Tag Archives: Josh McEachran

KK bids farewell (for now). But is it the right decision?

29 Jun

This is the moment for the Austrian. And what a moment it is.” Not my words but those enthused by Beesplayer commentator par excellence Mark Burridge to describe the goal scored by Konstantin Kerschbaumer as Brentford retook the lead deep into injury time against Brighton back in February. It was a strike worthy of the shortlist for goal of the season yet it was announced yesterday that the Austrian is off on loan to Germany where he will spend 2017/18 with DSC Arminia Bielefeld.

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KK is in there, somewhere, celebrating a ‘winner ‘ against Brighton

The immediate question is why? Specifically, why has this happened and why wasn’t he ever given a decent run in the side? That Brighton goal was the obvious cherry on the cake of two years at Griffin Park and it’s been no secret on these pages that he’s been a player yours truly would have given much more game time. The interplay between himself and Scott Hogan at the end of Dean Smith’s first season suggested such huge potential yet despite plenty of patchy performances from his team mates, he’s never been given a proper crack of the whip.

Then again, Dean Smith is head coach for a reason and I’m just the numpty on the terrace. He was quoted on ‘official’ yesterday as saying, “With the quality we have in the squad, we cannot guarantee game time for anyone”. Presumably, unless your name is Nico? Or Ryan? Or Romaine? Or Josh (subject to injury)? That’s meant as no disrespect to any of these players but more to make the point that a settled and pretty much guaranteed midfield is something Dean has set out to build. As such, it seemed a somewhat contradictory statement.

KK rightly deserving of a place in this pantheon of net busting brilliance

 

Stats. Is there a scarier, more mis-construed word in the Griffin Park vocabulary? The journalistic zombie that Matthew Benham just can’t kill? Well, I’m going to play the stats game here with a few.

First up – this from our own Luis Melville back in April. If anybody can nail a killer stat it’s Luis. This one is very simple but very to the point.

It’s interesting to see Luis responding to Ted Knutson (who was of course hugely involved in Player Analytics at Smartodds). For our second piece of statistical reference, a piece written by Ted in May 2017 says more about the player then these pages could ever hope to do. For me, his key statistical point being:

2320 minutes, 1 goal, 12 assists.

That’s an assist rate of about .47 per 90, which is in the top 3% of footballers. Kersch also doesn’t take set pieces, meaning nearly all of his assists come from open play. To give you an idea of how unusual this is, in the last four seasons in the Championship nine players have posted 12 assists or more, all with more minutes and nearly all of them taking set pieces.”

There’s so much more to Ted’s column than just that stat. For those doubting what Konstantin added, please do have a read. If nothing else, it gives a fascinating insight into the Brentford recruitment process. At the same time, take a positive from the fact that, officially, the player is going out to Germany to get game time under his belt. With a Jota style additional year added to his contract (see also: Jack Bonham and Carlisle), could he return even bigger and better than ever before? Here’s hoping.

Whether you would pick KK or not (and one thing I’d agree with Dean on is that the squad has midfield quality) the simple fact is that the head coach has never seen fit to give a player he inherited an extended run. Personally, I disagree but that’s football. Dean and his team must have known the statistical evidence so perhaps there is something more to it than that.

Who knows why and who knows where we’ll all be in 12 months time? I, for one, could quite honestly never ever see Jota coming back after heading out to Eibar on loan. Nobody needs any reminder of just how wonderfully that played out.

Could the same thing happen again? Just imagine….

And if you’d like to read more about KK, that goal and last season then please don’t forget (how could you?) that the regular season review e-book is now available for download. This one is titled ‘Welcome home, King Jota’  and this time around it is for a great cause. All funds raised are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Likewise, any subsequent sales from the previous versions.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 2016 to May 2017 and a bit of new material too, you can pick it up, here. It’s just £1.99.

So why not do something great to help our club. What else will £1.99 get you? What better way to spend some time on the commute to work, the beach, by the pool or even hiding out in the toilet at work? You might even enjoy it !

For less than the cost of half a pint on match day, it’s the season review that has been designed to fit in your pocket (if you are using an i-phone).

Nick Bruzon

Can anything beat last season’s unicorn? The top ten moments of the campaign.

13 May

The season is over. Almost. There’s still the small matter of the play-offs to come but for us Brentford fans, at least, its time to put our feet up and relax. Leave that stress to the likes of Fulham and Reading (who’ll both be back in the Championship next season) and, instead, look back at the campaign just gone by means of a top ten. But not a conventional top ten. There’s no on pitch action.

As such, we’ve no room for discussion about Jota’s sublime goals against Derby County or QPR. Indeed, talking of the not so super hoops, this is a hit parade that has no space for discourse on our double over these near neighbours or the eventual 11 point gap that saw them end he season trailing well in our wake.

Instead, it is a top ten of the different. The unusual. The in-jokes. A top ten where the yardstick was set last season with ‘that unicorn picture’ . But what, if anything, can surpass Antonio Bergasse’s wonderful creation……

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Any excuse to crowbar this one in – love that unicorn

10: Ian Holloway. We can only start with the QPR boss. Specifically the pre-season prediction that he would subsequently go on to deny making. Brentford were regressing. Brentford would be relegated Brentford couldn’t cope without the likes of Andre Gray and Alan Judge. Didn’t we prove the (then) Sky pundit wrong. Instead, it was his own side those words would have been better applied to.

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Pundit Ian Holloway’s words have come back to haunt him

9 Brian Guest. Forgive me one moment of personal indulgence. Or, should I say, forgive my never before seen identical twin brother Brian. A prank that went too far saw the Fulham programme publish, amongst other things: References to the 4-0 defeat at Brentford. Mention of that 4-1 home hammering administered by Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jota et al. The wonderful Michael Jackson statue. The Pizza Hut shirt – a perfect symmetry between sponsor and supporter. Even the Richard Osman / Pointless ’joke’ made it in – along with a picture of Brian wearing the Spall ’87 away shirt.

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8 Josh McEachran. The first of two entries for Josh is one that caused more questions than answers. How many phones does he have? Why does he need so many phone cases? Well, two questions but no answers. Josh, if you are reading (you aren’t) could you shed some light?
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7 Jugde . Just what happened here? Do we have a fan with an almost identical surname to last season’s player of the year? Was it a typo in the club shop that nobody noticed? A bet that went wrong? Jugde was spotted at several away games over the season, wearing his colours with pride. With GetWestLondon getting themselves all excited after Cardiff City away with the revelation that : Brentford fan wears Bees shirt with BREXIT 16 on the back, perhaps their energies would have been better focussed getting to the bottom of this one.

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There are just too many questions

6 Peter Gilham. What can you say about Mr.Brentford? Football’s longest running man-with-the-mic turned an incredible 70 this year. 70?!!  How is that possible? Yet, like a fine wine, he continues to improve with age. And nowhere is this better seen than in his goal announcements which, of course, are sponsored by “A little Italian restaurant. At Brentford lock”.  The more goals Brentford score, the more enthused he becomes. Yet what should be the most cringeworthy and toe curling of sponsorship announcements is already becoming part of club folklore with Peter losing his composure (in the best way) should we score more than one goal in a game.

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Peter, Buzz and Buzzette. The epitome of cool

5 Sergio Canos. The Burton away game, with Brentford turning a round a 3-1 half-time deficit to end it as 5-3 winners, is already the stuff of legend. The archetypal example of football being a game of two halves that saw our hosts snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (to borrow a well used phrase). But just when the afternoon couldn’t get any crazier, none other than man of the moment Sergi Canos popped up at the station alongside the Brentford fans making their way home. As you do. Cue mayhem, chaos and photos galore as he posed with each and every supporter that asked for a snap before embarking on his own train journey.

Sergio does it again. And again. What a man.

4 Big Bob Giveaway (and his April fool). If Peter Gilham is Mr. Brentford, Kitman Bob Oteng is fast carving his own niche into club folklore. An all round ‘good guy’, his BBGiveaway (which sees supporters given the chance to win a player shirt, boots or some other ‘money can’t buy’ prize) is a huge part of our match day ritual. But, with everybody looking out for stories of Jota being sold to Fulham or the Bees wearing blue and white hoops next season, he snuck one under the radar on April 1st this year. 270 fans fell for his gag about the none existent black goalkeeper’s jersey.

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3 Aston Villa. In particular, uber-fan Simon Hateley. He typified the attitude of many on social media, unable to adjust to his club’s fall from Premier League grace. Whereas Newcastle United were dignified off field and as strong as expected on it, Villa seemed to have some trouble adjusting. Hateley summed it up with an ongoing series of bizarre and boastful tweets, reminiscent of Leeds United when Brentford stormed into the Championship. The biggest sense of self-entitlement this side of Arsenal TV was met with as much success as the Gunners have in the top flight.

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2 Sam Saunders – that tweet. Sam’s departure in January was one we’d braced ourselves for but, at the same time, was still a sad moment when the inevitable happened. Like Peter and Bob, he is somebody who lives and breathes Brentford. That suntan, the rubber glove car wash and Saunders territory are just some of the many ways he built up a relationship with the supporters that few other players have matched. But top of the list is THE song, to the tune of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’:

Oh Sammy Saunders. You are the love of my life.
Oh Sammy Saunders. I’d let you shag my wife.
Oh Sammy Saunders. I want fake tan like you.

So when one supporter had a special request on the occasion of his best friend’s wedding, the repose was one which summed up Sam in a nutshell.

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1 Josh McEachran – dressed for mini golf. No words required. The tweet says it all :

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Better than the unicorn? Quite possibly ! Thanks everybody for a great season. Here’s to next year.

Nick Bruzon

Harlee, thongs and perfect scoring. Dean’s ‘false 9’ secure a genuine 3. Points, that is.

22 Feb

Why do Brentford exist?” Not my words but those of one Sheffield Wednesday fan on Twitter, just prior to kick off. Two hours later he’d found out why, as Dean Smith’s Bees recorded a quite wonderful 2-1 away win. It was a first victory for Brentford over Wednesday in more time than I can remember – certainly since our paths recrossed in the Championship.

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The spirit of Descartes is alive and well at Hillsborough

A looping header from John Egan and a follow up from captain Harlee Dean just before the end of the first period had given the Bees a deserved 2-0 lead going in for their half time cuppa. It was a gap we maintained until the game reached the last gasps of a frantic denouement, Fernando Forestieri pulling one back for the hosts. Yet despite the Owls having, finally, turned the Brentfrod goal into a metaphorical Alamo after what seems a somewhat contained first 80 minutes, the brilliant Dan Bentley and his defence more than held firm.

As ever, decent match reports are on the BBC, ‘official’ or Beesotted. As are Dean’s post match thoughts where, amongst other things, he made the very valid point that Wednesday “Will be a top six side“.  I didn’t travel and nor, does it seem, were many others in a position to do so. What a reward for those who did make it. Yet, likewise, what a treat for those stuck at home relying on Beesplayer or the wireless. Personally, I opted for the later on this occasion (with apologies to Mark Burridge), giving BBC Radio London a spin. It was a twist of the dial well worth making.

Phill Parry’s opening gambit to Billy Reeves of “You half expect the players to come out wearing nothing but leather thongs” as the prematch music built was the shape of things to come. Our commentary team subsequently noting that, perhaps, this would be against FA regulations. I was then lost in a sea of praise for Harlee, conjecture over ‘false 9s’ and general admiration for the luxuriance of Jota’s hair. Great job chaps, and thank you.

False 9’s, you (possibly) say? Indeed. With Lasse Vibe and Philipp Hofmann both missing, an already tough task was made the harder by having no recognised centre forward (don’t be naughty, they were injured….).

This is territory we’d been in before with last season’s visit to QPR. The difference then being Dean’s decision had been deliberate. And horrific. Alan Judge ending up looking like a little boy lost as sea through no fault of his own as the hosts, and it pains me to say, ran riot. Then again, Brentford couldn’t have organised a pissup in a barn door with a banjo on that day – we were that disorganised.

This time around was clearly different. Romaine Sawyers was recalled to team where he filled that ‘false’ position, with Canos and Jota continuing to add width. Likewise, a debut for Rico Henry in place of Tom Field was one which met with instant plaudits. Phil Parry has probably woken up still talking about his incredible pace – such was the impression made by the former Walsall man. Brentford were solid at the back and exciting going forward.

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

As ever, the video highlights are available from Sky. At least, until Bees Player are allowed to put their package up and that’s one I’ll certainly be adding here later. If for no other reason than to see how the ever wonderful Mark Burridge, assisted this time by Ciaran Brett, compared to Phil and Billy.

Mark Burridge adds the words, if not the leather thongs

The huge downside for the night was the injury suffered by Josh McEachran. He was stretchered off late in the first half following protracted treatment from both physios. Whilst Dean Smith had the luxury of KK to fall back on, nobody likes to see any player injured. Moreso one who has really stepped up his game this season and become an integral part of this team. Here’s hoping it looked worse than it actually was.

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Jota speaking for everyone

The other slight negative about the evening was Sergi Canos. Nothing to do with his on-pitch performance but, more, his use of post match Twitter.

Hasn’t anybody told him “We go again”  should only be used after a poor away defeat? By the defence.

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In all seriousness though, one can’t help but get drawn in by his enthusiasm about a return to the Brentford team. Long may it continue. It truly is wonderful to have him back in our ranks and out there on pitch.

And so we roll on to Saturday. A home game with doomed Rotherham United. Common sense says this one will be : lots – nil. However, as Mrs Bruzon would note, common sense is something that yours truly is severely lacking in.

Until then, let’s revel in the job done so far. The aforementioned prematch critic of Brentford was, at least, magnanimous enough to note the performance of Daniel Bentley at full time.

Personally, I’m just amazed how many goals Brentford continue to score. Scott who now?As one Twitter wag noted……

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Nick Bruzon    

Not bad, for a pub team. Brentford destroy Aston Villa to exorcise memory of Chelsea

1 Feb

Fair play to Dean Smith. Let’s start right there, pause, and then say it again. Fair play to Dean Smith. After the debacle at Chelsea on Saturday (and I still stand by what was said after that one) this was ‘good’ Brentford back again. Not even ‘good’ but more ‘magnificent’ as Aston Villa were sent packing on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat. So outclassed were the Villans that new signing Scott Hogan will now be more concerned with playing in League One than the Premier League next season. It was as one sided a game as you could imagine.

What a night. From the unveiling of new signing Sergi Canos to an all round team performance that was as good as we’ve seen all season, if not longer. Brentford were simply stunning as they tore apart an Aston Villa side who looked like a bunch of strangers at a meeting of the Steve McClaren fan club. With torrential rain falling all night long, the Bees used the slick conditions to their advantage; Villa looked as though they’d forgotten to pack their golf umbrellas.

Who do you praise? All of them. Who do you single out? Lasse Vibe is the obvious candidate and scooped Sky’s man of the match aware for his two goals. The first coming as he was set free by Nico Yennaris and the third as he was played in by an absolutely exquisite through ball from Josh McEachran. This, the highlight of a wonderful night for the former Chelsea man. “Oh my actual life” gasped one Terrace wag as that move reached a net rippling denouement, with Lasse then launching himself across the pitch for a full on body slide.

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Another wonderful set of pictures from another wonderful night

In between these , Nico had doubled the lead as a pin point cross from Jota out on the right wing landed perfectly for the midfielder to fire home off his studs. He had no right to score from there with three Villa defenders around him but the positioning of the cross and the timing of the execution made the outcome inevitable.

Jota was rampant. Oh, how good to have him back and starting. Florian Jozefzoon impressed on his debut whilst Ryan Woods was as tenacious as only he can be. The defence were virtually faultless with Harlee Dean, in particular, immense. And that was just going forward ! We could name them all – it was the consumate team performance.

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View form The Braemar. Jota’s back – in the starting XI

Most of all though, we need to note how Dean Smith reacted. Changes were made – to personnel and formation. The defensive heavy set up seen against Chelsea was replaced by a formation that allowed us, no encouraged us, to go forward. With the Bees reverting to a traditional four man defence and given extra width on the flanks with more room in the middle, the response was as emphatic as one could have hoped for.

The key word for the season has been consistency. With Brighton next up on Sunday, and playing away on Thursday night at Huddersfield, the Bees have another tough fixture. No less than the League leaders. Yet, also, having shown what we can do against a supposedly ‘big’ team, can Dean and his troops offer up a repeat?

As for Scott Hogan, I’m just glad this sorry affair is now over. That’s no offence to the player but more a huge two fingers up to West Ham and the agents who tried to bully us but, instead, had it thrown back in their face.

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Oh dear. A hashtag

We’ll miss his goals , for sure, but if the Bees can play with the same freedom of expression as they did last night then perhaps this is a return to a Brentford side not so reliant on one man. A Brentford side who can score goals from all over pitch.

There’s another huge test coming up on Sunday but we can go into it with a lot more optimism after last night.

Not bad, for a pub team.

Nick Bruzon

No fight, No clue, No nothing. Worst. Display. Ever (and that’s just Dean) as Bees go down at Chelsea.

29 Jan

Chelsea 4 Brentford 0 . Well played Chelsea. You can only beat what is put up in front of you and what comes next is by no means meant as either criticism, or over exuberant praise, of our hosts on Saturday. But that was atrocious.

An FA Cup scoreline most outsiders would have expected before kick off yet one which, with the players at Dean Smith’s disposal could have been so much closer. More to the point, with the players at Dean Smith’s disposal it should have been one which involved some passion and fight. Instead, he rolled over and had his belly tickled.

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Stat of the day going into this one..

The BBC match report has the highlights as does Match of the Day on the I-player, approximately an hour and nine minutes in. If you must do it to yourself, I’d suggest going with the latter option purely for Gaby Logan’s sub-Partridge introduction to the game “Two years ago Chelsea lost out to League One Bradford City in the Fourth round. Today’s opponents also started with ‘B R’ and ended in ‘Ford’ but could Brentford give the Premier League leaders another FA Cup thumping?

The answer was a categoric “No”.

It is said that games can hinge on a single moment. This one was the exact moment Dean Smith set up his team. Chelsea were never going to be at full strength with matches against Liverpool and Arsenal in the coming week. Even I could see that and my managerial experience has been limited to two games at the helm of the Brentford legends.(P2 W2 D0 L0. Just saying).

The only chance of getting anything out of this was to go for it from the off, get in their faces and then grind it out later on if needs be when Chelsea brought their big guns on.

Instead, we stuck to the five defenders and four midfielders in  a system totally devoid of any attacking intent. Tom Field was demoted to the bench. Jota and Josh Clarke sat along side him, with Scott Hogan helping make up the numbers. Wing backs without wings. I’ve seen more flare and width on a kipper tie. Brentford invited Chelsea to come at them and it was a tactical decision that was doomed to fail.

We will be going all-out to win the game” promised Dean on Thursday. His team and their tactics – a Marinus era display of sitting deep then passing it sideways and backwards rather than forwards – gave the impression that we would be going all out to sneak a turgid draw.

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Was this Dean’s game plan, left on the Stamford Bridge steps?

It was total exhibition stuff from Chelsea. Rather than Diego Costa, I was half expecting Antonio Conte to bring on the Harlem Globetrotters in the second half .

The opening forty-five was so abject from Brentford that the biggest cheer from the visiting fans came at half time with the news that Paul Hayes had put Wycombe 2-0 up at Spurs. Along with the likes of Aaron Pierre, Myles Weston and Sam Wood (Marcus Bean and Sam Saunders having to be content with a place on the bench) The Swans giving a perfect lesson in how to take on a below strength team at the business end of the Premier League in their own back yard.

I heard supporters berating Romaine Sawyers and Josh McEachran – claiming the latter had been more interested in his recent ‘golf photos’. Neither had great games, granted, but they were as much a product of the tactical decisions going on around them.

Tom Field was dropped. Why, Dean? Why? Even if he was as tired as you made out, at least start him for an hour then bring on Barbet for the defensive role once we are ahead. Given the line he’d spouted two weeks earlier about trusting his players in regards to ‘not picking’ Scott Hogan (because of course, that was your decision and not at all influenced) then why his sudden reversal? Tom had absolutely nailed that position in the last few months and this was as big a slap in the face as a manager/head coach (whatever) could deliver.

There was no attacking intent on the left. Barbet either too scared, or simply not allowed, to try and take it forward. No width on the right. Josh Clarke and Jota were both overlooked in favour of a 5-4-1 formation in which all 5 sat back and all 4 passed it sideways. And backwards. It was an open invitation for Chelsea to come at us. It was an invitation which required no RVSP and no second chance. It was an invitation which came with a party bag marked ‘goals’. Only Daniel Bentley and the linesman’s flag keeping the first half score respectable.

It was abundantly clear what was going to happen. Invite them on and pay the inevitable price.

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Pre kick off. Yet worse was to come. Much worse

Just look at the way the two managers/head coaches (whatever) performed. Smith, cutting a solitary figure standing motionless on the edge of his technical area. He was a man reverting to the same abject characteristics of his ill-fated predecessor, Marinus Dijkhuizen. He was a man displaying all the passion of a waterlogged stats graph and about as much technical ability.

His opposite number Antonio Conte was like a man possessed. A demented conductor, directing an orchestra of understudies. There he was, driving them on with every gesticulation. A man constantly encouraging his team and barking out orders. This, despite them being two up against a side whose sole purpose seemed to be ‘don’t lose’.

As for the Scott Hogan decision, who knows what was going on there? If there was any chance of taking anything out of the game he should have started. Or been dropped. There’s no room or place for wishy-washy nonsense. Whatever point either he or Dean are trying to prove at the moment is not in the best interests of this team.

The opening twenty minutes of the second period showed just what would happen if we decided to cross the half way line. Attacking the Shed end that housed the 6,000 Brentford fans we began the half the way we should have started the first.

And then it fizzled out as Chelsea started to play again.

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An impressive arena. A less than impressive performance

Only poor finishing and Dan Bentley had kept the scoreline vaguely respectable in that first period. With Romaine Sawyers (whose role yesterday eludes me) unable to go forward,  three static central midfielders passing it amongst themselves and the defence stretched (how can five men get stretched?) the only question was how many Chelsea would get. That it was only two, and eventually four, is a miracle in itself.

In Matthew we trust” , I wrote earlier this month. Well I stick by that. The problem being his trusted lieutenants. The players are there. The talent is there. The motivation and formation isn’t.

For gosh sake, I could have done a better job at motivating them and setting up yesterday . If that was a team designed to go ‘all-out to win the game’ (Dean’s words, not mine) then perhaps he needs a new dictionary or coaching manual.

We haven’t got a divine right to roll over anybody before us. Likewise, Chelsea are where they are for good reason. Roman’s roubles have allowed them to build a squad that is sweeping all before it in the Premier League. But if our ultimate fate was to lose, at least show a bit of passion. A bit of fight . Make a half-arsed attempt to try and get something out of the game instead of trying to chase it when it was already lost.

The most attacking intent shown by anybody vaguely connected with Brentford was from the paunchy geriatrics in the upper tier at full time, as a crazy punch up ensued amongst some agitated supporters.

Instead, we were left with the aforementioned stat of the day from Standard Sport still holding true. We’ve never had a better chance of putting this one to bed. Instead, there was no kapow from Dean Smith.

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Nick Bruzon

As Sam says farewell does ‘that song’ still apply? And Wigan appear out of nowhere.

21 Jan

Sad times. Sam Saunders has left Brentford for Wycombe Wanderers. We all suspected this was coming after the midweek update from co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen to West London’s premier journalist, Tom Moore. And then, on the eve of our trip to Wigan Athletic, the news was confirmed.

I said my piece on Sam during the week. It’s available here. Feedback at the time from the likes of Twitter and Facebook was unanimous in agreement. A first for The Last Word but, undoubtedly, this due to the calibre of the man being discussed. Likewise, when the news was confirmed, the tributes were legion, with this one from Tom Cox being my pick of the bunch.

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So there’ll be no regurgitation today from your’s truly. Instead, here’s the farewell message from the man himself. Even in leaving, he hasn’t failed to raise a tear and a smile. That song….

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Whether ‘that song’ still applies remains a matter of conjecture for married men and women everywhere. One thing that will definitely remain in perpetuum is the area known as ‘Saunders territory’. It’ll be a long time coming until somebody in red and white can hit a dead ball at goal so sweetly and so consistently. So long, Sam. And thanks for all the goals.

As for Wigan Athletic on Saturday, it seems to have almost crept up on us. Aside from Sam, all the talk of West Ham, Scott Hogan, Chelsea and the FA Cup tickets has provided a huge diversion. All of a sudden it is match day morning and Wigan await.

Club sponsor 888sport have the home side as favourites. I don’t see it. Brentford were magnificent for huge swathes of the game against Newcastle United whilst, of course, won handsomely at hapless Birmingham City on our last road trip. A blockbuster form Nico Yennaris sealing the points in that one.

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The bookies here rarely wrong. But surely this is too generous?

Will Scott Hogan feature against Wigan? Unlikely. Given Dean Smith’s comments prior to the Newcastle game followed by an abrupt u-turn when the teams were announced. Something one could just about give him the benefit of the doubt over until the striker failed to make it off the bench. The whole thing smelt very fishy.

Perhaps that’s why we are priced at almost 2-1 to beat a team buried deep in the relegation quagmire. A team who are only being kept off the bottom of the table by virtue of Rotherham United’s ongoing ineptitude.

Brentford are stronger with Scott Hogan, no question. But even without him, Lasse Vibe has started finding the back of the net, Josh McEachran was amongst those to have a great game against Newcastle United whilst the deliciousness of Jota is a luxury we are beginning to enjoy the taste of once more .

There’s more to the team than just one man. How Dean Smith juggles those pieces is, as ever, the conundrum.

At 2.15 we find out.

Nick Bruzon

Christmas present from Crystal Palace helps Brentford draw with 12 man Cardiff.

27 Dec

A fair point, lucky to get away with it or robbed? Brentford and Cardiff City shared the spoils in 2-2 Boxing Day draw that sprang to life late in the second half but, prior to that, had been a game which felt as stodgy and bloated as a third helping of sprouts and Christmas pudding. Only the presence of Crystal Palace loanee Sullay Kaikai managing to save the day.

And talking of Christmas puddings (oh, the crowbarring…) referee Simon Hooper was giving out no gifts (the penalty to Cardiff for their opener, aside) as he enraged the Griffin Park faithful, management and players – with Harlee Dean being awarded a yellow card for his (correct) protests at yet another stonewall penalty being turned down.

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Harlee tells the ref what we all think and saw – c/o Beesplayer highlights (below)

It was as shocking a display of refereeing as one could hope to see. Consistently poor decision making as appeals for three nailed on spotkicks were waved away by the man in the middle. But it wasn’t just him.

The assistant on the Braemar Road side  proving absolutely no use in telling him what we could all see. Their existence on the pitch proving pointless which, ironically, was how Brentford were almost left after Cardiff had retaken the lead with minutes on the clock.

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Pointless officials almost left the Bees , erm, empty handed

One point for the visitors would have been harsh, let alone all three. They’d taken the lead in the first half with the one penalty that Mr Hooper saw fit to award, for the most innocuous of innocuous ‘challenges’ (please note: yours, and everybody else’s definition of the word ‘challenge may vary).

Yet if the Bees had been robbed we were hardly making a fight of hauling ourselves back into it. Turgid, apathetic, lazy. Every manner of ’too much Christmas dinner’ related cliche. Any of these would have been an apt description of a team that not so much failed to get going as failed to make it out onto the pitch.

With Cardiff opting to go for muscle , brawn and height there is enough talent in this team to have kept it on the deck and run rings around them. Instead, it was tedium in football form. Bounced off the challenge and as many sideways and backwards passes as attempts to take it forward dominated our play. The first half was, frankly, as entertaining as a Christmas cracker joke.

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Answers on a postcard…

An hour in, substitutions . And good ones. McEachran for Sawyers and Sullay Kaikai for Lasse Vibe. Neither had played well whilst, for whatever reasons, the form of our great Dane seems to have long gone off the boil. How he is still justifying a starting berth is confusing to many but, with the new look team in place, things did step up.

With an added positive substitution of Philipp Hofmann coming on for Bjelland, the Bees began to push. And push. The penalty appeals aside, it was surely going to be matter of time.

And then it happened. Visiting ‘keeper Brian Murphy could no longer hold off the red hoardes as, despite a number of fine saves, he finally saw his net bulge courtesy of a quite magnificent effort from Sullay Kaikai. That’s one to hit rewind for again and again once the official highlights come out (until then, we have the Sky variant available).

Mark Burridge now on hand for ‘official’ comms

But with the Bees pressing for a late winner, we were caught short. Kenneth Zohore beating the last man when played on side and, with a generous shove chucked into the mix, was able to fire the Bluebirds into an 89th minute 2-1 lead.

With fans trooping out early for the pub, and City gloating, it was dead in the water, wasn’t it? Those who stayed were rewarded for their faith. That man Kaikai popping up again to head home John Egan’s cross and salvage a point for the Bees.

We should have won this. We could have lost it. Don’t let the anti-performance of the referee or our late surge disguise the fact that we were so desperately poor for huge swathes of this game. But for the Crystal Palace man we’d have had few complaints, barring the referee, at coming away empty handed.

A team just can’t rely on arbitrary decision making from the man in the middle to determine their fate. Cardiff offered nothing beyond grunt yet even that was too sophisticated for the Bees in the opening hour.

The record books will show a point earned and, in the longer term, we’ll have few complaints. Yet I do wonder why Dean’s teams are so inconsistent and such late starters?  Why can’t we play for 90 minutes? See also : Birmingham City . Why do we just fail to turn up at times? See also: Barnsley, Norwich City and Fulham.

I’ve no issue losing but the consistency, or lack off, is perplexing. We just don’t know which Brentford we’re going to get. Here’s hoping that when we play Norwich City on New Year’s Eve it’ll be the one that humped Reading 4-1 or Preston 5-0 way back in September.

Not the Brentford who got turned over 5-0 at Carrow Road earlier this month.

On Dec 31st, we find out. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

As Dean prepares for City game, what has he learned from the weekend? Who starts?

13 Dec

Midweek decisions. With Brentford travelling to Bristol City tonight, I’ve got some sympathy for Bees boss Dean Smith. My own all conquering Fantasy Football team has suddenly been shot to pieces by the red cards for Manchester City duo  Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho combined with long term injuries to Philippe Coutinho and Charlie Austin at Liverpool and Southampton respectively. Seriously, you couldn’t make it up.

The danger of over tinkering to remedy this has already blown up in my face at the weekend  (yes Jermaine Defoe, you do seem to be a cheap replacement for the free scoring Manchester City man) and could get worse.  The Bees, meanwhile, are at Ashton Gate tonight with Dean facing a similar set of decisions.

Thankfully, there are no new injuries but with this being the middle game in a set of three within eight days (and that’s before you even hit the busy Christmas schedule – wonderful planning from the league) is it a case of doing some longer term planning? Will he change things around a bit or does he stick with more of the same and potentially run his team into the ground?

To be honest, I can’t see him mixing things up. Whilst Burton Albion didn’t provide the stiffest of opposition it was a case of getting back to winning ways. One of the oldest of football clichés says you never change a winning team whilst I’d also chuck in the one about taking each game as it comes. Besides, what should he actually do?

As in the game with Birmingham City, it was as much a case of celebrating what hit the back of the net as lamenting what didn’t but at least on this occasion we got out of it with points. Is it simple bad luck or something intrinsically flawed with his set up?

Personally I’m in the former camp. Mostly. The plan seems a simple one, play it through for Scott Hogan to get on the end of and, when it works, it does so to devastating effect. The goal machine is now three clear of Tammy Abraham who he’ll be up against tonight in the race for leading Championship scorer. Only Dwight Gayle at Newcastle United has scored more this season. That’s a  stunning achievement although one which does show our incredible reliance on Dean’s Plan A.

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The Bees celebrated more goals for Scott at the weekend

As in the Birmingham game, we saw  the return of the three centre back system and I’m sure Dean will give that another go. Should Tom Field (two wins from his two Brentford appearances) get a start or will he have to remain content on the bench? The system is one that needs to be persisted with – the opening goal against the Blues was horrible whilst the marking for Burton would have shamed a primary school team. Yet it is a system which looks as though it will have merit whilst solving Dean’s problem of how to play at least three, if not all four, of his centre backs.

As for the midfield, one can only guess at just what is it that stops KK even making it onto the field of play? But if he is to get a look in, it needs to be a decent run of appearances rather than a token cameo. It is one that has been much needed in recent weeks – if only to try and break up the poor run – but Dean has remained steadfast. And now, with the team back to winning ways, the Austrian may aswell take a pair of tweezers to Bristol in order to pluck the splinters from his backside.

Then again, the start against Burton (at least, until the substitutions) means no change will, or should, happen. Romaine Sawyers was quite wonderful, Nico was full of fight whilst Josh McEachran picked up where he left off against Birmingham. There was a strong case for Alan Mac but one that was resisted and it seems to have been the correct decision.

Let’s not pretend we were perfect against Burton. But we were much improved. Indeed, but for that twist of fate it could have been more. We can see from the stands how unlucky we are being although my slight concern is that listening to Dean speak and reading ‘official’ it is an element that is being heavily focussed upon. “We could have done this…. the referee should have done that…. how did the ‘keeper stop it?” rather than simply, asking the question – why aren’t we finding the net more?

In a column that has already mentioned double cliché, let’s go for the hat-trick. You make your own luck in this game. Create enough chances and, eventually, things will go in your favour. Something will go in off a defender’s backside. The referee will wave somebody on when they are five yards ahead of the last defender. The opposition goalkeeper will be distracted by chants of “It’s all your fault” and spill one on the line.

Over 500 hardy souls are travelling up to Bristol tonight. Many more will be listening on BeesPlayer. Here’s hoping they are rewarded for their efforts with another hard fought performance.

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View from the Braemar – it was full blooded on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

Return of the Mac ? Something has to give as Bees aim to sting Canaries.

3 Dec

Too obvious? Apologies. A full house today in local paper football headline bingo (try saying that after a night out). With Brentford and Norwich City both experiencing what Dean Smith has described as ‘blips’, whilst the teams’ respective form has been well documented as LLL and LLLLL , something has to give at Carrow Road today. The obvious question is, what?

I haven’t seen enough of Norwich City to overly comment on what they are doing wrong all of a sudden. But with the likes of Sergi Canos and Alex Pritchard not featuring at present (although the later did make a 67th minute appearance from the bench last weekend) one has to wonder what talent they have ahed oaf them? And why it is failing to fire after a start to proceedings that made it look as though an immediate return to the Premier League was high on the agenda?

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Sergi – in the unfamiliar yellow and green

The ever wonderful Beesotted have cut to the nub of matter. Do take the time to read their article today in which Norwich supporter Jon Rogers describes the footballing fayre currently on offer as “pedestrian. It’s very congested. It’s sometimes slow and dull”.

Can Dean Smith and Brentford take advantage of this? Sure, we’ve had 1 win in 8 and lost three on the bounce but it still seems incredible that we got nothing out of the Birmingham game. It was the proverbial case of doing everything but score a second goal whilst I’m still in awe at the wonder save Tomasz Kuszczak pulled off to deny Scott Hogan’s net bound effort. We know the defending against Blackburn was uncharacteristically shambolic (although at least the team scored a few) whilst Fulham (h) was the performance that we don’t talk about . Move along, nothing to see here.

Yet how quickly things change, Had we beaten Fulham, we’d have made it into the play-off zone that evening. Now, Brentford sit four points above the relegation place (albeit with another five teams between us and Cardiff City). Yet a win today could take us back up to tenth. Things are still that tight.

So just how does Dean take advantage of slow and dull Norwich? How does he convince his team they really are world beaters. To avert a situation arising where, in his own words, “Sometimes we can catastrophise defeats and that leads to a demise in confidence.

Well, if Norwich are as pedestrian as we’ve been promised, then the likes of Sullay Kaikai and Josh Clarke could run riot. But I’m more interested to see if Dean will perform a further midfield shuffle and parachute Alan McCormack into the side. Is an immediate return following his five match ban and ‘that suspension’ something we can expect?.

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Will Norwich see return of the Mac?

Personally I thought Josh McEachran did really well coming on as substitute at the weekend. Likewise, when the three centre back system settled it looked a lot better than in the opening period. So, for me, its a place on the bench for Macca with Josh (M) in the middle and Josh (C) in place of Lasse. If we’re talking about catastrophising defeat then the great Dane’s miss against Birmingham has enough in it for an Irwin Allen movie (kids, ask your dads). One presumes Romaine Sawyers will keep a place and so that leaves Ryan Woods with Scott Hogan up top.

Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. If it were down to me I’d have given KK a few starts by this juncture. Yet, for whatever reason, he’s currently got more chance of a run around Richmond Park than a run in the team. Likewiswe, with Andy Gogia scoring for fun on loan in Germany and Jota doing God knows what on loan in Spain, the Griffin Park midfield situation has more questions than answers at present.

All are questions that will no doubt be forgotten or, at the least, put to one side should Dean and the boys pick up three points today. Whatever the run of results, there’s enough talent in that Brentford team – as was shown in the way we played in the denouement of the Birmingham game.

Can we pick up where we left off? At 3pm, we find out.

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Griffin Park looked glorious against Birmingham, even if the result wasn’t

Nick Bruzon

Is that the sound of a straw being clutched?

5 Nov

It had to happen eventually. That’s just a matter of probability and percentages. After five games and now into our third season of playing together in the Championship, Fulham have finally beaten Brentford in a West London derby. Friday night’s game seeing the visitors record a 2-0 win at Griffin Park.

Of course, Brentford had the historical form. Previous Championship encounters had seen the Bees despatching Fulham as easily as an irritating child being sent to the naughty step. The Cottagers had been blown off the park time and again, providing no more resistance than a playful kitten . Instead, they’d rolled over and let us tickle their bellies as 11 goals, three wins and 10 points followed in four games. Indeed, but for an incorrect ‘offside ‘ call against Jota last season (oh, to have him back) it would have been a 12,4,12 record.

That was then. This is now. It is a quintessential bit of footballing common sense to play the team, not the moment. Don’t rest on your laurels. Previous humpings of Fulham or last Friday’s wonderful destruction of QPR count for nothing the moment the man in, erm, medium violet red blows the whistle to begin proceedings.

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Aubergine? Puce? Vermillion? No.

Whether there was an assumption we’d do it again. Whether the midfield were (the wonderful Josh Clarke aside) still at Loftus Road. Whether it was just tactical naivety from Dean Smith (his selection, substitutions and continuing neglect of Konstantin Kerschbaumer  a mystery to rank with the pyramids or Donald Trump’s hair) I have no idea.

All I can say is that this was, sadly, woeful. A brief flurry in the second half aside, the Bees weren’t at the races. Dean was man enough to admit that “We didn’t perform well and didn’t deserve to win”. … before the somewhat strange revelation that, “While not playing at our best, we showed some spirit and stayed in the game until the 93rd minute”.

While not playing at our our best?”. Technically correct but was that the sound of a straw being clutched?  I’m loathe to overly criticise a team who are still wonderfully placed in the Championship, but lets be honest here. We were terrible last night. And against Fulham of all teams.

More worrying is our current form. That incredible game at QPR aside, we’ve huffed and puffed an awful lot in recent weeks. At least, when trying to break teams down. Indeed, even factoring in the result against the not so super hoops our last 6 games have seen 3 consecutive blanks at Griffin park and only three goals scored. The only thing on fire, certainly based on last night’s showing, was the referee’s assistant on the Braemar Road side – giving off more steam than a thoroughbred race horse.

What a pity we didn’t have any of those ourselves. Scott Hogan looked knackered, Ryan Woods unusually out of sorts and Josh McEachran out of his depth. International break and a chance to just take stock, pick ourselves up and catch our breath once more couldn’t come soon enough. David Button, on the other hand, coming in for some very harsh treatment from the Griffin Park faithful as he showed the same prowess that we had come to rely on over the years. The only difference being he has now learned to kick straight. And long. The toblerone boots seemingly left behind in TW8.

I’m trying to find a positive from the night and all I can come up with is Fulham’s socks.Surely an even more desperate straw to clutch than the aforementioned one from Dean.

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Nice socks; shame about the result

That said, should Kitman Bob have opted for a yellow and black away shirt for next season (and nobody could doubt that the Bathwise sponsored Bees’ colour scheme from a few years ago was always hugely popular) then the adidas back catalogue already has footwear to match.

As for Fulham, much as it pains me to the say this they were the only side in this one last night. Three points sees them overtake the Bees in the Championship table with QPR still limping along behind as the worst placed team in West London.

Is it doom and gloom? Of course not. Imagine being in Rotherham’s plight, for example. Imagine having had the geographical misfortune to have been born a Fulham supporter? Equally though, they wanted it more and they got it.

Captain Harlee Dean summed it up whilst also, thankfully, expunging his favoured post-defeat promise to’ go again’.

Next time, Fulham. Next time. See you at The Cottage….

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Harlee – honest as ever

Nick Bruzon