Tag Archives: Leeds United

Tricky choices for the boss. Brutal words to a special Guest.

21 Jan

Oh my word. Would you believe it?. There were smiles all over Brentford last night after yet another favour going our way at the top of the Championship table. Stoke City hung on to beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0 at the Hawthorns, meaning the gap between ourselves and the top spot is locked in at six points. With the Baggies and Leeds United both to visit Griffin Park still, along with Nottingham Forest in a week’s time, the league continues to prove itself the most exciting in Europe. Elsewhere, some audio has emerged from the Dave Berry Breakfast show on Absolute Radio after a listener, Brian Guest, got in contact regarding Fulham and their clappers at the weekend.

First up, West Bromwich Albion. Oh my, Just when the Championship couldn’t get any more unexpected, it has. And then some. I have to be honest that watching this one on Sky last night, I couldn’t help but feel Stoke City were only moments away from collapsing after their early goal. Surely West Brom would find a way through? Surely? But no. Wave after wave of pressure was repelled as the Potters closed out the game in some style. It all looked so, so controlled by the end of it. The home side unable to penetrate and their record now stretching out to one win in eight league games. See also: Leeds United. 

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As it now stands on the BBC

All of which makes the point earned by Brentford on Saturday seem even more valuable than it did back then. Sure, 0-0 hardly reeks of glamour (on paper) but I’d take it over defeat any day of the week. I’m ecstatic about the way the top two keep on hitting ‘self-destruct’. How that once humungous lead is now becoming thinner by the week.

It all goes to make next week’s visit of Nottingham Forest to Griffin Park all the more crucial. The Tricky Trees sit just behind us. Level on points but some way back on goal difference. However, they have that all important additional opportunity that is provided by having played one game fewer. Whilst I’m a firm believer in the adage that points in the bag are better than games in hand, you can bet they’ll be bang up for what is a real six pointer.

If anything, the short term destiny of The Championship is very much in their hands. Aswell as the game at Brentford, their next five fixtures include a visit from Leeds United and a trip to West Bromwich Albion. On current form, a guaranteed six points. Ahh, if only football really was that simple. The positive news here being that if Brentford keep doing their thing, then something else will go in our favour. One of those three teams has no choice but to drop points. 

I’d go so far to say that, and whisper this in hushed tones, Tuesday is more important than the visit of Leicester City in the FA Cup this weekend. I love the tournament and am desperate to proceed but if the price of keeping our assault on the upper echelons of the table going is to keep our squad fresh and play some of the B-team, then name Jan Zamburek as captain right now. Return Emiliano Marcondes to the line up. Stick Luke Daniels between the posts.

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I’m all for this on Saturday

Who knows what Thomas is thinking about there. Who’d be a head coach? For all we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, and play-off zone consolidation has to be the immediate aim, that narrowing gap to the top makes for the most tempting prize. Like Indiana Jones reaching for the idol, would we unleash all manner of mayhem and chaos if we made a grab for it? For me, it has to be worth the gamble of naming a less familiar starting XI in the cup. 

I’ll still be 100% behind the Bees and screaming support but wouldn’t be anywhere near as disappointed as I was at Arsenal when we saw Dean Smith’s initial line up for that one last season. Then, the campaign was fresh with a wonderful chance to make a name for ourselves. Now, we’re knee deep in the blood of our Championship rivals and looking to take down more. That has to be where the resources are ploughed. Unless, of course, the players are fit enough for another stint of four games in fourteen days (at least, my fingers only go up to ten). Whomever is named, both games represent wonderful opportunities and I can’t wait.

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Alan Judge pulls one back against Arsenal

Elsewhere, I was listening to national station Absolute Radio yesterday morning. Specifically, the Dave Berry breakfast show where our eponymous host, co-host / Nottingham Forest supporter Matt Dyson, and sports anchor Glenn Moore were contacted by a listener. Brian Guest.

On hearing his name my ears pricked up. If memory serves, he may have once had a body of work published in the Fulham match day programme when The Bees came to visit. Getting one (or three) past the editor to reflect on some of their lesser moments whilst under the guise of supporting the home club. Or something like that.

Dave had asked listeners to sum up their weekend, but in just six words. It’s a regular part of the Monday show and it seems Brian is an avid listener. He got in touch to share the update, “Fulham had clappers. Why? Why? Why?”

It was a question which clearly nudged the boundaries of curiosity, and common sense, as the results are below. Enjoy. Unless you support Fulham……

Nick Bruzon  

It’s even tighter at the top as pressure grows.

19 Jan

A 0-0 draw at Huddersfield Town keeps the Brentford streak going. That’s one defeat in eight games as The Bees kept up the pressure on the top two. With Leeds United falling apart (again), their own 1-0 loss at Loftus Road yesterday means the gap from us to second is now down to 5 points from the 12 that it was just a few weeks ago. Hoping for a QPR win wasn’t the most enjoyable way to spend a Saturday lunchtime, and one which could be better translated as more praying for an away disaster, but events transpired in our favour and that’ll do me looking at the table this morning. Whilst Fulham remain fractionally  ahead of us, there was at least the consolation of watching their supporters spend all day crying on social media over the ‘clappers’ video’ from yesterday’s piece. There, there – mummy will kiss it better. Factor in the added bonus of Leicester City being next up in the FA Cup and its all happening in TW8.

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Brentford ‘official’ sum it up on Twitter

First up, Huddersfield Town. It was a performance that Thomas Frank would describe at full time as ‘average’ , saying he wasn’t happy with a point. Good man – high levels of expectation and long may that continue. Personally, 0-0 doesn’t look great on paper but this was a team missing both Pontus Jansson and Mathias Jensen. Both were deemed to be injured although one does then wonder if it leaves them fresh / available for the Leicester game. You know, just to keep the legs ticking over. Thomas would suggest in his interview (below) that it may be a game too soon for the midfielder but we’ll see. 

As for positives, it was another clean sheet to the Championship’s tightest defence. In a game of few chances, Brentford arguably had the majority. Josh Dasilva coming closest as he hit the post late on, albeit we all know that shots at goal count for naff all if you can’t put them away. But, it’s a point on the road. It’s another game unbeaten. It’s even more ground gained on the top two. It’s further psychological pressure applied to a Leeds United side who continue to astound with their ability to hit the meltdown button. 

Thomas tells it how it is.

We’re never going to pick up three points EVERY game. That’s not how football works, generally. Albeit, the memory of Liverpool and Manchester City matching each other win for win last season as the Premier League rolled out to that relentless conclusion  is still fresh in the mind. Liverpool are doing it again this time around whilst everybody else around them has reverted to what is considered the norm in footballing form. At least, for teams competing at the business end. Win most games, draw a few and slip up every now and again. Just look at the defeats for Leicester last weekend (Southampton) or Chelsea yesterday (injury hit Newcastle). So a point for Brentford is something I’ll embrace. Moreso in the bigger picture of how the season end table may play out. The key thing at this juncture is not to be hitting the skids. Not to be ‘doing a Leeds’. Not to have a record akin to West Brom, who are currently experiencing similarly patchy form.

I’m just gad that the emotional investment in proceedings at Loftus Road wasn’t wasted. Nobody wants to hope for an away defeat there, in the normal course of events, although this is anything but a normal season. So things couldn’t have turned out any better than hoped for. At least, from a Brentford / Leeds perspective. Patrick Bamford saw a penalty saved and Kalvin Phillips was shown a straight red late on for a horror challenge that summed up the wretched state of affairs currently being enjoyed / endured (delete as applicable) by the Elland Road outfit. They host Millwall next Tuesday with the Lions looking to go one better than their current position just outside the play-off zone. That promises to be fun. 

At the same time, we’re home to Nottingham Forest with the FA cup sandwiched in between. Excitement levels continue to build in this part of West London as the denouement of Griffin Park life draws to a thrilling conclusion. Fighting a battle on two fronts is going to mean some tough decisions are made on Saturday when that team is announced late in the morning. Go for broke in the cup? Stick with the B team? Or play a mix of both? Either way, I can’t wait for the next chapter of the Brentford story to unfold.

See you there.

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Things are getting tight at the top

Nick Bruzon 

What would Peter do?

18 Jan

It’s very much two sides of the same Championship coin today. On the one, we’ve Brentford where victory at Huddersfield Town will take us to within four points of table toping West Bromwich Albion. On the other, there’s the somewhat distasteful situation at Loftus Road this lunchtime where Leeds United visit. Nobody ever, ever wants the home team to pick up points there yet, somehow, in this instance would it be the worst thing to happen? As for last night, there was the horror show at Neverland where Fulham hosted Middlesbrough. Not so much the narrowest of 1-0 victories for the hosts but the awful, awful reminder of clappers. If Matthew Benham is reading (unlikely, let’s be honest), please can we make sure that along with goal music and giant flags, these remain on the list of things NEVER to bring to Lionel Road. See also: foam fingers, run out music for the warm up, gin bars, neutral stands, light shows, giant statues of ‘suspect’ individuals.

First up, Brentford. There’s not too much to say on this one today. We know that with West Bromwich Albion playing on Monday night, there’s everything to gain should we get the win. Three points, obviously, but also another chance to increase the psychological pressure on the league leaders. Going into the latest round of fixtures, they’ve only managed to win once in their last 7(seven) league fixtures. Leeds United are once out of 6. It’s a figure we keep repeating but it’s one of vital importance and has seen that 12 point lead slashed. With both teams still to visit Griffin Park, that slim chance of automatic remains within our hands if they continue to assist by falling apart, again.

Which is all well and good but counts for naff all if we can’t complete our piece in the Championship equation. To be honest, even having this conversation seems bonkers but the table doesn’t lie. The Christmas period saw the play-off chasing teams start to get a little bit more clear air and now the focus is in knowing that wins allow us to keep looking upwards rather than over the shoulder. Last time out on the road saw the obliteration of Bristol City, 0-4 at Ashton Gate with Ollie Watkins grabbing a brace. His next goal, on Saturday against QPR, saw him draw level at the top of the divisional goalscoring charts with Aleksander Mitrovic. Today could see him stride clear.

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Ollie and the team are on a hot streak

Could. Of course, Huddersfield Town are no slouches. Anything but. We saw in November how they have set up and it wasn’t a great game. Brentford are designed to play free-flowing, attacking football with a rock solid core and defence. It’s fair to say on that afternoon, The Terriers embodied the term ‘industrial’. But, there’s no knocking them. Deep in the relegation they did what they had to and got the points. At the end of the day, Clive, the records books will show that they won. We lost. Knowing that you can be amazing is secondary if you are out played or outmuscled on the afternoon. Which is what happened and I won’t criticise anybody for doing what they need to do to win a game. No matter how desperate a spectacle it was for the home fans. Huddersfield didn’t care and why would they? Boot on the other foot and we’d rightly be celebrating the win. Frankly, if we don’t have the nous to get past that then we have to call it a learning curve and push on from there. Knowing that, at times, we won’t have everything our way.

To be fair, push on is what we’ve done. The quagmire of Millwall aside, it’s been nothing but great times for the last few months. The Bees have climbed the table and reeled in almost all above us. Only Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion and (temporarily) Fulham remain. For all the cracks about the top two falling apart, even they’ll pick up the points this time around. QPR crumbled under the slightest pressure last week – blown over by a puff of wind – whilst West Brom face a Stoke City side that have just offloaded their most overlooked asset, Ryan Woods, to Millwall on loan.

I’d love to have gone in to today in third place but it makes no real difference. We’ll reclaim that spot with a draw or win and, being honest, watching the Fulham game last was one done very much with hands in front of the eyes. Not so much through concern about the result (they were always going to pick up points) but more because of the cringeworthy clappers. They were out in force, again, with Tarquin, Piers and the rest of the gang beating their flappers as though it was the most exciting thing since being invited into the audience of Mrs. Browns Boys. 

My word, does this club have no shame? And people wonder why they are considered a laughing stock. Clappers, foam fingers, bells, drums and flags belong where the sun don’t shine. Not in a football stadium. If you think these generate an atmosphere or are some sort of personality substitute then take a long, hard look.

As for the starters before the main course of Brentford – Huddersfield Town, there’s the small matter of QPR – Leeds United for lunch. I have to look long term here and hope for an away defeat, no matter how awful that may seem. I guess the question here is, ‘What would Peter do’?

It’s one we may have to ask…

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Could jigsaw side Leeds fall apart in the box, again?

Nick Bruzon

Just when things couldn’t get any more intriguing in The Championship….

17 Jan

There’s plenty happening on Friday morning and Brentford haven’t even got close to being involved, yet. Our weekend trip to Huddersfield Town is another opportunity to keep pace with / close the gap further on Leeds United. We’re currently third in the Championship table after humping QPR although know that should Fulham beat injury hit Middlesbrough at The Gin Bar tonight then they will, temporarily, overtake us. Although one point behind, a draw won’t be good enough thanks to their vastly inferior goal difference of +11 compared to a division’s best +23 for The Bees. Elsewhere there’s trouble for the club formerly known as Frank Lampard’s Derby County,  Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. Please. Stop sniggering. There’s nothing funny about being accused of breaching EFL spending rules.

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Good times at Griffin Park last Saturday

First and foremost, Brentford. Not only does our game at Huddersfield Town present the chance to keep up the pressure on Leeds and West Brom  – both of whom are currently falling apart in the box quicker than a dropped jigsaw – but perhaps also there’s a slight element of payback. Anybody present at the Griffin Park Kickathon agaisnt the Terriers back in November can’t help but struggle to remember how awful it was. Our form since that point has been pretty much non-stop, but that encounter (ending in a 0-1 defeat) was horrific and best forgotten. It was described at the time on these pages as “A turgid afternoon in dank conditions” and has long since been consigned to the darker recesses of the memory. The place Where Mrs. Brown and her boys reside. Probably wearing Team GB tracksuits and drinking ‘expresso’. On Star Wars day, May the fourth.

We digress, but that’s how awful it was . Possibly rivalling September’s 0-0 with Stoke City for a text book demonstration of anti-football. That was then, though. We’ve since gone on to dump Stoke out of the FA Cup with our B-team and I have every confidence that the first XI will do similar tomorrow. Or, at least, have a much better chance of showing what they can do on their day.

Last weekend’s blitz of QPR saw us devastate our neighbours in a 15 minute first half flurry of non-stop attacking football. A goal apiece for the much touted WMB was bookended with further chances to extend the lead. Former Chief Executive Mark Devlin, watching on from the Director’s box, could only share the bemusement of his fellow Rangers’ fans as their world fell apart. It was yet another stunning performance from Brentford and I’d bet on more to come tomorrow.

Ironically, Mark will be watching on again. This time in his new guise as interim Chief Executive of Huddersfield Town. I’ve a lot of time for Mark – who was always extremely approachable when at Griffin Park – and whilst wishing him all the best in this role, will perhaps delay those good wishes until Sunday. There’s no room for sentiment when there are points at stake, especially with so much riding on this one.

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Plenty to mull over for the Huddersfield Chief Exec last weekend

Yet my faith in this team is unshakeable at present. My knowledge of their ability and pleasure on watching them breaking at 100mph sky high. Honestly, and this isn’t arrogance, such is the way we are playing I’d back us to pick up the points anywhere at the minute. Thomas Frank can do the job of keeping the player’s feet on the ground and telling them there are no easy games, take each one as it comes et etc. For the fans, optimism is a good, good thing and I’m loving it.

Fulham do have that chance to see us start the day in fourth place, should they get the home win against Middlesbrough this evening. Sadly, they will. Even without Aleksander Mitrovic they’ll have too much in them to come away with anything less than three points. But that’s all by the by as long as we do our thing on Saturday. Especially given as Leeds have a trip to Loftus Road – if ever a game said ‘away banker’ it is that one. On the plus side, with West Brom not in action until Monday evening, there’s further opportunity to close the gap on at least one of the top two, IF we can do our thing. No pressure lads 🙂

But these are good times. Lionel Road season tickets are flying off the shelves with the Twitter hashtag #MyNewHome showing plenty of smiling faces. The latest I saw using that one saw Alex Austin and his family now booked in, meaning the helpful advice and reminders of the rules offered to linesmen will continue long into our new home and, all being well, The Premier League. Magnificent news.

We’re doing all of this on budget and within the rules of the EFL. Something Birmingham City have already fallen fall of and now, it seems, Derby County (can we just take the “Wayne Rooney’s” as a given?) are facing trouble. The charges brought by the authorities relate to losses in the three years up to June 2018. With rules allowing clubs to lose up to £39m over a three year period (still, wow),  the controversial deal to sell Pride Park to owner Mel Morris for £80m continues to attract scrutiny. As the BBC reports, “The Rams have leased back the ground, which was said to have been independently valued at £80m despite it being on the club’s books as an asset worth £41m, from a company owned by Morris.” Hmm, sounds legit.      

 This one is sure to rumble. I’m just glad our own set up is one which is so tightly controlled. Sure, it always hurts short term when we see our heroes sold (emotionally, more than on the pitch) but I know whose shoes I’d rather be in. Sustainable, improving, getting stronger by the season and with a new home imminent. Or the club now having to answer some very awkward questions.

There’s not much more to say here. I’m sure The Rams will argue they’ve done nothing wrong. Mind you, so did QPR when they got fined. And that didn’t work out too well for them.

Instead, all the focus for us should be on events in Huddersfield. Perhaps with half an eye on Loftus Road and The Cottage…

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Saturday’s goalscoring heroes – accelerated like a Porsche off the starting line

Nick Bruzon

Thomas’ #trophyfriends reach FA Cup fourth round (feat. ball details)

5 Jan

Well that ended up being a lot of fun. Brentford are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. A 1-0 victory over Stoke City sufficient to ensure the side, made up largely of B-team players, go into the hat for the draw on Monday night. The Bees will be number 26 when the ties are picked on Monday night at the Emirates, ahead of the Arsenal – Leeds United match. That’s to come. For now, a chance to reflect on a much anticipated team selection and how well they did. With the added bonus of Keith Stroud in the middle, this one really could have gone any way. Ultimately though, it went ours.

Brentford Stoke FA Cup third round

Could this have been our last Griffin Park Cup tie?

Ethan Pinnock was the only current first-team starter to begin this one, albeit Joel Valencia, Emiliano Marcondes, Jan Zamburek and a long awaited debut for Halil Dervişoğlu were among the more familiar names. Plus, of course, captain for the day Luke Daniels in goal. Prior to the game, the news of his own contract extension had announced with Thomas Frank ebullient in his praise. He talked in length, nothing how amongst other things that “One of the reasons that David (Raya) has had such a good season is the way that Luke both tests him and helps him in training and on match days”. You can read that one in full on ‘official’.

As for the game itself, whilst the second half was free-flowing and exciting stuff, the first period was one played out in a subdued atmosphere and which, perhaps, could be described as ‘slow’. There was little real action as players adjusted to the system and to each other. The goal coming just before half time with Marcondes finding the top corner from a free kick out near the Braemar Road touchline. It really was a delightful finish from a cross delivered so precisely that when nobody got there, the back of the net was the only possible destination.

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Dare we say it….. #trophyfriends

It was due reward for a player whose Griffin Park career has not had the 100 mph start so anticipated by many, given the wave of potential he arrived on. Injury and loan have denied us the chance to see him in regular action whilst the social media criticism directed his way can only have added to the expectation levels. Yet he played quite superbly in a box to box role, starting deep but breaking forward time and again. Certainly, a wonderful addition to the bench and beyond there, who knows? As we enter the second half of the season and a promotion push, how nice for Thomas to have additional options ! 

And with that, subtle as a brick, enter stage left… Halil Dervişoğlu . Finally, we got our first look at the Turkish U-21. This most protracted of moves, with deal having been agreed months ago, finally came to fruition. First impressions were more than positive. Nice touches and good movement. He didn’t get the goal , this time, but more than looks as though he’s in the Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay camp rather than being the next Nick Proschwitz or Betinho. You can absolutely expect him to be on the bench come the visit of QPR on Saturday. Or rather, as Peter Gilham reminded us, “The team from Shepherds Bush. 

This was a good day, make no mistake. We’re in the hat for the fourth round. Ethan Pinnock impressed, yet again, whilst the B-team has proven just what it is there for. It is something we have already seen with Jan Zamburek making first team appearances form the bench and another run out for Mads Roerslev after he stood in for Henrik at Bristol City. The players looked more and more comfortable as the game progressed with Dru Yearwood almost doubling the lead following a fine run through the heart of the Stoke City defence. A move which began with former Bee Ryan Woods in control but then, somehow, tackling Mr. Stroud before losing both the ball and his own momentum.

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Thanks, Keith (not a typo)

All of which means we’re going to have to watch the Arsenal – Leeds United match on Monday evening. Or, at least, the build up to it. Coverage starts at 7.11pm on the @EmiratesFACup Twitter channel (although presumably The One Show will also have it. Urghh….) with the draw itself due to begin at around 7.35pm. However you follow it and wherever you find it, be sure that this one is going to be exciting. At least, until we get drawn away to Carlisle or Cardiff. Until then, we can dream of a home tie with 32 (Birmingham City), 3 (Fulham) or 18 (Manchester City). I reckon they might bring Gary Blissett out for that one ! 

The full numbers and teams are available on the FA website – enjoy. 

Bliss Manchester City

Get dreaming tonight

Nick Bruzon

New decade. Same brilliance.

2 Jan

What a start to the New Year. A 4-0 win for Brentford at Bristol City about as comprehensive as they come. Robins’ manager Lee Johnson self-combusting in a full time Scrappy Doo impersonation that saw him red carded at full time for an altercation with Thomas Frank.  With Leeds United being held at West Bromwich Albion, the gap to the top two is back down to single figures. The Bees sit third in The Championship after Fulham lost at home. Millwall, Forest and The Cottagers making up the play-off places. Ollie Watkins back up to one goal behind Aleksander Mitrovic at the top of the divisional goal scoring charts after his brace rounded things off following early goals from Bryan Mbeumo and Saïd Benrahma.

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The full time score at Ashton Gate, c/o Quest TV this morning..

We’ve all see this one, presumably? Either as part of the thousand plus who travelled to Ashton Gate or via the red button on Sky. Yet some performances need to be chewed over once more, such was the manner of victory. David Raya set up the first goal with just 6 minutes gone. His enormo-clearance one that might have been selected at Millwall on Sunday. This time he called it right with a ball that must have carried close to three-quarters of the pitch before Ollie picked it off and danced through the visitors defence. They tried but couldn’t stop him and it slipped through for Mbeumo to dink home his tenth of the season.

1-0 and game on. 1-0 and man off. Ashley Williams was shown red just minutes after he and Ollie had both been booked for a coming together. A scything challenge on Watkins resulted in his ejection and with it, the home team’s chance. It was 0-2 moments later. Less than half an hour gone and Benrahma got the goal he’s been looking for in recent weeks. Daniel Bentley could only pat down a Jensen shot and, despite upending Ollie when clean though, was unable to stop Saïd from doing his thing. It all looked ridiculously easy. The decision to trade him in for David Raya being proven more and more an incredible piece of business with each passing game.

A tactical readjustment for the hosts saw them working their way back in to the game. Relatively speaking. They didn’t concede anything further up to half time and even looked vaguely threatening. Yet there was no way through, with one kamikaze backpass in the second period giving even more opportunity for Ollie to join the scorers. His goals eventually coming in the final ten minutes. The first, guiding home a tracer bullet of a cross from Jan Zamburek down the left. His second, capitalising on a Mads Roerslev  (in for Dalsgaard) assist from the other flank.  Bentley only able to parry his header and there was to be no mistake as the ball fell nicely. 4-0 and all done. Barring the full time whistle and Johnson’s punishment. 

It really was a stunning, stunning performance. Thomas Frank’s BMW front three once more driving us forward with speed, skill and flair. It’s hard to believe the Mbeumo is only 20. Amazing to see the advances to Ollie’s game. Saïd on song just speaks for himself. All three once more dividing the goals between them. Benrahama back to his sizzling best. One second half flick over his own head had to be seen to be believed. Filthy, audacious, taking the p. All three rolled up into one and served up with a side salad of confidence and self-belief. Truly, he is a talent to behold.

With that accursed transfer window now open for a month, hanging on to B, M and W will be huge. If we can do it. Yet with spirits high and the team storming the table, why would anybody jump ship now? Yes, I know money talks and this is the naivety of being a fan but the chance to see what this team could do in the second half of the season is an intriguing one.

The defence is tight (we are now clear in the fewest ‘goals against’ chart), the midfield dominant and the attacking trio electric. Leeds United continue to wobble. Their 1-1 with West Brom meaning its only been one win out of the last five for them. Even that needed a 95th minute own goal by Birmingham City to hand them the points after having shipped four themselves.I still think that top two would be Boys Own stuff, relying on a staggering run of favours, but as long as we keep on doing our thing then anything else is a bonus. The gap in the-play off zone is starting to grow with clear air now between us and seventh placed Sheffield Wednesday. Four points the difference and our staggering goal difference of +21 bettered only by West Bromwich Albion.

It is easy to get excited, no question, but why not? Why shouldn’t we enjoy the moment? This team and this performance has been building . The goals have been flying in for months. The team slowly climbing up the table. Sneaking under the radar, if you will, to emerge into 2020 with plaudits from all. We’ve got the FA Cup against Stoke City next and then a return to Griffin Park in the league where QPR visit for our next Championship fixture. With the Lionel Road season tickets also going on sale to us non-premiums, it promises to be an exciting week or two.

Then again, when isn’t it?

Nick Bruzon

Sometimes it’s just important to set the scene.

1 Jan

Bristol City host Brentford today. At the very top of the table Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion meet later in the day. Good luck. Good luck everybody. Personally, this is all going to be hard work. 

I woke up, took one look at the detritus from the night before and knew immediately that things were not good. Empty bottles. Lots of empty bottles. Dirty plates. Mess. Wine glasses all over the kitchen counter. Ferrero Rocher wrappers littering the living room floor like the remnants of an ambassador’s reception gone rogue. Fuzzy memories of Craig David doing his thing on the TV. Thankfully, none of Jools Holland and his smug piano show. 

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Then, with the espresso kicking in I stumbled across it. The left over fondue pot containing the congealed remains of a kilogram of Swiss cheese. The pungent smell carried to the back of the throat on a wave of grease. The plan of reducing the pain felt today by last night lining the stomach with an early evening, pre-drinks blanket of bread and melted gruyere suddenly backfiring with abandon. Should have stuck to the original plan of pizza rather than trying to be clever.

Let’s leave that thought there. All being well, nothing some fresh air won’t sort out. Hopefully. Instead 2020 begins with an immediate chance to put Sunday’s anti-football at Millwall out with the empties. A stodgy game played (if that is the word) on an over watered ploughed-field of a surface. One can’t dispute that The Lions had a specific game plan, which worked, but it was very much one for the insomniacs. Too many Brentford players looked off the pace and unable to adjust to the visitors pressing game. I’m pretty sure today will be different.

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Millwall away – awful

That’s not to suggest Bristol City will be easy. Anything but. They’ve been in the play-off race for the vast majority of the season and are only one point outside of it at present. A run of four straight defeats has now ended with Sunday’s home win over bottom three Luton Town. You can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be expecting more of the same. Then again, so will Brentford. If ever motivation was needed it will be the chance to consolidate our own top six placing. Likewise, the opportunity to bury the memory of Sunday. For the talismanic Benrahma to get back on his top game – something so desperately missing at The Den. He wasn’t alone, either, but knowing just how good he can be, an off-key Saïd stands out more than anybody. That’s the price to be paid for such incredible talent, I suppose.

I’d love to pour forth with erudite learnings and big match previews at this juncture but it’s not really working. Not today. The thought that forcing myself to the keyboard after the treat of a rare lie in would help sort things out proving to be nothing more than wishful thinking. Instead, there’s another waft of scorched emmenthal drifting across the kitchen and it’s not good. Mrs. Bruzon and Harry are both asleep still. I can only envy them. No doubt each dreaming about Ollie Watkins and  Sergi Canos. Albeit I’d imagine different content in their respective minds’ eyes. Instead, a riverside walk beckons before the football. Possibly.   

Sometimes it’s just important to set the scene. Now, how about a Bloody Mary to settle the stomach…

Nick Bruzon

One day to go. What have we missed? Your vote needed.

31 Dec

2019 is drawing to a close. Brentford end the decade sitting fourth in the Championship table following what have been the most consistently exciting ten years in our history. The current edition of FourFourTwo magazine has us ranked first out of the twenty-five greatest EFL clubs from 2010-2019. It would be fair to say that things are going very, very well – a most un-Brentford like scenario.  It was a subject we looked at in the article submitted for the Swansea City programme on Boxing Day. From Fulham to Preston ; Leeds to Birmingham City. What are the top ten highlights of the decade we are about say goodbye to? 

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Not my words – well, the content was but FFT did the maths first

The programme piece is reproduced, and enlarged upon, below. However, the real reason for running this is as much to see what was missed out. What was your moment of the decade that should have been included? Whether awesome or awful – we celebrated both.  Personally, and even though a sneaky 11 was included, the absence of last season’s Neal Maupay goal celebration at Leeds United (and at home to Leeds United)  has had me kicking myself all the way to the printers. How did it miss out?

Neal Maupay Leeds

Come on Leeds. It WAS a penalty

 So without further ado, and to whet your appetite, these were mine. But are they right?

10 Josh McEachran’s photoshoot. A bizarre series of pictures that appeared in, at least, The Telegraph and The Mail. If the pictures were odd, and they were, it is something best remembered for the description on Twitter of his looking “Like the chief whistleblower in an expose on bullying in the world of junior golf”.

9 Marcelo Trotta takes a penalty. Not ‘that’ one. Come on, we’re better than going there. I’m sure somebody has already done that anyway. Instead, the game with Gillingham in January 2014. The one he scored having made a shock/ballsy return to the club after something happened late on in a game v Doncaster the previous season. I forget exactly what.

Trotta pen v Gills

Get in!!! What Doncaster thing?

8 Chesney. It’s hard to imagine the conversation that lead to us starting the decade with none other than Wojciech Szczęsny between the sticks. Yet that’s what happened when the Polish international and Arsenal’s number 53 cut his league teeth at Griffin Park. He was immense. It was bonkers yet, if anything, it was a sign of things to come.

7 Jota. Proof that despite the sneers from outside TW8, Matthew Benham’s computer model works. And how. A luxuriantly coiffered hero, his picture still adorns the gates to Griffin Park. The last minute goals. The skill. The heartbreaking love letter to the fans when he returned to Spain (we’ll forget the second one when he left for Birmingham). The emotional second coming which saw him possibly better than ever before. My favourite player of the decade. 

6 The Marinus experiment. Proof that even Matthew’s computer gets it wrong sometimes. Have you turned him on and off again? Have you tried banging it? Ok, then the model must be broken. He lasted 9 league games, got humped by Oxford in the league cup and ditched Jonathan Douglas. Hardly the way to endear yourself to the fans, for whom Dougie was a hero to many. Yet in his short time at Griffin Park he did inspire the unicorn that launched a thousand photoshops.

Marinus unicorn

Any excuse to crowbar this one in.

5 Stuart Dallas . Specifically, scoring THAT goal at Fulham in the 4-1 win back in April 2015. The lay off from Andre Gray was beautiful but then Stuart ran on to the ball and did his thing. Oh. My. Word. One touch followed by an absolute thunder bolt of a shot from thirty yards out on the diagonal. The ball accelerating all the way into the top corner in front of the Bees’ fans. The single best hit Brentford goal of the decade, if not ever.

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THE moment

4 Snowball-gate. January 2013 and a League one match between Brentford and Tranmere. The fans had earlier helped clear the pitch to ensure the game could go ahead but what to then do at half-time with all the snow that had been accumulated at the back of the Ealing Road stand?  Snowballs. Lots of snowballs. When goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams emerged for the second period he was greeted with such a barrage that the referee was forced to delay the game.

3 Ten Times Better. October 2017 and Harlee Dean panicked in front of a tv camera, telling us about his new Birmingham City team that “We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. and this squad is ten times better than that.”

The response? Our 2-0 win at St. Andrews a month later was followed by the incredible 5-0 hammering in the return fixture. “Cheer up Harlee Dean” sang the supporters. In the ultimate trolling, even the club joined in and upgraded our usual ‘win music’ from Kool And The Gang to The Monkees.

He started it

2 Victory at Leyton Orient in March 2014. The most stressful, incredible, backs to the wall performance as the 10 man Bees hung on for a 1-0 win against the combined forces of Russell Slade’s Os and referee Robert Madley. It was a MASSIVE win in a promotion 6-pointer that saw the bitter boss complaining that we’d celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup at full time. He’s right. We did. And then some.  

Cliff and Russell 2

Who did what like we’d won what now?

1 Alan Judge’s penalty v Preston in April 2014. Brentford securing promotion with a penalty? Who’d have thought it but the combination of his goal, and other results, helped the Bees to a 1-0 win and reaching the Championship. This, despite a lot of 11th hour squeaky bum time at Wolves when Rotherham started scoring. The pitch invasion and post match street party that followed were the stuff of legend with promotion to the Championship confirmed. Kevin O’Connor was at the bar in The Griffin. The players in the street, celebrating with the fans. Cliff Crown was waving Russell Slade FA Cups around. Only at Griffin Park could this happen. Thank you. Everyone.

 

Some people are on the pitch - Juge's penalty v Preston saw a wonderful denouement

Some people are on the pitch.. etc etc

And given a football team has 11 players, why not add one more for luck. The hour that is Brentford ‘Official’ trying to get down wiv da kidz on social media: #trophyfriends #bignewambitions #novemberkings . Please, let’s never talk of this again.

Instead its over to you. if you can’t be bothered, have a Happy New Year and here’s to Bristol City on ,erm, Thursday?  

Nick Bruzon

Chin up. It could be a lot, lot worse.

30 Dec

Brentford left Millwall on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat on Sunday, following a game that could politely be described as ‘turgid’ . The only goal coming early on after a defensive mishap that culminated in the ball reaching Aiden O’Brien rather than being hoofed clear by David Raya when the initial pressure was minimal. O’Brien made no mistake from outside the box with the net gaping. Eight minutes gone, a goal down (another already disallowed) and that was it for the highlights. Not much else happened. But with Leeds United shipping four to Birmingham City as they finally picked up a win, and West Bromwich Albion going down at home to Middlesbrough, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Besides, we could be Arsenal. Please. Stop sniggering.

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A rare venture in to the Millwall half

First up, well played Millwall. They did an absolute job on us. Brentford were allowed all the ball we wanted in our third of the field but the second we tried to break clear we were closed down. The Lions running at pace to strangle any attempt at playing the ball. Our usual free flowing football snuffed out and no answer available. It was no form of spectacle but goals win games and if the price of that was anti-football then well down to our hosts. They absolutely came out on top there. 

A chance for Mbeumo on half-time and a bobbled shot from the unmarked Jan Zamburek late on were about as good as it got for Brentford. We were out muscled with the three bookings for the home side feeling somewhat on the generous side. Referee Robert Jones surprising us on more than one occasion by keeping his cards in his pocket. Who knows what goes on in the minds of the officials but, being honest, Brentford could have been playing against nine men and I don’t think we’d have scored. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

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‘No foul, ref!’ Seems fair

So. Not great but let’s not lose heart. This was one game and we know what this team can do. Even West Brom lost (at home) whilst Leeds United needed an own goal deep, deep into injury time to pick up the points at Birmingham City. The 4-5 scoreline there meaning that we are now level with them on goals against. No team in the Championship has conceded fewer (happy?) than our, and their, 20 in 25 games. Interestingly, Leeds have let in half that total in the last four games alone. Kudos to our defence for being so consistent, despite what happened yesterday. Concern for theirs as it seems to be hitting some sort of self-destruct mode.

Technically, we’ve made ground on the currently second placed team. West Bromwich Albion lost top spot after losing 0-2 against rapidly improving Middlesbrough. For The Bees, it means we’ve clawed one back in the potentially crucial goal difference stakes.  

Clutching at straws? Perhaps. But the big, big thing for me is that we end 2019 sitting fourth in the Championship table. Fourth. That’s a stunning achievement and leaves The Bees magnificently set as we enter the second half of the campaign. It was only a few months ago that a significant element of the fanbase were calling for the head of Thomas Frank. How ridiculous does that seem now? How ridiculous was it then? Now look at us. Look at him. It’s a wonderful time to be a Brentford supporter and has been for years (the Marinus experiment aside).

Nobody has a divine right to be ‘any good’. Past form counts for naff all if you can’t cut it on the pitch at present. Look at how Birmingham City continue to under achieve despite all their investment and all their noise over recent years. Look at the Premier league where the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United are patchy, at best. Despite now being on their third manager since the departure of Arsene Wenger in May 2018, the Gunners’ woes continue. They are now closer to the Premier League relegation spots than the Europa League places. Pretensions of grandeur built on a rose tinted idyll of marble halls and Invincibles still reigning supreme over the reality that is a bang average team, with one good player, having taken residence in a library.

arsenal

Arsenal in a nutshell – an oldie but a goodie

Brentford are the other way. We know our limits. We know our history. We know how awful things have been for so, so long. Being honest, yesterday’s game could have been copy-pasted straight out of the Terry Butcher era. No attacking threat and a sloppy goal against. The difference being that those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth can recognise how amazing things are now. Have been for the last ten years. 

I can understand our younger element expecting nothing but WWWW and that’s fair enough. They’ve only ever known good times. Yet for me, it is a case of every win and every step up the table being another crazy reminder as to how far we have come.

So yes, let’s not pretend that yesterday wasn’t disappointing. It was. But as much because I went into it genuinely thinking that we’d win. That’s nothing to do with Millwall but simply the self-belief and confidence that surrounds Griffin Park at present. Every game is another opportunity to continue this amazing journey that, one hopes, will end with us playing (or overtaking) the likes of Arsenal next season.

Having slept on it, perhaps this was a reminder that some of us needed. Myself included. Confidence is a great thing but this is one of the toughest leagues in world football. Anyone can beat anyone. Look at Middlesbrough. Look at Millwall. Look at Preston (who went down at home to Reading). We have a wonderful team who can take on the best on our day. 

Sadly, yesterday wasn’t it.

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Screenshot 2019-12-30 at 08.34.51

Nick Bruzon

So close to another mulled win on a day of celebration.

22 Dec

The morning after the night before. Head foggy. Eyes sore. Mouth tasting like Fullers has curled up, fallen asleep in there and then passed away at about 3am. Espresso now on rewind. Yesterday was fun. A lot of fun. We had a kids / grown ups party at ours, meaning a trip to The Hawthorns was out of the running. Yet the seasonal celebrations continued long after the final guests had left with the knowledge that Brentford will be in the play-off zone at Christmas. This, following a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion where, if we’re being honest, perhaps some are feeling miffed about not taking all three points from the league leaders. Certainly, going by the reports of one way traffic and chances created in the first half. There was a further present as second placed Leeds United dropped more points – albeit at the Cottage as they lost 2-1 to Fulham. Despite their losing a 3-0 lead at home to Cardiff last time out, surely not even the Elland Road outfit can throw away what is now a ten point lead from their second place to third. Surely? It’s not as though they have any form of reputation for falling apart or stuff like that.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 08.16.29

Loved this from ‘official’

Still, the tribulations of Leeds United and Fulham (recording a first win since I don’t know when – it wasn’t last weekend, that’s for sure) a mere dollop of cream on top of the Festive treat served up at West Brom. With my usual group displaced by holiday prep, the aforementioned party, transatlantic travel and shopping it was a case of communication via Whatsapp. The screen shot showing that Brentford were dominating our hosts with 57% possession, 7(seven) shots with 2 on target – compared to nil from The Baggies – was followed with the not unusual comment that “We all know what happens next” becasue, of course, stats don’t win matches. Goals do.

Sure enough, thirty seconds later it did. But not as expected….

A scream from the front room was followed by Harry running through to the kitchen where the dads were hiding out by the vat of mulled wine, talking sh..op and steering clear of the mayhem. He was closely followed by his friends Felix and Darius who stand on the Ealing Road with their dad JJ (he of the goal inducing pea-sized bladder with which regular readers may be familiar – not literally). It was less a run and more a charge. Guests scattering and voices raised. “Daaaad. Daaaaad. We’ve scored!! We’re beating West Bromwich Albion.” Oh. Wow. Sure enough we had. Just before half-time and confirmation followed from Felix that it was the World Cup’s Denmark international Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford who got the all important strike. Oh my. Get in !! Another mulled wine? Don’t mind if I do.

This was weird. Really weird. And if for no more reason than JJ had been with us when the goal went in rather than taking a comfort break.

Sadly though, the request for Harry to retrieve the deeds to the house and lump them on the Bees going up was retracted as quickly as it had been issued. Despite a penalty being denied us in between (“a clear, clear handball”, per Thomas Frank), Dalsgaard’s 43rd minute flick on from a corner was followed up by an almost identikit goal from the hosts. Fellow full back Darnell Furlong levelling things up deep into first half stoppage time. Oh well. Parity restored. A kick to the psychological nuts but a scoreline we’d all have taken prior to kick off, I’m sure. The important thing now was to not ‘do a Leeds United’ and, erm, fall apart. Keep that concentration going. Keep on pushing in what was sounding and reading like one way traffic (something the subsequent video highlights bear out altough our little group didn’t know this at the time).

The kids were sent back to the front room to ignore the rest of their guests and watch Jeff Stelling on mute, then keep us appraised of any second-half goal update. Nooooo. 2-1 Brom. Disaster. Charlie Austin.

Yessssssss 1-1. The lino had his flag up. Offside. “It was definitely offside, dad”, confirmed Harry. Not quite sure how he knew but his word was good enough for me. It was, on later review, the correct call and was the last action of any meaning in the afternoon. The game finishing 1-1 and the gap to Leeds in second being cut by another point. The Bees in the play-off zone and set for the visit of Swansea City on Boxing Day. Relentless West Bromwich Albion striding clear at the summit.

I’d love to have been there. The visiting contingent looked huge. The Hawthorns a magnificent stadium. Instead, yesterday’s ‘live action’ was confined to standing in a deluge and watching Harry at his Spartans FC training. Any excuse for a shot of that blue shirt in action.

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Watching one ‘Bee’ in the rain

Instead, it’ll be a case of the trip to Millwall next Sunday for that next ‘away’ hit. But that’s one for the future. For now it’s a case of enjoying the moment. Of seeing how far we have come . We’ve only been in the Championship play off-zone at Christmas once before – the season Mark Warburton had the reins, dear (reader). Back then we hung on and scraped into the top six on that incredible final day after Derby did a Leeds at home to Reading. It was a position we’d got into of our own making through an over reliance on out of form Harlee Dean (Tony Craig being confined to the bench a tactical decision I still cannot align myself with) . 

Yet Thomas Frank shows none of that ‘loyalty to favourites’. Form is recognised and Ethan Pinnock has retained his place on merit following Julian Jeanvier’s suspension. It was a decision that has now been rewarded. The absence of Pontus Jansson with a ‘minor injury’ one which might have caused trepidation prior to kick off. Yet any worries proved futile and now I’d be intrigued to see who the choice centre-back pairing will be when Swansea visit on Thursday. What a lovely problem to have !

Perhaps if anyone can sum things up it is none other than Romaine Sawyers. How nice to read his words on Twitter at full time, where he opined: “Everyone knows I’ll always hold @BrentfordFC in high regard! You guys should be proud of the team this season and keep pushing them on to the finish line! Thank you for the reception at the end of the game appreciate it!! So glad to see all my brothers today and you fans”

Thank you Romaine. Here’s to playing you next season. In the top flight….

 

Nick Bruzon