Tag Archives: Newcastle

Waking up with a semi and a smile.

24 Dec

The morning after the night before. The die has now been cast. Brentford will travel to Spurs in the first week of January for a single leg league cup semi-final. A London derby the outcome after Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat of Newcastle United. The other tie sees Manchester United hosting their neighbours after winning in front of a ‘crowd’ at Everton. There was to be no reunion for the Bees with Manchester City. No fear of having to go to Stoke after Tottenham had eased through in the first game of the night. We’d love to have been at home, fans present or otherwise, but if it had to be a road trip then it is the most intriguing of the options. Relatively speaking. Pinnock and Sørensen v Kane and Son. Mbeumo v Mourinho. Delle Alli v Mourinho. 

There could only be a romantic outcome from this draw. Two teams from the top six of the Premier League, along with Manchester City and Brentford. City, their own list of recent trophies as long as the ‘bookings’ section in a Keith Stroud match report. Brentford, a whole new list of ‘teams like’ and ‘little old’ accolades now being added to our name from the broader populous. Another match that sees us emerge further from the radar we are seemingly still under. This is going to be good. Very good. The relief as Spurs did their thing against Stoke palpable. The prospect of testing ourselves against the very best now presenting itself.

Personally speaking, I’d have loved Manchester City. Purely because of what happened in 1989. That, still one of my top five Brentford moments and the chance to go again would have been immense. A momentous victory carved out on a quagmire of a pitch. (But enough about Tuesday). Perhaps we’ll just have to wait for the final, he says optimistically.

There was to be no revisit of 1989

It is, also, a tie that adds to our crowded fixture list. The 9 games over December have already been well documented. With an FA Cup match against Middlesbrough next up after the Spurs game, it gives us another 7(seven) in January.  Don’t cry now, but expect more changes. Expect a team much akin to the one that played Newcastle off the park. Thomas Frank has his league and cup strategies so clearly marked that the only unexpected thing about this week’s triumph was the quite bizarre reaction to our starting XI.

We’re talking about players ; not machines. Fatigue is very real. The squad there for a reason. It may not be the romantic ideal of football in the 70s and 80s where every man from a paper thin squad played every minute. Where there was only one sub per game. Where the actual team was printed in the programme before kick off ! That was then. This is now.

If nothing else, those who have helped get us past four Premier League teams more than deserve their chance to carry on again. Be sure the bench will remain strong if needed. Josh Mourinho picked a Spurs team full of household names to get through. The likes of Harry Kane and Gareth Bale, world class players, there from the off. Will he do the same in January or drastically under estimate the challenge provided by ‘little’ Brentford? I’ve no insight into that one but, looking at how we do things, would suggest it’s a fairly safe bet which way Thomas will go. Isn’t it?

Well…. Thomas has massively set out his stall so far but might the FA Cup tie become the game for sacrificial lambs. For the B team to be given a chance to do their thing. Cripes – who’d be a head coach?  90 minutes from a Wembley final, the temptation to go full strength in the league cup must be immense.

In the end, I guess its a case of expecting a similar team to Tuesday night and giving them both the respect and kudos they deserve. The real surprise for me will be if Thomas goes big. But up against the unpredictable genius that is Jose Mourinho, this most compelling of managers, might he have to out think his rival on and off the pitch? Could it be a case of bluff and double bluff? You can bet the players will be desperate to feature in this one. With the W place near Ikea in his sights, the urge to go with the more familiar option will be huge.

Who starts remains to be seen. Before that – with games crucial to the promotion battle next up against Cardiff, Bournemouth and Bristol City  – continuing our mammoth unbeaten run and picking up the points has to be the focus now.

This week has been amazing, no doubt. The hype sure to build as we get closer to the Tottenham game. For the minute though, its time to concentrate on the league. Even if we are still in the cup.

Nick Bruzon 

That was something very, very special. In more ways than one.

23 Dec

Get the f*ck in!!! What a night. What a finish. What a result. Brentford beat Newcastle United 1-0 to make it into the league cup semi-finals. Josh Dasilva scoring the goal that means we’re now one round away from a game at the W place in North London. Aside from us there’s only Manchester City along with the winners of tonight’s games between Everton  / Manchester United and Stoke / Spurs left in the competition. It was an evening that saw Thomas Frank picking a team of familiar faces if not entirely made up of regular starters but certainly one well, well good enough to do a job. They didn’t let him, or the fans, down. Instead, the reaction from certain quarters and usual suspects to our team announcement left a hell of a lot of egg on face when the full time whistle went.

official capture the moment – and why not!!

It was a night to rank up there with the third round defeat of Everton. I was going to add ‘a few seasons’ ago but, incredibly, that was 2010. A decade gone already. Cripes, it feels like yesterday and perhaps even more highlights our lack of success in this, or any, cup competition. Early exits with nothing but a handful of memorable moments to test the grey matter. Fourth round defeats at Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City about as good as it has got. To date. Not now though. 

My word that was immense. Oh to have been there in person. Yet, in a bizarre way, we were all in it together. All suffering in isolation at home. All willing the team on to beat Newcastle. Most of us backing them. All of us desperate for the win. Of course, for the good cheer it would bring but as much as anything else to shut up the dickhead element. The legion of armchair managers doing their thing when the team was announced almost desperate for a perceived weaker team to be revealed so they could vent their usual bile.

Why why oh why! Disgraceful team selection for 1/4 final of cup!

Only a quarter final nothing important f&@k sake

No ambition.

What an absolute shambles – who do Brentford think they are? Quarter Final and a chance of Europe and he names that team??

What the actual f@&k has he done that for?

I cannot get over how much he has f@&ked up that starting XI. My head is gone.    

These, just a few of the erudite observations on social media. Nothing like a bit of loyal support but it made what came next even sweeter. A team with a spine of Pinnock, Mads, Sergi, Vitaly, Josh and Marcus Forss up top is one you’d quite easily expect (and be happy with) in a league game. Supplement that with a whole host of familiar faces from the bench, including captain for the night Luke Daniels, and this was hardly the stuff of capitulation. Hardly a team set up to fail. This was Thomas Frank doing what we’ve said , all season, he’ll have not choice but to do. Use his squad to see us through. Try everything possible to get us past December and the horror run that sees us backs up to play 9 games in 31 days.

He must be doing something right. It was one way traffic in the first half with Ghoddos hitting the crossbar, Marcondes coming close and Sergi somehow heading wide when unmarked just yards out. Hey, not even he can be perfect every time. Newcastle United riding their luck and the feeling that, perhaps, if we didn’t take chances then it could get tense late on. Anything but.

One sharp save from Daniels aside and a few jittery clearances (Dom Thompson solid as, too) I don’t recall much attacking intent from our visitors. Instead, Brentford picked up where we left off with Sergi Canos providing a delightful ball across the box which Josh Dasilva blasted home with just over an hour gone. Oh. My. Word. What a ball. What a finish. What. A. Goal!!!! Another beer? Don’t mind if I do. It went nuts at our place. I’m sure the same all over TW8 or wherever our fans were gathered. 

1-0 up and what to do? Hang on or go for it? Within moments, Thomas Frank had pulled off Sergi and replaced him with Ivan Toney. There was a statement of intent. A well earned rest for the magnificent Spaniard and a chance for Ivan to do his thing once more. He almost did, too. A chance late on producing a finger tip save and, as importantly, helping wind down that clock through an excruciating four minutes of mystery time added on.

Let’s not forget either the return to fitness of Christian Nørgaard. A player who has been missing for so long it would seem that even ‘official’ have forgotten how to spell his name. It’s amazing to think that we’ve gone on our mammoth unbeaten run despite the enforced absence of a player who would, ordinarily, be one of the first names on the team sheet. His entry into the field of play on the hour had been well telegraphed by Thomas but still produced a cheer from our sofa. Albeit. Not as as big as the one at full time. Yess!! My word !!!! F*ckin’ incredible ! A fourth Premier league team beaten this season. For context, that’s the same as Arsenal and double the amount FulhamL have in the actual Premier league. Two times better? Ah, who cares about them? This is about us. About adding Newcastle United to an ever growing list of top flight scalps. About now needing to sit through Everton – Manchester United in order to await the post match draw for the semi finals.

Christian who now?

Will it be Spurs? Might it be Manchester City? Oh for the chance to emulate our heroes of ’89 once more. You see what we were saying about cup moments being few and far between ? Truly, this is a thing to savour. Knowing Brentford it’ll end up being Stoke City which, for the record, I’m sure is something deemed as unpalatable in the Potteries as it would be down South. 

Destiny beckons. Thomas Frank and his team continue to earn the plaudits and praise that they richly deserve. To ride the wave of bull being directed at them from our twat element. Tap, tap, tap, tap. What’’s that noise? Oh, the sound of social media being deleted. The post match hypocrisy a thing of beauty to behold. The frank out hashtag having been early thawed out having to be returned to the freezer once more.

Oh dear.

Perhaps, this time, it might actually stay there. The whole thing has been an embarrassment and a colossal disrespect to the squad . F*ck you. This is OUR moment. And I’m not gong to let a bunch of morons ruin it.

Ah, you know what. It’s their problem. Hating is easy. Having a bit of trust much harder. Perhaps years of having to answer the question, ‘Brentwood? In Essex?’ makes the positive approach that bit easier. Not so much thinking that we’re ‘little old Brentford’ (because we’re well, well beyond that) but simply remembering our history and where we’ve come from.  Of recognising that the players, approach and mentality now instilled is nothing like anything we’ve ever had before.

This is Brentford 2.0 . And I love it !!! Now bring on Manchester City. Or Stoke.

Bliss doing his thing against Manchester City in the fourth round – January 1989

Nick Bruzon

Farewell Alan. And can Hank Marvin stop Aberdeen in the latest ‘The World Cup of….’?

15 Jan

No sooner had the dust settled on the weekend than the first departure has happened through the transfer window after it was announced that Alan Judge has left Brentford for Ipswich Town. It was a rumour that we’d seen circulating for the last few days and has now been confirmed. Elsewhere, there’s a question. Of sorts. What links Aberdeen, Newcastle United, two old women and Hank Marvin. But not Richard Osman or Fulham? More to follow, but first Judgey.

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No more a rumour. No more a Bee

What can you say? The player affectionately known as ‘The Magician’ in the Braemar Road has performed his final trick and disappeared. Ipswich Town have picked up a star, that’s for sure. We all know what Alan did for Brentford. The eventual penalty that eventually took us up to the Championship. Eventually. The goals. The pace. The excitement. That free kick at Fulham to round off the famous 4-1 rout. The one at Arsenal earlier this season.

Not only a strike of the highest quality but also one of those rare occasions that a goal has been scored in a brown/orange shirt (although one can fully understand the first XI getting distracted by the incredible tops and being lulled into deeming themselves more catwalk models than a football team).

There was also ‘that’ injury. Ironically enough, suffered at Ipswich Town of all places. It put paid to Alan’s dreams of taking part in the Euro 2016 finals – something that was an almost certainty for a player who still ended up being nominated for the Championship Player of the Year award aswell as being named in both the Championship PFA and the Football League Teams of the Year at the end of that season.

Luke Hyam is plying his trade at Southend these days whilst the mental and physical strength Alan showed in fighting back is more than testament to his fortitude as a player – on and off the pitch. The welcome he received when he finally came back in last season’s FA Cup should tell all you need to know.

Good luck Alan. And thank you for everything! Especially that Fulham goal. You can read more here, on Brentford official.

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What a shirt. What a goal.

Talking of Fulham, we all know that their ‘celebrity’ fan Richard Osman will stick his name to a “The World Cup of…..” anything at the drop of a hat. The World Cup of biscuits. The World Cup of books. The World Cup of crisps. The World Cup of teams having zero shots against but still managing to lose 2-1 to Burnley at the weekend. Granted, that last one’s a little niche but you get the drift.

So it was with great pleasure of the discovery being made on Monday lunchtime that one of THE twitter sites to follow, @TheSkyStrikers , have launched their own – The World Cup of programme covers. And it’s every bit as good as one would hope.

For those yet to discover this gem, in their own words it is summarised best by host Miles McClagan as: “Collating as many old football images as I can from a random bucket of programmes…” And, it would be fair to say, there are some corkers.

Taken largely from the 70s and 80s, it was a time when football was less politically correct but also an industry taking those early steps into marketing. With mixed results. But also a lot of fun and nowhere more is this emphasised in some of the covers now going head-to-head.

There’s Hank Marvin popping up at Newcastle United. As you do. Paul Parker taking a trip in hot air balloon – in full kit. Two old ladies leaning out of a bedroom window at Aberdeen to cheer on their team. Indeed, that’s just one of a trio of covers to feature the Dons which take part in the first knock out round.

The competition launched on Twitter, yesterday, and the first few are below to get you in the mood. Hats off to Miles for a labour of love and a work of art.

But can anybody stop Aberdeen?

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Hank’s Newcastle United and Aberdeen are amongst the early favourites.

Nick Bruzon

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.

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Forest top the lot.

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

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Nick Bruzon

West Ham ? Sheffield Wednesday? Hull City? Which Brentford star is going where? If any…

25 Jul

Jota to Newcastle United, West Ham United, other? Harlee Dean to Sheffield Wednesday? Now Rico Henry and an apparent interest from Hull City is the latest story being touted in the press involving the possibility of a player leaving Griffin Park. You can tell the impending football season is approaching at a rate of knots with rumours surrounding Brentford stars cranking up. As ever.

Ordinarily these pages don’t do transfer gossip. The only source close to the club I trust (Beesotted aside, given they are almost always bang on the money) is the ketchup that comes with the half time chips. Yet this time it is worth paying note. If not for the quality of the ‘story’ – please note, your definition of ‘quality’ and ‘story’ may vary – as to the bigger picture questions.

Everybody is focussed on Jota. Understandably so given his unadulterated ability and contract length are diametrically opposed to each other in terms of size. The stories about West Ham won’t go away although I’d refer you back to the Scott Hogan tedium. Likewise the fact that they’ve already acquired the likes of Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Marko Arnautovic.

All this, before £16m Javier Hernandez became the latest to join the 1966 World Cup winners at the Olympic stadium yesterday. Are we really expected to believe they could also splash out on the likes of Jota aswell? Is the West Ham acquisition process now at an end? They were bad last season, that was plain to see, but surely no mid-table team needs this much rebuilding? Or can afford it? Then again, the TV money is at the ridiculous level and so not surprising our man’s name is mentioned in such circles.

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Jota and Harlee amongst the main men for Brentford in 2017/18

Yet for me all this Jota talk has been an unintentional smokescreen that has detracted from a real possibility – that of losing a centre back. We are more than amply catered for in this area of the field with Yoann Barbet, John Egan, Andreas Bjelland and of course  Harlee Dean all jockeying for position. This is before you even factor in the B-team. But then the Sheffield Wednesday rumour appeared.

Nobody on the terraces can imagine Harlee will leave. That surely the club will do all in their power to hang on to our player of the year and club captain. I’m not convinced this is anything more than a story that will come and go. But this hasn’t stopped us before.

At the same time, how does Dean Smith keep four quality defenders happy with only two positions to fill? He’s tried to play three of them and despite some initial positives, it was hardly the roaring success he had anticipated. So much so that normal service was soon resumed.

Sheffield Wednesday coming in for Harlee may be true, it may not. Yet we’ve shown every season that something has to give in order to help balance those FFP books. Hogan to Villa; Odubajo to Hull; Gray and number 26 to Burnley.

This time around, rather than Jota might it be elsewhere on the pitch? The defence? Certainly, this move was just one of those talked up in the recent Beesotted transfer activity piece. Could Billy have got his hands on the crystal ball once more?

The other story we then saw yesterday was a laughable column about Hull City looking at Rico Henry . With Andy Robertson joining Liverpool for £10milion last week, the Tigers are supposedly coming in with a £3.5 million bid.

Ted Knutson put that one immediately into context on Twitter.

We’re all about maximising player potential but, equally, we’re not in the business of giving anyone away. Rico’s emergence last season well and truly put Jake Bidwell in the shade and showed just why we were prepared to let our former skipper join the Loftus Road mob. Here is a player with the potential to go all the way and somebody who absolutely hit the ground running at Championship level after signing from League One Walsall.

Whichever story, if any, is true it all goes to show once more that we are a team in demand. That we aren’t just one goal scorer or one luxuriantly coiffured Spaniard. Brentford’s stock is high. The 2-2 with Southampton at the weekend proved that.

Yet let me ask you a question. If it kept Jota safe in the short term, would you sell Harlee? Would you let Rico go? Who’d want to be on the board with those sorts of decisions to make?

Ultimately of course, we may not have any choice in affairs. Money and agents talk. Likewise, we’ve acquired very well in the close(d) season. For both the first XI and B-team. Does the strongest looking all round squad we’ve had in years – boosted by five new signing – mean some form of departure is inevitable? Or is this going to be the season where the Brentford players and board all say – up yours West Ham. So long Hull City. Sorry Newcastle. These players aren’t for sale. We’re going places.

Whatever happens, all will become much clearer over the coming weeks. I can’t wait for the season to start but it might be stressful getting there.

As one final thought, what are you going to be wearing on the terraces this season? The new kit is stunning, with the goalkeeper and away variants already available in the club shop. Yet for anybody wanting a retro touch then eBay is the place to go at present.

This isn’t me (the chances of anything slipping my collection are slim to zero) but I have seen one fan looking to clear out their own wardrobe this week. Seller aamy_r_reetqr26 has listed 11 shirts that run from 1988 up to 2002, many of which are rarely seen on the terraces these days. You can find them here if this is of interest.

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Just some of the retro shirts on offer this week

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 !).

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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.

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Nick Bruzon