Tag Archives: Matthew Benham

The many reasons we must win. The one reason we will.

10 Nov

Saturday morning and the 237 derby awaits. West London’s finest, and also QPR, prepare to do battle. With tier-gate resolved and the away-end sold out (barring a few £37 ‘restricted view’ seats), Brentford can prepare for the trip to Loftus Road in high spirits. Last weekend’s dominant performance saw The Bees back to winning ways and assuredly looking to pick up where we left off against Millwall. That one finished 2-0 and could easily have been double, but for the woodwork. Yet in a build-up that has been dominated by Friday’s news of Chief Executive Mark Devlin announcing his own departure from Griffin Park after 7 (seven) years, are we all missing out on the key factor that may decide this one?

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Off to Loftus Road again

First up, Mark Devlin. We’ve by now all heard the news of his own forthcoming departure which was shared yesterday morning. We’ve all read the praise being lavished upon Mark by everyone from Bees United to Matthew Benham and beyond. Understandably. The strides that Brentford have made in the last 7 (seven) years have been quite incredible. In no small part helped by his enthusiasm and dedication. His time taken to talk to anyone about everything – a spirit which continues to run through the club.

I’ve often maintained that if you want to know something at Brentford, just ask. Mark typifies this approach – where confidentiality allows, of course – whilst few could deny his openness with the fans at the forums, responding to email, on social media or in person. He’s a regular on the forecourt when there’s a game and will always stop for a chat. How many other clubs are fortunate enough to have this level of approachability from one of the men at the very top? There’s nobody doubting how much he’ll be missed whilst, personally, I’ll now need to find somebody else to harangue about the new kit. Good luck Mark. And thank you. Our loss is very much somebody else’s gain – even if it is Twitter spambots…

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Open comms. On any subject !!

Before he goes, Mark has one last QPR match to sit through. Which of his teams (wink emoji) will emerge with the points today? Brentford, obviously. Aside from our own strength and goal scoring potential, Nico Yennaris used his own appearance at the press conference to reveal how the team were fully aware of what this one means to the fans.

He explained how, “We know the importance of the game. Peter Gilham reiterates that every time we play QPR ; how important it is …the likes of myself, we’ve heard it enough from Pete but it’s the new guys coming in. The one’s that haven’t really been involved in a QPR – Brentford game. He lets them know aswell…”   

If anyone knows the history between the two clubs then it’s Peter. The story of the failed takeover can’t be told enough. It’s over fifty years on from that now yet still things remain fresh. In part helped by QPR’s own ‘accidental’ celebration of this event on their own programme cover last year. Something that their own head of media would subsequently explain, “Isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order”. This, before going on share how the dog had just eaten his homework and he’d left his P.E. kit on the bus. Probably.

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Old news on the programme cover. And the failed takeover

But then its all about the excuses with them. Who could forget the time they accidentally breached FFP rules after running up a deficit of £9.8 m aswell as owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders writing off a £60m loan? October 2017 saw the £58m fine deemed not disproportionate and upheld. This, despite Fernandes’ earlier assertion that “My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

 “If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.”

Ahhh. Poor QPR. If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em. In the end, the club and football league settled on a ‘mere’ £42m which included a £17m fine, amongst other measures. Perhaps a somewhat fortunate escape for a club who employed Harry Redknapp.

Whilst we all know this of course, there’s no harm reminding ourselves of the context. Moreso given our own efforts to comply with the financial regulations imposed on EFL clubs have often resulted in our own stars being sold to ensure compliance and fair play.

Recent form is very much with Brentford going in to today’s big game. Of the last 8 league and cup encounters, the record read W5 D2 L1 in favour of Brentford. The solitary blip in that run being Dean’s Smiths attempt to play Alan Judge as a false 9 in a 4-6-0 formation whilst the highlight being our April 2017 destruction of Rangers at Griffin Park. With Jota in inspired form that day, a 3-1 win was about as generous a scoreline to the visitors as they come.

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I wouldn’t disagree

I predict more of the same this afternoon. Forget form. Forget rivalry. Forget everything. There’s one fact more telling than any motivational speech Peter Gilham may give. More important than whether Thomas Frank starts with Yoann or Moses, Luke or Dan, Sergi or Said.

Put simply, Steve McClaren has just been named manager of the month for October.

What magnificent timing for yesterday’s announcement! Could it have been any better? We all know how this one works. Scoop the prize, fail to lose your next game. It’s a jjnx as long established as not shaving on a winning run, wearing the magic shirt, pulling on the lucky pants or whatever your own particular match day-ritual is. Yet none come bigger than having to make the awkward pose with the trophy, safe in the knowledge that the next points are sliding down the drain.

I’m pretty sure it’s a scientific fact. But don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on is that this will be another three points for Brentford. I don’t want to rain on Steve McClaren’s parade but back-to-back wins are heading our way. Roll on 3pm when it all starts again.

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Incredible but true. It really has happened

Nick Bruzon 

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

17 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk about a post-match passion killer

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

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

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

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The second stand appears

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

See you Saturday. Bring on Bristol City…..

Nick Bruzon

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

12 Oct

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

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Pass the mic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a nice problem to have!

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

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

Nick Bruzon

Is this a case of ‘If’ or when?

4 Oct

Aaaaargghh. 5.30am. Alarm clock ringing. Eyes sore and head thumping with a plane to catch. I’m not going to lie – a few beers were drunk last night. And by a few I mean a lot. A rare night without Mrs Bruzon had been spent at The 100 Club in London’s swinging West End, watching popular music’s The Bluetones. Brentford fan Adam Devlin doing his thing quite brilliantly (guitar, rather than Twitter – where he is one of the undoubted kings of social media) and, as such, the cause of this morning’s discomfort. All of which meant thoughts of Aston Villa, Leeds United at the weekend and the swathe of stories I think I’d read on the way home had all been forgotten.

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I blame (and thank) Mr Devlin. Adam, not Mark

No bad thing, either. The last thing anybody in a fragile state needs at that ungodly hour is to start visualising cabbage or Steve Bruce sweating. So there was a half hour of respite until Absolute Radio kicked in. Specifically the sports bulletin where it all came flooding back with the news that, of course, Aston Villa had sacked their manager last night. That much anticipated decision finally made, despite the club only being two points behind a Brentford side who retained their place play-off spot after yesterday’s results planned out. I’ve no idea who won what games but a cursory glance at the table showed us in sixth.

The obvious question from a TW8 perspective is who will be pick The Bees starting XI for our own trip to table topping Leeds United on Saturday? The real snap back to reality was the news story continuing with the reminder that “Dean Smith, Thierry Henry and John Terry” were the early favourites for the now vacant seat. John Terry? Seriously? Wow.

Putting him to one side, there’s been talk for the last couple of years about Dean taking the position. The Villans are, of course, the team he grew up supporting whilst our own success in The Championship speaks for itself. Moreso, given the ‘small’ budget and controlled spending compared to some of the monumental transfer fees our more high profile rivals have splashed out. Indeed, Brentford have been the beneficiaries of a consistent buy low, sell high policy that has seen us stay within FFP rules despite our obvious size.

But being a fan of a club doesn’t make you a shoe in for the role. Dean may be the last person on Dr. Tony’s mind, especially given all the Thierry Henry talk over the summer. Yet given our man’s ability to work on a budget, and with his obvious connections to the talent in our squad, the lure is an obvious one.

Would Dean go if offered? You couldn’t begrudge anybody the chance to takeover at their boyhood club. I’m desperately hoping he’d politely decline if anything came his way now. That – and I think it was Natalie Sawyer who mentioned this yesterday – he’d want to stay put for now to see our job though. We’ve a wonderfully talented squad, a great attitude and a new home on the horizon. The future is very much a bright one.

We’ve been consistently strong - especially against Villa, despite the torrential downpour

We’ve been consistently strong, whatever the weather

Indeed, who would willingly step into the maelstrom of unpredictability that is Villa Park at present? There are those well documented financial issues that emerged over the summer and a fan base quick to make their opinions known. Whether vocally or via the medium of a rogue cabbage. A story which then led to getting lost down the rabbit hole of the internet, searching out ‘that’ A-Team episode when their Heath-Robinsonesque device of the week was the infamous cabbage launcher. Likewise, the question as to why they were always locked up in barns that were chock full of farm machinery, surplus machine parts, blow torches and welders goggles.

Yet we digress, as ever. These chances don’t come around very often and in my heart of hearts I’m already imagining the letter to supporters. His thanking Mathew Benham for the opportunity and noting how there was only ever one club he’d leave for. How he wishes Brentford all the very best for the future and can’t wait to play against us….in the Premier League.

Come on Dean, prove me wrong. Please.

Instead, let’s hope Thierry or anyone else gets it. Well, almost anyone. The last thing we need is another club being rebranded. Bad enough we’re currently being dragged kicking and screaming into the ‘Frank Lampard’s Derby County’ era.

One can only imagine how awful ‘John Terry’s Aston Villa’ will sound.

Nick Bruzon

P.S. If anyone from the band is reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) apologies for going all fan boy. But it was a quite magnificent night. On the plus side, that’s #BeeTheDJ sorted for Bristol City.

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That’s BeeTheDJ sorted at least

Back to league action. And ‘thanks’, Michael Palin. Way to try and ruin a great thing.

29 Sep

The cup runneth over. Kind of. With Arsenal out of the way (not the right way) it’s back to League action today as Brentford host Reading. The first of a double bill at Griffin Park over the next few days sees this one closely followed by Birmingham City on Tuesday. With Leeds United making it just one win from five last night, a great opportunity is opening up whilst Twitter has delivered not once, but twice, in quite wonderful fashion.

First up, the Reading game. This one has everything to play for and promises to be a stunner. In theory. Reading have started to win games after their abject start and have now escaped the bottom three. 6 points out of the last 9 sees them finding form and reaching the dizzy heights of 20th. Brentford will, of course, be hugely cheered by that fight back at Arsenal during the week. It was one-way traffic as we came that close to hauling ourselves into the fourth round after a blitzkrieg second half. The only downside being the first half! Oh well, that’s football. We go ag, ag, agai.. once more. The obvious question being one of whether Dean sticks or twists ?

Such was the fight shown in the second period, I do wonder if he’ll continue with any of his normal bench players? Whilst, surely, one would expect Neal Maupay, Henrik Dalsgaard and Daniel Bentley to return to the starting XI is that as far as it goes? I thought Kamo was superb whilst Sergi ran them ragged once the team got going. Mind you, so did Saïd Benrahma when he came on. Who’d be a head coach?

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Yesssssss !!!!! Alan Judge’s free-kick sent the away end ballistic

Whomever starts, Brentford have even more incentive to go for it. Table toppers Leeds United being held at Sheffield Wednesday, Friday, means a win could take us to within a point of first place. Naturally, subject to other results. But the league is so tight at the moment that as far down as 14th, Swansea are only 6 behind Leeds. With Birmingham the same gap behind us, effectively 7(seven) when you factor in the draw specialists woeful goal difference, every game is crucial. Every point critical. Already. And its not even October. I love this division!!  

The cup was a lovely diversion and visiting Arsenal taught us a lot of things, as much off-field (see last column) as on, but it’s great to be feasting at the main table once more. Let’s hope Dean serves up a five-star banquet rather than skin and bone.

One of those Arsenal ‘things’ was giant flags at the home end. We’d seen similar before at Chelsea. Tucked behind the hoardings but then waved high to welcome the teams out or celebrate a goal to the home team. I’m not sure exactly what the benefit is or why they are needed – if you need a flag waver to generate an atmosphere (see also: the Mexican wave, England Supporter’s band,  goal music) then we’re already in trouble.

Thankfully, Matthew Benham is in agreement. The joy of Twitter where a casually asked question on Friday morning to the club owner brings about a response within minutes:    

@NickBruzon : Hi Matthew. You’ve often been quoted as (thankfully) saying there will never, ever be ‘goal music’ at Lionel Road. Is it safe to say the same will apply to Arsenal style ‘goal flags’ ?

@matthew_benham : Absolutely!

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Another Lionel Road crisis averted

Result! No flags and no goal music ! With Lionel Road looking bigger and better with each passing day, it’s great that he’s also on point about those matters that really count ! Here’s hoping the previously backed hot seat idea also comes to fruition. Even if Cameron Diaz won’t be the one filling it. That said, perhaps the sausage train remains a leap too far.

So that was yours truly feeling pretty pleased with the day’s social media activity. Easy come, easy go. As ever. No sooner had that gone up than it’s been blown out of the water first thing Saturday morning with a quite incredible spot on the social media platform from @HongKongBee , aka Andrew Cooper, after watching the Michael Palin In North Korea documentary from the BBC.  

Wow. There’s not much you can say here. Beyond a bit of photoshoppery just to really take a look at this in depth.

Whilst the North Korean regime of secrecy and oppression is totally abhorrent and about as far flung as you could get from all-embracing Griffin Park, that’s an eerie sartorial spot. Great observational skills, Andrew. It is incredible how something so wonderful in one format (our away kit) can look so awful in another. Thankfully, quality shines through and it will be the football kit that people remember long into the future rather than any quirky uniforms.

All being well Brentford official will be reporting a 7(seven) – 0 win for The Bees today for legitimate reasons rather than propaganda based ones.

North Korea Brentford away

Kit wrong-un

Finally, please don’t forget #BeeTheDJ today…..

Given the sad passing of Chas Hodges last weekend, what better way for fans to remember him than by bombarding the Griffin Park tannoy (other brands of p.a. system are also available) with the likes of Gertcha, Rabbit, Margate, Ain’t No Pleasing You, The Sideboard Song, London girls etc etc etc.

You can get choosing here. What better way to get the crowd buzzing prior to kick off whilst, more importantly, remembering the great man.

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How do you even try and whittle this down to one choice?

Nick Bruzon

Prophetic Peter calls it and Matthew goes full Partridge as Neal and Josh do the business. Again.

16 Sep

7(seven) games down and Brentford are up to second in the embryonic Championship table after a fifth, successive, home win. This time, over Wigan Athletic. In a display of quite delicious passing football, Neal Maupay grabbed both goals to take his individual total to 7(seven) for the season and move clear in the Championship goalscoring charts. This, despite his missing two league games following the Villa Park affair. Just to put that into context, Neal already has two more than the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have scored all season. Then again, with four league wins under the belt that’s already four more than both the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have earned all season.

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View from the Braemer – Brentford strolled past Wigan on Saturday

The visit of Wigan was never going to be easy. On paper. Paul Cook’s team were only a point behind the Bees before kick-off whilst the visitors had ex-Bee Will Grigg in their squad. The inevitability of a former player doing the business is never a particularly enjoyable moment for home fans of any club. Even moreso in the case of Will when no doubt ‘that song’ would have been given a rendition.

Yet there was a comfort about this one, especially once the second goal had gone in, that is true testament to the confidence flowing through both Dean Smith’s squad and the home support. Maupay scooped man of the match honours but I thought Lewis Macleod and, in particular, Josh McEachran were quite wonderful. The latter starting the move for the opening goal with a cheeky nutmeg followed by a delightful crossfield ball forward to Said Benrahma. If only the sky cameras had captured the moment for their post-match highlights. Here’s hoping those on ‘official’ catch the full move when they appear at lunchtime. (12pm update: Yes! They did. Enjoy…..

 

Credit to Josh. If any player has taken his time to start winning over the critics it is him. Yet he has plugged away and the management have shown faith. With Ryan Woods having moved on the chance has been seized after what were, if we are being honest, a patchy couple of seasons. And how. We’ve already noted his increased presence this season on these pages a few times. The killer pass and/or move forward being a key change in his dynamic.

Indeed whilst being gently probed by Natalie Sawyer during this week’s TalkSport interview, Dean Smith was full of praise for a player who has admitted to still having England aspirations. Consistency will be key, of course, but for now one can only applaud a quite wonderful start to the campaign.

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Neal was MOTM but Josh played blinder, too

That Maupay goal came half-way through an opening period that Brentford dominated. Whilst it had felt as though the flood gates would open within seconds when the Bees swarmed forward from the kick-off, Christian Walton in the Wigan goal held back the tide. Something which proved to be the theme of a game in which, a brief first-half flurry aside, was about as one way as they come.

The threat of Grigg never materialised. He wasn’t so much on fire as on the bench. A place he never left, save for the warm ups. But then as Our Graham (a Huddersfield fan making one of his semi-regular but always welcome visits to Griffin Park) noted, perhaps the judgement here being that the ball needed to be near the Brentford goal in order for him to put it in it, and it was seldom in that vicinity.

One up at half-time became two just after the hour. That man Maupay with his second, this time against ten men rather than eleven. Sam Morsy having been sent off five minutes earlier for poleaxing Yoann Barbet with a head butt that had referee Darren England instantaneously calling for the medics before subsequently brandishing the red card. And from that point on it really was game over. Two clear and coasting. Despite Walton mountin’ a one-man resistance, in the end it was a case of goodnight Wigan Athletic. With other results falling kindly the Bees move up to second, just a point behind Leeds United.

What a time to be alive. What a time to be a Brentford fan. What a reward for all those who’ve been with us through thick and thin. Now able to enjoy what Matthew Benham would later describe on Twitter as “Liquid football” .

Back of the net, indeed ! There is no finer moment in life than anybody embracing their inner Alan Partridge. Accidentally or otherwise. All the while of course, just up the road our new home continues to grow. On current form I can only imagine Mr. Benham naming that one ‘Jurassic Park’.

Credit to Matthew and the current regime for allowing this to happen. There can’t be a fan amongst us who isn’t appreciative of what is being built here and how it has happened. Yes, there have been some tears and frustration along the way – this is football, we are passionate supporters who often think with our hearts in the heat of the moment rather than our heads  – yet only a fool would jump off this train now.

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The site at Lionel Road, (very) early on Saturday morning

Next up, Ipswich Town on Tuesday night. Whilst their record was mentioned in the introduction by way of comparison to Neal’s form, they also need to be recognised for the genuine threat they present to Brentford’s own aspirations. And as much, a mark of our own progress. True, they are bottom of the table but they are only two wins away from the top half. They may have lost to Hull City yesterday but the season is still young. They aren’t, surely, a bottom three side? If nothing else, we’ve the likes of Preston, QPR, Reading and Birmingham City for that particular task.

Last season saw Brentford take nine games before we got our first three pointer. It was a run which was typified by performances that Dean Smith swore by, maintaining we were deserving of victories. Eventually they came.

Yet the game at Portman Road was one of those from that early, ill-fated patch. It was a perfromance noted at the time on these pages as, “Wonderful attacking play (the first half especially). One-way traffic. The proverbial kitchen sink chucked at the opposition. 65% possession and twenty-one attempts at goal compared to Ipswich Town’s four. Yet it was the Tractor Boys who took the points and kept a clean sheet with a 2-0 win that left the Bees bottom of the pile in the Championship after four games

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Portman Road (and what Billy Reeves calls the best font in football) is next.

That was then. This is now. Nottingham Forest two weeks ago saw us win the sort of game that, last season, we’d have lost. Refusing to be outmuscled as the team converted chances into goals and, eventually, all three points. Could Tuesday night promise more of the same? It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. Yet on this sort of form I wouldn’t bet against Dean’s team.

As a final note of the day, could we see a new partnership forming at Griffin Park? Not so much the Ollie Watkins / Neal Maupay combo but that of Peter Gilham and Stuart Wakeford? Our own ‘man with the mic’ joining in during the #BeesLive segment prior to kick off where I walked in on his line: “I don’t know what the question was but the answer was Josh McEachran”.

How prophetic. On yesterday’s performance at Griffin Park the answer was very much Josh McEachran. With perhaps, a soupçon of Neal Maupay.

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Stu does his thing on #BEESLIVE – but what WAS the question?

Nick Bruzon

Want to see how Lionel Road looks at silly o’clock? Better than a talking dog.

8 Sep

International break. Time to down ‘Last Word’ tools for a while given there’s been no Brentford news of note (what £5k fine or website misdemeanour?). More telling, the school run being back in full force means that rather than writing nonsense, any spare time in the morning is currently spent persuading HB that getting up at 6.30 for Year One is an infinitely better prospect than laying in, watching some TV and then going to the park for a kickaround with his mates. Something he’s spent huge swathes of the last six weeks doing. Not. Jealous.

The plus side of this means no Paw Patrol. I can (just about) go with the fact that rather than employ the emergency services, the mayor of PP town has chosen to supply a bunch of talking dogs with jet packs, helicopters and JCB’s to resolve any crisis she faces. Usually involving a missing chicken.  As you do. Yet putting that to one side, there is no more annoying sound on TV than the dogs then laughing at one of their own jokes. Material which is generally about as weak as just about anything on these pages and, whilst clearly aimed at kids rather than adults, is still an unwelcome infliction on any parents within earshot. The things you have to put up with for father-son bonding.

Sorry. We digress. It’s not football but I needed to say that and enjoy the therapeutic relief of unloading.

Yet more importantly than no more of those infernal puppies, we get to go past the Lionel Road site on the way to school and, I have to say, things are looking fantastic. Progress is coming along at pace and to see Brentford’s new home rising out of the ground in front of us is an incredible thing to witness.

So much so that I was tempted out of bed on Saturday for an early morning sojourn at first light. Specifically, given how impressive the main stand had looked at 8am on Friday when the sun was already high in the sky.

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Friday morning, 8am. It was bright.

For me (Clive), it was worth the early start. Unlike Marshall’s stand up routine (one for the Paw Patrol victims amongst us).

Here’s a a couple of shots of how things were looking at a time when, ordinarily, I’d be imploring a young child that he needs to get out of bed for school.

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Friday, reverse view

 

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Saturday morning, silly o’clock

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Show’s over folks. Nothing else to see

Nick Bruzon

What a week. What a 16 years. Why today is more than just ‘another’ game.

11 Aug

Stoke City here we come. Brentford hit the road today, safe in the knowledge that Ryan Woods remains a Bee after a somewhat uneventful, albeit tense, transfer window slammed shut on Thursday ™ . That said, there can’t be one Bees fan who doesn’t know full well there still remains a gaping hole in the middle of it through which a player could still leave before month end. This, whether to / from another Championship club. Or Lower. Whilst we may be out of the woods in terms of the ginger Pirlo heading to Swansea City, that still remains a theoretical possibility for a few weeks. And with Sam Clucas leaving the Swans for today’s hosts after initially failing to agree terms with top flight Burnley, could their interest in Woodsy now be renewed?  Or might today see a renaissance for Ryan?  

First up, Stoke City. We’ve not had a competitive fixture with the Potters since the 2002 play-off final. That was the one we lost. 2-0. Although we had the unique experience of getting beaten in Cardiff, rather than in the semi-finals or at Wembley. That was the one I attended with my Stoke supporting flat mate Phil and HB’s now godfather, Colin. Where Jack Segal of First Great Western trains tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home by taking the train out of commission at Newport. Amongst his lesser offences. How DID that evening all work out, Jack? How much did that taxi cost? The one where Steve Coppell’s squad was not so much broken up as splintered into a million pieces immediately afterwards. 

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Move along – nothing to see here. Again.

It wasn’t a great day all round by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, I was glad to be clear of Stoke. They changed managers a few times but would hold station until the enigmatic Tony Pulis out shone their divisional rivals to make it into the Premier league in 2006/07. It was a position the Potters would maintain until their love-in with the top flight ended in a bitter divorce at the end of last season i.e. they were relegated. And now our paths cross once more. Sixteen years later.

Cripes, Stoke look tasty. Unlike most relegated teams, they’ve been able to keep the majority of their squad together. Clucas has come in from Swansea whilst they had already strengthened with the £6m+ purchase of midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo. In addition, Dean Smith was quick to recognise other new boys including Tom Ince and Ashley Williams in yesterday’s press conference. That’s before you factor in the likes of Joe Allen or England World cup squad member, goalkeeper Jack Butland.  

Then again, the Bees look equally impressive. You can only play the opposition presented yet Saturday’s 5-1 obliteration of Rotherham was about as one-sided as it gets. This despite Ryan Woods not being named in the matchday squad after the interest from Wales. Frankly, that we ‘only’ scored five is still about as confusing as it gets. Brentford were insatiable when pushing forward and could really have made a claim on those beautiful brackets that come with a 7(seven) goal score. Yet three points and top of the table after the first round of games are about as much as one could hope for.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance against Rotherham

Today will be an infinitely sterner test. Just where is that dividing line to be drawn between Rotherham being awful and Dean Smith’s team being considered able to take that next step up? Will the team change now that Woodsy is available? Even just the bench?  Dean told the media team yesterday that “Ryan is a full member of our squad. I am very pleased he didn’t leave. We had bids and there was an unsettling period for Ryan but nothing has happened. Our valuation was not met so he remains a Brentford player.

What that means for today is unclear. I just can’t see a winning team being changed but equally, and has been noted many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. One thing Dean does is surprise us with his choice of personnel. Last season’s opening period was punctuated by no team being the same in successive games for a stretch that seemed to last about two months, if I recall correctly. Might we see more of the same?

There’s only one place to find out and that’s 3pm at the bet365 stadium (things to note not to call Lionel Road – I think I’ll cry if we run out at the LeoVegas Arena). I can’t wait for this one. If for no other reason than we get to see how well the boys do in that quite magnificent brown and orange away shirt.

Roll on kick off and see you there.

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Looking forward to seeing more of Said in the brown today

One final note on the Woodsy situation. Or, more specifically, the Swansea City situation. What mess must they be in at present? I’m not close enough to be in any position of knowledge but looking in, it seems staggering. They’ve had years in the Premier League. They have those god awful parachute payments to help keep them afloat. Former Bee Alfie Mawson was sold to Fulham for a fee noted at close to £20m. Clucas for another £6m+, yet they couldn’t reach to Brentford’s valuation (thought to be £6.5m) for a player they had been courting all window.  Then again, that Clucas deal represents a somewhat awful turnaround for a player who cost £16m from Hull City (along with Stephen Kingsley heading in the opposite direction) just 12 months earlier.

That’s not to have a dig at Swansea. Far from it. We all know what it’s like being on the wrong end of your best player leaving or financial mismanagement. More, to note once more how well we are being run and how relatively stable things are at Brentford compared to a lot of other clubs.

Great job, Mr. Benham. Now here’s to three points  today.

Nick Bruzon

 

 

Hashtags, bans, predictions and new signings (for some of us).

31 Jul

Finally. The Championship is back this weekend. There’s no doubting how fantastic the World Cup was yet, at the same time, I’ve a huge feeling of anticipation at the prospect of Brentford entertaining Rotherham United before our own trip to Stoke City the following Saturday. We’ve another new signing (which is more than Birmingham City can say after their own announcement yesterday) in centre back Julian Jeanvier from French Ligue 2 champions Stade de Reims whilst both Beesotted and the Brentford FC Drone also return.

We can only start with transfer news. No sooner has the out-door swung with John Egan heading to Sheffield United for a fee estimated at a minimum of £4million than his replacement has come in for half that – certainly if reports are to be believed. The Jeanvier speculation had been mounting on Twitter for the last few days and was confirmed yesterday with a series of photos (‘leaning on the terrace’ being a new addition to those other signing staples of : holding / wearing new shirt, scarf raised aloft or pen poised over contract) . There was also a hashtag. #JeanvierJoins. Boo.

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A new addition to the range of ‘signing poses’

Julian certainly has form. His Reims side ‘romped to the Ligue 2 title’ last season (those aren’t my words but the words of Brentford official in their own article of ten things you might not know about Jeanvier) , keeping 18 clean sheets and conceding just 24 goals. On a personal basis, he has been in the team of the season for the last two campaigns and would appear to be yet another success for our recruitment team who continue to hoover up quality talent on a more than sustainable basis.

The same can’t be said for Birmingham City who were forced to publish their own official statement yesterday, in which their own transfer embargo was confirmed somewhat obliquely. You can read their full comment here if that takes your fancy, yet the salient line would seem to be the point that: “Unfortunately and disappointingly the EFL are currently refusing to allow us to make additions which would enable us to strengthen the Manager’s squad”.

Oh dear. That’s not good. Even if it is painted in such a way, ending with a rather abrupt, “The Club will make no further comment”. Curse those naughty people at the EFL. All they did was try to make their squad ten times better and look what happens. Big spending Harry would seem to have gone well beyond his means and now, like QPR, no further investment is currently being allowed.

All of which is mentioned not to gloat at Birmingham City where their fans can’t be held responsible for the profligacy of the manager, the misguided indulgence of the board or Harlee Dean opening his mouth. Besides, there’s on pitch results for that. 2-0 and 5-0, wasn’t it?

Click at your peril. Oh, maybe once more….

Instead, it is mentioned more to reflect on how right we continue to do things. Big names and big spending are not the Brentford way yet, somehow, Phil, Rasmus and team continue to unearth the talent. I cannot wait to see how not only Jean but also the likes of fellow new boys Ezri Konsa and Said Benrahama slot into the team.

Saturday against Rotherham is the place to find out whilst 7(seven) days later we travel to title favourites Stoke City. My online bookmaker (purely for research purposes etc etc etc ) has the Potters as 5-1 to win the title. Next up are Middlesbrough at 8s whilst the Bees are 9th favourites at 18-1. At the other end of the spectrum, Birmingham are 50-1 whilst the only teams at a longer price are Hull City, Ipswich, Bolton and then Rotherham themselves at 200-1.

On paper, you’ll be doing well to find two as contrasting games. Being honest, we couldn’t have picked a more favourable start than a home game with the divisional long shots. I can absolutely guarantee it won’t be anywhere near as easy as those prices make out. If for no other reason than early season form needs a while to settle in whilst the Bees haven’t won an opening day fixture in 6 seasons. Likewise, Stoke City won’t fancy a visit from Dean’s brown machine. They’ll be adjusting to Championship life after long stint in the Premier League and this will all be a new experience for many of their fans. And that’s just the quality of the visitors’ shirts! If Stoke do turn out to be the form team predicted then I’d rather get our trip out of the way early.

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Good times against Rotherham the last time they were in the Championship

It is way too early to predict results but, instead, I will do my Ian Moose thing. By which I mean directing you towards my good friends at Beesotted rather than wishing a footballer ‘happy birthday’ via the medium of a narcissistic selfie or banging on about half-time catering in the Premier League.

They have published their annual feature predicting what lies ahead for Brentford aswell as reflecting on the highs and lows from last campaign. Put together by a number of guest contributors, it is always a great read and if you haven’t already seen this one I’d thoroughly recommend you check it out. You can find that one here…

Finally, Lionel Road. The Brentford FC Drone (which you can follow on Twitter : @TheBFCDrone) is back with the latest video on everything that is happening up the road at our new home. It seems incredible to think how far we’ve come on this journey already. Likewise, that in 16 months’ time there will be a new stadium on this site. Yet that’s the aggressive timeline being aimed for and so this really is on track to be our last full season at Griffin Park. That’s not much more than 30 games and a couple of cup runs to go.

Starting with Rotherham on Saturday. I can’t wait. See you there.

Get your latest Lionel Road views, here.

Nick Bruzon

With a new season upon us, The GPG give genuine cause for reflection.

27 Jul

Welcome back, Brentford fans. Football is almost upon us again and so the time has come to once more start looking at all things Bees related on these pages. Watford visit tomorrow for a friendly and then a week later proceedings kick off in anger (metaphorically speaking) when Rotherham come to Griffin Park. Championship action is back for a fifth successive season. Yet before all that, three things have happened in the last 24 hours that have caused yours truly to take stock and reflect (don’t worry – this isn’t going to be a heavy one). One involves QPR and the other two, our own supporter interaction.

First up, the GPG. Love it or otherwise (and I’ve done both at times), few could deny the hot bed of passion, opinion and supporter interaction that this site is. Like Beesotted, a group that looks to link the fans to the club, canvass opinion and encourage debate. Even if I’m always right and they aren’t.

Equally, and another thing they and Beesotted have in common, they are set ups that have contacts all the way to the top of the club. Previously Billy and Dave have had their own interview with Matthew Benham published on the Beesotted website. Last season, Trevor has had his own Q&A with our owner – led by supporters – appear on the GPG.

So why mention this now given both interviews were long covered off on these pages when they appeared? Put simply, Twitter. More to the point, something I saw on the social media website last night, posted by the GPG:

One of the things that makes this club special is our owner and supporters access to him. Anyone disagree?

There are many things that make this club special. The ongoing efforts to become involved in the local community. The proximity of players to the supporters – both inside Griffin Park aswell as in the streets around the ground. Nobody even blinks when they see one of the first XI en route to a game or the Chairman walking past the pub pre kick off. Likewise, Mr Benham – barring the nod of gratitude, acknowledgment of his presence or just general ’how’s it going‘ chat .  

Look at how exciting the Junior Bees Christmas Party is. The pre-season ‘meet the players’. Peter Gilham doing his thing like nobody else could. Then there’s Griffin Park and her ‘old school’ feel. Our ongoing status as unfancied under-dogs. Our use of social media (now that all that hashtag nonsense has stopped). Our shrewd, shrewd business in the transfer market. Etc etc etc

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Griffin Park – one of the many reason we are so special

But Matthew Benham is a class above. We all know how much money he has pumped into Brentford. Quite frankly, he has saved this club. We are now Championship regulars with a new home on the imminent horizon. We have a new structure and a B-team that is fast tracking players into the first XI. We pick up players for (relative) peanuts; we sell them for amounts that are beyond the dreams of avarice.

This isn’t meant as a Benham love-in. More to acknowledge how lucky we are to have a smart owner who has been a fan for close to forty years. A man who is running this club within sustainable means and who, whilst not one for the public eye, still takes time out to interact with fans (those twitter videos or the aforementioned interviews).

So when I saw the GPG post I had to agree. Hear, hear. Well said. There is so much going right at Brentford and it all stems from one man and his vision. His approachability.

This may not always be immediately clear to those of us who are sat outside, looking in. Last year’s summer transfer window and the Birmingham City triple transfer was proof of that. Even then, the pay back in February was just exquisite.

So long, and thanks for all the cash. And the points

Likewise, the understandable interest in Midgetland – not one shared by the majority of us on the terraces where support of a second club is a largely alien concept. Thankfully, that is something which has really been dialled back. The half time ‘lap of honour’ in the Walsall FA Cup debacle the nail in that coffin.

The point of all this? We’ve a fifth season in the Championship approaching. Rotherham are just over a week away and their visit heralds the start of our latest attempt to get us into the Premier League. Brentford, in the Premier League. To those of longer in the tooth it seems an alien concept yet one can only acknowledge that the vision of one man has put us in this position. We are now here by right. No longer plucky under dogs punching above our weight or against the odds. We are here on merit. Who cares if the wider football community still miss this.

And this season, I really think that next step will happen. This is the season that Brentford hit the top six but push on. The season that Brentford finally break that play-off hoodoo. I’d love to hear where Smartodds think we’ll finish. I’d love to hear where Matthew thinks we’ll finish. With Thorne In The Side seemingly on a self-imposed hiatus for now, I’m guessing it is the turn of BIAS for this season’s big Benham interview.

I can’t wait to read this one and see what he thinks will happen. Failing that, how about the Fans’ Forum this September….?   Either way, we’re incredibly lucky to have an owner who cares this much. Who, whilst infrequently, will take the time to interact with the fans in print.

Contrast our owner with the way QPR down the road are run. This afternoon it has been reported that they have agreed a settlement of almost £42m with the EFL after previously breaching FFP rules back in 2013/14. If I recall correctly, clubs were allowed losses of up to £8million that season. QPR ran up a deficit of £9.8million aswell as then seeing owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders write off an additional £60million loan, deeming it an ‘exceptional item’. As you do.

At the time Fernandes denounced how unfair this all was. His team had been a Premier League club but after employing the likes of Neil Warnock and Harry Redknapp (not for the first time) were relegated (not for the first time).  Yet despite the rules in place they chose to breach them to suit their own situation.

My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

 “If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.

Ah, diddums. If only we could all take the ‘its not fair’ defence. If only we could conveniently forget the parachute payments that already put clubs coming down into the Championship a huge advantage over the rest.

Welcome to the real world of football. Under Matthew’s stewardship Brentford have been trying to compete within the rules against the likes of over spending QPR and Bournemouth. Of Leeds and Aston Villa. We’ve had to watch for year on year as our best players are sold to balance the books. The likes of Moses Odubajo, Scott Hogan, Andre Gray, Jota, Maxime Colin, number 26 and Stuart Dallas.

How nice would it have been just to spend beyond our means and then moan about the rules. But no, Matthew is all about doing this right and now that chicken has finally come home to roost at Loftus Road. Good.

I’d love to hear what he has to say about that, although I’d imagine he’s too well-mannered to offer anything more than a diplomatic silence.

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QPR – now got what they deserve

And finally, the other piece of supporter interaction outside of Twitter/The GPG.  I’ve this morning sent the summer’s sale proceeds from the Last Word season review e-book to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Downloads on that front have now dried to a trickle and so it seemed a timely juncture. Moreso with the new season approaching.

HUGE thanks to all of those who downloaded a copy. Apologies for even mentioning this (as I’m not one to overly blow the trumpet of charitable good deeds) but given the fact that people have once more been prepared to spend good money on this nonsense, the least I can do is a public acknowledgment of how fantastic our supporters are.

It’s still up there if anybody else wants one. Any further funds received will still go to the BFC CST. For now though, that horse has been well and truly flogged and so that’s me done.

Instead, we’ve the visit of Watford (and hopefully some rain) to look forward to on Saturday. And then, Rotherham await……

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Still available to download for your kindle / e-reader

Nick Bruzon