Tag Archives: Marcus Forss

Oldham bracketed. Now bring on Liverpool.

22 Sep

Bring out the brackets. For a third successive season, Brentford managed the magical mark following a 7(seven) – 0 defeat of Oldham Athletic in the League Cup third round at Lionel Road on Tuesday night. Four goal Marcus Forss leading the charge, ably complemented by a Yoane Wissa brace and an o.g. from our visitors compounding their agony. It was every bit as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests. For once, stats telling the story with the Bees managing 24 efforts at goal. A largely scratch side but one still full of internationals could, really, have doubled things in what seemed to be a shoot on sight policy. Victory over the English football’s basement side as deserved as it comes. The big question being whether we can repeat it on Saturday when the league’s top side, Liverpool, come to visit. Joint first with Chelsea (also due here in a few weeks), that also has the potential to be a 7(seven) goal thriller. Anything but on top of our game though and I’d hate to imagine which way those would be shared out.

Forss of nature

First up, Oldham Athletic. They came into the game with a reputation as a club in trouble and that was proven on field when the flying Finn grabbed his first with less than three minutes gone. Forss making no mistake from the spot and from that point on it was game over. One had to feel for the 600 or so visiting fans. That’s a trek and a half to watch the goals roll in. Moreso with no beer in the away end. Sorry…. Kudos to them. We’ve been there over the years. Getting spanked on the road and no money rather than sobriety. Away clubs have always been very welcoming and I’m not, quite, sure why we’ve gone dry. Unless it’s some attempt to demoralise our guests. On pitch, nobody needs another history lesson on our own bucket rattling or lower league survival where, but for the grace of our ownership, we could still be. 

Instead, they gave it their all, going nuts when the odd shot from distance came in. One second half beauty from Jamie Bowden forcing Álvaro Fernández into a quite wonderful save as it headed for the far top corner . There would have been no complaints from the Bees faithful had that gone in but, instead, it was kept out and we now start the Twitter stampede to win a sponsored mattress as a result of our clean sheet. Not a typo.

Sadly for our guests it was one chance out of not many. Captain Jensen pulling the strings in the middle, Wissa on fire, Forss doing what he does for fun and Samman Ghoddos running his socks off. Pick of the goals being the last of the night. Wissa with a quite delicious bicycle kick to round off the rout. On another day he’d have had a hat trick too. Certainly not holding back on his efforts although it was one from Charlie Goode that really had the fans on their feet. An absolute howitzer from distance smacking the bar. Had it gone in Lionel Road would have erupted. Instead, we had to be content with a 5-0 HT lead, two in the second period and opponents for whom Brentford showed no signs of taking the foot off the gas. It was relentless. It was brutal. It was fun. For us.

Official Twitter capture the pick of the night

The fourth round draw takes place tonight. Micah Richards and Harry Redknapp pulling out the balls live from a Bedfordshire Bowls club. The competition sponsors once again doing their thing to mix it up and generate publicity. The sort of thing that previously would have had wringing of hands and much lamenting at unnecessary gimmicks. Now, with Brentford in the fourth round once more, I’m past caring. Just get the draw done and let us know who its going to be. With Wembley no longer the jinx it was, there’s an added layer of appeal about a potential visit. Of course, that’s still a fair way way off and there’ll be plenty of tough tests for whomever eventually lifts the trophy. On the flip side, you can only beat who is in front of you and last night Brentford did that in style.

Next up, Liverpool in the league. That’s at 5.30pm on Saturday evening and is, of course, a sell out. The game’s live on Sky for those unable to get a ticket. Victory will see Brentford move to within two points of the Anfield side. Should it happen. Defeat, something expected by just about everybody outside of TW8. I mean, there’s no way a team like Brentford, a bus stop in Hounslow, will get anything against such illustrious opposition. Is there? Eh, readers 😉  

We all know what we can do. Everyone else knows what Liverpool can, and have, done. The wealth of talent in their team. That’s taken as red. Yet with our own goal machine(s) in fine form and a bench the likes of which we’ve never had before, who knows? Christian Norgaard will be vital and it was good to see him picked out on Match of the Day for special treatment in the post-match analysis last week. Hey, we weren’t even last up in the running. 

It’s the sort of moment we’ve been building for. Years in the coming and, finally, a global super team up at Brentford for a competitive fixture. No offence, Arsenal. Beating them was quite wonderful but, equally, a club in disarray and very much trading on former glories were there for the taking. That opportunity was grabbed in some style on a night that saw the roof raised and Brentford dominant.

Can we do the same this time around? I can’t wait to find out. Hopefully we can show Mr. Klopp what he missed out when choosing Anfield over Griffin Park…. See you there.

Bring on the fixtures…The Bees haven’t played Livepool since the FA Cup in 1989

Nick Bruzon 

Lloyd Owusu finally did it.

12 Jun

The Forss is strong. Urghh, had to go there. Having successfully navigated Star Wars day, the fourth of May (note: not a real day or joke) the defences were down. Yet with Euro 2020 finally upon us and the mood in Brentford still high (moreso with the confirmation from one source that Fulham DO have to return theirs – see yesterday’s column) today has an extra level of spice. An extra level of excitement. For the home nations, focus is likely to be on Wales but for me, Clive, the real highlight is Denmark v Finland at 5pm. With it already being well documented that the Bees have more players in the tournament than Premier League stablemates Arsenal, today is the big Lionel Road reunion. 

Halil Dervişoğlu has already kicked off the Brentford connection, making it on to the field of play in last night’s opener between Italy and Turkey. A booking and match rating of 3.93 out of 10 insufficient to help his nation’s cause as 0-0 at half-time turned to a 3-0 victory for the Azzurri.

Yet depending on who is selected, tonight could see three out of the twenty-two players coming from Lionel Road. Christian Nørgaard and Mathias Jensen for Denmark with Marcus Forss representing Finland. Its a long way from a Bus stop in Hounslow to Telia Parken in Copenhagen but they’ve done it. With Sweden up against Spain on Monday, it could be a five out of five for the Bees before the Premier League fixtures have even come out.

For those of us interested in these things, the bookies have Denmark as red hot favourites. 2/5 for the win. Marcus is a rather precise 51/10 to score at any time. Christian 37/4 whilst my online provider (used purely for research purposes) isn’t quoting a price on Mathias . The BBC report him fit so go figure that one. Perhaps the lack of goalscorer price is based on the assumption Denmark will be awarded a free kick. Insert wink emoji.

That said, if you are reading, Mathias (he isn’t) let’s not forget that imperious form in the play-offs. Very much a man at the top of his game and so calm in the pressure cooker environment of the second leg semi and the subsequent final at Wembley. Which we won. In case anybody had missed the score. 2-0. Against Swansea. Brentford are in the Premier League.

The highlight of yesterday’s actions being the incredulity poured on the radio controlled car used to ferry the ball form the touchline to centre circle prior to kick off. A superfluous gimmick designed for no other reason than presumably to save the referees wrists additional strain and promote a car manufacturer.  Harry loved it although he’s only just 8 years old. The again, kids love Jar Jar Binks and Paw Patrol so it’s not a great yard stick.

As Mollie Goodfellow wrote on Twitter, “Sources telling me if a player needs to be stretchered off they will simply be driven off by four remote control 4x4s carrying a stretcher.

Still, it doesn’t take to be overly serious. If anything, there’s the ongoing moment of anticipation for when the ball delivery system is sure to go wrong. Could the driver end up being breathalysed? Stick to the Budweiser to avoid any danger there.

Back home, the demolition of Griffin Park continues. Cycling home from the school run yesterday, I had to perform a cartoon style double take on Brook Road. There was the New Road stand to my left but something was missing. Next time… Fly KLM. Not any more 😦 

Delorean Gray on Twitter hit the nail on the head, noting: “Lloyd Owusu finally did it.

Thankfully, there’s plenty to keep us distracted from what still remains a sensitive topic for many. The years spent at Griffin Park are packed full of memories  – good and bad. So many of us grew up there and it IS hard seeing it go. On a personal note, I’m thrilled the ongoing delays meant our Harry had a chance to experience how incredible a place it was. That he has invested in football so heavily is quite wonderful (right now we’re having to watch a rerun of Italy – Turkey). Equally though, and it was Mark Burridge who got it bang on the other week, that Bournemouth game was the moment Lionel Road became home. 

We’ve moved on. Griffin Park has a huge place in my heart but the future lies elsewhere. We’ve players at the Euros and we’re Premier League. The only was is up…

Nick Bruzon  

Was this the best performance ever?

23 May

It was during the full time rendition of Hey Jude that I finally went. Bottom lip wobbling and tears streaming down the face. The emotion of everything that had gone before kicking in at the next level. Quite simply, the most incredible afternoon of football experienced as a Brentford fan. A 3-1 win home win over ten man Bournemouth (Special agent Mepham playing his own part to perfection) something where the scoreline alone can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the story. Swansea City now await in the final. Themselves, aggregate winners over a Barnsley side who couldn’t quite catch up in their semi. That’ll be a feisty one on Saturday but its not really a huge topic for now. What played out at Lionel Road was about as a special as it gets. To be part of it a privilege. A performance up there with Leyton Orient away. Burton Albion away. Preston at home – the one where we finally got promoted after the pain of what happened the season before. Oh for a repeat this time around.

It was an afternoon where everyone played their part even prior to kick off. The 4000 Brentford supporters making the place a cauldron of noise as the players warmed up. As the line ups were read out. As the players went back in. Peter Gilham doing his thing. Cripes, I was sounding like Madge Bishop after smoking 40 JPS by the time we made it to The Griffin last night. Can only imagine what his voice must be like now.

Bournemouth, warming up in our corner, left under no illusions as to the reception they were going to face when the game began. A crescendo of cat calling and jeers accompanying their own pre-match prep. Oh, I’ve missed being part of a crowd so indescribably. This little taster of what was to come sending goose bumps up the spine and that was even before Hey, Jude came over the P.A. For once, a ‘studio’ version rather than the rambling live one we were so used to at Griffin Park (“This time, just the ladies”) that, even better, seems to have edited down to cut quickly to the “Naaaa. Na-Na. Na-na-na-naaaahhhhh” . 

Then, our first blow of the day. This had all been going too well. The BBC match reporting revealed that Christian Norgaard had been replaced by Mads Roerslev. Himself, initially pushed to the bench to accommodate the return of Henrik Dalsgaard. True enough, Peter Gilham reading the teams out one last time confirmed we’d be needing an 11th hour rejig. Oh Brentford, it’s never easy. No matter. With Bryan and Emiliano starting this game alongside Sergi and Ivan, our attacking intent was still clearly the focus. Yet if this had us on a momentary backfoot, what happened next is one of those things that will go down in football folklore.

Thomas Frank had talked at length in the build up to this one just how important the crowd would be. We’d seen the videos and one even played out on the big screen. Of course we all knew this and were already doing our bit when, over in front of the main stand he started running down the touchline , gesturing to the supporters to raise the roof. Fair enough, until he turned the corner in front of the West Side. One North stand observer standing next to me said,”He’s going to do it. He’s going all the way.” Sure enough, he did. The crowd feeding off his energy. Thomas pumping them up. Taking fist bumps en-route. Arms whirling like some crazed dervish. Lifting the crowed and getting them whipped up in a manner that Delia Smith could only aspire to. Twelfth man? We were the entire squad.

Thomas turns it up to 11 prior to kick-off

And then it began. Brentford one goal down on aggregate but 90 minutes to turn it around.

And then it began. Brentford two goals down on aggregate but 85 minutes to turn it around.

If Christian Norgaard missing out was as bad as we thought it would be then think again. Danjuma broke at speed as the Bees attacked and with nobody but David Raya back, he had all the time in the world to bear down on goal ,  pick his spot and make no mistake. Crap. This wasn’t in the script. An absolute disaster of a scoreline. A catastrophe of a start. Yet if this was going to silence the crowd and take the wind from the sails, it was a case of anything but. Push up, Brentford? Oh yes. 

With a quarter hour gone (about one minute of actual game time, given the way that Bournemouth and goalkeeper Begovic in particular were time wasting – an injury free opening period seeing an additional ‘6’ awarded ) Brentford were back in it. Lloyd Kelly deemed to have handled Emiliano’s cross and referee Gillet pointed to the spot. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Cue pandemonium. Cue petulance. Cue Ivan Toney eventually being allowed to step up and do that thing he does, once more. Calm as you like and goal 32 for the season was the reward. The ripple of the net sending Lionel Road in to meltdown. An ear splitting wave of noise greeting the finish. 

Whilst I’ve not watched any of the replays as yet, Mark Burridge has shared this today. His own view (and comms) from the gantry. You want goosebumps? Take a look, and listen, to this….

1-1 on the day although a goal down still. Brentford kept going. Bournemouth kept it niggly. Trying to reach Wembley by not allowing a game to take place. The Bees pushed. Chris Mepham stumbled and there was Bryan Mbeumo to whip it off his toes. He rounded our former player and was clean through. A chance to run one-on-one at Begovic much as Danjuma had done to Raya. Except. Except. The sneakiest of rugby style ankle tap tackles followed as his out-stretched hand saw the flying winger felled. The decision was a no brainer. The photograph now doing the rounds to accompany it a work of art. I’ve no idea who took it but kudos. Straight red. No choice.

If a picture paints a thousand words….

Whether Bryan would have scored or Begovic smothered the chance we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter. Instead, Bournemouth were left to play the final hour, and any possible extra time, with ten men. Frankly, given the performance of Beogvic over the course of the afternoon they were lucky it wasn’t nine. I’m still not sure how he only got one yellow. The time wasting aside, the ‘injury’ he suffered after running into one of his own players was about as cringeworthy and embarrassing as it gets. Still, that was their problem.

Half-time came at about a quarter past six. Brentford had been unable to add any additional goals despite our best efforts, our crowd and our team. Sergi was on fire. Emiliano showing just why he is so highly valued by the coaching staff. Matthias Jensen (and the second half especially) stepping up his game to new heights. Surely a second goal would come after the break? Surely?

Within five minutes, our prayers were answered. Vitaly Janelt scoring a goal that I’m still not sure how it went in. He seems to tackle one of our players, one of theirs, fall over and unleash a blockbuster of a shot all at the same time. Even seeing that on the screen in The Griff later in the evening, it defies logic. But in it went. In it flew. A strike of the most incredible sweetness. The aggregate scores tied. Any pretensions of holding on that Bournemouth may have had sent back in to the dressing room to keep Chris Mepham company. Lionel Road erupting once more. The aforementioned cauldron threatened to bubble over. Bournemouth, a team visibly falling apart in front of us. Piece by piece. Their meltdown as clear as Michael Douglas after he couldn’t get his McDonalds breakfast.

On we went. On we pushed. The Bees with an extra spring in the step. Bournemouth wilting. A punchdrunk boxer desperately hanging on and awaiting that killer blow. Set up Marcus Forss to deliver it. 82 minutes on the clock and boom, it was there. A deadly first time finish from close in. The hunter’s aim was true. The place exploded. The players celebrating in the shadow of the water tower. All except Henrik Dalsgaard who stood in front of the North Stand. A messianic pose. Veins bulging. Mouth screaming. The crowd being egged further on. The intensity etched across his face. The moment one that, in retrospect, I only wish I’d had more than a mobile phone to capture.

Its fuzzy, but….

But that doesn’t matter one jot. What matters being that there were now less than ten minutes for us to hold the lead. What a time to take it. What a response followed. We kept going. We tried again. Bournemouth waiting until the four minutes of added on time to finally threaten. Begovic heading up for a last, desperate gamble. The stress levels were, I’ll admit, there. If it were to happen at that point then….. but it didn’t. The defence remained rock solid. The Cherries not given a sniff from their flurry of corners and set pieces. The final whistle greeted with the most deafening of roars. One to wake the dead. The waves of relief palpable. The hugs and ecstasy clear for all. It was a moment to top them all. 

Our record in the play-offs is about as well documented as they come. Whilst the job is any half-done, the feeling at full time was one of really getting a monkey off the back. To come back in such style. To show such strength of character. For Thomas to get his tactics spot on, despite the blow of losing Norgaard so late. It was just about the perfect performance. To be part of it a true honour. I can only hope those watching in the pubs had as much fun. The next best thing to being there. 

Then Thomas did his thing, again. The full time lap of honour greeted with more photos. More smiles. Yet instead of giving his traditional ‘thumbs up’, this time around he gave something special. “One more to go”…..

One more to go

I’m not an idiot. Swansea City will have enjoyed their own moment equally and be as pumped for the final as we are. Like us, they’re only 90 minutes from the Premier League. It’s going to be one hell of a tense affair on Saturday. Yet having experienced last seasons and then this, any additional motivation we may have needed was delivered in bucketloads yesterday.

Talking to Mark this morning, he nailed it just about perfectly. “Yesterday, Lionel Road became our new home.” 

I can’t wait to move in. I can’t wait to see who we may be inviting around for dinner. Just got the small matter of getting Saturday out the way first…

What else is there to say? Hats off Thomas Frank. As much as anybody, he got it spot on yesterday. From that bonkers lap at the start, through enforced last minute changes, excellent tactics and key substitutions. A top, top performance from that man.

THANK YOU.

Nick Bruzon

Who wants it most? Who will hold their nerve?

21 Apr

So, play-offs it is. Hopefully. Not a typo. A 1-1 draw for Brentford with Cardiff City last night, combined with Watford picking up an absolutely crucial win at Norwich City, means the gap to second place in The Championship is now ten points with four games to play. Maths keeps that dream alive but, realistically, it is now time to regroup and rediscover our goal scoring form before a tenth bite at the end of season cherry. An unbeaten run now stretching to eight games with only five goals against (and two of those came in the second half switch off at Derby back in mid-March) suggests all is not as rotten in the Garden of Eden as many would have you believe. However, the inability to turn wins into draws over the course of the season – only Millwall have more than our 15 – is putting paid to any aspiration of going up via the direct route. That is, of course, assuming there is no last minute wobble combined with a surge from 7th (seventh) placed Reading. As we’ve been saying all year, this one is going to run until game 46. If nothing else, just look at what happened to Nottingham Forest last season when Swansea City stole up the blind side to beat them in a photo finish on the line. A seemingly unassailable position falling apart at the death.

As for the Cardiff game, Brentford began with the same starting XI for the third successive game. Ivan Toney and Marcus Forss at one end ; Christian Norgaard alongside Pontus and Ethan at the other. Again, we started brightly and built the pressure. Again there were chances. Again, we couldn’t convert. Marcus with the two clearest opportunities and both of which hindsight will suggest could have been taken differently. The second in particular crying out for Bryan Mbeumo to tap into the net from close range. Instead, the young Finn twisting his body to stretch for the ball and only managing to guide it over. Ivan Toney also came close after intercepting a slack backpass but Alex Smithies in goal for the Bluebirds pulled off a smart save to deny the Championship’s leading goalscorer a chance to add to his haul.

The Bees come close

0-0 as the players went in for their cup of tea and orange quarters. They emerged in much the same vein as they had ended the opening period. On top and pushing. Brentford being Brentford its never easy. Ethan Pinnock adjudged to have handled in the box just prior to the hour and Kieffer Moore making no mistake from the spot. A well placed penalty giving our visitors the lead. 

It didn’t last long, thankfully. The impressive Tariqe Fosu shooting from distance for Smithies to allow it straight through his hands just four minutes later. Get in. 1-1. The pressure continued. Chances followed with Sergi Canos coming closest. His own attempt to emulate Fosu moving wickedly through the air with ‘goal’ written all over it, only to be denied by the ball cannoning off the chest of Smithies. The ‘keeper with hands nowhere near it but thankful to see it bounce clear. Close but no cigar. Despite dominating possession (don’t even start…) further goals proved as hard to come by as positive support for the European Super League. Our own hopes of going up in second place dissolving as quickly as the fledgling cash machine.

Positives? Look, I am a glass half full type. No apologies for that. What’s the point otherwise? Life is tough enough without heaping further misery or negativity on oneself. On our day we are on fire and, for now, we are keeping things super tight at the back. The play-offs themselves are all about not losing and we’re very, very good at that aspect. The only thing that counts is getting over the line. 

At the moment we’re not playing as well as we are used to – no question. The key absences and enforced restructure playing a huge part in that although as was proven against Preston this set up can still find the net. Indeed, last night could have seen more goals had we found the rub of the green. I can’t cry over that but I will take comfort from the fact that this advance towards the play-offs is the opposite of last time out.

Then, we were always playing catch up on automatic. Impossibly so. We had a wonderful run of form, building game after game, to put us in contention before it dissolved in the final two defeats against Stoke City and Barnsley. The chance of automatic in our hands at the death only to see it surrendered in such tepid form after that wonderful late surge to even put ourselves in with a chance. Our hopes built up into a wonderful fairy tale ending to life at Griffin Park before being so cruelly denied. There was an almost resigned inevitability about what would come next and, of course, whilst we got one over Swansea City in the semis, the final at the W place was as frustrating as the end to the regular campaign. 

This time around we are the hard team to beat. Brentford have only lost 7(seven) games all season. Nobody has a better record on that front. The wins may not always come but get the ball to Ivan and the goals flow. Get Josh and Rico back (one can dream) and our attacking edge goes up tenfold.

So, for me, there are two choices. Petulant stropping, gnashing of teeth and wailing. Shouting ‘Frank Out’ and blaming him for all our perceived woes. Cursing the campaign as a disaster and writing our team off as though it was already dead and buried. 

Or… back our boys for the last 7(seven) games. Making sure that we first get over the play-off line and then see where we ago from there. Try telling Derby County or Birmingham City that football life is bad. Our situation is ten times better than their plight. I’ve no doubt Wayne Rooney and Harlee Dean would trade positions with us in a heartbeat if such a thing were possible. I’ll keep on backing our team and our head coach for promotion until that chance is gone. For now, it remains very much on even if it will require us going through that dreaded end of season lottery. 

Yes, it IS frustrating. I was convinced automatic was in our hands. It still could be but we are now relying on Watford failing to pick up a single win against Millwall or Swansea City. Likewise, us winning four games in a row (including that penultimate game with the Hornets). Much as I am an optimist I am also a realist. Football is full of surprises, that’s for sure, but one of this magnitude at this late stage would seem unlikely. The again, pressure does strange things. A win for the Bees at Bournemouth on Saturday lunchtime combined with Millwall beating Watford makes it interesting. Both results are possible although the broader sequence of fixtures still make it unlikely. There’s no way Watford will drop that many points. For us to win all four will also need something huge.

Last night saw two ‘must win’ games. For us and for Norwich City. Neither happened and clearly the Canaries don’t want win the title. Farke out. Or should that be Farke off? In all seriousness, they’ve been great. Watford have been on fire in recent months. Both are going up. The only question being who wins the league, who gets the second automatic slot and then who wins at the W place. That’s all that counts now. That’s all we should be focussing on. For Brentford, automatic relies on maths. Promotion relies on us pulling together and getting over the line at the tenth attempt. 

I can already see Ivan walking up to the penalty spot in the 89th minute…. 

Is it coming to this once more….? (The place rather than the hats)

Nick Bruzon   

Bring on Brendan. Rodgers rather than O’Carroll. FA Cup excitement continues.

24 Jan

This is about as intriuging as an FA Cup tie gets. Brentford, two points off second place in the Championship, host Leicester City, two points off the very summit of the Premier league, in Sunday afternoon’s fourth round tie. The winners know they will be given the opportunity to welcome Brighton in the last 16. With heavy snow forecast in the area from 8am, this one really could have it all. Perhaps, even, an orange ball (although one would presume we’ll get the insipid, dog piss yellow version). Yet with an absolutely massive game on Wednesday at Swansea City, and the sheer exhaustion quite clearly in evidence during the second half against Luton on Wednesday, don’t go into this one expecting the full fat first team. I’m still expecting excitement. Having had the appetite whetted with Chorley – Wolves and Cheltenham Town – Manchester City, now its our turn to strip up to that TV plate.

Thomas Frank has already dropped all the hints you need about who is going to be starting this one today. We know Ivan Toney is missing because of that suspension so Marcus Forss will be up top. That Luton match saw the start of a 14 game run of midweek / weekend fixtures and we looked absolutely fit to drop during that most painful of second halves. It was unmissable stuff and you couldn’t look away. Albeit in the same excruciating way as being tied to a chair and force-fed Mrs. Browns Boys. That Brentford hung on for another win after the two week closure of the training ground was quite amazing but it is clear these are men, not machines. As such, no surprise to hear Thomas announce in his press conference that, “I will use the squad but not like a full rotation. We will put a strong team out there tomorrow.”

The second half against Luton was about as painful viewing as Mrs. Brown’s Boys

Regardless of the Swansea City game, this is absolutely the right thing to do. We’ve a fantastic squad and already seen in the league cup how deep this runs. Four wins out of five against Premier league opposite this season. Only Jose Mourinho getting in our way. A sixth game upon us now and a chance for the likes of Tarique, Samman et al to show what they can do once more. Could there be more action for the likes of Alex Gilbert, Lewis Gordon, Fin Stevens and Max Haygarth who all featured against Middlesbrough in the previous round? Who all impressed, Stevens in particular. We already know that Marcus Forss, a player Thomas says “The Club have a strong belief that he will be a top striker”, starts. This, for me , is a great thing.

Marcus’ form this season has been quite outstanding to watch. His goal for Finland in France a quite wonderful cherry on the cake of his own personal growth. He has a foot like the proverbial traction engine and when he hits that ball, it stays hit. I can’t wait to see what he can do against Leicester City and if we can give him the service then the results could be quite incredible. With Ivan Toney missing through suspension, the door is open to lay down a claim to a more regular starting berth. Whether now or in the near future. 

Marcus has only impressed when he has featured.

It won’t be easy, of course. Leicester City were the visitors for the fourth round last year. They ran out 1-0 winners and despite our best efforts, it felt comfortable all the way through. Albeit a much changed Brentford team including relative unknowns (then) Yearwood, Racic, Thomspon, Roerslev and Zamburek gave a strong account of themselves. Bryan Mbeumo saw an equaliser chalked off by the officials but in the end an early goal from Kelechi Iheanacho was enough to separate the two teams. With Jamie Vardy’s well documented injury today, expect the same player to start again. Wes Morgan and Dennis Praet are also missing from a selection where Brendan Rodgers hinted at a similar approach to Thomas, “We always try to rely on the collective, the group has always been able to find results.

Whomever he goes with, Leicester are gong to be strong. About as tough a test as they come. Just as when they won the league before, the Foxes are the one team nobody is really talking about. Liverpool choke. Frank out (at Chelsea). Manchester City and their early stumble. Manchester United at the top despite the odd reaction of their own fans to Ole earlier on. Sound familiar? Yet it is Leicester who have avoided the noise, shirked the nonsense and just got on with what they are great at. Winning football matches. Indeed, they went top during the week until United did their thing, Treat this one as a casual affair at your peril. It is an FA Cup tie that is about as hard as it comes.

Despite the lack of crowds – even next season is now feeling optimistic at best – the tournament has continued to provide excitement. Who couldn’t help but be moved by Chorley? Their game on Friday night with Wolves could, genuinely, have gone either way. It was quite the cracker. Cheltenham Town had us all believing in the magic of the cup last night until Manchester City stepped up very late to crush the dreams of the nation’s armchair fans. Blackpool had us on the edge of our seats yesterday afternoon until Brighton retook the lead with the most severe of deflections. It was cruel but it was a goal. That’s football. For a moment, the outride world forgotten about until full time came around and then there was nothing else to do except watch The Masked singer. Apparently. I mean, I don’t, but I believe some people may. The crushing reality of having to watch Davina Macall gurning her way through truing to fathom out who was lurking beneath a Bushbaby  costume (if only there was a mask for her) no replacement for celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup in the Griffin at full time. Moreso given it wasn’t Jason Donovan or Joe Mangel when his head eventually came off.

We digress. Cripes, do we digress. I can’t wait for this one. As ever, I’d love to be there. I understand why we can’t but it doesn’t make it any easier. At least we have the TV to provide a bit of an escape and we’ll be huddled around it for sure. Taking consolation in the fact we’re not freezing to death in what already feels absolutely bitter outside my front door. The lack of frostbite a small benefit for being forced to stay home although there isn’t one amongst us who wouldn’t happily lose a few toes if it meant being able to see the game at Lionel Road?

Kick off is at 2.30pm today. BT Sport the place. There are no cameras on I-follow although Mark Burridge and team will still have audio commentary. As do BBC Radio 5 live although for me (Clive), the Parry-Reeves line up offered by their London based counterpart is always infinitely preferable for anyone heading down the wireless route. 

The day is upon us. Enjoy the game however you are following it. On tv, in the bathtub with a terrace tranny, in the gym with internet radio or just sat on the sofa. We’ll be doing the later. We’ll be hoping for another upset. Another Premier League notch on the belt. Another excuse to watch something that isn’t people giving it their all in oversized anthropomorphic costumes. Buzz and Buzette aside. Yet even they are victims of the current Corona rulings, it would seem. Oh to have a pre-match welcome from their furry faces. Curse you, Covid. Curse you.

Still, at least there is a game to watch. I’m just glad we’ll be seeing Brendan Rodgers rather than Brendan O’Carroll – the usual automatic replacement for ‘no football’. No matter how hard it is doing it from the couch. The prospect of being able to welcome a 7th (seventh) top flight team, whilst playing in the Championship, would be a quite wonderful mark of how this strangest of seasons has gone. Should we first beat a 6th. Just the small matter of Leicester City standing in the way….

This time last year – my sort of masked mystery

Nick Bruzon.

Frank IN. Sense!! Bees do it again amidst festive fixture pile up.

2 Dec

Well wasn’t that the performance? Brentford made it three wins on the bounce, eight unbeaten with just three conceded over that period and up to fourth place. Just two points behind current table-toppers Norwich City after a 2-0 defeat of Rotherham that never, really, looked in doubt once the game had begun. Whilst the first half may have been frustrating for many, the Bees kept going and eventually grew into another game where the opposition’s primary objective had been survival. With the FT index mk.ii starting a game together, both players scored to present Thomas Frank further selection headaches (of the nicest sort) for the visit of Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. Marcus Forss grabbed the first before Ivan Toney made it 13 for the season with a calm finish from the penalty spot to wrap up the points and return to the top of the Championship goal scorers charts. 

Marcus shared this one on Twitter at full time. As cool as you like.

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages. We’ve all seen the game and there’s the BBC or Brentford ‘official’ for anyone wanting in depth. For me, the key takeaways were another team rejig that has, once again, proven we have a Plan A, B and C. The absence of Henrik Dalsgaard was barely felt with Tarique Fosu able to bomb up and down the flank in lieu of the Dane. Indeed, whilst the opening goal was notable for the interplay between Toney and Forss (what teamwork for Ivan to pass rather than shoot himself), the patience, the feint and the delivery of that ball into the box from Fosu was magnificence served up on a silver salver. Bees fans being spoiled to ambassadorial levels by a team goal that would have had the ‘Frank Out’ brigade and Canos bullies on their high horses once more as if their managerial credentials had somehow been borne out.

Yet it was Sergi himself who set up the second goal. Forss feeding the Toney before he found Canos. The Spaniard’s timing and pace were electric as he burst clear in the box. This was it. 2-0. Just the keeper to beat until….. Nooooooo! Brutally scythed by Rotherham substitute Mickel Miller with the goal gaping, referee Tim Robinson had no choice but to award the spot kick. At the same time booking the hapless Miller for a second time in the 11 minutes since he had entered the field of play and promptly returning the player from whence he came. He sent him off.  

There was no mistake from the spot. I won’t deny Ivan’s approach to penalty taking gives me the heebie jeebies. A slow, measured almost walk up is one that is contrary to everything we’ve seen about running full tilt at the ball before striking. The files of football bloopers filled with strikers attempting ‘comedy run ups’ only to be left with copious amounts of egg on face (or is that just FulhamL ?). The first time against Millwall had heart in mouth. This was no different. Perhaps it is just Brentford and penalties in general? Yet with the shot eventually released, execution like a tracer bullet speeding towards the bullseye, there was once again no doubt. The net bulged. The 20 directors and officials celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup.

As for the Toney and Forss pairing, well I can’t wait to see which way Thomas jumps when Blackburn come to Lionel Road on Saturday. With Forss playing up top and Toney just to his side in our attacking front three, the interplay between the pair of them more than provide its worth. Marcus has tremendous amounts of confidence and we all know how hard (and accurately) he can strike a ball. It’s a quite lovely team decision we have now been presented but with the visit of the Championship’s most devastating attack (Blackburn have scored 27 from 14 games, Adam Armstrong going neck and neck with Ivan for the golden boot) will he stick or revert to our more familiar starting XI? May he have no choice given Henrik wasn’t even on the bench? Given our 9 games over December and the festive period, changes are sure to continue.

One thing you can say for sure is that Vitaly Janelt gets the nod. He’s looking stronger and stronger each game. I love his approach (almost as much as his post match interviews) and can’t believe we’ve unearthed yet another one. Whilst we miss Christian Norgaard, and who wouldn’t, the German is making himself very, very hard to dislodge. Our Triple J in midfield once more banging the drum for Brentford and Thomas Franks’ tactical genius.

As for Thomas, I’ve always been a fan. I’m one very much of the ‘marathon not a sprint’ approach to football. Of realising a league campaign is 46 games long and every side has blips. Of knowing that when we’ve been awful (Stoke City away and that second half againat Preston) it is the exception, not the rule. That no team has a divine right to win every game. Nor will they. At any level. His enthusiasm is infectious. The mentality instilled in his squad really paying dividends. The Bees making their way up the table and improving on last season’s record every game. At the played 15 point in 2019/20 we’d picked up 21 points and were sitting in 13th. This time around we’ve 26 points and are already up to fourth.  ‘Frank out’? Take a look at yourselves.

Fans are entitled to opinions. Of course they are. Football would be deadly dull if it was full of blind lemmings towing the company line and singing everything is awesome. Well, you know what? At present it is. Show me any team that could lose like the likes of Benrahma / Watkins and overcome play-off pain then expect to immediately find their feet? It has taken us a few games but we’ve plugged away, the defence is looking rock solid and our attacking options continue to grow as the new look line up gel. Only Blackburn, Bournemouth and Reading have scored more than us. I don’t get the line of nonsense directed towards Thomas from certain quarters but in this strangest of seasons, he and the squad are doing more than ok. Everything IS awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team. Events at the Lego Community stadium continuing to prove this. 

from one lego house to another

Let’s finish on a high, though. In what has already been a topsy-turvy season, Brentford are the division’s form team. We’ve won three on the bounce including two midweek trips to Yorkshire and a local derby. I’m absolutely ecstatic to have taken 9 from 9 over that run. Now we have the Championship golden goal shootout to look forward to. Even better, there will be fans present.

To everyone that got a ticket, ENJOY and make yourselves heard. Lionel Road is going to be rocking on Saturday. 2,000 supporters are going to sound deafening. Here’s hoping Simon got his email !

And finally…. Yesterday we put up the link for the Brentford pub Top Trumps. Today’s item of choice is a Nico Yennaris 28 football shirt. Anybody interested in picking this one up can do so here. Thanks for looking.

Until then, here’s to another three points. Here’s to us looking to continue our climb. Perhaps there may even be half an eye on Luton v Norwich tonight….

Nick Bruzon 

What a Finnish. Could we have a new FT Index?

12 Nov

Sure. You can do it for Brentford against FulhamL at Lionel Road but can you do against France in Paris on a Wednesday night? On your international debut. The answer was an emphatic YES with Marcus Forss giving Thomas Frank an even bigger selection headache (of the nicest sort) when he opened the scoring in a 2-0 win for Finland at the Stade de France. Picking up the ball in midfield after a mistake from Moussa Sissoko of Tottenham, he shrugged off the two defenders trailing in his wake to burst trough and lash a trademark thunderbolt past Steve Mandana into the back of the onion bag. What a finish. What a man. With the Denmark squad seeing the contingent of Bees committed for previously documented reasons, it was about as good an evening as it gets for the Bees. What next, though?

Marcus has the eye of the t,t,t… Eurasian Eagle Owl

If Marcus hadn’t already been knocking on Thomas’s door with his performances to date, this is only going to have increased the pressure for him to be given a starting berth even more.The calls for a return to the two up top which almost salvaged a draw from the Stoke City debacle (the game at the Bet365 rather than one of Billy Reeves favourite prog-rock bands) will only be growing. You can’t drop Ivan Toney – he’s on fire as the leading scorer in the Championship – but how on earth do you leave out Marcus now?

Cripes. Who’d be a head coach? Everybody’s an expert from the safety of their keyboards and the terrace but try doing it for real. Of course, we’ve got opinions and are all entitled to them. For what it’s worth, my own would be taking the chance to go for it when Wycombe visit on Saturday week. Play them both from the off. Go for broke and look to put a smile back on the face after the frustration of Norwich and Middlesbrough. Whilst tinkering with the defensive formation is, and always has been, metaphorical a car crash of the worst sort (four heads are way, way better than five), increasing the numbers at the other end of the pitch is always a bold and positive call. It has worked for the short, sharp periods when we’ve tried it but how about a full on 90 minutes? 

The halcyon days of Deano and Bliss, the FT index or for those of us with longer memories, the terrible twins George Francis and Jim Towers, always bring a smile to the face. The rose tinted memories of goals flying on for fun and Brentford winning game after game (play-off campaigns aside – move along, nothing to see there) are always associated with those strike partners. Could Thomas have now stumbled across the latest dynamic duo? Circumstance alone giving him no choice but to lead from the front? 

Forget the BMW. That was so 2019. A new FT Index of Forss and Toney rather than Forster and Taylor could be the most unexpected outcome of an already weird season. 

The FT index – had some amazing support, too

Let’s be honest, its not our way. Normally. But then this isn’t the normal season. Anything but. If we have any pretensions of hauling in table toppers Reading then at some point the draws will need to start being converted to wins. Last season’s incredible goal difference replicated. With a run of four games against teams in the bottom half of the table now approaching, this really feels like the best time to go for it. If we are going to look at building a regular Plan B of Toney and Forss together, now is the perfect opportunity.

It’s a big IF, of course. We’ve talked long and hard about the need to avoid player burn out. Let’s not forget either that there are nine games in December including that cup quarter-final with Newcastle United. I can’t see Thomas overly pushing it there. If anything, it’s going to be a period where we make full use of the squad. More rotations than an over oiled magic roundabout. But now is the time where we can, perhaps, afford to mix it up a bit. To go for the much fancied strike pairing and see what comes from there. 

Marcus and Ivan both have the taste for goal. Whilst the ‘no dickheads’ policy is one which permeates a squad where spirit seems high, will either player be truly happy keeping the bench warm when they are banging them in for fun? Good luck answering that one, Thomas. In the nicest sense.

Nick Bruzon

Ten out of Ten, so far. In a manner of speaking.

5 Nov

Ten games played all round. The table has now ‘taken shape’ . Brentford sit in tenth after Tuesday’s night’s 1-1 draw with Swansea City. A late goal from Andre Ayew denying us all three points. An even later one in injury time from the same player denying the visitors similar. This, after Ayew’s header home was adjudged to have been from an offside position. Elsewhere, Wayne Rooney’s Derby County are in early trouble whilst pacesetters Reading have now made it two defeats on the spin. With play-off contenders Middlesbrough up next before the two week international break ( what break??) the Bees remain well in contention for another promotion push. What have we learned so far though?

As we’ve seen the last few games the injuries are already biting. Squad rotation over the entire season is going to be absolutely key. Not just for Brentford but any team with realistic ambitions to stay afloat in this division, let alone make a run for the Premier league. Mads Bech Sorensesn joined Pontus Jansson on the missing list at centre back. Christian Norgaard is amongst the other big names currently awol thanks to the non-stop run of games our players are being obliged to undertake. Whilst we have squad depth, let’s not pretend that we are better with those players missing. I can’t imagine they will be the last, either.

Being blunt, we were lucky as on Tuesday night. Swansea City will probably feel hard done by following a game in which who else but Ivan Toney grabbed the opening goal. That’s ten out of ten  for the free scoring front man as he guided home from close range with 36 minutes on the clock. Again eluding his markers for what then seemed the simplest of finishes. Yet in truth it was a goal against the run of play and even having gained the lead, it never felt comfortable. David Raya keeping us alive before and after until, eventually, Ayew restored parity with a quarter hour to go. Even Thomas Frank would admit afterwards that “I don’t think we hit a good level” but the final score is the one that counts and that shows that the visitors failed to stretch their lead at the business end.

Man of the match Raya kept us in this one

Ok, so we were lucky. A lot of players had an off game. No excuses from me. We’ve had long enough to adjust. Ghoddos and Canos in particular below their best as we were looking for some oomph. The plus points being the form of Raya, Rico Henry, Ethan Pinnock and Toney. Not to mention Marcus Forss from the bench.

For me, the revelation of our two front men (Ivan tops the Championship charts with ten goals from ten games) has been the absolute golden bonus of a frustrating season. Frustrating, mainly because we remain locked out of our new home. Watching it all on tv is fine but no substitute for being there. No way to generate proper atmosphere. No way to try and assert any semblance of home ‘advantage. It’s tough for the players, the club, the balance sheet and especially the fans. Much as I love listening to Mark Burridge and Marcus Gayle, what I really want is to be hearing Angry Dad reminding the officials how to do their job. To hear HB cheering as Ivan slams home another goal. To hear Peter Gilham doing it for real on the p.a. system. 

We’re all in the same boat.I have to be thankful that we are quids in from Ollie Watkins’ inevitable departure yet, if anything, the goals are flowing even faster. Not just from Ivan but Marcus, too. We’ve been unlucky (Birmingham City), shot ourselves in the foot (Norwich), ridden our luck (Swansea) and plain awful at times (Stoke and Preston). Yet the wins have also started to come as the team adjust to new surroundings, new colleagues on pitch and a BMW now missing its B and W.

At the back, David Raya is back to his best whilst Rico Henry continues to astound. Ethan Pinnock looking like yet another top draw signing. We saw him grow last season and he has only continued that progress. Get the flanks right and I still think we’ll be ok. Of course, it would be lovely to clone Josh Dasilva in the middle but that’s not how football works. Thomas has the most almighty struggle in having to juggle fit players whilst waiting for the injured to recover.

I’d love to be higher up of course. Who wouldn’t? The table doesn’t lie though and if we are honest with ourselves, tenth place is reflective of our form. Great goals and pleasing wins combined with the challenges of injury and self-inflicted debacle for a team readjusting to new faces and a possible hangover from last season. Yet, more importantly, we are only four points off of second place in the table. Two points outside of the play-off zone.

Besides, look at those others we may have earmarked as promotion contenders when the season began? Wayne Rooney’s Derby County are languishing in the trapdoor zone. Wycombe Wanderers overtook them last night thanks to a last minute own goal at Birmingham City (not from whom you’d think, either) meaning only ‘minus point’ Sheffield Wednesday are below them. Nottingham Forest have had an absolute stinker and are only now starting to find their feet. A mere six points cover the 15 teams from second placed Swansea down. I’d much rather be in that pack than sitting outside of it. The wins and the run will come and, at the least, we know we can rely on goals. Whomever starts up front for Brentford. Get the midfield balance right and we’ll be just fine.

Middlesbrough on Saturday will be absolutely huge. A win for Brentford will see us overtake the fifth placed team as we go into that two week break from league action. Will see us end this part of the season on a high. The injured will at least have that additional chance to regain their fitness in the buffer zone of no further games being missed. Those selected for their country will hopefully come back in one piece. Hopefully.

In short, we’ve been awesome and at times we’ve been awful. The goals are flying in. The injuries are biting. But we remain just outside the promotion pack. The new signings are bedding in and we’ve  overcome the challenge of replacing Ollie Watkins in some style. If we can get the Benrahma piece right then we’ll be just fine. Getting on the players backs won’t help any but that’s part and parcel of football. I just wish we were there to cheer them in person. Maybe in 2021……

Longing for a stadium full of fans rather than empty seats

Nick Bruzon 

Here’s to another Gibraltar moment. At 7(seven)pm.

3 Nov

Brentford have the chance to close within a point of second placed Swansea City this evening in a 7pm (seven pm) kick off at Lionel Road. With the memory of Saturday’s Sergi Canos inspired 3-0 victory at Luton Town still coursing through the veins, can the Bees make it back to back wins once more?

Check the time

7pm is when we find out. That’s 7pm. Don’t forget to set an alarm. It’s bad enough missing kick off when fans are / were able to attend in person (something that has been known to happen) but even more infuriating when all you need to do is turn on your laptop. Then make sure it is set to the right browser (not safari). Add your credit card details despite the fact you have a free code. Then check your bank statement to make sure you haven’t been charged. Yes, its iFollow time once more. That is, assuming you have a free code.

Certainly I’ve not had one this time around. Even after rooting through the trash (not for the first time) there is still no sign. however, Brentford official does tell us that for the Swansea City game : “Season Ticket Holders and Premium Seat Members, who matched their ticketing email address to an iFollow account, have already been given access to tomorrow’s game“.

So there you go. Let’s put our faith in technology. What could go wrong? To be fair, it all worked at the weekend when we watched a game from abroad. A first overseas break in almost two years allowed us catch the action from a flying trip to Gibraltar. Sunshine and goals were very much the order of the day as the iFollow worked. Far too well, as it happened. The cheers from Harry for Rico’s opener against Luton Town could be heard from Europa Point to the Victoria Stadium. He then brought shame upon the family as enthusiasm got the better of him but that’s a story for another day. Or the Middlesbrough programme, if the editor lets it past the censors…

Cakes by Gibraltar. Commentary by HB and Mark Burridge

The main talking points, Sergi aside, will of course be the goals for Ivan and Marcus. Only a liar would say they had no worries about selling Ollie Watkins but, my word, what a wonderful duel is now going on between the pair of them. Ivan headed back to the top of the Championship goalscorers table whilst Marcus did his thing from the bench once more. A sweet finish with H declaring, “Daddy. It was just like against Stoke City”. Albeit enjoyable. And with no defensive haemorrhaging. Thomas Frank has been given two quite special talents to replace the free scoring front man. With 9 scored from 9 Championship games, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out Ivan’s goal ratio. Long may this continue. Starting tonight – if only for the ‘Ten out of ten‘ headlines.

Hopefully that’s tonight although it won’t be easy. It never is, to be fair. Swansea City have only lost once all season, at home to Huddersfield Town, and have certainly shown no signs of a play-off hangover from last season. That, of course, a campaign that ended at Griffin Park after that controversial first leg when Rico Henry was sent off, only for it to be subsequently reversed. Yet, like Brentford, our visitors have put all that behind them. 

Manager Steve Cooper is quoted on the BBC, describing the events of that campaign as “Irrelevant”, saying “we’re a different team, they’re a different team. It’s a new season. It’s all about looking forward.

And what a way to do it. The table doesn’t lie and with the chance to get some clear air at the top, you can bet the Swans will be out for all three points. Then again, so will we. Obvious, of course, but with the team finding their feet despite injuries and sales it represents a great chance to start winning some of the tough games. To start laying down a few markers of our own. To avoid another ‘Preston’ or ‘stoke’ moment. Move along. Nothing to see. 

There’s not much else to say, really. With the games coming thick and fast, I’m exhausted just watching from the sofa. There’s no respite and no pause for breath. That’s before we even get to December and our 9 games in 29 days. You can be sure Marcus will be starting games by then. If only to keep Ivan fresh. As for the rest of the team, thank goodness we have squad choice in just about every position. Thomas will still know his favoured line up but don’t be surprised if we see more of the regular subs called in to the starting XI action. Possibly even tonight.

At 6pm we find out. That’s 6pm because, of course, kick off is at 7pm. See you there. In spirit. Nice and early.

Get ready for brackets. And kick off

Nick Bruzon 

Time for a bit of Frank talking with each other.

25 Oct

How are we all doing in Brentford this morning? Presumably still smarting over yesterday’s defeat at Stoke City or looking onwards and upwards? To the visit of Norwich City and then a trip to Luton Town. For what it’s worth (not much, apparently), I’m past it already. All the pontification about the formation won’t change anything. It’s how we react to it collectively that matters now. This was one game and there was enough there in the second half to suggest that, actually, change can be a good thing. I’ve also now seen the interview with Thomas Frank – at least, the 2 minutes 53 seconds put out by the club. That’s below… 

Say what you want about Thomas’s answers but he can only react to the softball questions casually tossed to him. These are the times when the fans are desperate to hear his thoughts on what went wrong but it felt as vanilla a Q&A as could be delivered. Of course,’official’ aren’t going to spill the tactical beans, overly show our hand or hang the coach out to dry but a bit of pressure would have been nice.

Oh, for BBC Billy Reeves and some of his characteristic gentle probing. The killer question delivered with all the charm of Leslie Phillips apologetically wielding a sledgehammer.  

Billy Reeves (kind of) – a portrait of charm and that sledgehammer blow

For me, Clive, the key point to take from this one was in regards to our formation. Was it tactical? Done due to personnel reasons? Or a bit of both?  Thomas’ answer confirming the combination approach but giving some reasoning and future notice that things are likely to be similar when Norwich City are in town. 

We are struggling a little bit with injuries, especially in the middle of the park with midfielders. For the second game in a row we only had three midfielders available from the squad and we know its most likely to be the same on Tuesday.” Going on to add that, “It’s a long season. We’re playing a lot of games. We are fit, we are strong but its also about keeping that freshness.”

Read in to that what you will. More of the same to follow, presumably, but which same? Five at the back or Ivan and Marcus back together again? The difference between the two formations was obvious to all. Going for broke and opting for the later one which puts all our attacking eggs in one basket from the off but I’m sure something which would shut the moaners up. And I don’t mean about yesterday’s performance – which was rancid – but in general.

That, and dropping Sergi who seems to have become the social media target of choice. He didn’t have a good one yesterday but you could say that about the vast majority. Henrik had a stinker. All three centre backs were stretched and caught out of line time and again. There was no service at all to Ivan. Yet the enthusiastic Spaniard is one kopping it from all angles and seemingly the reason we don’t have a record of WWWWWWW. Hmmm. 

Nobody came out of the opening hour with any credit. But if we learn form it then perhaps no bad thing in the longer scheme. Stoke City absolutely deserved their win, regardless of our own shortcomings. The season is a long one and there are going to be more decisions made which we don’t agree with. Decisions made based on fitness, tactics and a myriad of injury related factors we’re just not privy to. Sometimes it will work. At others, like yesterday, it won’t.

As Thomas himself acknowledged, “In the end it wasn’t good enough ……It was not spot on in the first half for various reasons but to be fair we could have played 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 7-9-13 and I don’t think that would have helped first half.

The one obvious positive has to be the role played by Marcus Forss. He can hit a ball but he can also read the game. Ice running through his veins, judging by the finish for his second. What composure. What calmness. It gave brief hope we could still pull something out of the fire and whilst it wasn’t to be, talk about impressive. Another one storming up the blindside to emerge into the light, a fully fledged Championship and international player. 

One from the official Twitter feed – the real shining light on an otherwise dark day

For all that Thomas has injury problems to contend with, what a nice challenge at the other end of the spectrum with both Marcus and Ivan banging them in for fun. Get the supply lines and formation right ongoing and the Stoke game could well be seen as a turning point in our fortunes, much like Stevenage away all those years ago.

Not that we’re in any form of crisis, btw. One shit hour doesn’t define a season. The key point to come is what we learn from it. In how we react over the next few games. I’m not joining those getting on Thomas’ back. Quite the opposite.  Of course people have opinions and every right to express them. Context is always nice. And justification , of course. 

For me, he knows this squad. He has a wonderful way of motivating players. Look at how last season went as we hit that wonderful run after the clocks went back. The players, head coach and fans in unison.

We’ve lost that, now. There is no physical support. No closeness. The bond broken thanks to Corona. Of course, every team has the same to contend with yet for for us at Brentford it was always a huge factor. That tight stadium and proximity of fans to the action was massive. Those post-match walkabouts seeing the symbiotic relationship between those on pitch and those in the stands growing ever closer. Geeing each other up to the point where we hadn’t even left Griffin Park and already couldn’t wait for the next game.

It is a massive advantage that has been removed from our armoury and with game following game following game, needs to be considered by those wondering why we’re not winning everything 5-0. Support and motivation from the stands are a massive thing for players. Everybody acknowledges that football without fans isn’t the same. Injuries bite and necessitate change. Tired legs are already obvious to see.

Thomas and the crowd have always fed off each other’s energy

It’s how we react to these factors that is going to be so crucial to our fortunes over the next month or so. Look at he bigger picture and we’re well, well set. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have a fantastic squad and a passionate head Coach who, for the record, better not be going anywhere. That’s my opinion and you may feel it is wrong. Fair enough but as one fan to another, explain why. Explain what you would do. How you would cope with a relentless series of games that would test the fittest of players. How you would motivate players rattling around empty stadia.

Those, for me, are the challenges faced by not just Brentford but every club in this division. This Championship campaign is going to be one of the most open on record. Careful management of the squad will be key to success. This is what we are trying.

Life’s too short and too hard at present to lose it on negativity. That’s not me wearing a club hat (they don’t employ me and I have no obligation to kiss anybody’s butt). It’s me fed up with the constant moaning about a team who have a progressive set up, a passionate head coach and are only four points off second place.

That said, please let’s never play three centre backs again.

Nick Bruzon