Tag Archives: Maxime Colin

Deploy the fishing rod emoji and brace for impact after points deduction

22 Mar

Poor old Birmingham City (yeah, yeah, yawn – I’’m “obsessed”). With Brentford having caught right up with our Championship rivals, to the extent of being a single point behind them with a game in hand as we head into international break, that gap has suddenly leapt to a whopping 8 in our favour. This after Sky and BBC WM (amongst others) today reported the point deduction awarded to the St. Andrews outfit for breaching profitability and sustainability regulations. It is a sanction meted out as a result of the club losing  £37.5m in the 12 months up until June 2018 after Harry Redknapp had gone shopping the previous summer. That, of course, a spending spree which saw Jota, Maxime Colin and Harlee Dean added to a wage bill that may have been ten times better for the players but has proven anything but for the club. With any punishment for the fan led assault on Jack Grealish in the Aston Villa game still lurking in the wings, who knows if there could be more to follow?

Yeah, yeah. I’m obsessed. Apparently. I love it though and don’t deny focussing on Blues. A lot. If for no other reason than they are a great yardstick as to our own progress. Can a team who plays fair and invests wisely, yet frugally, out play a free spending outfit with Premier League experience and a big stadium? A team who once had their moment in the sun but are now very much in the top flight shadows. See also: Leeds united, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough.  

Having finished above Birmingham for the previous four seasons in the Championship we’re now in serious danger of making that five out of five since promotion from League One. And it is magnificent.

Of course there’s the arrogance of so many fans on social media. Of course there are the cracks about being ‘tinpot’. About ‘little’ ‘teams like Brentford. But they are an irrelevance to me and to most Bees. Bring it on. All day long. We eat that crap for breakfast. It keeps us going. Inspires us. See also: Leeds United, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough. Size counts for nothing. Quite frankly,  the bigger you think you are the harder you fall. As is now being proven. The Twitter tears today are a quite magnificent thing to behold.

Of course there was big mouth Harlee Dean and his infamous ‘ten times better’ quote. As diplomacy goes, it was up there with Martin Rowlands and Russell Slade in the cult hero stupidity stakes (typo). Henry Kissinger, he ain’t. But we more than made our point about that in the two games which followed as Brentford scored 7(seven) without reply to secure another win double for the season. The post match lap of honour and singalong, as Big Bee Radio went rogue, the stuff of legend.

Yet for me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things bear repeating. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day.

1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning ,  there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a  3-1 aggregate win.

Deano and Bliss

The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as  Birmingham edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.

However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the campaign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.

Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).

Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..

And now, bringing things bang up to date, the nine point deduction sees us overtake Birmingham City once more. It is as familiar a tale as Brentford cocking up a play-off campaign. I’m not going to deny a smile upon hearing the news yet equally, I’m now desperate to make sure we finish the campaign ten times better off then them. Points wise. Let’s make sure that we’d have made it five successive finishes above Birmingham on playing ability alone, regardless of any punishment. 

So, yes. I DO focus on Birmingham City. A lot. But it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. The current rumours about Saïd Benrahma are proof alone of that.

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Just how much is he worth now?

Ultimately, a nine point deduction will make no immediate difference. City won’t go down whilst they were never in any real danger of assaulting the play-offs. Current form alone (LLLL) was conspiring against them. Yet this does, at least, look to mitigate against those trying to buy their way to success without having the resource to do it. Trying to consistently spend beyond their means, whatever the consequence . However fairly the others are doing it. Aka – cheating.

Big spenders, beware. And also owners looking to hire Harry.

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Not my words but those of the BBC

Nick Bruzon

‘That’ day is here. Roll on 5pm.

9 Aug

Here we go, Brentford fans. Strap yourselves in and prepare for that bumpy ride until deadline day concludes at 17.00. With the talk of Ryan Woods to Swansea continuing apace, I’ve also seen plenty of ‘stories’ (hmm) about Chris Mepham to Leicester City (combined with their Harry Maguire to Manchester United) and Sergi Canos to Middlesbrough. We should be talking about the build up to Stoke City on Saturday yet all supporters are doing is crossing their fingers, sweating profusely (that could just be me) and preparing to listen to a day of bums squeaking. After last season’s triple transfer swoop by Birmingham City, one thing we’ve learned is that anything can happen before that accursed window ‘slams shut’ (TM).

Whatever happens today, there are plenty of positives. Plenty. For one thing, no deals have actually been confirmed as yet. Except, of course, that which brought Moses Odubajo back to Brentford for another season. This is a fantastic good news story and one can only hope that, for the player’s sake alone, he is finally able to put that injury hell behind him and get a hugely promising career back on track.

The one down side here was the use of an oh-so confusing hashtag to welcome him back to Griffin Park. Regular readers will know my feelings on these at the best of times. The event-specific comedy hashtag is the lowest of social media art forms (memes aside) and nobody needs another lecture on #trophyfriends (never, ever forget) or #novemberkings. Whilst we seem to have dropped these for a while, our own use of #MolsBack heralded an unwelcome return. Moreso, given the combination of the Twitter typeface and yours truly having a somewhat warped brain read it as Mols Back.

Who is Mol? I thought his name was Moses or possibly Mo for an abbreviation? And what’s up with his back?

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Mo’s back…

It brought all those horrible memories of Manchester United using the #Pogback hashtag to herald the £90m return of player they had sold for £1.5m a few season earlier. Compared to that, MolsBack (Mo Is Back, obviously) is worth every penny of a £3.5m sale turned into a free signing. Whilst in the minority, I wasn’t (quite) alone on this one.

The penny did eventually drop. Glaringly obvious once somebody pointed it out – thank you.

So whilst the out-door is yet to swing, could it? And how many times? The majority of, if not all, Brentford fans were gutted last time out when Maxime and Jota moved to Birmingham City at the death. Joining former captain Harlee who had moved a day or so earlier. Just about the only positives from that one were: the cash (so, so much of it), that Jota hadn’t joined Fulham (which was THE rumour doing the rounds in the few days prior), their subsequent horrific form combined with our own ascension up the table and, of course, THAT game at Griffin Park. Cheer up Harlee Dean etc….

Now we have several names in the frame with Ryan Woods to Swansea being the most talked about story of the summer in TW8. Rumours of an increased £7(seven)million bid were doing the rounds last night with their own Sam Clucas being an alleged target for Stoke. Then there’s suggestions of Harry Maguire moving from 2015/16 Premier League champions Leicester City to Manchester United (talk about a step down to a club who haven’t scoopped the top honour since 2012/13). Completing that merry go round would be our own Chris Mepham. Allegedly.

That’s before we even get to Sergi Canos to Middlesbrough or Romaine Sawyers to Everton. Hey, at least that one is a step up from last season’s rumour of a move to Southend United.

Will all of this play out? No. Will any of it? Quite possibly. The fact that Woodsy was left out from Saturday’s table topping annihilation of Rotherham United spoke volumes. Moreso when Dean used his post-match interviews to explain that, “We both felt it wasn’t the right thing putting him in the squad today.”

I don’t want him to go, let’s be clear on that one. If we get to 16.59.59 and Ryan is still at Brentford then I’m going to be an exceedingly happy man. Yet few could deny his wonderful service to the The Bees. If this one plays out. If Ryan wants to leave then it would only be with best wishes, albeit a few tears in the eye.

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Could it be an end to scenes like this?

For me, the real testing point will be Chris Mepham. Without a doubt THE shining star and most potential drenched player in the current squad, Meps is somebody who could go as far as he wants. He has already wowed the crowds, made his Welsh international debut and been the subject of several sky high bids from Bournemouth despite just a handful of league games under his belt. Will a bigger bid come in? Will we accept? Does Chris feel he is ready to step up so soon – he certainly has the talent.

With Ryan, there is a resigned inevitability. Saturday was the tell-tale sign of a wantaway player. With Chris, it is uber-angst about the great unknown playing out. Will he be in the squad for Stoke? Could his future lie elsewhere this weekend? There is absolutely no doubt he will play in the top flight. I just hope it is for Brentford.

And that’s before we get to any of the others. Who will Dean have left to pick from? Are the directors of football already padlocking the gates to Griffin Park, cutting off the phones and taking the players on a day trip to Brentford beach? Who knows? The only things for sure are that by 5pm it will all be over and we’ll know if anyone has ‘done a Birmingham’ to us.

I say it will all be over, that’s not strictly true. Whilst 17.00 is the formal cut off, that’s only for domestic sales and purchases. Reading the deadline day report on the BBC, it clearly notes how football league clubs can still sign loanees and free agents until the end of the month. Likewise, with the European deadlines later in August, they can also sign players after our own cut off this evening. Brentford lending Ryan to Swansea?  Meps to Madrid? Sergi to Barcelona? Stranger things have happened.

Yet if if last season and Birmingham City proved one thing, it is to expect the unexpected when it comes to transfer deadline day. More importantly that whatever short term pain we feel, things have a nice way of playing out…..

Brentford came out of deadline day with heads held high. And a bucketful of cash.

Nick Bruzon

Bring it on. West London’s biggest game in years has more than just a result to play for.

19 Feb

Tuesday night in West London and there’s one of the biggest football showdowns to have been seen in years. Whilst the casual observer might think its all about Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League, they’d be wrong. Of Course. Instead, we’ve the quite delicious treat of Brentford v Birmingham City. More importantly, the return of not just Maxime Colin, not just Jota (the real one rather than the Wolves version) but also former skipper Harlee Dean. Forget Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi visiting Stamford Bridge. The emotional significance of this trio returning, along with the circumstances of their deadline day departure, have been lost on nobody.

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We felt the same way too

“The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” Not my words but those of Jota upon his £6.8million (allegedly) sale to the St. Andrews outfit.

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.” Not my words but those of Harlee Dean after a Birmingham supporter’s ‘Blues Cruise’ back in late October.

We all know the scoop. On the one hand, a Brentford squad containing the likes of: David Button, Jake Bidwell, Number 26, Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jon Toral, Jota, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan. That’s before you add the experience provided by the likes of Dougie, Macca, King Kev and Toumani.

On the other, a Birmingham City squad who are now just 2 points outside the relegation zone and 17 (seventeen, why not) behind Brentford. A win for the Bees will put us 20 clear. That’s twice ten times better. What better incentive could there be for us to really go for it?

Whatever happened back in the summer has happened. I can’t deny any less how I felt back then although how great to see how the Bees have gone on to bigger and better things. The squad has come together in the most wonderful way to stick a metaphorical two fingers up to the Midlanders. Yet at the same time, I can’t forget the wonder of Jota at his very best.

Those goals against Derby. Against QPR. Leaving Jake Bidwell flat on his backside. The infamous Burridgegasm at Blackburn. Even if those memories do still feel slightly tarnished for now, you can’t deny how, on his day, Jota was just about the most skillful and exciting player many of us ever had the privilege of watching.  Name me somebody who wouldn’t want him or Maxime in the squad and I’ll show you a liar.

Mark Burridge and Jota’s infamous moment

As for Harlee, I feel for him. Genuinely. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot with that ill-fated quote. What a way to make Dean Smith’s team talk the simplest he’ll ever need to give. What a way to wind up the crowd.

Despite the red cards, ad-hoc positional awareness and own goals, you can’t deny Harlee was Brentford through and through. He gave his all. Not just on the pitch but off it, too, where he was so famously an unsung hero after a car accident outside Griffin Park. Where he was a total hero to my son and always made time to chat with the young fans. Try explaining to a four year old why his idol has left to join ‘the naughty team’.

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The smile says its all (apologies again for the sticky fingers)

He was there as we held the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, in the FA Cup. It was Harlee who scored at Wembley in the play-off final against Yeovil following ‘that penalty’. He was the man to help shore up the ten man Bees at Leyton Orient the day we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. He was a Championship regular – almost pulling off an unlikely ascension to the Premier League and eventually showed his true potential ending last season as our Player of the Year.

Then he opened his mouth and, with it, undid all the positivity with a moment as significant in our history as Martin Rowlands ‘kissing the badge’.

No doubt, he’ll have a point to prove. No doubt, so will we. Expect it to be lively. Very. Expect the songs to be loud. Expect the Terrace wags to have their fill on #BeeTheDJ before kick off. And not just for Harlee.  From my perspective, any of the following would be good :

Pink Floyd – Money

The Doors  – Love Me Two Times (although that may need five plays)

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

Aerosmith – Big Ten Inch Record

Dusty Springfield – I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten

Herb Alpert  – Spanish Flea

Blake Shelton – Ten Times Crazier

The flipside is that Birmingham City will be as up for it as we are. Their season has reached a place where, with two thirds gone, they are in very real danger of slithering into League One. Of demonstrating that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

Every point will be vital and they’ll be doing everything possible to get at least one. Picking up all three will necessitate being able to shoot at goal, something they’ve struggled with this campaign. Saturday’s home defeat to Millwall saw them manage just one shot on target whilst, with a mere 22 netbusters, they are the division’s most goal shy team.

So if you haven’t got a ticket yet, what are you waiting for? Sure, Chelsea – Barcelona , in the armchair, might be the comfortable option. It might have some of the World’s biggest names.It might have huge global viewing figures. But it won’t have the passion that this one does and it certainly hasn’t got the sub-plot.

I’ve had this date in the diary for a long, long time. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

Black Cats roll over to have their tummies tickled. Birmingham City are on the way down (to Brentford). Plus FA Cup oddity.

18 Feb

Is everybody back from Sunderland yet? A 2-0 win for Brentford at the Stadium of Light on Saturday was the perfect way to bounce back from a mini blip that had seen The Bees pick up 1 point from the previous three games (although fully deserving of all 9, if Dean Smith’s post-match press conferences were to be believed). Yet this time it was Chris Coleman using his time with the media to put the black cat amongst the pigeons. The former Fulham man opining about the Bees that: “I don’t think they’ll ever get promoted, I could be wrong, because they don’t have the finances but, if they keep doing what they do, they won’t be relegated either. Elsewhere, I woke to news of Manchester United drawing Brighton in the FA Cup. Somehow….

First up, the Sunderland manager. West London’s Premier Journalist Tom Moore ran a story last night that included Coleman’s claim – a statement worthy of Steve Evans at his finest. We’ve all been here and done this so many times yet it never fails to amuse. The suggestion that playing your way to the top isn’t possible without gargantuan levels of spending. Little Brentford. Teams like Brentford. Even Sky Sports haven’t bothered to update our crest on their graphics package – and we’re two thirds of the way through the campaign. The awful ‘cluttered clipart’ crest still hanging around like a bad smell. Every time you think it’s gone, it comes back. Had it been around 65 million years ago, one can only suspect it would have survived the asteroid .

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Curse that clipart graphic.

But enough of dinosaurs. Instead, Chris Coleman. Whatever his thoughts, we are seeing more and more that you can’t put a price on shrewd and innovative acquisition. On bringing the right people into the right set up. Look at how the Bees have continued to flourish season on season. Look at Birmingham City for the closest possible parallel to what happens when you just lump cash at it.

We’ve all had our doubts about the Brentford model over the years. Myself included. This summer in particular felt like a particular low point. Yet we’ve picked ourselves up and gone again.

Neal Maupay, now pretty much guaranteed a long run with the departure of Lasse Vibe, scored his eighth goal of the season with the cheekiest of back heeled efforts to go top of our scoring charts. This, after Kamo had opened the scoring with less than a quarter hour gone. Firing home hard and low from outside the box, he broke his Brentford duck and has given Dean Smith a real selection poser from the visit of Birmingham on Tuesday.  Brentford sit 10th in the Championship for the fourth successive season and with 42 points still available, there’s still a chance at the play-offs.

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Neal celebrates another goal.

Tom’s story also sparked the clickbait-gate debate on Social media once more. You can read that one here – the story rather than the clickbait chat. Personally, I’ve said my piece on that in these pages previously. The likes of Here Is The City and Football League World don’t even warrant a read these days, such is the eventual anti-climax that follows upon selecting one of their ‘stories’.

These publications so often tempt the reader with what transpires to be worse transfer news than the demise of the Letraset ‘action’ range.  News Now is littered with headlines which lead to nothing more than the regurgitation of the same footballer’s twitter feed we all have access to. Is the need for ‘hits’ and internet traffic THAT desperate?

On a totally unrelated note, I did enjoy Alan Judge’s retort to Coleman on the Social media platform last night. A simple but deliciously sweet: Yeah but we won’t be goin down. Certainly it makes a wonderful difference to the usual ‘we go again’.

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Letraset Action Transfers – a sadly missed treat from the 70s

That said, even Brentford official have been guilty of it in the past. I’ll never forget the moment back in November 1991 when the club proudly announced that we’d be signing a Division One (now Premier League) player. The excitement. The calls to 0898 121108 (at 33p a minute). The tension. Who would it be? Gary Lineker? Lee Chapman? Gazza? Gary McAllister? With the greatest respect to the legend that he is, the return of Bob Booker was hardly one to have supporters dancing in the streets of Raith when he was revealed.

Getting back to events at Sunderland, you have to feel for a team who were in the Premier League last season and are now on a fast track to League One along with Burton and Birmingham City. Talking this morning to one Bees insider (a man with his finger very much on the pulse of relevance) his considered opinion was that Black Cats are doomed, describing them as a shadow of the team that played at Griffin Park for the 3-3 back in October. Something that is desperate to see, especially given they’ve such great fans too.

Yet as we’ve seen with the likes of Wolves and Southampton (who played alongside us in League One) or Newcastle and Leeds United, former glories count for nothing. Having a huge stadium and great fans mean naff all if you can’t get the spending right, keep the team motivated or perform on the pitch.

With the greatest respect, that’s their issue. Not ours. Brentford are safe and looking upwards. Barring a remarkable reversal of fortune, Sunderland can start programming Birmingham, Accrington Stanley and Luton into the Satnav for 2018/19.

Who are they? Sunderland might be about to find out.

This weekend has also seen the FA Cup fifth round ties taking place. It really has been a TV overload with Sheffield Wednesday – Swansea providing a low key start before things kicked off on Saturday. Manchester United got past Huddersfield despite some dubious use of VAR. One does have to wonder how hard it is to get watching a TV replay wrong. Yet here we went. Again.

If VAR was confusing, it was nothing compared to waking up on Sunday to news that the draw for the sixth round had already taken place. This, despite a quarter of the ties yet to have taken place. Is nothing sacred anymore? Like semi-finals at Wembley and virtual reserve teams taking the field of play (although that didn’t work out too well for Tottenham at Rochdale on Sunday evening), it’s yet another subtle erosion of the gilt from this famous old trophy. We still love it, of course, yet I can’t help feel the FA are allowing their tournament to become tarnished. Even if squad selection isn’t in their hands, other factors most certainly are.

Still, for me its all about looking forward. About getting ready for that Birmingham City game. This is one we’ve all had in the diary since the transfer window slammed shut. If ever there was time to avoid the whiff of slippage then it is now.  #BeeTheDJ selections are being lined up and the vocal chords loosened. Victory for Brentford will take us to the 50 point mark, 20 better than our old boys at St. Andrews. That’ll be twice ten times better.

See you on Tuesday, Harlee. Forget Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League. Griffin Park is very much going to be the place for a blood and thunder encounter. It’s going to be a lively one, that’s for sure, and I can’t wait. Bring it on.

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Nick Bruzon

Success for Gibraltar in FA Cup. Defeat for Brentford at home to Notts County.

7 Jan

Brentford 0 Notts County 1. A result that it sure to cause a few rumblings on the Richter scale of FA Cup shocks. None moreso than because it means Gibraltar, currently placed 205th in the FIFA World Rankings, have representation in the fourth round. Size and reputation counted for nothing with talismanic Gibraltarian International Liam Walker proving key to the Magpies’ cause. He came on at the death to ensure County broke Brentford hearts and condemn the Bees to defeat despite throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the visitors. A shame it hadn’t happened 90 minutes earlier.

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There had been so much optimism before kick off

I’ve seen Liam in action twice this season and neither appearance has been a happy time for the Brentford. The first being the occasion of a World Cup qualifier at the end of August. Despite his best efforts – very much the star performer for Gibraltar in that one – Belgium finished it by taking their visitors beyond brackets and close to double figures with a 9-0 win in Liège.

It was the same day Maxime Colin and Jota joined Harlee Dean in the triple transfer to Birmingham City. Fortunately, things would eventually settle down for the Bees on that front and form would return, quite spectacularly. Not so much for the Blues. Equally spectacularly.

On Saturday, the boot was on the other foot. It was the away team, again inspired by Walker, who came away with a result that the bookmakers had failed to anticipate. It was the home team – picked by Dean Smith – with a performance that was dialed in against one of spirit, fight and a desire to win that the Bees had failed to anticipate. They’ll have been dancing in the streets of Gibraltar last night.

That, or Sax II.

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Yet it proves, yet again, what happens when you underestimate the opposition. See also: Walsall at home in the third round two seasons ago. As expected, changes were made but there was enough first team experience in the starting XI and on the bench to have done better. Much better. It was an opportunity for players to step up, seize the opportunity and shine. Sadly, the only ones to do that were Notts County.

All the talk in the media would be of Jon Stead’s goal. True, it was very special. Yet it should have been as much about Notts County putting in a complete and consistent team performance. From the moment of kick off to the Walker inspired denouement. The Magpies showed it in spades. The Bees looked second best.

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All over at full time – Walker the winner.

Dean Smith would use his post match interviews to declare, “It was probably not what we deserved”, adding “I thought we had the lion’s share of possession and bossed the game for large periods. I certainly didn’t think we deserved to lose.”

As has been said oh so many times, that’s just not how football works. I’ve got huge respect for Dean but he’s wrong on this one. Chances count for nothing. Neither do possession stats. Balls in the back of the net are the only thing that matters as a means of measuring progress to the fourth round on paper.

For the record, the game ended with possession of 53%- 47% in our favour. Less a Lion’s share and more a narrow margin. The goal charts ended 1-0 in Notts’ favour. Equally narrow but that’s all they needed.

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At least Buzz and Buzzette got their hands on the cup

I suppose we can concentrate on the league. And that IS a good thing from some respects. IF we are going to go for it. The gap to the bottom three surely already too huge whilst the play-offs are just six points away. A concerted surge towards the top and this will be nothing more than a statistic in the record books. At least, for our top brass.

Yet for the fans, the FA Cup is still huge. And the chance for a run in this oldest of tournaments is always something to get supporters salivating. Tin foil trophies had been made in the morning. Some long journies undertaken to get to Griffin Park.

We had the ability to win it but too often the Bees looked out of shape. Captain Josh McEachran unable to lift his team. With Lasse Vibe and Andreas Bjelland missing (in the the club shop), Ryan Woods missing (in the pub, but on the soft drinks) and Nico Yennaris just missing, we lacked our solid spine. Players had the chance to make a name for themselves. They didn’t take it.

On the flip side, Emiliano Marcondes, making his debut, showed those first flashes of the potential we have all read so much about. Indeed, but for that Walker inspired backs-to-the-wall performance in the final few moments, things could have been different when the Dane’s header came back off the post.

But with County looking solid as The Rock, not even the wonderful Alan Judge could make a difference. He looked sharp, fit and fast as he made a long overdue and thrilling return to the side. There was no challenge shirked and one moment of genius to free fellow substitute Ollie Watkins that had the crowd on their feet, anticipating a goal. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

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Alan Judge in full flow – very much a sight for sore eyes

We’ve lost in the Cup before. We’ll do it again. The saddest thing about Saturday was that lessons of the past should have been learned. Yet when the club hadn’t even put FA patches on the first team shirts, perhaps our longevity in this tournament was pre-ordained.

At home, our own third round ritual of making the tinfoil trophy ended with it the replica cup being consigned to, then retrieved from, the dustbin. “Daddy. Do we have to throw it away? Can’t we keep it for next year?” asked HB. Not even I’m that mean and so it was duly salvaged. With optimism like that, it’s tough to be overly despondent this morning. It’s just a shame we’ll have to wait 365 days to feel it once again.

All that remains to be said is congratulations to Notts County, Liam Walker and Gibraltar. The FA Cup loves to throw up a story and with the Magpies in wonderful league form too, could this be the year they are the underdogs to make a run towards Wembley?  The year that Gibraltar, whose previous international ‘highlights’ include conceeding the faster ever International goal (Christian Benteke in 8.1 seconds in the opposite fixture with Belgium) and equalising against minnows Scotland in a Euro 2016 qualifier at Hampden Park, make that next step up on the World stage?

That’s my one consolation from this one. And I’m clinging to it.

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A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

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Another Brentford cup run consigned to the wastebin of Griffin Park history

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

What happens on the Blues cruise, stays on the Blues cruise. At least, until full time.

1 Nov

Birmingham City 0 Brentford 2 . Let’s repeat that, for clarity, just in case anyone was distracted by the likes of Tottenham v Real Madrid or Liverpool v somebody tonight.

That’s  : Birmingham City 0 Brentford 2 . And to summarise the game , here you go…….

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

 

Time for a Halloween horror show? Will ten times better Harlee be left to eat his words?

1 Nov

There’s not much more we can really say going into this one. Brentford travel to Birmingham City this evening for a game where our ex-captain Harlee Dean has ensured that the Bees have nothing to lose and everything to gain with his words prior to the weekend’s 0-0 draw against Aston Villa. And closer to home, Yoann Barbet and John Egan have been getting into the Halloween vibe as they’ve been out and about meeting some very excited young fans.

But first, St. Andrews. Tonight’s game had already been one heavily laden with anticipation following our recent transfer activity. If Wycombe Wanderers are sometimes referred to as Brentford B (such has been the procession of players from TW8 to Adams Park) should Birmingham share twin town status with Brentford ? Scott Hogan moved to the city, c/o Aston Villa, in January. A move which, sadly, hasn’t fared that well and sees him already touted for a ‘cut price’ sale.  Then of course we had that gut busting triple whammy over the summer. Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin all sold to Birmingham City on deadline day for a cool £12million.

It would be fair to say that the immediacy and surprise of selling three fan favourites to a divisional rival left many frustrated. Myself included. Yet now the dust has settled it is Brentford who find themselves four points (effectively five when you factor in our goal difference being 13 better) clear of the Blues. The chance to really prove a point was something that already had fans keen to get to this one.

And then Harlee opened his mouth to make ‘that comment’ about his current team mates relative to his former ones:

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.

Ten. Times. Better. I’m still laughing. We were awesome that season. City have been bang average this time around. Understandably he’s come in for all amount of scorn in regards to this claim. A claim which was followed up by his side’s lethargic draw with Aston Villa on Sunday. Hey, at least they kept a clean sheet although Jota will still be kicking himself about the chance he missed when clean through.

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Say what you want. Nobody can doubt the size or history of Birmingham City. Yet reputation and former glories count for nothing when you are slugging it out in the Championship. Something Leeds United, Aston Villa et al have found out when they take on…..teams like Brentford. Whilst Dean Smith may not be viewing this as any form of grudge match, you can be sure our fans are well up for this and are going to be out to make themselves heard. Bring it on…

Off field, the club celebrated Halloween by playing trick or treat on some of our locally based Junior Bees. John Egan and Yoann Barbet donned the fancy dress to knock on the doors of some very excited young fans.

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A familiar face welcomed visitors

If you haven’t seen the film already, you can catch this below (and the full story is on official). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This club is second to none for embracing the local community and our fanbase. Whether it be the family fun day, open day at the training ground or the Christmas party the players are never anything but 100% genuine; the club are only ever 100% into it. I can’t imagine a Manchester United or an Arsenal doing all of this, for free, on such a regular basis. Getting out into the community or giving the fans a chance to meet their idols. The reaction from the kids says it all and there’s a huge THANK YOU from me given Harry’s chance to participate.

Although in retrospect, and given what is coming this evening, perhaps best that his comments at the end were more to do with the Buzz Bee pumpkin lantern and less with what he said off camera about a former captain. To the current one….

John. Yoann. Thank you. And if you could go and lay on another Halloween horror show, at St. Andrews, that would be fantastic.

The players do their thing. HB is really into satsumas…

Nick Bruzon

Stop sniggering at the back. FFP pigeons coming home to roost for QPR.

25 Oct

Well. That just got interesting for Brentford fans. The chance to sit back, watch potential carnage ensue and be reminded once more of the Financial Fair Play rulings. Whilst most Championship eyes were probably focussed on Crystal Palace (L) being thumped 4-1 by our divisional rivals Bristol City in the League Cup last night, a huge story had already unfolded in West London. Namely , that of hapless QPR and the fine of up to £58 million for breaching divisional FFP rules back in 2013-14.

The BBC sum things up nicely, but in a nutshell 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.

The case has dragged on for the last three years. So much so that, speaking about it recently to a fellow Brentford fan, gut reaction was that Fernandes had just paid the fine ‘under the counter’. Do it discreetly and make it go away. Save some face. Surely that was the only reason we’d heard nothing else about this?

Sadly not, for QPR. An arbitration panel has now given their verdict that the fine was correct for the offence committed. They may have edged their way into the Premier League but having dropped out of it, that pigeon has now come home to roost.

Not surprisingly, there has been little comment out of the Loftus Road club although plenty on Social media. Chief Executive Lee Hoos has issued a short statement , expressing the customary disappointment aswell as noting that “We will be appealing“. Surely a first for a club normally about as appealing as finding a maggot in an apple.

Back at the time, Fernandes was all blood and thunder. There’s a piece in The Guardian where he 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.

Boo-hoo. Welcome to the real world of football. It’s not ‘fair’. Don’t clubs like Brentford, trying to compete on a level playing field with the likes of over spending QPR and Bournemouth, know that? 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. To name but a few.

How nice would it have been just to spend beyond our means and then cry ‘unfair’? Instead, despite huge frustration as to the individual sales, the update from Loftus Road shows the longer term reasoning behind such decisions. We’ve made no secret of buying low to sell high. Of using this model to keep ourselves afloat and build for the future. It has been frustrating at times for sure, I’m the first to admit that. Yet, also, there’s now a wonderful opportunity for a line to be drawn.

Will QPR be able to wriggle out of this one? Will a further appeal be successful? Will their board pay the fine through gritted teeth? Do they even have any money left to do so? Or is a points deduction and demotion the alternative?

One things for sure, when Brentford travel to Loftus Road next month (assuming QPR are still in existence at that point) it’s going to be tasty.

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It has been a troubled few seasons for QPR

Nick Bruzon

If you promise the earth, then you’d better be able to deliver.

3 Sep

The morning after the morning after the night before. Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin are still at Birmingham City and have left Brentford. It wasn’t a bad dream. It really happened. There’ll be more than a few eyes on the Championship’s 20th placed team when they visit Norwich City on Saturday. As there will be on the Bees for our own trip to Aston Villa.

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It really happened

So what to make of it having had 48 hours to take it all in? What do we think after Phil Giles has undergone a very gentle probing from Ciaran Brett? That, on a YouTube video that we’re probably all seen already but is further below.

Well, initial feelings from yours truly were of understanding our ‘model’ yet also a feeling of utter deflation at the way it has been implemented this time around. So close to the line of looking like we’d have an incredible squad, this has happened. Feelings of confusion as to how this tallys up to those previously quoted statements that included the proclamation from Rasmus that the goal is to get stronger each transfer window. Feelings that, whilst obvious, it really is just all about the money. I wrote a column about it – you can find it here – which has generated a lot of reaction. It was angry. It was passionate. It was what being a football supporter is all about.

It was packed full of typos. I apologise. Try writing on an iPhone in a Belgian hotel room. But sometimes, thoughts need to be documented. Moments need to be captured and that’s how I was feeling about what happened between Brentford and Birmingham City at that point. I’m certainly not going to apologise for giving a damn about a team I’ve supported since 1979. I know Matthew Benham can’t keep pumping money into the club to prop it up and revenue needs to come from elsewhere. Yet the whole thing felt so cold, so calculated, so businesslike and it hurt. That’s as much from the players.

Reading Jota’s subsequent letter he may aswell have just published a tweet saying ‘Kerchinggg’. “The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” he told us in his latest farewell.

Really Jota? Really? I’d rather you hadn’t bothered. You’re just hurting us now. We know how passionate you can be and how much love you have. This is agent speak.  It was as opposite to “This isn’t ‘goodbye’ but more of a ‘see you later’ or ‘hasta luego’ as we say in Spain because I have just extended my contract for an extra year.” as one could imagine.

In time I’ll remember all those wonderful memories. Right now it still all feels too raw. Birmingham City can afford to pay him a reported £40k a week, We can’t. Simple economics and you can’t blame him for taking it. Yet after all the love for the club. All the support offered when we’d supported his loan return to Eibar, something which in his own words at the time, was “based solely on personal circumstances” , there was a thought that perhaps he might sign another year’s extension. Pay back that love and loyalty or even give the Premier League a shot with Brentford.

Yeah, I know. Cloud cuckoo land. I’m a supporter. I care. There’s the obvious mistake. It is based on fantasy rather than the balance sheet. That’s not how football works in the real world. This week has shown us that in spades. Without passion and heart it is nothing more than a money making machine. We emotionally invest in these players, we get their names on our shirts and then they chip off for the next big pay day. That’s football. It happens. It hurts.

But taking 48 hours away from the last column, it has given the club a chance to say a few more things. The video with Phil Giles has been published in which he explains how the reasoning for the sales was to keep the money coming in before contracts expired. That it had always been the plan to buy over the summer and sell just prior to the window closing. “Strategically it’s the ideal way to do it. Sell them late and buy them early.

As noted in that previous column, I know this is how football, especially at Brentford, works. I know we’re all about ’sustainable’. I understand a lot of what Phil, who acknowledged that fans will be deflated by the moves, was trying to say.

But what was as telling as anything else was what the video didn’t say. Whether because Phil wasn’t asked or couldn’t answer.

Fairplay to Ciaran for asking if we were stronger after this window. After a pause, the answer was a less than convincing one. “Well we retain a squad of young players. I don’t see weaknesses in our squad. I don’t see finished players. I see a strong set of B-team players ready to come through. So from that point of view it provides a really good platform. Not just on the pitch but for the sustainability of the club in the future. It’s not an old squad who’s depreciating in value

By which I read it as : No. But hopefully down the line we will be.

Phil spoke about how Harlee had stepped up when number 26 was sold to Burnley. How we’d survived the Scott Hogan sale to Aston Villa. Indeed, we’d immediately gone out and thrashed them.

I’d love to have found out why we chose to sell three players to Birmingham City. What the strategic thinking in strengthening a team that sit just above us in the table was? Or were these simply the best/only offers for the players?

Phil says his piece. Very much like the Curate’s Egg

Reading Maxime Colin’s article in The Birmingham Mail he claimed that there had been offers from France that the club turned down. And he’d been unaware of the wider wheels in motion: “It wasn’t a plan or something prepared in advance….
“It wasn’t something prepared in advance and I wasn’t told about them, especially Jota which I didn’t know until the end”.

You know what? It feels somewhat redundant asking about it now. Phil’s video is quite clear about how we operate. Bring them through, sell them on and pay the wages at the club. That the definition of a post window squad is somewhat of a fluid one, open to interpretation. This is how Brentford FC works.

However, it would be nice to know what our aspirations are. Is Championship survival the way forward? At least until the stadium at Lionel Road is built? If that prediction from Rasmus of being in the Premier League by the end of this campaign is to come true, then selling established, settled players aren’t the actions of a club looking to make that step up. At least in the immediate short term.

I feel for Rasmus. He’s come out with some key mission statements that Brentford fans will not forget. If you promise the earth, then you’d better be able to deliver. Yet there has been no attempt to realign those aspirations. Short of the phrase #bignewambitions being airbrushed from history (and that’s no bad thing in anybody’s eyes). Why not just come out and talk to us? Speak to us openly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. And again. And again.

rasmus-goal-stronger

So here we are. The squad is what the squad is. No amount of wailing or gnashing of teeth will change that. I for one will be 110% behind the players when they run out. As noted on Friday, we have newcomers Kamo, Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins already doing great things. We’ve got Ryan back in the team, the centre back situation is clearer and Romaine Sawyers has come out the blocks flying. The option of Flo Jo and Sergi out wide is a delicious one. Start to get the wins under the belt against Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading then this will all be a storm in teacup. Move along, the model works.

Let’s just hope the model doesn’t break….

Oh , and if Norwich City are reading (they aren’t ) you’ve no idea what a boost it would be at Griffin Park if you could please pick up three points next Saturday.

Nick Bruzon