Tag Archives: Nick Bruzon

A historical hat-trick awaits in the League Cup. But which way?

19 Sep

We’ve a return to league cup action tonight with Brentford looking to put what management see as the bad luck but wonderful performances in the Championship behind us and reach the fourth round of this tournament.  If so it would, incredibly, be just the third time ever. Standing between us and, even more incredibly, a draw that will take place at a normal time on a normal channel (Sky Sports news , following the Manchester United v Burton tie) are Norwich City. But can we get past the Canaries to reach a place we’ve been to only twice before ? For the record, 1982-83 and 2010-11 : losing at Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City respectively.

Well, if ever there was incentive to go for it then it has to be tonight. Putting aside our previous form in this tournament, victory would see us into the last 16 of a trophy where the unfancied teams have, historically, had a little bit more success than in the FA cup. Who could forget Bradford City (of league 2) getting all the way to the final in 2012/13 after beating Arsenal en route, Swindon lifting the silverware in 1969 (agasint Arsenal) , Luton doing the same in 1988 (also: Arsenal) whilst the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool have lost to lower league opposition on more than regular basis.

Yet for Brentford to find themselves in Wednesday night’s draw with a chance to do the same, first there is the small matter of Norwich City. It would be fair to say that last season’s Championship fixtures were amongst the most disappointing of all those games we played. Coming amidst a woeful run for both teams, the Bees didn’t even attempt to dial in performance as we were thrashed 5-0 at Carrow Road in early December. It was the proverbial game where we lucky to get nil and, it would be fair to say from anyone who had the misfortune to sit through it, that this really was one of the low points in an otherwise exciting season.

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So bad at Carrow Road last season that 1 on 3 outside the box became a penalty and 2-0

It was a performance only matched in the return fixture at Griffin Park on New Year’s Eve. That one finished 0-0 in a game where both teams were lucky to get nil. Even the prospect of sneaking out early to watch Mrs Browns Boys and Jools Holland bringing Roland Rivron out of cold storage for the annual ‘hootenanny’ seemed tempting at one point. Well, it didn’t. Nothing is that bad but this game did run it awfully close.

Yet from that point the Bees exploded into form. Despite rumours of Scott Hogan’s departure we started to get the wins and the performances in. The FA Cup against Chelsea aside. That one was less Mrs. Brown’s Boys and more Len Goodman’s Partners in Rhyme (and if you haven’t seen that one yet then please, don’t. Bad doesn’t even begin to describe it. Think budget level Catchphrase on acid with Len channeling the worst of a bad dad wedding speech).

Hogan even managed a goal against Birmingham City before injury his buttocks, apparently, and finally moving to Aston Villa.

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Mrs Brown. If December was bad, NYE wasn’t much better

Could we emulate the same tonight? Could the cup help motivate a Championship campaign where despite the efforts of the team and the self-belief of our head coach, results are not going as one would hope. Could this be the perfect fillip going in to Saturday’s bottom two clash with Bolton Wanderers? Reaching the fourth round, let alone a tie with likes of Manchester united, Arsenal or even Birmingham City – that latter one for more reasons than you could shake a stick at – would produce a fantastic buzz around Griffin Park at a time when perhaps it may come in handy.

Personally, I’ll be happy just being able to watch a fourth round draw without the need for an intravenous drip of double espresso (with an s, there’s no x . Restaturants, try using a dictionary) to help me through the night.

But for that to happen then we need to win tonight. Given we’ve only done this twice before in our entire history then let’s not take anything for granted. Indeed, I saw a stat yesterday (thanks to Jonathan Burchill on twitter) that said we’ve only even reached the third round three times. Burnley (1960) and then who else but Norwich City (19968 and 1991) as the teams to halt our progress.

Either way there’s going to be a historical hat-trick tonight. Will it be our third trip to the fourth round or a trio of Canary infused defeats at this stage?

At 7.45pm, we find out. See you there.

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Espresso for the draw? Give me expressb. Or preferably just Sky

Nick Bruzon

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

17 Sep

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

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

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Reading were the latest visitors to Griffin Park

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

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

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

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

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

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The Bees had to rely on themselves rather than the officials

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

Here are three more quotes for you.

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

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

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

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

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

One can symapthise with Dean over the refereeing performance

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

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

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

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

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Clem’s gut reaction says it all

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

Sadly, I fear it is . In this instance.

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

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

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

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A point sees the Bees rise above big spending Birmingham

Nick Bruzon

As Bees prepare for a Royal visit, Dean remains confident. But can we win?

16 Sep

Tuesday 27 September 2016. It finished Brentford 4 Reading 1. It was a score that came just weeks after a draw at Aston Villa and a previous home game that had seen us thump Preston 5-0 at Griffin Park. Yet it was the game against the Royals which produced what these pages described as one of the great performances as Josh Clarke ran riot, noting “How it was only four I still don’t know. Hats off to Dean Smith and his team for a display of simply scintillating football.”

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Last time out Reading’s lurid kit was about as awkward as it got for Brentford

Needless to say that 12 months on we’d love those sorts of results. The W column is fast becoming a somewhat awkward monkey on the back with only Bolton Wanderers, who we play next Saturday, able to match the Bees in so far failing to pick up three points. Yet victory today would put the Bees to within a point of a Reading team that, it would be fair to say, are yet to match the heights of last season where the third placed side got all the way to the play-off final before going down to Huddersfield on penalties. There is no crueller way to be denied, that’s for sure.

Still, there’s no time for tears. That’s Reading’s issue and if they are failing to adjust then surely something to try and take advantage of. We’ve all heard the talk of how well Brentford are playing, how unlucky we are being and that there is nothing to worry about. It was a point that Dean Smith made in his Thursday press conference where he noted: ”We are all disappointed with the results but we are not disappointed with the performances. We concentrate on getting the performances because usually the results follow but it hasn’t been the case. I’ve been at clubs when they have been in trouble and we certainly aren’t”, albeit he would later acknowledge that, “the longer you wait for that first win then the more pressure can build in the supporters’ eyes.”

The question is, can we do it? Although Dean would go on to say that “Whoever plays the best will win” (and you can read his piece in full on ‘official’) that’s not necessarily the case. Just look at the Ipswich game. Indeed, it seems contradictory to what has been said before. We’ve been told how well we’ve been playing this season and how we are bettering opponents such as Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday yet we are still to break the duck.

Something has to give soon and one can only dream of a report performance from that of 12 months ago. It was a game where 10 of the current squad played a part in producing some quite wonderful football. Should Dean get it right today and the pieces click then we are more than capable of doing the same again. Personally, I’d be well happy with a scrappy 1-0 and an 89th minute winner off of Nico’s backside. Please note: any backside will do.

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View from the terrace – Brentford were on fire at both ends last time we had a Royal visit

I’m not overly happy about being bottom three. Who would be? Yet the fact remains that this is only mid September. We are only 7(seven) games in. We’ve been told how strong the squad is. A few wins and it all changes around. The gap to 5th place is only 9points. Just when do those wins come? And how?

The BBC preview, which you can read here, certainly favours the Bees. Amongst other things, they have a whole series of stats including the facts that Reading are the only Championship side yet to score a first-half goal this season whilst 1972, 22 games ago, was the last time they kept a clean sheet at Griffin Park.

I’ve got a feeling that today we’ll be making that stat 23 and going home with all three points in our pocket. Bring on 3pm when we find out.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

7(seven) and 0. But is it as bad as it looks or is the table lying?

13 Sep

7(seven) games in and Brentford remain locked on three points, sit second bottom in the Championship table and have still failed to record a league win. Our latest attempt saw a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday where despite taking an early lead via Nico Yennaris, normal 2017/18 service soon resumed. The only consolation of the night was another blank and another defeat for a Birmingham City side who now join us in the bottom three.

But first, matters closer to home. Another game, another defeat for Dean Smith and his new look Bees. A trip to Sheffield Wednesday was never going to be an easy one but we were given a gift wrapped start after Nico gave us a 9th minute lead from outside the box. It was less a piledriver and more a bobbling grass cutter but, somehow, Owls ‘keeper Kieren Westwood conspired to let it squirm under his body.

Do check out the Sky highlights package (at least, until ‘official’ are allowed to do their thing) to see just how much of a gift this was. Still, who’s complaining? Not me. After all the patches of brilliance and bad luck we’ve seen to date then perhaps this was it. Something had gone our way. The dam had been breached and surely normal service would resume. Alas not.

The longer it stayed 1-0 the louder the inevitable equaliser began knocking on the door. And then, with first half injury time being played, we welcomed it in. Despite Wednesday charging through, John Egan was still able to clear Gary Hooper’s goal bound effort off the line. Sadly, it was only cleared as far as the near post where it bounced back to the grateful player who bundled it home for the equaliser.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 07.12.44Ph-eep. (I would also accept: Ph-hew). Half time. 1-1 The proverbial stuffing knocked out of the Bees and a psychological mountain to climb. K2? Or should that be Wednesday 2 ? Ross Wallace capitalised on our ongoing inability to clear a ball played into the box as he stabbed home a corner with 20 minutes left. Despite Brentford’s best efforts, that was it. 2-1 Sheffield and Dean Smith looking to rationalise more dropped points.

Speaking to the press afterwards (and you can read his thoughts in full on ‘official’) there was more talk of us creating chances but just needing to take them. Of being unlucky. Of our play deserving more than it has achieved in terms of results : “We didn’t take our chances and then gave away a soft goal. ….. Not concentrating from a corner lost us the game. We were then the better team again after they went in front and deserved to score another goal, but it wasn’t to be”.

Sorry, Dean. But let’s have a bit of context here. We don’t deserve to win every game. Sometimes we’ll play well and lose. Others, we’ll play badly and win. But this season we’re making basic mistakes and we’re not winning in the league. And even just acknowledging this would be a start. Surely? Instead, it feels as though we are wallowing in self pity.

Let’s have a bit more context. At the same stage of the 2015/16 season, 7(seven) games in, Marinus Dijkhuizen had taken the Bees to 8 points and 2 wins. It was horrific to watch at times and, whilst nobody wants to see a manager lose his job, it couldn’t end soon enough. Likewise, I’m not for one second calling for his return or hoping Dean suffers a similar fate.

Far from it. We are still three games short of the magical ‘played 10’ marker. That position where the league table is finally deemed to have taken shape. A time where bad luck has had a chance to iron itself out. Where updated squads have had an opportunity to gel.

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Dean v Marinus. If we are looking at stats

I’m sorry. I don’t believe our squad is stronger. I believe our squad is potentially stronger although, to date, this is yet to be demonstrated. How can we dominate, always be told we deserved to win but so far fail to accomplish this? Being honest, the team that ended last season would wipe the floor with this one. At present.

Yet equally we know why departures happened. Money talks; players walk. The rest of the squad are still adjusting. As much to those exits as to each other and the lack of any settled team. This was the ninth line up change in nine games since 2017/18 began. It is only natural that it will take time for things to come together.

At the end of the day (Clive), let’s have one final piece of context. It’s only early September. Trips to Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday, immediately after the transfer window, were never going to be easy. More importantly, we’ve a home game with Reading followed by a trip to basement club Bolton. Surely if we follow Dean’s beliefs about bad luck, great play and keeping on doing what we are doing these will be the games to put that into practice? Boom. We’ll be off the mark, up and running.

Besides, it could be worse. We could be Birmingham City. Harry Redknapp’s expensively put together new look team lost. Again. This time to Leeds United. His team failed to score. Again. Clayton who now? His defence were as generous as he is with the club’s chequebook as they continued to leak.

The Birmingham boss was in fighting form afterwards, reading from the big book of Smith as he told the press: “We completely dominated the second half. It was one-way traffic, wasn’t it?

As for our former captain, he must have been itching to ‘go again’. Instead, we got another of the twitter ‘faves’. See also: “It wasn’t good enough” for a full house in post defeat bingo

Sound familiar?

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Nick Bruzon

Here we go again…..

12 Sep

No sooner has the weekend gone than Brentford hit the road for a second away game in three days. Following the 0-0 with Aston Villa on Saturday, next up is tonight’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday. Can Dean Smith’s team make it 7th(seventh) time lucky and record a first league victory that, whilst our play has more than suggested should have come by now, currently remains tantalisingly out of reach?

I missed Aston Villa. Even in as much as being able to listen to Mark Burridge and team. Whatever the opposite of a footballing green card is, it was played by Mrs Bruzon as a long planned family weekend away took precedence over any lingering thoughts of a trip to Villa Park. Let alone keeping a crafty ear pinned to goings on in the Midlands. Instead, it was country walks through muddy fields as Brentford had, by all accounts, the lion’s share of the game against opponents who believed their own pre-season hype.

Mark talks us through the highlights

Twitter, as ever, a joy to behold from supporters (theirs) who had failed to recognise the Brentford potential and, instead, assumed us to be the pub team that our relative size (and wage bills) suggested. Even Dr. Tony Xia getting in on the act as Brentford’s Championship record against Aston Villa now reads : P3 W1 D2 L0 F4 A1.

We’ve said it countless times before and will no doubt say it again. Having a big stadium, a huge fanbase, a proud history and a ginormous wage bill doesn’t give you a divine right to be any good now. History counts for naff all when it’s 11 v11 trying to play your way out of what is, arguably, football’s toughest division. Just look at how Leeds United have fared since they dropped out of the Premier League in 2004.

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Arrogance and over confidence. How many times will we see it?

All of which brings with sledgehammer like unsubtly to Sheffield Wednesday this evening. A former top flight team with a huge stadium and more than the odd bit of silverware to their name. They’re unbeaten in five league games with 2 wins and 3 draws seeing them sitting 10th in the fledgling Championship table. A midweek trip immediately after Villa, with less away fans than would normally have been expected (give the distance and Saturday’s exertions) would probably not have been on Dean Smith’s ‘wishlist’ . But can Brentford come away with anything?

Out recent form has been relatively positive. In the last five games we’ve only lost once, that being the trip to Ipswich Town where the Bees dominated for the first half hour before being caught by the consummate sucker punch. It is a run that has included three more draws in the league as well as the 4-1 thrashing administered to QPR in the league cup.

If ever anyone was going to suggest that the league table lies (it doesn’t) it would be now. Our play has been quite wonderful at times and, but for some inspired opposition ‘keepers / our own defence having the odd ‘walkabout’ moment then surely the W column would be registering at least 2 ? Nottingham Forest and Bristol City, I’m looking at you.

So can we go one better against Sheffield Wednesday tonight? Well, in short: Yes. Rico Henry is fit again which means we have a recognised left back once more. Harlee Dean is amongst those to have gone and, whatever your thoughts on that move, it does mean that at least we are closer to a settled centre back pairing. Ryan Woods was, by all accounts, at his best against Aston Villa whilst with Sergi Canos suffering that ankle blow there’ll be hopes that Flo Jo has recovered from the fever that caused him to miss Saturday’s game.

Club sponsor LeoVegas have us as long as 13/5 to win this one. That’s very generous in my eyes. Whilst the deeds to the house won’t be going on it, perhaps a little investment – purely for research purposes – is the order of the day.

Take my advice at your peril. Yet, at the same time, I’ve got a feeling something is going to give tonight. In a good way.

Here’s to 7.45pm when we find out.

Nick Bruzon

 

Dean’s captain call. The right decision or is there more afoot?

9 Aug

Brentford progressed to round 2 of the Carabao cup with a 3-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon, albeit needing extra time to complete the job. Yet with Nottingham Forest next up, the talk remains around that of captain Harlee Dean. Or, rather, former captain Harlee Dean. With the Sheffield Wednesday rumours hanging around like a bad smell and the player out of contract at the end of this season, Dean Smith has chosen to hand the armband to Nico Yennaris.

League cup progress was nice. Very nice. Even if we are going back to August 2013 for the last time we won a tie in regulation time. Farid El-Alagui popping up to get a 90th minute winner in a 3-2 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge at Griffin Park. But going through is all you can ask for and a rocket for Romaine Sawyers, followed up by an extra time beauty from Ollie Watkins and Justin Shaibu (in the very last minute) were sufficient to achieve that aim.

But it is the captaincy where the talking points remain. Dean Smith confirmed to Get West London that Harlee ”Is in a bit of limbo with contract negotiations. With that going on it’s right that someone else carries the armband.” This, before adding that, “I’m sure his representatives are pitching him around to other clubs as well”.

A reference to the Sheffield Wednesday rumours? Great bluffing by Harlee’s ‘people’ in contract talks? Who knows? But with three other quality centre backs in the wings, its not a game of bluff I’d overly fancy playing. Certainly, if my long term future was at Griffin Park. Might Dean and Matthew actually just decide to ‘cash out’? Should they?

You can’t criticise a player for exploring opportunities. That’s human nature. If, indeed, these are available. Could it simply be a case of holding out for the best offer Brentford are prepared to put in front of him? Only Harlee knows that and only time will tell. But with the Bees travelling to Sheffield Wednesday on 12th Sept, after the transfer window has slammed shut, it will be very interesting to see the shape of our squad at that point.

For me, the choice of Nico was as intriguing a one in as much as who wasn’t picked. For me, and regardless of transfer talks, Harlee wouldn’t be my captain anyway. Unless truly exceptional, no defender would.

Whilst he had a wonderful season last time out, culminating in those player of the years awards, there was still the odd rush of blood to the head. Nobody can doubt he wears his heart on his sleeve and stands up for his team mates but with referees taking a harder line stance, shouting loudest isn’t necessarily the only tool in the captain’s box.

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Leading by example? Or a rush of blood?

For me, positionally, I’d want my captain at the centre of the action. Sure, he still needs that Harlee style ‘bite’ but, as much, the ability to help dictate play. To carry out the manager’s orders. To be where he can be most effectively seen and heard. And that for me is midfield. Preferably centre. That for me is Nico, Josh, Kamo or Ryan Woods.

Kamo is too new. Josh too inconsistent, for now. Nobody can doubt Nico has been around this squad for a few years and more than earned his stripes. He has shown wonderful maturity in overcoming those initial boo-boys to make a centre midfield berth his own.

The goals are equally impressive. It’s a surprise call but a good one aswell as recognising a player who has shown long term commitment to the club. A player who has, almost by stealth, become a ‘King Kev’ style part of the furniture. And that’s meant in a complimentary style.

Yet, equally, I’d have to ask why Ryan Woods has been overlooked. He started on Saturday against Sheffield United. Nico didn’t. John Egan was captain. Woodsy was man of the match in the eyes of many observers – despite the vote going to the ever popular Jota.

True, he didn’t make the team last night but even at the start of last season I’d gone on record of saying Ryan was my choice. For whatever that is worth. He went on to have a blinder, culminating in his being named ‘player’s player of the year’. With a long contract under his belt and this clear demonstration of respect from his team mates, surely he’d have been nailed on if Harlee was having this privilege removed?

Which begs the question of why? Is there an ulterior factor at play? Sunderland talk was rife a few weeks ago although, thankfully, that has gone quiet. For now. Could it just be that Ryan doesn’t want that extra responsibility? Or is it simply that Nico is deemed the best man for the job in Dean Smith’s eyes?

If so then I’m chuffed to bits for him. What an honour. He’ll absolutely do us proud.

At the end of the day (Clive), I’m just the numpty on the terrace with no access to the club inner circle or what gets said behind closed doors. It’s just a question being thrown out there as to what people think and who would they choose?

Instead, I can only call it as I see it from the stands. As a supporter. Whilst Ryan would have been my pick, bring on Captain Nico. Bring on Nottingham Forest. Let’s see what he can do in the league.

I can’t wait for Saturday.

Nick Bruzon

Who will win the Championship? Who will go down? What about the Bees? Who has the best new kit?

3 Aug

Almost there, Brentford fans. It’s Thursday morning. The Championship kicks off tomorrow evening before The Bees travel to Sheffield United on Saturday afternoon. But with three top ten finishes under our belts, is it now the time to look at stepping up? Or should we remain content just to swim in the same waters as Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and all those other famous names? To stay safe. To look at holding station until such time as Lionel Road is ready for us to move in to?

Yesterday’s column on Jota and not ‘Jota’ ended with several questions of this nature. The predominant one being, what are your hopes for the forthcoming season? Well for what it’s worth, here’s my take on how the Championship is going to pan out.

Starting with Brentford, the summer has been an exciting one. On the transfer front it has been one way traffic inward with, to date, nobody leaving bar The Hoff. Even KK and Jack Bonham have only gone out on loan. There has been no Jota to West Ham. No Ryan Woods to Sunderland. No Harlee Dean to Sheffield Wednesday. No Rico Henry to Hull City. No Romanine Sawyers to Southend United (and apologies – but that one really did appear) . So far…

Instead we have bought what would seem to be incredibly astutely. The EFL young player of the year in Ollie Watkins and South African international Kamo Mokotjo are the two names immediately grabbing our attention. The former because of the potential and our beating off a host of other clubs to his signature. These include a Nottingham Forest side who let Britt Assombalonga go to Middlesbrough and are now relying on veteran striker Daryl Murphy. Prolific in his day although never forget ‘that’ miss.

Murphy miss FLS Ipswich

And Murphy must score. Erm….

Kamo is getting Bees fans excited simply due to the fact of how skillful and how comfortable he already looks. Translating pre-season into real life form will be another thing, but the early signs are wonderfully positive. We seem to have genuine competition in pretty much every position. Just the amount of different stories that have appeared about our players over the summer show how strong our squad has become.

Of course, let’s not rest on our laurels here. The season may begin this weekend but that godforsaken transfer window still remains open until August 31. As we’ve seen in the past, players can come and go well after the campaign has begun. Andre Gray being a most recent example where, despite his two goals in two games at the beginning of the Marinus era, the inevitable sale to Burnley went through straight after.

Yet, at the same time, the current signs are positive. Fingers crossed it can stay that way. If Matthew Benham can juggle the finances to keep this squad together then we have the potential to be amongst the best in the league.

Little Brentford punching above their weight”. Not my words but those of just about every pundit outside of TW8 in recent times.

B*llocks” . They’re my words.

The last three years we’ve done what we have on merit. Reaching the play-offs for the Premier League in our first Championship season may have caught a few people unawares but it was fully deserved on our play. Coming out the other side of the Marinus experiment to end ninth, equally justified – despite that post Christmas wobble.

But for a ropey patch in the autumn last time around we could well have pushed on then. The football in the second half of the season, freed from the understandable obligation to play everything through Scott Hogan and reinvigorated by the returning Spanish duo of Jota and Sergi, was simply breathtaking.

We destroyed Aston Villa at Griffin Park. Absolutely destroyed them. You could say the same for the home games with Derby County. With Leeds United. With QPR, for whom Jake Bidwell probably has ongoing nightmares. Police still involved in that one (not literally), after reports of Jota picking his pocket more than once.

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‘Official’ love him, too

I don’t buy any of this small club nonsense. I fully know our history and have been coming to Griffin Park since 1979. Absolutely, it is a privilege to play at the level given some of the low points we’ve been through. But that doesn’t mean we should be showing any defference, any OTT respect, any form of “we’re just happy to be here’ humility. Just as nobody has a divine right to ‘be any good’ (see: Arsenal), equally just because you have humble origins you shouldn’t go into it expecting bad things to happen. Have some confidence in our ability. Our perceived size is an advantage. It is an advantage we should play up to.

We’ve taken so many teams and pundits by surprise already. I’m convinced it will happen again. My call for the Bees was initially 6th at the start of the summer. In recent weeks I’ve revised that to fifth. I’m sticking to that and nailing my colours to the mast here. Brentford to finish fifth.

Optimistic? Stupid? Naive? Whichever – I’m here to have fun this season and am only looking upwards.

Casting the net further afield, it is not a view shared by other sources. Middlesbrough and Aston Villa remain favourites to win the league. The former, I can fully understand. They’ve only ever been a force at this level (move along, nothing to see here….) whilst boosted by both the goals of Assombalonga and the parachute payments from the Premier League will be exceptionally strong . I’m agreeing with the experts on this one.

Villa though? No. No. No. I can’t see them finishing in the top six. The were horrific last season. Only good for betting on 1-1 scorelines, <2.5 goals and away L. The hype around John Terry surely more distraction than yardstick of genuine aspiration. I find it inconceivable that Steve Bruce will have turned things around this much over the summer. Stranger things have happened, of course, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Instead, Sheffield Wednesday are the team that will finally come good and take the second spot. Celebrating their 150th year with some cracking new kits, to boot (in my opinion, and not including our own, the best shirts in the Championship ) they’ll go up after knocking on the door for so long. Joining Brentford in the play-offs will be Norwich City, Fulham and Leeds United. Pick your order for these three. Much as I’m loathe to admit it, the Cottagers played some wonderful football last season. Their stadium may well be a hotbed of neutrality but, on the field, they showed they can more than do their stuff these days.

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Sheffield Wednesday to play as good as they’ll look?

Bottom three. Millwall, Ipswich Town and QPR for me. The former just too out of their depth whilst the Tractor Boys and not so super hoops have only gone backwards. With no real inward investment and a team that has only stagnated, those days of top flight football are a long, long way away.

Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. What do I know? Not much. I’ll happily hold up my hands when this all gets proven wrong, One man’s opinion is another’s comedy.

Club sponsor LeoVegas has us ranked joint 11th to win the league at 25/1. Do they know something we don’t?

Likewise FourFourTwo magazine have just published their season preview. Available now from all good newsagents, they call Brentford to finish 10th. Don’t let that or the fact that yours truly wrote the piece on The Bees (Klanggggggg; the sound of a name being dropped) put you off, though. It’s actually a great read.

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Season preview edition now available

The other follow up we need to do from yesterday is in regards to Jota. Or, specifically ‘Jota’. Of Wolves. You may recall that the EFL have told Wolves that he needs to have his real surname, Silva, on his shirt rather than what they deem to be his nickname.

All well and good, although my own subsequent thought was what this might mean for us? Should we even be able to hang on to him, of course. An awkward look in the other direction being the immediate reaction.

However,Twitter user Ben (@BenPlumb97) has put the question out there in cyberspace. Thankfully, the legend that is Kitman Bob has stepped up to answer.

And relax 🙂

Bob Tweet re Jota

Nick Bruzon

Every cloud has a silver lining. There’s only one Jota (although we’ve two Mads).

2 Aug

We’ll be doing well to top yesterday’s column  (at least in terms of ‘feel good factor’ rather than quality) but with Brentford fans still sweating on the future of Jota, there has been some relief out of Molineux where Wolves have had to make an interesting update. Despite all the stories linking West Ham, Burnley et al to our talismanic Spaniard, it seemed that they had blindsided everybody late last month when the club website proclaimed: Wolves announce Jota.

Having already swooped for Portuguese midfielder Rúben Neves at close to £16,000,000 anything was possible. That’s some serious money to be splashing around. Are Wolves joining the ranks of the big spenders in a bid to get back to a top flight they have graced on numerous occasions over the years?

Snatching Jota from under the noses of West Ham would have been another indication this was their intent. Thankfully, of course, once the heart attack had been averted the story turned out to be anything but the case. Infact, it was another Portuguese player, although this time Diogo Jota.

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Jota signs – kind of

And relax.

Then, yesterday morning, Wolves sparked up the Jota talk once more when they announced their official squad numbers. Despite that initial declaration to supporters, it seems the player has changed his surname. Or, rather, has had it changed for him. Despite still calling him by the aforementioned name, the club have had to concede that:

Also in today’s ‘squad number news’ Diogo Jota will have SILVA on back of his shirt due to EFL regs about players needing to use surnames”, declared official Molineux twitter. Then adding “That is part of his surname. Jota is just a nickname he has become known by… Obviously fans can still choose whatever they like on the back of shirts – Jota if they wish – but he can’t wear in games”.

Move along. Nothing to see here. Turns out there is only one Jota after all.  And, as it stands, he’s nowhere near West Ham. The closest Burnley will get to him was last night’s 2-2 friendly with the same Celta Vigo side turned over at Griffin Park three days earlier.

Whether this remains the case is, of course, a matter of conjecture and something well outside of all our hands. But for now, with the game at Sheffield United just a few days away, he is very much a Bee. Long may this continue.

That said, the transfer door did swing open at Griffin Park yesterday when it was announced on ‘official’ that another Dane joined the ranks. Mention the name Mads to any Brentford fan and chances are that the first thought will be one of Mads Tarrant and the team in our wonderful ticket office. But now there are two.

Defender Mads Bech Sørensen has become the latest to join the B-team after signing from AC Horsens in his native Denmark. With the likes of Andreas Bjelland, Lasse Vibe, Henrik Dalsgaard and Justin Shaibu in the first team squad, not to mention the B-team set up, is it a case of us now becoming Brentfjord?

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There’s only one Jota although two Mads at Brentford.

Bad puns aside, given the strike rate of our recruitment team to date this marks a really interesting signing as another player with international experience (he is a current Danish U-19) is added to our playing staff. The set up at Griffin Park is really now becoming one of strength in depth. The competition in the first team is already clear to see with most positions having genuine alternatives whilst the performances of the B-team have, to date, vindicated that decision.

It’s not often we’ve been able to say this in the past.

Is it too soon to get excited ? Is it time for the Bees to really push for the Premier League after three successive top ten finishes in the Championship. Should we be happy with survival? Are we all getting carried away? What are your hopes for the forthcoming season ? See you here this time tomorrow when we explore in depth.

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