Tag Archives: Lewis Macleod

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

29 Aug

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

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Griffin Park always looking great under lights

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

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

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

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Rare Cheltenham attacks were snuffed out

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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One down. Forty-five to go. What a start!

5 Aug

What can you say? Where do you start? Did that really happen? Brentford thumped Championship newcomers Rotherham United in a Griffin Park goalfest that saw the Bees end the day top of the league and disappointed to have ‘only’ scored five. That in itself, a feat we’d not achieved since February when Birmingham City were the recipients of that famous 5-0 payback. Yet if that one was as as satisfactory as they come from a personal perspective, dare I say that yesterday was ten times better, performance wise?

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A glorious result on a glorious day

So many times last season we scored early. Threatened. Pushed. Came oh so close but couldn’t make that additional breakthrough. Possession and shots were high but the net refused to ripple. Then our opponents would pull one back. Undo all the hard work or salvage a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Yet this was different. A turning of the screw unlike any we’ve seen and, better still, in scorching conditions with new players in the squad. Against opponents that we had no idea how dangerous they might be. Without the ever popular Ryan Woods, whom Dean Smith would later admit that following a bid for the player, “We both felt it wasn’t the right thing putting him in the squad today”.

This was one-way traffic and attacking play the likes of which typify Dean Smith’s Brentford when we are on fire. To a man, they were magnificent. Good luck picking out a man of the match although I’ve since seen that two goal Neal Maupay scooped the honours.

Personally, I loved Romaine and Lewis pulling the strings whilst it was great to see Ezri Konsa slotting in alongside Chris Mepham (who is now an alleged target for Leicester City). Dan Bentley looked rock solid as ever, pulling off one incredible save in the ten-minute patch just before half time that Rotherham looked vaguely involved in the day’s proceedings. Even then, Sergi Canos went down the other end and made it it 2-0 with a beautifully hit shot to double the lead after Neal Maupay’s early opener.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance yesterday.

Two up at HT and the game was as good as wrapped up. Surely? Indeed it was. Immediately into the second period Ollie made it three with a sublime finish before Neal added to his opener with less than an hour on the clock. Four up and the play scintillating. A first opening day win in 7(seven) games all but on the cards.

Changes were made. There was a rapturous welcome to the field for the magician, Alan Judge. Likewise, praise in particular for debutant Said Benrahama. “My word. How do we keep finding them?” was the considered opinion of my fellow fan in the Braemar Road paddock after witnessing his own skill with the ball. It was a proper ‘tied to his foot with a piece of string’ display – and that was just in the warm up!!  

Goalwise, things all but dried up. Lewis Macleod made it five just before full time with a hard hit shot that stayed low. Rifled or drilled was the subsequent debate in the pub. Answers on a postcard marked ‘drilled’, please.  Even then there was still a few seconds left for Rotherham to grab the proverbial ‘consolation’.

It was a denouement that prompted Dean to have a go at his players (his words) in the changing room afterwards aswell as admitting that “You don’t get many opportunities when your 4 or 5 up in a game. That could have been one today to try and score a few more but we took our foot off the gas a little bit”.

Whilst he would also acknowledge the heat factor and our all-round attacking intent, it shows the standards he is looking to set. He wasn’t alone in wanting a few more. Five year old HB said to me, “Daddy. I hope we get 7 (seven) because that means brackets”. Honestly, I’ve no idea where he gets it from.

However, it was a marked contrast from prior to kick off where he’d got cold feet about going because Noah from school had told him that Brentford were rubbish. It had clearly been playing on his mind but we had a good joke about it when he opened up and were able to persuade him that Griffin Park was still brilliant. Walking to the ground and seeing all the shirts (even some brown/orange ones) the smile began to grow and he ended the day telling me about his friend, “Daddy. Daddy. Noah doesn’t….know-a lot about football”. 

Honestly, I’ve no idea where he gets it from.

Yet if you want the ultimate sign of how good a game it was then the evidence was there in the fridge this morning. The bag of ‘break glass in case of emergency’ white chocolate buttons remained unopened. Untouched and ready for daddy to demolish today. There have been times in the past when we’ve needed to open these before kick-off, just to keep his attention. Now, he can’t wait to go again and I get a bonus chocolate treat. Nice one, Dean.   

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Get in! If this is what playing like that does then I’m a happy dad

Brentford were electric but we weren’t even physical. Yet the visitors were second to everything. I’m not buying into that ‘little’ Rotherham gumph. We’ve been on the receiving end of it enough in the past ourselves. Teams like Brentford etc. There are no easy games in the division, as West Brom found out yesterday going down to Bolton. As promoted Wigan proved when they beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2. As Birmingham City discovered as they were pegged back by Norwich City deep into stoppage time at St. Andrews in a game which finished 2-2.

Watching the highlights on Quest TV (not a typo) this morning, studio guest Dean Ashton noted: “If I had money to pay to go and watch a team it would be Brentford” It is something that tells you all you need to know about our style of play yet how nice to see that endeavour rewarded with goals.

As for the show itself, Colin Murray was at the helm. A man who has had more footballing gigs than Steve Claridge and, had he been around at the time of the dinosaurs (velociraptors rather than Big Ron, Richard Keys et al), would probably have survived the asteroid. How DOES he keep going? Yet here he was again. Despite some early show hiccups where it looked as though the starship Enterprise was attempting to ‘beam us up, Scotty’, things settled down and we got what one would expect. Highlights. In order. A far cry from the debut of previous hosts Channel 5 three years ago – never, ever forget. That was the consummate example of how not to do football.

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An early transporter malfunction didn’t put Colin off his stride

The Bees were low down the pecking order yesterday. Understandable from many respects but with a trip to many people’s pre-season favourites Stoke City next up, I’m fairly sure that might have changed by this time next week.

For now, though, Brentford are top of the league. We are top of the league. #TOTL. Whilst we’ve said many times on these pages that the table doesn’t officially take shape until ten games in, I’m not going to deny that checking into the penthouse suite in the Championship hotel isn’t a quite wonderful place to be.

One down. Forty-five to go. Roll on Stoke City…

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The BBC table doesn’t lie…..

As a final note, huge thanks to the club and in particular Stuart Wakeford for the chance to take part in the Facebook live ‘Bees Live Beat The Bee’ competition prior to kick off, alongside Rico Henry. Stu is a legend in the making ; sadly, yours truly isn’t and the challenge ended in defeat to a man whose football knowledge is impressive. Likewise, one who has gone up hugely in my estimation. As much for his offering the prize anyway as his own ‘off air’ answer to the dress rehearsal question….. 😉  

If you fancy taking part against Sheffield Wednesday or beyond, then keep your eyes open for the #BEESLIVE on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It’s great fun and you never know what you might end up taking home !  

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Stu does his thing wonderfully.

Nick Bruzon

The weather outside was frightful, but Lewis was so delightful.

18 Mar

Oh my. How good to be back in the warmth after that one. Brentford and Middlesbrough played out a 1-1 draw in blizzard like conditions at a freezing Griffin Park on Saturday. That much snow was falling all around, I half expected Shakin’ Stevens to put in an appearance at half time (best. song. ever) . It was a draw which, after the blips against Millwall and Cardiff City, has all but mathematically ended our play-off hopes. Come on Bees, prove me wrong – again.

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A snowy Griffin Park

For those who missed it, Sky Sports have the video highlights on line already. Anyone who was there would have seen that despite dominating the possession, we couldn’t quite turn opportunities into goals. Yet against a side that have long been seen as a bogey team for the Bees, it was a more than creditable performance with man of the match Lewis Macleod and Ryan Woods pulling the strings in the middle whilst referee Simon Hooper pulled our legs erm, in the middle.

His sending off of substitute Romaine Sawyers for two yellow cards, the second of which was softer than than the avalanche of snowflakes that filled the air, rounded off a poor afternoon for the man in black. The visiting players surrounding a referee who should have been stronger after what was, at best, an accidental coming together. Yet his missing the opportunity to insist on an orange ball (one day, it will come back) should have perhaps warned us what to expect.

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Sky highlights show Romaine see red. The ref in no way allowing himself to be influenced.

For Middlesbrough, a first half lead came with an impressive strike from the commanding Adama Traoré after twenty minutes. Running across the edge of the box, he found the gap to fire a powerful drive past Daniel Bentley. It was a lead that came at a time when the game had been delicately balanced. Both teams having already seen a handful of efforts. It was a lead that didn’t last for long as Lewis Macleod, who had earlier seen a shot from just outside the area tipped over by Darren Randolph, fired home low and hard from the edge of the box to equalise.

One all and with over an hour to go, surely there would be more to come? Sadly not. That’s how it stayed despite the best efforts of Macleod and his colleagues as Brentford really began to turn the screw.

Even the appearance of Sergi Canos from the bench, for once the gloves understandable in absolutely bitter conditions, wouldn’t tip the balance. Brentford had the lion’s share of the possesion and chances but Middlesbrough were resolute and, for their defence alone, justified with the point that keeps them in the final play-off place.

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Sergi with his snow, ball. It should have been orange

But for sharper finishing or what the BBC match report describes as Brentford “guilty at times of overplaying in dangerous areas” it could have been all three points for The Bees. Instead, the late intervention of Mr. Hooper meant an early bath for Romaine and a draw being played out in those final few minutes as Boro’ finally pressed once more.  

Massive kudos to Lewis Macleod. We all know the injury hell he has been through over the last few years but how that seemed a thing of the past. With clear direction to shoot from the edge of the box, a single goal was the least his play, opening up the Boro’ midfield as easily as a can of tuna, deserved.

They were awful conditions to watch a game of football in with a howling, icy wind cutting through supporters as the snow fell. It can’t have been much fun playing in it and perhaps the desire to keep warm lifted both teams to really run at each other from the off. It was hardly the kick and rush game one would expect from a Tony Pulis outfit, even if that physical aspect was still there as they let the Bees push on.

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Lewis was head and shoulders above Middlesbrough

Instead, we were offered an entertaining spectacle with Brentford keen to underline the play-off credentials. Sadly, it was Middlesbrough who got the point that keeps them in but with Brentford 8 off with 8 to play, we’re now in the territory of really needing to pull in a few favours. Stranger things have happened of course and at least we’ve now got an international break in which to take stock.

On a personal note, a huge word of thanks to everybody at the club – players and staff – for all their efforts yesterday. Harry was lucky enough to be one of the mascots and had an absolutely fantastic time from start to finish. Talk about being made to feel welcome and a proper part of things. Even in so much as being allowed to kick the ball on the centre spot when the teams came out and leading the line in the handshake.

“Daddy. When I was shaking the hands of all the naughty team I felt like a real footballer.” They’re not my words but those of a four year old fan who had the time of his life when he could have been forgiven for asking to give this one a swerve and staying at home with a hot chocolate.

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Feeling like ‘a real footballer’

Nick Bruzon

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

 

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.

Ollie v Fulham

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.

Ollie v Fulham

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.

Sergi v Fulham

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.

HB, Harlee, Lewis, Jota

 

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

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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