Tag Archives: Manchester City

Are we really looking to press the button? Or choose a pen?

24 Jan

And let’s all relax. Winter break is upon us. We’ve no football for a fortnight. A time for Brentford to take stock, complete any transfer business before the window shuts (come on already Christian Eriksen) and then we’re back to it. The FA Cup tie with Everton followed by the trip to Manchester City in the league, a visit from Crystal Palace and then off to the Highbury library for Arsenal. Nobody said it was easy, that’s for sure. Yet off the back of several defeats (a sequence that includes losses to Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and a very strong Wolves team in the last thirty days) I’ve started to see mutterings of panic on these pages – in the comments – and also social media. Quelle surprise…. Here’s the question though. Is it time to press the big, red panic button?

Fingers at the ready

Cripes, one commentator even posted he would expect us to beat ‘teams like’ Brighton and Southampton. Teams like. Teams.. Like….…. Insert Picard emoji. The simple fact of the matter is that there are no easy games at this level. The standard of goalkeeping we have come up against is like nothing we’ve seen before. Mendy and De Gea in particular but they are not alone in the elite ‘keepers club. Whereas in the Championship we got a dozen chances per game and generally scored two or three of these, we’ve stepped up the ladder and how.

There have been some wonderful performances and we’re fourteenth everyone. Fourteenth. Out of twenty. Look at the precarious state Burnley are in if you want panic. The slide that Everton are on. Managerial sackings and more shots on target against Aston Villa from the crowd than the first team. Kids, don’t throw things.

There have also been some shockers. Burnley, Southampton and Brighton away in particular. You can’t be ‘any good’ every game and it’s true that when we’ve been off the pace we’ve been awful. There’s the 100% attention that is needed every game and at times we’ve been off it. Yet still with a team that is, mostly, made up of Championship players. Kris Ajer being the only new signing to regularly feature in the starting XI. A team that is missing one of the best goalkeepers in the division and whom we have really struggled to replace. The importance of David Raya cannot be underestimated. The confidence he exudes. The shot stopping ability. The distribution.

David Raya has been missed

Failing to replace / cover at full back has been the other, obvious, key difference. We love Sergi Canos but so much better to play him higher up. We can’t when Rico is out. The goals scored by Wolves all emanating down that side of the pitch. Mads Roerslev has impressed but his is only a recent emergence. Oh to have persuaded Henrik to stick around for one more campaign.

We’ve been decimated by covid and injury. We’re also missing Josh Dasilva. If he returns next month and Christian Eriksen joins us too, suddenly the central midfield options look magnificent. We’ve two and a half weeks until the next Premier league fixture. Plenty of time to regroup and recharge. Transfer business, if any, will be minimal.

Ultimately, we’ve had a wobbly run. No question. We’ve looked patchy at times. No question. We’re still playing a more all-round team set up rather than channelling everything through Ivan Toney. The yards he is covering from box to box are immense. Equally the performances of Bryan, Rico and Christian Norgaard have been magnificent. They’ve made the step up look oh so simple. David Raya, too, until that injury against Leicester City.

We’re not far off getting back to our best. The difference is marginal but that small gap does feel like a gulping chasm at times. Looking back to February 2021, I remember the meltdown after we’d lost against Coventry City up at St. Andrews. It was as poor a performance as we’d seen all season. We’d played three games more than Swansea City who were tucked right up behind us in third place. The wailing and gnashing of teeth, especially form a certain clique, was up there with the most ridiculous things we’d ever seen. Cripes, imagine if Twitter had been around in the Rosenior / Butcher eras.  The Swans responded just a few hours later by getting thumped by Huddersfield and going on an equally poor run themselves. Parity restored and the reminder delivered that a season is determined by results over 46 (now 38) games. Not from a snapshot in time when spirits are, understandably, low.

That’s the same now. We aren’t at Coventry levels but the mutterings are definitely creeping in. Genuinely, I’m so unphased and laid back as to be almost horizontal. I’m loving Premier League life and want this to continue as long as is possible. The return of Raya and Dasilva will be huge. Christian Eriksen putting pen to paper next level craziness. Perhaps some cover at full-back would calm a few frayed nerves. It might also give us the option to revert to a more traditional back four and strengthen higher up the pitch. Beyond this, I’d be amazed if there’s any further activity before that window ‘slams shut’ ™.

Wolves were so strong on Saturday. They’re also eighth for a reason. Please do take a look at the player review, which you can find here / below. If nothing else, it tries to take a more considered view over the course of the campaign as to where those strengths lie.

Until then, time for some calm. Time to reflect on just what we’ve already achieved this campaign. Time to look forward to those games at Arsenal and Manchester City. Tickets for the former going on sale today.

Enjoy. See you there. Until then. Perhaps a few days off. At least, until Christian Eriksen signs. Whichever pen he uses….. 😉

photoshop skills don’t match imagination

Nick Bruzon

Left or right? Who were the top performers?

23 Jan

Brentford 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2. For some fans, doom and gloom about a recent run that has seen us lose to Manchester United, Liverpool, Southampton (move along, absolutely nothing to see here) and now eighth placed Wolves. Chuck in Manchester City just prior along with a whole host of injuries and its no surprise that the points total has been slimmer than the Peter Bankes guide to competent refereeing. As ever though, we need context. As ever after a Brentford game, we have choice….

Or should that be, choices? Two infact. Will you go left for ‘the other stuff’ from the Wolves game? The Drone. The parachute. The ‘referee’. A man who Jim Levack would this afternoon put on a pedestal alongside Ray Biggar… Ah, who could forget Notts County? ‘That’ game.

Or will you turn right for the deeper dive into how the team fared (along with a bit more of the off-field nonsense)? The regular post-match search for our top five performers. The search for our season long star man. The quest to see who should keep their place for Everton and Manchester City? The genuine consideration as to whether Peter Gilham should have been included.

Well, the choice is yours….. (but go right, below).

Nick Bruzon

Jurassic Park !!! Crazy costume heralds ‘keeper return.

11 Jan

Game on. Brentford travel to Southampton this evening. Victory, should it be earned, will take us into the top ten. Any other result is not even an option being considered by yours truly. Optimism is high following a strong start to the year and some wonderful news off the training ground. We’ve got Liverpool (a) and Manchester United (h) to come after this one and an FA Cup fourth round tie at Everton. Immediately followed by the trip to Manchester City in the league. If Thomas Frank’s team ever wanted to be tested at the highest level then the opportunity is very much here in the next few weeks. First up though, the injury update.

Ordinarily we’d start with some reference to the Southampton game. Rightly so. It is the immediate focus but the news out of Brentford ‘official’ yesterday was jaw droppingly good. Not to mention laced with the simple question…. “Why?”

If ever some ‘Monday motivation’ (urghh – see also humpday Wednesday and Gameday Saturday) were needed then here it was by the bucketload. David Raya back in training. Or, rather, David Raya back in training but rocking up at Jersey Road in a T-Rex costume. Repeat, a T-Rex costume. To clarify, a dinosaur rather than a Mark Bolan corkscrew perm and dapper threads combo.

Jurassic Park !!!

Back on the grass? Or just the painkillers taking hold to inspire a remarkable return? If the smiles were broad at Jersey Road they were even bigger in cyberspace. The Brentford family as exited on Twitter about the next step in his return as his choice of unexpected training gear. It was one of those,  “What the actual…?” moments. One best just enjoyed. As much for his entrance as the sight of our number one looking as solid as one could hope in a shot stopping drill for the cameras.

Brentford official captured it in full. David’s idea, apparently. No idea why but you can’t deny its impressive. Not to mention making me wonder whether there is somebody else inside Buzzette at present if this is what he does as part of that journey back to full fitness?

Whilst a return to playing may be some way off still, just to see David doing his thing was a phenomenal boost. Kris Ajer’s return against Port Vale in the FA cup at the weekend had already given Bees’ fans a lift and then there was this. Yet just when things couldn’t get any better, they did. Thomas Frank using his press conference for the Southampton game to talk about Josh Dasilva. We’d all seen those pictures of him back in training last week but the news on a potential return was about as good as it gets for a player who has missed the entire Premier League campaign.

“I said to Josh the other day that he could be our best signing this year. I really hope he comes back in a fantastic place. Hopefully, five or six weeks if everything goes to plan and he could potentially be available”. That’s no time at all.

Granted, there was an understandable air of caution in the proviso that, “We need to build him very carefully and strong. He needs to have a proper pre-season to load him well. We can’t get too over-excited but everything has been fine so far. The medical staff have been fantastic and done a top job”. However, this suddenly feels close. Very close.

Josh was absolutely immense in the Championship and has already gone on to represent England U-21. With him and David back out there and Kris already in the team, it feels like we’ve had a transfer window hat trick without signing anyone. Just phenomenal news. Let’s not forget either that Josh is only 23. Whilst this absence has felt like an eternity, time is very much on his side when it comes it the future. Here’s to it being with Brentford.

Exciting news from the training ground

As for tonight, Southampton are no push-overs, that’s for sure. The challenge will be as tough as the aforementioned games with Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City. If not harder, given nobody outside of TW8 expects us to do anything against the teams from the North-West. Yet tonight, we are ahead of our hosts in the Premier League and are back to winning ways following the thing at Brighton. The comeback against Aston Villa was inspirational, with the pressure being cranked up to the nth degree until victory eventually came (even if the ultimate talking point remains Trezeguet’s theatrics at the death…).

So yes, we may be back in the zone but that still needs to come with the ultimate respect for who we are up against. Thomas would talk about their pressing and their drive.  “They go very front-footed and are at some stages the best high-pressing, energy team in the league. Then they have some key players; James Ward-Prowse is maybe the best set-piece taker in the league”.

He knows it. We know it. Sadly, there isn’t even time to parachute Ward-Prowse into my Fantasy Football team. A curse which worked so well against Aston Villa with the no-show from Ollie Watkins and two goals conceded by Ezri Konsa. Perhaps just an ‘any time’ goal scorer bet. Whilst it may mean missing out on a whopping £2.30, it could be the best pound invested given my own ongoing ineptitude when it comes to predicting football or winning bets.

Forget Wissa’s rocket – the Villa win was as much down to my own team selection

Still, whatever nonsense takes place in the build up, it all comes down to who Thomas starts and how they go? Can Kris Ajer force his way into the back three or will an appearance from the bench be part of his own, well planned return? Sergi Canos and Matthias Jensen are both available once more although I’d be amazed if Mads Roerslev misses out on the right. So it turns out to be a three-way fight between Dominic Thompson, Sergi or perhaps even the wildcard option of Saman Ghoddos on the left. Rico Henry is expected to be back for the weekend trip to Liverpool. With respect to the other three, the second he is fit then he will unquestionably go straight back in to the team.

As for the middle of the park, it has to be Janelt, Baptiste and Norgaard. Only injury to one of those will see Matthias Jensen force his way into the starting XI. They’re simply that good at present. Up top, Bryan alongside Ivan writes itself after the weekend. Albeit, we don’t know how much strength is in the legs after that short-term lay off. Roll on 6.46 when ‘official’ announce the team news.

Finally, just a thought about those who can’t make it at present. And no, this is not a reference to the ‘plastic’ fans who weren’t at Port Vale. Seriously? Personally speaking, I had a great time drinking a glass of wine on the couch with Mrs. B in front of the tv on Saturday. Sometimes, things have to give for any number of reasons – financial or otherwise.

Something which has come to a head for some of our own friends who sit alongside us in the North stand. If they are somehow reading (stranger things and all that) then know your presence has been sorely missed. Whilst we hope you are back soon, just look after yourselves and know that all in our group are thinking of you. Some of us miss games through choice. Others have less control over matters. It doesn’t make you any ‘less’ of a fan. Genuinely, I’d love a 100% attendance record but that’s just not always possible. At least I get a choice though. Take care and see you soon x

Until then, its on to Southampton. Safe travels to all that can make this one. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Time for another road trip (or three). League and cup action await.

10 Jan

Brentford will travel to Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup – ties to be played the weekend of 5th February. Along with Spurs v Brighton and Wolves v Norwich, it is one of only three all Premier League ties. Meaning there’s a good chance of the BBC going for TV coverage along with the inevitable bore fest that will be Manchester United v Middlesbrough. Unless, of course, Aston Villa can spare us all from that one tonight when they travel to Old Trafford for the final game of the round. Manchester City have the chance to warm up for our visit the following week with a home draw against EFL club Fulham whilst next on our tour of the Premier League, Southampton, are home to Coventry City.

There was immediate, perhaps bizarre, excitement in our house when Everton came out of the hat. Aside from our own recent 1-0 win and an earlier than expected chance to visit a new ground, if Brentford show half the oomph we did against Port Vale then it could be a classic. A 4-1 win on the road with Mads Bidstrup subsequently described by Thomas Frank as a little bit of our N’Golo Kanté  ( “A big, big claim of course” – Thomas’ own words ). Talking about his “Big engine”, he used the post-match to lavish praise on the midfielder, enthusing that “his ability to press and cover so many yards across the pitch is fantastic and that acceleration when he just goes past people, I think that’s so good in the pressure.”

Mads’ reward is another ‘away’ tie.

Then, of course, we’ve the prospect of another run in with everyone’s favourite Brazilian.  Pele, Socrates, Zico, Ronaldinho…. Allan. As has already been documented on these pages, the midfielder has become a cult hero to rival Argentina’s Lucas Biglia in our house. Any chance of some bonus Allan action is one which we’ll always opt for. Especially if Everton continue to, what’s the polite term, ‘misfire’ as much as they have done in recent months. League form is best described as patchy, with only Leeds United and Watford standing between them and the bottom three.

Meaning that the purse strings could be severely tested, given the trip to Manchester City in the Premier League is just a few days later. A 7.45pm kick off on Wednesday 9th February. Tickets for that one go on sale this Tuesday afternoon for anyone clearing that first TAP threshold of 3,400.  Away capacity for League games at The Ethiad is reckoned to be about 3,000 across the three tiers of the South Stand, so hopefully anyone with requisite form will be able to get in should they so desire. Definitely one where we’ll need to flex the plastic to cover costs.

Before all that we head to Southampton on Tuesday evening. They had the pleasure of a ‘behind closed doors’ tie in Swansea at the weekend (its Wales, innit). That one went to extra time before the Saints went, if not marching, certainly limping on.

Ralph Hasenhüttl telling Sky that his much changed team may not have enough players for tomorrow’s game, saying, ”We never know. At the moment, it’s all about lottery… You wake up in the morning and go to the training ground. You sit at breakfast and you are waiting for new [coronavirus] cases. The problem is with the fixtures coming up. It doesn’t get any easier.”

So far (Monday morning) there aren’t any noises being made about applications to have the game called off or training grounds being closed. Fingers crossed this is nothing more than sabre rattling and mind games. As much for the players’ health as the additional chaos caused by any more backlog. Let’s not forget that this fixture has already been put back once.

For Brentford, expect to see more of Bryan Mbeumo. He was back to his brilliant best, with Thomas waxing lyrical about his half hour appearance form the bench. Less the proverbial cameo and more scene stealing. Our head coach nothing that “I must say he’s been the same for us this year in the Premier League. He’s done really well after coming back from injury. We knew he wanted to play in the Cup to be in with a chance of being ready for Tuesday at Southampton and he’s just come in with three quality finishes”.

Too true, and surely he’ll find his way back in to the Brentford front line alongside Ivan when the teams are named at 6.46 on Tuesday evening.

In the meantime, you can read that piece in full, here. Come for Mads. Stay for Bryan.

For now, though, it’s a chance to charge the battery packs and prepare for the trip to Southampton. Don’t forget those Manchester City tickets tomorrow and, whilst we wait to find out when that Everton game will actually take place (Liverpool are also at home so something will have to give) here’s the rest of the draw in full….

Safe travels to the South coast and see you there…

Fourth round ties…

Crystal Palace v Hartlepool United

Bournemouth v Boreham Wood

Huddersfield Town v Barnsley

Peterborough United v Queens Park Rangers

Cambridge United v Luton Town

Southampton v Coventry City

Chelsea v Plymouth Argyle

Everton v Brentford

Kidderminster Harriers v West Ham United

Manchester United/Aston Villa v Middlesbrough

Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton and Hove Albion

Liverpool v Cardiff City

Stoke City v Wigan Athletic

Nottingham Forest v Leicester City

Manchester City v Fulham

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Norwich City

Allan awaits

Nick Bruzon

Can we pick up the baton and run after last time?

2 Jan

Here we go again. The first fixture of 2022 is upon us with Brentford hosting Aston Villa at Lionel Road on (checks calendar) Sunday afternoon. 2pm is the kick off time for a game going out live on Sky Sports Premier League. For the Bees, yesterday’s positive news (predominantly around Kris Ajer and Vitaly Janelt) was given a further boost by the man very much one of our top( top) performers this season, Christian Nørgaard. There was wonderful news out of ‘official’ surrounding his new deal but the ultimate question to be asked is whether we can harness the positivity from last week’s narrow defeat to Manchester City to get back to winning ways? 

Fantastic news, yesterday

The pundits would seem to be looking towards Aston Villa as the winners of this one. As are the bookies, who have Brentford priced at 2/1 to win. Fair enough. The form under new manager Steven Gerrard being seen as key. Likewise, the covid related break they’ve had. However, with captain Tyrone Mings absent as a result of a fifth yellow card could we have an added glimmer of hope? Might Ollie Watkins have an off day? What of, with apologies for going all FLW / Chronicle, much touted ‘starlet’ Jacob Ramsey? Indeed, at what point does the cut off between starlet and fully fledged stellar  / ‘out of this world’ performer occur? 

Frankly, who cares. This is all about us. This is all about how Brentford pick up the baton from our performance against Manchester City and run with it. I can only imagine we’ll have Christian Nørgaard back in the team, despite the heroics of those selected last time out. It’ll be harsh but why leave your best players on the bench if they are available? 

If nothing else, the announcement made yesterday regarding his contract extension will only serve to put an additional spring in the step of both the midfielder and the fans. It was confirmed yesterday that he has extended his time at Lionel Road until the end of the 2024/25 season, with the three and a half year deal having the option for a further year’s extension. Only somebody who had been living under a/the rock would fail to appreciate the significance of this. It’s just huge for Brentford.

Thomas Frank was effusive in his praise, telling ‘official’ that, “Christian shows great leadership qualities in training every day and he helps build our culture. That is very important to us. He has an unbelievably important role in this team, and it is great that he will be part of our future.

For me, Clive, it is magnificent news. Christian is going neck and neck with Ivan and Rico in the race to find our top performer over the season (you can read the latest instalment of that one – the post Manchester City piece – here). Anything that ties him to our future and our club can only be a good thing. Happy days indeed.

As for the game, well victory would see us overtake Aston Villa and up as far as  11th placed Crystal Palace. With the groundswell of Covid related cancellations still causing mayhem, getting a proper read on the table is till a bit tricky. Palace have played two more than us, table toppers Manchester City three more whilst Burnley in 18th have gone two less. All we can do is focus on the task in hand and remember that s Eason is 46 38 games long. The only position that matters is the one occupied after that final fixture has played out. Albeit, let’s not pretend that topping the Premier League after beating Arsenal wasn’t the most amazing / hilarious thing going. Sergi Canos and, of course, Christian helping make that possible.

For what its worth, I’m going for a Brentford win today. With goals in it. 3-2 for the record. Confidence in our boys combined with the attempt at jinxing Ollie through the medium of Fantasy Football (see yesterday) will hopefully suffice. Not to mention the small matter of Thomas’ tactics and a strange omen (which I’ll elaborate on tomorrow should it somehow come off). A wonderful opportunity awaits this afternoon and I cannot wait to see how it plays out. Even just the slightly novel concept of getting back in to regular football is a nice one. Long may that continue.

On a side note, don’t forget to pick up the matchday programme. I would’t normally plug this (as much due to my own four pages of nonsense – albeit hoping the Villa kit pics have come out well). However, the prospect of Greville Waterman effusing over Ollie Watkins and a catch up with Kevin O’Connor are never to be missed. Hey, if nothing else there’s that wonderful cover art from the amazing Dave Flanagan. Somebody I am led to believe is a goat. Whatever that means. Keep those cultural references coming.

That’s it. See you there. Here’s to 2pm……

Nick Bruzon

New year, same Brentford. 2022 starts in style…

1 Jan

Well that’s been a busy start to 2022. Jools Holland hadn’t even started his Hootenanny and the signing pen had already been in action with incoming confirmed from Midtjylland confirmed. New year. Same Brentford. Hot off the heels of the Manchester City game we’ve a visit from Aston Villa. From Ezri Konsa. From Ollie Watkins. Subject to any 11th hour test results coming through, Sunday afternoon sees us host Stevie G ™ et al in a 2pm TV game. There’s ‘that’ video and even some fantastic news on the New Year Honours list.

First up, the obvious stuff. We have a new goalkeeper. With David Raya still suffering that long term injury, 32 year old Jonas Lössl has joined Brentford on loan from Midtjylland, with the option to make it a permanent deal further down the track. Providing some competitor between the sticks is an obvious move. Alvaro Fernandez has stepped in but with the recent scare that would have seen 18 yo Matthew Cox make a debut against Manchester United, had they not called Covid at the last moment, shows how exposed we may have been. With Thomas Frank also confirming the Spaniard had missed training recently, moving fast to give options makes 100% sense. I can only see Alvaro starting against Aston Villa on Sunday – frankly, it’ll be harsh on anyone to lose their place after running Manchester City so close – but after that who knows? Jonas has top flight experience with Huddersfield Town and has also been on Everton’s books, so it wouldn’t be a trip into the total unknown. Good luck Jonas and welcome.

Welcome Jonas. No messing around

The other person in evidence onto training ground was Josh Dasilva. This is about as huge as it comes. Our England U-21 has missed the entire season after playing such a pivotal part in Brentford reaching the Premier League. Whilst there’s no news as to when he might be back out in front of us, just to see him out and about. To see him running around. To see him chasing the ball . Well, its nothing but magnificent.

There aren’t the words to describe how much we’ve missed Josh. The imagination has been running riot at the thought of how much better we may have performed than we already have, had he been available. Whilst one man doesn’t make a team, there are those whom you know would have been nailed on starters had fitness allowed. Josh is at the top of that list for sure. Here’s hoping we see him soon.

He’s on the mend….!!!!!!!

The one player more likely to be back in action soon is Kris Ajer. Thomas Frank used the Villa press conference to confirm that the ball carrying centre back ”Hopefully can make the bench”….whilst on the other absences, “Rico Henry will be out, Bryan Mbeumo is touch and go, and Christian Norgaard is back from suspension. Vitaly Janelt could be on the borderline to be involved.

Again, this is fantastic news. Kris has made an immediate impression at Brentford. Not just in defence but in his ability to take the game to our opponents. Having him available alongside Ethan and Pontus is easily our top combination and comes just in time for the trips to Southampton and then Liverpool. Whether he will be able to break in to the stating XI by then remains to be seen but, personally speaking, if he’s fit and able then he starts. If we take Thomas at face value then presumably expect to see those legs being stretched on Sunday. With Vitaly also close, it could suddenly be a very impressive looking array of substitutes available.

In the shorter term. Dominic Thompson will be given anther chance to impress. The contrast between Brighton away and Manchester City home was about as vast as they come. Although, to be fair, you could say that about the entire team. However, for Dominic in particular the confidence and calmness with which he played against City was just stratospheric. Follow that up again and we could finally have the much needed competition / cover for Rico that was so sorely missed last campaign. Like Charlie Goode, Dominic is another of those slow burners to bide their time and look to take the chance when it has been presented. That Manchester City review is here. And the Brighton one here (for the masochistic amongst us).  

For the rest of the Aston Villa stuff, it’ll all be about Ollie Watkins. Cripes, we know what he did at Griffin Park. We know how close the team came to taking us up. His goals were legendary. His character about as engaging as it comes. Expect warm welcomes and fond returns all round on Sunday. Before and after the game, that is. During it, there’s no doubt everyone will have a point to prove about where Brentford have come since Ollie stepped up that level. Keep it classy. Keep it loud. All being well, we’ll keep him quiet. 

But just to be sure, I have picked both Ollie and Ezri Konsa for my Fantasy Football Team. The closest guarantee of nil points since the UK’s last entry to Eurovision. Honestly, I’m just horrific at player selection so have started the new year with a clean slate in the desperate attempt to overtake my eight year old son. However, on the assumption that normal service is resumed then lump the mortgage on a home win and everyone thank me afterwards.

Hopefully that should work

The other news to accompany Jools tinkling on his ivories was twofold. Firstly, ‘that’ video put out by official yesterday, looking back at the year gone by. It would be easy to forget just how much we’ve accomplished and whilst I won’t overly dwell on it here (did somebody say Aston Villa programme notes?) Let’s just say it got very dusty in here during the Bournemouth semi and when Ethan scored against Liverpool. Enjoy

And then we were given the chance to offer huge congratulations to Natalie O’Rourke who was awarded the MBE. To most of us, she’s Woody’s mum. To our family, somebody who sits a few rows in front and is always up for a chat about anything and everything Brentford. Yet her ongoing dedication to saving the beloved Park Lane Stables riding for the disabled centre has seen this so very well deserved accolade awarded. Huge, huge congratulations Natalie. What a way to start the year 🙂

Like the 2021 highlights video, this was another story that has seen massive smiles on faces after some truly good news. Given how awful the year was at times, great to see so many nice things coming out of it at the end.

And you can read all about that, in full, here.

Until then, simply a case of hoping the hangovers aren’t kicking in too much. Being glad we have another 365 days until Jools or Olly Alexander trouble us again. Most importantly, wishing everyone the best for 2022.

Starting against Aston Villa on Sunday. See you there!! 

Nick Bruzon

Who were the main men as Brentford played Manchester City?

30 Dec

Close, but no cigar. Brentford took Manchester City all the way on Wednesday evening in a game that despite the eventual 0-1 scoreline, was as far away from the Boxing Day debacle as one could have imagined. Heads held high and hope for the future.

Let battle commence

As ever, at this point, we take stock of who were the shining lights for Brentford. Who were the main men against Manchester City and who is no in the top five for the season. You can get this, here. Enjoy. And if there’s anyone we’ve missed out then…..

Nick Bruzon

Pep talk from Thomas sees a night to remember.

30 Dec

Well, what is there to say about that one? Nobody likes to overly celebrate ‘plucky defeat’, let’s be honest. Yet at the same time one can only be full of admiration for a Brentford team that came so close to taking at least a point from our illustrious opponents. From the League Champions. Manchester City may have run out 1-0 winners but with a starting XI designed to take advantage of Liverpool slipping up the night before, the visitors failed to have things their own way. Anything but. In a game where referee David Coote showed how us just much he dislikes Coldplay (that can be the only explanation for an ongoing refusal to get out his Yellow), the Bees gave as good as they got. Indeed, were it not for VAR showing Phil Foden to be ‘just’ onside, Brentford could have taken a point that nobody watching would have denied we were worth.

Little toe plays finger onside

That’s not how football works, as we well know. Manchester City had their chance and took it. They’ll likely point to another VAR decision that went against them and a post being hit to further emphasise it was ‘deserved’.  Instead, as with Chelsea, a super spirited performance against just about the toughest opposition imaginable, saw the Bees missing out by the odd goal in one. The difference this time that there was no Rico Henry, no Christian Norgaard, No David Raya etc etc etc. We all know who is missing. We all know how bad Brighton away was the game before. We all went into this game knowing that City turning up and Brentford failing to show could be disastrous. Instead, it was about as as close an encounter as they come.

Dominic Thompson filling in magnificently for Rico at left wing back. Mads Roerslev coming in for Sergi. Matthias Jensen hanging onto his place as much due to lack of options but having a blinder in the middle. Ivan, Wissa and Frank the Tank combining time and again early on as the goal threatened. Dreamland beckoned. City were rattled as a flurry of chances fell our way. The no show against Brighton in the previous game nothing but a distant nightmare. Whatever pep talk Thomas Frank gave his troops clearly worked wonders. The crowd, likewise, on it from the get go.

Yes. Yes. Yeeessss … Noooooooooo. Urghh. There was Phil Foden, suddenly freed up by Kevin De Bruyne, and making it 1-0 City down the other end. 16 minutes gone and with Brentford fans still wondering how the ball hadn’t gone in for us, there were the visitors to punish us with some quite clinical finishing. That’s why they’re League Champions. Brutal. Ruthless. Efficient.

And with that, it was game over. The early surge from the Bees petering out. The game settling in to a pattern of containment but one where, with just a solitary goal dividing the teams, it felt alive all the way until full time. Despite the falling over, theatrics and some silly nonsense from Grealish, Foden and Jesus (amongst others) Brentford kept going. Kept playing out of the skin and ran it so very, very close. We’ve all seen the game. We all know how tight this one was.  There are full fat match reports elsewhere if you want them.

Oh Jesus… Dominic Thompson takes his place prior to kick off

For me, Clive, the important take away is that it was yet another night where we have run a top four team all the way. There was no panic. There was nobody star struck by the galaxy of high profile names lining up in front of them. There was just a solid, solid performance that left me feeling totally gutted at the end of it by virtue of the fact we’d come away empty handed. Points well earned by City but on another day….

Equally, one can take heart in how we’ve performed so far.  It was another notch on the belt of progress. Of showing that we are in this top flight on merit. Looking at those teams currently in the Champions League spots, our home games with Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City have only seen five goals conceded. And most of them were in the 3-3 draw with Liverpool.  

Yet last night was probably the most pleasing of those performances, despite the defeat, and as much due to the relatively makeshift nature of the team. For a home side to be priced at 16-1 prior to kick off tells us everything about how two sides from the same division were perceived. By full time, that opinion had been changed by just about everybody.

This Brentford team are full of surprises. With our next league games against Aston Villa and then Liverpool at Anfield, the task at hand isn’t going to get any easier. At the same time, it’s only going to get even more exciting.  Certainly, if we put in a few more shifts like this.

Well played Manchester City. Well played. But well played Brentford, too. You were magnificent last night. The player review is also now up (and you can get that here). For now, time to sit back and wonder what might have been. Perhaps, next season…..    

Until then, we’ve got Aston Villa and Liverpool to look forward to. Not to mention Port Vale in the cup. All the immediate focus will be on if we can close down a certain Ollie Watkins. There’s a man that knows the way to goal. Can he still do it? Roll on Sunday when we find out.

See you there.

Next up – this man makes a return…

Nick Bruzon

Paging Les and Gabriel. The amazing connection that goes from Brentford to Manchester City via Preston.

29 Dec

We would appear to be ‘game on’. Brentford host Manchester City this evening, both squads with at least the mandatory minimum of 13 outfield players seemingly available. No last minute crisis riding in to scupper the match as Newcastle United have just succumbed to. No rash of symptoms that were unable to be confirmed given the closure of the test centre – oh Bristol City, has it been a year already? Thoughts and prayers. Instead, we’re all off to Lionel Road to see if the improbable (16/1 is the price on a Brentford win at the time of writing) can become possible. Yet also, we finally get to square a circle that goes from Brentford to City via Preston North End (twice).

Nick Leeson. Martin Lewis (as unlikely a combo as one could imagine). Liam and Noel. Your boys are expected to give one hell of a beating. Manchester City being the only opponents in the division to give genuine concern pre-season and a team that have won their last three away games against promoted sides by an aggregate scoreline of 11-1.

The other 18, on a good day, you’d fancy Brentford could do something. Sure enough, we’ve all been here for the games with the big guns and household names. Liverpool. Chelsea. Arsenal. Everton. All have seen points taken or top drawer performances. Now we are at the next level. It is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. We deserve to be where we are on merit. Now comes the time to test ourselves against the very best.

We’ve already spoken about the challenge of this one and looked back at the Brighton player performance. We already know the relative strength of the squads. There’s nothing further to be gained from overly diving in there. Nothing new that can be said. Instead, we’re now at the point where all that can be done is enjoy the moment of another night game. Of a nothing to lose scenario where that magic feeling of Brentford under the lights can take hold. Sure, we can reminisce about Gary Blissett. About Uwe. About Robert Taylor. Nice though it is, and it is, this all comes down now to what happens when it all kicks off at the somewhat unusual time of 8.15. That’s unbelievable, Jeff (Bezos).

Uwe’s ‘last hurrah’

For me, Clive, mention the name Manchester City and the memory goes off in a different direction to a different couple of names. Neither linked to the Gallaghers or finance. Instead, there’s Jim – who I met through / prior to the arrival of our Harry at NCT class nine years ago. Cripes, that’s flown.  

As staunch and longstanding as they come. Home and away. Season on season. Despite now living in West London, he’s always at pains to point out he’s not a bandwagon jumping fan. As, to be fair, seems to be the case with the vast majority where even in the third tier of English football in the late 90s, support remained huge. His take on the game is both good and bad, for Brentford fans: “You might get a heavily rotated squad as we play arsenal 2 days later. That being said, we’re pretty slick at the moment.”

Then there’s Gabriel Valentine. The chances of whose seeing this are slim to zero. However, back in the 89-90 season, yours truly took his first footsteps into the wide world of work (before promptly stepping away again). There was Mr. Valentine, another displaced City fan whom, along with the rest of the firm I was working for, was eventually worn down with all this talk of Brentford, Brentford, Brentford and came to Griffin Park for a game.

That was March 1990 and the moment of Ashley Bayes making his debut against Preston North End. I can still see it now. Funnily enough, they never came back.

“Dreadful mistake / That stupid goal” – not my words, Susan

Yet prior to this, we’d already been tied together on a footballing journey that lasted less than a week but, for a brief moment, could have seen life heading in a very different direction. Flushed with youthful naivety / blind-optimism, The Bruzon-Valentine partnership took the bold step towards managing a professional football club.

Why not? Preston North End were struggling and had just dispensed with the services of John McGrath. We were 18(ish, in his case) with spare time on our hands.

This was back before it became the popular thing to do based on one’s experience playing Football Manager (the nearest we had back then was the ZX Spectrum equivalent on cassette).

How could anyone fail with a Spectrum squad this strong?

Amazingly, our letter received a reply from chairman Keith Leeming. As did our phone call to Saint and Greavsie who then politely declined our offer to appear on the show. Their loss. The dream was still alive. This was it. The moment was set. And then Preston went for former player Les Chapman. Fair enough, I’d have done the same.

Where we now go full circle is that this is the same Les Chapman who would eventually become Manchester City kit man for 17 (seventeen) years before moving into their media department. Pretty much the dream career path: player, manager, kit guru, media.

Whilst Gabriel won’t be reading or present today, Les may well be at Lionel Road. If he somehow stumbles across this (and let’s be realistic here…) then imagine how life may have turned out had Keith Leeming decided to take a reckless punt on a pair of untried youngsters. Again, let’s be realistic, but one has to dream.

However, who knows what, if any, impact the mere presence of our names may have had on that longer term decision making process? Could we have tipped the dice in Les Chapman’s favour?

It’s a funny old game. As Saint and Greavsie didn’t say to us. Yet the excitement felt when that hand-typed and signed postcard appeared on the doormat is still up there as a moment when life was wide open. When anything, no matter how improbable, felt possible……. 😉

Bring it on. See you there

Keith never did write back to us…

Nick Bruzon

Who were the top five performers last time out?

28 Dec

Next up for Brentford (that is, what’s left of the squad) a visit from Manchester City. We’ll get there very shortly. First up, as ever, last knockings from the 2-0 defeat at Brighton. It’s the regular player review feature. Our ongoing quest to see, game by game, who were the top five performers aswell as who is on contention to be come our season-long overall winner.

Has anyone from the Brentford squad played their way into contention for the visit of Manchester City? Should any player be stripped of their place, regardless of current levels of squad depth? Do we have a prayer on Wednesday? Could we pull off the greatest upset since records bagged (31/2 is the current price)?

Those Brentford player ratings are here…. I’d say enjoy, but…

Nick Bruzon