Tag Archives: Millwall

Keep your hands and noses clean – look who’s in charge….

7 Mar

The promotion push continues. With just ten games to go in the Championship campaign, fifth placed Brentford are all set to host Sheffield Wednesday at Griffin Park this afternoon. Whilst the eleven point gap to ‘automatic’ may be starting to look significant, we’ve already reeled in Leeds United once this season. Any hope of doing the same needs to begin today although primary focus needs to be on strengthening our current top six placing. To that end, we were given a small boost last night as Nottingham Forest were obliterated at home by Millwall. Still, the good news is that our man in the middle is Keith Stroud.

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Keith Stroud – NO card.

The big on-pitch question today is whether Pontus Jansson may be ready to make a long-overdue return. We spoke last time out about his importance and his presence but the BBC match preview really highlights this from a statistical perspective. Brentford have won just twice since his last appearance, that against QPR in early January. Indeed, we’ve only tasted victory in two of the eleven games he’s missed all season compared to fourteen out of twenty-five when he has appeared.

One does need to counter this with the fact that this recent ‘run’ has only seen us defeated twice in the league – Nottingham Forest and Luton (a). It has been a period of eminently loseable fixtures such as Cardiff City and Birmingham away ; Leeds United and Middlesbrough at home. Yet we’ve still survived those unscathed and it could be argued the had we hung on to the 1-0 lead against the Elland Road outfit, Brentford may well be looking down on more than just the 19 teams currently below us.

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View from the Braemar – I’d love to see Pontus back

That’s football. No point dwelling on ifs, buts and maybes. Instead, time to focus on Sheffield Wednesday. Of course I’d love Pontus in the team but we should still have enough in the starting XI to give anybody a run. Leading the charge will be Ollie Watkins who was, of course, named EFL Player of the Year at the London Football awards this week. Alongside him fellow nominees Said Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo. With Thomas Frank beating the likes Roy Hodgson and Frank Lampard for the managerial honour, one has to think that morale will be high in the camp.

For the visitors, they are currently the quintessential example of a mid-table side. On paper. Sitting 12th, Wednesday are 10 points off relegation and 8 off the play-offs. A late charge for the play-offs would seem even more optimistic than our own efforts to hit the top two slots. Aside from their own recent form, which has only seen 1 victory and 4 defeats in the last 8 league games, the sheer weight of numbers above them makes that more improbable. Millwall being the latest teams to knock on the door following their own 3-0 heroics at Nottingham Forest last night. Added to this are injuries suffered by The Owls in the FA Cup defeat by Manchester City midweek. Kieran Lee is  almost certainly out whilst defender Julian Borner went off at half-time. It’s just a shame that stamina levels weren’t tested further by a period of extra time and penalties. 

That’s not to say that today is going to be easier than recent challenges. It’s anything but. Yet at the same time I’ve got the feeling in my heart that we will win this. Whether Pontus plays or not. But for the referee we could have come away from Cardiff City with a lot more last weekend as Brentford kept going until the very end.

So let’s all breath a sigh of relief that Keith Stroud is in charge today. Could today see his traditional flourish of a red card? Will there be random decision making? Or might we have the more level-headed Keith of recent outings? Whatever happens, he can’t do a more frustrating job than Simon Hooper. 

Do get there early for his always entertaining warm up routine, too. Very much a modern day Burridge (John, of Crystal Palace goalkeeping fame, rather than Mark, of commentary and greyhounds).

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Keith Stroud – has form

The other point of note about today is the additional health and safety precautions in place given the current concerns around Covid-19. You can read the full statement on the club website although the main impact for supporters will be a cessation of our usual close contact with the players whilst the traditional prematch hand shake will stop for now. The full gamut of measures and what to expect are noted here although I’d also note that we should probably be glad football is even going ahead. In Italy, all sporting fixtures are now being played behind closed doors whilst the top flights clubs have already started to mention they expect similar may follow.

For now, keep those hands clean and let’s see what happens down the line. Until then, heres to Sheffield. Let’s do this.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But who will blink first?

13 Feb

With the midweek fixtures all played out, Brentford find themselves two points off ‘automatic’ and Leeds United still in second place. Just. For a while, it looked as though things may get even better with West Bromwich Albion behind and Fulham crying out for VAR (looked onside to me !) at Millwall. In the end, the Baggies got their win although the Cottagers ended things level. With Preston taking sixth and Bristol City warming up for Saturday’s trip to Elland Road after edging past Wayne Rooney by the odd goal in five, things remain as unclear and open as ever. Only West Brom starting to make a bit of clear air but, as we’ve seen all season, that can change in a heartbeat. Our own game at Birmingham City this weekend couldn’t be any bigger.

Before we go any further, I’ll likely mention Birmingham City a few times in the next couple of days. We’re due to play them  – why wouldn’t anyone do so in that situation? So to try, but no doubt fail, and avoid the usual nonsense about this tinpot team’s apparent obsession with their enormous club, the Griffin Park perspective on why I’ve absolutely relished our teams crossing paths in the Championship is noted further below. Why such pleasure is taken every time Brentford finish above Blues – which has been every season since our return to this level.

Sure… the financial misconduct, the managerial mayhem, that ten times better nonsense or the triple transfer swoop were factors – the sort of nonsense that makes football great in retrospect –  but nothing compared to what had gone before.

Anyway, getting back to the present, one almost had to feel sorry for Fulham last night. Almost. The brief window of opportunity I was afforded to watch that game before Kirsty and Phil started doing battle over Woodford Green property renovation (ah, the Wednesday night price of a green card for the trip to St. Andrews on Saturday is a huge one) saw two early goals and a huge controversy. Aleksander Miitrovic continuing to trade metaphorical punches with Ollie Watkins at the top of the Championship leading goalscorer charts before the Lions equalised with a goal so far offside even I spotted it first time out. Fulham were rightly incensed but, as we struggled to contain the laughs on our couch, the officials allowed it stand. 

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But there was no VAR. No second chance. No reprieve and things were level. Millwall even had the temerity to miss a penalty and that’s how things stayed. Apparently. What would I know? The things you do for the long term footballing pleasure.  With that result, Fulham go level on points with Leeds United whilst Brentford remain two points off the pair of them. The Cottagers may aswell chalk up the three points now with a home game against Barnsley this weekend but Leeds – Bristol City promises to be another massive one. 

The Robins are just outside the play off zone. Only goal difference keeping them away from a top six that once again plays host to Preston. It really is a case of seeing who can hold their nerve. Who blinks first. Whatever else, something has to give with West Brom hosting Nottingham Forest. I’m beyond trying to figure out who I want to win in these games though. Let’s concentrate on ourselves and hope those favours continue to come.

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As it stands…

That said, we are now at the point of experiencing that additional factor of a promotion shootout. That moment where the run-in starts and every result of every club around us seems critical. Phones are refreshed mid-game as goals conceded and points dropped here, there and everywhere are celebrated with abandon. Where even a win for the Loftus Road team is to be celebrated if it comes against one of the teams in close proximity. Where shifts in the table are tracked, even ‘as it stands’, and all favours are grateful accepted. We’ve had it by the bucketload during this week’s fixtures with Brentford even sitting in second place until Leeds equalised. Walking past Griffin Park on the school run with Harry, we’ve been going through permutations of results and possibilities – it’s amazing how much that can help with arithmetic. So, If Leeds lose, how many points will they have? Where will Fulham be if they beat Millwall?

There are, of course, a lot of games to go. Almost a third of the season still. But with nobody really striking out on their own, albeit West Bromwich Albion have a few points’ breathing space (at present) one can’t help but get drawn in by the situation unfolding around us. Which, as much as anything else, is why Birmingham City is a massive one for us Brentford fans. Regardless of the history. The obsession. 

I’ll absolutely love it if we pick up the points. Might even sing a song at full time. Roll on Saturday – see you there.   

 

Until then, here’s my take on it. Birmingham City – the ‘obsession’

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 feel as though they bear repeating. No matter how forlorn it may be. Yet it is as crucial now as a means of seeing how far we’ve come compared to how things were before. 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.

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.

Deano and Bliss

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…..

So, yes. Whilst I DO focus on Birmingham City (a lot) 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. Can we take it to the next level? Perhaps Saturday will give a bit more of a clue, but I wouldn’t bet against this race going to the very last weekend of the season. 

Nick Bruzon

It’s even tighter at the top as pressure grows.

19 Jan

A 0-0 draw at Huddersfield Town keeps the Brentford streak going. That’s one defeat in eight games as The Bees kept up the pressure on the top two. With Leeds United falling apart (again), their own 1-0 loss at Loftus Road yesterday means the gap from us to second is now down to 5 points from the 12 that it was just a few weeks ago. Hoping for a QPR win wasn’t the most enjoyable way to spend a Saturday lunchtime, and one which could be better translated as more praying for an away disaster, but events transpired in our favour and that’ll do me looking at the table this morning. Whilst Fulham remain fractionally  ahead of us, there was at least the consolation of watching their supporters spend all day crying on social media over the ‘clappers’ video’ from yesterday’s piece. There, there – mummy will kiss it better. Factor in the added bonus of Leicester City being next up in the FA Cup and its all happening in TW8.

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Brentford ‘official’ sum it up on Twitter

First up, Huddersfield Town. It was a performance that Thomas Frank would describe at full time as ‘average’ , saying he wasn’t happy with a point. Good man – high levels of expectation and long may that continue. Personally, 0-0 doesn’t look great on paper but this was a team missing both Pontus Jansson and Mathias Jensen. Both were deemed to be injured although one does then wonder if it leaves them fresh / available for the Leicester game. You know, just to keep the legs ticking over. Thomas would suggest in his interview (below) that it may be a game too soon for the midfielder but we’ll see. 

As for positives, it was another clean sheet to the Championship’s tightest defence. In a game of few chances, Brentford arguably had the majority. Josh Dasilva coming closest as he hit the post late on, albeit we all know that shots at goal count for naff all if you can’t put them away. But, it’s a point on the road. It’s another game unbeaten. It’s even more ground gained on the top two. It’s further psychological pressure applied to a Leeds United side who continue to astound with their ability to hit the meltdown button. 

Thomas tells it how it is.

We’re never going to pick up three points EVERY game. That’s not how football works, generally. Albeit, the memory of Liverpool and Manchester City matching each other win for win last season as the Premier League rolled out to that relentless conclusion  is still fresh in the mind. Liverpool are doing it again this time around whilst everybody else around them has reverted to what is considered the norm in footballing form. At least, for teams competing at the business end. Win most games, draw a few and slip up every now and again. Just look at the defeats for Leicester last weekend (Southampton) or Chelsea yesterday (injury hit Newcastle). So a point for Brentford is something I’ll embrace. Moreso in the bigger picture of how the season end table may play out. The key thing at this juncture is not to be hitting the skids. Not to be ‘doing a Leeds’. Not to have a record akin to West Brom, who are currently experiencing similarly patchy form.

I’m just gad that the emotional investment in proceedings at Loftus Road wasn’t wasted. Nobody wants to hope for an away defeat there, in the normal course of events, although this is anything but a normal season. So things couldn’t have turned out any better than hoped for. At least, from a Brentford / Leeds perspective. Patrick Bamford saw a penalty saved and Kalvin Phillips was shown a straight red late on for a horror challenge that summed up the wretched state of affairs currently being enjoyed / endured (delete as applicable) by the Elland Road outfit. They host Millwall next Tuesday with the Lions looking to go one better than their current position just outside the play-off zone. That promises to be fun. 

At the same time, we’re home to Nottingham Forest with the FA cup sandwiched in between. Excitement levels continue to build in this part of West London as the denouement of Griffin Park life draws to a thrilling conclusion. Fighting a battle on two fronts is going to mean some tough decisions are made on Saturday when that team is announced late in the morning. Go for broke in the cup? Stick with the B team? Or play a mix of both? Either way, I can’t wait for the next chapter of the Brentford story to unfold.

See you there.

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Things are getting tight at the top

Nick Bruzon 

New decade. Same brilliance.

2 Jan

What a start to the New Year. A 4-0 win for Brentford at Bristol City about as comprehensive as they come. Robins’ manager Lee Johnson self-combusting in a full time Scrappy Doo impersonation that saw him red carded at full time for an altercation with Thomas Frank.  With Leeds United being held at West Bromwich Albion, the gap to the top two is back down to single figures. The Bees sit third in The Championship after Fulham lost at home. Millwall, Forest and The Cottagers making up the play-off places. Ollie Watkins back up to one goal behind Aleksander Mitrovic at the top of the divisional goal scoring charts after his brace rounded things off following early goals from Bryan Mbeumo and Saïd Benrahma.

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The full time score at Ashton Gate, c/o Quest TV this morning..

We’ve all see this one, presumably? Either as part of the thousand plus who travelled to Ashton Gate or via the red button on Sky. Yet some performances need to be chewed over once more, such was the manner of victory. David Raya set up the first goal with just 6 minutes gone. His enormo-clearance one that might have been selected at Millwall on Sunday. This time he called it right with a ball that must have carried close to three-quarters of the pitch before Ollie picked it off and danced through the visitors defence. They tried but couldn’t stop him and it slipped through for Mbeumo to dink home his tenth of the season.

1-0 and game on. 1-0 and man off. Ashley Williams was shown red just minutes after he and Ollie had both been booked for a coming together. A scything challenge on Watkins resulted in his ejection and with it, the home team’s chance. It was 0-2 moments later. Less than half an hour gone and Benrahma got the goal he’s been looking for in recent weeks. Daniel Bentley could only pat down a Jensen shot and, despite upending Ollie when clean though, was unable to stop Saïd from doing his thing. It all looked ridiculously easy. The decision to trade him in for David Raya being proven more and more an incredible piece of business with each passing game.

A tactical readjustment for the hosts saw them working their way back in to the game. Relatively speaking. They didn’t concede anything further up to half time and even looked vaguely threatening. Yet there was no way through, with one kamikaze backpass in the second period giving even more opportunity for Ollie to join the scorers. His goals eventually coming in the final ten minutes. The first, guiding home a tracer bullet of a cross from Jan Zamburek down the left. His second, capitalising on a Mads Roerslev  (in for Dalsgaard) assist from the other flank.  Bentley only able to parry his header and there was to be no mistake as the ball fell nicely. 4-0 and all done. Barring the full time whistle and Johnson’s punishment. 

It really was a stunning, stunning performance. Thomas Frank’s BMW front three once more driving us forward with speed, skill and flair. It’s hard to believe the Mbeumo is only 20. Amazing to see the advances to Ollie’s game. Saïd on song just speaks for himself. All three once more dividing the goals between them. Benrahama back to his sizzling best. One second half flick over his own head had to be seen to be believed. Filthy, audacious, taking the p. All three rolled up into one and served up with a side salad of confidence and self-belief. Truly, he is a talent to behold.

With that accursed transfer window now open for a month, hanging on to B, M and W will be huge. If we can do it. Yet with spirits high and the team storming the table, why would anybody jump ship now? Yes, I know money talks and this is the naivety of being a fan but the chance to see what this team could do in the second half of the season is an intriguing one.

The defence is tight (we are now clear in the fewest ‘goals against’ chart), the midfield dominant and the attacking trio electric. Leeds United continue to wobble. Their 1-1 with West Brom meaning its only been one win out of the last five for them. Even that needed a 95th minute own goal by Birmingham City to hand them the points after having shipped four themselves.I still think that top two would be Boys Own stuff, relying on a staggering run of favours, but as long as we keep on doing our thing then anything else is a bonus. The gap in the-play off zone is starting to grow with clear air now between us and seventh placed Sheffield Wednesday. Four points the difference and our staggering goal difference of +21 bettered only by West Bromwich Albion.

It is easy to get excited, no question, but why not? Why shouldn’t we enjoy the moment? This team and this performance has been building . The goals have been flying in for months. The team slowly climbing up the table. Sneaking under the radar, if you will, to emerge into 2020 with plaudits from all. We’ve got the FA Cup against Stoke City next and then a return to Griffin Park in the league where QPR visit for our next Championship fixture. With the Lionel Road season tickets also going on sale to us non-premiums, it promises to be an exciting week or two.

Then again, when isn’t it?

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

Mrs. Brown, Nick Knowles, Mick Hucknall – irrelevant. Bigger things are afoot.

29 Dec

Brentford go to Millwall today. Nothing else matters. Nothing else is relevant. Not even Leeds United at Birmingham City or West Bromwich Albion hosting Middlesbrough. It would be nice if one of those slipped up but, in the grand scheme, the absolute priority has to be The Bees picking up the points against The Lions. Everything else going on around us is second fiddle. Unnecessary white noise.

Moaning about VAR (although it is shite) – irrelevant

Mick Hucknall – irrelevant.

Getting upset about Mrs. Browns Boys  – irrelevant (for one day only).

Mrs Brown

Mrs. Brown – irrelevant

Nick Knowles advertising the Euronics Centre on the radio – odd. And irrelevant.

Gavin and Stacey – irrelevant.

The sales – irrelevant. Just do it online as you travel. Or better still, don’t.

Fantasy Football – irrelevant (and that’s nothing to do with yesterday’s latest car crash).

Thoughts of ‘Dry January’ – irrelevant. It’s December.

Work tomorrow – irrelevant. Ring in sick. Or book it off.

The in-laws are here / we’re going to see the relatives – irrelevant. Bring them with you.

I can’t get a ticket – irrelevant. You can.  Supporters will be able to pay by cash or card at the North Stand Ticket Office situated next to the away turnstiles on Sunday” –  Not my words, the words of Brentford official on their match preview) .

Even better, Millwall offer wheelchair users an entire £1 discount off the £29 admission price.

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Here you go

£29 seems a lot to go to Millwall – irrelevant. It’s still not Leeds United levels of ouch, you save money on travel and there is the added bonus that these days The Lions play in the former home of Harchester United. What greater cathedral of football is there? Griffin Park aside.

I‘m half-way through the Lego Millennium Falcon I got for Christmas  – irrelevant. Grow up.

Channel 4 have a double-bill of Ang Lee’s The Hulk followed by The Core – i,i,irrr,irrel…does anybody want my ticket?

In all seriousness, of course I’ll be there. That’s what video-plus is for.  Besides, this one could be something very, very special. A moment akin to Danny Shittu’s own goal giving us that incredible 3-2 victory back in 2014. The celebrations that took place in the post-match prison yard kettling made all the sweeter by being able to celebrate in a torrential downpour. 

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It’s always welcoming at Millwall

The chance to complete the double following this season’s quite wonderful turnaround at Griffin Park yet another incentive. Ollie and Bryan’s late, late showing to turn things around in Jota time, the stuff that dreams are made of. Moreso given the earlier penalty miss. It wouldn’t be Brentford any other way 

Even watching the replay of Josh Dasilva’s goal at The Den last season sent further shivers of anticipation up the spine about what could happen. Brentford are currently third in The Championship and are now starting to reel in Leeds United. Progress on that front will be slow and , let’s be honest, unlikely. I mean, there’s no way they’ll choke what is now down to an eight point gap with half the season to go. It’s not as though Leeds have any history of falling apart or hitting self-destruct.

But whatever Birmingham City might do  – and let’s not forget that they are a club with a worse current record than Nick Knowles ‘Every Kind Of People’  – things are still down to us. Points in the bag being better than anything else – games in hand, favours or other results. 

And the quest for more continues today. I can’t wait for this one. See you there.

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Another ending like this would do very nicely, thank you.

Nick Bruzon

Frank is sense. Christmas gifts see Bees go third.

27 Dec

What an afternoon. Brentford ended the day sitting third in the Championship after Swansea City were the latest to be on the receiving end of a Griffin Park trouncing. A brace from Ollie Watkins and another goal for Bryan Mbeumo putting this one out of sight, despite a tired second half flurry from the visitors. With Leeds United falling apart (again), the gap to ‘automatic’ is now down to single figures – 8 points being the difference. Even then, they needed an 89th minute equaliser from Stuart Dallas to rescue a point at home to Preston. With West Bromwich Albion (Barnsley) and Fulham (Luton) both drawing against the divisional whipping boys and Sheffield Wednesday going down to Stoke City, our rivals for the top spots formed an orderly queue to take their turn of delivering The Bees a Christmas gift. Specifically that of doing us a favour. The thought of our trip to Millwall on Sunday has suddenly become very appealing (not a typo).

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Thomas enjoys the moment at Full Time

You’ve all seen the action, presumably. Either as part of a packed Griffin Park or c/o the Sky coverage that meant our game went out live to the nation yesterday. At least, the part that doesn’t want their live action left in a recycling box or sitting on the doorstep. Otherwise, the official highlights are further below. Mbeumo opened proceedings early on. Guiding home a corner that had been headed back across the face of goal by an unmarked Ethan Pinnock. The big man, who had retained his place alongside the returning Pontus Jansson, doing magnificently to make the room and plop it straight on to Bryan’s head.

Twenty minutes gone and 1-0 up. There was barely time for anybody taking a toilet break to get back to their seats before the lead was double. None other than Ollie Watkins. The striker, and that’s what he is, grabbing a true poacher’s goal as he stuck out a leg to steer a Rico Henry cross past the despairing Freddy Woodman in the away goal. 2-0 and, surely, that was it?

Well, yes. Although being Brentford we had a little moment just after the hour when David Raya was unable to smother a shot from Bersant Celina and Andre Ayew was closest to the loose ball. Urghh. With that, the Swans got their tails up. But rather than breaking Brentford’s arm with their wing men, it was the Bees who broke their spirits. The pressure was, as ever, contained and Ollie Watkins wrapped things up. Sprinting clear, he charged down on the goal to make things safe as we headed towards injury time. There was to be no sweating on the result. No clenched buttocks. No last minute stress. The final whistle a perfunctory noise greeted with ecstasy rather than relief. And that was before we checked ‘other results’.

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The Bees were dominant

Honestly, one can’t even begin to describe the mood around the place at present. EVERYBODY has faith. Has confidence. The players are calm under pressure and exhilarating on the ball. The fans lapping it up. Peter Gilham losing his shit on the public address system. Each announcement becoming more and more enthused.

The piece about him in The Guardian yesterday described how he was offered a script but refused it. Thank goodness. We all know how incredible he is but to hear his joy transmit to the fans and the players is all a part of what is helping make our success. Even at half time, he stood there with mic in hand, not even lifting it to his lips until he had clapped everybody off and into the changing room. You may not have noticed this in the rush for the beer queue and the ablutions block but I stood and watched. What a man. The beating heart of our club.

But then, what a team. Matthew Benham’s genius and Thomas Frank’s approach have delivered up a squad that is the envy of all. A team built on a metaphorical shoe string (relatively), with a makeshift centre forward, that continue to defy expectation. At least, of those looking in. We’ve seen this coming for years. The diamonds unearthed and sold on. Their replacements being even better than before. The momentum building. The confidence high. 

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Safe to say that this performance was well received

Yet this feels like nothing I’ve experienced before. Even under the continuing highs that we’ve been served up over the last ten seasons. Now, I expect to win every game. That’s not arrogance. It’s confidence. It’s a reflection in the ability that this team has. The perfect blend of youth and experience. Unfettered skill allowed to run riot. Wise heads at the back to give guiding advice. Pontus is our big name at the back but don’t overlook Henrik Dalsgaard either. His lungs must be be gargantuan.

Next up Millwall (away) on Sunday. What an opportunity awaits if we can carry on doing what we’ve done so far. Then it’s Bristol City on New Year’s Day. Whilst one doesn’t like to look too far ahead, that game is mentioned more as an incentive (should any, somehow, be needed) for that trip to the New Den. After we run out at Ashton Gate,  West Bromwich Albion host Leeds United. Either way, something has to give.

For now, though, it’s a period of reflection. Of enjoying what was a quite incredible end to 2019 at Griffin Park. There’s the short hop to South-East London on Sunday and with it, the opportunity to carry on this enjoying this fantastic period. I’m sorry, the words are kind of failing me this morning. I’m sitting here with a huge grin on the face at this obscene hour of the day. I’m about to head back to work but the thought of commuting is, for once, not the usual harbinger of doom and gloom that comes with rising at this time of the day. Instead, there’s a big smile and a genuine feeling of well being. That’s down to Peter. To Thomas. To Matthew. To Bryan. To Ollie. To Henrik, Pontus, Josh, Ethan and the rest of the team. 

That’s down to everyone. THANK YOU. See you on Sunday… Until then, here’s the action once more

 

Nick Bruzon

So close to another mulled win on a day of celebration.

22 Dec

The morning after the night before. Head foggy. Eyes sore. Mouth tasting like Fullers has curled up, fallen asleep in there and then passed away at about 3am. Espresso now on rewind. Yesterday was fun. A lot of fun. We had a kids / grown ups party at ours, meaning a trip to The Hawthorns was out of the running. Yet the seasonal celebrations continued long after the final guests had left with the knowledge that Brentford will be in the play-off zone at Christmas. This, following a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion where, if we’re being honest, perhaps some are feeling miffed about not taking all three points from the league leaders. Certainly, going by the reports of one way traffic and chances created in the first half. There was a further present as second placed Leeds United dropped more points – albeit at the Cottage as they lost 2-1 to Fulham. Despite their losing a 3-0 lead at home to Cardiff last time out, surely not even the Elland Road outfit can throw away what is now a ten point lead from their second place to third. Surely? It’s not as though they have any form of reputation for falling apart or stuff like that.

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Loved this from ‘official’

Still, the tribulations of Leeds United and Fulham (recording a first win since I don’t know when – it wasn’t last weekend, that’s for sure) a mere dollop of cream on top of the Festive treat served up at West Brom. With my usual group displaced by holiday prep, the aforementioned party, transatlantic travel and shopping it was a case of communication via Whatsapp. The screen shot showing that Brentford were dominating our hosts with 57% possession, 7(seven) shots with 2 on target – compared to nil from The Baggies – was followed with the not unusual comment that “We all know what happens next” becasue, of course, stats don’t win matches. Goals do.

Sure enough, thirty seconds later it did. But not as expected….

A scream from the front room was followed by Harry running through to the kitchen where the dads were hiding out by the vat of mulled wine, talking sh..op and steering clear of the mayhem. He was closely followed by his friends Felix and Darius who stand on the Ealing Road with their dad JJ (he of the goal inducing pea-sized bladder with which regular readers may be familiar – not literally). It was less a run and more a charge. Guests scattering and voices raised. “Daaaad. Daaaaad. We’ve scored!! We’re beating West Bromwich Albion.” Oh. Wow. Sure enough we had. Just before half-time and confirmation followed from Felix that it was the World Cup’s Denmark international Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford who got the all important strike. Oh my. Get in !! Another mulled wine? Don’t mind if I do.

This was weird. Really weird. And if for no more reason than JJ had been with us when the goal went in rather than taking a comfort break.

Sadly though, the request for Harry to retrieve the deeds to the house and lump them on the Bees going up was retracted as quickly as it had been issued. Despite a penalty being denied us in between (“a clear, clear handball”, per Thomas Frank), Dalsgaard’s 43rd minute flick on from a corner was followed up by an almost identikit goal from the hosts. Fellow full back Darnell Furlong levelling things up deep into first half stoppage time. Oh well. Parity restored. A kick to the psychological nuts but a scoreline we’d all have taken prior to kick off, I’m sure. The important thing now was to not ‘do a Leeds United’ and, erm, fall apart. Keep that concentration going. Keep on pushing in what was sounding and reading like one way traffic (something the subsequent video highlights bear out altough our little group didn’t know this at the time).

The kids were sent back to the front room to ignore the rest of their guests and watch Jeff Stelling on mute, then keep us appraised of any second-half goal update. Nooooo. 2-1 Brom. Disaster. Charlie Austin.

Yessssssss 1-1. The lino had his flag up. Offside. “It was definitely offside, dad”, confirmed Harry. Not quite sure how he knew but his word was good enough for me. It was, on later review, the correct call and was the last action of any meaning in the afternoon. The game finishing 1-1 and the gap to Leeds in second being cut by another point. The Bees in the play-off zone and set for the visit of Swansea City on Boxing Day. Relentless West Bromwich Albion striding clear at the summit.

I’d love to have been there. The visiting contingent looked huge. The Hawthorns a magnificent stadium. Instead, yesterday’s ‘live action’ was confined to standing in a deluge and watching Harry at his Spartans FC training. Any excuse for a shot of that blue shirt in action.

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Watching one ‘Bee’ in the rain

Instead, it’ll be a case of the trip to Millwall next Sunday for that next ‘away’ hit. But that’s one for the future. For now it’s a case of enjoying the moment. Of seeing how far we have come . We’ve only been in the Championship play off-zone at Christmas once before – the season Mark Warburton had the reins, dear (reader). Back then we hung on and scraped into the top six on that incredible final day after Derby did a Leeds at home to Reading. It was a position we’d got into of our own making through an over reliance on out of form Harlee Dean (Tony Craig being confined to the bench a tactical decision I still cannot align myself with) . 

Yet Thomas Frank shows none of that ‘loyalty to favourites’. Form is recognised and Ethan Pinnock has retained his place on merit following Julian Jeanvier’s suspension. It was a decision that has now been rewarded. The absence of Pontus Jansson with a ‘minor injury’ one which might have caused trepidation prior to kick off. Yet any worries proved futile and now I’d be intrigued to see who the choice centre-back pairing will be when Swansea visit on Thursday. What a lovely problem to have !

Perhaps if anyone can sum things up it is none other than Romaine Sawyers. How nice to read his words on Twitter at full time, where he opined: “Everyone knows I’ll always hold @BrentfordFC in high regard! You guys should be proud of the team this season and keep pushing them on to the finish line! Thank you for the reception at the end of the game appreciate it!! So glad to see all my brothers today and you fans”

Thank you Romaine. Here’s to playing you next season. In the top flight….

 

Nick Bruzon

Victory would be huge but can we do it?

7 Dec

Here’s the good news. Win today and Brentford will go into the top six, regardless of other results. Victory at Sheffield Wednesday means we would overtake fourth-placed Nottingham Forest, who sit just three points ahead of the Bees following their own draw at Millwall last night, regardless of other results. Here’s the bad news. We’re at Sheffield Wednesday. Hillsborough has been somewhat of a bogey ground for us in recent seasons, losing four out of the last five played  from of our recent visits. The sole victory coming in 2017, courtesy of goals from John Egan and Harlee Dean. Yet with confidence high following the annihilation of Luton Town last week, we have to go into this one with our tails up.

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Brentford celebrated 7 (seven) times on Saturday

Besides, past form counts for nothing. So we may have found this fixture a tricky one historically but this team is now one that is on fire. They have the taste for goals, even prior to last weekend’s 7(seven) goal bracketing of Luton, whilst recent away games have seen us banish the alleged jinx of the chocolate and orange back to the rumour mill from which it emanated last season. 3-0 at Wigan. 3-0 at Swansea. 3-1 at QPR. I forget what happened at Blackburn the other night but we have, mostly, being picking up the points in emphatic style. Could there be more of the same to come today?

Well, the BBC stat page (for once not focussing on the number of non-English players we’ve used – thanks for that helpful insight) give us the good news that regular thorn in our side Fernando Forestieri will be missing . This is a bonus for Brentford and just one of several absences for the hosts. Wednesday’s last three home games have all ended as draws and whilst a point may be sufficient to take us in to that hallowed top six, you can bet Thomas Frank will have the scent of blood in his nostrils.

Last Saturday against Luton Town was about as complete a performance as we’ve had the privilege of watching. It was immense from start to finish. The Hatters may, in part, have been the architects of their own demise but you can only play who you are up against. Josh Dasilva’s hat-trick included that blockbuster from outside the box and the tightest of finishes on the angle. The ball from Said Benrahma to sit that up was about as filthy as they come. Yet for me, Clive, Mathias Jensen had the goal of the game. A cool head and clever positioning allowed him to stroke the ball straight through a defender’s legs with slide rule precision for our third. You’ve seen it. You know. Laser guided brilliance.

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Mathias and Josh celebrate

That was then. This is now. We know the chance that awaits us if we can do this . Brentford have had similar opportunities in the last two games. Then, though, victory also required other results to go our way in order to hit the top six. Against Blackburn we got the ‘other results’ but not much else. When Luton came to Griffin Park it was the opposite. Now, thanks to Millwall (not often one can say that) holding Forest last night, destiny is in our hands. The stage is set. Will Thomas Frank’s boys fluff their lines or are we going to give them a standing ovation?

The heart says that we’re flying and more of the same will come. The head says that this is going to be a tough afternoon. Don’t forget that Wednesday are only a single point behind us in the table. Their incentive to get back into the mix will be just as great as ours. If not more, given as they’ll be playing in front of their own fans in their former home. Owner Dejphon Chansiri holding the keys to Hillsborough these days after buying it from the club for £60million. Misconduct? Sounds fine to me. Good luck with that counter claim against the EFL. 

Perhaps all that nonsense is just what we need. An unnecessary distraction for the visitors at a time that the Bees need everything going for them if we are to really turn the screw on our divisional rivals. Not being funny, I’d be happy to come out of this with a point and no injuries ahead of the midweek visit from Cardiff. You can bet your bottom dollar that the team will be thinking otherwise. Win or bust will, I am sure, be the mentality.

I can’t wait for this one. Bring it on ! 

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The BBC show the state of play , as it stands..

Nick Bruzon

 

An unusual case of The Royals enjoying time in the public eye.

23 Nov

Guess who’s back? We are back. Oh yes. International break blah blah blah. Brentford host Reading this afternoon, no doubt keen to continue the recent run of fine form that has seen us pick up 12 points out of a possible 15 and find the back of the net three times with each victory. It is a purple patch that has seen the 3-2 win at home over Millwall aswell as 0-3 at Swansea, 1-3 at Loftus Road and, most recently, that brutal 0-3 at Wigan. We’ll draw a discreet veil over the Huddersfield Town sludge fest. The net result of all this being that the Bees now find themselves in a position where victory over the Royals could take us to within a single point of the play-off zone. Yet if Huddersfield came to Griffin Park as the Championship’s form team, you can today substitute the Terriers for Reading.

Recent form has been (mostly) wonderful – home and away

Despite what could be described as patchy start, the visitors have come good. And how. Since taking over, manager Mark Bowen has seen his side pick up 10 points from his four league games in charge. By means of showing just how hard he has yanked on the handbrake, this is 2 more than they won in their first eleven matches of the season. Don’t let their position fool you. The table may never lie over the course of a season but, at present, the Royals are very much enjoying life in the public eye. And it’s not often you can say that. 

These next words make me a little queasy. Chief architect in their on-pitch revival seems to be none other than John Swift. He, of course, being one of several from the Chelsea youth production line that went on to enjoy a run at Griffin Park. I’ve said this before, to much chagrin from our reader, but I never really thought he quite cut it. Not at McEachran levels of underwhelming  but the form relative to potential was excruciating at times. We could all see the class but the consistency wasn’t there. 

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File photo.  I don’t remember what this tenuous link was about , either.

Hey, let’s put it down to youth. Certainly, John seems on form now and you are only as good as your last results. Historical form counts for naff all. The BBC note how he has has already created 50 chances in the Championship this season. A figure which comes in at 13 more than any other player. At the same time, he has also been credited with the ‘assist’ six times and, as such, would seem very much their danger man. These are impressive figures although one would imagine that should Saïd Benrahma continue this own prolific return from injury, they are stats that will soon see him overtaken.

Excitingly, the mercurial Algerian is available to Thomas Frank today. A double bonus given the absence of Joel Valencia, who sustained a shoulder injury in the win at Wigan. Like Pontus and Ollie, Said is one of the first names on the team sheet. Inked in with permanent marker in style akin to Mark Warburton with Harlee Dean and Jonathan Douglas. The sort of players deemed utterly essential by the head coach to his own strategy, regardless of their form. Thankfully, our three current stars have all been shining brightly and they will need to be today. 

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Saïd – ever popular with the fans

Also missing are Christian Nørgaard (suspended) and Julian Jeanvier, after seeing red very late on at Wigan. Pontus will need to be at his very shoutiest today with a new look defence in operation. Presumably Ethan Pinnock will slot straight in alongside the vociferous Swede but knowing Thomas, anything could happen. The squad is very much at the thin end with several other key players out injured (Canos and Karelis at the top of that list) but, as we all know, the starting XI is a match for anyone on their day. Or should that be month?  And then some given recent results.

Thomas Frank really has his team on fire. The win at QPR was about as exciting and exhilarating as they come. The victory on the road at Wigan as unexpected yet complete as any we have had this campaign. The alleged ghost of orange/brown long laid to rest. Today has all the potential to lift morale even higher than it already is . To propel The Bees ever upward. To maintain a stranglehold over our visitors that, and not to put any pressure on Thomas, hasn’t seen us slip up at home since the dark days of the Marinus experiment back in 2015.

No pressure Thomas. No pressure…..      

Roll on 2.01pm when we see who he starts with.  Roll on 3pm when it all kicks off.

See you there. Enjoy.

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Any excuse to crowbar this one in – no pressure, Thomas.

Nick Bruzon