Tag Archives: Lewis Macleod

Bees get the point as Changchun Yatai get that Vibe. What next as Sunderland await?

11 Feb

Brentford 1 Preston North End 1. After that mini run of double defeats, here was a chance to get back to winning ways before the double header against two teams up to their hips and necks in the relegation quagmire – Birmingham City and Sunderland. Yet on a day which saw the long anticipated transfer of Lasse Vibe to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai for a fee rumoured to be £2m and a much changed Bees team lining up against promotion chasing Preston, in retrospect was it as disappointing as it felt at full time?

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Any votes for ‘China in your hand’ on #BeeTheDJ ? Farewell, Lasse

No. In a word. As a fan, I’m always desperate to win no matter whom we are up against and whichever players are staring. Yet a first XI which, had it been picked during the transfer window would have had supporters screaming ‘conspiracy theory‘, more than held their own and arguably had enough chances and possession to have wrapped this one up. There was no Sergi Canos – suspended. Ryan Woods had to be content with wandering up and down the Braemar Road paddock, chatting to supporters and confirming he should be fit for the Sunderland game. Yoann Barbet was dropped to the bench whilst wunderkind Chris Mepham was awol.

Yet this was still a strong team with Josh McEachran having a very positive start before returning to the frustrating enigma that his performances so often are. When he’s on form he really is a talent and his forward passing is a joy to behold. Equally, there’s more sideways and backwards passing than down the road at Twickenham. Watching the England-Wales rugby after this one, I was half expecting our number 10 to put in an appearance. No irony lost, given one challenge he put in on Callum Robinson. Move along, nothing to see here. It’s a tough call for Dean how he crams that central midfield, who makes way and how he can get the very best from his available resources. Certainly, the arrivals of Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were very welcome.

It was a game played out in front of a sparse crowd under drizzle soaked skies. It was a game that saw Brentford give away a goal out of nowhere. Tom Barkhuizen putting Preston ahead before Florian Jozefzoon levelled things up just eight minutes later with a goal described by Sky Sports (and you can get edited the highlights here) as a superb strike. I say this given I missed it, in circumstances described in the trade as ‘doing a JJ’. Still, anything for the cause. From then on, it was one-way traffic and I can’t wait to hear how the ever wonderful Mark Burridge described all this when the full fat package is available later *.

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View from the Braemar: Andreas Bjelland v Preston – a Dane in the rain

With Greg Cunningham’s second yellow seeing the visitors reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes remaining, it was backs to the wall stuff. Ollie Watkins blazed just wide whilst Alan Judge came oh so close with a curling free kick in the dying seconds. Emiliano Marcondes added further threat from the bench and it is no surprise Dean came out with post-match comments that included his observation that, “We should have got three points today as our performance was good”.

Second half, it was good. Very. Although, equally, we can count our blessings The Bees didn’t go behind in the opening period. Tommy Spurr adjudged to have been marginally offside as he headed home for 1-0. But no. Instead it was that sweetest of football feelings – opposition cheers being snuffed out by the wave of a linesman’s flag. 0-0 it stayed, until Barkhuizen did the needful.

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It’s an early shower for you, number 3. Cunningham walks.

As for Brentford, up front remains a tough one for Dean. Neal Maupay had one, clear chance when put through one on one with Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd. The man in black (Rudd, not the ref – if Kitman Bob is reading, what ARE the rules on that?) quick off his line to smoother the striker’s shot from eight yards. Other than that though, there were slim pickings in what you’d deem a typical striker’s chance. One thing’s for sure, with Justin Shaibu on loan and Lasse sold without being replaced, Neal is in for the long haul. That’s no bad thing either. We saw early on in the season what an impact he had off the bench. Here’s hoping that given a prolonged run of starts he’ll push on and find the back of the net on a regular basis.

My other thought is in regards to Dean Smith’s post-match observations. Both in this one and the previous two games. The 3-0 Loss v Derby saw him note that, “We had the better chances… the score-line wasn’t a reflection of what I thought was two-evenly matched teams”.

The game prior, our 1-0 Loss at home to Norwich, saw him opine how: I feel that the better team got beaten” going on to add later that, “I think Norwich will feel fortunate that they have gone away with all three points”.

Yesterday, it was that we should have won. Personally, my take on it is that we could have won. What a difference a letter or two makes. At least Dean recognises the chances we are creating but as has been said a gazillion times on these pages, they count for nothing if you can’t put them away.

As has also been said, who’d be a manager? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Overall, He and his team are doing just about most things right. Certainly, there are no huge complaints from where I am sitting. Quite the opposite. We’re pushing it against the best in a phenomally tough division and more than holding our own.

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with not winning a game. We all want to. Myself included. I remember league two days. No money etc. etc. etc. I saw a reference on Twitter the other day to the Eddie May/ Micky Adams relegation season. Grim stuff. We’re more spoilt now than we’ve ever been. Moreso with the new stadium plans really gathering pace. But the football fan is never happy. We always want more. We live in hope of what might be. We all have a dream. We always want better.

I understand Dean’s passion and desire but I also know what I see when I’m watching the same game he is. Too much of the ‘we deserved to win/ should have won’ starts to lose impact after a while.

Hey, it’s a small gripe. At least he’s got faith in his team and is constantly reinforcing that positive message. If it’s the worst thing Dean does then we’re in good hands. He has tough decisions ahead, that’s for sure, and I don’t envy him picking the team to start against Sunderland. Likewise, his substitutions, whenever they happen….

But these are nice decisions to have to make. There is competition for the starting berth in just about every position. Yoann Barbet, in particular, must count himself very unlucky to have missed out this time around (albeit I love seeing Josh Clarke out there). No doubt he’ll be amongst those hammering down Dean’s door this week. Metaphorically speaking.

I’ve no clue who Dean will start on Saturday at Sunderland. Could this be Alan Judge’s time? I can’t wait to find out though. Given their own late comeback from 3-0 down to earn a point at Bristol City on Saturday, it’s not going to be as easy as the table suggests. That’s for sure.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a black cat backed into a corner and desperately fighting for survival. Bring it on.

As for Lasse Vibe, there’s not much more that can really be said. We all knew his contract was up. We all know what he has done for us over the last few years. How open and friendly he is. How enthusiastic and dedicated to the cause whilst at Griffin Park. Talking to supporters yesterday and reading through social media, I can’t see anybody wishing him everything but the best.

I can’t think of any other club or any other player where losing your main goal threat has been treated with nothing but universal good vibes. Yet that’s Lasse.

THANK YOU. Here’s to the World Cup..

* until then, here’s the post lunchtime update with the ‘official highlights’. Great job on the comms, too…

 

Nick Bruzon

 

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How times change. What a way to end the year.

30 Dec

How times change. The last time Brentford played Sheffield Wednesday (September’s game at Hillsborough) we came back on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat and ended the night sitting in the bottom 3 of the Championship table. Our hosts meanwhile, using the victory to climb into the play off zone. The Bees had acquired a mere 3 points from the opening 7(seven) games as we struggled to adjust to that triple sale of Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin to Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City. It was a period that even saw the statistical horror of Dean Smith having picked up less points than Marinus Dijkhuizen (8) at the same stage of the 2015/16 season. Things weren’t pretty. Moreso given our subsequent game with Reading which saw an early lead squandered in a tame draw that kept the Bees in the basement – only Bolton and Birmingham below them.

That was then. This is now. Suddenly, things clicked. Dean got his boys firing and the Championship is a much brighter looking place. A win today against the now managerless Owls could see us move to within 4 points of the play-off zone. Confidence is high following a run of just 2 defeats in our last 17 league games. Moreso, coming off the back of successive wins at Norwich (Oh, Romaine Sawyers. I’m still dreaming of THAT pass) and the Boxing Day knockout of Aston Villa.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Will who, now? Sergi was on fire against Villa, despite the torrential rain

That one in particular, as satisfying for the way we outplayed our opponents as much as the sour grapes (before and after) from manager Steve Bruce aswell as the self-entitlement from an element of the Villa fans.

Yes. You used to be good. You did win something, once. But that was then and this is now. Brentford are the progressive club, adapting to their circumstances. The likes of Villa, Birmingham and, to a lesser extent today’s visitors, amongst those who have experienced the good times and now finding things much tougher to adjust to when the boot is on the other foot.

We went into the Christmas period off the back of that awful draw with Barnsley. The 0-0 at Griffin Park was not a good game in any respect. That said, it WAS another point. The table doesn’t lie (whatever you may hear from much wiser people than yours truly) and we are where we are for a reason. Despite some wonderful play when we are on fire, failure to punish slack opposition or hang on to leads HAS hurt us.

Yet, at the same time, despite continued sales over the last few years (and some very tasty acquisitions, it must also be said) we have this wonderful knack of building team spirit and a squad which can more than compete on its day. We already have Emiliano Marcondes to come in, Lewis Macleod inching his way back into the team and Alan Judge on the bench following a 16 month recovery from that horrific leg break. There’s even the prospect of Konstantin Kerschbaumer to make a Toumani Diagouraga-esque second coming after a period out on loan. One has to live in hope…..

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Could we see scenes like this once more?

So I go into the game today fuelled with optimism. Excitement approaching peak levels. I have to be honest, I didn’t see us ending the calendar year like this after that Reading result back in mid-September. Yet now we are in a position where Brentford are the ones with a tentative glance being made towards the upper reaches of the table. With a squad that have picked themselves up after a shaky start to show some quite wonderful form. And with big spending Birmingham City now nailed to the bottom of the table. Barring a statistical miracle today, they’ll end the year in the relegation zone.

We may have lost Jota and Maxime. Harlee may think his new squad is ten times better than that which made the play offs under Mark Warburton. But I know where I’d rather be right now. A chance to go in to the top ten of the Championship with the right result and then a home FA Cup tie next weekend.

No doubt Sheffield Wednesday will be out to stop us in our tracks. The Owls will have more than a point to prove and, let’s not forget, caretaker boss Lee Bullen saw his team romp to a 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest last time out. This is by no means the stroll in the park that recent form may suggest. Brentford can do it today, no doubt. But blind optimism can be a dangerous thing if you are expecting a win – just look at Aston Villa. Dean and his team still need to be on their A-game.

Will we do it? Roll on 3pm to find out. See you there. I can’t wait for this one.

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More of the same from Boxing Day would be great. Apart from the rain

Nick Bruzon

From bore draws to Star Wars. Buckets of rain, if not buckets of goals.

17 Dec

Brentford 0 Barnsley 0. On paper, not the best result. In practice, equally unsatisfying. Another game where The Bees huffed, puffed but failed to find either a Plan B or a way through a team set up to do a job on us. It started brightly and it ended with the home crowd roaring our boys on in a protracted five additional minutes. It was the 88 minutes in between that felt dreadfully flat.

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View from the Braemar. High Flyers? Not yesterday

Brentford ‘official’ would later describe the visitors as both “Well drilled“ and “resolute“. The BBC use their match report to call this one “Hard Fought”. That’s diplomatic of them. Personally, I’d have used unimaginative or frustrating. The proverbial bad day at the office with little spark from the midfield, few chances created and Neal Maupay just not getting the run of the ball up front on his own.

Dean Smith commented at full time that, “We had a very good first half, made chances and created opportunities but didn’t take them because of poor decision making.”

Funnily enough, last season’s game at home to the same opposition ended with him noting that, ”Our decision-making was poor on the ball”. That one, the occasion of our 4000th league game, saw the Bees go down 0-2 whilst we were also robbed in the half time mascot race. So at least it was an improvement, even if poor decision making remained a consistent theme.

If you were there on Saturday then you’ll know that we were off our ‘A’ game. The recent demolition of Fulham nothing more than a wonderful memory. That Barnsley did their homework and that we lacked the wherewithal to bypass their bus.

That’s the downside. What one also needs to consider is that it was a game played out in atrocious conditions with biblical torrents of sheet rain falling in the second half. Likewise, this is still another point in the bag. A point acquired over what is sure to be a busy period of games.

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If not buckets of goals, certainly buckets of rain

Norwich City are next up on Friday night and then it’s Aston Villa on Boxing Day. With Josh Clarke going off injured and straight down the tunnel, here’s hoping that was only a precaution. On the flip side, another appearance for Lewis Macleod can only be celebrated. Moreso given the treacherous and slippery conditions underfoot when he entered the field of play.

Ultimately, we didn’t lose. Besides, the bigger picture scenario in the Championship is intriguing. The post-match escape to the warming bosom of the pub was greeted with the sight of Birmingham City now sitting bottom of the pile. Forget ten times better, we’re now twelve points better off than our big spending divisional rivals. Even if the architects of their latest demise are a team we should probably gloss over.

To be honest, I’m just all a bit ‘meh’ about football today. With the long awaited trip to see the new Star Wars movie finally being enjoyed this morning, that really has been the big draw for yours truly. Unlike yesterday which was somewhat of a bland draw.

Still, as somebody bigger and cleverer than me said, “We go again”. Besides, to moan about not losing, in the Championship, seems somewhat trite. It wasn’t a good game. It wasn’t one that we’ll be rushing out to buy the video of. But with the Bees sitting 13th in the table and soon to start an FA Cup campaign with a third round tie at home to league 2 Notts County, the season still has plenty of potential.

And that’s before we even mention a certain Emiliano Marcondes…..

 

Nick Bruzon

As Bees prepare to go to Hull, will Championship form prevail or could ‘that stat’ take hold ?

7 Dec

Another weekend approaches. For some, the stress of Christmas shopping. For others, the chance for some time out from the relentlessness of the Festive build up and the excitement of football. Personally, my focus will be all about Kingston-upon-Hull rather than Kingston shopping centre. The current UK City of Culture being the destination this Saturday for a Brentford team looking to pick up where we left off against Fulham last weekend. That wonderful 3-1 win a perfect return to winning ways for Dean Smith’s team. Likewise, there’s still an interest at the bottom of the table where #tentimesbetter Birmingham City slithered back into the relegation zone following another defeat on Monday night.

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Another afternoon, another win. This time Fulham were the team to be steam-rollered

First up, Brentford and our trip to Hull City. Spirits should be high in Dean Smith’s camp. Last weekend’s obliteration of Fulham (where only David Button kept it respectable) saw the Bees rise up the table to within a win of eighth placed Leeds United. Those ‘difficult’ first few months – both in terms of results and the deadline day firesale to Birmingham City – all seem a long way off now. True, we’ve still had some iffy moments (such as the finish up the road last Monday, the first half with Sunderland or the entire game with Burton Albion) but the team seems a lot more settled.

A feat all the more impressive given how patched together we are at present. At least, on the surface. Two fullbacks playing out side of their traditional positions and Romaine Sawyers having to spend most of Saturday operating as frontman / false 9 (delete as applicable). Yet Josh Clarke and Yoann Barbet have more than settled in to moving around the pitch whilst you can’t deny the impact Romaine had against Fulham. Certainly he was my man of the match, for whatever that’s worth, although one would suspect his position there won’t be a permanent one !

It’s funny, because with the transfer window opening next month all the talk is likely to be about Ryan Woods. A player very much in form, with a huge reputation, incredible ability and now well into his third season at Griffin Park he is ‘classic’ transfer target material. Yet, for me, Josh Clarke would be an equal worry – certainly in terms of players who might end up coming under the spotlight. His talent is without question; his versatility a real strength. At a time when we’ve had to move things around he’s played at left back, right back and in his traditional mid-filed berth. He overlaps on the break and has even weighed in with the odd goal. If ever there was an unsung hero for this season then, for me, it’s Josh.

All being well, we won’t need / choose to sell anybody in January. All being well, players will look further ahead and realise the benefits of staying at Griffin Park. Certainly, it hasn’t worked out too well for the Birmingham City three. Rather than striding towards the Premier League, they find themselves doing their best to pay a visit to League One with only Sunderland and Burton Albion below The Blues in the table.

Desperately unlucky Maxime Colin finds himself injured whilst Jota has hardly settled into the side. His starring role has been reduced to one of advertising the club’s Christmas range.

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Sad times – all round

As for poor old Harlee Dean, where do you start? He certainly made a rod for his own back. As if his infamous ‘Ten Times Better’ quote about the Bees (a clear contender for the 2017/18 Russell Slade celebrated like the FA Cup award ) wasn’t bad enough, he now misses the Blues trip to Fulham on Saturday after getting sent off against Wolves on Monday night.

In case we needed any reminding of that one (the soundbite rather than the red card) then here you go. Some things deserve to be repeated:  “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. Its just about getting the balance right.

Look. I didn’t want to overly talk about Birmingham City today. It’s kind of just happened as the words have fallen out. But they’re not setting the world on fire and having blown all that cash back at the end of August (thank you very much) I can’t see them being allowed to do a repeat in January. That’s their issue though. Work with what they’ve got left, just like we’ve had to do after selling them some prize assets. And Harlee.

Personally, I wrote some pretty emotive stuff about them and us at the time. Especially the morning after deadline day. I stand by that in terms of how I felt. It was raw, it was a shock and on the surface it seemed like footballing suicide for a team that were, back then, struggling to play their way out of a paperbag. Form that continued in the immediate aftermath. Indeed, there’s a part of me that still aches to think of Jota in the doldrums when he was so adored, and so elegant, at Griffin Park. Football is a passionate game and that triple sale, as much in the timing and the destination, came like a bolt from the blue. Quite literally.

Yet, and has been said many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I know nothing of any real insight. I’ve never denied it. Things have worked out. And how! Meanwhile, Birmingham City are in their own mess. That’s their board’s problem. So long and thanks for all the cash.

Brentford continue their inxeroable ascent of the Championship table with the prospect of free scoring Emiliano Marcondes to come in January and Alan Judge putting in 45 minutes for the B-team. His goalscoring appearance against Barnet on Tuesday probably getting the biggest cheer of the week in our house (see also: return of Lewis Macleod v Fulham). Moreso, his declaration that he feels “normal-ish” .

You can get that story in full on ‘official’.

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Official have all the news on this one !

And so with confidence high, we head North on Saturday. The starting XI seems a lot more settled and we have form on our side. The Bees have only lost once in the last thirteen league games (Cardiff City away) and now have the top third of the table is in our sights. Facing us, a Hull City side sitting just outside the relegation spots and featuring former Bee Jon Toral.

On paper you’d call this one as ‘away’ win . If you were a neutral. Nothing is that cut and dried when you are a fan though. The jinx conscious amongst us might point to their sacking manager Leonid Slutsky during the week.

The reverse effect to winning manager of the month (an award that may aswell come with ‘L’ tagged on), the appointment of a caretaker comes with that almost inevitable fillip of a team in decline winning their next game.

Then there’s the ‘B’ team thing. Hull City have only recorded four league wins all season. All four have come against teams whose name start with the letter B.
4-1 v Burton (h);
4-0 v Bolton (h)
6-1 v Birmingham City (h) . Stop. Sniggering…
1-0 v Barnsley (a)

Granted, that’s not in the Luis Melville category of statistical genius, but much has been made of it in the media and it makes semi-interesting review. Until you hit the stumbling block of their game with Bristol City last month. That one ended in a 3-2 defeat to The Robins .

Jinx over. The road is clear for the Bees to do their thing. Moreso given I’ve not, to date, read of a caretaker being appointed. Instead, it looks as though they are going to jump straight to Nigel Adkins. Certainly, if the local press is to be believed.

As for the thing that will really impact us, on field performance, I’d suggest the BBC or Beesotted are your best bets. Honestly, I haven’t seen enough this season to form a significant opinion about how reflective of ability Hull City’s current position genuinely is. However, as somebody far wiser than me once said: “The table doesn’t lie”. Nor do the bookmakers, who have Brentford as 6/5 favourites to win this one.

Then again. They can’t call it and all three results are at a generous price. Roll on Saturday when we find out if form will prevail.

Nick Bruzon

Rampant Brentford exorcise the memory of QPR and render Fulham pointless.

3 Dec

Where do you start with that one? A 3-1 demolition of Fulham at Griffin Park on Saturday saw Brentford make it 4 points out of 6 from back-to-back West London derbies. With it, the Bees moved into the top half of the Championship table and above both our near neighbours. It was the perfect tonic following the disappointment of the final few moments at QPR earlier this week and a performance that shows just what Dean Smith’s team can do when they put their minds to it.

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Another afternoon, another win

Mind you it was a case of very much adjusting to the game and, subsequently, each other. A hamstring Injury to Lasse Vibe early on (and no recognised striker on the bench) saw Romaine Sawyers coming on to sit up top. A so called ‘False 9’ as Dean would later refer to him. Whilst we’ve tried this one before, at QPR two seasons ago – the only time they’ve beaten us in the last 7(seven) encounters – this time things were different for Brentford. So very different.

For a moment it looked shaky. The Bees went a goal down after Fulham were given the freedom of the Griffin Park back four. The visitors were lining up to slide home one time Bee Ryan Fredericks’ cross. In the end it was Neeskens Kebano who did the needful at the back post. Daniel Bentley then kept us in it with a wonder save but from that point on it was one way traffic.

Ollie Watkins set off on a quite wonderful run through the middle of the park, covering close to 50 yards before releasing Sergi Canos to leave David Button no chance. Canos (and the Fulham defence) take the glory but full kudos to Ollie for a lungbusting run.

1-1 at half time and the Bees came out to pick up where they left off. The half had barely begun when Romaine Sawyers made it 2-1. The player may feel he was in the right place at the right time although the goal had as much to do with the omens in the stand and on the terrace. Got to love a lucky shirt, lucky fleece (amazing where you get the inspiration from) and a Trevor Extra Strong Mint. Many thanks John – the real hero of the afternoon as man in the right place at the right time with the lucky confectionary.

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Lucky shirt. Lucky fleece. Lucky sweets. Nothing lucky about the win

With Fulham reduced to ten men, following the customary red card from referee Bobby Madley it really was game over. A detail confirmed with just five minutes to go as Romaine Sawyers set up Ollie Watkins to close things out. Two goals up against West London neighbours with just moments left on the clock. What could go wrong? Five minutes of injury time, that’s what!

But whereas Monday saw Brentford hit the self-destruct at QPR,  this time around there was to be no such repeat. Ball retention was the key as we passed it around, backwards and even had the odd probe to see down the clock.

3-1 it finished. What a result. What a performance. What an afternoon. There were tears from Fulham official. What a shame they didn’t get the chance to use their shiny new GIF. Please, stop sniggering.  There was even a gif in return as the ghost of the Obama meme threatened to raise its head once more. It was beautiful ! Well played the Brentford media team on hitting the perfect balance, this time.

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A word or two, also, about Mr. Madley. We all know him of old, especially ‘that’ game at Leyton Orient. Officious, pernickety, trigger happy and more cards than a Clintons sale. Yet I thought he had a great game yesterday.

True, there were a few moments where he couldn’t help but be his over-officious self but he called the cards right – including the yellow for Sergi who had seemed to go in dangerously, albeit not connecting. But given the lack of protection we’ve had at times this season, the four yellows (including a second for Fulham’s Odoi) were spot on. As were the proliferation of dead balls awarded in an otherwise open game that was, generally, allowed to flow.

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View from the terrace : When Sergi met Bobby

Sergi Canos was understandably named man of the match. I love watching him in action. The skill, the speed, the enthusiasm. Yet, for me I think Romaine probably just deserved it. A goal, an assist and a player very much a fish out of water in terms of the role he was asked to play. As Dean would later note on ‘official’, “I know, at times, he isn’t everyone’s favourite but I thought his performance today was excellent.

Dean, I couldn’t agree more.

As ever, the video highlights are up on Sky. Probably worth a watch before we get treated to Mark Burridge’s version. If his commentary is anywhere near as good as his post match Twitter then they’re going to be compulsory viewing when these go live after mid-day.

What a finish. What a way to celebrate rainbow laces day. Top half of the table, current kings of West London and a fine, fine performance from Dean Smiths’ injury hit team. But perhaps the biggest cheer of the afternoon was that for somebody returning from injury, Lewid Macleod. How good was it so see him back on the Griffin Park pitch? It seems an eternity since he was stretchered off at Loftus Road last season.

The road to return has certainly been a long one but, again, as impressive a display from the club in looking after our long term sick as the player in putting in all those hard yards. Nice one, Lewis.

Next up, a certain Mr. Judge? Here’s hoping….

The sun is past the yard arm so the video censors let Mark do his thing

All that’s to come, though. For now let’s just enjoy the moment and savour a fine win. Matthew Benham, back in his customary place at the front of the director’s box after a surprise ‘substitution’ against Burton, seemed ecstatic as the second half goals flew in. Certainly, those in the paddock and around the ground were. Except, perhaps, in the away end. If only they’d had a nice, new GIF.

It’s our fourth season in the Championship and, it would be fair to say, that derby day form has certainly been with the Bees. Jota in the last minute at Griffin Park, Sam Saunders with that fifth minute beauty and Stuart Dallas doing ‘that thing’ at the Cottage during our 4-1 steamrollering are amongst the many highs.

This one felt as good as any of them. What an afternoon. What a result !!

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Who needs Pointless or Strictly Dancing for Saturday entertainment ?

Nick Bruzon

Mamma Mia, here we go again. Brentford score big but who are this season’s dark horses?

1 Aug

With the Championship season almost upon us, it would be fair to say that anticipation is rising. Nowhere moreso than at Griffin Park where last night young Brentford fans were given the chance to meet their heroes at the now traditional summer ‘open day’. Sky Sports have launched their own season preview (remember the one Ian Holloway did last time out?) where along with the standard installation of Middlesbrough and Aston Villas as favourites, there’s no surprise for Bees fans. And the EFL have announced a shake up to penalty shoot outs that will have local journalists and bad bloggers in pun heaven.

First up, last night at Griffin Park. What can you say? It never ceases to amaze me just how incredible our players are. I’ve said this before but it needs to be said again. What for them could have been a tedious contractual obligation became a wonderful hour and a half (if not longer) for all those young fans lining up to get a peak behind the scenes and a photo with the stars. Not to mention an autograph or two.

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They were all, without question, wonderful. We got along quite late in the day yet the enthusiasm of the squad was infectious. Whatever Dean Smith and his staff are doing for squad morale is just incredible. What a brilliant group of players who went out of their way to welcome young supporters who might have been bit nervous / awestruck. (and that was just dad, although perhaps not so much of the young).

The entire squad was pretty much all there. Even new dad Maxime Colin, who one could have understandably expected to be on paternity leave. I don’t want to overly single anybody out although big thanks to Harlee, Lewis and Jota for their help with the picture. Hitting peak tiredness, somebody went very shy before composing himself after some enthusiastic words from his heroes.

Would you get this at another Championship team? Would the players be so welcoming? Would the club be so relaxed and open ? Would the club make such a great effort for their fans?  There was nothing corporate about this, it was just beautifully arranged. It was just Brentford. THANK YOU.

HB, Harlee, Lewis, Jota

Sky Sports. We all know what happened this time last season. Pundit Ian Holloway wrote his pre-season review in which he tipped the Bees for a poor season and relegation to League One. The rest is history.

Fast forward twelve months and whilst not the QPR boss with pen in hand, the TV company have published this year’s version. Divided into four categories of : Title contenders, Play-off hopefuls, Dark horses and Potential strugglers it looks at the so-called runners and riders in each category. So where do Brentford fit in?

The answer is a simple one. Nowhere. Not surprisingly they have Middlesbrough as favourites (I’d agree) along with Aston Villa – whom everybody is backing. I’m sorry, but I genuinely don’t get it. They were awful last season. Is a geriatric defender going transform them? Bring on Jota to run at him – Jake Bidwell, round 2.

But that aside, where are The Bees? Quite simply we don’t even warrant a passing mention.

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Whilst I’m tipping us for fifth, I can sympathise with their reticence to perhaps label us play-off contenders. But for a team that have had three top ten finishes over our Championship life (including that play-off with Middlesbrough) and have bought exceptionally over the summer to not even be deemed a ‘dark horse’ is odd.

Then again, if you do want to see Brentford as a dark horse Rod Liddle in The Times has us marked up. Or should that be down? He has us as relegation candidates and scoops this year’s Ian Holloway award.

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Look – I love all this. Three full seasons in and still nobody fancies us. Nobody gives us a hope. We are the stealth bombers of the Championship. Flying very much undetected, under the radar and all the way to the top. Keep on ignoring us – even the TV channels don’t give us a look in over August and September – and that’s just fine by me. If we can say the same to the end of the transfer window then all the better.

Finally, penalty kicks. You may have seen this yesterday but the EFL have announced they are switching the traditional shoot out to the ABBA system for the Carabao Cup, Checkatrade Trophy (should anybody be watching) and play-offs. Effectively, the shoot out will be contested like a tennis tie-break where after the first team starts, teams then get two consecutive kicks each and then continues as such until we have a winner.

The blurb on the EFL site tells us that “The trial of the new system is being backed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in response to a hypothesis that the player taking the second kick is under greater mental pressure in the current format. Therefore, a different order of kickers will be trialled in an experiment to reduce any apparent advantage the team taking the first kick may have”.

Regular or ABBA. It’s still nerve wracking and exciting in equal measure. Although with the League cup starting next week, this doesn’t give huge amounts of time to prepare. Personally, I’m more interested in the pun potential off the back of this. Which manager will be sending out an SOS? Who will meet his Waterloo? At the end of the day (Clive), the winner takes it all.

Whatever your thoughts on the new system, I can see those headlines being crowbarred in already. Answers on a postcard to the Middlesex Chronicle, marked ‘pun’.

Then again, the only way this could have been bettered is rather than ABBA, the EFL had gone for Diana Ross on the penalty front…..

Nick Bruzon

Is it all smoke and mirrors? Or have we been here before? Jota missing again.

16 Jul

Well that’s been an interesting few days for Brentford fans. Le tour de France is now over. We’ve seen another new signing with striker Neal Maupay joining from AS Saint-Étienne (he’s on the phone, presumably being the cry from the Griffin Park media suite as the deal was being confirmed). The friendly with Swiss side Lausanne-Sport ended in a 1-1 draw whilst we’ve now got less than three weeks until the season opener up at Sheffield United. Yet, for all that, there’s one word on supporter’s lips – Jota. Just what is going on?

Despite a wonderful looking line up in France for Saturday’s game with Lausanne, there were two notable absentees. Maxime Colin and, of course, the talismanic Spaniard – King Jota. Whilst Max was labelled an injury precaution, things were less clear on the subject of Jota. One could also argue that Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were the other big names to miss out but given their lengthy injuries and recuperation there was never a chance of either player featuring.

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Injuries and absence aside, the team was a very strong one

BBC Billy Reeves had already probed Dean Smith last Friday on that subject. Likewise, I’ve already given my own thoughts (all that is here) but since then we’ve had radio silence. The ‘imminent’ big bid from a Premier League side has yet to materialise or, if it has, nobody is saying anything. The local press have no more clue than myself (at least, in public) whilst usually reliable sources on the rumour front such as Beesotted have remained very much under the radar.

It’s a shame the likes of Billy (Reeves – BBC and Grant – Beesotted) were missing yesterday. I’d love to have heard their thoughts and questions on a team line up that already looks incredibly strong for the forthcoming season. Stick Jota, Maupay and Colin in there too and Sheffield United could have a Championship baptism of fire. Not to mention the rest of the league .

Instead, it was left to ‘official’ where the match report had no managerial comment although Twitter did at least give us some update.

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 07.38.18So there you have it. Despite all the noise this just seems to be smoke and mirrors at the moment. Indeed, it all very much smacks of West Ham and Scott Hogan once more. All talk, all rumour, all unsettling but no action.

It reminds me in a way of the Simon Moore transfer. His sale had been talked up for most of the 2013/14 pre-season before he eventually ended up at Cardiff City. Prior to that though, he’d featured in a two minute pre-season cameo before being substituted with an ‘injury’. This, was immediately followed by his sale to a Cardiff City team we’d then play in a friendly after the infamous explanation for another absence as ‘visiting the beach’.

That game, for the record, being one we emerged from with a fantastic 3-2 win after going 2-0 down early on. Although Paul Hayes in the last minute doesn’t quite have the same ring.

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Simon Moore. Once went to Cardiff beach, according to Uwe

Is Jota being viewed as a big part of our plans for 2017/18 (one can only hope) or is the writing already on the wall? Without a doubt the club know more than they are saying in public – nobody expects them to reveal transfer dealings negotiations ahead of any deal being signed or rejected. But a second absence in eight days speaks huge volumes. If the player does feature against Oxford United on Wednesday, it will be very interesting to see for how long. A full 90 minutes or a token run out at the death? There’s going to be a lot of squeaky bums over the next three days, let alone the next three weeks.

On the positive side, the signing of Neal Maupay presents another exciting opportunity for Brentford. Nobody can deny that whatever the initial scepticism around our transfer strategy, we’ve unearthed some gems from the continent over the last few seasons.

Of course there’s Jota but you could add Yoann Barbet, Maxime Colin, Lasse Vibe, Andreas Bjelland and, in my mind, the criminally under used Konstantin Kerschbaumer to that list for starters. We’ll draw a discreet veil over Big Nick although he did join us from the English league so doesn’t really count in that bracket. That said, for the record, this Wednesday will mark the five year anniversary since Hull City paid SC Paderborn £2.6 million for his services. How times change.

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Neal Maupay – as seen on official

As a final thought for today, since the previous column about Peter Gilham it has been wonderful to see the outpouring of love and best wishes for Mr Brentford. Without a doubt he is one man to unite this club, having talked the Bees family through thick and (a lot of ) thin. So to read his own message was intensely heart warming for all of us but, as importantly, the fact that he has just carried on with his pre-season duties as though it was BAU.

His tour blogs have kept us updated as to those behind the scenes details of what goes on when the Bees are abroad. Here’s hoping he’s back with the mic on his hand for August 12th and our first home game.

Peter, we’re still thinking of you. Get well soon.

Nick Bruzon

If Sunday was brilliant (and it was) Tom’s tweet was anything but

7 Feb

We’ve spoken about the good stuff from the weekend already . Brentford were desperately unlucky not to take all three points at home to Brighton in a performance that gave huge cause for optimism. Six goals and four points since the day Scott Hogan was sold to Aston Villa, Jota destroying all comers on the right, Sergi Canos back in the team and Harlee Dean looking as though he could go on and play for England, such has been the enormity of his performances as part of a reintroduced back four. Dean Smith has finally shuffled his pack and the result has been some mouth watering football.

This is all good, very good. A fourth season in the Championship awaits and our sights must now be on a top ten finish. All this, of course, before the likes of Alan Judge, Rico Henry and the returning Lewis Macleod have even set foot in the team.

Yet one thing is still bugging me from the Brighton game. A post match tweet from Tom Field that really took the sparkle off a near perfect performance for Brentford (the final twelve seconds aside) .

Ordinarily these things contain such anodyne statements as ‘unlucky out there today’ , ‘apologies to those who travelled’ or the dreaded ‘we go again’. And that’s when we lose. Victory is the cue for outpourings of positivity from players and supporters alike. Heroic performances, such as on Sunday, likewise. So what on earth prompted this?

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How could anybody come out of Griffin Park and give abuse to one of our own players?  A player who has been nothing but incredible from his home debut, chucked into the lion’s den of a West London derby at home to Fulham. A West London derby in which he kept a clean sheet and was instrumental in two of the three goals Brentford scored.

Tom has barely put a foot wrong since that moment and has made the left back position his own this season, despite his tender years. He’s a player who, if we’re being honest, not many people had even heard of when he was thrust from the youth team to the first team name for that 11th hour debut.

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Academy graduate Tom Field made a wonderful debut against Fulham

Keeping Anthony Knockaert in his back pocket was no mean feat at the weekend, either. Tom really has been one of the bright lights in a season that, if we’re being equally honest, has been a somewhat up and down one for the Bees.

Players have off days. They don’t get abused. Yet Tom had a great game on Sunday. They all did. So what on earth would cause a handful of numpties to decide this was an appropriate means of marking a wonderful performance by Brentford? What amount of prematch WKD blue consumption could legislate for slagging off one of your own players after this incredible game? Were they just Brighton fans in disguise?

Whatever the reason, I really hope these morons have had a long hard look at themselves since. And yes – if this is a bit patronising then so what. Frankly, Tom deserves better from our fans. Much, much better. Thankfully, just about everybody else is in agreement . Replies to ‘that tweet’ have been unanimous in their opinion and support.

I’m hoping Tom realises this and appreciates just how much the fans are loving what he does out there. We all have a moan from time to time. Whether about certain players , the manager, the directors of football, stats etc. I’m surprised Rasmus doesn’t bring an umbrella to games (when he is here) such are the voluminous amount of comments aimed in his direction at times.

That’s part of football and is often justified. But not this time. It was something as bizarre as it was incorrect .

Tom, if you are reading, just know that everybody at Griffin Park has your back. Keep up the great work. Keep on doing what you do. Keep on accelerating your growth as you are and, surely, one day it won’t just be Harlee we might see in an England shirt.

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Nick Bruzon

In Matthew we trust. Whatever happens over the next two weeks.

15 Jan

Newcastle United left Griffin Park with all three points last night and nobody can deny them that. They scored twice. Brentford scored once. Newsflash: that’s how football works. Yet even in defeat, I woke up this morning (duh-duh-duh-duh-duhh) full of positivity. As, it would seem, have the vast majority of those out in cyberspace. This, despite losing a game and the prospect of our star man on his way to West Ham/other after Dean’s strange decision in regards to team selection.

Thoughts on that were published in yesterday evening’s post match article. Worth a look purely for the ever eloquent views of Bernard Quackenbush in the comment’s section. And Bernard, if you are reading, then that special guest slot remains yours should you ever want to go ‘full fat’ on the column (not a euphemism).

Looking across Facebook and Twitter (other sources are also available) there is a lot of pride out there today at how well Brentford played. There is huge recognition of how well Lasse Vibe performed up top. Perhaps the immediate answer for when Scott is sold is sitting right under our noses. There is huge regret at the fact that Jota couldn’t quite complete his moment of magic in the 90th minute.

If not for the well deserved point that we would have scored but the sheer and unadulterated moment of mutual celebration that the 10,000 home supporters would have shared. Jota. In the last minute. After the Bees had been knocking on the door all second half. Just imagine the sheer ecstasy had he found the back of the net in such circumstances…

Even Mark Burridge has posted on facebook this morning to say that the game, “Was a pleasure to commentate on, Marcus, Mick and I really enjoyed it….had the last minute Jota goal happened then I feel the stadium would have erupted.”

Eruption probably the understatement of the decade.

So it is a morning of regret. But lovely regret. Disappointment yet in the nicest way. Honestly, I’m struggling to explain it properly. We lost. It’s normally the cause for a moan about not creating enough chances and, had we, then things might have been different. But yesterday we played. And we played so well. No pressure Dean, but a bar has been raised after outperforming the league leaders for huge periods.

As for Scott Hogan, well I’ve see some nonsense out there today. He didn’t come out for the second half. He didn’t warm up, his attitude sucks. Allegedly. Utter garbage.

If you want bad attitude then look at Dimitri Payet or Diego Costa. Scott has done nothing but carry on doing his thing when selected. Just look at the Birmingham game when rumours had long been gathering. You can’t blame the player for the manager’s decisions to declare him available, to not start him and then to not bring him off the bench.

We’ll sell him at some point, no question. But once the price is right. Standing outside The Griffin yesterday evening, Matthew Benham and his family walked past. “Don’t sell Hogan…” shouted one supporter . “Unless the price is right” , added another.

The response was immediate: “I’m holding out”. Anybody thinking they’ll get a cut price deal might do well to remember this isn’t the Brentford of old.

We’ll reinvest, but once the players are right (Hello? Operator? Can I have the number for Norwich City please?)  The likes of Tom Field, who had another great game yesterday, and Josh Clarke have already shown we have strength within the deeper squad. Chris Mepham has now had his debut whilst Jota is back and Rico Henry has still to show us what he can do. Alan Judge gets closer to fitness each day although perhaps that is a dream too far? Or is it?

One thing Matthew has shown is he loves to surprise us. Who would ever have thought Marcello Trotta would return after the rarely mentioned penalty incident? Yet return he did as he not only won back the fans after the lowest of lows but his goals then inspired us to that wonderful promotion.

They celebrated like they’d won the FA Cup”. Not my words but those of Russell Slade after that incredible Lunchtime at Leyton Orient. Trotta scored the winner that day yet, but for Mathew’s shock decision, we’d never have seen him in Brentford colours again. But for Matthew’s decision who knows what might have happened that season?

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Marcello – Matthew brought him back despite everything

Whatever happens with Scott Hogan, anybody doubting the player’s attitude should probably take a step back. Anybody doubting that a decision made will be for the long term good of the club and the team might want to consider how the side has ebbed, flowed and transformed over the years.

Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen, made that famous quote back in September 2015, telling supporters that “The goal is to get stronger after each transfer window”. Being honest, it has never quite felt as though we are stronger in the immediate short term yet this team and this squad keep going.

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Perhaps this is as much through long term injury. As Andre Gray was doing his thing, Scott was undergoing that long, long recuperation. Imagine a team with those two together?  Now we have Rico Henry and Lewis Mcleod out for most of the season. Yet this has given others the chance to shine and I can’t imagine Tom Field giving up his place without a fight once the former Walsall man is fit again.

I’m bored of people getting overly critical about the make up of the squad or our long term direction. And that includes myself. How that squad is managed is a different issue altogether but Dean Smith showed yesterday we have players who can do it.

We came close. We lost. But we impressed. Can Dean get us to go one better? Can we get a repeat of our last away performance when we travel to Wigan next weekend? And then there’s the small matter of Chelsea away.

Whoever is picked, it’s a great time to be a Brentford fan. We’re fast approaching our fourth season in the Championship with a wonderful opportunity to cause an incredible cup upset. I’ve said it before but need to say it again. That’s just bonkers. Moreso, for those of us who have been here for sometime.

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Mike Ashley and Cliff Crown yesterday – Brentford now mixing it with the big boys

Anybody who doubts how far we’ve come just needs to look at yesterday’s match day programme. Part one of Mark Chapman’s piece on the failed takeover attempt by QPR is well, well worth a read to remind ourselves of what once might have been.

I disagree with how Dean handled Scott yesterday. A poor decision. One of the B-team should have been recalled. But I admire his trust in Lasse and how good to see that rewarded.

Who knows what will happen over the next two weeks? It might not be pretty. It might not be pleasing. Yet one can only trust in everything that has gone before and the way we are continuing to build for our long term future.

Now, who’s got shovel ? There’s a stadium to build.

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The programme this season has been quality – credit to Mark Chapman

Nick Bruzon

Lewis will stay another day. How about Scott as Santa Saunds does his thing and FA get heavy

21 Dec

Well that was a day of seasonal good news. Brentford were very much in the festive mood as Lewis Macleod was given a contract extension despite his long term injury whilst down the road at West Middlesex Hospital, the squad were very much doing their own ‘Santa’ thing. Not so seasonal, but of equal interest to Bees fans, was the five match ban handed out to Jonjo Shelvey of Newcastle United for racial abuse. This, given a similar punishment suffered by our own Alan McCormack back in October.

First up though, the positive news. Brentford have shown many times how we look after our own. There  is the well documented way that Scott Hogan was treated during his own lengthy recovery period (18 months out) after suffering that awful injury just a few games into his Griffin Park career. First class medical treatment all the way and a contract extension were the order of the day as the club showed huge faith in a player who has since began to pay that back in bucketloads.

Scott’s goalscoring record is such that there is genuine worry amongst the Bees faithful we’ll be cashing in come January. He went on that stunning run towards the end of last season as he edged his way back to full fitness whilst now, only Dwight Gayle at Newcastle United sits above him in the scoring charts. Imagine those two together. Actually, don’t. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Then there was the contract extension offered to Jota as our talismanic midfielder (if Sam Saunders was Spanish….) was allowed to go back to Spain on loan, for personal reasons. Who could forget his letter to supporters at the time where he promised that , “This isn’t “goodbye” but more of a “see you later” ? Who could forget our own signal to the player in offering him a contract extension despite the fact he was moving away from Griffin Park – albeit a move that, despite our deepest fears, one still hopes remains a temporary decision.

And now Lewis Macleod has become the latest beneficiary of Matthew Benham’s backing of his players as the former Rangers man has been give a year’s contract extension which will see him tied to Griffin Park until the summer of 2019. This, despite like Scott at the time of his injury, barely a handful of appearances since joining the club and the youngster now facing a long period on the sidelines.

When the road to recovery must seem long and torturous, with no guarantees at the end of it, one can’t begin to imagine what a boost this faith in individuals must be. At a time when all around are getting on with what they do best – playing football – to see how much we value those on the sidelines and are prepared to make such a public statement of belief is a huge, huge thing. We’ve done it in thee past and no doubt will do it again.  Here’s hoping for a Hoganesque payback when Lewis is fully fit.

It was interesting, also, how he got into the festive spirit by emulating one time Christmas chart toppers East 17. The boy band, of course, occupying the penthouse suite at the hit parade hotel back in December 1994 with their ‘Stay Another Day’ single.

Despite being number one at Christmas, rather than an actual Christmas record in the vein of Slade, Wizzard, Coldplay or Shakin’ Stevens (whose own effort is not only the best Christmas song of all time but the best pop single. Ever), the band’s use of fake snow and furry parka jackets in the promo video now sees them embedded deep into festive culture. (See also: Frankie Goes to Hollywood – The Power of Love. Not a Christmas record yet still now considered one based upon the time of release)

As such, it was great to see Lewis getting involved with his own choice of seasonal attire at yesterday’s contract signing. As ever you can read the full story, with the proper photographs, on ‘official’.

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Next up, Sam Saunders. Can he do anything wrong? No, being the answer as the ever popular midfielder was amongst those who made the trip to West Mid to hand out Christmas presents to children on the Starlight Ward. The pictures and the comments from the players on Social media spoke for themselves and showed, yet again, just how much this club does for our own local community.

One can’t begin to think what it is like for these youngsters to be in hospital at any point, let alone during the Christmas season – a period that traditionally sees celebrations at home and time spent with friends and family over the prolonged school holidays. As such, a gesture of this nature is one that can only be very well received. Wonderful work from all at Griffin Park. Yet again.

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From the positive to the not so. The story of Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey being given a five game ban for what is described as : “Aggravated Breach as defined in Rule E3(2), as it included reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or nationality” is one that hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst our own support.

Of course, we have our own parallel with the five game sentence handed down to Macca back in October after he was found guilty of : Using abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official in the 52nd minute of the game against Cardiff City on 19 April 2016, contrary to FA Rule E3(1) . Moreso, given his offence was, “An “aggravated breach” as defined in FA Rule E3(2), as it included a reference to gender.

Back then this column wondered : This is a huge ban and if nothing else Alan would seem to be patient zero when the FA have decided to clamp down hard. Yet, also, they’ve now drawn a line in the sand which I’ll be very keen to see how strongly they enforce ongoing.

And here is your answer. Another breach of rule E3(2) and another five game ban. If players were operating in a new environment about what is deemed acceptable before, there can be no doubt now. Speak in such a manner towards officials or fellow pros – pay a very heavy penalty.

From an on-pitch perspective, it means Shelvey will be missing when Newcastle United come to Griffin Park for the televised game in January 16th. He’ll be a huge loss to the Magpies, if his performance on our own trip to the North-East was anything to go by. At one point it looked as though he was going to inspire a Geordie bracketing as the home team set off at 100mph, with the Bees caught cold in the starting blocks, and Shelvey providing ‘assists’ for fun.

I can’t pretend to take any pleasure from a story of this nature on a day of such seasonal goodwill. But, at the same time, it would be hypocritical not to realise what a helping hand it offers us. Knowing that Newcastle will be missing one of their danger men, and the architect of our own downfall last time out, when the battle of the Championship’s leading scorers takes place.

Still, all that is some time off. For now, we’ve got Christmas to look forward to and the hope that Scott is still a Bee by the time that game takes place. I’ve no doubt our faith in the player will be rewarded come January…..

Nick Bruzon