Tag Archives: Lionel Road

And still they come. Double bonus ahead of the weekend action.

10 Aug

The transfer window that keeps on giving keeps on giving. Despite inward business having been officially concluded for the summer, Brentford fans were given a double bonus on Friday ahead of the trip to Middlesbrough. Ollie Watkins has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Lionel Road until 2023 whilst the heavily touted story in regards to Turkish youth international Halil Dervişoğlu coming in from Sparta Rotterdam was confirmed. He has signed a pre-contract and similar to Emiliano Marcondes before him, will join the club in January. These are stories that put paid to the Crystal Palace rumours whilst further strengthen the attacking options available to Thomas Frank.

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These are both exciting and important bits of news for Brentford fans. Ollie, in particular, given how important and highly sought after the player has become. Aswell as the Crystal Palace stories there were those linking him to Spurs last season and, whilst we normally give rumours a wide berth on these pages, the fact that our players are being talked up is both a worry and a compliment. Now he is ours once more.

What a way to announce the news, too. With season ticket holders and club members being told to check their email accounts where we got the exclusive on the story first. I have to be honest, that when I saw the preview on Twitter, telling fans to check their in-boxes accompanied by the picture of a 2023 shirt, part of me did think it might be a delay to Lionel Road. But no. It was good news. Great news. Wonderful news. Off the back of Saïd Benrahma revealing his new number 10 shirt and accompanying hashtag the day before, Bees fans are really buzzing. Hats off to the club, too, for choosing this method to share a bot of extra joy with the supporters.

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Then there’s the news about Halil. One thing our Directors of Football have got on lock down is talent acquisition. Nobody could deny that in recent seasons as the much derided (outside of Griffin Park)  ‘model’ has paid dividends time and again. Now we’ve made our latest swoop for an attacker who did the business helping Sparta win second tier promotion through the play-offs (not a typo). 

Beyond that, I’m in the dark. I’m not going to pretend that Halil is a player I’m overly familiar with. Then again, it was a case of Saïd who? Neal what now? And look at how that all turned out.Have the DoFs done it again? I can’t wait for January when we find out, although let’s not wish it away too soon. Brentford have the trip to Middlesbrough today where Thomas will surely be looking for three points after starting like a runaway train against Birmingham City last weekend yet somehow coming away with nothing. Curse that woodwork. Curse great goalkeeping. On another day we could have had a hatful.

Still, as B*Witched once sang, c’est la vie. Sometimes you just don’t get the breaks. As long as we don’t get sucked into the ‘deserved to win’ mentality then play like that opening period once more and we’ll be just fine. Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough (TM) had a tough opener in front of the TV cameras last Friday at Luton Town. That one finished 3-3 in a game marked by defensive lapses and a penalty miss from Britt Assombalonga to match some of our most glaring from the likes of Yoann Barbet or number 26 (ahh, who could forget that ill-fated dead ball experiment?).

There are now options available the likes of which we’ve not seen in a long time. Saïd is definitely not ready to play, sadly, whilst Thomas is sweating on international clearance for Bryan Mbeumo coming through. Not that I can imagine him overly stressing – at least in public. He’s calm, confident and in control. Never flustered. Perhaps a bit of directional clapping, exhorting his troops to do what they have practiced on the training ground but that’s about as far as he needs to go normally.

Don’t expect too many changes from last week, except perhaps on the bench. I have no doubt everybody will want a second bite of the cherry following a performance where there is nothing but incredulity at finishing the game empty handed.

But that’s how football works. Amazing play is great as long as the ball finds the back of the net. It didn’t last week but now we’ve got the chance to put things right. And I can’t wait.

Until then, here’s B*Witched….

 

Nick Bruzon

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Almost there. How about a few facts?

1 Aug

We’re that close now you can almost smell the aroma of bovril drifting across the forecourt. Thursday lunchtime and the season proper kicks off for Brentford in little more than 48 hours with the visit of Birmingham City. A team whose ‘yoof’, it would seem, are still learning how to spell ‘obsessed’. Saturday afternoon can’t come soon enough, even despite the somewhat dubious allure of Luton Town v Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough ™ on Friday evening to open proceedings in the Championship. That in itself, a game packed with intrigue as the former Leeds man and his club attempt to pick up the media inflicted hype gauntlet laid down by Frank Lampard’s former club Frank Lampard’s Derby County last season. But before things kick off at Griffin Park, we’ve already been dealt a blow. Two words designed to strike fear into the heart of any supporter. Gavin. Ward.

I’ve been away this week. That’s not information of any particular interest beyond being somewhat out of the loop in terms of keeping track of all our news. Re-enabling the 4G after landing at Heathrow yesterday evening produced a flurry of interesting updates. Maupay, Watkins and Benrahma all still at Brentford. Brighton and Crystal Palace apparently sniffing but nothing much more out there beyond that.

Even the usual Sheffield United ‘nailed on’ news has died a death. For now. It won’t be long before they’re definitely going there. Or Aston Vila. Or both. If you believe every rumour you read. Ahh, it’s all part and parcel of this time of year. Just grit your teeth, clench butts and hang on for the ride until that window slams shut.

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Flying in to Heathrow via Lionel Road – not a drone in sight, this time.

What we can say for sure is that Matthew Benham’s model (the mathematical one rather than Cliff in the brown/orange shirt) has struck again. Or maybe it was Cliff. Either way, the ‘in’ door has swung once more and the ceremonial half-chewed biro been cracked out with the news that we’ve signed Ecuadorian wide-man Joel Valencia from Polish champions Piast Gliwice. A player who certainly seemed happy to be here, that’s for sure. 

His signing gives even more choice on the flanks (read in to that whatever you need to – I have no intel. In general) and whilst he may be somewhat of an unknown quantity to those of us in the stands, have no doubt that the DOFs and Mr. B know their onions when it comes to talent spotting. The kinks in the machine that brought us the likes of Marinus and Nick Proschwitz seem to have been well and truly ironed out as our recruitment model has gone from strength to strength. 

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Welcome Joel (#)

Will he start against Birmingham City? I think the question is more a case of who will start against Birmingham City ? With the big three names barely even being mentioned, let alone featuring, over the close season it gives Thomas Frank an almighty selection headache. Of the best sort. I’m presuming that should any of Neal, Ollie and Said be deemed match fit then the bench is the best they can hope for. But, and has been said many times, yours truly is just the numpty on the terrace rather than a font of any serious knowledge. Then again, the prospect of bringing on Neal Maupay to run at new Blues captain Harlee Dean, with Gavin Ward holding all the cards in the middle in his role as referee, is a quite fantastic one. 

Whilst his is a name that never brings any pleasure when announced as our primary match day official, given Harlee’s tendency to ‘go rogue’ at crucial moments, and with the added burden of wanting to make a good impression in his first game with the armband – against his former fans and team mates – for once the presence of Mr. Ward could be a good thing. Please note: I reserve the right to retract this comment on Sunday morning. 

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Regardless, I’m itching to start once more. The Brentford record against Birmingham City has been first class since our paths have crossed once more. Each of those last five seasons has seen us finish higher than Blues. They’ve not beaten us since November 2016. There was, of course, also ‘that’ 5-0 and ‘that’ song. Those are nothing more than facts. Bloody good ones, mind you. 

Here’s to Saturday and the chance of seeing whether we can add to that record. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Neal going? Neal staying? Names – and nonsense – all over the place.

14 Jul

Yawn. Rumours. We should be talking about amazing things such as how the live YouTube stream of Dynamo Kyiv v Brentford (0-0) held stable throughout Saturday morning’s game. About how solid we looked at the back – second half especially (sadly, HB’s football club meant I missed a first half that Thomas Frank would later describe in glowing terms). We should be talking about the wonderful new home strip that the team wore and whether this may be the week where the ‘away’ colours finally put in an appearance (Come on Umbro, do your thing. Please). About our first proper look at the likes of Pontus Jansson and David Raya. But instead, it is all Neal Maupay – Sheffield United, Leeds United, Aston Villa and now even West Ham are being added to the rumour mill. Presumably as a result of their non-purchase of Scott Hogan a few years back.

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Still hoping to say happy birthday to my good friend next season – to coin a phrase

OK – let’s just cut to the chase and deal with the Neal Maupay situation from this perspective. That of outsider looking in and, as such, not privy to any club knowledge. Oh to have Phil Giles or Matthew Benham’s numbers in my i-pod telephone now. But, to be fair, even if I did I can’t imagine either party would be letting any cats out of bags. Why would they? This is a football club – not a committee meeting between supporters and top brass. Strategies and models have been laid out, precedents have been set and trust has long been earned. The amount of money invested in this club over the last 10 years and the players we have seen are a thing to behold. The sight of the new stadium springing up at Lionel Road, something to make the heart beat a little bit faster every time I walk past it.

I’m not in the employ of the club. Yes, I write in the match day programme but that’s voluntary and as much for my own pleasure or the chance to sneak past the editor some ‘in jokes’, a couple of references that only two or three other New Road Observers, Ealing Road fans & Braemar Road residents may get or simply a few open digs at our rivals. Thanks, Sam 😉

If something needs to be said on these pages then it’ll be said. But frankly, it hasn’t in recent years. The team are magnificent. Our top brass open and engaged. Our transfer business phenomenal. We’ve shrewdly and carefully built this club up. Improved and strengthened . Seen new heroes created. And, yes, leave. I still weep at the though of Jota sent to St. Andrews but take comfort in the fact that he is, at least, now an Aston Villa player. There’s one name going straight into my Fantasy Football team. Perhaps alongs side Chris Mepham, Ezri Konsa and number 26.

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Oh, Jota….. Any excuse

I also know that, like myself, we’ve a hardcore of long standing supporters for whom this positive period is something that still feels somewhat unusual. That success is brilliant but odd. That we’re only a moment away from selling Dean Holdsworth and replacing him with Murray Jones. To saying farewell Nicky Forster, Andy Sinton, DJ Campbell et al. That it’s Brentford, innit. Something is bound to go wrong. We’ll discover that Lionel Road is built on the site of an ancient burial ground. That somebody messed up the bluerprints and got the cms / inches mixed up a la Spinal Tap. That Neal Maupay’s contract was signed with invisible ink that is slowly disintegrating before our very eyes.

But it won’t. The evidence is there before our eyes. The difference is that when things happen that supporters may not like  – primarily the sale of a fan favourite – we now have a Plan B and C already lined up and in operation. Sometimes we sell early. Sometimes we sell late. Always we invest in potential. Now we are also investing in experience. The signing of Pontus Jansson a huge marker post that things continue to evolve at Griffin Park. 

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The final piece is lowered in to place at Lionel Road. Errrr “Chaaaaappp-mannnnn”

It is so apparent how things work these days. That Brentford still feels very much our club despite Matthew Benham and his team being at the helm. That they are deserving of our faith and trust. Be honest, NO football club is going to share transfer plans and divulge details of bids to supporters or journalists. Not even Brentford. Ignore the clickbait. Ignore the rumour. Trust the system.

Sure, Neal Maupay may well end up leaving us imminently. He may not. He was missing from the Dynamo Kyiv game, with Thomas conforming at full time that he had gone back to France for a couple of days but that there was nothing wrong with his approach and he’d be in training next week. Likewise, Said Benrahama although Kamo will be out for a few more weeks given his extended progress at the African Cup Of Nations.   

I’m not an idiot. I know we’re in clickbait season and that all manner of publications publish all manner of nonsense. Some of it may stick in hindsight. Most of it won’t. Maupay can’t be going to Aston Villa, Sheffield United AND West Ham. Romaine Sawyers can’t be going to Leeds United AND Aston Villa. Somebody might move. They might not. I’d love it if Neal lines up against Birmingham City on August 3rd. Absolutely love it. If only because I think he’ll destroy Harlee Dean and that’s worth anybody’s entrance fee. Let’s be blunt – I do NOT want him to leave. No matter how strong my trust in the system.

But, at the same time, IF he does then it’s not going to be a case of wailing and moaning. Most of our fans seem to get it, too. A twitter poll set up by the GPG (below) showed only 29% of voters saying that Neal must stay whatever. Likewise, the piece published by fellow blogger Luis Adriano – which you can read here – really hits the nail/neal on the head.

The last few years have more than shown that the board know what they are doing. Without Matthew Benham there probably wouldn’t even be a club now. We’d likely be watching AFC Brentford Phoenixes running out against Dulwich Hamlet or some such. Look at how Leyton Orient’s fortunes changed as a result of roping those three points to Marcello Trotta’s goal when we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. Look at how Doncaster and Yeovil have fared since being promoted at our expense the season prior.

We may not always do it immediately. But we ARE doing it right. I’d love Neal and/or Said to stay and really hope they do. Yet if they don’t, we’ll survive and who knows who we’ll unearth next….  

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The mutual love at Brentford is palpable – from Neal to Said and beyond

Nick Bruzon

If it helps, blame Greville. Warning : may contain typos.

10 Jun

Welcome back, Brentford fans. The dust has finally settled on 2018/19 and we’re now into that long wait for proceedings to begin in anger once more. The Bees finished 11th in the Championship, despite flirting with both ends of the table. Aston Villa ‘deserved to win’ in the play-off final as Griffin Park head coach Dean Smith swapped TW8 for his boyhood club back in October. Leeds United fell apart in quite spectacular style although will no doubt be amongst the favourites when the fixtures are announced this month. And Thomas Frank won over the doubters in some style as his free flowing team, spear-headed by Neal Maupay and Said Benrahma, started scoring goals for fun.

It was some season, that’s for sure. Season tickets are already flying off the shelves for 2019/20 as realisation dawns that we have just over 20 games left to play at Griffin Park. It’s going to be an emotional campaign and I for one cannot wait to get going once more. No matter how tedious the wait for early August already seems. Cripes, we don’t even know what we’re going to be wearing yet. Come on Bob – give us another kit clue. That said,  Umbro have at least had their name revealed and Lionel Road stadium building firm Ecoworld have been named as our new sponsor. 

For yours truly, it’s ‘that’ time of year aswell. I wasn’t going to bother and was then caught unawares by Bob Booker biographer Greville Waterman. I say unawares, more under the influence. A few pints had been consumed when he caught up with me and asked if I’d be doing it this time around, “Sure. Why not” was the answer. Curse you, Guinness. And so it began.

And as a result we’re live as of…. now. It’s annual e-book time. As ever, any and all funds raised from this (or previous titles) are going to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. This season’s effort is entitled ‘The Jaffa cake Shirt’ because we all know how amazing this was(n’t) – delete as applicable. It contains the least bad of the Blogs from this site swell as all the articles submitted for The Park Life feature in the Griffin Park match day programme – league and cup. 

Starting with the summer and the World Cup (when it got mentioned once or twice that we had a player involved – Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford) it goes on through all the fun and games.  Remind yourself how we out played Aston Villa. Again. Even if Dean did think they deserved to win. Re-live the goals from Neal Maupay – and the quite magnificent mentality! Watch Fulham and QPR self destruct, Birmingham City prove that overspending is anything but a ten times better strategy. Remember how Leeds United fell apart. Curse as Mrs. Brown’s Boys still exists.

Regular readers of these pages know the drill. The  quality may not be great. There WILL be typos. I probably use the phrases ‘That said’, ‘Then again’ and ‘However’ far too often. Much of it you will already be familiar with.

On the plus side, what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time of the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here. That’s here !

Many thanks in advance for your time. At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99  – which then goes to a great cause anyway.  I’ll apologise in advance for mentioning this again over the next few weeks but it will all benefit our quite fantastic Community Sports Trust. 

And if it helps, blame Greville. I have !

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Nick Bruzon

Is Kev a king in waiting? Video nasty or Oscar winner? Oh, and Hull City await.

15 Dec

Well that’s been a bit of a week for Brentford fans. We’ve had the post-mortem from the debacle against Swansea City which has included the promotion of Kevin O’Connor to Assistant First Team-Coach. The Aston Villa game in February has been selected for live TV coverage. Then there’s ‘that’ video with the first reveal of the Posh Seats. Something dubbed: hospitality.. but done in a Brentford way. All of which means you’d be forgiven for not realising there’s a game today with the Bees making the long trip to take on Hull City AFC. And so in no particular order…

The game against Hull City looms large. We all know our own recent form. Whether the 4 points out of a possible 27 since Thomas Frank has been at the wheel or the blip prior to that with Dean Smith registering 1 win from 6 before his inevitable departure for Aston Villa. There have been some horrific moments despite the odd patch of brilliance as we’ve chased games that have been handed on a plate to the opposition. Preston, QPR, Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and now Swansea have all been characterised by the team going gaga for short spells and gifting the opposition goals as though it’s already December 25th. The net result of this has been desperate last gasp attempts to rescue games and pick up a point that the coaching staff may feel our consequent attacking play has deserved. Yet with games already given away, we’ve not quite been able to pull it off. The result of which is our sliding down the table from a place where we’d been named joint favourites for the league to our current 18th. One position and one point above Hull.

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The Swansea game started about as badly as it is possible to

So we’ve shot ourselves in the foot. Time and again. Something all the more frustrating given both the incredible start to the season and the way we’ve tried to escape the self-inflicted holes which we’ve dug ourselves into in those recent games. And..?

For me Swansea was the watershed moment. About as bad as it got. You can read thoughts on that here. It has happened and we have to move on. To move up. To arrest this slide. Starting now. We absolutely have the talent and the squad which, whilst something that has been said many times in the last few weeks, remains true. Thomas now HAS to get them firing back to the form they’ve shown previously. And do it for 90 minutes. And then another 90. And another. He’s got an almost fully fit squad (only Lewis Macleod and Emiliano Marcondes are out) to choose from. Although as key will be his tactics and motivational skills as his personnel.

To aid in that side of things he has a wonderful man alongside him in King Kev – somebody who has shown his form on the pitch as player and then subsequently as B-team coach. It’s a great appointment and one which had a certain inevitabilty about it. Indeed, it is one fans have been talking about for weeks – albeit suggesting Kev should have taken the throne itself. Something I have no doubt will happen at some point in the future. Nobody stays in charge for ever. Not even Arsene Wenger. Just as Thomas himself stepped up from alongside Dean, one can only assume this is a succession plan being lined up already. Albeit I hope one which doesn’t come to fruition for some time as, if nothing else, it will mean Brentford have started winning again. Have stopped leaking those car crash goals. Are just playing for fun once more. Roll on 3pm when we find out if the Bees are coming home with three points in the back pocket.

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Last time out was anything but. Can Kev inspire us today?

Next up, the visit of Aston Villa in February has been declared a TV game. It was always going to happen. Dean Smith has the Villans heading to the business end of the table whilst his return to Griffin Park was an obvious lure for Sky directors looking to tick the cliché box. There’s been no change to game time as the match still kicks off at 7.45pm on a Wednesday evening.

I’ll be there regardless. Surely we’ll all be there regardless? I can’t imagine many Brentford fans who would have been in a positon to come to this one now forgoing the opportunity. Choosing to sit in front of the TV instead. With no change to the date or time It’s about as uncontentious as they come in the always emotive field of TV games.  Even had it not been chosen for ‘full fat’ coverage, as an evening game it would still have been lurking behind the scenes on the red button. The gate figures may say otherwise of course but I’d still be expecting a bumper Griffin Park crowd. It already promises to be a cracking game for so many reasons – even just recent form between our two clubs which has seen Brentford very much in the driving seat. Long may that continue.

And finally, we’ve all seen the video for corporate hospitality at Lionel Road? Presumably. Below if not.

The first of, no doubt, many videos to promote Lionel Road hospitality

I’ve seen a whole ton of negativity out there. Personally, at the risk of trotting out a glib cliché, it is what it is. A video shot using CGI representation of something that’s not ready yet in order to start generating interest. We were only going to get this sort of stuff the second it was revealed the amount of premium seats that the club had elected to create.

Hospitality is a key part of modern football. Everybody does it. From Premier league to non-league. From Manchester United to Salisbury FC. It’s a revenue stream that every club looks to tap in to, no matter what individuals may think about it being evidence that the game’s gone or being a sell out to your roots. We already do it at Griffin Park – just not in the scale that the club would like to. What are we supposed to do now? Pretend its not happening and fail to market it? Of course not.

Now it’s true the video itself comes over as a bit naff. In part, that’s hindered by the fact that the product being promoted doesn’t actually exist. Being honest – it looks like something put together by one of the teams in TV’s ‘The Apprentice’. For me, the low point was where my subconscious translated the ‘seat’ line to genuinely read  “And watch the action from a nice padded cell’.

You don’t have to be mad to support Brentford, but it helps. Or whatever the phrase is.

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Seat.Seat.Seat. Not cell.

Yet we have to start somewhere. And, frankly, nobody is going to care about a promo video that was about as cheesy as the delicious looking burger on display once our new home is built and once prices are announced. If I can afford it I’ll likely try it out on a special occasion. If I can’t, I won’t.

Either way, the most important thing for me on matchday is watching football with my mates. Having a beer together at half time. Being part of that communal experience. So unless Mr. Benham is prepared to offer me a box at a reasonable rates (yeah) so we can all sit together, it’ll be the regular seats for me. Regardless of how good or bad a video is. Regardless of how ‘unfootbally’ the names of the lounges seem to be – Orchard, Railway and Grand Union. An easy chance to honour our footballing past missed here.

Honestly, there are more important things to focus on in the short term than the first step in a promotional campaign that is only likely to crank-up as the Lionel Road project advances. Once we get information on the regular seats and the prices of all categories – from the top to the bottom – then we can all make an informed decision about what the club is doing and where we may want to position ourselves when STs are available for purchase. 

Until then, it’s all about getting back to winning ways. Starting in Hull.

Nick Bruzon

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever.

6 Nov

Good morning Brentford fans. And it is a very good morning. A quick look at the Premier league table following last night’s results shows Fulham firmly anchored to the bottom. Their 1-0 loss at a Huddersfield Town side (who themselves scored their first home goal since mid-April) sees our West London neighbours propping up the rest of the league. Statistically speaking, that’s 24 points behind leaders Manchester City after just eight games and with a trip to Liverpool next up.

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Happy Tuesday in the Premier League

The current predicament seems even more horrific when you look at the outlay from Fulham over the summer. It’s been widely documented that the £100.3m they spent has  been matched by a mere £4m coming in. They’ve kept their squad together and built on it. Hugely. A net outlay of £96.3m is only beaten by Liverpool who top the big spenders on £131m (161m out ; 30m in).  

And what is the result of this? A top flight record of ‘goals against’ for a Premier League start (29 conceded already), the worst goal difference in the division, a form record of LLLLL and a confidence level that saw the BBC match report subsequently describe them as: ”A fragile Fulham side, stripped of confidence and there for the taking.”  

It’s easy to laugh. Let’s be honest. Equally, let’s not make out we wouldn’t like to be feasting at a higher table. Yet that is something which I have no doubt will come. And, when it does, we’ll be competing rather than unable to scrap for the crumbs discarded by others. We’ve talked so often on these pages over the last couple of seasons about how Brentford are doing things. How we are spending cleverly, within means, and using our unique methods in order to stay afloat, comply with FFP but also build for the future at Lionel Road. It becomes a bit of a cracked record at times yet when you see the talent that has been uncovered, aswell as being sold for vast profit down the line as the team continue to step up, one has to step back and take notice.

Likewise, I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t love to have seen some of those heroes stay on. It still hurts so much to see Jota in the blue of Birmingham City although nobody could deny the form of our current widemen. Having the likes of Ollie Watkins, Sergi Canos and Said Benrahma as regular starters / first choice substitutes a luxury not many managers in this division have the benefit of. That, a situation which has arisen because of our ‘buy low and sell high’ policy. The departure of Harlee Dean (as much due to the the emergence of Chris Mepham) helped facilitate the return of Moses Odubajo and what already seems a huge bargain in picking up Ezri Konsa to further enhance the current squad. Then there’s Neal Maupay…

He’s the Championship’s leading scorer. He’s the Championship’s leading provider of assists. He’s the player who endured such a torrid start to his Brentford career last season – and that was just from Ian Moose. He’s the player who found his feet and perhaps, if anyone, illustrated just how fragile Fulham are when he bagged that late, late equaliser back in April  – ironically, the same day Huddersfield scored their previous home goal. It was a goal that deflated Fulham as easily as somebody letting the air out of a clacker or blow up hand and should have been seen as a warning sign.

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Mark Fuller’s picture captured THE moment at Fulham

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever. That’s for sure. Yet by the same virtue, look at Manchester City. Compared to previous ‘windows’ they’ve barely troubled the scorers over the summer. This, something very much in isolation for them. At the same time, I read a piece yesterday by Miguel Delaney of The Independent. It was an article described by the author himself on Twitter as an “Upbeat piece on football’s impending death”.

Click bait theatrics or genuine cause for alarm? The collapse at The Cottage is great value. For us, at least. The longer term prognosis in the top flight is, if you share Miguel’s opinion, a somewhat more concerning one. If you read one article today, make it his. You can do so here. Whatever your view on City’s approach, it’s well worth a look –  enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

Now really is the time to go again.

3 Nov

That’s been a long week. Brentford fans awaiting the visit of Millwall have had a lot to think about after last Saturday’s away defeat to Norwich City. However, it all seemed somewhat secondary to the one thought that the broader footballing community has had on its mind – the tragic events at Leicester City later that evening. I have to be honest that, after penning an initial column about both on Sunday morning, subsequent news saw the appetite for talking football dissipate as the story unfolded. The only solace, if there can be any, to be taken from this quite devastating situation has been in hearing all the wonderful stories about Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. A man with a genuine love for his players, his team and the city. Whilst this was already well known in Leicester, as an outsider looking in to only now understand the full extent of the love and respect in which he is held shows just what a terrible loss this was. I’ve no doubt it’s going to be both an emotional and celebratory one at Cardiff City this afternoon when football begins again for Leicester City.

 

As for Brentford, Thomas Frank welcomes a Millwall side who sit one place below us in 18th. It seems only five minutes ago we were knocking on the door of the play-offs. That 1-1 draw with Leeds United keeping the Bees in sixth place following what would later turn out to be Dean Smith’s last match as Brentford head coach. Three games later, played out over the space of a frenetic eight days, his successor has seen a record of LLL which included going 3 down to Preston in the space of 23 minutes. The Bees slipped another place last night and are now down to 17thafter Aston Villa managed a win rather than their customary 1-1 draw.

Yet, importantly, the table remains as tight as it has all season. We’re 7(seven) points away from the play-off places. We’re 6 away from the relegation trapdoor. That’s neither to over inflate our position (the table doesn’t lie) but nor is it to be the harbinger of doom. I’m not. There’s a hell of a long way to go and, as we’ve both said and seen, the squad has undeniable talent. Instead, the visit of Millwall should be seen as a massive opportunity for Thomas to harness that.

He’s now had a clear week with his squad to run at this. To work at things in training. To get his players firing and be clear just what is his preferred starting XI is (specifically given the injury suffered by Kamo). To try and stop opposition that have, typically for us, started to find form with 3 wins out of the last 4 coming after their own woeful start to this campaign. But which is the team suffering from a brief reversal of form? Who will pick up the points?

Look. Whatever happens it can’t be any more frustrating than Norwich last week. A game played out in awful conditions. Whilst acknowledging the hosts’ lofty position in the league and their clear ability, Brentford looked sluggish. We struggled as the team failing to show their own class. Albeit I thought Ezri Konsa had a stunning game. The atrocious weather – a deluge of diluvian levels descending on us in the first half – can’t have made things easier but it was the same for both sides.

Instead, we seemed guilty of over-elaborating yet remained unable to forge clear opportunities, that anguished triple chance in the second half aside.  As for the goal conceded, sitting in the stand it looked proper amateur hour. There’s nothing more to say. Move on. Fast. I did have to wonder if the Carrow Road scoreboard was sledging us as we went in one down at half-time with only Daniel Bentley’s spot kick save keeping us in it.

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Or , it could have been a dig at their own penalty skills

And relax. That was then. This is now. It’s a clean slate and time to go for it once more in the first of two back to back London derbies. The visit of Millwall is followed closely by the trip to QPR (for those of you who have been able to access the lower tier). Personally, I’m gutted that having started the season at 100mph, things have hit the skids somewhat. Yet equally, it is perhaps time to show some of that faith that the management had in the squad last season.

Who could forget our somewhat crumby start to that campaign? Hmm. Move along, nothing to see here. It was a period dominated by scrappy goals given away, painful defeats but Dean (supported by Thomas) telling everybody that this team were playing well and usually deserved to win. Yet once it clicked, Brentford were virtually unstoppable. I’ve got a feeling that today we’re going to see similar bouncebackability.

I was fortunate enough to meet Thomas last week, by virtue of Harry being mascot at Norwich. We had a very positive chat about the team, the players and the change in coaching staff. What I took away from that conversation was nothing but a sense of his drive, ambition for Brentford and self-belief in what we are doing as a club. For all it has been joked about in passing on social media, this is no Marinus situation. Quite the opposite. Three points are coming today. And you can quote me on that.  

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When Harry met Thomas

Tidying up the rest of the week’s news. Firstly, have you seen the survey which the GPG have put up on Twitter in regards to the ticketing website? The link is here if not.

It only takes a few minutes to complete and is your chance to share any thoughts – positive or otherwise – in regards to a system which has seen a few challenges in the initial inception. The likes of Beesotted, Bees United and BIAS have shared this one on social media and so I’ve no doubt it has already reached a wide audience. However, if our reader has somehow missed this then here you go….

Secondly. Stadium love. I took my first walk past Lionel Road in a few weeks yesterday. Oh, my. To say this has grown is somewhat of an understatement. Whilst the BFC Drone continues to amaze with those aerial flybys, it’s always great to see our new home from the ground up. Or other angles…  

This picture, taken from the SEGA building, dropped in to the Last Word postbox earlier in the week. It’s incredible how quickly the construction work is moving ahead when you consider it was only in late March that we had the ‘breaking ground’ ceremony. 

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To be this good doesn’t, necessarily, take ages

As such inspired, and with the school run back on after half term, I took a stroll on Friday. Below is my own effort, although you may want to refer to the version on Twitter which you can fully expand to see it in all its glory.

Likewise, not forgetting we still have a home at Griffin Park until 2020. A home which, whilst a little rough around the edges compared to our more illustrious friends, still never fails to take the breath away. As the same school run also demonstrated.

See you there at 3pm.

Lionel wide

Lionel Road in the morning

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Griffin Park by evening

Nick Bruzon

I’m looking to Preston, Norwich, drones and Ash for entertainment. Not Mrs. Brown.

23 Oct

Saturday’s been and gone. Brentford now have trips to Preston (Wed) and Norwich City (Sat), hoping for an immediate reaction following the pain of our first home defeat of the season. Bristol City took the points against a team and ref that played us like a fiddle but whom we’ve all done to death on social media over the last few days. Instead it’s an appropriate juncture to talk Lionel Road, shirts, bands and, be warned, Mrs Brown.

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A glorious afternoon on Saturday. If not result

First up, Lionel Road. I’m fortunate that my son’s school run combined with the commute to work takes me past the site of our new home on a daily basis. And what a sight it is. The speed with which the Community stadium is rising out of the ground takes the breath away at times. Likewise, the efforts of all those involved in the building process.

That’s me. I’m lucky enough having this on the doorstep so able to see the future coming to life all around. Yet for those a bit further afield, sorties into Brentford are a luxury afforded only on matchday. Which is where we need to stop and give thanks to The Brentford FC Drone on Twitter. With over a thousand followers already, the photos and films put up on social media are a quite wonderful means of being able to see the progress being made. At how incredible a job is being done. At keeping us all emotionally invested in a project on which all our footballing dreams hang. Without the drone we’d be the poorer in terms of information and appreciation, that’s for sure.

I love it. If you don’t follow this account as yet, I’d heartily endorse you climb on board. The aerial derring-do from the Biggles of Brentford can be found on Twitter c/o @TheBFCDrone.

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Aerial brilliance from The Drone

Next up, shirts. The eagle eyed amongst you may have seen the infamous ‘Super league’ prototype on eBay a few weeks ago. The one that proposed we switch red and white stripes for red and black, then was promptly booed all around the four sides of Griffin Park when it was shown to the crowd to gauge their reaction at an end of season fixture. Presumably also leaving one of the youth team scarred for life.

First up, huge thanks to Mrs. Bruzon who banned me from bidding for this on pain of death but then secretly did her own shopping for just about the best birthday present this kit nerd could ask for. I have to say, whilst never having the magnificence of red/white, in retrospect is it really as bad as we thought back then? Has time been kind to this one? With Adidas sure to be replaced next season, is there any chance of our new supplier might go back to black?

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It exists….

Unlikely on all counts but mentioned as much to say that eBay does seem to be a treasure trove of older shirts at present. There’s everything from player spec Hummel 93/94 to a plethora of the ‘100 years at Griffin Park’ blue/yellow special. That one, in our colours of the time, a particular favourite of yours truly. If anything, perhaps this is a scheme that will put in a reappearance when we either leave Griffin Park or move in at Lionel Road.

For the record, these aren’t my items. There’s more chance of me watching Mrs. Browns Boys than selling a Bees shirt. Likewise, the chances of buying anything at present are slim to zero. Instead, it’s mentioned purely to recognise the rarity of these aswell as direct anybody with an interest towards the chance of picking up something unusual. Just head to their site and a search of ‘Brentford shirt’ should do the rest.

Next up, live music (and the main reason there’s no spare cash for shirts). We’ve been blessed in the last few weeks on the ‘gig’ front. Highlights have included The Bluetones (at the 100 club), ELO (with a geriatric audience approaching their 100s) and then on Sunday an impromptu trip to Norwich to see Ash. This, after some hastily arranged babysitting and spontaneous decision-making the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the exact same second we became parents.

I’ve got to be honest here. I love The Bluetones, even putting aside the Brentford connection. Yet for me, Ash are all time live favourites. The excitement of a random road trip to see them once more, further enhanced by going ‘Full Partridge’ as we headed North into Norfolk. The road sign for ‘Linton’ had me sniggering like a teenage school boy. Mrs B, unimpressed by my knowledge that we had reached the midway point between Norwich and London.

The show was, as expected, magnificent. We were even afforded an early chance to scope out Carrow Road and the local pubs ahead of Saturday’s return visit.

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Ash. Norwich. Go and see some decent live music.

Getting home on Monday I was still in high, high spirits. Then, a double whammy hit me like the proverbial runaway freight train. A double whammy of brown. Mrs Brown. Urghh. We go again. Again…

Firstly, c/o Bluetone Adam Devlin. He shared this on Twitter…..

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Seriously. How? Why? Presumably this was a spoof story, yet it seemed to be true with the same piece coming up elsewhere. How can the ‘joke’ be spread so thin? Genuinely, WHO is watching this? Who would willingly pay money to go and see him (man. wig. cardigan etc) ‘live’. Cripes, the live music scene is still so vibrant. So intoxicating. So exciting. And then you get this. Ersatz music wrapped up as entertainment.

Yet it seems the ‘joke’ is being spread even thinner. We’ve already had the tv show, ‘da movie’ and then a second series – All round to Mrs Browns. A primetime chatshow / audience participation event that retained all the zany characters we, apparently, know and love.

But wait. Come here. There’s more. Now, aswell as being offered the musical there’s also ‘For Facts Sake.’ BBC One giving us a new chance to enjoy another flaky spin on the same tired format. This was on last night as I wondered, yet again, just what dirt Brendan O’Carroll has on the BBC. How does he keep on getting commissioned?

I don’t get it. I have tried and I have said this before. It’s entertainment for morons. Brain dead lemmings too afraid to admit the one joke has been told many, many times yet are now too embarrassed to jump off the bandwagon.

The man dressed as a woman act died many years ago. This is nothing to do with gender or stereotypes, purely comedy. And there isn’t any here. Despite the baffling lack of genuine laughs, the plaudits and series’ keeps coming.

It’s also nothing to do with football. But sometimes you need to get things off your chest. Prosthetic or otherwise.

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The Bluetones. Go and see some proper live music. Not Brown

Nick Bruzon

Team 54 becomes team 65 as Bees welcome new boss and Gibraltar go again.

17 Oct

Well that’s been all go yesterday. With Dean Smith having joined Aston Villa last week, Brentford announced the news that everybody associated with TW8 was expecting – namely, the appointment of Thomas Frank as the new head coach. With Leeds United fans still, seemingly, upset about the performance of ref Jeremy Simpson during our recent draw at Elland Road, their goalscorer Pontus Jansson is facing an FA charge for his own post-match comments. Over in Europe the UEFA Nations league has dominated international break with the headlines being made not by the new-fangled theme tune but by Gibraltar, who have broken their international duck in some style.

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Thomas opted for ‘signing shirt’ rather than ‘scarf aloft’ or ‘fake contract’

First up though, Thomas Frank has now been named as the new Brentford head coach. It is news which has surprised nobody, despite the best efforts of the bookmakers to talk up anyone from Roberto di Matteo to Marinus Dijkhuizen (pity anybody who ‘invested’ there at the terrifying odds of just 33-1). With Thomas being an integral part of the Griffin Park back room staff since December 2016, and his clearly visible role on match days, there was really only ever one name in the frame. Continuity being the absolute name of the game here.

Chief executive Mark Devlin used Twitter to reflect that : Thomas has been an integral part of our development over the past two years and deserves this opportunity.

Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen followed up his own words at last week’s fan forum by noting how: “Thomas knows the Club’s strategy inside out and he is both respected and supported by players and staff at the Training Ground. He has played a major role in the development of our style of play over the past couple of years and we believe he is ready for the job as Head Coach.”

You can read that article in full on ‘official’. Albeit, I can’t imagine there are many who haven’t been there yet.

Yet the most intriguing tweet comes from Jonathan Burchill, whose statistical nuances are very much in the line of a Luis Melville when it comes to niche. And then some. He notes how : In last 40 years Brentford have had 4 promotions. 3 of the successful managers were internal club appointments: Warbs (13-14), Andy Scott (08-09) & Phil Holder (91-92).  The 4th being the promotion season of 98-99 where Noades appointed himself.

It’s an obvious appointment. It’s a sound appointment. The players know and respect Thomas. The fans are familiar. There’ll be no tip-toeing around getting to know each other. As pertinent, and as Jonathan noted, we’ve considerable success at Griffin Park doing things this way. Whilst I’m just the numpty on the terrace, this one seems a complete no-brainer even to me.

The only two questions I have at present are, firstly, whether Thomas will continue with rotating the captaincy? One would assume so, given the talk about this at the fan forum. Equally though, as an idea that Phil Giles confirmed was originally put forward by Dean Smith is it one Thomas will take forward? I hope so. If only to see Neal Maupay given the role at St. Andrews or for the return Leeds United match.

Secondly, and perhaps the most important of all. What will his match day attire consist of? Tracksuit manager, sports-casual or smart suit. Whilst current indications suggest the former, who knows what difference the new role might make to his own sartorial stylings. Roll on 3pm Saturday when we find out.

As for Leeds United, we’ve skipped over the post-match nonsense and barracking of Jeremy Simpson on these pages since that game. Largely because its all a bit pointless.

Shocking news –  supporters feel hard done by and blame referee for both their own inability to win a game and recent blip in form after a storming start to the season. Who’d have thought it?  Seemingly, one (correct) penalty decision given to tinpot/little etc etc Brentford is the reason for their own slip from the automatic positons into the play-off zone. Something that, for the record, I am sure will only be a temporary one.  

Pontus Jansson, their goalscorer that day, has now been charged by the FA (as have the club for fans throwing objects at Neal Maupay) after accusing the referee of ‘robbery’ and saying on live TV that the result felt a bit ‘shit’.  There’s talk of conspiracy, too. Seriously? Get a grip. They’ll no doubt get over it. Jansson will no doubt be found guilty of charges he has until 5pm today (Wednesday) to respond to. Leeds will no doubt be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. They’re too strong. They’ve too much backing and Sky Sports love them (another game moved now, along with our own Monday night trip to West Brom. Joy). What conspiracy?

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Neal’s penalty was well received by players and fans alike

I could rant. They can rant. They can nibble at the obvious fishing-rod emoji. It’ll change nothing. Let’s focus on ourselves. Let’s be gutted by not taking three points in a game that was there for the taking. Let’s see how Thomas rallies the troops to go one better at home to Bristol City on Saturday.

Next up, Gibraltar. Wow. After 22 consecutive losses in competitive football since they became the 54thmember of UEFA back in May 2013, the tiny nation (think an international Brentford if you want some comparison of general commentating cliché and relative size) has finally won a first game. And then another. Much like our own 65 bus, you wait ages and then two come along at once.

Saturday’s 1-0 win in Armenia was followed up by last night’s 2-1 win at home to Liechtenstein. A first ‘official’ win on home soil (friendlies not counting) and the first time they have scored more than two goals in a game. It was wonderful stuff to watch and about as tense as it comes with an additional 6 minutes of stoppage time added at the end.

Sky sports may wind us up with their Leeds United obsession or fixture shenanigans but the ‘blue button’ option was a life saver last night. Fuzzy feed from Gibraltar being beamed directly into sub-channel six and an opportunity to watch history being made. Sensational stuff.

Sensational, that is, until the ref blew for full time. Within about ten seconds the post match euphoria had been killed. Instead of players celebrating or excited interviews, the live stream was replaced by the footballing equivalent of the test card.

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Talk about a post-match passion killer

What can you do?  With Armenia beating group leaders Macedonia, this one is suddenly wide open. Miracles can happen. Gibraltar are now vying for top slot in group D4 and promotion to Group C where they may then be afforded the chance to play some of the bigger teams in Europe. Or Scotland.

All that’s a long way off. For now, it’s all about enjoying the moment. And what a moment it was.

Getting back to all things Brentford, the eagle eyed amongst you may have seen further progress at Lionel Road. With the South stand dominating the horizon, work on the East stand is now clearly visible. Whilst the groundwork has been underway for months, anybody approaching the site can now see clear evidence of one ‘end’.  

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The second stand appears

These are exciting times. I’ve no desire to wish my life away but, by the same virtue, things at Griffin Park at Lionel Road and on The Rock are all on the up. I can’t wait for more.

See you Saturday. Bring on Bristol City…..

Nick Bruzon

Hearty updates from the club top table as head coach news is absorbed.

12 Oct

With the shockwaves of Dean Smith’s departure from Brentford for Aston Villa still reverberating around Griffin Park, the timing was ideal for Thursday night’s ‘Fan Forum’. Sitting at the top table were chief executive Mark Devlin and Chairman Cliff Crown alongside co-directors of football Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen. As ever, Peter Gilham remained in-situ as MC. Directing questions from the floor in a two part event – the first half being dedicated to football matters and then the second looking at all things ‘Lionel Road’.

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Pass the mic

So what did we learn? Should fans be worried about Dean’s move to Aston Villa? Is there any news on the replacement name for the head coach role as yet?

Rasmus opened proceedings, noting “I’m sure you’ve seen the news…” and with that setting the tone for what was, as ever, an open session with no subject deemed taboo. He went on to add that “Brentford is not a one man band. It is a football club that has a strategy.” He emphasised the point by explaining how he reminded the players that Dean being approached was a complement to them. To Brentford. That we are more than just one person.

And he’s right. The togetherness and good wishes on social media when the news broke showed our fondness towards Dean. But as much as anything else, perhaps a corner having been turned in regards to widespread acceptance of how Brentford football club works these days. That we all presume the club will replace from within and Thomas Frank step up. That we all trust the decisions being made.

On the subject of Dean’s replacement, Phil explained how “Are we starting from scratch today? More or less, yes….We’d like to see it as an opportunity to improve.”

For Rasmus, it was as much about being open minded. The main thing being to find someone who fits our structure. Who is able to execute our strategy.

For me, and many others, the longer term concern being Dean Smith waving the Aston Villa chequebook at us in January. Phil was clear that, of course, there is nothing to stop them making offers but we are not duty bound to accept. He was unequivocal about the situation in regards to a promotion push, saying that “If we are in the top six in January we won’t be selling players….If we’ve a high likelihood of getting promoted we’d be very reluctant to sell.”

There was, from memory, a caveat about astronomical offers but the message on this front was an extremely positive one. Albeit one that hinges on us being in contention at that juncture. With over two months until that window opens that’s a long way to go.

Cliff was asked about ticket prices at Elland Road, a seemingly annual bone of contention and one felt throughout the Championship. His diplomatic reply, and one has to also recognise it was probably bound by his role on the EFlL board, was that they were doing nothing wrong. That all we can do is protect the fans and ensure they are not being charged more than home supporters – as the EFL rules dictate.

Peter Gilham came up with the suggestion of a £42 block in the corner of one home stand whilst Mark Devlin spoke about the potential of reciprocal pricing. Of exploring whether groups of clubs would be prepared to charge the same for each others ‘away’ support. This could then be proposed to the EFL .

Either way, not a subject that is going to go away (pun intended) anytime soon. However, with the FSF still pushing ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ I’m sure that drum will keep on being banged.

And so the single most important matter of the night. Kit. After a passionate plea from the floor about the desire to leave our current supplier, Mark confirmed that “We are unlikely to be with Adidas next season”. That on talk of the stripes and home shirt in general we were given a disappointing option. Likewise, other clubs he had spoken to – Sheffield United and Sunderland were mentioned- felt exactly the same.

Interestingly, Mark also added that whilst it was something we were talking about and looking at ways of getting around, plain backs are often preferred by not only the media but also the players. There was no talk of brown/orange.

An update on the injury front was provided. Rico Henry will be in full contact training next week with the hope of B-team games next month. Emiliano Marcondes has an ongoing foot injury that we’re struggling to get to the bottom of.

The final two points from the opening session were the Premier League and Midtjylland. On the former, was it feasible that should promotion be achieved our final season at Griffin Park could host Premier League football? Mark was very open on this.

Whilst we are miles away from being fully compliant with top flight regulations, and that proposals needed to be submitted in January, he was hopeful a middle ground could be reached. Specially given the clear work being done to build a fully functioning Premier League stadium at Lionel Road. As such, any deal to stay at Griffin Park in the top flight would only be for one season. Even then, it would cost £2-3million to do what we could but it would be our absolute priority to stay if at all possible.

Finally, FC Midtjylland. Matthew Benham’s other club. A friendly was requested from the floor and Rasmus replied explained how “We need to know who is the best team.”

The proposal was to look at doing something during an International break although, personally, I can only see that time as hampering The Bees given the 12-13 cap winners we now have on our books at all levels of the club.

What a nice problem to have!

More was covered over the ‘football’ half of the session but these seemed the main discussion points. A prior commitment meant at home meant the ‘stadium’ half was missed although no doubt social media / Brentford ‘official’ will have all you need on that.

It only remains to thank the club for their time. Likewise, to appreciate how lucky we are being given the opportunity to challenge, to ask, to question on such a regular basis. Long may it continue.

Nick Bruzon