Tag Archives: Middlesbrough

Just when things couldn’t get any more intriguing in The Championship….

17 Jan

There’s plenty happening on Friday morning and Brentford haven’t even got close to being involved, yet. Our weekend trip to Huddersfield Town is another opportunity to keep pace with / close the gap further on Leeds United. We’re currently third in the Championship table after humping QPR although know that should Fulham beat injury hit Middlesbrough at The Gin Bar tonight then they will, temporarily, overtake us. Although one point behind, a draw won’t be good enough thanks to their vastly inferior goal difference of +11 compared to a division’s best +23 for The Bees. Elsewhere there’s trouble for the club formerly known as Frank Lampard’s Derby County,  Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. Please. Stop sniggering. There’s nothing funny about being accused of breaching EFL spending rules.

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Good times at Griffin Park last Saturday

First and foremost, Brentford. Not only does our game at Huddersfield Town present the chance to keep up the pressure on Leeds and West Brom  – both of whom are currently falling apart in the box quicker than a dropped jigsaw – but perhaps also there’s a slight element of payback. Anybody present at the Griffin Park Kickathon agaisnt the Terriers back in November can’t help but struggle to remember how awful it was. Our form since that point has been pretty much non-stop, but that encounter (ending in a 0-1 defeat) was horrific and best forgotten. It was described at the time on these pages as “A turgid afternoon in dank conditions” and has long since been consigned to the darker recesses of the memory. The place Where Mrs. Brown and her boys reside. Probably wearing Team GB tracksuits and drinking ‘expresso’. On Star Wars day, May the fourth.

We digress, but that’s how awful it was . Possibly rivalling September’s 0-0 with Stoke City for a text book demonstration of anti-football. That was then, though. We’ve since gone on to dump Stoke out of the FA Cup with our B-team and I have every confidence that the first XI will do similar tomorrow. Or, at least, have a much better chance of showing what they can do on their day.

Last weekend’s blitz of QPR saw us devastate our neighbours in a 15 minute first half flurry of non-stop attacking football. A goal apiece for the much touted WMB was bookended with further chances to extend the lead. Former Chief Executive Mark Devlin, watching on from the Director’s box, could only share the bemusement of his fellow Rangers’ fans as their world fell apart. It was yet another stunning performance from Brentford and I’d bet on more to come tomorrow.

Ironically, Mark will be watching on again. This time in his new guise as interim Chief Executive of Huddersfield Town. I’ve a lot of time for Mark – who was always extremely approachable when at Griffin Park – and whilst wishing him all the best in this role, will perhaps delay those good wishes until Sunday. There’s no room for sentiment when there are points at stake, especially with so much riding on this one.

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Plenty to mull over for the Huddersfield Chief Exec last weekend

Yet my faith in this team is unshakeable at present. My knowledge of their ability and pleasure on watching them breaking at 100mph sky high. Honestly, and this isn’t arrogance, such is the way we are playing I’d back us to pick up the points anywhere at the minute. Thomas Frank can do the job of keeping the player’s feet on the ground and telling them there are no easy games, take each one as it comes et etc. For the fans, optimism is a good, good thing and I’m loving it.

Fulham do have that chance to see us start the day in fourth place, should they get the home win against Middlesbrough this evening. Sadly, they will. Even without Aleksander Mitrovic they’ll have too much in them to come away with anything less than three points. But that’s all by the by as long as we do our thing on Saturday. Especially given as Leeds have a trip to Loftus Road – if ever a game said ‘away banker’ it is that one. On the plus side, with West Brom not in action until Monday evening, there’s further opportunity to close the gap on at least one of the top two, IF we can do our thing. No pressure lads 🙂

But these are good times. Lionel Road season tickets are flying off the shelves with the Twitter hashtag #MyNewHome showing plenty of smiling faces. The latest I saw using that one saw Alex Austin and his family now booked in, meaning the helpful advice and reminders of the rules offered to linesmen will continue long into our new home and, all being well, The Premier League. Magnificent news.

We’re doing all of this on budget and within the rules of the EFL. Something Birmingham City have already fallen fall of and now, it seems, Derby County (can we just take the “Wayne Rooney’s” as a given?) are facing trouble. The charges brought by the authorities relate to losses in the three years up to June 2018. With rules allowing clubs to lose up to £39m over a three year period (still, wow),  the controversial deal to sell Pride Park to owner Mel Morris for £80m continues to attract scrutiny. As the BBC reports, “The Rams have leased back the ground, which was said to have been independently valued at £80m despite it being on the club’s books as an asset worth £41m, from a company owned by Morris.” Hmm, sounds legit.      

 This one is sure to rumble. I’m just glad our own set up is one which is so tightly controlled. Sure, it always hurts short term when we see our heroes sold (emotionally, more than on the pitch) but I know whose shoes I’d rather be in. Sustainable, improving, getting stronger by the season and with a new home imminent. Or the club now having to answer some very awkward questions.

There’s not much more to say here. I’m sure The Rams will argue they’ve done nothing wrong. Mind you, so did QPR when they got fined. And that didn’t work out too well for them.

Instead, all the focus for us should be on events in Huddersfield. Perhaps with half an eye on Loftus Road and The Cottage…

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Saturday’s goalscoring heroes – accelerated like a Porsche off the starting line

Nick Bruzon

Chin up. It could be a lot, lot worse.

30 Dec

Brentford left Millwall on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat on Sunday, following a game that could politely be described as ‘turgid’ . The only goal coming early on after a defensive mishap that culminated in the ball reaching Aiden O’Brien rather than being hoofed clear by David Raya when the initial pressure was minimal. O’Brien made no mistake from outside the box with the net gaping. Eight minutes gone, a goal down (another already disallowed) and that was it for the highlights. Not much else happened. But with Leeds United shipping four to Birmingham City as they finally picked up a win, and West Bromwich Albion going down at home to Middlesbrough, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Besides, we could be Arsenal. Please. Stop sniggering.

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A rare venture in to the Millwall half

First up, well played Millwall. They did an absolute job on us. Brentford were allowed all the ball we wanted in our third of the field but the second we tried to break clear we were closed down. The Lions running at pace to strangle any attempt at playing the ball. Our usual free flowing football snuffed out and no answer available. It was no form of spectacle but goals win games and if the price of that was anti-football then well down to our hosts. They absolutely came out on top there. 

A chance for Mbeumo on half-time and a bobbled shot from the unmarked Jan Zamburek late on were about as good as it got for Brentford. We were out muscled with the three bookings for the home side feeling somewhat on the generous side. Referee Robert Jones surprising us on more than one occasion by keeping his cards in his pocket. Who knows what goes on in the minds of the officials but, being honest, Brentford could have been playing against nine men and I don’t think we’d have scored. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

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‘No foul, ref!’ Seems fair

So. Not great but let’s not lose heart. This was one game and we know what this team can do. Even West Brom lost (at home) whilst Leeds United needed an own goal deep, deep into injury time to pick up the points at Birmingham City. The 4-5 scoreline there meaning that we are now level with them on goals against. No team in the Championship has conceded fewer (happy?) than our, and their, 20 in 25 games. Interestingly, Leeds have let in half that total in the last four games alone. Kudos to our defence for being so consistent, despite what happened yesterday. Concern for theirs as it seems to be hitting some sort of self-destruct mode.

Technically, we’ve made ground on the currently second placed team. West Bromwich Albion lost top spot after losing 0-2 against rapidly improving Middlesbrough. For The Bees, it means we’ve clawed one back in the potentially crucial goal difference stakes.  

Clutching at straws? Perhaps. But the big, big thing for me is that we end 2019 sitting fourth in the Championship table. Fourth. That’s a stunning achievement and leaves The Bees magnificently set as we enter the second half of the campaign. It was only a few months ago that a significant element of the fanbase were calling for the head of Thomas Frank. How ridiculous does that seem now? How ridiculous was it then? Now look at us. Look at him. It’s a wonderful time to be a Brentford supporter and has been for years (the Marinus experiment aside).

Nobody has a divine right to be ‘any good’. Past form counts for naff all if you can’t cut it on the pitch at present. Look at how Birmingham City continue to under achieve despite all their investment and all their noise over recent years. Look at the Premier league where the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United are patchy, at best. Despite now being on their third manager since the departure of Arsene Wenger in May 2018, the Gunners’ woes continue. They are now closer to the Premier League relegation spots than the Europa League places. Pretensions of grandeur built on a rose tinted idyll of marble halls and Invincibles still reigning supreme over the reality that is a bang average team, with one good player, having taken residence in a library.

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Arsenal in a nutshell – an oldie but a goodie

Brentford are the other way. We know our limits. We know our history. We know how awful things have been for so, so long. Being honest, yesterday’s game could have been copy-pasted straight out of the Terry Butcher era. No attacking threat and a sloppy goal against. The difference being that those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth can recognise how amazing things are now. Have been for the last ten years. 

I can understand our younger element expecting nothing but WWWW and that’s fair enough. They’ve only ever known good times. Yet for me, it is a case of every win and every step up the table being another crazy reminder as to how far we have come.

So yes, let’s not pretend that yesterday wasn’t disappointing. It was. But as much because I went into it genuinely thinking that we’d win. That’s nothing to do with Millwall but simply the self-belief and confidence that surrounds Griffin Park at present. Every game is another opportunity to continue this amazing journey that, one hopes, will end with us playing (or overtaking) the likes of Arsenal next season.

Having slept on it, perhaps this was a reminder that some of us needed. Myself included. Confidence is a great thing but this is one of the toughest leagues in world football. Anyone can beat anyone. Look at Middlesbrough. Look at Millwall. Look at Preston (who went down at home to Reading). We have a wonderful team who can take on the best on our day. 

Sadly, yesterday wasn’t it.

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Nick Bruzon

Bees and Tigers share points in the proverbial game of two halves.

18 Aug

Brentford 1 Hull City 1. Whilst it wasn’t the 5-1 trashing of last season, the finish to this one was as exciting as the previous time these two teams had come together. Something all the more pleasing as it had started with all the excitement and enjoyability at a studio recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Yet in the end, Ollie Watkins and Julian Jeanvier came within inches of giving Thomas Frank a second league win on the bounce following last Saturday’s despatch of Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough.  

There was good news from the off. Kamo and Said Benrahama named as available, albeit having to be content with a place on the bench. Bryan Mbuemo starting. As did Christian Nørgaard in the centre.  Yet if the announcement of the team had us salivating, the mood dipped with a first half performance that both teams may aswell have been dialled in from last Thursday. Chances were at a premium and that’s the polite version. The moment Mbuemo left his man for absolute dead and pointing the wrong way was a crown jewel atop an otherwise staid opening period. 

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View from The Braemar… Mbuemo does his thing.

Yet as at Middlesbrough, the second half saw Brentford crank it up. Even if we did concede the opener. Jarod Bowen being given the freedom of the penalty box to fire home and give Hull City the lead on 52. It wasn’t pretty defending and looked worse on the highlights but at the same time proved the catalyst  for the Bees to wake up and start playing as we know they can.

Thomas Frank shuffled the pack and went for a Plan B. The defensive switch from three centre backs saw the midfield boosted. Josh Dasilva and that man Benrahma coming on to a heroes welcome in a seventieth minute double substitution. Little more than 60 seconds later and we were level. Sergi Canos performing wonders down the right hand side to place an inch perfect pass through to Ollie Watkins. The timing was magnificent. The calls for offside ignored. The goal stood as he swept home to joyful response from all around Griffin Park. 

Sergi has begun this season on fire. Ollie has his second goal in as many games. It could have been a third. Just moments later but for a quite wonderful save from Hull ‘keeper Long. Both teams pushed on and pushed up. Benrahma not quite fully fit but still had the crowd on their feet with every surging run. With every bit of trickery. The smile on his face returning although, if anything, he was perhaps guilty of trying to hard. His time will come and what a welcome return. Mbuemo grew into the game and it was great to see  Christian Nørgaard in action. 

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But despite all the attacking intent on display as the game reached a gripping denouement, it was the post (officially, but looked like a fine save to me)  that kept Brentford in it following a fiercely fired free kick from Kamil Grosicki taken deep in the heart of Saunders territory (with thanks to the Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s alliteration). But the with the clock ticking onwards, we had our own chance. A beautiful cross onto the head of Julian Jeanvier with the goal gaping. Surely? Surely?? Surely??? Nooooooo!!!  If anything he headed it too well and angled his effort just past the post when straight into the back of the net would have produced the necessary outcome. 

It was an afternoon where football was played in a good spirit and even the players got in on the humour. There’s no-where to hide at Griffin Park, as Hull’s Kingsley discovered upon hearing the shout “You’re not Kingsley. There’s only one Kingsley….” He turned to confront the Braemar Road with an angry scowl on his face before the shout continued… “and he’s got spikey yellow hair”.  Cue the look of confusion turning into a smile of appreciation. At least, I hope that’s what it was. 

It was also an afternoon where I thought we were somewhat unlucky in the end, even if Hull manager Grant McCann did feel that “I think we deserved to win the game. I’ve seen it back and their goal is a yard offside. It’s really disappointing at this level to get a decision like that wrong.”. Hmmm. Perhaps upon review he may feel differently. Ollie’s goal WAS tight but it was onside.

Deserving to win is as false a concept as the possibility of a joke appearing in an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys. The Bees had their chances but couldn’t quite take them. There was no ill-will directed towards the team. This is still a group of players finding their feet together and adjusting to life after Maupay. Leeds United are next up and that one’s only going to be wonderful. Assuming you can afford the £37 away ticket prices. I have no doubt there’ll be plenty of scores to settle from the Elland Road side following the events of last season and, of course, the acquisition of our own new captain over the summer.

Enjoy that one. For now, time to regroup and reflect on the positives

Nick Bruzon

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View from the Braemar. Captain Pontus cools down

Thomas the frank engine aiming for full steam ahead against Hull.

17 Aug

It’s time for Brentford to exorcise the memory of the League Cup. With Hull City set to visit Griffin Park on Saturday afternoon, thoughts will be along the lines of last week at Middlesbrough or last season’s 5-1 thrashing of The Tigers rather than the midweek draw with Cambridge United. That one’s been and gone. Ground that has been covered and no real tears shed. Move along, nothing to see here. We can concentrate on the league etc etc. No bad thing given the tough run of fixtures now upon us with Leeds United away on Wednesday and then the trip to Charlton next weekend.

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Brentford were head and shoulders above Hull last season

First things first. Today. Like Brentford, Hull have picked up three points from their opening fixtures following a win (Reading) and a defeat (Swansea City). Two games in, the nascent state of the table makes it impossible to get a genuine fix on who is in with a chance of going up, who are dead certs for the drop and who is going to be the recipient of the annual Leeds United choke award. Presumably, Leeds United for that last one. So it really is a journey in to the unknown for Brentford and as much for Thomas Frank on his team selection.

He named an unchanged side to the one that somehow lost the season opener to Birmingham City for the subsequent trip to Middlesbrough. Whilst we may have ridden our luck early into that one, nobody who saw it could deny how we grew into the game. The wonderful way we took the lead with Sergi and Ollie combining magnificently for the goal (kudos to Emiliano Marcondes, too, for luring the entire Boro’ defence out of position) and then closed it out with some comfort. Thomas was purring like a kitten at full time and understandably so. 

That said, he now has more players with time under their belts. That being one positive to come from the performance against Cambridge United. And with a busy week to come (those trips to Leeds and Charlton await) could changes come? Thomas used his press conference to confirm that Ethan Pinnock was doubtful, Kamo and Norgaard need to be assessed whilst Said is getting closer and closer. How good will it be to have any combination of those players available for selection ?  

Talking about last season’s 5-1, he was quick to recognise the performance but not dwell on it. Instead, calling it a “New game. New history  although going on to add that , “so we never know what is going to happen but the aim for us is for us to dominate and play with intensity.  Positive sounding for sure, in an interview packed with talk of attacking intent and maintaining the performance for the entire game. You can see that one here….

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Whilst the 5-1 may now be deemed history, the BBC match preview does give some very telling statistics. You can see the full piece here but the one that really grabbed me were the facts that the Bees have allowed our opponents just 15 touches in their box in their first two Championship matches. That’s six fewer than any other team. If any evidence was needed of the immediate impact being made by Pontus Jansson and the new look defence then here it is. I still maintain that picking him up from Leeds Untied was the Championship signing of the season.

The evidence to date has been quite telling. The skill, the passion, the heart on the sleeve, the armband being immediately awarded. His reaction on pitch after Birmingham and on social media after Middlesbrough tells you all you need to know about his attitude. Magnificent. Elland Road on Wednesday could be fun 🙂  

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View from the Braemar – Captain Jansson has impressed.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. All that’s to come and there are more pressing matters at hand. If nothing else, the question of what kit the visitors will turn up in. Their magnificent Umbro home shirt with the return of the Tiger strip design ? Or the new third kit that was launched this week? Something the club describe as  a contemporary design in deep lagoon, accompanied by medieval blue shorts. Hats off to Umbro, as with the Bees they’ve designed some stunners this season. 

Nice though it is, here’s hoping that it’s the performance rather than the shirts we’re drooling over today. Wit the weather set fair and blue skies already over Griffin Park, the conditions should be perfect. I can’t wait for this one. See you there.

Which will we get this afternoon? Home or third?

Nick Bruzon

Here’s hoping for a starry, starry night on Tuesday.

12 Aug

Middlesbrough has been and gone. Another trip to the Riverside and another win. Easy when you know how. Winning up there is starting to become a bit of a habit for Brentford but let’s not dwell on it any more. The points are in the bag and the team that scored the most goals won. Next up is the visit of Cambridge United to Griffin Park in the League Cup on Tuesday evening. And whilst we’re hoping it won’t be another ‘last ever’, who knows what might happen should the team be anything but on their game.

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The weekend at Middlesbrough was fantastic but it’s been and gone

As Brentford saw last season when pitted against the likes of Oxford United and Barnet, league position is no guarantee of cup success. Yes, we did beat both teams but neither game was anywhere near as emphatic as the divisional gulf may have suggested prior to kick off. Just as we’ve been the team administering the shocks in the past, now Cambridge United will be looking to throw down a potato skin from the depths of League Two. Will Thomas Frank put his foot in it though?

Well, I can’t help but feel there’ll be changes. Albeit, strong ones. Those acquisitions made later in the window are sure be given a go. Aren’t they? Presumably we’ll see Joel Valencia, Bryan Mbuemo, Dominic Thompson and Dru Yearwood on the team sheet. What about a certain Mr. Benrahma, too? Josh Clarke? Luke Daniels? It will be interesting to see how much Thomas tinkers but get it wrong and we face paying the ultimate price i.e. losing. Which could then bring us to the aforementioned ‘last ever’. Namely, cup game under lights at Griffin Park. And whilst I’m already in danger of ploughing the West Ham furrow of last ever this/that and the other at Upton Park / The Boleyn Ground, it does make you think.

If nothing else, about how wonderful an atmosphere can be generated by an ‘after-dark’ cup tie. Here’s hoping it isn’t our ‘last ever’, if only for the reason that  I can’t be ticking that one off the list in August. And it also means that Cambridge will have scored a first goal of the season after opening their League two campaign with successive 0-0 draws. So if you haven’t got your ticket as yet then it’s not too late. Besides, what’s the alternative? Staying at home to watch the ultimate Sky TV love-in of Salford City v Leeds United? Pass me the bucket. Please.

The other bonus about Cambridge visiting is that we get an unexpected glimpse at one of THE kits of 2019/20. Namely, their Hummel away shirt which is a spin on the Vandanel effort from the early 90s. So glaring it’s beautiful. One fan’s explosion in a paint factory is another’s Starry Night or Birth of Venus. And I’m definitely in the latter category. Much like Van Gogh’s masterpiece, let’s hope we don’t get lost in those blue and white depths.

Elsewhere, I did promise we’d try and keep on top of The Last Word Fantasy Football League this season. So here we go. After the first round of head-to-head fixtures the top ten are as below. Thanks all for entering and let’s not forget there’s a shirt on offer for the winning team at season end. Please let’s not forget….

Until then, here’s to Cambridge United on Tuesday. See you there…

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Nick Bruzon 

Away win? What’s the fuss about? Easy!

11 Aug

That’s one jinx well and truly laid to rest. Not just last season’s awful away record but, it would be fair to say, Middlesbrough have had the psychological advantage over Brentford since our paths crossed in the Championship. Of course, The Bees ended that one in some style, and a rare three points, with a 2-1 win at the Riverside a few months back. Fast forward and we’ve done it again. Three more points on the road against our one time nemesis in what was almost a mirror of last Saturday’s visit from Birmingham City. Domination from the home team that should have seen them out of sight before being caught out and then unable to get back in to the game. This time, though, the architect of victory was the the ever enthusiastic Sergi Canos who did magnificent work down the flank to serve it up Ollie Watkins, yards out from the goal. He needed no second chance and that was it. 1-0. Game over. And elsewhere, have you got anyone from Aston Vila or Brighton in your Fantasy Football team as yet?

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Not my words etc….

Whilst we don’t do full-fat match reports on these pages anyway, I wasn’t at this one due to a prior family commitment in a gale on the South coast. However, what has become evident from the mid-match messages being received, intermittent Twitter updates when the 3G was in the right spot and a subsequent watch of the highlights is that Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough (TM) are likely to be fuming over their cornflakes this morning. Two disallowed first half (handball and offside) were marginal as David Raya was on hand, with the woodwork, to keep them out after the home team opened the game in rampant form. Sound familiar? As the shot count ranked up in their favour to our nil, it had the fetid whiff of Birmingham City all over it.

Even official would take to Twitter at half time to declare: “We’ll be happy to get into the break on level terms after a disjointed opening 45 minutes on Teeside.”  

Few could disagree but football is a game played out over 90 minutes. A game of taking the opportunities when you can. As Thomas Frank’s unchanged team started to find a way in to the game during the second half we did wonder if something might happen . And then it did…

WATKINS…. read the text message. This was either really delayed news coming through about his recent contract extension or something even better. The internet signal couldn’t be that bad? Could it?

We’d been following the game together in a cafe and when that one flashed up on the phone it was enough to make a bored 6 year old leap up from the swivel chair he’d been practicing his Blofeld ‘reveal’ in – albeit, I’d been unable to persuade him that uttering the words, “I’ve been expecting you” was a really cool thing to do – to see what the fuss was about.

Goal, was the answer. And from there followed as anxious a countdown for the final half hour, and five minutes of injury time, as has ever been squirmed through. It can be tense enough at a game but when you are out of touch with nothing but a flaky Phone reception and trusted friends to keep you abreast of proceedings, it’s tough. Yet by all accounts, like Birmingham the week before the Bees really snuffed out the hosts and made the denouement a comfortable one. Perhaps. I’ll never know but I’ll also take those three points all day long.

Ultimately, it was a conversation between Harry (6) and Mrs. Bruzon as we watched the highlights together later that evening which summed it all up:

Rachel: Blimey. It’s all Middlesbrough.

Harry: But mummy, WE got the only goal.

Captain Pontus Jansson had taken to Twitter before the game where he declared: Such an important decision. Will be really important for us the coming years! Let’s go Ollie.

Spot on, Pontus. It was a comment borne out during the game and cemented afterwards by Sergi:  Who needs a striker? Myyyyyyy guy OLLIE WATKINS!!!! “

True enough, although hats off to Brighton who of course have signed the aforementioned missing striker. Their own 3-0 win on the road at Watford was rounded off with a goal from none other than Neal Maupay. What a start to his top flight career. Now our paths have gone in separate directions but we’ll survive. I’ll take the FPL points c/o Neal and, more importantly, the Championship points c/o Brentford.

For all that yesterday made me smile a lot on the footballing front, it was one comment just prior to the Spurs – Aston Villa game that really showed why it has been such a special few days,

OH Fuffuxake! On Twitter (aka @TheChauffeur) noting : They just announced the Vila team. Benrahma must be on the bench.

Whilst Neal did the Fantasy Football business for Brighton, Dean Smith didn’t use Ezri Konsa and Jota had to wait for a hour before getting on the pitch as a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-1 defeat at the death. For me, there was as much interest in the post match interviews in this one. Would Dean trot out the standard line about his team deserving to win after going down to the Champions League finalists ? Well, “The better team won on the day….” he noted before continuing with “in the second half”.

Oh Dean. You are great. I loved his tenure at Griffin Park and, like Neal, was sad to see him go. That’s football. Players and coaches move on. It’s how you adjust to it that’s important. As we saw yesterday.  

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The view into Harry’s room this morning whilst he sleeps. That was him. Thanks Sergi & Ollie.

Nick Bruzon

And still they come. Double bonus ahead of the weekend action.

10 Aug

The transfer window that keeps on giving keeps on giving. Despite inward business having been officially concluded for the summer, Brentford fans were given a double bonus on Friday ahead of the trip to Middlesbrough. Ollie Watkins has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Lionel Road until 2023 whilst the heavily touted story in regards to Turkish youth international Halil Dervişoğlu coming in from Sparta Rotterdam was confirmed. He has signed a pre-contract and similar to Emiliano Marcondes before him, will join the club in January. These are stories that put paid to the Crystal Palace rumours whilst further strengthen the attacking options available to Thomas Frank.

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These are both exciting and important bits of news for Brentford fans. Ollie, in particular, given how important and highly sought after the player has become. Aswell as the Crystal Palace stories there were those linking him to Spurs last season and, whilst we normally give rumours a wide berth on these pages, the fact that our players are being talked up is both a worry and a compliment. Now he is ours once more.

What a way to announce the news, too. With season ticket holders and club members being told to check their email accounts where we got the exclusive on the story first. I have to be honest, that when I saw the preview on Twitter, telling fans to check their in-boxes accompanied by the picture of a 2023 shirt, part of me did think it might be a delay to Lionel Road. But no. It was good news. Great news. Wonderful news. Off the back of Saïd Benrahma revealing his new number 10 shirt and accompanying hashtag the day before, Bees fans are really buzzing. Hats off to the club, too, for choosing this method to share a bot of extra joy with the supporters.

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Then there’s the news about Halil. One thing our Directors of Football have got on lock down is talent acquisition. Nobody could deny that in recent seasons as the much derided (outside of Griffin Park)  ‘model’ has paid dividends time and again. Now we’ve made our latest swoop for an attacker who did the business helping Sparta win second tier promotion through the play-offs (not a typo). 

Beyond that, I’m in the dark. I’m not going to pretend that Halil is a player I’m overly familiar with. Then again, it was a case of Saïd who? Neal what now? And look at how that all turned out.Have the DoFs done it again? I can’t wait for January when we find out, although let’s not wish it away too soon. Brentford have the trip to Middlesbrough today where Thomas will surely be looking for three points after starting like a runaway train against Birmingham City last weekend yet somehow coming away with nothing. Curse that woodwork. Curse great goalkeeping. On another day we could have had a hatful.

Still, as B*Witched once sang, c’est la vie. Sometimes you just don’t get the breaks. As long as we don’t get sucked into the ‘deserved to win’ mentality then play like that opening period once more and we’ll be just fine. Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough (TM) had a tough opener in front of the TV cameras last Friday at Luton Town. That one finished 3-3 in a game marked by defensive lapses and a penalty miss from Britt Assombalonga to match some of our most glaring from the likes of Yoann Barbet or number 26 (ahh, who could forget that ill-fated dead ball experiment?).

There are now options available the likes of which we’ve not seen in a long time. Saïd is definitely not ready to play, sadly, whilst Thomas is sweating on international clearance for Bryan Mbeumo coming through. Not that I can imagine him overly stressing – at least in public. He’s calm, confident and in control. Never flustered. Perhaps a bit of directional clapping, exhorting his troops to do what they have practiced on the training ground but that’s about as far as he needs to go normally.

Don’t expect too many changes from last week, except perhaps on the bench. I have no doubt everybody will want a second bite of the cherry following a performance where there is nothing but incredulity at finishing the game empty handed.

But that’s how football works. Amazing play is great as long as the ball finds the back of the net. It didn’t last week but now we’ve got the chance to put things right. And I can’t wait.

Until then, here’s B*Witched….

 

Nick Bruzon

Almost there. How about a few facts?

1 Aug

We’re that close now you can almost smell the aroma of bovril drifting across the forecourt. Thursday lunchtime and the season proper kicks off for Brentford in little more than 48 hours with the visit of Birmingham City. A team whose ‘yoof’, it would seem, are still learning how to spell ‘obsessed’. Saturday afternoon can’t come soon enough, even despite the somewhat dubious allure of Luton Town v Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough ™ on Friday evening to open proceedings in the Championship. That in itself, a game packed with intrigue as the former Leeds man and his club attempt to pick up the media inflicted hype gauntlet laid down by Frank Lampard’s former club Frank Lampard’s Derby County last season. But before things kick off at Griffin Park, we’ve already been dealt a blow. Two words designed to strike fear into the heart of any supporter. Gavin. Ward.

I’ve been away this week. That’s not information of any particular interest beyond being somewhat out of the loop in terms of keeping track of all our news. Re-enabling the 4G after landing at Heathrow yesterday evening produced a flurry of interesting updates. Maupay, Watkins and Benrahma all still at Brentford. Brighton and Crystal Palace apparently sniffing but nothing much more out there beyond that.

Even the usual Sheffield United ‘nailed on’ news has died a death. For now. It won’t be long before they’re definitely going there. Or Aston Vila. Or both. If you believe every rumour you read. Ahh, it’s all part and parcel of this time of year. Just grit your teeth, clench butts and hang on for the ride until that window slams shut.

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Flying in to Heathrow via Lionel Road – not a drone in sight, this time.

What we can say for sure is that Matthew Benham’s model (the mathematical one rather than Cliff in the brown/orange shirt) has struck again. Or maybe it was Cliff. Either way, the ‘in’ door has swung once more and the ceremonial half-chewed biro been cracked out with the news that we’ve signed Ecuadorian wide-man Joel Valencia from Polish champions Piast Gliwice. A player who certainly seemed happy to be here, that’s for sure. 

His signing gives even more choice on the flanks (read in to that whatever you need to – I have no intel. In general) and whilst he may be somewhat of an unknown quantity to those of us in the stands, have no doubt that the DOFs and Mr. B know their onions when it comes to talent spotting. The kinks in the machine that brought us the likes of Marinus and Nick Proschwitz seem to have been well and truly ironed out as our recruitment model has gone from strength to strength. 

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Welcome Joel (#)

Will he start against Birmingham City? I think the question is more a case of who will start against Birmingham City ? With the big three names barely even being mentioned, let alone featuring, over the close season it gives Thomas Frank an almighty selection headache. Of the best sort. I’m presuming that should any of Neal, Ollie and Said be deemed match fit then the bench is the best they can hope for. But, and has been said many times, yours truly is just the numpty on the terrace rather than a font of any serious knowledge. Then again, the prospect of bringing on Neal Maupay to run at new Blues captain Harlee Dean, with Gavin Ward holding all the cards in the middle in his role as referee, is a quite fantastic one. 

Whilst his is a name that never brings any pleasure when announced as our primary match day official, given Harlee’s tendency to ‘go rogue’ at crucial moments, and with the added burden of wanting to make a good impression in his first game with the armband – against his former fans and team mates – for once the presence of Mr. Ward could be a good thing. Please note: I reserve the right to retract this comment on Sunday morning. 

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Regardless, I’m itching to start once more. The Brentford record against Birmingham City has been first class since our paths have crossed once more. Each of those last five seasons has seen us finish higher than Blues. They’ve not beaten us since November 2016. There was, of course, also ‘that’ 5-0 and ‘that’ song. Those are nothing more than facts. Bloody good ones, mind you. 

Here’s to Saturday and the chance of seeing whether we can add to that record. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

New kit goes for a spin and implications of Frank Lampard news considered.

5 Jul

We’ll keep this brief today. On the Brentford front there was a debut for the new 2019/20 kit as the B team began pre-season with a 5-0 win at Bedfont Sports. Yet the big Championship story was one which unfolded when Frank Lampard left Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ to become the new Chelsea manager. It is one which we draw particular attention to, given the weekend column where this possibility was talked up along with the question of what the Pride Park club would be known as ongoing. It is a question which, it seems, we may have been somewhat presumptive in answering. 

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Chelsea ‘official’ share the news on Twitter

We all know about the media love-in with Frank and Derby. The fact that the team seemed to undertake a universal name change where it was simply impossible to see one mentioned without the other in journalistic circles. 

This is something we’ve picked up with sledgehammer like unsubtlety on these pages. But why not? Moreso given that this ‘joke’, something about as funny as an episode of Mrs. Brown’s Boys, was thought to have come to an end following Frank’s appointment at Chelsea. 

Indeed, we had remarked perviously that, Primarily, the immediate logical step being one which will see the Pride Park outfit having to be renamed. At present, the hot favourite title in the frame is a simple ‘Derby County’ . This is a choice which will only be seen as a nice historical nod to their origins and one which may help appease fans, upset by the loss of a man who helped keep them in sixth place in the Championship after replacing Gary Rowett”.

But are we wrong? It would seem there are alternatives being put out there – both variants on a similar theme. One suggestion hints that ongoing, rather than a return to Derby County journalists are considering rebranding the club as : Frank Lampard’s former club Frank Lampard’s Derby County.

However, another source close to the club tells me that is is thought to be somewhat of a laboured mouthful. Instead  they are close to settling on one of either : Frank Lampard’s former club Derby County or… New Chelsea manager Frank Lampard’s former club Derby County.

All bets will be off if Frank Lampard Senior takes over but whichever way this one turns out , don’t expect this nonsense to end anytime soon. If for no other reason a similar fate is already playing out in the Championship.  We’ve seen it starting to occur at The Riverside where Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough are looking forward to life with their new manager. 

 As for Brentford, what can you say about last night’s 5-0 win for the B-team? Well, not much from here as yours truly was more focussed with keeping tabs on Flying Ant Day (which was formally declared at 7.33pm following multiple reports flooding in from West London and beyond).

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Yet social media was awash with pictures of the lads in action with as much focus turning to the new home kit and a reveal of our more traditional goalkeeper’s shirt. An all green number rather than the electric blue/orange combo that had been revealed earlier in the month (which you can see in the full fat match report on ‘official’, here) . 

I’ve made no secret about being a fan of this season’s shirt – one of, if not the, best in years. Perhaps the white socks are a look we’re going to have to get a little more used to, although I’m sure this is something that will only be a requirement in a ‘clash’ situation.  Here’s hoping ! 

And finally, as unsubtle as ever,  for things that may not be worth so much of a read (but are for a great cause).. please do download a copy of the Last Word season season review – containing the least bad of these columns from the World Cup to Aston Villa deserving to win the play offs. It also includes the World Cup aswell as all the ‘Park Life’ articles submitted for the matchday programme and so not previously available on these pages.  

ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time on the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here.

At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99 – which then goes to The Community Sports Trust anyway. Many thanks again. And enjoy.

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Nick Bruzon

 

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