Tag Archives: Josh McEachran

Ten Signs Better? Shock move precedes weekend fixtures.

28 Sep

Well that was a day to catch us all cold ahead of the trip to Barnsley for Sunday’s TV game. Former Brentford number 10 and Chelsea midfielder Josh McEachran has pushed the number of ex-Bees at Birmingham City back up to three following the departure of Jota to Aston Villa over the summer. There are no words beyond….’wow’. Possibly with a ‘drink being spat out of mouth’ gif/meme to accompany it but let’s not go there. Elsewhere, Nottingham Forest have gone to the top of the league following last night’s 3-2 defeat of abject (we would also accept ‘lowly’) Stoke City. Played 9 Won 0. Points 2. Cripes, that’s a worse record than Madonna’s version of American Pie. It is a result which sees Leeds United displaced from the penthouse suite of the Championship table hotel, heading into the weekend fixtures.

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We went there. But come on… ‘Allo ‘Allo! beats the usual ‘Downfall’ analogy.

First up, Brentford v Barnsley. Are you going ? Hats off if so. A Sunday lunchtime trek to Yorkshire when the comfort factor of TV presents an obvious alternative is a strange one. Not so much for Brentford fans who always travel in numbers but more that it would have been an easy one to swerve. An early, early start after a Saturday night out when the pub or bed beckon would be deemed acceptable reasons to catch up via alternate sources.

Personally, and there is no pretence here, I’m saving my beer tokens and green cards for those Saturday 3pms on the road. That’s nothing to do with the opposition but simply the fact that both are finite commodities which need to be played at the right time. The Barnsley game is on TV and that’s the option I have to take this time out. I’d love to be there, of course, but with a family and a dwindling bank account to juggle, sometimes one does have to take the a different option.

Being blunt, I’m still not sure why Sky have picked it. And I’m a Brentford fan!  If for no other reason, and with respect to both the Tykes and The Bees, it is hardly a game which screams of interest to anybody outside of Oakwell or Griffin Park. There is no real rivalry (mascot races aside – and do pick up the match day programme if you get a chance….).

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But what happened next….?

Still, there are only so many times that they can show Leeds United. Or should that say, presumably there are only so many times they can show Leeds United? However, Bielsa’s boys do seem be starting at 3pm today – away to Charlton Athletic – so there you go. They do, sometimes, play in the traditional timeslot. Can they retake top spot from Forest or is their now annual ‘falling apart’ about to start once more?

The Griffin have their Sky TV lined up once more and will be showing this one. Certainly that’s where I’m hoping to take the family.  For Sunday lunch. Still, all that’s for tomorrow.  Right now, I’m still spitting my drink out over the Josh McEachran story.

Not so much that the player, released by Brentford when his contract expired, has joined Birmingham City but more the point at which it has happened. Nobody in TW8 saw this one coming with most clubs having long since wrapped up business following the early transfer window. Especially from a player who, if we’re being honest, never really lived up to the potential that the former Chelsea man brought with him to Griffin Park. Instead, we parted ways after four seasons, 102 games and a solitary goal. Against Birmingham. 

It just never clicked for/with him and when a player is best known for his services to mobile phone cases or mini-golf then perhaps it’s best to admit that despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes things just don’t work out. Sadly.

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Whatever else happens, we’ll always have this

It was a shame and for no other reason than he did start last season so brightly. There was talk of an England call up (from the player) and it looked as though we were finally going to see the McEachran that his reputation suggested. It didn’t happen.

Pep Clotet is not quoted on the Blues website although the club’s editorial describes him as, “A composed player happy to receive the ball in tight areas, McEachran’s vision, positioning and clever passing was apparent in the Under-23s matches when he was influential in helping to dictate proceedings.

So there you go. 

Could Blues have vision that Bees lacked ? Or is the player simply better suited to a more industrial style of football than the fast flowing movement of a Brentford team who have, let’s not forget, finished above Birmingham for the last five seasons?

Instead, Josh now has the chance to ‘go again’. Birmingham travel to Derby County this afternoon, with the Rams looking to put their car-crash start to the season well behind them. Will he get the chance to dominate the ten yards around the centre-circle ? Or is it one to start from the bench ? Either way, I’m intrigued to see how this all plays out…..

Nick Bruzon

Rumour meltdown: Jota, Bentley, Maupay. And a certain game (of Liverpool bingo) awaits.

1 Jun

The wait is over. Strap yourselves in for a wild ride. This is the big one. Sure, there may be something going on in Madrid this evening between Tottenham and Liverpool (and we WILL get there for a bumper game of bingo) but back in Brentford it begins. With Aston Villa confirmed as a Premier League team, there was always going to be untold speculation linking Dean Smith with not only his old club but just about any target that may have been potentially available. Yes, clickbait season – aka the early knockings of the summer transfer window – is here.

The desperate hunt for stories and transfer news sees all manner of sources close to clubs being quoted and suspicions alluded to as news sites will publish anything in the desperate search for hits. Usually involving the phrase, “We understand that…” and  “The player is thought to be: unhappy / desperate to force a move / frustrated / keen to test himself at a higher level”.

We don’t normally do rumours on these pages but with some corkers out there at present, you have to make an exception every now and again.  I’ve already seen a lot of talk about Aston Villa making a £20million swoop for Neal Maupay. It’s an obvious link between Dean Smith and Brentford with an incredible amount of money being suggested but it won’t be happening. No chance. The player is too deeply ingrained into the set up at Griffin Park. The club love him. He loves the club. The final season in our current home is where its going to be happening.

Indeed, if anyone leaves Brentford for Aston Villa then its more likely to be somebody like now out-of-contract Yoann Barbet or Josh McEachran – both of whom thrived under Dean at the start of the season just gone. Nobody can doubt Yoann’s versatility or passion and our loss will be anybody elses’ gain when pen is eventually put to paper. As for Josh, he was widely quoted as still harbouring England ambitions and, to be fair, was one of our stand out players prior to the autumn blip in form that saw us dumping our promotion ambitions for a short lived dalliance with the lower end of the table.

But rest assured, Neal is going nowhere. His value as an individual is, of course, immense but it is his interaction with those around him something that you cannot put a price on. The link up play with the likes of Sergi, Ollie and Said was a thing of beauty to behold. He needs them as much as we need him. If nothing else, can you honestly imagine him and John McGinn in the same team? Let’s just stamp on this rumour right now.

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Going nowhere

I’ve also seen whispering of Dan Bentley to Stoke City. That one seemed pretty random and probably based on nothing more than their all-round awfulness in 2018/19 and our own goalkeeping conundrum that eventually saw duties shared. Let’s not forget our first away game of last season, at Stoke, where the opening goal he and Chris Mepham conspired to let in between them was hardly a great advert for any prospective employer. Personally, I think Dan is great and would hate to see him go. Don’t let the odd hiccup last campaign tarnish his overall quality between the Griffin Park sticks.

Yet the best rumour involves the King. Jota. Despite the quality we have now, one can’t help but go misty-eyed thinking about all he did at Griffin Park. How awful it was to see him end up in that footballing backwater and cultural desert that is Birmingham City.

Now, there are stories doing the rounds that are linking him with a move across the city to reunite with Dean Smith as part of a swap deal involving somebody called Gary Gardner. I have to be honest, he’s not a player I’m overly familiar with but , regardless of the stories validity, it’s my favourite so far. Purely because of the reaction form the St. Andrews faithful. Talk about Twitter meltdown.  

DPE3B5xW0AE7Fz4I hope this one is true. Presumably we’d be in line for any sell on clause whilst it would be incredible to see Jota in the top flight.  He has the ability, that’s for sure. Jota v Jota in the Wolves – Villa game would be magnificent. Anything that causes Birmingham City angst can only be a good thing in my book and they’re likely looking to rebalance their wage bill after last season’s little bit of bother with financial irregularities and that points deduction.  Plus he’s a shoe-in for any fantasy football selection if so.

Come on – make it happen, Dean.

The genuine news out there at present is this evening’s Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool. It’s a game that is harder to unravel than one of Matthew Benham’s cryptic video clues. No matter who you think is the strongest of the two, the double ‘miracle’ of the semi-finals where seemingly insurmountable leads were reeled back in prove that both teams have what it takes. And both defences must be somewhat porous to have got into that position in the first place.

If anything, Tottenham pulled off the bigger miracle. Liverpool were at home and had the full 90 minutes to reel in Barcelona. Spurs were playing in Amsterdam and had capitulated to a position that saw them needing their three goals in the second half alone. To hang in there until finally taking an aggregate lead in the 96th minute of the second leg was nothing short of incredible.

I can’t even come close to calling who will win this one. What I can predict, however, is that we’ll have a field day in Champions League final bingo. For no other reason Liverpool are playing. Chuck another English team into the mix and you can bet the related clichés will be on overdrive.

If you’d like to play along, then here’s your card….

anfield bingo

Enjoy

Nick Bruzon

Tough questions to ask, and answer, after an insipid performance under the lights.

28 Nov

Well that was awful yesterday. And not the news that Mrs. Brown’s Boys leads the BBC Christmas schedule with two episodes of the alleged ‘favourite’ having been commissioned for the festive period.  Of course we mean football where, being honest, even after sleeping on this one I’m struggling to be positive this morning. That Sheffield United made it 6 defeats out of 7(seven) for Brentford since Dean Smith left is almost secondary. The 3-2 loss contained so many problems that even had we grabbed a last gasp equaliser, it would actually have masked the deficiencies as I’ve no doubt we’d be told how this team never gives up and keeps fighting until the end. Yet the simple fact is this game should have been well out of sight by half-time. How the visitors only led by a single goal as we went in for our bovril I’m still not sure. With a televised trip to West Bromwich Albion next up on Monday night, it’s not going to get any easier for Thomas Frank’s Bees.

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Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

It had all started off so brightly. Despite the sparce crowd, Buzz and Buzzette did their level best to get things going before kick-off. The team came out of the traps flying and it wasn’t long before we’d raced into the lead. With just 6 minutes gone, Romaine Sawyers played Neal Maupay through and there was no mistake as the Championship’s top scorer grabbed his 13thof the campaign. What a start. But what a response was to follow.

Straight from the kick-off, the Blades poured forward in a move which culminated with Daniel Bentley’s crossbar left quivering after John Lundstrum blasted it from ten yards out. By all rights he should have scored given the space and position in which he found himself in front of the goal. It was a massive let off for Brentford and alarm bells should have been ringing. If so, nobody was listening.

Just a few minutes later Sheffield United were level as Ezri Konsa turned a corner into his own net for 1-1. And then it was 2. Oliver Norwood giving the visitors the lead with just a quarter hour gone after hitting a beauty from outside the box. Catching it first time the ball rose, curled and then dipped past Bentley high into the back of the net. It was a magnificent strike but saw yet another game where we’d conceded a batch of goals in short space of time to throw things away.

It could, probably should, have been worse after Daniel Bentley made a wonderful save at close range half way through the opening period after denying United from close range with a huge stop.

Yet in return, we offered nothing. The goal aside Brentford were lacklustre. Abject. Masters of our own self-destruction. Sideways and backwards passing saw us unable to make inroads once the visitors had settled. The midfield lacked bite and a leader. Lewis Macleod lightweight. Alan Judge making the effort but getting drawn out of position time and again. Josh McEachran uncharacteristically tetchy. Lucky to escape a booking for a quite blatant push in front of the ref that gave away a free-kick in the heart of Saunders territory. Captain Romaine Sawyers conspicuous by his silence. Where was the desire? Where was the will to win? If it was there then I didn’t see it. And that’s the most disappointing aspect of the night.

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United were head and shoulders above Brentford in the first half.

Yet. Yet. Half-time came and it was only 2-1. Despite it all, we were still very much alive. Whilst United started brightly once more, Brentford soon stepped it up. This was more like it. The pressure built. The ball started to move forward. The crowd started to lift and just after the hour Romaine Sawyers saw his cross-come-shot turned in by John Fleck for the game’s second o.g. as parity was restored. That was better and there was only one team in it from here? Wasn’t there.

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

Instead of pushing on, Brentford allowed the frailties of the first half to return. Sheffield United were given the freedom of Griffin Park as our defence once more turned into vampires. Scared of crosses. If the first goal had seen us concede from a position where we’d have expected Mepham (who missed it) or Konsa (who gifted the goal) the opportunity to clear, Leon Clarke’s winner was even worse. I’ve seen caravans that were less static. Like Middlesbrough at the weekend, a well delivered ball into the box was our undoing.

Clarke may have been embarrassed by the copious space he was left in but he made no mistake. His shot was hard and low past the diving Bentley for 3-2. And that’s how it stayed. The subsequent substitutions making no difference to a Brentford team that limped towards the final whistle.

But for me, the most telling sign was at the death. With the Bees awarded a late free-kick, Thomas Frank was clearly telling Chris Mepham to push up into the box. There followed a quite bizarre looking argument of shrugging, arms open in the ‘what’s going on?’ position and the player refusing to move up. Eventually, he would but it did beg the question what all that was about?

Lack of respect? Frustration? Or just a general confusion about what we should be doing in a dead ball situation? Why isn’t this sort of stuff clarified on the training ground rather than in the public eye? If nothing else, football 101 says that when a team is goal down and awarded a dangerous spot kick at the death, everybody piles up. Sometimes even the ‘keeper. What you don’t do is argue with the boss and keep two defenders back.

I’m not a coach. I’m not a manager. I’m just the numpty on the terrace and you may think I’ve called this all wrong. Fair enough if so. It should have been a quite fantastic night under the floodlights. I take no pleasure from moaning about the team and have looked to remain upbeat this campaign. Yet that was painful last night and don’t let the closeness of the result fool anyone. Brentford were second in every respect. Goals scored. Cohesiveness. Attitude.

We don’t have a divine right to be any good. I’ve said this many times and it’s true. Yet to see players who we know are more than capable looking so out of sorts is just wrong. To see a team looking so bereft of ideas when we’ve torn rivals apart at times is a worry. And whilst Thomas may be on the business end of the bad run, let’s not forget that despite all the ‘deserving’, the culmination of Dean’s time in charge saw only 1 win out of 6. Even Marinus had a better track record at this stage of ‘games played’ into his own start – and that’s a scary thing to acknowledge.

We do have injuries, of course. Who wouldn’t miss the likes of Ollie Watkins or Saïd Benrahma? Rico Henry and Emiliano Marcondes are only just returning to action.  The ability is there amongst those who are fit.

The real question now is not the position of the head coach, which many fans are already questioning, but more what he does to unlock the talent and inspire his team.

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

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The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

New drums, same beat? Here’s hoping for some samba style.

20 Oct

And we’re back. Brentford host Bristol City today for our first taste of Championship action since being robbed at the death by then leaders Leeds United two weeks ago. A hard fought point at Elland Road something we’d probably all have taken before yet one which still feels a little disappointing given the conclusion and performance in the 1-1 at Elland Road. Still, that was then and this is now. Two weeks has seen a monumental change at Griffin Park with Thomas Frank now in the head coach role after Dean Smith followed his heart and his dreams to take over at Aston Villa. But what can we expect?

First up, Danish pastries. Oh wow. I’m still drooling at the thought of the Cinnamon rolls that Thomas was talking up in his press conference this week. This, after being presented with a gift from Bees United and then sharing the love for Ole & Steen bakery. It’s different I guess. But that’s a good thing. Great though Dean was, and he more than had his share of media soundbites, this was somewhat of a deviation from the norm. But perhaps we needed it. The one thing most people agree on is the consistency of Thomas’ appointment. Of how shrewd it was to appoint somebody from within the set up. A man known and respected by players and fans alike. Who has worked alongside Dean with the squad for almost two years.

As such one can only anticipate a segue as smooth, yet incredible, as that of Brazilian singer Wagner Carillho back in 2010 on TV’s The X-Factor. Who could forget the wonderful moment he burst into the public consciousness? The point at which he transitioned from butchering ‘She Bangs’ to seamlessly moving behind a pair of over-sized Conga drums that had appeared on stage and then proceeded to beat out smooth samba rhythms whilst singing the refrain from ‘Love Shack‘.

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Love shack, baby

Whilst I can’t imagine we’ll see Thomas in a velvet suit, revealing a sweaty chest or chunky medallion, Brazilian beats are likely. The pass and move style of the Brentford team surely one which will continue today at Griffin Park. The main question being who plays in goal. Could Dan Bentley return to his usual position between the sticks or has Luke Daniels done enough to retain the position he has waited so long to make his own? Certainly, the performance at Leeds United will only have enhanced his reputation with a number of smart saves, one of which at almost point blank range.

For Bristol City, the BBC preview suggests that they will also have a goalkeeping question to answer. With both Niki Maenpaa and Frank Fielding out of action, 22 year old Max O’Leary is in line for a Championship debut. I’d expect the Bees to test him early. Those electric starts are something we’re already familiar with at home whilst the chance to unsettle a newbie before he’s had the chance to adjust, surely one we’ll be keen to try and take advantage of.

Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. What do I know? Cagey defence could well be the order of the day whilst happy news from the McEachran household yesterday might dictate a change in midfield.   

As ever, 3pm Griffin Park is the time when we see how it all pans out. How the new era begins. That’s not to see there won’t be half an eye on the midlands, either. Purely out of curiosity. With Aston Villa only three points (albeit vastly inferior goal difference) behind the 7th(seventh) placed Bees, will Dean Smith see his new team catch up a few places on his former one? Or will his dream job have a nightmare start when the Villans face Swansea City?

Ultimately, it’s a moot point. I wish Dean well but as long as Brentford keep winning then everything else is largely inconsequential. It sounds so simple. In theory.

In practice we all know that’s not how football works. And we love it. Roll on 3pm when we see how this one plays out. See you there.

And in the meantime. Here’s Wagner. Did somebody say #BeeTheDJ….?

Stick with it for those magnificent Congas

Nick Bruzon

All to play for on Saturday after a gritty night and controversy at Griffin Park.

3 Oct

Brentford climb the table after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Griffin Park but it was very much a case of Cheer up, Garry Monk. Or however it is the song goes. Blues manager Monk was left fuming after a red card for Maikel Kieftenbeld, following a clash with Neal Maupay, saw his side reduced to ten men. And his own subsequent dismissal from the touchline. Yet if it was a soft decision, and both managers’ words at full time were telling, The Bees were due something back after Saturday’s quite awful officiating in the 2-2 with Reading. As Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship, themselves 1-0 winners at Hull, Dean Smith has a lot to think about ahead of our trip to Elland Road on Saturday.

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View from one New Road observer.. fight,fight, fight….

If we were due a refereeing kick back (and in true Arsene Wenger style, I didn’t see the incident whilst even Sky Sports Leeds were somewhat selective with their post-match highlights package) then perhaps we were also due one on pitch. Dean Smith very much shuffled his after replacing Daniel Bentley with Luke Daniels. This, following Saturday’s double fumble. So there was no irony lost in Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp – a man who has had more clubs than Harlee Dean has had red cards – allowed Josh McEachran’s first half free-kick through his hands and into the back of the net for 1-1. It WAS a wonderfully hit effort from the New Road side but, being honest, should never have allowed a first goal in 188 appearances for a player who would rightly go on to scoop ‘Man of the match’ honours.

Prior to this, Michael Morrison had given the visitors the lead, heading home from a Jota cross. Or Hoe-ta, as Peter Gilham still insists on calling him. How I’ve missed that wonderful pronunciation from our redoubtable man-with-the-mic . Yet it was just about all the mercurial Spaniard did in the hour and a half he was on pitch. Yoann Barbet had him in the back pocket whilst Josh whipped the ball of his toes a number of times.

Daniels wasn’t the only change for the Bees. Out wide, we were missing both Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins (suspended and injured respectively). Whilst Alan Judge and Sergi Canos are both wonderful, it deprived Dean Smith his normal option to mix it up in the second half. And with Birmingham City packing 11 behind the ball, there was no third gear to accelerate into as the game progressed. Indeed, and you have to give credit to Monk, his stifling of the game meant our short sharp passing game had no way through. Our 74% possession unable to be turned into real chances. Only Henrik Dalsgaard, pushed forward towards the end with Maupay having little joy against the lumbering Birmingham defence,  came close to sending The Bees faithful home happy. Camp making amends for his earlier butter fingers to pull off a point blank save with the clock deep in injury time.

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Brentford ‘Official’ capture the goal on Twitter

It was very much a case of parking the proverbial bus with the Bees unable to get past. That’s a tactic I suppose. Whatever you think, it worked. The only exception being with the goal where rather than parking the bus, Harlee and crew may aswell have parked a small car, slapped a bow on the front and left the keys in the ignition with the engine running. It was all the more silly given they’d had time to line themselves up and so, perhaps, as much credit needs to be given to Josh for pulling off something that nobody expected. Either way, in a scrappy match let’s be grateful for the opportunity.

One apiece at full time. The Ealing Road reminding Harlee Dean that “You can’t”. At least, I think that’s what they were singing. Another point gained and another place climbed in the table. We’re now up to fifth after other results went the way of The Bees. Yet, at the same time, Leeds and Middlesbrough have opened up a five-point gap on us in the top two slots whilst only two points separate The Bees from Bolton in fifteenth. The table really is that tight at present.

Dean Smith would use his own post-match interview to give credit to Birmingham for their game play which saw our own bright start snubbed out in a game that very much felt “Like one that got away again.” As for the sending off his opinion was that, “The lad raised his hands…so he goes down. Have a go at the fourth official”.

Dean talks to ‘official’ at full time.

For Birmingham City, Garry Monk had his own thoughts on the red card. He told reporters that “I thought the opposition player would be booked for feigning injury so to see a red card was a complete shock…After 23 years in football I know something when I see it.” Certainly, his reaction was one of fury as he was sent to join Kieftenbeld for an early bath. Or wherever it is red carded managers go to. I’ve no doubt the player’s ban will be appealed going by his own touchline explosion

As for Saturday, let’s hope Ollie is fit and able to rejoin Saïd in the matchday squad. Dean would tell ‘official’ how he had an injection in an ‘angry toe’ at the Reading game. By his own admission, the absences limited our own attacking options but, and it needs to be noted again, Birmingham City did a job on us. They were deserving of a point that makes it an incredible 8 draws out of 11 games for them. That record, I fear, something that is going to be trotted out as much as West Ham’s moving stadium West Ham’s winning the World Cup in 1966, Trevor brooking’s header in the cup final or The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard being a Brentford player. If only somebody had said.

There’s not much more to say. We didn’t win. We have a tough trip to Leeds United coming up. But nobody said it would be easy. More importantly, we’ve jumped another place in the league. I’m not quite sure how that has happened but the table doesn’t lie.

And that’ll do me.

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Garry goes for a bath – c/o Matt Davis

Nick Bruzon

Prophetic Peter calls it and Matthew goes full Partridge as Neal and Josh do the business. Again.

16 Sep

7(seven) games down and Brentford are up to second in the embryonic Championship table after a fifth, successive, home win. This time, over Wigan Athletic. In a display of quite delicious passing football, Neal Maupay grabbed both goals to take his individual total to 7(seven) for the season and move clear in the Championship goalscoring charts. This, despite his missing two league games following the Villa Park affair. Just to put that into context, Neal already has two more than the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have scored all season. Then again, with four league wins under the belt that’s already four more than both the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have earned all season.

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View from the Braemer – Brentford strolled past Wigan on Saturday

The visit of Wigan was never going to be easy. On paper. Paul Cook’s team were only a point behind the Bees before kick-off whilst the visitors had ex-Bee Will Grigg in their squad. The inevitability of a former player doing the business is never a particularly enjoyable moment for home fans of any club. Even moreso in the case of Will when no doubt ‘that song’ would have been given a rendition.

Yet there was a comfort about this one, especially once the second goal had gone in, that is true testament to the confidence flowing through both Dean Smith’s squad and the home support. Maupay scooped man of the match honours but I thought Lewis Macleod and, in particular, Josh McEachran were quite wonderful. The latter starting the move for the opening goal with a cheeky nutmeg followed by a delightful crossfield ball forward to Said Benrahma. If only the sky cameras had captured the moment for their post-match highlights. Here’s hoping those on ‘official’ catch the full move when they appear at lunchtime. (12pm update: Yes! They did. Enjoy…..

 

Credit to Josh. If any player has taken his time to start winning over the critics it is him. Yet he has plugged away and the management have shown faith. With Ryan Woods having moved on the chance has been seized after what were, if we are being honest, a patchy couple of seasons. And how. We’ve already noted his increased presence this season on these pages a few times. The killer pass and/or move forward being a key change in his dynamic.

Indeed whilst being gently probed by Natalie Sawyer during this week’s TalkSport interview, Dean Smith was full of praise for a player who has admitted to still having England aspirations. Consistency will be key, of course, but for now one can only applaud a quite wonderful start to the campaign.

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Neal was MOTM but Josh played blinder, too

That Maupay goal came half-way through an opening period that Brentford dominated. Whilst it had felt as though the flood gates would open within seconds when the Bees swarmed forward from the kick-off, Christian Walton in the Wigan goal held back the tide. Something which proved to be the theme of a game in which, a brief first-half flurry aside, was about as one way as they come.

The threat of Grigg never materialised. He wasn’t so much on fire as on the bench. A place he never left, save for the warm ups. But then as Our Graham (a Huddersfield fan making one of his semi-regular but always welcome visits to Griffin Park) noted, perhaps the judgement here being that the ball needed to be near the Brentford goal in order for him to put it in it, and it was seldom in that vicinity.

One up at half-time became two just after the hour. That man Maupay with his second, this time against ten men rather than eleven. Sam Morsy having been sent off five minutes earlier for poleaxing Yoann Barbet with a head butt that had referee Darren England instantaneously calling for the medics before subsequently brandishing the red card. And from that point on it really was game over. Two clear and coasting. Despite Walton mountin’ a one-man resistance, in the end it was a case of goodnight Wigan Athletic. With other results falling kindly the Bees move up to second, just a point behind Leeds United.

What a time to be alive. What a time to be a Brentford fan. What a reward for all those who’ve been with us through thick and thin. Now able to enjoy what Matthew Benham would later describe on Twitter as “Liquid football” .

Back of the net, indeed ! There is no finer moment in life than anybody embracing their inner Alan Partridge. Accidentally or otherwise. All the while of course, just up the road our new home continues to grow. On current form I can only imagine Mr. Benham naming that one ‘Jurassic Park’.

Credit to Matthew and the current regime for allowing this to happen. There can’t be a fan amongst us who isn’t appreciative of what is being built here and how it has happened. Yes, there have been some tears and frustration along the way – this is football, we are passionate supporters who often think with our hearts in the heat of the moment rather than our heads  – yet only a fool would jump off this train now.

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The site at Lionel Road, (very) early on Saturday morning

Next up, Ipswich Town on Tuesday night. Whilst their record was mentioned in the introduction by way of comparison to Neal’s form, they also need to be recognised for the genuine threat they present to Brentford’s own aspirations. And as much, a mark of our own progress. True, they are bottom of the table but they are only two wins away from the top half. They may have lost to Hull City yesterday but the season is still young. They aren’t, surely, a bottom three side? If nothing else, we’ve the likes of Preston, QPR, Reading and Birmingham City for that particular task.

Last season saw Brentford take nine games before we got our first three pointer. It was a run which was typified by performances that Dean Smith swore by, maintaining we were deserving of victories. Eventually they came.

Yet the game at Portman Road was one of those from that early, ill-fated patch. It was a perfromance noted at the time on these pages as, “Wonderful attacking play (the first half especially). One-way traffic. The proverbial kitchen sink chucked at the opposition. 65% possession and twenty-one attempts at goal compared to Ipswich Town’s four. Yet it was the Tractor Boys who took the points and kept a clean sheet with a 2-0 win that left the Bees bottom of the pile in the Championship after four games

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Portman Road (and what Billy Reeves calls the best font in football) is next.

That was then. This is now. Nottingham Forest two weeks ago saw us win the sort of game that, last season, we’d have lost. Refusing to be outmuscled as the team converted chances into goals and, eventually, all three points. Could Tuesday night promise more of the same? It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. Yet on this sort of form I wouldn’t bet against Dean’s team.

As a final note of the day, could we see a new partnership forming at Griffin Park? Not so much the Ollie Watkins / Neal Maupay combo but that of Peter Gilham and Stuart Wakeford? Our own ‘man with the mic’ joining in during the #BeesLive segment prior to kick off where I walked in on his line: “I don’t know what the question was but the answer was Josh McEachran”.

How prophetic. On yesterday’s performance at Griffin Park the answer was very much Josh McEachran. With perhaps, a soupçon of Neal Maupay.

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Stu does his thing on #BEESLIVE – but what WAS the question?

Nick Bruzon

Who’s on fire when league action returns this weekend?

14 Sep

Finally. Championship action returns this weekend with Brentford hosting Wigan Athletic, straight off the back of the news that out allocation of 7,700 tickets for the league cup game at Arsenal has already set out. For the masochistic amongst us, winless Birmingham City tonight entertain (if that is possible) a West Bromwich Albion side who know that victory will take them up to third place in a still coagulating table. Yet one which is almost at that magical ‘ten game mark’.

First up, Brentford. Obviously. Two weeks of inaction with nothing but the evolving site at Lionel Road have been a tough void to fill. Moreso given how frustrating it has been having to slam the brakes on what has been a quite wonderful start to the campaign for the Bees.

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Lionel Road ; Thursday morning

Our current fifth place has been achieved through three wins out of three at home and only one defeat on the road. That at Blackburn where we were missing Neal Maupay following that thing at Villa Park. Yet the team have been scoring goals for fun, with the aforementioned Frenchman the division’s top marksman on 5 and Ollie Watkins right behind him on 4. Chuck in a further four assists between them aswell as no other Championship player having more touches in the box than Ollie’s 44 (although I’m sure Ian Moose would probably just call that dilly-dallying) and you can see how well they are going together.

Indeed, only West Bromwich Albion (15) and Leeds United (14) have managed more than the Bees 12 goals to date. Even then, the West Brom total includes the, albeit magnificent, bracketing of hapless QPR when the not so super hoops conceded 7(seven) in a single game.

Brentford’s football has been a joy to watch. Positivity that was shared by our own Dean Smith, talking to Natalie Sawyer on Talksport Radio last night. Some things are worth breaking my own, self-enforced, ban on all things Ian Moose for and with the catering obsessed narcissus nowhere near the studio I tuned in.

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Thankfully, there was no Ian Moose last night

There were big ups for Josh McEachran. Talk of expansive football. Discussion about the Arsenal game, where with the squad having been thinned out by the loans of Chiedozie Ogbene to Exter City, Tom Field to Cheltenham Town and Ryan Woods (albeit the cat was initially let out of the bag before Dean corrected his own use of the word ‘sold’) to Stoke the implication was that we would go with a strong team. And rightly so. Who would want to miss out on that one?

Yet what was clear through all the twenty minute probing Natalie administered to Dean was his ongoing self-belief and enthusiasm. For the squad, the style of football which the benevolence of our current regime has enabled him to play and his immediate focus being on Wigan Athletic rather than anybody beyond. In his eyes its all about Saturday. Talk of Arsenal was tempered with the fact that there are another two games after Wigan (as part of another intense 22 day run) before we get to the League Cup.

If you missed this one you definitely missed out. Anyone who has had the pleasure of listening to Natalie’s podcasts for The Times know she is a most engaging presenter. Frankly, she could make any subject from Tom Moore’s socks to Josh McEachran’s phone case collection (both hypothetically) sound interesting. So when you have a guest who was as on fire as Dean, then it was radio gold.

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Captain Barbet sums up the spirit in the Bees camp , last time out

Certainly, if I was up for the weekend fixture beforehand then it’s even more so the case now. With our 7,700 tickets sold out for Arsenal (and a further 700 being made available) presumably we can only expect a close to sell-out crowd for this one? No doubt all those heading to the Emirates will be at Griffin Park (and beyond) in the build-up to that one? If nothing else, seeing the alleged conflagration that is Will Grigg being extinguished will put a lot of smiles on faces. For no more reason than silencing ‘that song’ – something akin to the England Supporters ‘band’, the Portsmouth bell, vuvuzelas and goal songs as musical interruptions that should be consigned to video games rather than football stadia.

Still, we’ve been there and done this before. Let’s not get distracted by the England band. There’ll be enough to keep us busy this weekend. Moreso, given we have the TV treat (errr) of Birmingham v West Brom tonight. Can the Blues get their first win of the campaign at the 7th(seventh) time of asking? Will the visitors keep on banging in the goals that have propelled them towards touching distance of the play-off zone already? Will ‘you know who’ need to trot out his usual combination of post-match tweets – we go again / fans deserved more / apologies / KRO (whatever that means)? Or could the St. Andrews team finally start to fulfil the promise that a club of their former glory and current size would no doubt expect?

Besides. It’s that or Coronation Street so I’ll certainly be watching the game. Whilst Mrs. Bruzon may prefer the cobbles of Weatherfield, there’s not quite a KRO-bar in our house. Yet.   

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Taxi for Grigg? Here’s hoping on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

Natalie nails it as Forest fail to chop down the Bees.

2 Sep

What an afternoon. What a game of contrasting football styles. Brentford beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in a game which will be as much remembered for the three points that take us back into play-offs as it will an infuriating performance from ‘referee’ Peter Bankes. That, and a display of physical thuggery from the visitors which, as was said many times yesterday, came over as ‘a typical Aitor Karanka performance’. See also the phrase: Brian Clough would be spinning in his grave. It was an attitude which spilled over into social media afterwards where none other than Natalie Sawyer waded in to defend her beloved Bees in the face of what could, at best, be described as sour grapes from fans of the visiting team.

It gives me no pleasure in having to write about anything negative from yesterday. Especially about a club I’ve enormous respect for. Why would we want any form of downer after Brentford scooped the win that lifted us back into the play-off zone following last weekend’s blip at Blackburn? We’ve overcome the three game suspension of Neal Maupay and showed tremendous spirit to bounce back after an uncharacteristic fumble from Daniel Bentley allowed Forest to haul themselves into the game on the hour mark.

Yet it was the approach of the visitors which was so at odds with what we’ve seen from them over the years. A team who previously out-thought and out-played opponents to win the trophies for which they are so well known. A team who rightly earned the two stars that adorn their famous crest. Now, their manager has them playing not so much ‘kick and rush’ as ‘kick and punch’.

That there were only 7(seven) bookings for the visitors was a miracle in itself. They were cynical, scything and nasty. Mr. Bankes in the middle seeming to forget he even had cards in his pocket during a first half where Forest had no answer to wave after wave of Brentford pressure. Except, of course, the one shown to Lewis Macleod for apparent diving.

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Two stars, well earned. Plus a welcome return for the castle badge in the programme.

There was no attempt to tackle. The Bees were allowed to run at their opponents with the ‘permission to foul badge’ rotated between the players by manager Karanka. How nobody received a second yellow I have no idea. Yet it was an approach that also allowed us to see Brentford at their finest. And, in the end, crush the visitors as easily as they would a ripe avocado. 

Josh McEachran had an extremely positive game, making one incredible surge forward in the first half that must have seen him take the ball close to forty yards upfield as he rode challenges and played deft flicks. Romaine Sawyers did what he does. Sergi was felled time and again by the yellow shirted lumberjacks. Mepham and Konsa at the back continue to look as though they have been partners for years rather than weeks. Benrahma was magnificent, supplying the crosses for both goals and almost nabbing a couple himself. 

The first, a cross from the right that dropped perfectly for the unmarked Lewis Macleod to head home just before half time. The second, delivered to Ollie Watkins to stroke home with just minutes left on the clock. Between these, Peter Gilham’s quite wonderfully announced substitution of Lolley for Cash looked like it would be bang on the money for our guests. The hero of Forest’s midweek league cup win over Newcastle did it again. Yet the goal from Matty Cash proved to be a small change and, in the end, it was Watkins (nose stuffed full of gauze after receiving a boot in the face from Jack Robinson) who sealed the points that take us up to fifth place in the table.   

Again, I don’t want to come over as negative about the visitors and the ref. I’ve friends who are Forest fans and a healthy respect for the club that goes back to my own formative football years when they were THE kings of Europe. Perhaps they just had a bad day at the office whereby physicality was the only answer to the electric pace of a scintilating Brentford side.  Yet it was awful to watch them yesterday.

Equally frustrating was finding ourselves beholden to the whims of a referee whose performance switched between turning a blind eye and guesswork. All credit to captain Yoann Barbet whose cool head at the very end prevented a major case of handbags turning into a Keith Stroud convention. He led by example throughout although you could also praise the spirit of all Dean’s ‘leaders’. Our unique approach of rotating the captaincy providing its own demonstration of success.

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Yoann Barbet at FT. How was that for you?

I apologise. The point has been laboured and the point has been made. But it is done because so often over the last couple of seasons, we’ve had no answer to teams like this. We’ve seen points dropped and games lost when brute force has triumphed over attempts to play intelligent football. Yet we’ve toughened up and adapted, whilst still retaining that core belief. Being honest, this one never felt in doubt. Even at 1-1 or throughout the protracted period of stoppage time added on at the end. 

It was our own Natalie Sawyer who really summed things up nicely, taking to Twitter at full time to first note that: If ever there was a victory for football today it’s what I’ve witnessed at Griffin Park. Really surprised by how Forest played today considering I thought they’d give us a much better game following what I saw on Wednesday night..

Confronted by frustrated Forest fans, rather than sit on this one she continued to make her point (and rightly praise the Forest midweek match) before eventually going on to add: Excuse me you came not to win, you came to by physical and cynical. It’s the most disappointing performance I’ve seen from a team. I’m not saying that Brentford are wholly innocent in every game they play but today they outplayed a team that just wanted to foul and time waste.

Well said. Professionally put and spot on. There’s not much more one can really say after that. Perhaps a bit more praise for Dean Smith and his wonderful team. Kudos to Yoan Barbet and my man of the match, Said Benrahma.

Put your feet up and enjoy international break. Roll on the 15th for Wigan at home where it’s not so much Will Grigg as the Bees who are currently on fire.

Nick Bruzon

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

29 Aug

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

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Griffin Park always looking great under lights

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

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

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

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Rare Cheltenham attacks were snuffed out

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

Warning. Warning. Danger, danger. The robot on wheels and Doctor Smith sting harrowed Potters.

12 Aug

Ah, the fetid stench of a crowbarred headline. Apologies, but its that sort of morning after the night before. How about Disappointed? Dominated? These, just two of the words used by Brentford head coach Dean Smith to describes his feelings after the 1-1 draw at Stoke City on Saturday. He’s not wrong. It was a wonderful performance by Brentford where only a defensive faux-pas (move along, nothing to see here) kept the hosts in the game whilst only the reactions of England squad member Jack Butland in their goal afforded the Potters even a point. We’re only two games into the Championship campaign but with another one sided performance off the back of last weekend’s 5-1 trouncing of Rotherham United (themselves winners yesterday at home to Ipswich), could those chants of “Bees Up, Fulham down” which were ringing around the ‘bet365 stadium’ already be some form of early season prescience?

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Stoke City – home of the Tile Mountain. Apparently.

Brentford were stunning. Irresistible. Enthused. a constant threat. They pushed and probed. Romaine Sawyers pulling the skills in the middle with an absolute standout performance. Ezri Konsa and Chris Mepham looking like they’ve played together for years. Ollie Watkins rampant down the left whilst first Sergi, but especially Said Benrahma, bursting down the other side, and through the middle, with aplomb. It was beautiful to watch and the visiting fans were on their feet time and again.

Stoke City, on the other hand, were second to everything. Their squad is superb. On paper. Packed full of big names and new signings yet there was none of the team spirit which Brentford possess. Only their opening goal, after being on the back foot for the opening half hour, came about as a result of the one real mishap all game. Chris Mepham heading back over Daniel Bentley amidst confusion over who was going to go for the ball. Benik Afobe grateful to pounce on the loose ball as it trickled towards the back stick and tap it home for 1-0 Stoke. It was a goal that was as against the run of play as they come but that didn’t matter. Possession counts for nothing if you can’t take your chances. Stoke had one sniff and gobbled it up.

The home crowd woke up. Brentford hung in there. We survived. Half time came and the Bees were clapped off. The supporters still believing. And then the second half began. Kamo came on for Josh McEachran. The Bees regained their composure and twenty minutes in parity was restored. Ollie Watkins with a wonderfully drilled shot, low and hard from 25 yards out, levelling things up. It was more than ample reward for a performance that had seen the Bees slowly, yet relentlessly, turning the screw. And this was before we’d even been treated to the electric pace of new boy Benrahma.

It could have been 2-1. Perhaps it should have been one. The Potters had Jack Butland to thank as Watkins almost wrapped it up whilst Neal Maupay came close on a couple of occasion to. Whilst Tony Pulis out ranks the rest of the league (albeit having played a game more) taking his Middlesbrough team to the top of the table, at times it felt as though we had all stepped back in time to The Britannia and he was pulling the strings. Stoke kicked. Stoke tripped. The Bees were denied a stonewall penalty. “Hoooofffff” exhorted the Bees fans, everytime they took the industrial route out of defence.

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View from the away stand – spot the ball; spot another foul

It ended 1-1. Nobody would have been surprised had Brentford taken all three points. Everyone was surprised how Tom Ince was somehow named as man of the match. One for the sponsors, I’m sure.

In a shock turn of press conference events, Dean was quick to note how he thought we deserved to win. Whilst praising the magnificence of his team he would note that  “The only thing missing was that we didn’t get the three points that we deserved…

You can see that video in full below.

Brentford now up to six points in the ‘deserved to win’ table

What else can you say? Well, the new brown and orange away kit looked superb. The Bees performance matched it. Given the numbers on view in the away stand I can only presume that these are starting to gain the popularity already lavished on them by those of us with taste. I can only imagine that the comment of “It looks like curtains” from one Stoke fan on the way out was a reference to their own promotion chances rather than my own replica top. A few more performances like this and they’ll be flying off the shelves by the time we make the trip to Blackburn at the end of the month.

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Brown and orange was everywhere

Last week against Rotherham was brilliant. Yet they were the team that are rank outsiders for the league. Stoke are at the other end of that spectrum. The favourites by a country mile. Yet, if anything, I take infinitely more heart in the way Brentford played yesterday. Never surrendering. Never giving up. The sort of game that in days gone by we’d have sat back, 10 behind the ball, and hoped to grind out a point from or maybe snatch a lucky goal.

Instead, it was the complete opposite. Don’t fear the reputation. Don’t get over awed by the location. Just go out and play your game. Do your thing. Take it to the home side.  And my word, didn’t we do that with some style!

Four points from six has been our best opening to a Championship campaign in the five season we’ve now been playing at this level. Only Marinus Dijkhuizen in 2015/16 has matched this (not a typo) and we all know what came after next after that pair of games. Move along, nothing to see here. Editor, fetch me the Burnley unicorn graphic….

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Any excuse to crowbar this one in – how far we’ve come

It IS early. We do need to wait 10 games for the table to truly take shape. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but feel absolutely exhilarated by the 180 minutes of league football I’ve had the privilege of witnessing Dean Smith’s team play so far. Marinus he ain’t, that’s for sure.

Catching up afterwards with one observer who actually knows what he is talking about, it was opined that, “We were fantastic AGAIN today. I want automatic promotion AND the moral high ground“.

This, before adding that “ROMAINE SAWYERS IS A ROBOT ON WHEELS“. On yesterday’s performance, I wouldn’t disagree. 

Warning! Warning! Danger, danger. Sheffield Wednesday…..Robot Romaine and Doctor Smith are out to pick up where they left off.

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Sheffield Wednesday are next up in the league

Nick Bruzon