Tag Archives: Matthew Benham

For anyone just coming in from work, the key dates are….

6 Jun

Hold on to your hats, Brentford fans. Despite seeming like an eternity already since the Championship ended, football is about to go. Again. With the 2018 World Cup about to kick off (in an ‘on pitch’ sense, one hopes) over in Russia, it’s time to mark those all important dates in the diary. This time next week, we’ll be good to go.

Just some of the many treats we’ve got to look forward to include……

Thursday 14th June. The World cup opening game. Russia v Saudi Arabia.

Monday 18th June. The first England game. A 7pm start against Tunisia

Thursday 21st June. The 2018/19 Championship fixture list is released

Sunday 1st July. The draw takes place to find the winner of our limited edition Brentford FC 2018/18 ‘third’ shirt.

IMG_E3007Yes. The wall chart is on the fridge. The beer is in the fridge. Andreas Bjelland (258) is finally in the sticker collection, even if he won’t now be at the tournament.  The excitement is building. The BBC may have poured scorn on the tournament’s opening fixture when the draw was made, saying that ITV could have that one, but for me it’s an absolutely crucial game. A key opportunity to lay down a gauntlet and, quite frankly, an opportunity missed.

Whilst the game may not be the most exciting on paper, a 4pm (GMT) kick off sees the first chance of the tournament for World Cup bingo players to cross off the phrase, “And for anybody just coming in from work, the score is…. “

This is an absolute tournament staple and for the BBC to have turned down the first chance to use it must surely rank as some sort of commentary related own goal. Despite the score being clearly available in the top corner for all to see, it still makes me smile to hear this phrase. A ritual as important as using the orange ball in the snow or brackets when the score turns to 7(seven) – 0.

Expect Mark Pougatch to have the honours this time around with the key line being delivered at approximately 5.13pm.

Next up, Brentford. The previous column was all about self-promotion. Albeit for a very good cause – trying to raise a few quid for the Community Sports Trust. As anybody who follows yours truly on Twitter may be aware (and apologies for the spamming!) the latest Last Word season reviews are now available for download.

If you’d like to buy one (at just £2/£4 respectively) all proceeds received are going to be donated to the Trust. I’ve also been given a very special shirt – one of last season’s ‘\third’ kits, with squad number 4 on the reverse in EFL font. As you may be aware, these weren’t available on general release and so this is a very rare item.

Anybody downloading a copy goes into the hat where one person will be pulled at random to win this short. Just send me a copy of your download confirmation mail (DM me or @NickBruzon on twitter) and I’ll add you to the draw. This is really important if you’d like to have a chance of winning as I can’t see the names otherwise!

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Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

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

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

Relive the memories. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Just do something for a great cause.

Next up, the fixture list. June 21st is when we can start to make our travel plans for the forthcoming campaign . When we can see if Christmas is ruined or saved.

I have a feeling these could almost slip through un-noticed if the World Cup gets as thrilling as it could / should. Yet I’ll still have an eye open for these. Aston Villa (should they still be in existence at that point) QPR and the Boxing Day fixture will be the big ones for me.

More to follow.

As a final thought, the one date we don’t have is that for our new shirt launch. If anybody from the club is reading (unlikely, but) please put us out of our misery. Having seen some of the Adidas designs already released – and that’s just for the World Cup – I have big hopes….

No pressure, Bob….

Nick Bruzon

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Is this the future ? Next season’s ‘must start’ player, ‘must have’ fashion item and big ticket.

23 Mar

Take a couple of days away from the blog and it all happens. Despite international break meaning the visit of Sheffield United is still a week away, Brentford fans have been kept well on our toes with a surfeit of good news. The interview conducted by the GPG with Matthew Benham has been published. Season ticket prices for 2018/19 have been revealed. Chris Mepham has made his international debut for Wales whilst Andreas Bjelland’s Panini incarnation for Denmark in the 2018 World Cup has been released to the world (thanks to Beesotted for spotting that one).

Chris does his thing. What a man !

First up, the GPG and Matthew Benham. Whilst he may not say much publically, when Matthew does give these sort of interviews they are well worth a read. This one is no different. I’m sure we’ve all seen it already although if you’ve missed it then it’s here.

Another very personal piece about his thoughts, hopes, investment (which is now up to £106million. One. Hundred. And six. Million. Pounds) and the future of the club amongst other varied topics. I’m not going to regurgitate it here, suffice to say this is well, well worth a read and so good job all round to the GPG readership and production team on this one. When Matthew speaks, it’s definitely worth listening.

The one point I did want to dwell on was in regards to his thoughts for a potential April Fools joke. Per the interview, at one point Matthew considered Rasmus would have appeared modelling the new look third and third scarves (Brentford, Fulham and QPR). The associated blub from Rasmus would, in Matthew’s words “Use loads of marketing speak and say like “this ticks a lot of boxes”.  “

Seriously. What a shame this never happened. This would have been absolute genius whilst the reaction alone would have been incredible. Better still, the hopefully positive fallout once our more knee jerk elements ( I’m sure I’d have bitten too) realised they’d been had. There’s no better way to get a positive reaction than taking the occasional moment to have a good natured laugh at yourself.

It did get me thinking though. Discussing this point on Twitter afterwards with @crumblechris , it has potentially lead us to stumble across a club shop winner. Whilst we all know the usual half and half scarf is the devil’s own product, merging two tradtional rivals onto one piece of ad-hoc merchandising, why not celebrate a more positive partnership? That of our co-directors of football.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the Phil and Rasmus half and half scarf.

Phil and Rasmus half and half

Kamo models 2018/19’s ‘must have’ fashion item. Possibly

I’d never, ever wear anything with a QPR crest on it but I’d happily hand over my money in the club shop for one of these. Matthew, Mark, Cliff. If any of you are somehow reading (unlikely, I have to be honest), how about it…?

Next up, season tickets. The news was announced yesterday that these are being frozen for the third, successive season. This is fantastic . Moreso given juniors have had their reduced to £49 in the family section. Talk about a way to get that next generation of fans along to Griffin Park . If you haven’t got one, then what better time to upgrade the membership card? Another season of Championship action (at the very least) awaits along with a team who, on their day, have played some of the most exciting football we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Brentford as an established Championship side? It’s happened. Now to see if we can take this to the next level. Full details are on Brentford ‘official’.

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The 5-0 destruction of Birmingham City. About as a complete a peformance as we’ve ever seen.

Congratulations Chris Mepham. We all know what an incredible start he has had to league life but to move up to his national side so soon shows just how much he is destined for big things in the future. Hopefully at Griffin Park and then Lionel Road. Yet there he was making his debut for Wales in China on Thursday afternoon. A 6-0 win was just about as perfect as it could have got for him. The only downside, if there can be one, being Wales missing out on that additional goal which would have seen the game officially deemed a bracketing. Of course, the magical scoreline being 0-7(seven).

Whilst I’ll leave the interviews (and genuine effort) to the likes of Beesotted and the GPG, what I can say (clanngggg, the sound of a name being dropped) is that I was fortunate enough to catch up with both Rasmus and Phil earlier in the week. Specifically during the event to mark ground being broken at Lionel Road. Talking with them about transfer strategy (including those summer moves to Birmingham City) you could hear the genuine pride and pleasure about the way Chris has come through and filled the void left by Harlee. Along with Brentford currently having five B-team players on international duty at U-19 level, you can’t deny the fruits of their labours as The Bees look to their next first XI.

If Chris just missed out on a slice of football mythology, Andreas Bjelland has achieved it. Being immortalised in Panini form. Big thanks to the eagle-eyed team at Beesotted who spotted this one when the World Cup sticker book was revealed this week. As big an honour as an international cap, Andreas, Denmark and Brentford could become one of the most valuable commodities in playgrounds and offices up and down the land this summer.

Congratulations, Andreas. Here’s to 2022 when we see Chris Mepham (Wales and Brentford) alongside you in the book.

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Got it. Got it. Need it. Could Andreas see his stock increase?

Nick Bruzon

Brentford do it differently. Three shovels in and our new home is a step closer

20 Mar

As statements go, this was a huge and very visible one. Whilst our new home away from Griffin Park has been on the radar for years, Brentford fans moved one step closer towards that dream becoming a reality on Monday as the official ‘ground breaking’ ceremony took place on the site at Lionel Road. Of course new stadia have very much become the norm over the last few seasons – indeed, one only has to look at Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur or West Ham (I hadn’t realised they’d left Upton Park; if only somebody in the press had mentioned it) to see it happening all over London. Yet it has always seemed to be somebody else’s journey. Not the sort of thing that would happen to Brentford. Well, here we are. More clearly than ever – we‘re on our way.

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Ground. Officially. Broken.

Savour Griffin Park whilst you can. With the stadium slated for an October 2019 completion and a first game in December of that year (following a series of test events) there isn’t long to appreciate the old girl. A mid-season change of home will follow – a first for any football club if my scratchy memory serves me well – of which the BBC has more detail following their own piece with our Chairman Cliff Crown. Yet all that’s for the future. Yesterday was all about talking the next step on that path.

Those fortunate enough to be in attendance yesterday heard Peter Gilham and then Cliff give very eloquent speeches prior to the ceremony. Talking passionately about where we’ve come from and where we are heading. Of the role played by yesterday’s hosts Fullers. Their orchard becoming Griffin Park back in the early 1900s and the proximity of our venue, One Over The Ait, to the rowing club where Brentford FC was formed. Likewise noting that this would be the first of events to mark our progress and future activities to involve more of the fans, of whom there were still a very generous group present.

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Peter Gilham captivates the guests

But that’s Brentford. You wouldn’t get this at other clubs. Supporters present to witness history at something which, bar the press, is normally a ‘behind closed doors’ event. A family whose connection with the club goes back over 80 years having the honour of planting that first shovel into the ground.

Hall of famer Ernie Muttitt, who made his Bees debut in 1932 and lived on Braemar Road, was represented by his son, grandson and great-granddaughter. Brentford fans to this day. What a wonderful group of people and means of connecting our past with both the present and the future.  

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THE moment – ground is broken at Lionel Road.

We all know how perilously close we’ve come to going under. How the work of the respective supporter’s groups helped keep our heads above water until Matthew Benham arrived. With him, came a lifeline and eventual acquisition of the Bees United supporter owned shares in the club. A shame, as such, he wasn’t there to witness events yesterday although being the centre of that focus perhaps not his style.

We all know where we’ve gone from there and where we would be without his colossal investment. Promotion. Championship solidity. A model which we may not have taken to immediately but one which is more than proving it’s worth now.  Players the likes of whom we could only have dreamed about in the past, with Brentford even looking as though we’ll have representation at this summer’s World Cup.

The possibilities of going under, moving to Feltham or even the much remembered monorail scheme have all dissipated. Let’s not take our eyes of those or take anything for granted. Yet, at the same time, we seem in better shape than ever before – on and off the pitch. The journey to a sustainable future is well under way and a new home beckons. Yesterday saw another step along that road. A small act of digging but a monumental stake in the ground about our ongoing intent.

There’s not huge amounts to be said about this without turning over old ground that has well been covered before. The BBC have a report whilst Bees United have shot a three minute video you can see below – probably an infinitely better means of summarising events than these ramblings.

Instead, I’ll simply offer a huge thanks to everybody involved for all their efforts to get us this far. It’s been a long and rocky road, have no doubt. October 2019 is a very aggressive target but one I am sure will be met.

Here’s to seeing that next phase of hard work begin and running out at our new home next year.

Bees United’s own film

Nick Bruzon    

It could be YOU….. Brentford reveal wonderful opportunity for one family and one fan.

27 Feb

Well here’s something that doesn’t come around very often.  By which we mean, ever. A money can’t buy opportunity and the chance to write yourself into Brentford FC history. The club announced yesterday that with the Lionel Road ground breaking ceremony due to take place on March 19th, one family will be given the opportunity to plant the first, historic shovel into the ground and, thus, officially, commence the digging work on construction of our new home.

The club are looking for a family with a special Brentford story and are asking you to tell them why yours deserves this place in Brentford’s history.  How far back does your family history of supporting The Bees go? What lengths does your family go to in following Brentford? How many generations attend matches together?  ( I make no apologies, I’ve lifted direct from the official site there to get to the meat of this one).

The full details are available on the website now and you’ve just under two weeks to get your entries in. There’s a hashtag, too – #ForeverBrentford . So what are you waiting for?

Put simply, this is incredible. What a gesture and a world away from the usual photo op seen in such circumstances of the Chairman leaning on a shovel in a high viz jacket and hard hat. Then again, this level of supporter and community interaction is what we’re all about and what Brentford have been doing for years. Putting the supporters and putting the family at the heart of it all. Certainly, something I’ve been discovering more and more as my own has grown.

But wait, there’s more. Not only are the club looking for a special Brentford family but there’s a chance for ANY fan to be involved. Both in terms of attending the ceremony aswell as then being given one of the special ground breaking shovels being used for the event. The same website article has details of the draw which will see one other supporter being given the chance to attend. There’s nothing more complex to do than add your fan number, details and then hope the luck of the draw is on your side.

I love this club. What a way to embrace the fans. Although, by the same virtue, I’m still hoping we also get to to see Matthew Benham, Cliff Crown, Mark Devlin et al lined up in their hard hats. It wouldn’t be a new stadium without it.

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Nick Bruzon

Do Brentford have the scent of Royal blood at Reading? Could ‘other results’ actually happen?

20 Jan

Here we, erm, go again. Brentford travel to Reading on Saturday afternoon knowing a win, along with defeats (and definitely not victories as was originally noted)  for the five teams above us, will see the Bees end the day level on points with the play-off teams. Goal difference could even put us into that top six pack. True, this relies on things as improbable and distasteful as QPR and Birmingham City (amongst others) doing the needful but stranger things have happened before. Who could forget that wonderful denouement to 2014/15 when wins for Reading at all-but-there Derby County and Blackburn at home to Ipswich, combined with our own defeat of Wigan, saw the Bees slip through into fifth place?

Indeed it was the penultimate week of that season which saw a Brentford win on the road, at the Madjeski, to keep our hopes alive. Alan Judge and number 26 getting the goals as the Bees ended the day in seventh, two points and vastly inferior goal difference behind Derby.

Andre Gray for 3-0

Andre Gray for 3-0 v Wigan (and other results) secure a 2015 play-off spot

We all know how that play-off campaign ended. It was the play-offs, after all. Although at least we got there, unlike Derby.  Instead the point is made to illustrate what can happen when you least expect it. Sometimes, other results can go our way despite form. Thankfully the end of the season is a lot further away this time and so to desperation for the not so super hoops or Birmingham to win doesn’t have the same frisson, that’s for sure.

Whilst that unholy alliance is not one Brentford need to make today, it is still a nice position to be in. For now, though, let’s just focus on ourselves. Other results will do whatever they do. With games to come against all the chasing pack we still have matters well in our hands. Besides, it seems a bit premature to be talking play-offs and potential promotion at this juncture.

Yet, the table doesn’t lie. The gap to Sheffield United in sixth place IS three points. I’d be a liar if I was to say to you that I wasn’t absolutely excited by this prospect, no matter how slim and tenuous it is. Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Can we do it though? Well, there’s no doubting Dean Smith’s team are on form at present. Last weekend’s defeat of Bolton followed a wonderful Christmas period in the league. Perhaps its best we forget about the hiccup in the FA Cup now. Move along, nothing to see there. Indeed, the Bolton game didn’t even require the mercurial Sergi Canos to start that one, although his presence at the end of the game was a most welcome one as the wide man set up Neal Maupay for 2-0 late on.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

I’m still not convinced we know Dean’s best / preferred starting XI. When this squad is on form and the players are at the top of their game, it really is a case of Buridan’s Ass. Which of the available options does he pick? 14 into 11 just won’t go. It’s one of those lovely problems to have, that’s for sure, with Chris Mepham’s form and the return of Alan Judge adding to his quandaries.

Reading, on the other hand, are missing John Swift whilst centre back Paul McShane is also reported as out. The Royals are very much off their A-game, form wise, although at least they have made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. In another battle of Championship v League 2, they made it through (unlike the Bees) and their reward is a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.

With that to come and their own progress requiring Tuesday evening’s replay against Stevenage, could players be rested? Might if be a case of that old cliche being turned on its head and the Royals concentrating on the cup, now they are effectively out of the league?

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John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

One can dream. I’m still expecting a tough one today. The trapdoor to League One isn’t actually that far off for Reading. They’ll be as keen to secure those points as we are. Yet along with form, Brentford will have massive support on our side. Close to 3,000 tickets have been sold to the visiting support . With less than 15,000 turning up for their last league game at the Madjeski, a defeat at the hands of Birmingham City (clearly ten times better than the Royals), the 24,000+ capacity ground could feel a very empty place for the home team.

Certainly, it’s a stadium that has been a happy hunting ground for the Bees. Along with the aforementioned 2-0 win, let’s not forget the following season. Dean Smith’s first in charge saw that wonderful 2-1 victory. It was a win that was lit up by Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos. Goals that fall very much into the category of ‘best we’ve seen in recent years’ (see also: Stuart Dallas at Fulham and Nico Yennaris at Birmingham).

Sergi Canos v Reading

Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair (then)

That’s all in the past though. If it meant more points, I’d happily settle for 1-0 and a deflection off Josh McEachran’s backside. Scrappy finish or 25 yard piledriver, they all count the same.

Roll on 3pm when we find out which it will be. Roll on 5pm when we see just how those ‘other results’ have gone. Could Brentford continue to climb up the table? Might we be saying a small word of thanks to our rivals?

I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Nick Bruzon

Ryan’s wonder goal set a very high bar. That Sergi then cleared.

 

Table makes wonderful reading as Brentford beat Bolton to tighten the gap.

14 Jan

Brentford 2 Bolton Wanderers 0. Another league game unbeaten at Griffin Park (that’s 13 now, our longest run since 1951) and The Bees a mere three points outside the play-offs. True, that gap is tighter than a duck’s behind at the moment.  The same winning margin divides all six teams from Sheffield United down to ourselves in 11th. Yet with victory (and other results going our way)  all that stands between Brentford and a place in the promotion slots, let’s not pretend things aren’t getting very exciting as we enter the second half of the season. Saturday’s trip to Reading already can’t come soon enough.

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Form an orderly queue. Bolton were the visitors on Saturday

It was a game where victory eventually came to the team who bossed it yet nobody would have been surprised had we left Griffin Park with a point. Brentford had taken the lead just before half time. Flo Jo picking up a sweet pass from Lasse Vibe to hammer home high and hard from the cusp of the six-yard box and into the far corner of the net. It was a powerful finish to light up what in truth had been a somewhat turgid opening period. But a 1-0 lead going into the break was all that mattered and as the players re-emerged, it seemed only a matter of time before that was doubled.

Kamo fired straight at goalkeeper Ben Alnwick from yards out with the whole of the goal to aim at. Nico saw a shot bounce of the post. The Bees pressed. The Bees came close. Then the balance of play began to swing as Bolton sensed a glimmer of hope. Dean stuck to his starting XI as the pressure built.

The away fans gasped. The home support clenched buttocks. If the first half had been a damp squib then this was very much exploding into life. A freekick was headed wide, I forget who, as Bolton came oh-so close. Barbet and Bjelland the unfortunate victims of a bouncing ball as Daniel Bentley came to the rescue.  Bolton, cynical in the challenge, but desperate for a point.

And then it was over. Sergi Canos, a late sub for Florian Jozefzoon, squaring it for Neal Maupay to double our lead with the sweetest of backheels. Being honest, there had been a slight suspicion of offside from where we were sitting but nobody cared. The execution had been delicious and the sense of relief was palpable. Besides, watching the video highlights afterwards (Sky Sports have theirs up already; 12pm for the league to let us put the ‘official’ version up) there was nothing wrong with the goal. Perfect positioning and the calmest of finishes. Stick that in your pie and eat it, Ian Moose.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

It’s hard to find fault on what was a wonderful afternoon. Brentford continuing their fine, fine form ahead of Saturday’s trip to Reading. There’ll be over 2,000 Bees fans at that one. A quite wonderful effort for a game where the reward for another win is there for all to see. If I have any ‘negative’ (and the word is used in the loosest sense) it would have been in the delay to making any substitutions.

Whereas the Warburton era saw you able to set your watch by his making changes within ‘the zone’ (60-70 minutes on the clock), regardless of how the team were doing, these days there seems to be almost a reluctance to switch things around until late on. Even when the opposition are turning the screw as we saw yesterday. Sitting where I was, there was a definite upping off the the ante from Bolton that might have seen us pay pay the price with the Bees continuing as was.

It’s a small observation and, ultimately, one that will be dismissed by the fact we came away with a 2-0 win. That will be proven as Dean having faith in the players he picked to do a job and their following it through. And on that point I can’t disagree – they DID. Yet equally, football is a game of fine margins. We all saw how tense it got for a while and there have been times this season when it’s felt as though we’ve been slow to react to what is happening in front of us.

But as we all know, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I couldn’t manage a beer yesterday (it’s dry January) let alone a football team. Perhaps that is just part and parcel of being a Bees/football supporter – we’ve been conditioned over the years to fear the worst. To expect that kick in the nuts; that ultimate sucker punch. Defenders are paid to defend and they did that admirably. Chris Mepham in particular having yet another stand out game. Talk about a wise head on young shoulders. Dean made his calls and the result shows he got them right. Again.

Equally, the Warburton era saw a team picked by numbers even when perhaps a change might have been due. Jonathan Douglas (at the end) and Harlee Dean (when he was at the more unpredictable end of the scale) seemingly nailed onto the teamsheet. Dean isn’t afraid to mix things around as was seen with Sergi tied to the bench for most of yesterday’s game. With Mepham continuing to keep out more experienced colleagues.

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Late sub Sergi – insert your own caption

But we digress. That’s the price of writing these things on the hoof. Mark Warburton was a hero to pretty much all of us at Griffin Park. He did his thing his way and we all know how close Brentford came. Likewise, we all know how things ended.

That was then, this is now. Dean Smith is the man in charge. Along with his coaching staff, he’s more than getting the results. More than building a quite wonderful team spirit. He has his team set for a second half of the season that could, if things continue, eclipse any that have come before.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be saying this back in September given the start that Brentford had. Players sold, bottom of the table and four points from eight games. Then, we went to Bolton and won 3-0. How things have turned since that point. Could Saturday’s win over the same opposition prove an equally telling catalyst ?

One things for sure, it’s going to be fun finding out. Here’s to Reading and that gap towards the top getting even tighter.

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The red and white express raced to another win on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

Tin foil ready? The FA Cup third round is huge in our house. Could this be our year?

6 Jan

The FA Cup third round is upon us as Brentford host Notts County. Infact, it has already begun although any lingering thoughts about being able to watch Friday night’s game between Liverpool and Everton were extinguished as quickly as they arose. Only one person rules the remote in our house and suffice to say: 1) It isn’t me, and 2) Jamie Oliver’s Friday night food thingy was on at the same time as James Milner and Virgil van Dijk were doing their thing at Anfield.

But that was then and this is now. Nothing is going to get in the way of the big one at Griffin Park this afternoon. With last year’s cup ‘run’ ending somewhat underwhelmingly at Chelsea, could today be a springboard for bigger and better things?

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Another Wembley dream continues today

I’m not going to pretend I was overly disappointed about missing out on the Liverpool game (he says, grabbing the crowbar), given my own thoughts on the TV selections which you can read in today’s copy of BEES – available on the forecourt and around the ground.

Besides, I’ve also got a lot to thank Jamie Oliver for. He is directly responsible for my own getting married to the ever understanding football widow Mrs B. Although that’s a story as convoluted as the naked photo shoot with Graham Norton and probably best left for another time.

But whereas Friday was nothing more than a passing interest in Everton attempting to upset the odds, today is totally different. It is as much about progression for our beloved Brentford as it is in erasing a personal ghost from the past (not Jamie Oliver).

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Jamie Oliver (right) – has his moments. Not many, but….

Daddy? Why did Brentford play rubbish and why did the trophy end up in the bin after the game?” Not my words but those of four year old HB as we had one of those key chats in father-son life yesterday morning – did he want make a tinfoil FA Cup for today’s game?

Whilst there’s only ever one answer to that question, the conversation then moved on to how Daddy Bees have fared over the years and just what happens if we can win just 6 games in this most famous of competitions.

Good questions, son. ‘Bin day’ had been the third round back in January 2016 when relatively new head coach Dean Smith came up against his former side Walsall at Griffin Park. Like Notts County today, they were divisionally lower than us and like our visitors today, the Bees were hot favourites. At least to those, looking in. If ever there had been a potato skin waiting for us to slip up on here it was. Brentford duly obliged.

From an early morning high of Bacofoil based cup construction and optimism about potential fourth round opponents, a passionate visiting support and Saddlers’ team who had more than a point to prove left our dreams crushed. Our replica trophies in the bin. Could Notts County do the same today?

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Third round day 2016 had started so well. The ending was rubbish.

Well, go into this game with anything less than full focus and it could well happen. Dean Smith has already promised changes although those players likely to come in have more than enough first team experience between them. Josh Clarke will surely return. Could Alan Judge start? Neal Maupay up front? Josh McEachran and Lewis Macleod in the middle? Luke Daniels between the sticks? There’s Flo Jo and a certain Emiliano Marcondes lined up to make his debut. Could it be today? How much will Dean rotate or could his press conference proclamation simply be an attempt to throw Notts County off the scent.

He used yesterday’s build up to note that “We will patch the players up as best we can for Saturday and we have others wanting minutes. We will go in to the game to try and win it. We will make some changes but that is more to do with players being spent after what they have put in over the past four games.

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Passionate away support can be key – as we’ve learned

Not entirely unexpected given the huge exertions we’ve been through in the league over the last two weeks. At least due reward was given there. And at least Dean further acknowledged that, “Notts County will be a potential banana skin for us. They will be very tough. They have done fantastically this season. They have good, experienced players, we have to make sure there is no complacency and play to our strengths.”

Whatever happens today, I just want our boys to give it their all. Whomever starts, I DO expect to win. The again, I always expect to win regardless of the opposition ! We limped out at Chelsea last season where, despite the obvious calibre of our opponents, no real attempt to even try and go for it was made. Brentford sat back and paid the ultimate price. The tie was less a banana skin for Chelsea and more a delicious peanut butter and banana sandwich served up for our hosts to enjoy en-route to the final.

Losing to Walsall and Chelsea both hurt. Yet as much for it being another year until we get the chance to ‘go again’ in the Cup. Well now that chance is on us and I can’t wait. Roll on 3pm when it all starts once more.

See you there.

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Buzzette – up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

How times change. What a way to end the year.

30 Dec

How times change. The last time Brentford played Sheffield Wednesday (September’s game at Hillsborough) we came back on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat and ended the night sitting in the bottom 3 of the Championship table. Our hosts meanwhile, using the victory to climb into the play off zone. The Bees had acquired a mere 3 points from the opening 7(seven) games as we struggled to adjust to that triple sale of Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin to Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City. It was a period that even saw the statistical horror of Dean Smith having picked up less points than Marinus Dijkhuizen (8) at the same stage of the 2015/16 season. Things weren’t pretty. Moreso given our subsequent game with Reading which saw an early lead squandered in a tame draw that kept the Bees in the basement – only Bolton and Birmingham below them.

That was then. This is now. Suddenly, things clicked. Dean got his boys firing and the Championship is a much brighter looking place. A win today against the now managerless Owls could see us move to within 4 points of the play-off zone. Confidence is high following a run of just 2 defeats in our last 17 league games. Moreso, coming off the back of successive wins at Norwich (Oh, Romaine Sawyers. I’m still dreaming of THAT pass) and the Boxing Day knockout of Aston Villa.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Will who, now? Sergi was on fire against Villa, despite the torrential rain

That one in particular, as satisfying for the way we outplayed our opponents as much as the sour grapes (before and after) from manager Steve Bruce aswell as the self-entitlement from an element of the Villa fans.

Yes. You used to be good. You did win something, once. But that was then and this is now. Brentford are the progressive club, adapting to their circumstances. The likes of Villa, Birmingham and, to a lesser extent today’s visitors, amongst those who have experienced the good times and now finding things much tougher to adjust to when the boot is on the other foot.

We went into the Christmas period off the back of that awful draw with Barnsley. The 0-0 at Griffin Park was not a good game in any respect. That said, it WAS another point. The table doesn’t lie (whatever you may hear from much wiser people than yours truly) and we are where we are for a reason. Despite some wonderful play when we are on fire, failure to punish slack opposition or hang on to leads HAS hurt us.

Yet, at the same time, despite continued sales over the last few years (and some very tasty acquisitions, it must also be said) we have this wonderful knack of building team spirit and a squad which can more than compete on its day. We already have Emiliano Marcondes to come in, Lewis Macleod inching his way back into the team and Alan Judge on the bench following a 16 month recovery from that horrific leg break. There’s even the prospect of Konstantin Kerschbaumer to make a Toumani Diagouraga-esque second coming after a period out on loan. One has to live in hope…..

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Could we see scenes like this once more?

So I go into the game today fuelled with optimism. Excitement approaching peak levels. I have to be honest, I didn’t see us ending the calendar year like this after that Reading result back in mid-September. Yet now we are in a position where Brentford are the ones with a tentative glance being made towards the upper reaches of the table. With a squad that have picked themselves up after a shaky start to show some quite wonderful form. And with big spending Birmingham City now nailed to the bottom of the table. Barring a statistical miracle today, they’ll end the year in the relegation zone.

We may have lost Jota and Maxime. Harlee may think his new squad is ten times better than that which made the play offs under Mark Warburton. But I know where I’d rather be right now. A chance to go in to the top ten of the Championship with the right result and then a home FA Cup tie next weekend.

No doubt Sheffield Wednesday will be out to stop us in our tracks. The Owls will have more than a point to prove and, let’s not forget, caretaker boss Lee Bullen saw his team romp to a 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest last time out. This is by no means the stroll in the park that recent form may suggest. Brentford can do it today, no doubt. But blind optimism can be a dangerous thing if you are expecting a win – just look at Aston Villa. Dean and his team still need to be on their A-game.

Will we do it? Roll on 3pm to find out. See you there. I can’t wait for this one.

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More of the same from Boxing Day would be great. Apart from the rain

Nick Bruzon

Brentford leave Aston Villa feeling under the weather. Again.

27 Dec

“I think it’s hard, no disrespect to Brentford, Barnsley, but this is a different kettle to those clubs where there’s no real expectation… Staying in the division is probably the expectation”. Not my words, but those of Aston Villa manger Steve Bruce in the build up to the visit of his team to Griffin Park.

How they had a hollow ring as yet another former Premier League club under-estimated ‘teams like Brentford’. The Bees made it 6 points from 6 over Christmas with a fine 2-1 win under the floodlights (and the rainclouds) at Griffin Park on Tuesday night. It was a victory that, but for a brief flurry in the dying moments, was never in doubt. Brentford, inspired by Sergi Canos and shored up by the quite sublime Chris Mepham, blew aside Aston Villa as easily as though they were a crisp packet caught in the breeze.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park

Canos – possessed once again by raw energy, blistering pace and consummate skill – did everything but score the goal his performance so warranted. As it was, he played a key role in our opener. Winning the ball back to find Ryan Woods, the Ginger Pirlo’s pass was met by Romaine Sawyers who fired it hard and low from outside the box into the bottom corner to give Brentford the lead with just over twenty minutes gone.

It was as precise a finish as one could hope to see and another moment of genius from a player who continues to impress. That’s five goals now this season for Sawyers and Brentford really are scoring from every angle. Whilst Josh Onomah would level things up for Aston Villa just before half time, normal service was restored soon after the break. Lasse Vibe followed up Friday’s brace at Norwich City, firing home the loose ball in the box as Villa failed, quite spectacularly, to clear a Canos corner.

Watching the highlights on Sky afterwards (and they are now available on the internet until the official, Mark Burridge infused version can be released), the phrase “I can’t quite believe the shodiness” is used to describe Villa’s defence. They’re not wrong but you’ve still got to be there. You’ve still got to put them away. And Lasse did that to send the Griffin Park crowd wild.

It was a game played out in quite torrid conditions. The rain didn’t let up for the entire 90 minutes and so fair play to Dean Smith’s Bees for just getting on with it. The visitors, on the other hand, struggled to find cohesion and to find shape. They were second to everything, including the final result. But you can only play who you are up against and if the Bees continue to face teams like Aston Villa then happy days.

Just because you once won the European Cup and played in the top flight, doesn’t give a divine right to ‘be any good’. You can’t just win by turning up. The footballing world has long changed and if dinosaurs like Steve Bruce want to keep on living in Jurassic, rather than Villa, Park that’s just fine by me.

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The rain, and Flo, didn’t let up

The ironic thing being that this is now the second time in 11 months we’ve done a job on Aston Villa at home. Who could forget the 3-0 humbling handed out back in January, just about the time of Scott Hogan’s sale?  To misread the opposition once is unfortunate but to do it twice is downright shabby.

Still, that’s not my concern. Long may it continue. Dean Smith and his boys got it bang on last night. The aforementioned Mepham, who made his mark on Hogan early then never looked back, and Andreas Bjelland were both sporting ‘blood’ shirts by the time Keith Stroud ended the six minutes of injury time. There was no quarter given at the back where Nico also shone, covering in the right-back position which he first filled what seems like all those years ago. Flo Jo, Romaine, Ryan. Dan Bentley pulled off a couple of fine saves when they were needed.

To overly single out anybody would be unfair. It was just that sort of night where everybody did what was expected. Even Norwich City, who had earlier beaten Birmingham City to leave them rock bottom of the division. With Brentford now in 12th place on 34, that’s twice as many points as the hapless Blues who are 3 from safety on just 17.

Those comments about being ten times better are looking a long way off at present. Oh well, that’s their problem. We’ve got bigger fish to fry and with another home game approaching, the visit of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, here’s hoping for more of the same from Dean and his boys.

And, could we perhaps see Alan Judge at some point? One of the loudest cheers of the night was reserved for his announcement on the substitute’s bench. If not Wednesday on Saturday, then by the time we’ve hosted Notts County in the FA Cup I’ve a feeling we’ll have seen him in the red and white once more.

That, if anything, would be THE miracle of Christmas. At least, in TW8.

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Captain Nico – too many mince pies or making the best of the conditions?

Nick Bruzon

From bore draws to Star Wars. Buckets of rain, if not buckets of goals.

17 Dec

Brentford 0 Barnsley 0. On paper, not the best result. In practice, equally unsatisfying. Another game where The Bees huffed, puffed but failed to find either a Plan B or a way through a team set up to do a job on us. It started brightly and it ended with the home crowd roaring our boys on in a protracted five additional minutes. It was the 88 minutes in between that felt dreadfully flat.

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View from the Braemar. High Flyers? Not yesterday

Brentford ‘official’ would later describe the visitors as both “Well drilled“ and “resolute“. The BBC use their match report to call this one “Hard Fought”. That’s diplomatic of them. Personally, I’d have used unimaginative or frustrating. The proverbial bad day at the office with little spark from the midfield, few chances created and Neal Maupay just not getting the run of the ball up front on his own.

Dean Smith commented at full time that, “We had a very good first half, made chances and created opportunities but didn’t take them because of poor decision making.”

Funnily enough, last season’s game at home to the same opposition ended with him noting that, ”Our decision-making was poor on the ball”. That one, the occasion of our 4000th league game, saw the Bees go down 0-2 whilst we were also robbed in the half time mascot race. So at least it was an improvement, even if poor decision making remained a consistent theme.

If you were there on Saturday then you’ll know that we were off our ‘A’ game. The recent demolition of Fulham nothing more than a wonderful memory. That Barnsley did their homework and that we lacked the wherewithal to bypass their bus.

That’s the downside. What one also needs to consider is that it was a game played out in atrocious conditions with biblical torrents of sheet rain falling in the second half. Likewise, this is still another point in the bag. A point acquired over what is sure to be a busy period of games.

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If not buckets of goals, certainly buckets of rain

Norwich City are next up on Friday night and then it’s Aston Villa on Boxing Day. With Josh Clarke going off injured and straight down the tunnel, here’s hoping that was only a precaution. On the flip side, another appearance for Lewis Macleod can only be celebrated. Moreso given the treacherous and slippery conditions underfoot when he entered the field of play.

Ultimately, we didn’t lose. Besides, the bigger picture scenario in the Championship is intriguing. The post-match escape to the warming bosom of the pub was greeted with the sight of Birmingham City now sitting bottom of the pile. Forget ten times better, we’re now twelve points better off than our big spending divisional rivals. Even if the architects of their latest demise are a team we should probably gloss over.

To be honest, I’m just all a bit ‘meh’ about football today. With the long awaited trip to see the new Star Wars movie finally being enjoyed this morning, that really has been the big draw for yours truly. Unlike yesterday which was somewhat of a bland draw.

Still, as somebody bigger and cleverer than me said, “We go again”. Besides, to moan about not losing, in the Championship, seems somewhat trite. It wasn’t a good game. It wasn’t one that we’ll be rushing out to buy the video of. But with the Bees sitting 13th in the table and soon to start an FA Cup campaign with a third round tie at home to league 2 Notts County, the season still has plenty of potential.

And that’s before we even mention a certain Emiliano Marcondes…..

 

Nick Bruzon