Tag Archives: Newcastle United

Bring on the Blades. Time to chop down the Forest

5 Aug

For gods sake… you don’t want to go up Brentford’. ‘Smith out’. Just some of the tongue-in-cheek comments after Brentford crashed out of the play-off zone and down to eighth place as the Championship kicked off in anger on Friday night. A win for Nottingham Forest combined with a point apiece for Sunderland and Derby County saw the Bees overtaken before we’ve even got our boots on. But with the trip to Sheffield United finally here, the moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived.

Of course the table is purely in an embryonic and predominantly alphabetical state at present. Whilst Mark Warburton and his Nottingham Forest team will undoubtedly be pleased with the win that sends them temporarily top of the pile, it is nothing more than a statistical nicety for now. Newcastle United were bottom of the lot with nil points after two games last season and look how that all turned out.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 06.39.18

Forest top the lot. Temporarily, I’m sure

Yet to see things event starting to move around after months of 24 teams showing P 0 has got the spine tingling. Months of Aston Villa topping the lot by virtue of their place in the dictionary over the rest of the Championship. Thankfully, that statistical glitch has been resolved and the normal order of things can start to take hold once more with, for the record, their standard score of 1-1 available at 11/2 this afternoon when Hull City are the visitors. I mention this purely for research purposes.

But we digress. As ever. Today is all about Sheffield United and Brentford. Thankfully Keith Stroud is not in charge – and for anyone late to that party, let’s just say that when our big chance came a few years ago, he saw red. Plus ça change. Regular supporters know the drill at this point so let’s leave that one here. Another rant on his performance won’t help today’s proceedings.

Instead, Stephen Martin is in charge. His own record in 2016/17 was a very healthy 78 yellows from 35 games officiated. He only showed 3 red cards all season – ironically, the same amount as Stroud showed in that one night at Bramall Lane back in April 2013.

Mr. Martin was our own man in the middle just once let time out, as The Bees secured a 2-0 win over Ipswich Town in our opening home fixture of that campaign. John Egan grabbed a brace then but could he do it again today ?

Well, the one thing we can say is that Harlee Dean won’t feature today following his one match suspension that carried over from the end of last season. Given that ban and the injury to Sergi Canos, my own personal selection would be a starting XI comprising: Bentley, Colin, Egan, Barbet, Henry, Mokotjo, Woods, Jozefzoon, Jota, Wakins, Vibe.

Will Sergi be fit? Is Dean able to fit the wonderfully impressive Kamo and player’s player of the season Ryan Woods in the same team? Has Josh done enough pre-season to make it a real selection dilemma? Might we actually be able to hang on to Jota ? Who’d be a head coach? Tough decisions to be made today but what a nice position to be in.

IMG_9201

Jota impressed in the rain against Celta Vigo

As for Sheffield United, they’ll be up for this and then some. Of course, we all know Jack O’Connell and Simon Moore from Griffin Park, but the Blades are so much more than that. 100 points from a League One title winning campaign tells its own story whilst the likes Preston, Burton, of course the Bees and even Rotherham United (for a while) have shown how well teams can do when making that step up.

I very much expect Sheffield United to be in that category rather than joining the likes of Yeovil Town and Doncaster Rovers in bombing straight back out of the Championship and further down the leagues. Boo hoo. Shame. Move along now.

I’m struggling to call this one. The heart says Brentford, both teams to score and a narrow victory. But aswell as strong team we’ll be playing to a packed house and a crowd chomping at the bit for a taste of higher division football. Could the anticipation and expectation work to our advantage? Will it be the proverbial 12th man for the home side? Would we be happy to come home with a point ?

One things for sure, we’ve had three year’s experience playing at this level and at these marvellous stadia. Whomever Dean picks will be key. An obvious statement but he has as many personal decisions as tactical ones to make. The likes of Josh, Ryan, Andreas and Yoann will all be expecting too play. What about ever reliable Nico Yennaris?

Roll on 3pm when we find out. I cannot wait !

And as a foot note, huge congratulations to long time local boy Sir Mo Farah after his stunning performance in the World Championship athletics last night. There can’t be anyone who hasn’t warmed to his infectious enthusiasm and vast determination over the last ten years as he has made scooping gold medal after gold medal look almost effortless. His ‘golden’ post box near Isleworth station on the way through to Griffin Park is a constant reminder of just what he has achieved. Last night was yet another example of his incredible talent.

Nice one, Mo !

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

Kamo joins but will King Jota abdicate ? Reece Cole – what a goal !

8 Jul

Boom. That was a day and a half. Following weeks of tumbleweed, football has come back to Brentford with a bang. There’s been a new signing in Kamohelo Mokotjo.  We’ve had the first pre-season friendly with a 5-1 run out at Aldershot. Yet all the talk was of  the main man, Jota, missing that game following a deluge of transfer speculation involving the likes of West Ham, Newcastle, Brighton and just about any other name our local press could chuck at the story to generate click bait headlines and some form of substance.

And so, with the absolute greatest of respect to Kamo, we can only start with Jota. Everybody knows just what he did before going out on loan to Eibar for personal reasons and everybody knows just how incredibly he performed upon this return in January. His ability is staggering, his enthusiasm and love for the club is apparent and he is one of those rare players to unite all Brentford fans in a common opinion – namely just a wonderful player and, quite possibly, the most skillful we’ve had the privilege to watch in living memory.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 06.22.24

‘Official’ love him, too

Well, whatever nonsense/guesswork was going around cyberspace (and boy, here was an example of how a rumour can spread like wildfire thanks to social media), it was down to none other than Billy Reeves as the right man in the right place. His post match interview with Dean cut to the nub of the matter, where our head coach confirmed:

“Jota came to see me yesterday and he said that his agent has told him there’s a bid imminent from a Premier League club. He knows that club will want a massive bid….If the bid doesn’t come in and its not big enough Jota’s happy enough to stay at Brentford as a Brentford player”

This seemed to immediately rule out West Ham as potential suitors. The words ‘bid’ and ‘massive’ being anything but their style, as evidenced during the faffing around with Scott Hogan at Christmas. That, something which eventually worked to our advantage as the player moved to Aston Villa for a figure documented in the media (although officially undisclosed) as £15million.

Dean went on to add that,“It would have to be a massive bid to tempt the football club” , so the question is now, what happens next? And apologies if that puts anybody off their cornflakes with images of Phil Tufnell or Ally McCoist faux-flirting with Sue Barker.

Let’s rule out West Ham. His flair and skill would perhaps be at odds with their more industrial style of football whilst they’re generally all talk and no trousers when it comes to significant transfer activity. My gut fells is one of those clubs we were on Championship terms with last season – namely a Brighton, Huddersfield or Newcastle United. Although don’t rule out the likes of Bournemouth or Watford. Hey, I realise that’s a quarter of the league in one sentence but I’m just trying to figure it out.

Talking to another source close to the club last night, the name Brighton also came up. On target or miles off? Who knows. Will they, or anyone else, put in what Dean confirms “would have to be a massive bid to tempt the football club” ?

Billy’s interview cuts to the chase, as ever

It’s interesting. We know the financial rewards for reaching the top flight. £170milllion is the figure touted for going up from the Championship. Weigh that up against £8m – the figure Billy suggested to Dean – for a player who will be out of contract when this campaign ends. Which way will the club jump? Indeed, will we even get a choice if Jota decides his heart and feet belong in the Premier League immediately?

We all know of his love for Griffin Park. That much is apparent . But agents and money both talk. We showed loyalty to him in supporting the loan move back to Eibar and that was paid back in bucketloads when the player returned at Christmas. Indeed, Dean spoke earlier in the week (in that SKY interview) about our aspiration being top six. By definition, that means promotion or a shot at it through the play-offs. With it comes that dumper truck fill of money and the top flight football that Jota is so clearly capable of.

Is he prepared to wait? Can we make him an offer he can’t refuse? Are we financially able to turn down that short term hit of cash which comes with his transfer fee ? Are we able to make it without a man who is most prolific talent? This one is going to take am massive leap of faith from all parties if Jota is to stay a Bee.

Brighton. West Ham. Other. This is going to be a very squeaky next couple of weeks on that front. I’d also note that the fact we are even having this conversation – top flight aspirations and another multi million pound transfer – shows yet again how far we’ve come as a club. This time though, I’m hoping it’ll play out in a fan friendly way and the King doesn’t abdicate just yet .

On the more positive front, Kamo Mokotjo has signed from FC Twente. Top marks Beesotted for calling that one. Dean Smith told Billy “He’s a ball winning midfielder. His passing stats were incredible last year in the Dutch league“ whilst his quote on official describes Kamo as “a defensive midfielder who can break play up, cover a lot of ground and use the ball intelligently

The news was preceded by a short video in which the media team debated whether there was a gimmicky way to announce his signing before settling on the traditional signing photo. Reaction to the 40 second film has been mixed – both cringe and brilliant.

For me, we are in the latter camp – a clear attempt at taking the ‘p’ from the likes of Aston Villa (That. Whatsapp) and the seemingly modern trend for ‘hilarious’ announcements. Often involving hashtags.

Whilst the build up to the punchline was perhaps a tad laboured (Chris Wickham, Ciaran Brett et al are certainly no Matt Damon on the acting front) we got there in the end. Top marks all round and I hope supporters can see it for the obvious joke that this was !

And did anybody spot new programme editor Sam Marshall in there? He’s on twitter now as @SamMarshall94 .#WelcomeSam.

D’oh!

One other observation on this news but has Kamo been given the world’s longest signing scarf? Or, as one New Road observer would suggest to me last night, perhaps he’s only 5ft two ?

Large

Kamo signs – he won’t be cold in the winter

As for on pitch action, we can only be happy with a 5-1 win at Aldershot. I wasn’t there so can’t add much more beyond what we’ve all seen on social media. That said, special mention to Reece Cole in setting an early bar for goal of the season. What a strike for the youngster and, with the finish/build up play, an effort somewhat reminiscent of Stuart Dallas at Fulham.

You can see that one Twitter now.

Thanks again for reading. I’m off to watch The Lions and pray for Jota.

AUTHOR’S PLUG – (it’s all for charity).

And if you’d like to read more about Jota and last season then please don’t forget (how could you?) that the regular season review e-book remains available for download. This one is titled ‘Welcome home, King Jota’ and this time around it is for a great cause. All funds raised are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Likewise, any subsequent sales from the previous versions.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 2016 to May 2017 and a bit of new material too, you can pick it up, here. It’s just £1.99.

So why not do something great to help our club. What else will £1.99 get you? What better way to spend some time on the commute to work, the beach, by the pool or even hiding out in the toilet at the office?

For less than the cost of half a pint on match day, it’s the season review that has been designed to fit in your pocket (if you are using an i-phone).

Nick Bruzon

I’m glad I support Brentford rather than one big fish in a rapidly stagnating pond. And Dean speaks

5 Jul

Football is slowly waking up. This time last year, we were talking about Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar beating Celtic 1-0 in the Champions League qualifiers. Quite possibly the most embarrassing results in Scottish football history (to add to an already long list) yet last night they were equalled by fellow Glasgow side Rangers when the fourth best team in Luxembourg, part timers Progrès Niederkorn, knocked them out of Europe. And closer to home, Brentford boss Dean Smith has been up in front of the Sky sports cameras.

Ordinarily these pages wouldn’t look at the Scottish game but Rangers have held a bit of a fascination in recent years, given the circumstances which saw former Brentford boss Mark Warburton both join and leave the Ibrox club. “You walk around the stadium, the first time for me this morning, and you smell the history” he said upon becoming their manager in June 2015.

I’m sure this morning they’ll be smelling something rather different North of the border and Warbs will be very pleased with his decision to resign prior to joining Nottingham Forest. Internet bookmaker PaddyPower have already declared Celtic as league Champions prior to a ball being kicked although, to be fair, most bookies have them as 1/9 on at best to lift that particular silverware.

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 05.36.38

Other bookmakers are also available

For all the ongoing talk about these two ‘giants’ of Scottish football joining the English Premier League, the totally one sided nature of their domestic league along with results such as those against Progrès or Lincoln show how out of touch they sadly are these days. A point made all the more apparent as after limping past the Gibraltarians last season, Celtic then endured complete capitulation in the group stages, failing to reach the Europa League whilst also suffering a 7(seven) goal bracketing.

Winning at home is nice, but to watch such consistently uncompetitive football must become a somewhat soul destroying affair. Where’s the genuine competition? Where’s the excitement? What’s the point when you win your league by a country mile or get kicked off the park the moment the competition hots up a bit. With your closest historical rival a shadow of their former selves, it really gives off the impression of going through the motions. Give me the Championship any day of the week.

Which is why the return to our own league campaign cannot come soon enough. Nobody could claim this division is one sided. Anything but, with Newcastle United’s title win going right down to the wire last season whilst Brentford have claimed more than their fair share of illustrious scalps over the last three campaigns. Three top ten finishes have surprised more than a few people outside of TW8 (most notably Ian Holloway) and I’m desperate for us to give this division another try.

The good news is that the Bees are now back in training and yesterday, ‘official’ released a video of head coach Dean Smith talking to Sky Sports News.

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 06.49.19

Dean Smith spoke to Sky

In the interview, which you can see below, Dean sounds über positive. He talks about having had lots of fresh ideas and sharing our own sentiments that its good to be back after a long break. He has confirmed his top six aspirations along with a desire to keep hold of last seasons squad. Moreso given our strong finish to the campaign.

Then, somewhat randomly, the interview changes tack with the second half being taken up with a discourse on penalties. The recent England – Germany U-21 game. Dean Smith’s philosophy on penalty taking. As a player and as a head coach. It went on. I was half expecting him to be quizzed on Marcello Trotta.

A shame really,, as this was a somewhat wasted opportunity from Sky to dig into our plans, our set up and mindset. To find out how Dean has continued the great work already done by Warbs, Lee Carsley and, of course, the team behind the team.

A missed opportunity?

Then again, I’m more than happy being the underdog. Being that unfancied, under the radar team. Catching the likes of Leeds United, Derby County, Aston Villa, Mr Holloway et al with their pants down.

Nobody can deny the likes of Rangers and Celtic have huge stadiums, even bigger fan bases and plenty of historical honours. Likewise that Griffin Park is still only a 12,000 capacity ground with a trophy cabinet that is emptier than Arsenal’s.

But who wants to be the one big fish in a rapidly stagnating pond of tadpoles? A fish that gets gobbled up the moment any invasive species appears from the continent. The Championship, and beyond, is where it’s all at. Where the real action happens. Where real football takes place.

It’s July 5th. This time next month proceedings begin in anger with out trip to Sheffield United. I really cannot wait. It promises to be even bigger and better than ever before.

Nick Bruzon

A new look – in more ways than one. But do you like it?

10 May

Boom. No sooner has the regular season ended than out of nowhere Brentford have launched a new club website whilst our new crest has also began to appear all over cyber space. And, although slightly delayed (this nonsense can’t write itself every day) we now know another opponent for next season as Middlesbrough make a swift return to the Championship following the briefest of sojourns in football’s top flight.

First up, the website. There was no real build up but visitors to what is now brentfordfc.com on Tuesday morning were greeted with a new look. And what a relief. What a blessed relief. Gone is that awful, awful cluttered template look. Gone is the almost random way articles were thrown together on screen. Gone is that stream of outdated and long defunct ‘news’ that we’d get on the right hand side of the screen.

The previous incumbent was awful. I make no apologies for saying this and it was something that had been noted on these pages previously. Equally, it wasn’t one of the club’s direct making. Look around the websites of other EFL clubs and you’d see the vast majority with the same, restrictive template. Even the ability to write in paragraphs was an enhancement that only came about this season.

First impressions of the replacement are nothing but positive. What a great decision by the club to look at breaking the mould and what a great job, certainly on first impressions, to those responsible for putting this together. For a non-techy like yours truly, it was simple to use, intuitive and I loved the fact that there’s even a tab for our fan groups on there (most of whom will grant you access !).

5jnd2T7V

Early visitors to ‘new look official’ got a treat – our important fan groups being represented.

Nice one Brentford. I can’t wait to see how it looks once we get back into a season ‘proper’.

Next up, the crest. We’ve made no secret on these pages of loving the castle and not being the biggest fans of her replacement – the cluttered, clipart that until the weekend has been the public image of BrentfordFC for over 20 years. To me, it was always the graphical equivalent of  Murray Jones replacing Dean Holdsworth. Equally, I’m not so naive as to ignore the fact that it remained hugely popular amongst a large section of out fan base who view the crest’s passing with some sadness.

But whether you loved it or loathed it, the crest is dead. Long live the crest. The new look Bee began to take pride of place on the website and Twitter from yesterday, with the promise of a club wide rebrand to follow. For me, the is nothing but good news.

On a personal note, there was no secret of my approval for the new version when it was revealed earlier on the season. It is an opinion that I most definitely stick with now we’ve had time to acclimatise. Stylish, smart and displaying a modern take on a former classic, this really is a good look.

Looking around the internet yesterday I saw those interminable muttering about the legs and the ‘wasp’  factor being mentioned once more. It is so clearly a bumble bee as to be almost unrecognisable as anything else. Likewise, it is possible for a Bee to only have four of the six legs on display at any one time. And if we’re really going to split hairs, just look at the crest that has just shuffled off this sartorial coil. Examine the legs on view and count them. One, two, three, four, fi..no. That’s it. The same four as we have once more.

new-badge-bee

The new crest is now live (and a bee, for comparison)

Look I don’t want to dwell on that anymore. Our new crest is, in my opinion, worthy of a big thumbs up. It isn’t the Castle (what is, though?) but it is now the look of our club. The next big question being just what it is going to look like on a shirt. Kitman Bob, any clues here?

And finally, Middlesbrough. As suspected by many, they’ve bounced straight back to the Championship after a solitary season in the Premier League. Which is awful for them and potentially worse for us. Nobody needs any reminder of our record since the return to this level of football. Played 6 Lost 6.

That was then; this is now. Four of these six were in our first season and included that play-off semi final loss where we came so close to an incredible end to the campaign. Then again, do we do play-offs any other way?

I think both Middlesbrough and Brentford will find each other very different opponents next time out. Our own set up has undergone a huge overhaul and the starting XI is probably now our strongest in years. Certainly when the players hit their stride. As for Boro’, they’ll have had the wind taken out of their sails somewhat and will no doubt have their own rebuilding exercise to undergo.

Will they be a Newcastle united or an Aston Villa? We saw vastly different responses to Premier League relegation from those two fallen giants this campaign. Newcastle bouncing back in style; Villa finding the Championship a much tougher division than could have been anticipated. Whilst the Magpies ended it as champions,  the Villans finished the campaign below the Bees in the final table.

Whilst the suspicion is that Boro’ will use their experience and set up to be nearer the business end of the table, they’ll no longer be that big fish they once were. Neither will Brentford be the perceived minnow.

I can’t wait for the chance to do battle once more and look at getting that first win under our belts. Until then, it simply remains to say, RIP to the previous crest.

Now bring on our new look….

image

Nick Bruzon

Could we have to make any tougher a decision? What a choice awaits.

25 Apr

Monday really was a day that saw us entering the final days of the current Championship campaign. Newcastle United confirmed their return to the Premier League, although the battle with Brighton to see which of the teams who achieved automatic promotion will be crowned champions is one which will could still go down to the final round of games. And on the subject of winning titles (oh, the subtly) Brentford have officially opened voting for the 2016/17 player of the year.

We all know what’s happened at Griffin Park this season. The second half of the campaign especially has seen some of the most free flowing and exciting football to be played by Brentford in years. This, despite the sale of top scorer Scott Hogan to Aston Villa in January.

Yet following that move, the Bees have flourished. Lasse Vibe has moved to within one strike of the former Bee in the Championship leading scorer’s table, with Jota just behind. Ah, Jota. To say he has had an eventful return to Griffin Park would be like saying the Titanic had a few stability issues.

Few of us honestly thought he’d be back after heading out to Eibar on loan, myself included. And even when there was talk of a possible return, being quite honest there was no way he could match former glories. Especially with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. Was there?

He hasn’t just matched them but taken his, and our, game to a whole new level. We’ve all seen the goals, the runs and the beautiful touches that have left opposition players floundering. Richard Keogh (Derby County) and Jake Bidwell (QPR) being just the latest to have been left with egg on face .

Yet Jota seems to play for pure pleasure. Something that could also be said of fellow Spaniard Sergi Canos out on the other wing. His return to Brentford has been an equally wonderful one.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 06.07.16

Danni showed perfectly how Twitter can be used to capture the current mood.

Then there are the new boys. Rico Henry has hit the ground running at 100mph whilst John Egan’s performance have propelled him toward selection for the Republic of Ireland. Romaine Sawyers has scored some stunners whilst, at times, totally bossed the midfield. His defence splitting passes are a thing of absolute beauty whilst Saturday against QPR saw me wondering if he had no fear, no danger sense or just supreme confidence – such were the deft touches and trickery he demonstrated.

How about Dan Bentley? What can you say about him beyond a huge doffing of the hat? The prospect of losing David Button was one that genuinely worried me but he’s not even been missed, such is the huge impact Dan has made. You could probably count the mistakes on the fingers of one finger yet the world class saves have been legion. He kept us alive on more than one occasion at the start of the season as the team found our collective feet and, right up to Saturday, has continued to pull top draw saves out of the bag.

As for the (metaphorical) elder statesmen, it really is a case of unsung heroes. Ryan Woods has, at times, seemed to be filling three midfield roles in his constant quest to tackle and distribute. He really is a serious contender for this season’s honour. Yoann Barbet has proven just why he was picked out in our new look recruitment drive with wonderful tackles and a fair few goals being added to his game. Pity Dean Smith having to pick between him, John Egan and Harlee.

Ah, Harlee Dean. The player on a one man mission to become the new Mr Brentford. He has been incredible. A colossus at the back this season, up there with the likes of Terry Evans. He’s had to learn his game over the last few seasons but now it is complete, just what a player. The tackles, the voice, the leading by example, the goals, the back heels (hmm, maybe not too many of those). He’s doubled up as a last minute target man whilst those driving runs forward have been a wonderful development to his style of play.

HB Harlee and Dan

Harlee – has led by example all season. A fine role model.

What about Nico? Josh? Max Colin? Any of them. It really is a tough call this time around. Reading the Ben Burgess article in the match day programme on Saturday, he was bemoaning the fact that so much player of the year voting takes place in February. Certainly, for the national awards. Yet this despite the season still having a third of the way to go.

It really was fascinating piece and, from a personal perspective, Ben’s column has been one of the standout features in the match day programme this time around. What an honour for the club to have some truly intelligent writing on the back page !

Well Ben, when it comes to Brentford you have your wish. The only question now being who to vote for. Good luck anybody trying to pick one out of those. And for those wishing to have their say, ‘official’ have the full details and form on the club website.

As for next season, the Championship has been nothing more than a one shot deal for Newcastle United. The Rafalution has been a triumphant one (despite the awful, awful hashtag) and at least we can rest easy in not needing to pack the mountaineering gear next campaign. Massive congratulations to the Magpies and, of course, Brighton for what was a supremely exciting battle.

rafa-hashtag

Worst. Hashtag. Ever. But a great performance from Newcastle United

Despite being Bookies’ favourites, Newcastle haven’t had it all their own way with pundits being reminded, yet again, that the Championship isn’t the cake walk a big club might expect. Aston Villa, we’re looking at you. Indeed, even the title looks a long way off with a four point deficit and two games to play keeping the Magpies just about alive in that race. Whilst you’d fancy the Seagulls to scoop the title, anything can happen in football and nobody at Griffin Park needs any reminders about what can happen in the final promotion shootout. I’m pretty sure there was something about a penalty?

Instead, they look certain to be replaced by Sunderland and Middlesbrough, at the very least. The trip to Sunderland one already being anticipated by many at Griffin Park whilst Middlesbrough will be very familiar territory.

Still, all that’s for another time. We’ve got two more games and a higher finish than last season to focus on. And, of course, deciding on just who to vote for.

I now know what my decision is, but I don’t fancy yours much. What a choice.

Nick Bruzon

Can Lasse grab another pizza the action at Cardiff ? Brighton do Bees a favour.

8 Apr

Brentford travel to Cardiff City today. Brighton retook the lead in the Championship from Newcastle after despatching the Loftus Road mob last night (and do us a potential favour at the same time). And FourFourTwo magazine have published their list of the match day experiences at all 92 league grounds, ranked in order from worst to best . Coventry City, look away now.

First up Brentford. And we’ll keep this brief – I’ve got a train to catch. The trip to Cardiff represents an excellent chance to continue our rise up the table following three straight victories. The latest, our 2-0 win over Leeds United on Tuesday night, being one of the most complete Brentford performances seen in recent times. It really was that good. Romaine Sawyers, Harlee Dean, Sergi Canos and Lasse were amongst those taking the headlines but, in truth, we were wonderful to a man.

IMG_6728

Jota watches the action unfold against Leeds on Tuesday

The flip side to all of this was injuries to Nico and Ryan, which makes both of them unlikely to start today. Alan McCormack and KK being the obvious replacements and, if supplemented by Jota along with the aforementioned Sergi and Romaine that will still make a formidable five.

Expect an unchanged defence from Tuesday (Clarke, Barbet, Dean and Rico) with Dan Bentley between the sticks and Lasse leading the line. That is, on the assumption he hasn’t got his fingers burned in a little Italian restaurant. At Brentford Lock. I think it fair to say he’s more than earned that midweek pizza.

With Brighton condemning QPR to another notch in the ‘L’ column last night, Brentford remain 6 points above our West London rivals with today’s game to come. Victory could see us rise as high as ninth although, of course, it won’t be easy.

Dean Smith’s press conference on Thursday included the very telling observation that, “ “Neil Warnock teams are very difficult to beat. He has them well organised and they will be up for every game.”

There’s no doubting Mrs Doubtfire has the Bluebirds flying once more since their early season flirtation with the lower end of the table. It won’t be easy but the chance to draw further ahead of QPR and close in on both Fulham and last season’s 9th place finish is a huge lure. Can we do it? See you at the Cardiff City stadium this afternoon when we find out.

And for those of you travelling, it you’d like some reading material for the journey (no, not the book i although if you would like to read more about the last three seasons…….)   then could I suggest the online version of FourFourTwo magazine. Specifically, the aforementioned stadium guide they published this week.

Whilst, admittedly, being somewhat out of date it does hit the mark in most places. Certainly, I’d baulk at our performance relative to some of the soulless enormobowls we’ve had the pleasure of visiting this last few seasons. After all, this is a survey of match day experience rather than stadium quality.

Then again, if ever the Lionel Road team need some inspiration then here is a chance to see what the magazine deem the best and worst in English football.

Enjoy

Nick Bruzon

Newcastle United share a pain that Brentford know so well as Keith does his thing once more.

6 Apr

Keith Stroud. A name to strike fear into football fans up and down the land has done it again. Of course, at Brentford we are well aware of the card happy man in black’s past form. Now Championship table toppers Newcastle United are the latest club to fall foul of his obsession with random decision making in last night’s game with Burton Albion.

Who could forget the infamous battle of Bramall Lane? Rather than a League One promotion shootout between the Bees and Sheffield United, it was another game that turned into the Stroud show. “The maddest game of football that ever existed” said Mark Burridge after that one as it finished with three red cards shown, four penalties awarded and 12 players booked (8 alone in the first half). That the Bees came out of it with a point,despite playing most of the second half with 9 men, was more down to our own character than any protection from the referee.

It was a game which, to the casual observer, would suggest one akin to the titular battle. In reality it was nowhere close to that, with the hardest fought contest being that between Stroud’s ego and the frustration of both sets of supporters.

Whilst he’s never topped that moment in Sheffield, his name is one that still brings an almost audible wince of negativity (should such a thing be possible) whenever he is announced as a referee for a forthcoming game. His card ratio alone is, season on season, higher than just about any other official to take charge at Griffin Park . The current campaign has seen him show an incredible 171 yellows and sent off 12 players during his 39 games officiated. Only Uber have more bookings than Stroud, it seems.

Then, last night happened. With Newcastle United hosting Burton Albion in a league fixture (a phrase in itself which bears more than a moment’s consideration) they were awarded a penalty. With Matt Ritchie subsequently finding the back of the net for 1-0, Stroud struck. Social media went into meltdown as , for reasons unknown, rather than declaring the goal he chalked it off and gave a free kick to Burton.

This was later revealed to be for what Mr Stroud considered encroachment into the box by Dwight Gayle. Whilst the rules of the game dictate that the spot kick should be retaken in such a circumstance, Keith’s head and the rules of the game are not things that always see eye to eye,

Unfortunately the referee has misapplied the law. Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake,” said a referee’s spokesman afterwards. Hmmm. Sorry about that folks. Imagine the furore had things then turned out differently to the eventual 1-0 home win for Newcastle?

I do feel sorry for Keith in many ways. To give credit, his recent performances officiating for Brentford have, by and large, been relatively restrained with no real controversy. He even changed his mind in our favour upon the advice of an assistant during the recent reverse at home to Wolves.  So we know he can do it. Unfortunately, there are so many games that see the other side of Keith.

The flamboyant flourish of a red card. The turning his back on a player he has just admonished. The random bookings and decisions offered out at a level not seen since Uriah Rennie. Yet he has been allowed to continue unchecked. Nobody has had a word and, instead, he has become almost a cult character. But for the wrong reasons.

People now expect bookings and oddity when Keith is in charge. People go into the game on edge. When he has a good one there’s a sense of relief more than a sense of pride. Season on season his statistics speak for themselves but no real action is taken to reign him in. Football isn’t that consistently dirty a game, except in Keith’s head.

Keith Stroud montage

Keith Stroud – we all know the drill

Equally though, last night bears additional scrutiny. This was no heat of the moment decision. This wasn’t a foul that needed to be replayed in the head. It was a basic rule of football that he got backwards in the most glaring of styles. But what about his assistants? Was no support given ? No advice offered? Or was this a case where Keith’s rule was law?

Let’s be clear, I’d hate to be a referee. Balls of steel and skin as thick as rhino’s are the pre-requisites. With players, journalists and fans all thinking they know better the ref is only ever on a hiding to nothing. He clearly loves what he does although, whilst I’d hate to see any serious sanction as a result, that’s no justification for allowing anyone to run around unchecked.

Will Keith ever change? Unlikely. Will the FA do anything? Expect a week’s demotion to the lower leagues and then business as usual.

Yet, out of all this, Keith may wake up this morning and look himself in the mirror. You never know. Perhaps this will be the catalyst that triggers some self-reflection and a reigning in of Keith the card.

We know he can do it. We’ve all seen him have good games. Why not just go back to being the anonymous man in the middle rather than the reputational nightmare he has allowed himself to become.

Can a leopard change his spots? You never know.

 

Nick Bruzon

Fine margins see Huddersfield staying alive as Brentford goal glut runs dry.

12 Mar

All good things come to an end and that was certainly the case on Saturday as Brentford saw their hot streak in front of goal stop with a juddering halt. Huddersfield Town shutting us out (and not just in front of goal, if we’re being honest) as they recorded a 1-0 win at Griffin Park. With Fulham, of all teams, doing them a stonking favour with a 3-1 win up at Newcastle United, there’s everything to play for in the top slots .Good luck to anyone trying to call the two automatic promotion places that the Terriers, Magpies and Seagulls are currently fighting over.

Still, promotion is nothing but a pipe dream for Brentford at present – albeit we have a wonderful chance to still impact the play off race later in the season when we travel to Fulham. Assuming they haven’t choked it by that point.

Instead, our aspirations are more about building for next season and, with safety all but mathematically assured, we’ve been doing this in fine style recently. Brentford entered this game off the back off a goal glut which had seen us rise to the top half of the Championship table. Then Huddersfield paid a visit.

Despite a lurid kit – think QPR with added highlighter pen – and the pressure of David Wagner having been named ‘manager of the month’ the visitors accomplished their sole aim. Win the game to keep the pressure on Newcastle and Brighton.

IMG_6343

View from the Braemar – three points and a lurid kit for Huddersfield Town

Whether it was exhaustion, a terrible display from referee Oliver Langford (who seemed to be set to ‘random’ mode), superior opposition or just a combination of all the above, we were second best on the afternoon. Despite a bright start to both periods, Huddersfield were soon able to control the game and snuff out our attacking threat. Indeed, it was the visitors who had the better chances even if the only way they did find the back of the net was via a combination of a Harlee Dean deflection and Dan Bentley.

It was a shame because the pair of them have been unsung heroes this season. The goals of Scott Hogan and the return of our talismanic Spaniards have dominated the headlines and perception of our team. Yet both Dan and Harlee have more than played their parts and are serious contenders for player of the season, when we look back over the entire campaign.

Things could have been different. Perhaps. Brentford had a bright start to both periods, Jota unleashing a drive from outside the box after three minutes that Danny Ward in the Huddersfield goal had to go full stretch to parry away.

Moments into the second half (the Bees having survived a huge scare almost from kick off) Lasse Vibe was presented a gilt edged chance.

Rico Henry releasing Flo Jo, whose slide rule pass across the box found the great Dane unmarked and Ward flatfooted. Yet instead of stroking it home, he somehow managed to sky it over the bar from eight yards out. In truth, the ball was travelling at him, at speed, yet even allowing for that movement one would still have hoped to see the net ripple. And that, a deflected effort that looped onto the top of the crossbar aside, was as good as it got.

After the game, Dean Smith would talk about fine margins being the difference. In the interview which you can find on Brentford ‘official’, he noted how:  “If the goal is given, if Lasse takes his chance, if the free-kick is given at the end of the game then it is different. Unfortunately we are not getting loads of those calls at the moment.

Was this a thinly veiled dig at referee Oliver Langford? A man who incensed captain Harlee Dean and the entire Griffin Park crowd with a series of odd decisions. Certainly, we’ve been getting the goals (and even penalty calls) in recent weeks. Yet even watching from the sidelines, Dean was more animated than I think I’ve ever seen him before as decision after decision went the way of the opposition. He was less Dijkhuizen and more Saturday Night Fever, such was the way he waved his arms around every time a crunching foul was overlooked.

Dean Smith travolta

Dean channeling his inner Travolta, with Huddersfield staying alive in the promotion race

I’ll be keen to see the official highlights later on today. The 90 seconds served up by Sky (in as much all you need to know about the game) glossed over any refereeing faux-pas. Instead, they are just a chance to remind ourselves about what might have been.

That said, I did find Dean’s assertion that, “I thought that we more than matched them today” a bit of an odd one. Statistically speaking alone, the visitors had more possession, more shots and more goals whilst just looking at the game as a supporter I can acknowledge when we’ve been nullified. Huddersfield weren’t streets ahead but they were the better team on the day, no question. They are where they are for a reason.

Instead, we’ll just have to regroup for Tuesday night’s game against Wolves. Expect personnel changes for no other reason than the amount of games we’ve played in such a short space of time. Again, something Dean alluded to in that interview. Could the likes of KK, Tom Field, Sergi Canos and Josh Clarke find themselves back in the starting XI?

Whoever he picks will have the somewhat dubious privilege of Keith Stroud being the man to wave the cards in that theatrical style of his. Here’s hoping Keith is the restrained man in the middle that we have seen on occassion rather than the Keith of Bramall Lane infamy.

This season his record is 161 yellows and 11 reds in his 35 games. That’s an average of 4.6 bookings per game. By comparison, Mr Langford has 113 yellows and 5 reds over the same period. I’m not sure which is better really, going on yesterday.

Instead, let’s just hope it’s our football that everyone is taking about once more come Tuesday night.

keith-stroud-referee-blackburn-v-burnley-24th-october-2015

Keith Stroud – your eyes aren’t wrong. There is NO card in hand

Nick Bruzon

With a jinx lurking, can Dean make it so when Huddersfield visit?

11 Mar

What an afternoon it promises to be at Griffin Park. Huddersfield Town are the visitors as Brentford look to make it 13 points out of the last 15 and increase upon a goalscoring record that has seen us nab 20 goals in the 8 games since Scott Hogan departed. With the Terriers hitting the back of the net 14 times over the same period, this could be one to keep the scorekeepers busy and little Italian restaurants (by Brentford lock) in the public eye. With Brighton joining Newcastle United at the top of the Championship table following last night’s 3-0 win over Derby, nothing but a win will do for our third placed visitors.

So what can we expect? Short of any midweek injuries after our fine win at Nottingham Forest, surely Dean Smith has no choice but to name the same starting XI. Jota continued to grab the headlines but the incredible run from Sergi Canos to set up the second was my highlight of the highlights whilst Lasse Vibe continues to flourish up top since the departure of Scott and got two more goals.

There will no doubt be expectation on the terraces for Jota to prove a point after missing out on the Championship player of the month to Aiden McGeady of Preston. The Spaniard’s five goals, two assists and bucketloads of exciting play being deemed secondary to three goals, four assists and keeping North End within optimistic distance of the play-off pack.

Personally, I can only imagine Jota’s motivation being enjoyment rather than revenge or point proving. Since his return from that loan period with Eibar, he more than lived up to his word in that emotional farewell letter. Not only has he returned but he has come back bigger and better than ever. He gives the impression of a man who plays for the sheer fun of it and boy do the fans lap up his enthusiasm.

With Sergi Canos doing the same on the other flank (thanks to Alex Neil for sanctioning that sale and just not playing Sergi before his own departure form Norwich yesterday) these remain exciting times at Brentford. “I think it is a fun team to watch” he said yesterday. Spot on, Sergi. Here’s to more of the same today.

As for Huddersfield Town, what can we expect? Well, if the Bees were disappointed about our lack of award for Jota, we’ve been handed a massive boost by Terriers’ boss David Wagner being named manager of the month for February.

skysports-david-wagner-huddersfield-month_3906716

David Wagner is the latest to face the ‘Manager of the month’ jinx

There can’t be a football fan the land over who isn’t aware of the supposed jinx/curse (call it what you will) that accompanies this award. Pick up the honour, lose your next game.

With Brighton adding to the pressure last night by moving 9 points clear of third placed Huddersfield, could the weight of this trophy further crank up the tension for the Terriers? Forget David. Once that award is presented Wagner of X-factor fame would have more chance of coaching a winning team than the recipient of the trophy.

wagner-birmingham-auditions2-560x314

Wagner – remember him?

And what of the other big name for Town? Well, if it was a case of Brentford saying #WelcomeGraham last week (Gooch, that is, in the Bees player commentary box), could there be more star names making the trek to Mark Burridge’s lofty perch today?

Sir Patrick Stewart is, of course, an avid fan of Huddersfield Town and not averse to visiting Griffin Park. Yet with promotional duties for the new Wolverine film, Logan, currently occupying his time in the States, it seems he’ll be missing this one out (unless, of course, he’s hot footing it across to Heathrow on the overnight red eye).

Instead, we’ll have to be content with shared tweet of the week (at least, it was until that BBC news video went viral) for those wanting a glimpse of the man best known as Captain Picard or Professor X.

As for the Bees, can we make it 4 wins out of 5? Here’s hoping Dean Smith can make it so.(I’ll get my coat)

At 3pm, we find out. See you at Griffin Park.

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 07.16.13

Sir Patrick Stewart – somewhat harsh from Shaz

Nick Bruzon 

Mark Burridge wins Twitter for the day as Brentford prepare for trip to Ipswich Town

3 Mar

Roll on Saturday. Brentford travel to Ipswich Town looking to make it three wins in a row whilst, at the same time, building on a ‘goals scored’ record that has seen us find the net 16 times in the last 6 games. The last of which saw that smile inducing hat trick from Jota (just think of it and tell me you aren’t still grinning). And those of you up early may have spotted something on Twitter from the midweek win for Newcastle United at Brighton, c/o of our commentator par excellence Mark Burridge.

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-07-00-22

View from the Braemer – unadulterated joy from Jota and the team on Saturday

But we can only start with Brentford and Ipswich Town. Last season saw a 3-1 win for Brentford at Ipswich, in a game that was marred by Luke Hyam’s horrific lunge through Alan Judge. It was a foul subsequently defended by Tractorboy’s boss Mick McCarthy who, even given time to reflect , made no attempt to reconsider his opinion.

Hyam was shown a yellow for the assault on Judge which broke his leg, ruled him out of EURO 2016 and 11 months later still sees him nowhere close to a first team return. The Ipswich man was eventually shown a second yellow for going at Ryan Woods just before half time.

Dean Smith’s suggestion that he had been  “a bit naughty” and deserved straight red prompted a somewhat bizarre reply in which McCarthy noted, “I’m disappointed if he’s said that. I don’t think it is. I think he’s won the ball. I’ve actually complained to the referee as to why it’s a booking if he’s won the ball. I don’t think it’s naughty at all. That surprised me and disappoints me if he’s said that, but we all have opinions”.

Hyam hasn’t featured this time around but don’t expect anything different from Mick and his team. If not career threatening injuries, certainly a side who are robust in the challenge and have lost the form that has seen them threatening the play offs in previous campaigns. Instead, a squad that contains Jonathan Douglas and Toumani Diagouraga have seen their stock fall and sit below Brentford in the league table.

As for Brentford, there’s been more than a touch of Keegan-era Newcastle United about us in recent weeks. Dean’s return to picking a four man defence has seen goals aplenty, at both ends. Is kamikaze football better than the turgid possession game? Absolutely. Is it just a matter of time before the team re-adjust to both their ‘new’(traditional) system and new faces  such as Flo Jo and Sergi ? I have no doubt. Which of those two Dean starts with on Saturday will be tough choice but, like Justin Shaibu, the impact made from the bench by the Spaniard was clear for all to see.

Harlee Dean has flourished in recent months. He really has been indispensable, both at the back and going forward. He’ll be missed in his second game out following his tenth yellow, but it gives Andreas Bjelland  and John Egan a chance to really give Dean another selection headache. Along with Yoann Barbet, we really have been blessed with centre backs – the trick for Dean being which combination to pick and which players to sit alongside them.

harlee-dean-v-rotherham

Suspension saw Harlee spending Saturday very much put of position

And there’s another thing. Rico Henry. He’s barely featured on these pages since, finally, making his debut in the 2-1 win up at Sheffield Wednesday. Rico, if you are reading (you aren’t) I can only apologise.  Commentators and supporters alike were left enthusing about his performance. Those who saw him in the flesh against Rotherham could only agree. Pace, skill, tricks and tackles. In abundance.

Tom Field has been magnificent at left back but Rico really has thrown down a gauntlet. In doing so, he has shown just why the statistical model has identified a second Dean Smith ex-player as one we should move for.

As for Romaine Sawyers, his killer ball through for the goal to complete Jota’s hat-trick showed just why our head coach must have been smiling when ‘the model’ threw up his name over the summer. Like Brentford, consistency has been the main problem here in a tricky first season but we’ve nobody who can split a defence like Romaine when he is on his A game.

Rotherham, like Sheffield Wednesday, saw him very much a fish out of water. The ‘false 9’ formation is not one that we’ve been overly comfortable with and Saturday was the archetypal example. A set up that looked good on paper pre kick off clearly wasn’t working and Dean Smith really should have rescued his man earlier.

As for the experts, the bookies see Brentford as 39/20 to win this one whilst ‘over 2.5 goals’ is evens. And for those of you with a penchant for curse of the ex-player (as so ably demonstrated by John Swift at Reading) Toumani is 15/2 to score at any time. Whilst the big man was only the bench last time out, football being football then surely that’s where the smart money is?

Calling the shots will be Mark Burridge, as ever. With travel chaos expected thanks to the rail service, could Beesplayer be the best place to catch up on the action? Whilst there is no substitute for being there, the thought of spending the afternoon with Mark and his team is a tempting one. If for no other reason than we can expect quick off the mark observations from our man at the mic.

Does he ever sleep? Is his attention permanently tuned in to all things Brentford and Greyhounds ? We alluded to an early morning social media spot at the start of the article and sure enough, Mark / Newcastle United delivered.

Nice one Mark . Here’s to more zingers on Saturday. And goals.

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-06-12-46

Nick Bruzon