamers amongst us, 10 points to Bristol City in sixth.

Whatever happens, if the Bees carry on playing like this there’s going to be a lot of fun between now and May. For all that the Hull fans like to sing about “Getting mauled by the Tigers“, this time around they were made to look as dangerous as a restaurant cat. Claws very much clipped as Brentford ran riot.

Tuesday is about as a huge an ask as they come but what momentum to go into the game with. And then there’s the small matter of Saturday. See you there. 

Now, let’s go and watch those highlights once more…

 

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The only mauling on Saturday came from the Bees

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

Somebody call Andie MacDowell. Is this our latest unicorn moment?

16 Dec

Hull City 2 Brentford 0. Another defeat. Two goals conceded in a 9 minute patch. Woeful defending to leave us chasing the game. Possession dominated yet Thomas Frank’s team unable to convert 72% ball retention into anything tangible beyond a statistical nicety. What can you say? It’s all a bit déjà vu. A bit Groundhog Day. I wasn’t there. Can’t comment on the game per se, beyond the highlights package. Yet it all sounds and looks so familiar. And one can’t dispute the fact that we’ve now picked up just four points from the last ten games. That Brentford sit just three points above the relegation places in 19th position. What a cataclysmic tumble over the last two months. Nest week against Bolton Wanderers is going to be Marcus Gayle levels of huge, that’s for sure.

I used that line on Twitter last night. I also used this one: It just feels like TF now facing his own ‘Marinus and the unicorn’ moment. Carry on like this and we’re going to sink without a trace. Is Bolton the iceberg? Can we steer around? Or are we already fatally holed below the waterline?

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Is Thomas facing his unicorn moment?

And to be honest, I’ve genuinely no way or means of answering that question at the moment. One thing’s for sure, this team is not Marinus levels of bad. That was a low that hadn’t been seen since Terry Butcher. At least Thomas has passion. Seems to care. Is still seeing his team play attacking football but not getting the run of the ball. Not getting the breaks. Just totally devoid of any luck in front of goal. Yet equally, when we commit defensive suicide time and again then there has to be a certain acknowledgment of the line that says you make your own luck.

The Hull City goals yesterday could have slotted in to any of our recent horror shows. The second in particular we knew was going to look awful from the audio alone. “Right back Dalsgaard really bad mistake. Goes to kick it. Misses”.   Not my words but the words of Sky Sports. The subsequent video shows it is as bad as it sounds. The first, not much better. I feel for those that went up there for this one on the coldest day of the winter to date. It was never even a possibility of a green card for yours truly and, in retrospect, one I can only thank Mrs Bruzon for enforcing.

Call me disloyal. Fair enough. I love this team and club to bits. I’m not going to pretend I’m enjoying the current situation. I’ve sat through the highlights with Harry today who, after they’d finished, said to me: “Can we watch a different Brentford match? One from last season. One what we won.” I have since corrected his grammar but you get the point. Unlike us yesterday.

I wish. I wish we could play like that. I wish we could play like three months ago. I wish I knew why the wheels have fallen off our confidence. I wish I knew why the defence have been shuffling around like they’ve been suffering from a lack of sleep or bitten by zombies. This tweet alone seemed to sum up our current woes in a nutshell.

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The camera never lies. Nor does the table

So we can all moan. Understandably. We can all jerk our knees and vent spleens on social media. I’m amongst those to do the very same. No hypocrisy here. Some fans are calling for a change in coaching staff and another promotion for King Kev.

I can’t see it happening but at least it’s great that so many have the opportunity to call into question what we see happening. To try and figure out why we have hit self-destruct so spectacularly. Equally, I can’t imagine anybody involved in the club is prepared to throw our Championship status away. Something we’ve fought so hard to not only maintain but actually take the team further.

This is football. Nobody has a right to be good by default. Yeah, that’s one of my stock lines. But it’s true. Just as that fact that stats count for jack if you can’t score goals or keep them out. That’s another.

We can’t change the tactical or positional decisions that happen on the pitch but we can make ourselves heard. Whether its through the likes of social media or more importantly, getting behind the team on Saturday afternoon. It’s a cheesy line but its a true one. This Bolton game will be massive. It’s also one we can win. Categorically. I’m going to continue prodding on Twitter and these pages – when needed. But most of all, come 3pm on Saturday I’m going to be behind this team. Loud.

After surviving so many turgid seasons, the last thing I want is to even contemplate going down now that we’re enjoying some wonderful times. And if it takes Thomas Frank falling in love with Andie McDowell (metaphorically speaking) to get out of this loop, then somebody call Hollywood.

Move over Cameron Diaz, we need a new celebrity fan.

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Hasn’t this happened before?

Nick Bruzon

Is Kev a king in waiting? Video nasty or Oscar winner? Oh, and Hull City await.

15 Dec

Well that’s been a bit of a week for Brentford fans. We’ve had the post-mortem from the debacle against Swansea City which has included the promotion of Kevin O’Connor to Assistant First Team-Coach. The Aston Villa game in February has been selected for live TV coverage. Then there’s ‘that’ video with the first reveal of the Posh Seats. Something dubbed: hospitality.. but done in a Brentford way. All of which means you’d be forgiven for not realising there’s a game today with the Bees making the long trip to take on Hull City AFC. And so in no particular order…

The game against Hull City looms large. We all know our own recent form. Whether the 4 points out of a possible 27 since Thomas Frank has been at the wheel or the blip prior to that with Dean Smith registering 1 win from 6 before his inevitable departure for Aston Villa. There have been some horrific moments despite the odd patch of brilliance as we’ve chased games that have been handed on a plate to the opposition. Preston, QPR, Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and now Swansea have all been characterised by the team going gaga for short spells and gifting the opposition goals as though it’s already December 25th. The net result of this has been desperate last gasp attempts to rescue games and pick up a point that the coaching staff may feel our consequent attacking play has deserved. Yet with games already given away, we’ve not quite been able to pull it off. The result of which is our sliding down the table from a place where we’d been named joint favourites for the league to our current 18th. One position and one point above Hull.

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The Swansea game started about as badly as it is possible to

So we’ve shot ourselves in the foot. Time and again. Something all the more frustrating given both the incredible start to the season and the way we’ve tried to escape the self-inflicted holes which we’ve dug ourselves into in those recent games. And..?

For me Swansea was the watershed moment. About as bad as it got. You can read thoughts on that here. It has happened and we have to move on. To move up. To arrest this slide. Starting now. We absolutely have the talent and the squad which, whilst something that has been said many times in the last few weeks, remains true. Thomas now HAS to get them firing back to the form they’ve shown previously. And do it for 90 minutes. And then another 90. And another. He’s got an almost fully fit squad (only Lewis Macleod and Emiliano Marcondes are out) to choose from. Although as key will be his tactics and motivational skills as his personnel.

To aid in that side of things he has a wonderful man alongside him in King Kev – somebody who has shown his form on the pitch as player and then subsequently as B-team coach. It’s a great appointment and one which had a certain inevitabilty about it. Indeed, it is one fans have been talking about for weeks – albeit suggesting Kev should have taken the throne itself. Something I have no doubt will happen at some point in the future. Nobody stays in charge for ever. Not even Arsene Wenger. Just as Thomas himself stepped up from alongside Dean, one can only assume this is a succession plan being lined up already. Albeit I hope one which doesn’t come to fruition for some time as, if nothing else, it will mean Brentford have started winning again. Have stopped leaking those car crash goals. Are just playing for fun once more. Roll on 3pm when we find out if the Bees are coming home with three points in the back pocket.

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Last time out was anything but. Can Kev inspire us today?

Next up, the visit of Aston Villa in February has been declared a TV game. It was always going to happen. Dean Smith has the Villans heading to the business end of the table whilst his return to Griffin Park was an obvious lure for Sky directors looking to tick the cliché box. There’s been no change to game time as the match still kicks off at 7.45pm on a Wednesday evening.

I’ll be there regardless. Surely we’ll all be there regardless? I can’t imagine many Brentford fans who would have been in a positon to come to this one now forgoing the opportunity. Choosing to sit in front of the TV instead. With no change to the date or time It’s about as uncontentious as they come in the always emotive field of TV games.  Even had it not been chosen for ‘full fat’ coverage, as an evening game it would still have been lurking behind the scenes on the red button. The gate figures may say otherwise of course but I’d still be expecting a bumper Griffin Park crowd. It already promises to be a cracking game for so many reasons – even just recent form between our two clubs which has seen Brentford very much in the driving seat. Long may that continue.

And finally, we’ve all seen the video for corporate hospitality at Lionel Road? Presumably. Below if not.

The first of, no doubt, many videos to promote Lionel Road hospitality

I’ve seen a whole ton of negativity out there. Personally, at the risk of trotting out a glib cliché, it is what it is. A video shot using CGI representation of something that’s not ready yet in order to start generating interest. We were only going to get this sort of stuff the second it was revealed the amount of premium seats that the club had elected to create.

Hospitality is a key part of modern football. Everybody does it. From Premier league to non-league. From Manchester United to Salisbury FC. It’s a revenue stream that every club looks to tap in to, no matter what individuals may think about it being evidence that the game’s gone or being a sell out to your roots. We already do it at Griffin Park – just not in the scale that the club would like to. What are we supposed to do now? Pretend its not happening and fail to market it? Of course not.

Now it’s true the video itself comes over as a bit naff. In part, that’s hindered by the fact that the product being promoted doesn’t actually exist. Being honest – it looks like something put together by one of the teams in TV’s ‘The Apprentice’. For me, the low point was where my subconscious translated the ‘seat’ line to genuinely read  “And watch the action from a nice padded cell’.

You don’t have to be mad to support Brentford, but it helps. Or whatever the phrase is.

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Seat.Seat.Seat. Not cell.

Yet we have to start somewhere. And, frankly, nobody is going to care about a promo video that was about as cheesy as the delicious looking burger on display once our new home is built and once prices are announced. If I can afford it I’ll likely try it out on a special occasion. If I can’t, I won’t.

Either way, the most important thing for me on matchday is watching football with my mates. Having a beer together at half time. Being part of that communal experience. So unless Mr. Benham is prepared to offer me a box at a reasonable rates (yeah) so we can all sit together, it’ll be the regular seats for me. Regardless of how good or bad a video is. Regardless of how ‘unfootbally’ the names of the lounges seem to be – Orchard, Railway and Grand Union. An easy chance to honour our footballing past missed here.

Honestly, there are more important things to focus on in the short term than the first step in a promotional campaign that is only likely to crank-up as the Lionel Road project advances. Once we get information on the regular seats and the prices of all categories – from the top to the bottom – then we can all make an informed decision about what the club is doing and where we may want to position ourselves when STs are available for purchase. 

Until then, it’s all about getting back to winning ways. Starting in Hull.

Nick Bruzon

Is something rotten in the state of Brentford?

9 Dec

We’ve not really touched these pages in the last week or two. Matters outside of Griffin Park (namely, a social life rearing it’s head once more like some long forgotten relic of pre-parental life) have meant the column takes a back seat. To be honest, it’s probably no bad thing given the recent run in form that for Brentford finally looked like it may be coming to a halt with that 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Monday night. We all know what happened there, with the Bees doing to ‘deserving’ opponents what our own head coaches have felt hard done by so many times over the last few seasons. An injury time equaliser from Lewis Macleod rescuing a point after the hosts had conspired to miss all manner of seemingly unmissable chances earlier on. Good news, we thought. We have stopped the bleeding (not my words but those of Thomas Frank). Then Swansea City happened and a 3-2 defeat that was about as shambolic as it has been in recent months.

The Bees were a goal down with less than 30 seconds on the clock. The Griffin Park scoreboard hadn’t even sprung into life by the time Wayne Routledge had tapped home the opener after the defence had failed spectacularly to clear the most innocuous of pass backs and straight crosses. It was 2-0 Swansea soon after as Chris Mepham turned into his own net to gift the visitors a second. That the clock was registering 27 by the time Swansea made it three was only due to the injury suffered by Martin Olsson. One can only hope that the lengthy treatment before play resumed (there were 8 minutes added on at the end of the first half) was precautionary but it didn’t look good from where we sat on the far side.

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No minutes on the clock and already a goal down. 

That third goal was everything that was wrong with the team at present. A listless ball across midfield that was picked up by nobody. A needless free kick awarded on the right hand side. A ball delivered in that wasn’t cleared far enough before spaces were left for the return that would have embarrassed my son’s U-6 team. Kudos to Ollie McBurnie for attempting the overhead kick that lead to their goal but that he was even afforded that much room was a crime in itself. Leroy Fer made no mistake as the Brentford defence were unable to mop up the resulting detritus. I’ve seen better markers in a packet of Sharpies. 3-0 down and 27 minutes gone, 8 of which had seen the clock stopped for Olsson’s injury.

Frustratingly for Brentford, that unfortunate break in play should have allowed the team time to regroup. To have a chat about what next to avoid the inevitable third and actually find a way back into the game. But there had been nothing and the inevitable happened.

That’s it. If you want to read about inspired comebacks. About almost snatching a point. About hitting the bar two or three times then be my guest. Here’s the BBC website. Here’s Brentford official. Here’s Sky Sports where the report is about as lightweight as our midfield was for that opening period but they do have the goal highlights. I’d suggest you watch them just to see how not to play football.

Don’t let a fight back fool you or mask over another dreadful start. I’d hope Thomas has been up all night figuring out how to repair the gaping holes in the team, in their confidence and in supporter morale. The boos on the third goal and half time suggest that the crowd as finally been lost.

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View from the Braemar. The perimeter boards really rubbing it in during the first half.

It was yet another game where quite wonderful individuals have been that. Individual. Where the team spirit has seemingly gone out the window. Where the inability to kick a ball forward instead of faff has cost us. Where the result of being unable to put in a challenge has been a glut of goals conceded in a short space of time. See also Preston. QPR. Middlesbrough. Sheffield United. I honestly thought the game with the Blades had seen us as off the pace as we could possibly be but this one really trumped it.

That first half was on a par with, if not worse than, Oxford United in the league cup a few years back. At least in that one (and we’re clutching at straws) Marinus could blame his relative short time in the job, the sandpit of a pitch and his own tactical naivety in picking eleven players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them. But Thomas has been part of the set up for two years. He knows the players. They know him. This was a good line up – on paper – but instead it did what it has done time and again in recent weeks. Defensive hesitancy. Midfield absence. Full backs brutally exposed. Passing the ball sideways and backwards instead of forward. Inability to make a challenge, close down or simply mark an opponent. Just not kicking it away when it was near the goal. The ‘discussion’ amongst the team after the third went in was there for all to see.

To be fair, it changed after. As the heavens opened, the Bees came alive. Albeit Brentford very much had Daniel Bentley to thank for even keeping us alive at 3-1 down. This after Ollie Watkins had pulled one back in the first half and before Said Benhrahma gave us hope with a wonderful freekick midway through the second. But it was all too late. You can’t keep on giving away 2 or 3 quick fire goals – bang, bang, bang – and expect to take anything from a game.

From the point where we were named as joint favourites for the league title with Leeds United, Brentford have not so much hit the skids as gone through the crash barrier and plummeted down the mountain side. We’ve got games coming up at Hull City and then home to Bolton Wanderers. Both sides in the rapidly diminishing clutch of teams currently below the Bees. Failure to pick up at least 4 points out of 6 in those will see us getting sucked into that relegation vortex.

It’ll be a big ask given Thomas has only picked up 4 points from his opening 9 games. Even Marinus had managed 8 from the same period. What we’d give for that sort of form at the moment although please note the Dijkuizen experiment is not one I’m calling for a return of. Ever.

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Marinus and the Oxford United fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never forget

What’s really troubling me is why this isn’t working at the moment. We’ve had many poor teams and poor runs over the years at whatever level we’ve played. But the squad is currently packed full of internationals. It is the same squad Dean Smith had. We have the Championship’s second top scorer (Neal Maupay currently one behind Lewis Grabban). Top flight clubs covet the likes of Ollie Watkins, Chris Mepham, Daniel Bentley and Ezri Konsa. Josh McEachran (up there for player of the season so far) has pretentions of playing for England.

We’re not talking about times where the set up has been so thin that we’ve had to beg a favour off Neil Shipperly. These are good players. Great players. Players who hit the ground running and propelled Brentford to the very top end of the table back in August and September. Now, they’ve got all the confidence of a studio audience going in to a recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

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Neil Shipperley. Never forget

Is it simply bad luck? Injuries limiting selection? Or is there something going on behind the scenes. Something as simple as an arm around the shoulders that is missing? Or something more in tune with a change in tactical set up? This should have been a seamless transition but for whatever reason it’s just not working out at the moment.

Let’s not pretend that the end of Dean Smith’s time here didn’t see us in a mini-blip relative to what he’d done prior with just 1 win out of 6. Yet what was intrinsically different then was that he had the winning form that made nobody in any doubt it would be back again soon. Even when we weren’t taking all three points, there was none of this constant shipping of goals over a short space of time.

Nobody has a divine right to be any good. We can’t just rock up and expect to win. Equally though, you still need to rock up in the first place. You can’t keep on giving the opposition two or three goal leads and expect to come away with anything.

Thomas has got a huge, huge challenge ahead of him. Both tactically and psychologically. I hope he has thick skin and a plan B. Or C. The way the crowd reacted yesterday after a frankly awful opening period suggest that if he can’t turn things around fast, things could get very ugly. For everyone.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park v Swansea

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