Tag Archives: Neal Maupay

“Thrilled for Woods” as Brentford beat Leeds United whilst Birmingham City learn their 10 times table.

5 Nov

Thrilled for Woods”. Not my words but those used by one New Road observer outside The Griffin last night to summarise a wonderful 3-1 win for Brentford over Leeds United. And with a Birmingham City side featuring Harlee Dean going down 2-0 at Barnsley, it means the Bees are now ten points and ten places better than the Blues in the current Championship table.

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View from the Braemar – Ryan Woods and team mates also thrilled

But enough about Birmingham City. For now. Brentford deserve all the attention as the unbeaten run moves to 9 games – a period which saw us notch up a fifth win with Leeds United put to the sword in as one sided an encounter as you could hope to see. But for a brief period in the second half when the scores were levelled up, our illustrious opponents barely got a look in.

By that point the game should have been out of sight. Neal Maupay had given us an early lead, heading home after twenty minutes following a complete howler from goalkeeper Andy Lonergan. Going to gather a Barbet cross, he got his hands to the ball before spilling it straight in front of the lurking Frenchman. There was no be no (second) mistake. 1-0 and cruising.

So comfortable was it that the Bees could even afford to miss a penalty (plus ça change) on the stroke of half time. Ollie Watkins firing high into the away support after Maupay was adjudged to have been felled in the box. No matter, going in a goal up and dominant, surely we’d learn the lessons from early season and continue to turn the screw?

Alas not. With Leeds clearly coming back into it, Dan Bentley made an almost like for like repeat of Lonergan’s earlier faux pas. The only difference being our man didn’t even get his hands to the ball and that was it. 1-1 and game on Leeds United. Yet unlike earlier in the season there was to be no capitulation. Quite the opposite.

Rather than struggle though the rest of the game, the Bees kept going and going. The magnificent Yoann Barbet, as unlikely a successor to Sam Saunders as one could expect, eventually restored the lead with five minutes to go. His free kick going low into the corner from the toughest of angles outside the box. And with Brentford fans still celebrating , the best was yet to come.

Ryan Woods, who had been pulling strings all evening, fired home a quite exquisite shot from outside the box for our third. Mokotjo picking out the midfielder perfectly and the Ginger Pirlo stroked it home with one touch. A laser guided rocket of a shot and all the more impressive for striking a ball coming straight to him without even needing to take an initial touch . Just beautiful.

In truth it could, and should, have been more. The penalty aside, Leeds were twice saved by the woodwork in the second half. First Watkins and then Nico Yennaris rattling the crossbar from distance. Does Nico shoot from anywhere else? Do check out the internet highlights – whether on Sky now  or later in the day when Mark Burridge’s version is released.

Official highlights are now up

The only downside was an injury to Andreas Bjelland who failed to appear for the second half. Like the absent Henrik Dalsgaard, his appearance for Denmark over International break in that World Cup qualifier potentially now in question. On the plus side, another chance for Chris Mepham to come on and impress. Again.

What else can you say about this one?  Well, the spirit in the Bees camp seems as positive as ever. Certainly judging by the post match banter on Twitter. What a delightful change from those accursed promises that “We go again“.

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Likewise, the onetime ‘curse of the cameras’ now seemingly something that been confined to the wastebin of history. The Bees can’t seem to lose when we are on TV these days. No bad thing with a televised trip to QPR coming up later this month and then ‘that’ game with Aston Villa in December. Hmmmm.

But that’s for then. For now, lets enjoy the moment. What an evening and what a finish – both to the game and for Ryan.

It wasn’t just that aforementioned observer who was thrilled for Woods but all of us. You could see what that goal meant to him and the fans. What a wonderful moment of celebration at Griffin Park and what a privilege to be part of it.

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Ryan and fans enjoy the moment

As for Birmingham City……

Harlee Dean can’t imagine how his nonsensical claim about them being ten times better than his former team mates has further galvanised Brentford and added to our momentum. Like Russell Slade’s moan that “They celebrated like they’d won the FA Cup”, it is something that will go down in Brentford legend.

Like Slade’s moan, could it inspire us to make further history? The table certainly suggests that the Bees are on the up.

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The table doesn’t lie

Nick Bruzon

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Bees get a draw, ref has a stinker and Matthew Benham says his piece.

27 Sep

Brentford 1 Derby County 1. Another game, another draw. We’ve now reached that magic 10 played marker, have eight points and sit in 20th place. Barring the statistical miracle of Birmingham City winning by 6 goals tonight when Sheffield Wednesday visit St. Andrews, it means that’s where we’ll be heading into Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough.

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Griffin Park always wonderful under floodlights

But if Birmingham winning by 6 would be a statistical miracle (come to think of it, the Blues just winning at the moment would be a case for the Pope in itself) then last night’s encounter at Griffin Park could be deemed much the same. Brentford ended it on 76% whilst the first half alone concluded with Derby seeing just 17.3% of the ball. Talk about one way traffic. On paper. Yet there was no irony lost in the Rams going in for their half time cuppa with a one-nil lead under the belts after Joe Ledley was given the freedom of Griffin Park to head across the goal and past Dan Bentley with little more than a quarter hour gone.

It was goal that sparked fury amongst the Brentford defence. Well, certainly hand waving and accusations at each other. But then when you watch the Sky Highlights you’ll see why. Truly, schoolboy defending given the space afforded to the Welsh international.

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Sloppy defending gifted Derby the lead

But from there, that was it from Derby. Rather than play to win they seemed intent on playing to foul. One would have thought it was Keith Stroud in the middle rather than, apparently, acting as fourth official given the flurry of first half yellow cards and poor decisions made by referee Andy Davies. Andre Wisdom in particular can count himself very lucky that his own poor judgement, charging in on Romaine Sawyers by the angry mob in the paddock, saw him given just a caution.

It was a refereeing performance that continued right to the end where, with Ollie Watkins bearing down on goal, the ref called time as the wideman was about to shoot. It was a decision which summed up his night – Davies, not Watkins. The youngster having minutes earlier scored an equaliser for the Bees from close in that our balance of play, if not our shots, had suggested would be coming.

Derby were big, dirty and physical. Brentford were given minimal protection from the ref. How this one ended 11 v 11 I still have no idea. Yet, equally, Gary Rowett’s men did a job on us. They were solid, resolute and Dean Smith’s team had no way past them. Balls were passed sideways and backwards time and again in a bid to break through. Substitutions were lacklustre and like for like, with no visible attempt to change formation or tactic. Purely adjustments to personnel. That said, Chris Mepham really did impress when he came off the bench for Andreas Bjelland at half time.

Our own shot target wasn’t in the same ball park as our possession but you can’t deny this team keep on going. This team have guts. This team kept playing. And eventually our persistence and domination was rewarded by that man Watkins as he slid home FloJo’s cross.

Should we have won? Possibly. Did we deserve more? Well, no. Sadly. Goals are what win games. Not stats. There is a grudging respect to Derby for playing a certain way. A way we couldn’t get through. Gary Rowett had done his homework and set out his stall. Poor Neal Maupay, dwarfed by the Derby defence, struggled desperately and needed either support or to be given a break. Josh Clarke and Ryan Woods, both amongst our most positive players, were removed early. At one point the disembodied voice of Peter Gilham , commentating on our Oktoberfest Oompah Band from the back of the stand, was the highlight of the first half.

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The extent of our first half oomph, ah

But the team kept going. The team plugged away. The team would eventually get the equaliser that sent the fans home relieved.

Matthew Benham would later make a rare foray onto Twitter where he had a few things to say. Alongside his own criticism of the ref there was more than a fair share for the supporters as he noted :

A really excellent performance tonight from a young, hungry side, created the vast majority of chances. Think the moaners must’ve been watching a different game! #brentfordfc

1. Yes I know boos at the end were for the ref 2. Can’t see how constantly getting on the backs of players DURING the game helps the team.

Fair? Well, I thought we struggled at times. Not in terms of being outplayed but in terms of trying to break through the opposition. As a football fan, I’m somebody who has been brought up on the unconventional tactic of trying to get the ball into the net. Perhaps I’m just out of touch. The self-confessed numpty on the terrace rather than Head Coach. Indeed, at full time Dean would talk about how well we’d stuck to our game plan and the quality of the opposition.

That latter point in particular, one that can’t be ignored. Yet what Dean and Matthew both, perhaps, overlook is that as paying fans we go into a game with a certain level of expectation. Winning the game. That’s what football is about. Surely?

We don’t have the involvement of almost being too close. Of being within that inner circle. Of seeing what goes on behind the scenes. Of being the ones stumping up the cash for the players and the stadium. What we have seen so far is our heroes sold from under our feet (for well documented reasons), some shocking defensive lapses that have turned potential victories into defeat or draw and an average of less than a point a game after reaching that magical ten game mark with a solitary victory under the belt.

That’s not to say we’ll support them any less. That’s not to say we have that divine right to ‘be any good’. I love watching the Bees but do reserve anyone’s right to shout at times. This is West London, not North Korea. I have huge respect for our owner and understand the frustration from his perspective.  But I think he was wrong on this one. If nothing else, I didn’t even hear that much moaning from my seat on the touchline. It wasn’t a great game to watch. It was a physical battle that we were often second best in. It was also a game where our team were offered minimal protection from a fussy referee.

But it was also a game that showed we keep going. So often, Brentford teams of old have just given up. Have accepted defeat. This isn’t the Butcher era. The days of Leroy are gone. I don’t agree with everything Dean does tactically in his role as head coach. But I support this club come thick or thin. I’m well pleased with another point in what were really tricky circumstances.

At the same time, I’ll never admit that last night was any form of classic. It wasn’t. It was a game that shows just how tough this league can be. It was game where we eventually got what, on balance, we deserved through grit and determination.

Saturday will be another tough challenge, no doubt. But with Middlesbrough losing at home last night (0-1 to Norwich City) is there a chink in their armour we can exploit?

Roll on the weekend when we find out.

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Matthew says his piece on Twitter at full time

Nick Bruzon

Decisions to be made. Will we get off the mark today?

23 Sep

Matchday. Winless Brentford travel to, erm, winless Bolton Wanderers with Dean Smith in confident mood. He used yesterday’s press conference to tell us: “In terms of how we play, then more of the same will certainly put us on the road to getting a win“.

Agreed, IF we keep up the good bits for a full 90 minutes. IF we are able to change how we play should things not be going to plan. IF we don’t need to rely on refereeing decisions to sink or save us.

As a management team and playing squad those people out there pulling the strings and kicking the balls need to take collective responsibility for performances. It’s not the fault of the paying supporters who, being honest, have been remarkably fair. Whatever has been said on social media where the keyboard warrior is king (and nobody forces anybody to read that), there hasn’t been any dissent where it really counts – the game.

Outside of the Norwich ‘performance’ in the cup (and I use that word at its loosest after we’d aped the Marinus/Oxford farce), there’s been none of the booing or moaning one might expect for a side at the foot of the table and without a win after almost 20% of the league campaign.

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No real booing to date.

It was interesting to note Dean used his briefing to also note this, saying “On the whole, our supporters have been very patient” as well as adding that “expectation and pressure is only built up from outside. The pressure we put on ourselves in the eighth or ninth game is no different to the first game”. You can read this in full on ‘official’

Expectation IS building up on the outside, Dean. Of course it is. This is our team and we want to win. Especially given the much touted quality of our squad. Indeed, I expect a win. Wins even. No question. I’m realistic enough to think the title may be a step too far but does that make me a bad person for hoping we should be able to pick up three points every now and again?

Even prior to the transfer window closing, where we still had the likes of Maxime Colin and Jota available. Stupidity at the back against Bristol City and Nottingham Forest saw us pick up 1 point instead of 6. The opening periods in the games at Ipswich Town and then the visit of Reading should have had us out of sight. By all accounts we dominated Aston Villa and were unlucky not to leave that one with a W.

So today is the day. Today IS the day. The BBC tell us that super computer SAM, the Sports Analytics Machine, is calling this as 54% chance of an away win. Having checked my online bookmaker (for research purposes only), they see Bolton at 5/2 and the Bees at evens for the win. However, having done that I made my excuses and left. If Mrs. Bruzon is reading, no bet was placed. Honest.

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SAM calls this one as ‘away’

It won’t be as simple as the odds make out. Dean was the first to acknowledge how determined Bolton will be to break their own duck whilst admitting that he’s “clashed swords with Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin many times. You know you are going to be in for a battle.

With our head coach confirming there’s still no Sergi Canos or Lasse Vibe, it’s a case of as you were for his selection options. Which two of three play at centre back this week? Surely Josh Clarke to push up on the right ahead of Henrik ?

Does the (currently) misfiring Neal Maupay keep his place up top? Could there be a start for Justin Shaibu who was denied a beauty against Norwich by the thickness of paint on the inside of the post. Curse that meddling groundsman. Had it not been for his attention to detail we might have scored. Or how about goal scoring Ollie Watkins?

As for midfield, the impressive Romaine Sawyers was off this season’s pace against Reading but I’m sure he’ll be back in alongside Ryan and Nico with the likes of Kamo and Josh (M) on the bench.

And this is as much our problem as Dean’s . Just who is the starting XI? Who is the preferred team? It’s great having a squad but you also need some consistency. Chopping and changing every game , whether forced by circumstance or through deliberate choice, is not an ideal means of playing football.

But if we and Dean (at least, in public) don’t know, then you can be sure Bolton do. And, being quite honest, whatever pressure and expectation there is I still think we’ll have far, far too much in us for this one.

Prediction time: I’m with SAM. Dean will be able to sleep easy tonight. The Bees will open the gap over Bolton to five points and, with Tuesday’s visitor Derby County hosting Birmingham City, there could be further distance made between us and Brentford reserves. Gary Rowett will no doubt be desperate to prove a further point to his former employers and it’s a result that I for one could also get behind.

It’s one theory. I hope for all our sakes that at 5pm it proves to be the correct one.

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Dean Smith – hopefully he’ll inspire us to victory today

Nick Bruzon

Bees have to settle for another point as Birmingham lose (but win the sack race).

17 Sep

Brentford 1 Reading 1. Eight league games down and the Bees still to register a win. Yet a point was, at the least, sufficient to take us above a Birmingham City side who lost their sixth successive game and consequently sacked manager Harry Redknapp. Oh please, stop sniggering. And with basement club Bolton Wanderers losing again, it puts even more significance on our own trip to the Macron this Saturday.

What can you say about our own performance at Griffin Park? Well, the first half was as good as the second was poor whilst referee Tony Harrington had a stinker. It’s a shame that the highlights now available on Sky don’t show either of the two seemingly nailed on penalties denied the Bees – Romaine Sayers in the first half and Neal Maupay in the second. Gut reaction to both was that a spot kick should have been awarded but, instead, he ruled in favour of Reading.

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Reading were the latest visitors to Griffin Park

As for their penalty to equalise Josh Clarke’s sublime opener, it was about as soft as they come. Rico Henry alleged to have shoved Tyler Blackett as a free kick drifted past and into touch. The Reading man pulling off a Norman Wisdom pratt fall to fool the ref and present his team the chance to level things up. It was a chance that was gratefully accepted.

But again, we’re hanging on arbitrary moments of refereeing indecision. The game should have been put to bed long before that. The Bess dominated and the goal from man of the match Josh no more than our pressure and play deserved. An exchange of passes with Neal Maupay in the box saw him fire home from a tight angle with defenders bearing down.

At the risk of cracking out the ‘déjà vu’ line once more, this is exactly what we got. Tons of possession. Tons of pressure and despite a first half lead (Reading still remain the only Championship club not to get a goal in the opening 45) there was a sense of the inevitable about what came next.

Whilst Jaap Stam read his team the riot act, Dean Smith seemed to have read his a bedtime story. Talk about the game of two halves. The pressure game disappeared and instead we seemed content to try and contain. To be fair, this was working ok until the ref intervened. And at that point you then pay the price for not killing it off.

Dean would later lambast Mr Harrington and his officials to the BBC, telling them that: ”Two of our boys have been tackled from behind and we get nothing”. “Three of their players were already on bookings and some of the tackles were just allowed to go on. All we are asking for is consistency. I didn’t think the referee was very good today”. “We are talking about five big decisions and only one has been given and that can’t be right at this level with professional officials”.

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The Bees had to rely on themselves rather than the officials

Fair enough and true enough. But it goes back to the same old adage about taking chances when they present themselves. Yet again there seemed this endless desire to pass it across the face of the box and walk it into the net when just shooting would have been the order of the day.

Here are three more quotes for you.

7(seven) year old supporter Felix Watts summarising at full time : “The only thing we had to do today was shoot. Really quickly. When they were in the penalty box at Griffin Park all we had to do was shoot but we kept passing it.

Fulham manger Slavisa Jokanovic after his team’s midweek 2-1 win over Hull City: “You cannot create 100 chances before scoring. You must be clinical and show more quality…..This is a similar story (to other games this season), we are dominating. I was worried and it was not a healthy game for us and our supporters.

Dean Smith (in an article you can read in full on ‘official’) : “We are eight games in and I haven’t seen a team that is better than us so far. I feel we were on a par with Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are a really good team, but we are still waiting for our first win.”

I’ll leave it to you as to who is talking most sense at this point.

Genuinely, I feel for Dean. His team aren’t getting the breaks. Reading had only two chances of note and took one. His team WAS denied by a referee set to ‘random’. At least he has said his piece on that, no matter what retribution may follow.  Watching from the stands, it was infuriating how many decisions seemed to go the wrong way. Having now seen the full highlights (below) with the mid-day curfew having been met, the non-penalties look even worse. The foul on Romaine especially whilst the decision to penalise Mauapy at the end one I’m still struggling with.

One can symapthise with Dean over the refereeing performance

But at the same time the malaise and self-pity now seems infectious. The second half performance was just phoned in with little attempt to change formation or tactics and we paid the ultimate price.

Did the Bees deserve to win? Probably. Dean can count himself very hard done by. Yet by the same virtue results have to be earned. Stats, possession and percentages count for naff all compared to balls in the net. We are only eight games in but if we are talking stats then an average of 0.5 points per game is not the mark of a team better than the third of the division we’ve already played.

Still, let’s look positive. We’ve received £12million from Birmingham City (going on the figures quoted in Ben Burgess’ programme column) for three players who are yet to pick up a point. The Blues lost again – that’s all three since they concluded their transfer business – and Harry has now been shown the door at St. Andrews following his team’s 1-3 home defeat to Preston. Hey, at least they got their first goal since the window slammed shut.

“Another rebuild. More turmoil after bringing in all those players. No time to gel. #Crazy. #JustCrazy”. Not my words but those of BBC roving reporter Clem on Twitter as the news broke of this and two other sackings yesterday as Chesterfield and Port Vale also pulled the plug.

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Clem’s gut reaction says it all

This, some something he would later change to: Horrible run. But is this chopping & Changing really workable? 

Sadly, I fear it is . In this instance.

Birmingham City have now slid beneath The Bees with only Bolton Wanderers keeping the pair of us off the bottom. The same Bolton Wanderers we travel to on Saturday. However, the Blues moved quickly  with Lee Carsley taking temporary charge at St.Andrews. We all know what he can do and you can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll get them firing quicker than you can say ‘transfer window.’

Lee more than steadied the ship at Griffin Park after the woeful Marinus experiment came to an end, even scooping the October 2015 manager of the month award. There were many who hoped he would stay on full time although that was something never in his scope, a point that was made clear from the off. But now Birmingham have the opportunity to benefit from a similar stint – presumably until Steve Bruce becomes available soon.

Lee will no doubt re-inject some vitality and confidence into Birmingham City. The big question is whether Dean can do the same to his ‘unlucky’ Bees before the chance to nail Bolton to the bottom presents itself on Saturday.

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A point sees the Bees rise above big spending Birmingham

Nick Bruzon

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

3 Sep

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

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It really happened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

Today’s the day. For more than one reason.

26 Aug

Brentford are back at Griffin Park today, hot off the heels of that 4-1 humping administered to QPR in the Haribo cup. The visitors, Wolves, themselves midweek winners at Premier League Southampton. And now back in league action its a case of Jota v Jota. Hopefully. The original and best v the temporary incumbent of that name. At least until the EFL decreed he was to be known as Diogo José Teixeira da Silva rather than the nickname with which he was first introduced to the Molineux faithful.

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We say ‘hopefully’. Our own Jota, of course the subject of two transfer bids – neither of which have come anywhere close to the club’s valuation. That, according to Dean Smith in the midweek press conference. Instead the player remains ready and available. With Sergi Canos back in training, too, could supporters be treated to the return of the Spanish duo at Griffin Park this afternoon? Or could there be an 11th hour recurrence of the lower back injury? See also: Scott Hogan’s buttocks. And calf.

Here’s hoping both players are fit and available, although Dean Smith has some tough choices ahead of the Wolves game after the midweek mayhem handed out at QPR. I for one wouldn’t want to be in his shoes with some interesting decisions ahead of him.

Egan and Barbet at CB, surely? Will Maxime retain his place on the right? Josh Clarke tore it up ahead of him on Tuesday night whilst Neal Maupay is an undoubted starter, regardless of how fit Lasse Vibe is. The finish from Romaine Sawyers’ magnificent through ball on Tuesday night was exquisite. Although credit, once more, to Romaine. Along with Neal one of the standout players so far this season.

Then there’s Ryan Woods. Is it too soon for him to rejoin the starting XI? Who loses their place if so? Sometime captain Nico? Will Kamo be given a rest? Tough choices all round in a bid to find the perfect balance for a team who are bottom of the nascent table.

As for Wolves, they currently sit in third place. Nuno Espírito Santo’s team have three wins out of four under the belt already, with their only defeat coming at the hands of current league leaders Cardiff City. And, of course, there was that morale boosting win on the road at Southampton in the EFL cup on Wednesday. With the speed the draw for round four was being made, I’m guessing they are due to find out their own opponents by about Monday afternoon.

I’ve not seen enough of Wolves to know how well they are playing relative to results. But victories over Middlesbrough and Hull City are not to be sniffed at in any season or at any point in the campaign. I’ve not doubt it’ll be another huge test for The Bees but one I’m very much looking forward to. Since we crossed paths once more back in League One, our clubs have followed a very similar trajectory. This, despite Wolves’ rich tapestry of historical form and massive fan base.

Here’s hoping today sees another exciting chapter in the story. Albeit, ending in three points for Dean Smith.

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Who wins in the latest battle of Wolves v Bees ?

Before this there are two huge events. Greville Waterman will be hosting a book signing in the club shop for his latest tome : OOH-AAH: The Bob Booker Story . The book does what it says on the tin, to coin a phrase, and is my current reading material of choice. Whilst I’m nowhere near finishing another voluminous effort, so far, so good. Nice one  Greville.

And he won’t be alone at the signing table today either. None other than Bob himself will also be present in the club shop from 2pm.

Yet the day’s non-footballing event is undoubtedly the fan forum in the church hall at St. Pauls, where supporters have the chance to put their questions to Cliff Crown and Mark Devlin (amongst others) in regards to the revamped stadium plans. Many of these have now been anticipated / further stoked (delete as applicable) by the personal message to supporters published yesterday by Matthew Benham.

We’ve no doubt all read this by now, although there’s a link here if not. As has been noted previously on these pages, the change in plans are disappointing to many whilst decisions around the club shop and, especially, The Hive are hard to fathom. These, all points acknowledged by Matthew.

As we’ve also noted on these pages, we aren’t going to get a choice in any build or substantial decision. Like it or not, and many don’t, that’s not how these things work. Matthew cuts to the chase telling fans: “In my opinion, it would make sense to consult only when such a consultation would be meaningful. In this instance, my concerns over the risks of the stadium build and business model took overwhelming precedence over a consultation which would not have ultimately impacted on what needed to be done.

For me (Clive) the most telling line was the penultimate one, which read: “We will continue with a transfer policy which will help to fill the rest of the funding gap”. Is this an indication that the likes of Jota and Harlee, both the subject of intense rumour in recent weeks, could be leaving imminently? Or that we will continue to buy the unknown but the potential filled?

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Harlee. Could he be looking away from Griffin Park soon?

Communication on the subject of the stadium has been drip fed out of the club in a seemingly strange order. Did Matthew have to do this letter? Perhaps not but given the close bond between supporters and our family like club, talking to us to explain his reasoning for these decisions is only a sensible step.

Does he need to ask / listen to us? Well, he’s the man who has pumped all the money in and who has already built a wonderful team on the pitch. His ball, his rules. We all happily exchanged our BU shares for this new lease of life. For this new Brentford. For this survival.

Should we have been engaged more along the line? Again, his decision and his view about this seems quite categoric. Yet at the same time, regardless of the eventual size bums still need to go on seats. Especially if the riches of the Premier League ever run dry or remain out of reach. We may not be paying for it up front but we are the ones who will be coming along in the future.

3000 empty premium seats when Barnsley, Burton or beyond come visiting could present an interesting sight. Ultimately, we want Griffin Park or Lionel Road. Not club Wembley where vast swathes of empty seats are so often on view in the middle of the stadium.

It’s going to be really interesting to hear some of the rationale behind the rebuild. About the premium pricing. About why none of this was originally considered / realised when , in Matthew’s own words: “A complicated build process, for a complex stadium design, on a difficult site to develop, was likely to lead to further delays and further escalating costs and thus endanger successful completion”.

Yet, the size of the site and the surrounding infrastructure hasn’t changed. And this not to criticise per se – we’re getting a brand new stadium –  but to understand. It has been a long and emotional journey for all of us. If not investing the millions, we have invested our lives into supporting this team and this club. We’ve put our hands in our pockets and our money into the buckets when the club was at its lowest pint. We’ve fought off the impending QPR takeover. Said farewell to Mr. We££ and tried to clear up after Ron Noades. You may not know this, but one fanzine even bought a player.

I can’t wait for Wolves at 3pm. But I’m equally keen to hear what Cliff and Mark have to say at 12.30.

See you there.

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Nick Bruzon

West London is ours. Who’s up next, whenever that is?

23 Aug

Somebody’s going to get a spanking soon enough“. Words used on these pages after the last few games as Brentford have seen dominance, possession and chances undone by bad luck and the odd moment of defensive ‘frailty’. Well, thankfully for The Bees it was QPR who were the right team in the wrong place. A 4-1 Carabao cup victory saw our biggest ever win at Loftus Road, a record that goes back to the first ever league meeting back in 1920. That’s just shy of a century. Our biggest away win against QPR in pretty much 100 years. Suck that one up, stat fans.

What a performance. With six of the team who played at Ipswich named once more, this wasn’t the wholesale revamp predicted by many. And hasn’t Dean Smith now been given a headache for the Wolves match on Saturday?

Flo Jo opened the scoring after just ten minutes. Shortly after doing so, his cross-cum-shot was redesignated as simply a cross and an o.g. chalked up to QPR defender Ariel Borysiuk. No matter, they all count and from that moment the die was cast.

Captain John Egan doubled the lead soon after. If we’ve had issues with some defensive curios in recent weeks, Rangers boss Ian Holloway must be having nightmares right now. How much space? Still, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. Subsequent viewing of the Sky Sports highlights show just what that one meant to him.

Egan socres v QPR

And you could see exactly what that one meant to him etc etc etc

But like an additional pizza cutter given away free with with a set of cooking knives on an infomercial, still there was more. Brentford’s third, on the half hour, was a thing of beauty. Romaine Sawyers, with confidence oozing through his body this season, cut the home team in half as easily as if he was serving up a ‘Ham and Pineapple’ with a ball that took out five players in one pass. Neal Maupay latched onto the end of it. His first time shot flying high into the back of the net from the edge of the box. It really was my pick of the bunch and due reward for both players.

Maupay has hit the ground running since coming from France. It is no wonder Brighton were interested in the player and testament to our scouting team that he has joined the Griffin Park revolution. As for Romaine Sawyers, what another (metaphorical) two fingers up to last season’s critics – where are they now? Nice one , Romaine 🙂

Likewise do check out the Sky highlights for the reaction of one home fan in the corner. This, shortly before the fire drill sounded. Just because you’re losing….. A goal every ten minutes and the QPR defence looking flakier than a leper eating a Cadbury’s chocolate bar in a bath. Could we be in line for those mythical brackets that come with 7 (seven) ?

Alas not. But to complain about such a thing would be trite. QPR got going (again?). One back before halftime saw a brief flurry in the second period but it was far too little, far too late. Josh Clarke made things safe to complete the evacuation of Loftus Road on 83 minutes. What a performance. What a result.

Yet perhaps the most telling moment of the night was the return to action of Ryan Woods. Named on the bench, he was applauded by the entire Brentford contingent. You won’t see much about his appearance in the mainstream match reports but we all knew what it meant. Its wonderful to see him back in what must have been really emotional circumstances.

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Emma Briden nails it on Twitter

All of which meant yours truly has been somewhat excited ever since. I slept in the spare room last night so as not to wake up Mrs Bruzon, having set the alarm for 4.10 am (apparently yes, there is a 4 AM, too) to see who we’ll get in the third round.

And so six hours later there was that ungodly clarion call. Bleary eyed, on came Sky Sports . There was ‘Through The Night’, but no cup draw. Did Chanel 5 have it? No.

A flick around the channels but it was nowhere. Not on the BBC. Not even ‘Dave’. Perhaps the Carabao Cup was going to extreme lengths and those ladies from the less salubrious channels ‘at the end of the dial’ were hosting it ? No. No. It wasn’t cup balls they seemed to be pulling. From a hat or otherwise. Move along. Fast.

Then it clicked. It was Wednesday morning. The Beijing based draw is 4.15am on Thursday. Well, thanks Carabao. Is this all just a ploy to make me consume your energy drink later in the day. Out of principal, I’m now going for Red Bull.

On the plus side, getting up early its given a chance to watch the highlights once more. Definitely the highlights.

Roll on THURSDAY morning and another night in the spare room. It’ll be worth it. I hope.

Buzzette REd Bull

No Carabao for this Bees fan. It’s the Red Bull cup today

Nick Bruzon

Bees get off the mark with plenty of positives on show.

16 Aug

Well, that was some day. We had contrasting announcements made about Lionel Road whilst on pitch Brentford hosted Bristol City and ended the game having taken a point but feeling, quite honestly, as though we’d lost. This after Bobby Reid delivered the ultimate kick to the knackers with his 98th minute equaliser. Yet it all seemed inconsequential given the desperately sad news announced by Ryan Woods just before kick off.

First up, Bristol City . What can you say? Well, Dean Smith has come out fighting with the observation that, “If we play like that, week in week out, then we will be a top six team“. Adding , “It was the most one-sided game in the Championship I have been involved in. How we didn’t get three points is beyond me .”

All true Dean. All true. You can read his full piece on Brentford ‘official’ but there was an almost inevitable familiarity about the way this one ended. Inability to clear the ball led to Brentford conceding an early goal courtesy of right winger Josh Brownhill but from that moment on it was the proverbial one way traffic.

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Josh Brownhill’s opener is celebrated on twitter

Brentford were quite delicious going forward. Jota and Romaine amongst those really testing Frank Fielding (whose name conjured up images of some Victorian musical performer) in the City goal. Both the keeper and the framework denying the marauding Bees who ended the half a goal down but with 69% possession and 13 attempts to City’s 1. Surely our luck would change as the game wore on?

Sure enough, it did.

With the quite wonderful Romaine Sawyers and Ollie Watkins pulling the strings – both of whom were among five changes for a Dean Smith team that also saw the return of Harlee Dean (although Nico retained the armband) – it took just ten minutes into the second period before parity was restored.

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Harlee was back in the starting XI

Jota, whose game plan seemed to consist of either shoot on sight, cut inside or ping it to the back stick opting for the last of these tricks as the modern day Paul Daniels dropped a ball onto the head of Ollie Watkins to power home. Griffin Park erupted. Better delivery than Postman Pat. Better execution than John Wilkes Booth. They were my words on Twitter at the time and I stand by them.

But the Bees pushed on. Chance followed chance before Neal Maupay, barely on the pitch for five minutes after replacing Lasse Vibe, fired home from the edge of the box. Back of the net. Pick that out. 2-1 Brentford. Perhaps, finally, our possession, domination and chances would be rewarded.

Alas, no. A lengthy injury to Josh McEachran (ankle) saw a butt clenching 8 minutes of added time shown on the board. Even Fielding joined the attack as the Bees held on. And on. Until virtually the last kick of the game when Bobby Reid did that thing. Urghh.

A combination of ricochets and inability to hoof clear a ball bouncing around the box after a fine save from Daniel Bentley saw silence decend on Griffin Park. Except from the away fans who were understandably ecstatic. What fighting spirit from the visitors.

It was oh so reminiscent of the 3-3 with Brighton last season where we were left feeling as thought we’d snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. As ever, the goals are up on the internet c/o Sky .

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Brentford had most of the control but ended with a share of the points

87 minutes on the back foot and one spawny goal. Their ‘keeper had nothing to do all second half.” Not my words but those of one Bristol City fan in The Griffin at full time. Even this morning I feel as though I’ve taken a massive punch to the gut, such is the feeling of numbness about the result although that could just be the five slices of cold pizza that Mrs B left for me to hoover up upon the return home.

Yet whilst I expected Dean to come out with the lines he did – he’s head coach – hearing this view from the other side gives some comfort today. Somebody is going to get a proper spanking soon. The preferred starting XI is beginning to take shape with Sawyers and Watkins surely nailed on. We’ve Sergi to come back and, likewise, Ryan whenever he is ready. This is still very much a squad and a force to be reckoned with.

Next up, a trip to Ipswich Town. They’re one of three teams with a 100% record – along with Cardiff City and a Wolves side who come to Griffin Park on Saturday week .

The Championship doesn’t get any easier. But it certainly keeps us on our toes.

Off field, there was the stadium news. Two very differing announcements were made by the club and BIAS in regards to the proposed changes in plans for Lionel Road (including capacity reduction from 20,000 to 17,500) and the details around this. Our fans’ group very much delving into the logistics which made for some confused reading. Surely they’ve got this wrong? And if not, why would the club only share part of the announcement ?

At the end of the day (Clive) I’m just the numpty on the terrace. The likes of Beesotted and BIAS do a great job supporting the fans and promoting the club. It’s great they’ve been involved in getting the news out although presumably there’s more to come clarifying the detail?

Putting this nonsense together the morning after the night before is fun, but its not a job. I’m not a journo. I’m not Billy Grant who never seems to sleep, such is his prodigious output. Something as emotive and important as this needs to be digested. Properly. More to follow on this one tomorrow.

As for Ryan Woods, there are no words. All we can do is respect his privacy and know that the entire Brentford family is thinking of him. Know that there is copious amounts of love heading the way of him and his family.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Bruzon

Nottingham Forest 4: The invisible defence. And is this the Lionel Road news?

13 Aug

1-0 up on 40 minutes. 3-1 down after 47 minutes. Brentford not so much threw this one away as gift wrapped it, wrote ‘SWALK’ on the label and hand delivered the points to Mark Warburton in the Nottingham Forest dugout. One of only three teams in the Championship without a point, the Bees will be looking to get off the mark against Bristol City on Tuesday night. Moreso, given so much of our attacking play in the opening two league games has suggested we deserve an awful lot more.

But regular readers know the drill here. Deserving counts for nothing. Balls in the back of the net are all we look to when the points are being counted up. Likewise, the table only starts to take on a real shape when we are ten games into the campaign.

Put it this way, at this stage two seasons ago we were four points better off and with Marinus at the helm. And look how that opening period to a season would eventually play out…

We will look back the goals that we conceded and see if we can improve from there”, Dean Smith told ‘official’ after the game. Dean, if we can’t then there is something seriously wrong. If Billy Sharp’s winner for Sheffield United saw us go walkabout, then this was the stuff of the worst horror sequels. Nottingham Forest 4 : The invisible defence.

The 1st team defence – static

The fourth goal in particular was one which would see the word ‘shambolic’ trending on Twitter. At least, in TW8. Sky have the video highlights up already. Do take a look. If you want a lesson in how to coned a goal then here it was. More frustrating was the fact that it came after Brentford had hauled themselves back into things at 2-3 down. Andreas Bjelland’s effort correctly adjudged to have crossed the line, even though it looked a close call from the Bramear Road and those Ealing Road wags situated directly behind the goal. It was no more than the build up of pressure had suggested would be coming until it then all went South. Again.

Positives? Well, first up let’s give due praise to Forest and, in particular, Andreas Bouchalakis. His brace helped secure the points but the second, just after half time, was a beautiful strike from distance that even had some of the home fans clapping. Credit where it’s due – it was a wonderful finish.

For Brentford, there was no shortage of effort going forward. Ollie Watkins impressed, along with Flo Jo and Kamo. There was a first league goal for Neal Maupay and it wouldn’t surprise me to see all four start against Bristol City. Along with Romaine Sawyers who gave his all and got stuck in, coming on from the bench.

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View from the Braemar – Rico Henry helps Brentford ‘push up’ in the first half

Yet these are all nice problems to have. It is the back four where Dean has real decisions to make. He stuck to his guns in benching Harlee but would also note afterwards that, “You have to play to the best of your ability to keep the shirt. It is too early to say for Tuesday but maybe conceding four goals we need to change things.”

Is this his way of welcoming the former captain back into the fold? Have Harlee’s contract negotiations now moved further in the player’s favour?  Could Maxime Colin win back his place in the starting XI ? Is it simply a case of ‘a bad day at the office’ in a season that is only 180 minutes old?

Certainly, I’m not overly stressed although would much rather be winning than losing.  We’ve a lot of new players come in over the summer. The attacking intent is clear for all to see and this is, as much, all about the team gelling. First things first though, let’s get the basics right. And that starts with not conceeding silly, soft goals.

The other two big talking points were Mark Warburton and Lionel Road. The former making his return to Griffin Park after leaving us at the end of 2014/15. Yet despite all the talk prior to kick off, in the end his presence seemed to be largely treated with the ambivolence reserved for a.n.other manager.

Indeed, the main subject for discussion was his attire – which consisted of a green polo shirt tucked deep in to his sports shorts. If anything, he looked less table topping manager and more ’extra from TV’s The Brittas Empire’ (one for the over 30s amongst us).

Brittas Warbs

Mark Warburton – always one to pursue new options

As for Lionel Road, everybody seems resigned to Tuesday’s stadium announcement being a capacity reduction. Although in what specific context? Could this be to accommodate any form of ‘safe standing’ zone?  Could Get West London journalist Tom Moore have been miles off the mark from his scoop during the week? And if not, how has he got hold of this news, let alone been allowed to leak it (unless this was to ‘soften the blow’)? Or could it be something else?

Something like a monorail?

Being a long standing fan of the club, Matthew Benham will be more than familiar with that story which was originally proposed as part of a new ground as far back as 2002. But that’s a scheme which has long since died a death – if for no other reason than the emergence of Cross Rail. And the chances of this one resurfacing are likely to be slim to none.

Certainly, the tweet from Independent fans group BIAS during the week suggested they weren’t happy about what is to come: We’ve been told of stadium changes & concerned at lack of consultation. We’ll work with ‪@beesotted & others to get info to fans + fan views.

Which blows my theory out of the water. Tuesday could be interesting. Of pitch, a potential announcement and on field the visit of Bristol City.

Here’s to getting everything back on the rails. Although perhaps not of the mono variety.

Lionel Road monorail

Could THIS be the Lionel Road news?

Nick Bruzon

Will we slip on another potato skin or dodge that lower league bullet ?

8 Aug

It seems like only five minutes ago that Brentford performed those League cup heroics against Hull City and Everton, before narrowly missing out on Round 5 via a last minute equaliser and penalties against Birmingham City at St. Andrews. Infact, it was 2010 and The Bees first XI included the likes of Mickey Spillane, Craig Woodman and Pim Balkestein. Whilst the squad has evolved from that small League One group it would be fair to say that our record in the competition hasn’t been a great one since then. Could Tuesday night’s game in Kingston against AFC Wimbledon see us get back to winning ways?

The wins over higher division Hull and Everton were wonderful occasions, no question. The latter in particular seeing a practically full strength Premier League team beaten by a never say die Brentford XI. Gary Alexander scored the equaliser and Charlie MacDonald even had the luxury of seeing a penalty saved before the eventual spot kick triumph. Richard Lee the man on form then.

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Gary Alexander does his thing against Everton. 1-1

Now, we are the team to be shot down. A high performing Championship club travelling to an AFC Wimbledon side whose own ascension through the divisions and struggle to find a home has been a story in itself. Yet the game presents a huge potato skin for a Brentford side that is sure to be changed one from that which lost out to Sheffield United on Saturday.

The last time we won a League Cup tie Montell Moore and Nick Proschwitz (not a typo) were amongst the scorers in that defence shredding 6-6 at Dagenham and Redbridge. Kevin O’Conor played what was, if I am correct, his last ever game for the Bees – scoring what proved to be the decisive spot kick in the subsequent shoot out.

Since then the wheels have come off somewhat. We lost at Griffin Park to Fulham. At the time, something of a rarity for the Cottagers whom we would go on to take 10 points out of 12 from over the course of the following four league games. Didn’t Jota do something in the last minute, too?

Then there was the humiliation handed out by Oxford United at home as the Marinus experiment came crashing down to earth with a bump. Regular readers may be aware this gets mentioned a lot but it is important to never forget how bad that was. The team he selected was one which, long term, had a few players who are now regular (Nico, Lasse, Andreas) but at the time was an untested mixture of youth and new faces. 3-0 down in 12 minutes, that we only lost 4-0 was the main miracle of the night.

It was the consummate example of the flawed logic in both wholesale, untested change and woeful man management. Never forget.

Marinus Oxford touchline

The Oxford United fiasco  / Marinus experiment (neither being prog rock bands)

Then last season it was the turn of Exeter City to dump us out in the first round. Despite Harlee Dean, John Egan, Josh Clarke and Sam Saunders amongst those picked, Brentford struggled to a 0-0 before Ryan Hartley got an extra time winner for the Grecians.

And now is the time to go again. I can only expect more change tonight but this time I fear for Wimbledon. Harlee is available after suspension.Yoann Barbet was benched on Saturday. Likewise Maxime Colin. Expect the pace of Josh Clarke down the flank and surely starts for Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins. I’d imagine Flo Jo will begin on the left with with a very strong bench, just in case.

As the higher placed team we’re there to be shot down, just as Everton and Hull were all those years ago. That’s one of the privileges of being a Championship side and, sadly, a bullet we’ve taken more than once in recent years.

Will this time around be any different? A full house of Bees fans will be there to roar us on with only 200 tickets remaining on the gate. Watch out for the traffic delays though and get there early.

See you there. Until then, here’s one of the highlights from the Everton game. When our mascot was told to keep holding the hand of his young counterpart, he took that instruction quite literally.

 

Nothing puts Peter Gilham off his stride

Nick Bruzon