Tag Archives: Keith Stroud

Newcastle United share a pain that Brentford know so well as Keith does his thing once more.

6 Apr

Keith Stroud. A name to strike fear into football fans up and down the land has done it again. Of course, at Brentford we are well aware of the card happy man in black’s past form. Now Championship table toppers Newcastle United are the latest club to fall foul of his obsession with random decision making in last night’s game with Burton Albion.

Who could forget the infamous battle of Bramall Lane? Rather than a League One promotion shootout between the Bees and Sheffield United, it was another game that turned into the Stroud show. “The maddest game of football that ever existed” said Mark Burridge after that one as it finished with three red cards shown, four penalties awarded and 12 players booked (8 alone in the first half). That the Bees came out of it with a point,despite playing most of the second half with 9 men, was more down to our own character than any protection from the referee.

It was a game which, to the casual observer, would suggest one akin to the titular battle. In reality it was nowhere close to that, with the hardest fought contest being that between Stroud’s ego and the frustration of both sets of supporters.

Whilst he’s never topped that moment in Sheffield, his name is one that still brings an almost audible wince of negativity (should such a thing be possible) whenever he is announced as a referee for a forthcoming game. His card ratio alone is, season on season, higher than just about any other official to take charge at Griffin Park . The current campaign has seen him show an incredible 171 yellows and sent off 12 players during his 39 games officiated. Only Uber have more bookings than Stroud, it seems.

Then, last night happened. With Newcastle United hosting Burton Albion in a league fixture (a phrase in itself which bears more than a moment’s consideration) they were awarded a penalty. With Matt Ritchie subsequently finding the back of the net for 1-0, Stroud struck. Social media went into meltdown as , for reasons unknown, rather than declaring the goal he chalked it off and gave a free kick to Burton.

This was later revealed to be for what Mr Stroud considered encroachment into the box by Dwight Gayle. Whilst the rules of the game dictate that the spot kick should be retaken in such a circumstance, Keith’s head and the rules of the game are not things that always see eye to eye,

Unfortunately the referee has misapplied the law. Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake,” said a referee’s spokesman afterwards. Hmmm. Sorry about that folks. Imagine the furore had things then turned out differently to the eventual 1-0 home win for Newcastle?

I do feel sorry for Keith in many ways. To give credit, his recent performances officiating for Brentford have, by and large, been relatively restrained with no real controversy. He even changed his mind in our favour upon the advice of an assistant during the recent reverse at home to Wolves.  So we know he can do it. Unfortunately, there are so many games that see the other side of Keith.

The flamboyant flourish of a red card. The turning his back on a player he has just admonished. The random bookings and decisions offered out at a level not seen since Uriah Rennie. Yet he has been allowed to continue unchecked. Nobody has had a word and, instead, he has become almost a cult character. But for the wrong reasons.

People now expect bookings and oddity when Keith is in charge. People go into the game on edge. When he has a good one there’s a sense of relief more than a sense of pride. Season on season his statistics speak for themselves but no real action is taken to reign him in. Football isn’t that consistently dirty a game, except in Keith’s head.

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Keith Stroud – we all know the drill

Equally though, last night bears additional scrutiny. This was no heat of the moment decision. This wasn’t a foul that needed to be replayed in the head. It was a basic rule of football that he got backwards in the most glaring of styles. But what about his assistants? Was no support given ? No advice offered? Or was this a case where Keith’s rule was law?

Let’s be clear, I’d hate to be a referee. Balls of steel and skin as thick as rhino’s are the pre-requisites. With players, journalists and fans all thinking they know better the ref is only ever on a hiding to nothing. He clearly loves what he does although, whilst I’d hate to see any serious sanction as a result, that’s no justification for allowing anyone to run around unchecked.

Will Keith ever change? Unlikely. Will the FA do anything? Expect a week’s demotion to the lower leagues and then business as usual.

Yet, out of all this, Keith may wake up this morning and look himself in the mirror. You never know. Perhaps this will be the catalyst that triggers some self-reflection and a reigning in of Keith the card.

We know he can do it. We’ve all seen him have good games. Why not just go back to being the anonymous man in the middle rather than the reputational nightmare he has allowed himself to become.

Can a leopard change his spots? You never know.

 

Nick Bruzon

Solitary diamond atop a dungheap of a performance sees Bees devoured by hungry Wolves.

15 Mar

Brentford 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2. Let’s start immediately by saying well played to Wolves and that the points went to the right team. Much as it pains me to say this the visitors fully warranted the points on a night when only one side showed the desire, or the ability, to win a game of football.

We don’t deserve to ‘be any good’ by divine right. We don’t deserve to win every game of football, much as the fans would like it. Yet, by the same virtue, the supporters do deserve to see their team put a bit of a shift in.  Don’t let the Sky video highlights, or the stats, fool you. Wolves ended the game with an apparent 57% possession yet watching on from the sidelines I’d have said nearer 75%. It felt as though we were that much under the cosh, the second half especially.

Dean Smith would note afterwards in his BBC interview that, “That was certainly the worst performance at Griffin Park in my time here. I don’t even think we had a first gear and Wolves were better from start to finish….Normally we out-football sides but we couldn’t pass water.

Ha! Ha! Dean. Very funny. Everybody loves a comedian and, whilst honest, what was the reason your team were so flat? Why couldn’t we break down physical opponents who clearly wanted it? Why did we just sit back to try and ‘absorb’? There was plenty of finger pointing in his interview on ‘official’ Brentford and acceptance of poor performance but what was the reasoning behind us being so far off the pace? Why weren’t our basics good enough? Why were we so outmuscled?

It has been interesting to read Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola talking about his philosophy on the BBC today, ahead of the Champion’s League tie with Monaco. His own take on their situation is a simple one.“The best way [to defend] is score goals,” adding that “when one team scores many goals and you think about just defending, you kill yourself. The idea is to try and attack”.

The Brentford performance was an even odder one because we’ve all seen how good this team can be in recent weeks. I’m not going to slag off individuals. Players have off days but the rest of the group can soak it up. Yet when they all fail to spark, and the manager is unable to motivate them or change it, you get what happened here. It was quite apparent within the first twenty minutes that there was only one side in this. The biggest miracle of the night not being that that we went into half time one up but that we then held the lead right up until the 86th minute.

Maxime Colin’s goal was a thing of beauty. A flowing move (yes, we did have one) culminated in a delightful pass from KK before the full back broke free and shot across the goal into the far corner. Sadly, it was solitary diamond sitting atop an otherwise dung heap of a performance.

Despite Dan Bentley stopping everything that came at him, aided by some last gasp challenges and Nouha Dicko hitting the bar when it would have been easier to score, eventually the pressure told with barely minutes remaining.

Both Wolves goals came from balls down the right flank, crossed  into the box before being tucked home. The second, in particular, was shocking, Having already been reduced to a point by Matt Doherty’s 86th minute equaliser, Brentford then offered Helder Costa the freedom of the Griffin Park penalty box as he was left unmarked to volley into the ground and past Dan Bentley with just seconds of regulation time left.

With it went the chance of the most undeserved of points making their way into Dean’s back pocket.  Game over, man. Game over.

Even George Saville looked vaguely competent. The former Bee actually managed to tackle Jota at one point. Which probably tells you as much as you need to know. This, despite coming in for dog’s abuse on the Braemar Road side about an incident that had allegedly happened around the back of a hotel carpark, in Brentford lock.

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We may have lost, but I’d take Jota over Saville any day of the week

Only Keith Stroud’s assistant, who struggled on manfully despite being an accident waiting to happen with his clearly undone bootlaces, received more flak than Saville, Costa or any other of the players out there. Certainly it was more entertaining waiting for the inevitable ‘stack’ that failed to materialise, despite his steadfast refusal to do anything beyond eventually tucking the loose laces into his boot like a lazy schoolboy, than watching the game.

And talking of Keith Stroud, what of our favourite ref?  The diminutive man in the middle was somewhat restrained by his own reputational standards and had a generally good game. There were a few calls we all felt went the wrong way but that’s football. At one point, he even changed his mind in our favour following advice from the aforementioned assistant. I repeat. He changed his mind in our favour.

Instead, his convoluted prematch warmup routine of stretches, thrusts and synchronised dancing with his assistants was the highlight. Keith even went so far as to delay the prematch photos as he underwent one, final, shuttle run.

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Big bet ; diminutive ref. But a good performance from Keith Stroud

When the most exciting part of the evening was Buzzette dancing (in the most playful of fashion) with our Ealing Road wag, you know it’s one to file in the locker marked ‘painful’ and, instead, hope for some form of retribution up at Burton on Saturday.

Even the post match tweets from the players had a somewhat similar feel. Did Harlee and Sergi compare notes before tweeting? Are they handed these by the media team? Or is it just the ultimate summary of what happened – very disappointing tonight; can only apologise and say thank you.

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Did the players compare notes?

Hey, at least we weren’t offered the chance to go again.

There’s nothing else to say on this one. This was less the proverbial bad day at the office and more one of being put on immediate gardening leave from desk based activity, pending a full enquiry. Instead, we can only put it behind us and await Burton. There’s no way it will be even half this bad.

Roll on Saturday. I certainly wouldn’t want be in Nigel Clough’s position when Storm Brentford approaches.

Nick Bruzon

As Bees prepare for Wolves, who won Twitter last night?

14 Mar

Here we go again. Brentford continue one of our more unlikely rivalries of recent seasons as we prepare to entertain Wolverhampton Wanderers. Nobody needs any reminder of the epic League One campaign that saw us go neck and neck with Wolves and celebrate like we’d won the FA Cup as promotion to the Championship was confirmed three seasons ago (although if you would like to read more….. here’s the place) . And which former Manchester United player won Twitter last night ahead of the FA Cup clash with Chelsea?

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Who will win the battle of Wolves v Bees ?

However, we can only start with tonight’s game at Griffin Park. It is an encounter which sees Brentford looking for the win that will take us back into the top half of the table whilst,for the visitors, things are somewhat more fraught. Only one point separates Wolves from the relegation spots currently filled by Rotherham (R), Wigan and Bristol City. Albeit they have slightly less bad goal difference and two games in hand.

But points in the bag are better than games in hand as one terrace wag is so fond of saying and failure to capitalise tonight will put Wolves right in the mire. Could Keith Stroud direct them back towards League One? Was Saturday’s 1-0 defeat of divisional whipping boys Rotherham (a win which ended a run of one draw and five straight defeats from the previous six games)  the sign of better things to come?

If Wolves picked up on Saturday, the opposite could be said for Brentford. Purely in terms of goal scoring where we failed to find the net in the league since the 0-0 draw with Norwich City on December 31 last year. Then again, we were facing a Huddersfield Town team with their sights on ‘automatic’ . This, after our own recent impressive form that had seen wins at Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest as well as the obligatory three points from Rotherham.

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View from the Braemar – three points and a lurid kit for Huddersfield on Saturday

But with exhaustion kicking in and Dean Smith promising changes, who starts tonight? Could Tom Field, Konstantin Kerschbaumer and Sergi Canos all make it off the bench? Rico Henry has been impressive since his return from that long injury but I thought he started to flag on Saturday whilst Nico’s injury niggles have been well documented. As for Sergi, having been rested for the Huddersfield game then a straight switch between him and Florian Jozefzoon is a substitution by numbers.

Here’s hoping for a big crowd tonight. Griffin Park under the floodlights is always a special place and it would be wonderful to see the Bees get back to winning ways. With 30 points still to play for the season is anything but dead as we look to follow up on our previous Championship finishes of 5th and 9th.

Not bad for a ‘tin pot’ team who many tipped for immediate relation from this higher division  but with the gap to 9th place currently 7(seven) points, a win tonight will be a huge step towards achieving that goal.

In other news, last night saw Chelsea reach the semi finals of the FA Cup after their 1-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. Whilst his team may have lost, former Red Devil Mikael Silvestre won Twitter with this riposte to perennial name dropper, Ian Moose from Talk Sport.

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Silvestre 1 Moose 0

There’s not much more to say, really. See you tonight.

Nick Bruzon

Fine margins see Huddersfield staying alive as Brentford goal glut runs dry.

12 Mar

All good things come to an end and that was certainly the case on Saturday as Brentford saw their hot streak in front of goal stop with a juddering halt. Huddersfield Town shutting us out (and not just in front of goal, if we’re being honest) as they recorded a 1-0 win at Griffin Park. With Fulham, of all teams, doing them a stonking favour with a 3-1 win up at Newcastle United, there’s everything to play for in the top slots .Good luck to anyone trying to call the two automatic promotion places that the Terriers, Magpies and Seagulls are currently fighting over.

Still, promotion is nothing but a pipe dream for Brentford at present – albeit we have a wonderful chance to still impact the play off race later in the season when we travel to Fulham. Assuming they haven’t choked it by that point.

Instead, our aspirations are more about building for next season and, with safety all but mathematically assured, we’ve been doing this in fine style recently. Brentford entered this game off the back off a goal glut which had seen us rise to the top half of the Championship table. Then Huddersfield paid a visit.

Despite a lurid kit – think QPR with added highlighter pen – and the pressure of David Wagner having been named ‘manager of the month’ the visitors accomplished their sole aim. Win the game to keep the pressure on Newcastle and Brighton.

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View from the Braemar – three points and a lurid kit for Huddersfield Town

Whether it was exhaustion, a terrible display from referee Oliver Langford (who seemed to be set to ‘random’ mode), superior opposition or just a combination of all the above, we were second best on the afternoon. Despite a bright start to both periods, Huddersfield were soon able to control the game and snuff out our attacking threat. Indeed, it was the visitors who had the better chances even if the only way they did find the back of the net was via a combination of a Harlee Dean deflection and Dan Bentley.

It was a shame because the pair of them have been unsung heroes this season. The goals of Scott Hogan and the return of our talismanic Spaniards have dominated the headlines and perception of our team. Yet both Dan and Harlee have more than played their parts and are serious contenders for player of the season, when we look back over the entire campaign.

Things could have been different. Perhaps. Brentford had a bright start to both periods, Jota unleashing a drive from outside the box after three minutes that Danny Ward in the Huddersfield goal had to go full stretch to parry away.

Moments into the second half (the Bees having survived a huge scare almost from kick off) Lasse Vibe was presented a gilt edged chance.

Rico Henry releasing Flo Jo, whose slide rule pass across the box found the great Dane unmarked and Ward flatfooted. Yet instead of stroking it home, he somehow managed to sky it over the bar from eight yards out. In truth, the ball was travelling at him, at speed, yet even allowing for that movement one would still have hoped to see the net ripple. And that, a deflected effort that looped onto the top of the crossbar aside, was as good as it got.

After the game, Dean Smith would talk about fine margins being the difference. In the interview which you can find on Brentford ‘official’, he noted how:  “If the goal is given, if Lasse takes his chance, if the free-kick is given at the end of the game then it is different. Unfortunately we are not getting loads of those calls at the moment.

Was this a thinly veiled dig at referee Oliver Langford? A man who incensed captain Harlee Dean and the entire Griffin Park crowd with a series of odd decisions. Certainly, we’ve been getting the goals (and even penalty calls) in recent weeks. Yet even watching from the sidelines, Dean was more animated than I think I’ve ever seen him before as decision after decision went the way of the opposition. He was less Dijkhuizen and more Saturday Night Fever, such was the way he waved his arms around every time a crunching foul was overlooked.

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Dean channeling his inner Travolta, with Huddersfield staying alive in the promotion race

I’ll be keen to see the official highlights later on today. The 90 seconds served up by Sky (in as much all you need to know about the game) glossed over any refereeing faux-pas. Instead, they are just a chance to remind ourselves about what might have been.

That said, I did find Dean’s assertion that, “I thought that we more than matched them today” a bit of an odd one. Statistically speaking alone, the visitors had more possession, more shots and more goals whilst just looking at the game as a supporter I can acknowledge when we’ve been nullified. Huddersfield weren’t streets ahead but they were the better team on the day, no question. They are where they are for a reason.

Instead, we’ll just have to regroup for Tuesday night’s game against Wolves. Expect personnel changes for no other reason than the amount of games we’ve played in such a short space of time. Again, something Dean alluded to in that interview. Could the likes of KK, Tom Field, Sergi Canos and Josh Clarke find themselves back in the starting XI?

Whoever he picks will have the somewhat dubious privilege of Keith Stroud being the man to wave the cards in that theatrical style of his. Here’s hoping Keith is the restrained man in the middle that we have seen on occassion rather than the Keith of Bramall Lane infamy.

This season his record is 161 yellows and 11 reds in his 35 games. That’s an average of 4.6 bookings per game. By comparison, Mr Langford has 113 yellows and 5 reds over the same period. I’m not sure which is better really, going on yesterday.

Instead, let’s just hope it’s our football that everyone is taking about once more come Tuesday night.

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Keith Stroud – your eyes aren’t wrong. There is NO card in hand

Nick Bruzon

Harlee’s the man as Scott and Romaine bisect Burton.

11 Dec

Brentford 2 Burton Albion 1 . It is a scoreline which, as ever, doesn’t even come close to telling the story of a game that the Bees could have won by more, probably should have won by more, but were ultimately grateful to end up wth three points in the back pocket and 11 players on the pitch.

Referee David Coote, a man Brentford fans may recall from last season when he incorrectly ruled out Jota’s winning goal at Fulham (for apparent offside) was at it again. A display that showed all the authority and decision making ability of White Star Line when they declared the Titanic seaworthy, even ‘official’ noted in their match report that his “Decisions throughout the afternoon frustrated many of a Brentford persuasion”.

And in a bizarre moment of handbags in injury time, his presence was almost perfunctory as he allowed the incident to escalate to a situation where any of several players, from either side, could have seen ‘red’ . Bees captain Harlee Dean stepping up to a situation where he was eventually surrounded by several irate Albion players whilst their goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin went at Romaine Sawyers like a drunken Morris dancer.

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View from the Braemar – Albion seemed agitated

Ah yes, Romaine Sawyers. What a performance from that man. No wonder the opposition were upset. His through ball to release Scott Hogan for the opening goal was quite, quite delicious. If ever you want to see perfection in a pass then here it was. The midfielder taking half the Burton team out of the game with one, exquisitely timed ball that split the defence as cleanly as a if he’d taken an axe to a watermelon.

That Scott Hogan then finished with as cool a finish as we’ve come to expect was almost secondary. Such is the talent of the man and the expectation that surrounds him whenever he gets those runs right, most of Griffin Park (official attendance 9,035 – hmmmm – was somebody counting season tickets?) was already on its feet as he stroked the ball past Mclaughlin.

Even more incredibly, the goal came from a short corner. This is not a drill. I repeat. This is not a drill. Even more incredibly, the goal came from a short corner.

It was a case of same again later in the half as Sawyers repeated his earlier trick. Hogan ran on to it once more, only to see his wonderful lob beat the ‘keeper but bounce back off the post, with the crowd already cheering a second goal.

It would have been a strike to restore our lead as in between, we’d conspired to let Burton back into the game. Instead of turning the screw and taking one of several other chances (see also: Birmingham City), sloppy defending gave the visitors an early Christmas present. Despite our three centre backs, the marking was nothing shy of ‘schoolboy’.

Jamie Ward received a cut back from the touchline and, with nobody in about ten yards of him, was allowed to stroke it home from the edge of the box. Even then, it was shot which the normally reliant Daniel Bentley may feel disappointed to have let squirm over the line.

That said, one couldn’t help but smile at the noise from the director’s box when it went in. Such was the jubilation amongst the visiting dignitaries, who must be enjoying Championship life to the max. Here’s hoping they can continue a journey which, like Brentford, is nothing but wonderful. Who doesn’t like seeing a traditional ‘smaller’ club now given the chance to play with the big boys yet more than holding their own?

1-1 at half time and the visitors still very much in it. Parity didn’t last long though. That man Scott Hogan, again, finding the back of the net from a tight angle 7 (seven) minutes into the half as the rain began to fall.

But if that was skilful, his hat-trick goal was out of this world with yet another beautifully timed run, this time onto a long hoof out of defence. He sprung the offside trap perfectly, left former Bee John Mousinho floundering and rounded McLaughlin to make it 3-1.

Except, of course, he didn’t. Referee Coote deciding that somehow the goal machine had caused Mousinho to fall flat on his backside as the two raced for the long ball. It was a ridiculous decision and one which could have cost the Bees dear. It looked bad live but having watched the highlights c/o Sky (a version of which are also now available on BeesPlayer – below) I’m still not clear as to just what is alleged to have happened.

Oh, for the dulcet tones of Mark Burridge

Instead, we held on with Lasse Vibe and substitute Tom Field (how good to see him back on) also having very good chances late on. And with the dust finally settling on the aforementioned handbags (supporters at least grateful that it was Coote rather than than Stroud in the middle) that was it. Three points for the Bees and a job well done.

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Turner’s pants as visible as his temper during the ‘handbags’

It wasn’t a classic performance but it was a win. Romaine Sawyers gave a quite magnificent two fingers up to the critics (metaphorically so) whilst Scott Hogan continues to astound. That said,  The Bees really should have put the game well out of sight whilst one wonders just what on earth Dean Smith would do without his talismanic striker.

Aswell as paying due credit to Romaine Sawyers, Harlee took to twitter to acknowledge the prowess of the big man up front. When even the club captain is saying this, the message is loud and clear.

Here’s hoping Mr Benham, our co-directors of football and Dean are taking note. It could be a long , painful January otherwise.

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Nick Bruzon

The good, the bad and the ugly. Everton and Sunderland help lead the charge as Bees silence Villa and go goal crazy.

18 Sep

Brentford moved into the top six following a 5-0 win over Preston. Huddersfield Town stayed top as they continued a week of woe for hapless QPR (stop sniggering). The Loftus Road mob going down 2-1 following their 6-0 midweek thrashing by Newcastle United. Six! Nil!!  Meanwhile, Aston Villa could only labour to a second draw of the week (presumably, another pub side) whilst the bottom three now consist of Wigan, Blackburn and Cardiff.

That’s the most recent Championship action in a nutshell. Yet there has been so much more going on in the division and beyond. In the latest of our regular weekly round up we look back at those things you might have missed from the world of social media over the last seven days. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly.

We’ll start off, as ever, with Brentford for whom Scott Hogan wasn’t alone in finding the back of the net against Preston. Whilst you can read the breakdown on that one here, the salient points would seem to be that, firstly,  humour is alive and well in the squad.

Likewise,for a game involving Keith Stroud, the man in the middle was somewhat quieter than normal. King of stats Luis Melville nailing this one.

Prior to this our pub side had been at Aston Villa where one fan continued his pre-match rant about the quality of the visitors long after the result had come in as a 1-1 draw.

Bernard Quackenbush picking out one flaw in his argument.

Mr Hateley wasn’t alone, either..

But, once more, Bluetones guitarist Adam Devlin has blown away all comers when it comes to post match banter.

Yet for me, and credit where it was due, nobody could deny just how incredible a stadium Villa park is. Win, lose or draw this was a ground worthy of a visit in it’s own right. Let’s hope that when Lionel Road is built we can capture this combination of atmosphere and proximity to the pitch.

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Villa Park – off field, somewhere we can only aspire to

That was Brentford’s action. But, as ever, there is so much more.

Having had a horrendous start to their life as principal highlights provider, it would be fair to say that Football League Tonight came in for criticism from all comers. And rightly so, if you recall just what they offered up in episode 1.  Yet equally, by the end of last season they had managed to iron out the numerous flaws to give a much more watchable show, minus studio audience and gimmicks.

Sadly it would seem than normal service is being resumed this time around. BBC Billy Reeves knows a thing or two about broadcasting and so if he opines, we should sit up and take notice.

Yet it seems we aren’t alone in our disdain , Huddersfield Town are only top of the league. As they have been all season…

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EVERYBODY (well, at least close to 8,000 of us)  have already shared this but some things are so good they bear repeating.

A staple of The Beano, The Dandy and just about every kid’s comic , the baddest of bad jokes has finally seen the light of day for real.Fancy ACTUALLY having the balls to use this line for real?

Those with a long memory may recall Billy Reeves doing his zero to catwalk in three seconds shimmy at QPR last season. If you don’t then here’s a picture of our man doing his thing on what was, otherwise, the afternoon we never talk about.

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BBC Billy. Is there no end to his talents ?

So how sweet to see the not so super hoops come undone during the week?

A 0-6 home hammering at the hand of Newcastle United bringing tears of anguish to Loftus Road and tears of laughter to TW8. The only highlight for the home supporters being that Billy’s trendsetting now seems to have been adopted by their stewards.

 

 On pitch, QPR official thought they had got out of jail free….

But perhaps it wasn’t their fault. blame that ‘lucky omen’ . Fancy this happening (Please. Stop. Sniggering).

As a final thought from that one, how is the tattoo coming along?

In the Premier League, Manchester United lost. Again. I said stop sniggering. As a lover of ITV cliche bingo, this alternative take on it has certainly tickled the funny bone (and could be easily adapted for ‘Mourinho press conference’ bingo if required).

And then later in the afternoon Sunderland did their best to confuse everybody. Not so much in terms of the on pitch performance but more in their away kit. Has there been a more garish effort in Premier League history and just what did it resemble ?

But it was their game with Everton on Monday night where the real story of the week was. Even now, almost seven days later, I’ve got nothing but a smile on the face and a tear in the eye looking at these next two.

Pure class. I’ve nothing else to add. Until next time.

Book ’em, Danno. Not today. But if anybody knows where we can get a pizza…?

18 Sep

Well wasn’t that the game that had it all? A 5-0 win for Brentford. Visitors Preston ending the game with just 10 men on the pitch yet, for once, this wasn’t the fault of referee Keith Stroud. A hat-trick for Scott Hogan, taking him to 13 goals in 12 Championship games. Another clean sheet and the Bees into the play off zone. A current goal difference of +8 now only bettered by Newcastle United of all our league rivals.

Yet the final score of 5-0 wasn’t as apparent as it might have seemed at one point. Preston more than matched Brentford team who were, perhaps, suffering some tired legs following Wednesday night’s exertions at Aston Villa. Likewise, I’d imagine the first team didn’t get back to Griffin Park until Thursday – whether due to an overnight stay or simply the horrendous gridlock caused by the M6 closure that blighted just about every road user.

Yet, as seems to be the theme these days, it was Scott Hogan who gave us the lead and Dan Bentley who was on hand to keep the visitors at bay. Hogan’s first goal, seeing the striker run onto a wonderful ball from Romaine Sawyers (having his best game in a Brentford shirt) that split the Preston defence and left him clear to cut in from the left and slide it under the advancing ‘keeper.

1-0 at half time and Brentford just about deserving of a lead. Yet after a somewhat staid start to the second half (in which Bentley was the busier ‘keeper and made one absolute stunning save – check that beauty out on the highlights reel) things suddenly accelerated.

Scott and Dan grab the headlines but Romaine and Harlee also shone

Harlee Dean made it 2-0, drilling home from a long corner with, perhaps, the help of a slight deflection. It was a goal that prompted exuberant celebrations and no more so than from ‘man with the mic’ Peter Gilham. His announcement for goal sponsors Siracusa stopping just short of reading out the Italian restaurant on Brentford Lock’s phone number.

And then it all went bonkers. With Preston having made all their substitutions, injury to Marnick Vermijl meant it was 10 against 11 or, in real terms, boys against men .

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View of the terrace. The pressure builds in front of a packed home end

It’s often said that it is harder to play agasint 10 men than 11. A cliche trotted out when a red card is administered and the impacted team have to try and contain the opposition. I’ve never understood why having a man advantage isn’t seen as more of an, erm, advantage. Well this time it was.

Three goals followed in a three minute spell. Hogan running on to a suicidal back header to make it 3-0 on 84 minutes before substitute Josh Clarke did all but get the fourth on 85. His cross into the box turned in by Chris Humphrey although, at least, Peter Gilham gave the youngster credit as “The last Brentford player to touch the ball”.

But it was the fifth, just moments later, that earned the match ball for Hogan and the biggest cheer form the Griffin Park crowd. Again, it was Sayers involved. The midfielder delivering a beautiful through ball that, along with a neat touch from Josh McEachran, sliced open the Preston defence as easily as a diner cutting through a freshly prepared pizza, served direct from a wood fire oven.

The crowd went crazy. Peter Gilham went that close to reading out the dessert choices. The whiff of brackets was in the air.

Whilst 7(seven) would, perhaps, have been pushing the boundaries of expectation, who wasn’t ecstatic with a 5-0 humping? Chairman Cliff Crown was in buoyant form at full time, talking to all and sundry outside The Griffin for a good hour at least.

The other shock of the day was Keith Stroud. I can only imagine what the odds on more goals than bookings would have ben before kick off? Yet the notorious man in the middle was in as good form before kick off as our chairman had been at full time, stopping to talk to supporters after performing a somewhat elaborate warm up routine that was part Jane Fonda, part line dance.

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Keith leads the line. Dance

And the game itself saw just two yellows shown. His lowest total all season. That said, the second was delivered with his customary ‘flourish and turn’ delivery. Infuriating to receive; wonderful when given to the opposition. As one Braemar Road resident noted, “He’s like a footballing equivalent of cricket’s Steve Bucknor” – the arm is raised in one, fluid movement and no amount of imploring will change the decision.

Actually, fair play to Keith. He had a very good game. The only people left disappointed were those who had taken part in Kitman Bob’s pre-match game. “Stop letting the game flow” noted one observer. Part tongue in cheek, part hoping for a chance to win that Emmanuel Ledesma shirt.

The only real down side was our own Big Bee Radio not being nimble fingered enough to play the theme tune to Hawaii-5-0 on the way out. Instead,

For once, this kit nerd would have been happy if Keith had taken note.

On a day that saw Beeplayers co-commentator Marcus Gayle make it three wins from three  when sitting along side Mark Burridge (who one can only presume now has the big man handcuffed to a radiator – metaphorically speaking), these weren’t the only omens falling into place. Last season’s black ‘third’ top is the current ‘lucky shirt’  whilst my own son is still to see us lose. In three seasons.

Testament to his own talismanic quality or simply a sign of how hard a place Griffin Park is to visit for our Championship rivals ? As we saw on Wednesday at Aston Villa, the old girl is definitely at the other end of the palatial spectrum yet it is something which very much plays to our advantage.

Next up at home are Reading, next Tuesday. Until then its a trip to Wolves on Saturday. No doubt buoyed by their own win at Newcastle United yesterday, it promises to be a corker.

I can’t wait.

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How many goals did we score?

Nick Bruzon

 

Can a leopard change his spots as Preston visit?

17 Sep

Saturday morning, TW8. The torrential downpour of Friday is but a fleeting memory as Brentford await the visit of Preston North End. Instead it is the memory of Wednesday night at Aston Villa and a wonderfully hard fought point in a game that we can count ourselves hugely unlucky not to have won by the end, which is just one of many motivating factors today.

Villa Park was wonderful. An incredible stadium and a great experience although at the end of the day (Clive) it has been and gone. The tickets are now residing in the stub collection (should anybody own such a thing) ; the half and half scarves at the back of the wardrobe. Or, preferably, a bonfire. Whilst we may get another chance to play them next season for now it is all about Preston.

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Bees fans celebrate the equaliser at Villa Park

The stadium holds it’s collective breath. The penalty taker has been chosen and the ball placed on the spot. With the scores locked at 0-0, Brentford supporters know that if this spot kick goes in, promotion to the Championship is as good as ours. Teeth are gritted, fingers crossed and buttocks clenched. One terrace wag turns around and looks at the faces of the fans behind him, such is the tension and, more importantly, his own penalty based idiosyncrasy (that’s not me, btw) .

Boooomm. Noooo!!! He’s hit the crossbar and they’ve now gone down the other end to steal the title .

Sorry. Wrong season. I mean, Yessss!!! He’s done it. On loan (as he was then) Alan Judge buried his first half effort from 12 yards to give the Bees a 1-0 lead in a game against Preston the following campaign that, thanks to other results, saw us go up to the Championship behind Wolves.

Such was the difference in climax compared to what had happened less than 12 months earlier against Doncaster that the only real breatholding was when the realisation dawned that our post match pitch invasion had been somewhat premature. Rotherham were doing their level best to haul themselves back into a seemingly lost cause at Molineux but, in the end, it was too late. We’d done it.

We all know what happened. Alan even missed a second penalty that day as the Preston support, fully spruced up for their annual ‘gentry day’ helped us celebrate long into the night.

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Some people are on the pitch – what a denouement to that Preston game

Yet, like the Aston Villa game, that is now another memory and marvellous though it is to wallow in it once more, focus on the task at hand is very much the order of the day.

Having lost their opening three games on the spin, Preston have now started to find their feet. Whilst beating QPR is no big thing these days (just ask Newcastle) their most recent outing saw another win with a stonking 3-0 defeat of Cardiff City.  Even the previous game,  defeat at Barnsley, saw manager Simon Grayson enthusing about the positives in his team’s performance.

The point being, underestimate Preston and their 19th place at your peril. If nothing else, the table is still three games away from officially ’taking shape’ . 10 games being the place when that benchmark of form is reached and, of course, we are now 7(seven) games into the campaign.

The next point of focus is the man in the middle. Few names inspire fear like Keith Stroud. The booking happy official really set himself apart in the game at Sheffield United back in April 2013 and has been flourishing the cards ever since.

And nothing has changed since. In the 10 games he has officiated this season, 48 yellows and 4 reds have already been produced from Mr Stroud’s pocket.

One can only hope that, in a season which has already seen referees taking a much harder line on could and a much dimmer view on petulance, pulling and diving, our boys can keep their focus. My online bookmaker isn’t even offering odds on a red card today. This, when I checked for research purposes.

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Keith Stroud – we all know the drill

And then, of course, is the question of who Dean Smith picks to start this one. With the players having had one day’s less prep time than normal (it still feels so odd playing on a Wednesday) and the midfield looking a touch jaded at times agasint Villa, could changes be imminent? Or have Dean’s favoured XI recharged their batteries for another chance to reward his faith in them ?

Will Lasse Vibe start? What about Sullay Kaikai? The persistence and continued application of the Bees by the end of the Aston Villa game was clear for all to see.

Have these two subs done sufficiently to help tip the balance and, perhaps, give what must be some very tired legs a bit of a break? Likewise, could Dean make more changes to his midfield or is it just a game away from fully ‘clicking’? Decision, decisions.

The flip side to all of this is that I understand Marcus Gayle, will be in the Beesplayer commentary box this afternoon. Or, should I say, on the recently enlarged gantry where Mark Burridge and team will be based from today.

What’s so important about Marcus’s commentating skills, you may ask? Well, aside from being an absolute legend in his own lunchbox, sorry lunchtime, his form alongside Mark mirrors his success on the pitch bad. Two co-commentaries and two victories is as good a record as you could hope for.

Should we make it three in row today, I can only imagine Beesplayer listeners will be calling for Marcus to be made a regular fixture.

Marcus v Keith. Dean v Simon. Brentford v Preston. Who will come out on top? There’s only one place to find out. 3pm, Griffin Park.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

A shock u-turn. But have the bookies got it wrong for the Villa game?

13 Sep

Well that’s a bit of an about turn. With Brentford heading into tomorrow night’s game at Aston Villa sitting eighth in the Championship table, just two points behind second placed Newcastle United, the mood is a positive one. Of course, we had the marvellous win down at Brighton on Saturday but, perhaps as importantly, we’ve now had an apology from Ian Holloway

Back in early August, the former Bee (his other clubs including Bristol Rovers and, of course, the Loftus Road mob) incensed Brentford supporters with his pre-season prediction that we would go down. Writing under the moniker of ‘football expert’ in his column for Sky Sports , he called us out to finish in 22nd place, noting: “Brentford are regressing. Mark Warburton got them punching above their weight. They still haven’t replaced Andre Gray and Alan Judge will be missing for the start of the season. They could be in trouble”.

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Ian Holloway – predictions as good as the kits of his playing day

Reaction at the club fans’ forum later that week was unanimous: “I just think it proves he doesn’t know a great deal about football, especially in West London” was the frank response from Chairman Crown. A similar observation came from Mark Devlin, who noted,  “Who cares what pundits say” whilst Phil Giles was a bit more diplomatic, noting that Ian had commentated on the Bees in two very poor performances last time out. Perhaps that had crept into his prediction?

But it was Rasmus who came out with the zinger of the night. Fusing corporate with club, his observation on the former QPR man’s prediction of  22nd was a simple:  “Thats not what Smartodds says”.

Which, I suppose, is amongst the reasons that he is the chairman of FCM aswell as a (newly appointed) club director at Griffin Park. Congratulations Rasmus. And, likewise, Phil , who also has similar role.

But I digress. There was something of a U-turn in Ian’s column yesterday as looked ahead to the Aston Villa game. He used that one to note, “I didn’t see Brentford’s wonderful win at Brighton on Saturday coming. I put them in the relegation zone in my pre-season predictions and I apologise wholeheartedly, they’ve lost some good players but they’ve got some good ones in.

What about Scott Hogan’s goal at the weekend? He jinked, he twisted and smacked it in the top corner. Unbelievable! So I’m giving another away victory to Brentford. I think it’s difficult for Aston Villa to win at home in front of that crowd when you’re expected to. Brentford will be a tough nut to crack.”

Fair play to him for eating those words. A month is a long time in football. Six games even longer. Whilst the table is still four games away from officially ‘taking shape’ we are starting to get a bit more of an idea about the form of the various runners and riders.

Huddersfield have already shocked many observers, as have third placed Barnsley . Ian called them to finish 23rd and 19th respectively, so at least Brentford aren’t alone. Frankly, as we’ve seen over the last two seasons, the Championship is just too open and too hard a decision to make such predictions.

As for the win he didn’t see coming or those goals from the player who just hasn’t replaced Andre Gray, why not take one more look…

Hogan makes it 10 from 10 as Andre Gray isn’t replaced. Or missed

But if Ian Holloway was in contrite form, the Brentford head coach was ebullient. He used his press conference ahead of Wednesday’s game to note: “The supporters at Aston Villa expect them to get straight back to the Premier League but they had a terrible season last year, adding “they have had a big turnaround and I am not sure that confidence is fully back yet. There has been a big change around in players but they have only won one game out of their six so far. Hopefully it is the right time for us to play them

You can’t knock his confidence although, equally, one would hope he hasn’t done the job of giving Roberto Di Matteo’s team talk for him. That said, he did also note that “they played very well against Nottingham Forest yesterday and deserved to win the game.” But I’m with him on this one.

We DID play well on Saturday and are the team to beat. It will be tough, no question, but perhaps with a few fitness related tweaks to the starting XI, Aston Villa will find us as tough a nut to crack as Brighton did.

That said, if anybody does have faith in the team and accepts Mr Holloway’s new found belief in the Bees, club sponsor 888sport have us at a very generous price. Whilst it is said that the bookies are rarely wrong, surely this is too good an offer to pass up?

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The other fall out from the Brighton game was an admission from Harlee Dean that he had been involved in some theatrics . West London’s Premier journalist Tom Moore published an interview with the player in which he is attributed to have said: “It’s modern-day football. I had an incident in the first half with Hemed when I went down. It was embarrassing for me, falling on the floor as a six foot three centre half.

“That is the way the game is played now and I’m disappointed in myself but it’s something that’s got to go out of the game. I don’t know why I did it.

Refreshingly honest from our club captain or somewhat naive? Probably a bit of both although, equally, I find it a tad strange that he would admit this than for no other reason beyond knowing how picky referees are being this season. With Keith Stroud due at Griffin Park this weekend for the Preston game, admitting that you go down easily isn’t, perhaps, the most advisable course of action .

Then again, when Harlee was on his feet at the Amex, nobody could deny that he, along with John Egan, had a rock solid game at the back.

Here’s hoping for more of the same at Villa Park.

Nick Bruzon

Tony Craig day is here as an inevitable pun is released into the wild.

30 Jul

Brentford travel to Millwall this afternoon for Tony Craig’s thoroughly deserved testimonial. Elsewhere Championship rivals Wolves, a club we have focussed on a lot more in recent years, have finally succumbed to the almost inevitable in providing the most expected of bad punnery.

First up, Tony Craig.  His transfer to Millwall in July of last year was a particularly disappointing one. As we’ve noted previously, he was one of these players who gave his all in a Brentford shirt over three seasons in which he was one of our standout players.

Tony bounced back from a dubious red card administered by Keith Stroud during the infamous battle of Bramall Lane in the year of ‘that penalty’. He was a colossus at the heart of the defence during our promotion season in which he scooped the player’s player of the year award.

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Tony – as seen on the club site after helping the Bees to promotion

One particular game from that campaign, home to Oldham Athletic and just into Warbs’ managerial tenure following the departure of Uwe, was notable for one of the most incredible pieces of defending I’ve ever seen, described at the time thus:

On the only occasions Athletic really threatened, Tony Craig was there to mop things up. The highlight of which being a 5 on 1 breakaway in the first half where he stood his ground, kept standing and did sufficient to fend off the Oldham hordes. Lesser players could have been forgiven for lunging in but not Tony. It was my moment of the game – until the goal itself”.

There was no fuss and no showmanship with Tony for Brentford. That’s not to say he wasn’t skillful but he just got on with his game. No more so was the difference in attitude between him and the more outrageous players seen than in the Championship fixture with Wolves at Griffin Park back in November 2014.

That was the one where, you may recall, Bakary Sako was due to play against us in golden boots, encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Tony was the complete opposite. The anti-Sako, if you will. For one terrace wag, whose identity I’ll protect, the sight of even neon teale or electric pink boots on a Brentford player will usually elicit a cry of, “Rubbish. I like Tony Craig. Sensible, no nonsense footwear.”

Tony played the full 90 minutes that day as Wolves and Sako were locked out, leaving TW8 on the wrong end of a 4-0 thrashing. It was part of that #Novemberkings phase (please ‘official’, let’s never use hashtags again) that saw Warbs win manager of the month, Tony feature prominently and the Bees get within a sniff of the table top.

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Bakary Sako’s boots failed to sparkle

Indeed, his absence from the side in the back end of the season coincided with some defensive howlers but, more importantly, a seeming fragility across the defensive area of the team when, perhaps, his experienced head would have been the perfect tonic. Whilst he remained available for selection, Warbs kept faith. with his chosen two.

I can’t knock him for that and the end result was Brentford reaching the Play-Offs. Itself, a phenomenal achievement when viewed independently. However, I do also wonder had Tony stayed in the team, might we actually have gone one better and achieved ‘automatic’?

We’ll never know but what better way to celebrate then by getting along to Millwall this afternoon? Admission is just £10 for adults and, more importantly, Tony is using the proceeds to make a donation to Headley Court, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre which treats injured members of the Armed forces.

The other Bees news is the just announced (Saturday morning) signing of Callum Elder on loan from Leicester City for the season. Filling the gap at left back made by Jake Bidwell’s departure for Loftus Road earlier this month, the move was one which had been very widely anticipated.

Fair play to the rumour mill, it has been spot on this season. Either they’ve upped their game or the Brentford press team have become leakier than the Fulham defence. Regardless, this can only be good news on the playing front and nice to see a change from the normal ‘signing photo’. This time around, we’ve gone for the rarely seen line up of the shirt  / contract combo.

And talking of Wolves earlier ( a link made with all the subtly of Bakary Sako’s boots), it has been announced overnight that the Molineux club have parted company with / sacked manager Kenny Jackett.

This is an inevitable part of modern football life. Moreso in the Championship where managers seem to have the longevity of a cornetto in a greenhouse. Yet, I feel a particular affinity to Wolves.

Despite the initial mocking from a minority of their fans in regards to how big they were compared to ‘little old Brentford’ (somebody should use that one) it’s fair to see we’ve given as good as we’ve got over a wonderful last three seasons.

There was the 2013/14 League One campaign where, despite a record number of points for the Bees and that huge unbeaten run, Wolves stormed to the title with a final total of 103. In any other season our own 94 would have been more than good enough for top spot.

However, the following two campaigns have seen Brentford fare better than Wolves, positionally. 2014/15 saw our two clubs locked on 78 points, with the Bees reaching the play-offs in fifth and Wolves coming so close to edging out Ipswich on that incredible final afternoon. In the end, it was a goal difference gap too far but 7th place still not one to be sniffed at for a newly promoted club.

Last season saw a 7(seven) point gap split the teams with Dean Smith’s team ending it in 9th and Wolves 14th. The moral high ground for Brentford and some consolation for the £250 bet proceeds lost as a result of our being beaten (deservedly so) to that League One title.

So it was sadness that I woke this morning to the news of Kenny Jackett’s departure. Undoubtedly a huge club with big ambitions  – whether new or otherwise – (hello, is that the marketing team?) he has perhaps been an inevitable casualty of failure to make an immediate return to the top flight.

On the other hand, a rare opportunity for lazy headline writers and lazier pun makers. Chin up Kenny, I’m sure you’ll get a chance to go again soon.

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No words required