Tag Archives: Josh Clarke

Look at what you could have seen. Where do you start after that?

22 Oct

For a moment this looked like it was going to be Burton Albion away all over again. With Brentford trailing Sunderland 3-1 at Griffin Park on Saturday, as the Bees headed in for a half-time cuppa/rollicking (delete as applicable) it was looking like it would only end in a historic win for the hosts or a bracketing from the visitors.

And like Burton away, it was a game yours truly missed due to a rejigged family commitment. That’s life. Mrs Bruzon generally lets me get away with murder (footballing, not literally) . Besides there was no way what happened against The Brewers last season, where 3-1 down at HT finished 5-3 to the Bees, could ever happen again. Could it?

Had the returning Sergi Canos come on that bit earlier then who knows? To be honest, I’m just glad he was back in action. Whilst the team have started to build a decent unbeaten run (this makes it six in the Championship now) his flair and enthusiasm have undoubtedly been missed.

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As one New Road observer noted…

Having had two hefty injuries already this season, I can well understand Dean Smith’s reticence not to bring him on too early. Ease him back into it. This, despite a first half performance that sounded like an abomination.

I say sounded. Don’t take my word for it though. Seriously. These blogs normally come with the disclaimer along the lines of : ‘for any sort of match report then the likes of ‘official’, the BBC or Beesotted are your place.’ For this one, take that to the max.

A Saturday spent in South Wales meant the nearest I got to Brentford was peering through the traffic and Storm Brian at what might have been our chief scout moonlighting.

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My own view of the second half

Yet at 3-1 down, there was that thought lurking at the back of the mind that the footballing gods would stick up two fingers in this direction once more. So much so that, and purely for research purposes, the offer of 10/1 for a Brentford win from my online bookmaker seemed too good a gifthorse to turn down.

And then it began. Whatsapp began to flash updates:

16.07: Free kick from outside the box scored by number 7…

3-2. The comeback was on.

16.23: Dalsgard with a very loud fuck off there towards the ref

16.31: ANGRY DAD MELTDOWN (and if you sit in the paddock, you’ll know. He is just wonderful. And I mean that quite honestly. Genuine passion)

16.37: Two touches. Two goals.
16.37: It’s comedy goal day at Griffin Park.

In the end, 3-3 it stayed. Despite what sounded like an ‘edge of the seat’ denouement, the Bees couldn’t quite repeat the miracle at the Pirelli. Sunderland continue below the Bees. As do a Birmingham City side who lost. Again.

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View from the Braemar – fornicate off ??

After the game, there was the usual trawl of Twitter to see who was saying what. Looking at our own team, I did have to wonder if the media team had played a part, there had been some copy/pasting going on or just a coincidence:

Yoann Barbet : Shame we didn’t win today, but great reaction and come back in the second half 💪
We go again next Saturday.
Thank for your support again 👏🐝🐝🐝

Josh Clarke : Shame we didn’t get the win today but the boys show get character to get back into the game… on to the next 🔥🤘🏽#Brentfordfc

Another season, another player ‘going again’. Yet the reason for my suggesting the hand of the media team, whilst tongue-in-cheek, has grounding. And of a Sunderland connection.

Anybody who picked up a copy of the programme and we’re kind enough to look at my own ramblings would have read about the article on the 100 worst strikers to feature in the Premier League published by @RokerReport (and you can read that here – theirs, not mine).

Incredibly, 9 Sunderland players featured out of the 100. That’s some strike rate. Somewhat ironic, given their inability to find the back of the net. And at number 6 in that list was Victor Anichebe. A player whose form in front of goal was only matched by his form on Twitter.

When the media team said…..

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Nick Bruzon

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Football is back. Bees all set to sting the Lions.

14 Oct

And we’re back in the room. After a two week lay off for Brentford thanks to International break, the Bees welcome Millwall as Championship football returns to Griffin Park. So much has happened since the last time we were all together (the 2-2 draw up at Middlesbrough) and I cannot wait to get back to action.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. So often, the International football served up over the break is no substitute for being at Griffin Park. I’ll park that one here for now, suffice to say that when the highlight of the Lithuania game was wondering why it was taking place in front of the marquee from the Great British Bake Off then you know things are grim.

That said (and to coin an old phrase) if you would like to read more then those World Cup qualifiers are amongst the topics under discussion in the ‘Park Life’ column from today’s match day programme.

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You can get the programme in and around the ground

Chock full of other features, new editor Sam Marshall and the club media team really have done a cracking job with this season’s publication (yours truly’s nonsense aside). What else would you buy on match day?

Off field, work is stepping up on the site at Lionel Road. Last week the club published a series of photographs showing the demolition of the ‘Capital Court’ office underway.I t is work that is continuing on a daily basis and can be seen by anybody walking past the site.

Certainly, it is a journey that my family now undertake Monday to Friday as part of the school run. Seeing where ‘Daddy bees’ are going to host all manner of ‘naughty teams’ in the next couple of years is now very much part of the morning ritual.

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Diggers at work on site at Lionel Road, Friday

Like Brentford, the Last Word has also had few weeks off – although this down to nothing more than laziness – but the thought of Millwall visiting has the blood pumping once more. The thought of seeing if the Bees can continue our unbeaten run and even pick up a first home win means I cannot wait to get down to Griffin Park. Moreso, as George Saville is likely to feature for the visitors.

It would be fair to say the former Bee had a torrid time the last time he visited. At least from the crowd, where he came in for dog’s abuse on the Braemar Road side about an incident that had allegedly happened around the back of a hotel carpark, at Brentford lock. Italian restaurants not the only little thing around there, if eye witness testimony is to be believed.

There’ll be no such chanting towards Tony Craig, should he feature. The ever popular centre back has helped both clubs earn promotion over the last few seasons. I still wager that had Mark Warburton stuck with him in our first Championship season then we’d have gone all the way rather than our eventual play-off defeat to Middlesbrough.

A dismal run towards the end of that season saw Tony dropped to the bench in favour of Harlee and number 26. It was a run punctuated by a series of defensive cock ups and 2-2 draws, including a shocker against none other than Millwall where the Lions held a 2-0 lead until a late, late resurgence from Brentford earned a lucky point.

But that was then and this is now. Nobody can deny that despite just missing out that time, to be in a fourth successive Championship campaign is nothing but impressive for a club under estimated by just about everybody outside of TW8. Dean Smith will be desperately keen to get another win under the belt. Moreso, given the amount of possession in our previous Griffin Park outing – the 1-1 draw at home to Gary Rowett’s bus parking Derby County.

He’s going to have to do it without Rico Henry. The injury suffered by our left back at Middlesbrough means he is now out for most, if not all, of the season. It’s desperately sad news for Rico. He really has looked the part since joining from Walsall and has fast become a fan favourite – especially over on the New Road side.

This does mean that Dean has a selection poser. With Tom Field on loan at Bradford until Christmas and unable to be recalled, who does he go for? Josh Clarke filled in at the Riverside rather than playing on his traditional right hand side. Andreas Bjelland and John Egan are both fit once more, having missed out in recent weeks. As such, could Yoann Barbet be shunted across? Or will we see a first league start for Ilias Chatzitheodoridis?

Having already featured in the League Cup, it’s highly likely we’ll see yet another B-team player make the step up into the first team. Dean has shown time and again he isn’t afraid to blood Kevin O’Connors kids and I think today will see another such occasion. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Just look at the impressive start made by Chris Mepham.

With striker Lasse Vibe also available again, we have a few more choices. Finally. Rico’s loss is a huge one but overall the squad should have enough about it to record that elusive home win today. The bookies have us as odds on favourites in a game that they also predict to be a goal fest. So, 0-0 then?

Well, I can advise that my Cousin Charles is coming to the game today. And whilst the stats about his attendance/win ratio probably don’t form part of Matthew Benham’s model, all I’ll say is to lump your money on three points to the Bees. For research purposes.

See you at 3pm.

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Cut to the chase – it’s all about what happens at 3pm

Nick Bruzon

Bees get a draw, ref has a stinker and Matthew Benham says his piece.

27 Sep

Brentford 1 Derby County 1. Another game, another draw. We’ve now reached that magic 10 played marker, have eight points and sit in 20th place. Barring the statistical miracle of Birmingham City winning by 6 goals tonight when Sheffield Wednesday visit St. Andrews, it means that’s where we’ll be heading into Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough.

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Griffin Park always wonderful under floodlights

But if Birmingham winning by 6 would be a statistical miracle (come to think of it, the Blues just winning at the moment would be a case for the Pope in itself) then last night’s encounter at Griffin Park could be deemed much the same. Brentford ended it on 76% whilst the first half alone concluded with Derby seeing just 17.3% of the ball. Talk about one way traffic. On paper. Yet there was no irony lost in the Rams going in for their half time cuppa with a one-nil lead under the belts after Joe Ledley was given the freedom of Griffin Park to head across the goal and past Dan Bentley with little more than a quarter hour gone.

It was goal that sparked fury amongst the Brentford defence. Well, certainly hand waving and accusations at each other. But then when you watch the Sky Highlights you’ll see why. Truly, schoolboy defending given the space afforded to the Welsh international.

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Sloppy defending gifted Derby the lead

But from there, that was it from Derby. Rather than play to win they seemed intent on playing to foul. One would have thought it was Keith Stroud in the middle rather than, apparently, acting as fourth official given the flurry of first half yellow cards and poor decisions made by referee Andy Davies. Andre Wisdom in particular can count himself very lucky that his own poor judgement, charging in on Romaine Sawyers by the angry mob in the paddock, saw him given just a caution.

It was a refereeing performance that continued right to the end where, with Ollie Watkins bearing down on goal, the ref called time as the wideman was about to shoot. It was a decision which summed up his night – Davies, not Watkins. The youngster having minutes earlier scored an equaliser for the Bees from close in that our balance of play, if not our shots, had suggested would be coming.

Derby were big, dirty and physical. Brentford were given minimal protection from the ref. How this one ended 11 v 11 I still have no idea. Yet, equally, Gary Rowett’s men did a job on us. They were solid, resolute and Dean Smith’s team had no way past them. Balls were passed sideways and backwards time and again in a bid to break through. Substitutions were lacklustre and like for like, with no visible attempt to change formation or tactic. Purely adjustments to personnel. That said, Chris Mepham really did impress when he came off the bench for Andreas Bjelland at half time.

Our own shot target wasn’t in the same ball park as our possession but you can’t deny this team keep on going. This team have guts. This team kept playing. And eventually our persistence and domination was rewarded by that man Watkins as he slid home FloJo’s cross.

Should we have won? Possibly. Did we deserve more? Well, no. Sadly. Goals are what win games. Not stats. There is a grudging respect to Derby for playing a certain way. A way we couldn’t get through. Gary Rowett had done his homework and set out his stall. Poor Neal Maupay, dwarfed by the Derby defence, struggled desperately and needed either support or to be given a break. Josh Clarke and Ryan Woods, both amongst our most positive players, were removed early. At one point the disembodied voice of Peter Gilham , commentating on our Oktoberfest Oompah Band from the back of the stand, was the highlight of the first half.

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The extent of our first half oomph, ah

But the team kept going. The team plugged away. The team would eventually get the equaliser that sent the fans home relieved.

Matthew Benham would later make a rare foray onto Twitter where he had a few things to say. Alongside his own criticism of the ref there was more than a fair share for the supporters as he noted :

A really excellent performance tonight from a young, hungry side, created the vast majority of chances. Think the moaners must’ve been watching a different game! #brentfordfc

1. Yes I know boos at the end were for the ref 2. Can’t see how constantly getting on the backs of players DURING the game helps the team.

Fair? Well, I thought we struggled at times. Not in terms of being outplayed but in terms of trying to break through the opposition. As a football fan, I’m somebody who has been brought up on the unconventional tactic of trying to get the ball into the net. Perhaps I’m just out of touch. The self-confessed numpty on the terrace rather than Head Coach. Indeed, at full time Dean would talk about how well we’d stuck to our game plan and the quality of the opposition.

That latter point in particular, one that can’t be ignored. Yet what Dean and Matthew both, perhaps, overlook is that as paying fans we go into a game with a certain level of expectation. Winning the game. That’s what football is about. Surely?

We don’t have the involvement of almost being too close. Of being within that inner circle. Of seeing what goes on behind the scenes. Of being the ones stumping up the cash for the players and the stadium. What we have seen so far is our heroes sold from under our feet (for well documented reasons), some shocking defensive lapses that have turned potential victories into defeat or draw and an average of less than a point a game after reaching that magical ten game mark with a solitary victory under the belt.

That’s not to say we’ll support them any less. That’s not to say we have that divine right to ‘be any good’. I love watching the Bees but do reserve anyone’s right to shout at times. This is West London, not North Korea. I have huge respect for our owner and understand the frustration from his perspective.  But I think he was wrong on this one. If nothing else, I didn’t even hear that much moaning from my seat on the touchline. It wasn’t a great game to watch. It was a physical battle that we were often second best in. It was also a game where our team were offered minimal protection from a fussy referee.

But it was also a game that showed we keep going. So often, Brentford teams of old have just given up. Have accepted defeat. This isn’t the Butcher era. The days of Leroy are gone. I don’t agree with everything Dean does tactically in his role as head coach. But I support this club come thick or thin. I’m well pleased with another point in what were really tricky circumstances.

At the same time, I’ll never admit that last night was any form of classic. It wasn’t. It was a game that shows just how tough this league can be. It was game where we eventually got what, on balance, we deserved through grit and determination.

Saturday will be another tough challenge, no doubt. But with Middlesbrough losing at home last night (0-1 to Norwich City) is there a chink in their armour we can exploit?

Roll on the weekend when we find out.

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Matthew says his piece on Twitter at full time

Nick Bruzon

Out of the cup but where next?

20 Sep

Brentford 1 Norwich City 3. We’re out of the EFL Cup after a night in which we were never even close to being in it. Hey, let’s be positive though. At least Bolton Wanderers lost ahead of Saturday after their long trip to West Ham.

Dean Smith would later describe the second half performance as being “insipid” but I’d also question if he watched the opening period.  It was a 45 minutes punctuated by strange refereeing decisions and a Bees team who were second to just about everything. Even spot kicks as, when presented with the ultimate lifeline and a chance to haul ourselves back into it at 1-0 down, Yoann Barbet blasted his penalty so far over the top that it’s now in low earth orbit.

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Barbet’s pen. (Inset: now)

But then we’ve a tradition of centre backs hoofing dead balls over the bar. See also that ill-fated period of giving spot kick duties to number 26 ( a player who, ironically, missed one for Burnley last night as they lost out against Leeds). Likewise Miguel Llera and his attempts to channel Sam Saunders but which were more akin to Jonny Wilkinson. Why not just give it to a striker? A player whose job it it to strike the ball. To find the back of the net. Subsequent free kicks would suggest the Frenchman’s radar was somewhat ‘off’.

Yet let’s not hide behind one missed penalty. Even before then the writing felt on the wall where, with three B-team players making their first starts, those experienced heads picked by Dean needed to stand up and be counted. To guide the debutants. Instead, they went awol. Instead, the head coach was unable to do anything beyond take tips from Thomas Frank and occasionally lift his arms in frustration.

If Yoann was impersonating Jonny then this was almost like watching the ghost of Marinus past. And in places it was almost like reliving that ill-fated Oxford United tie from a few seasons back.

At a time when we should have come out all guns blazing in the second half, we fell even further behind. Just six minutes were on the clock after the restart when Mario Vrancic doubled the Canaries lead with a free kick curled over the wall and under Luke Daniels. His first had come just ten minutes into the opening period following a very soft penalty decision awarded to Norwich. But they took advantage of their opportunity; you can’t knock them for that. We wasted ours to the extent that even the Met Police were sledging us.

And at 2-0 down, the game was up. Brentford, who had been second best for most of the first half, didn’t even bother. Only Justin Shaibu, on for the totally ineffectual Neal Maupay, coming close with a curler that bounced back off the inside of the post. At least, until Josh Clarke popped up with our consolation goal in stoppage time. But by that point Josh Murphy had already made it 3 for the visitors.

As a means of psyching ourselves up for Saturday and the trip to Bolton, this was less a shot in the arm as us shooting ourselves in the foot. Unless, of course, it was an attempt to deliberately mislead any watching scouts. Truly, this was a soul destroying experience. Akin to what I can only imagine it would feel being force-fed Mrs Browns Boys for 90 minutes.

I could sit here and pick this apart but what’s the point? If you were there, you saw it. If you weren’t, then know that Norwich City were totally up for it and deserved their win. Likewise, know that should we pull our socks up and pull a result out of the bag on Saturday then I have no doubt this one will be forgotten about as quickly as it happened.

We’ve strength to come back off the bench, for sure. That’s the advantage of having a squad which gets stronger each transfer window. Just who plays? Whilst injuries haven’t helped his cause, Dean seems no closer to knowing his first team and this is going to be our 9th game in the Championship. There’s only so long you can experiment for.

Get it right and he’ll be a hero. Get it wrong and the few boos we heard at full time last night could well become a crescendo.

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Dean Smith – nice trainers ; tough challenge

Nick Bruzon

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

17 Sep

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

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

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Reading were the latest visitors to Griffin Park

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

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

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

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

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

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The Bees had to rely on themselves rather than the officials

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

Here are three more quotes for you.

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

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

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

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

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

One can symapthise with Dean over the refereeing performance

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

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

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

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

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Clem’s gut reaction says it all

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

Sadly, I fear it is . In this instance.

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

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

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

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A point sees the Bees rise above big spending Birmingham

Nick Bruzon

As Bees prepare for a Royal visit, Dean remains confident. But can we win?

16 Sep

Tuesday 27 September 2016. It finished Brentford 4 Reading 1. It was a score that came just weeks after a draw at Aston Villa and a previous home game that had seen us thump Preston 5-0 at Griffin Park. Yet it was the game against the Royals which produced what these pages described as one of the great performances as Josh Clarke ran riot, noting “How it was only four I still don’t know. Hats off to Dean Smith and his team for a display of simply scintillating football.”

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Last time out Reading’s lurid kit was about as awkward as it got for Brentford

Needless to say that 12 months on we’d love those sorts of results. The W column is fast becoming a somewhat awkward monkey on the back with only Bolton Wanderers, who we play next Saturday, able to match the Bees in so far failing to pick up three points. Yet victory today would put the Bees to within a point of a Reading team that, it would be fair to say, are yet to match the heights of last season where the third placed side got all the way to the play-off final before going down to Huddersfield on penalties. There is no crueller way to be denied, that’s for sure.

Still, there’s no time for tears. That’s Reading’s issue and if they are failing to adjust then surely something to try and take advantage of. We’ve all heard the talk of how well Brentford are playing, how unlucky we are being and that there is nothing to worry about. It was a point that Dean Smith made in his Thursday press conference where he noted: ”We are all disappointed with the results but we are not disappointed with the performances. We concentrate on getting the performances because usually the results follow but it hasn’t been the case. I’ve been at clubs when they have been in trouble and we certainly aren’t”, albeit he would later acknowledge that, “the longer you wait for that first win then the more pressure can build in the supporters’ eyes.”

The question is, can we do it? Although Dean would go on to say that “Whoever plays the best will win” (and you can read his piece in full on ‘official’) that’s not necessarily the case. Just look at the Ipswich game. Indeed, it seems contradictory to what has been said before. We’ve been told how well we’ve been playing this season and how we are bettering opponents such as Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday yet we are still to break the duck.

Something has to give soon and one can only dream of a report performance from that of 12 months ago. It was a game where 10 of the current squad played a part in producing some quite wonderful football. Should Dean get it right today and the pieces click then we are more than capable of doing the same again. Personally, I’d be well happy with a scrappy 1-0 and an 89th minute winner off of Nico’s backside. Please note: any backside will do.

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View from the terrace – Brentford were on fire at both ends last time we had a Royal visit

I’m not overly happy about being bottom three. Who would be? Yet the fact remains that this is only mid September. We are only 7(seven) games in. We’ve been told how strong the squad is. A few wins and it all changes around. The gap to 5th place is only 9points. Just when do those wins come? And how?

The BBC preview, which you can read here, certainly favours the Bees. Amongst other things, they have a whole series of stats including the facts that Reading are the only Championship side yet to score a first-half goal this season whilst 1972, 22 games ago, was the last time they kept a clean sheet at Griffin Park.

I’ve got a feeling that today we’ll be making that stat 23 and going home with all three points in our pocket. Bring on 3pm when we find out.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Jota. I love you. But please don’t join Fulham.

29 Aug

Jota – probably the most talented player to pull on the red and white of Brentford in recent times and now we’re all sweating on whether we’ve seen him play for the last time. Whilst the West Ham rumours have gone deathly quiet, the stories of bids from Middlesbrough hang around like a bad smell whilst Fulham of all clubs have now entered the mix. Yes, Fulham.

Oh, and there’s also one now doing the rounds about Harry Redknapp looking to take Harlee Dean to Birmingham City. Yes, we’re now well into international break and whilst on pitch most people are concentrating on the World Cup qualifiers between Belgium – Gibraltar and Malta – England, back in TW8 that accursed window can’t ‘slam shut’(tm) quickly enough.

Jota team Rotherham

We feel the same way too

Dean Holdsworth, Gary Blissett, Andy Sinton, DJ Cambell, Nicky Forster, Adam Forshaw, Andre Gray, Moses Adubajo, Sam Saunders to name but a few. The amount of players that we just ‘couldn’t sell’ who we have then sold is legion. It is part of life supporting Brentford.

We know the club’s direction is sustainable football within FFP regulations. Pretty much the rest of the Championship can pay silly money for players. We can’t and won’t. That’s not me crying; its just a fact of life. The club have made no secret of trying to build a team in a certain style and to move players on should those big value offers come in. To date, we’ve had three top ten Championship finishes doing this.

And now our resolve is being tested once more with Jota and long serving former captain Harlee Dean both coming under intense scrutiny. Both players could walk out of Griffin Park on a free transfer at the end of the season. We could sell them now for a combined total of over £10million if rumoured valuations are met. Can we afford to turn that down, even it it does mean joining the likes of Jake Bidwell and David ‘agent’ Button in moving down the road to near neighbours?

Being realistic, of all three names Fulham look the most likely. On paper. West Ham are soon to be a Championship club so why move now to join a sinking ship, only to end up back where you started? The obvious money factor aside. But even then, how much action would he see in a squad that already has 9 midfielders registered with the Premier League?

Middlesbrough can go spin if their offers are to be believed. Manager Dean Smith has already gone on record as noting “There are people courting Jota and we’ve had two bids that haven’t met the valuation of the football club and, until they do, he remains a Brentford footballer.” This, after stories of a £4.5 million bid for the player came in from Boro’. Add another three and then I’d imagine the club would be prepared to talk.

Which leaves Fulham. Well, the good news being that so far nothing has happened. It’s just a story. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest a story put out there just to drive up bids from potential suitors. Although, at the end of the day (Clive) I know nothing and have no knowledge – inside or otherwise. This is merely wishful thinking based on the desire to not see our prize asset end up at the Cottage.

Could I be uber-cynical as to suggest this may even be a spoonful of sugar to help soften the blow of any eventual sale? “Hey, he’s gone folks. But at least it’s not to Fulham”. Would that even happen? Are the media that clever? Again, I don’t know. But the reaction to the Fulham story has got several fans up in arms with vows to throw away their season tickets and never come to Griffin Park again being widely published.

One tweet from the team behind fan group ‘Thorne In The Side’ shows the feeling about this potential move. Extreme? Or showing the depth of emotion amongst supporters? It notes: I’d rather Jota join ISIS than Fulham. @BrentfordFC board must NOT let this happen. There are certain lines that our club must NOT cross.

Jota tweets

This is the battle the club are up against. And it is one that can’t end with all parties happy. IF it came to it, would they let this level off feeling affect their judgement? Unlikely. Money talks and we’ve sold plenty of big names in the past. We’ve sold to our ‘nearest and dearest’ in the past (just look back all the way to Jim Towers and George Francis).

Equally, we just have no choice in the matter IF the player had decided his future is now elsewhere. If his head has been turned by mega bucks. When the alternate is to hang on to a footballer whose heart may not be in it before ultimately losing out on what would be 10% of the price of a new stadium. I’d hate to work that out in ‘premium seats’.

Again, IF it comes to it would we see this mass exodus of supporters ? No, in a word. There’d be a whole heap of frustration (and that’s me being polite). There’d be a lot of upset kids, devastated at the prospect of losing their hero. But we’ll all still come back.

Personally, I’m not looking forward to telling a four year old that Jota has joined the naughty team. Let alone if Harlee also goes. Along with Sam Saunders, the three of them have been the building blocks of his footballing education. And that’s before we even get to personal feelings about his impact and place on both the team and in our hearts. Truly, he is that unique player who seems to be universally loved.

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This could be a tricky conversation on Friday….

This would be the Championship equivalent of Michael Laudrup or Luis Figo making the switch from Barcelona to Real Madrid. Although at our level it would probably be less a pig’s head and more a Chomp bar that was flung onto the pitch by an irate supporter.

It would be frustration compounded by us not being back at Griffin Park until September 16th. Prior to that, away games at Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday will see the board sheltered up in the bosom of the gods. Shielded from the fans. Those famous old stadia being unlike Griffin Park where nothing more than a flimsy bit of chicken wire separates our masters from the Season Ticket holders threatening to walk. Little more than 10 yards separates them from the heart of the on pitch action.

Equally, and being cold, I can imagine the pragmatic view of the board is that he is one more player in a long line of talent we’ve ultimately profited from. If he has decided his future is elsewhere then let him go. Let him go. If we can cash in on a player who wants to leave then why cut off our noses? He could sign a one year extension today if he wanted. He could help us continue that push upwards and then leave in the summer. But that’s not how football works.

The club will look at the player’s desire. They will look at the money. They will look at alternatives on the right in Josh Clarke, Flo Jo and the possible return of Alan Judge. They will look at the fact that this is out of their hands and how do we make the best of a situation?

I’m desperate for him to stay. Desperate. I’d love the above to be scaremongering nonsense. I’ll be the first to hold up my hands if so. However, I’m also realistic and now fear the worst. Now fear that the last minute goal, all those last minute goals, Mark Burridge losing it at Blackburn and Jake Bidwell being made a mockery of will be consigned to the history books.

I’ll be devastated if it came to Jota swapping Griffin Park for the Cottage. But I also believe, in my heart of hearts, that specific move won’t happen.

Anything else though, who knows? Thursday night can’t come come soon enough. Please, put us out of our misery one way or another.

Jota Fulham last minute

This.

Nick Bruzon

Today’s the day. For more than one reason.

26 Aug

Brentford are back at Griffin Park today, hot off the heels of that 4-1 humping administered to QPR in the Haribo cup. The visitors, Wolves, themselves midweek winners at Premier League Southampton. And now back in league action its a case of Jota v Jota. Hopefully. The original and best v the temporary incumbent of that name. At least until the EFL decreed he was to be known as Diogo José Teixeira da Silva rather than the nickname with which he was first introduced to the Molineux faithful.

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We say ‘hopefully’. Our own Jota, of course the subject of two transfer bids – neither of which have come anywhere close to the club’s valuation. That, according to Dean Smith in the midweek press conference. Instead the player remains ready and available. With Sergi Canos back in training, too, could supporters be treated to the return of the Spanish duo at Griffin Park this afternoon? Or could there be an 11th hour recurrence of the lower back injury? See also: Scott Hogan’s buttocks. And calf.

Here’s hoping both players are fit and available, although Dean Smith has some tough choices ahead of the Wolves game after the midweek mayhem handed out at QPR. I for one wouldn’t want to be in his shoes with some interesting decisions ahead of him.

Egan and Barbet at CB, surely? Will Maxime retain his place on the right? Josh Clarke tore it up ahead of him on Tuesday night whilst Neal Maupay is an undoubted starter, regardless of how fit Lasse Vibe is. The finish from Romaine Sawyers’ magnificent through ball on Tuesday night was exquisite. Although credit, once more, to Romaine. Along with Neal one of the standout players so far this season.

Then there’s Ryan Woods. Is it too soon for him to rejoin the starting XI? Who loses their place if so? Sometime captain Nico? Will Kamo be given a rest? Tough choices all round in a bid to find the perfect balance for a team who are bottom of the nascent table.

As for Wolves, they currently sit in third place. Nuno Espírito Santo’s team have three wins out of four under the belt already, with their only defeat coming at the hands of current league leaders Cardiff City. And, of course, there was that morale boosting win on the road at Southampton in the EFL cup on Wednesday. With the speed the draw for round four was being made, I’m guessing they are due to find out their own opponents by about Monday afternoon.

I’ve not seen enough of Wolves to know how well they are playing relative to results. But victories over Middlesbrough and Hull City are not to be sniffed at in any season or at any point in the campaign. I’ve not doubt it’ll be another huge test for The Bees but one I’m very much looking forward to. Since we crossed paths once more back in League One, our clubs have followed a very similar trajectory. This, despite Wolves’ rich tapestry of historical form and massive fan base.

Here’s hoping today sees another exciting chapter in the story. Albeit, ending in three points for Dean Smith.

Wolves Bees

Who wins in the latest battle of Wolves v Bees ?

Before this there are two huge events. Greville Waterman will be hosting a book signing in the club shop for his latest tome : OOH-AAH: The Bob Booker Story . The book does what it says on the tin, to coin a phrase, and is my current reading material of choice. Whilst I’m nowhere near finishing another voluminous effort, so far, so good. Nice one  Greville.

And he won’t be alone at the signing table today either. None other than Bob himself will also be present in the club shop from 2pm.

Yet the day’s non-footballing event is undoubtedly the fan forum in the church hall at St. Pauls, where supporters have the chance to put their questions to Cliff Crown and Mark Devlin (amongst others) in regards to the revamped stadium plans. Many of these have now been anticipated / further stoked (delete as applicable) by the personal message to supporters published yesterday by Matthew Benham.

We’ve no doubt all read this by now, although there’s a link here if not. As has been noted previously on these pages, the change in plans are disappointing to many whilst decisions around the club shop and, especially, The Hive are hard to fathom. These, all points acknowledged by Matthew.

As we’ve also noted on these pages, we aren’t going to get a choice in any build or substantial decision. Like it or not, and many don’t, that’s not how these things work. Matthew cuts to the chase telling fans: “In my opinion, it would make sense to consult only when such a consultation would be meaningful. In this instance, my concerns over the risks of the stadium build and business model took overwhelming precedence over a consultation which would not have ultimately impacted on what needed to be done.

For me (Clive) the most telling line was the penultimate one, which read: “We will continue with a transfer policy which will help to fill the rest of the funding gap”. Is this an indication that the likes of Jota and Harlee, both the subject of intense rumour in recent weeks, could be leaving imminently? Or that we will continue to buy the unknown but the potential filled?

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Harlee. Could he be looking away from Griffin Park soon?

Communication on the subject of the stadium has been drip fed out of the club in a seemingly strange order. Did Matthew have to do this letter? Perhaps not but given the close bond between supporters and our family like club, talking to us to explain his reasoning for these decisions is only a sensible step.

Does he need to ask / listen to us? Well, he’s the man who has pumped all the money in and who has already built a wonderful team on the pitch. His ball, his rules. We all happily exchanged our BU shares for this new lease of life. For this new Brentford. For this survival.

Should we have been engaged more along the line? Again, his decision and his view about this seems quite categoric. Yet at the same time, regardless of the eventual size bums still need to go on seats. Especially if the riches of the Premier League ever run dry or remain out of reach. We may not be paying for it up front but we are the ones who will be coming along in the future.

3000 empty premium seats when Barnsley, Burton or beyond come visiting could present an interesting sight. Ultimately, we want Griffin Park or Lionel Road. Not club Wembley where vast swathes of empty seats are so often on view in the middle of the stadium.

It’s going to be really interesting to hear some of the rationale behind the rebuild. About the premium pricing. About why none of this was originally considered / realised when , in Matthew’s own words: “A complicated build process, for a complex stadium design, on a difficult site to develop, was likely to lead to further delays and further escalating costs and thus endanger successful completion”.

Yet, the size of the site and the surrounding infrastructure hasn’t changed. And this not to criticise per se – we’re getting a brand new stadium –  but to understand. It has been a long and emotional journey for all of us. If not investing the millions, we have invested our lives into supporting this team and this club. We’ve put our hands in our pockets and our money into the buckets when the club was at its lowest pint. We’ve fought off the impending QPR takeover. Said farewell to Mr. We££ and tried to clear up after Ron Noades. You may not know this, but one fanzine even bought a player.

I can’t wait for Wolves at 3pm. But I’m equally keen to hear what Cliff and Mark have to say at 12.30.

See you there.

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Nick Bruzon

West London is ours. Who’s up next, whenever that is?

23 Aug

Somebody’s going to get a spanking soon enough“. Words used on these pages after the last few games as Brentford have seen dominance, possession and chances undone by bad luck and the odd moment of defensive ‘frailty’. Well, thankfully for The Bees it was QPR who were the right team in the wrong place. A 4-1 Carabao cup victory saw our biggest ever win at Loftus Road, a record that goes back to the first ever league meeting back in 1920. That’s just shy of a century. Our biggest away win against QPR in pretty much 100 years. Suck that one up, stat fans.

What a performance. With six of the team who played at Ipswich named once more, this wasn’t the wholesale revamp predicted by many. And hasn’t Dean Smith now been given a headache for the Wolves match on Saturday?

Flo Jo opened the scoring after just ten minutes. Shortly after doing so, his cross-cum-shot was redesignated as simply a cross and an o.g. chalked up to QPR defender Ariel Borysiuk. No matter, they all count and from that moment the die was cast.

Captain John Egan doubled the lead soon after. If we’ve had issues with some defensive curios in recent weeks, Rangers boss Ian Holloway must be having nightmares right now. How much space? Still, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. Subsequent viewing of the Sky Sports highlights show just what that one meant to him.

Egan socres v QPR

And you could see exactly what that one meant to him etc etc etc

But like an additional pizza cutter given away free with with a set of cooking knives on an infomercial, still there was more. Brentford’s third, on the half hour, was a thing of beauty. Romaine Sawyers, with confidence oozing through his body this season, cut the home team in half as easily as if he was serving up a ‘Ham and Pineapple’ with a ball that took out five players in one pass. Neal Maupay latched onto the end of it. His first time shot flying high into the back of the net from the edge of the box. It really was my pick of the bunch and due reward for both players.

Maupay has hit the ground running since coming from France. It is no wonder Brighton were interested in the player and testament to our scouting team that he has joined the Griffin Park revolution. As for Romaine Sawyers, what another (metaphorical) two fingers up to last season’s critics – where are they now? Nice one , Romaine 🙂

Likewise do check out the Sky highlights for the reaction of one home fan in the corner. This, shortly before the fire drill sounded. Just because you’re losing….. A goal every ten minutes and the QPR defence looking flakier than a leper eating a Cadbury’s chocolate bar in a bath. Could we be in line for those mythical brackets that come with 7 (seven) ?

Alas not. But to complain about such a thing would be trite. QPR got going (again?). One back before halftime saw a brief flurry in the second period but it was far too little, far too late. Josh Clarke made things safe to complete the evacuation of Loftus Road on 83 minutes. What a performance. What a result.

Yet perhaps the most telling moment of the night was the return to action of Ryan Woods. Named on the bench, he was applauded by the entire Brentford contingent. You won’t see much about his appearance in the mainstream match reports but we all knew what it meant. Its wonderful to see him back in what must have been really emotional circumstances.

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Emma Briden nails it on Twitter

All of which meant yours truly has been somewhat excited ever since. I slept in the spare room last night so as not to wake up Mrs Bruzon, having set the alarm for 4.10 am (apparently yes, there is a 4 AM, too) to see who we’ll get in the third round.

And so six hours later there was that ungodly clarion call. Bleary eyed, on came Sky Sports . There was ‘Through The Night’, but no cup draw. Did Chanel 5 have it? No.

A flick around the channels but it was nowhere. Not on the BBC. Not even ‘Dave’. Perhaps the Carabao Cup was going to extreme lengths and those ladies from the less salubrious channels ‘at the end of the dial’ were hosting it ? No. No. It wasn’t cup balls they seemed to be pulling. From a hat or otherwise. Move along. Fast.

Then it clicked. It was Wednesday morning. The Beijing based draw is 4.15am on Thursday. Well, thanks Carabao. Is this all just a ploy to make me consume your energy drink later in the day. Out of principal, I’m now going for Red Bull.

On the plus side, getting up early its given a chance to watch the highlights once more. Definitely the highlights.

Roll on THURSDAY morning and another night in the spare room. It’ll be worth it. I hope.

Buzzette REd Bull

No Carabao for this Bees fan. It’s the Red Bull cup today

Nick Bruzon

Will we slip on another potato skin or dodge that lower league bullet ?

8 Aug

It seems like only five minutes ago that Brentford performed those League cup heroics against Hull City and Everton, before narrowly missing out on Round 5 via a last minute equaliser and penalties against Birmingham City at St. Andrews. Infact, it was 2010 and The Bees first XI included the likes of Mickey Spillane, Craig Woodman and Pim Balkestein. Whilst the squad has evolved from that small League One group it would be fair to say that our record in the competition hasn’t been a great one since then. Could Tuesday night’s game in Kingston against AFC Wimbledon see us get back to winning ways?

The wins over higher division Hull and Everton were wonderful occasions, no question. The latter in particular seeing a practically full strength Premier League team beaten by a never say die Brentford XI. Gary Alexander scored the equaliser and Charlie MacDonald even had the luxury of seeing a penalty saved before the eventual spot kick triumph. Richard Lee the man on form then.

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Gary Alexander does his thing against Everton. 1-1

Now, we are the team to be shot down. A high performing Championship club travelling to an AFC Wimbledon side whose own ascension through the divisions and struggle to find a home has been a story in itself. Yet the game presents a huge potato skin for a Brentford side that is sure to be changed one from that which lost out to Sheffield United on Saturday.

The last time we won a League Cup tie Montell Moore and Nick Proschwitz (not a typo) were amongst the scorers in that defence shredding 6-6 at Dagenham and Redbridge. Kevin O’Conor played what was, if I am correct, his last ever game for the Bees – scoring what proved to be the decisive spot kick in the subsequent shoot out.

Since then the wheels have come off somewhat. We lost at Griffin Park to Fulham. At the time, something of a rarity for the Cottagers whom we would go on to take 10 points out of 12 from over the course of the following four league games. Didn’t Jota do something in the last minute, too?

Then there was the humiliation handed out by Oxford United at home as the Marinus experiment came crashing down to earth with a bump. Regular readers may be aware this gets mentioned a lot but it is important to never forget how bad that was. The team he selected was one which, long term, had a few players who are now regular (Nico, Lasse, Andreas) but at the time was an untested mixture of youth and new faces. 3-0 down in 12 minutes, that we only lost 4-0 was the main miracle of the night.

It was the consummate example of the flawed logic in both wholesale, untested change and woeful man management. Never forget.

Marinus Oxford touchline

The Oxford United fiasco  / Marinus experiment (neither being prog rock bands)

Then last season it was the turn of Exeter City to dump us out in the first round. Despite Harlee Dean, John Egan, Josh Clarke and Sam Saunders amongst those picked, Brentford struggled to a 0-0 before Ryan Hartley got an extra time winner for the Grecians.

And now is the time to go again. I can only expect more change tonight but this time I fear for Wimbledon. Harlee is available after suspension.Yoann Barbet was benched on Saturday. Likewise Maxime Colin. Expect the pace of Josh Clarke down the flank and surely starts for Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins. I’d imagine Flo Jo will begin on the left with with a very strong bench, just in case.

As the higher placed team we’re there to be shot down, just as Everton and Hull were all those years ago. That’s one of the privileges of being a Championship side and, sadly, a bullet we’ve taken more than once in recent years.

Will this time around be any different? A full house of Bees fans will be there to roar us on with only 200 tickets remaining on the gate. Watch out for the traffic delays though and get there early.

See you there. Until then, here’s one of the highlights from the Everton game. When our mascot was told to keep holding the hand of his young counterpart, he took that instruction quite literally.

 

Nothing puts Peter Gilham off his stride

Nick Bruzon