Tag Archives: Norwich City

Who wants it most? Who will hold their nerve?

21 Apr

So, play-offs it is. Hopefully. Not a typo. A 1-1 draw for Brentford with Cardiff City last night, combined with Watford picking up an absolutely crucial win at Norwich City, means the gap to second place in The Championship is now ten points with four games to play. Maths keeps that dream alive but, realistically, it is now time to regroup and rediscover our goal scoring form before a tenth bite at the end of season cherry. An unbeaten run now stretching to eight games with only five goals against (and two of those came in the second half switch off at Derby back in mid-March) suggests all is not as rotten in the Garden of Eden as many would have you believe. However, the inability to turn wins into draws over the course of the season – only Millwall have more than our 15 – is putting paid to any aspiration of going up via the direct route. That is, of course, assuming there is no last minute wobble combined with a surge from 7th (seventh) placed Reading. As we’ve been saying all year, this one is going to run until game 46. If nothing else, just look at what happened to Nottingham Forest last season when Swansea City stole up the blind side to beat them in a photo finish on the line. A seemingly unassailable position falling apart at the death.

As for the Cardiff game, Brentford began with the same starting XI for the third successive game. Ivan Toney and Marcus Forss at one end ; Christian Norgaard alongside Pontus and Ethan at the other. Again, we started brightly and built the pressure. Again there were chances. Again, we couldn’t convert. Marcus with the two clearest opportunities and both of which hindsight will suggest could have been taken differently. The second in particular crying out for Bryan Mbeumo to tap into the net from close range. Instead, the young Finn twisting his body to stretch for the ball and only managing to guide it over. Ivan Toney also came close after intercepting a slack backpass but Alex Smithies in goal for the Bluebirds pulled off a smart save to deny the Championship’s leading goalscorer a chance to add to his haul.

The Bees come close

0-0 as the players went in for their cup of tea and orange quarters. They emerged in much the same vein as they had ended the opening period. On top and pushing. Brentford being Brentford its never easy. Ethan Pinnock adjudged to have handled in the box just prior to the hour and Kieffer Moore making no mistake from the spot. A well placed penalty giving our visitors the lead. 

It didn’t last long, thankfully. The impressive Tariqe Fosu shooting from distance for Smithies to allow it straight through his hands just four minutes later. Get in. 1-1. The pressure continued. Chances followed with Sergi Canos coming closest. His own attempt to emulate Fosu moving wickedly through the air with ‘goal’ written all over it, only to be denied by the ball cannoning off the chest of Smithies. The ‘keeper with hands nowhere near it but thankful to see it bounce clear. Close but no cigar. Despite dominating possession (don’t even start…) further goals proved as hard to come by as positive support for the European Super League. Our own hopes of going up in second place dissolving as quickly as the fledgling cash machine.

Positives? Look, I am a glass half full type. No apologies for that. What’s the point otherwise? Life is tough enough without heaping further misery or negativity on oneself. On our day we are on fire and, for now, we are keeping things super tight at the back. The play-offs themselves are all about not losing and we’re very, very good at that aspect. The only thing that counts is getting over the line. 

At the moment we’re not playing as well as we are used to – no question. The key absences and enforced restructure playing a huge part in that although as was proven against Preston this set up can still find the net. Indeed, last night could have seen more goals had we found the rub of the green. I can’t cry over that but I will take comfort from the fact that this advance towards the play-offs is the opposite of last time out.

Then, we were always playing catch up on automatic. Impossibly so. We had a wonderful run of form, building game after game, to put us in contention before it dissolved in the final two defeats against Stoke City and Barnsley. The chance of automatic in our hands at the death only to see it surrendered in such tepid form after that wonderful late surge to even put ourselves in with a chance. Our hopes built up into a wonderful fairy tale ending to life at Griffin Park before being so cruelly denied. There was an almost resigned inevitability about what would come next and, of course, whilst we got one over Swansea City in the semis, the final at the W place was as frustrating as the end to the regular campaign. 

This time around we are the hard team to beat. Brentford have only lost 7(seven) games all season. Nobody has a better record on that front. The wins may not always come but get the ball to Ivan and the goals flow. Get Josh and Rico back (one can dream) and our attacking edge goes up tenfold.

So, for me, there are two choices. Petulant stropping, gnashing of teeth and wailing. Shouting ‘Frank Out’ and blaming him for all our perceived woes. Cursing the campaign as a disaster and writing our team off as though it was already dead and buried. 

Or… back our boys for the last 7(seven) games. Making sure that we first get over the play-off line and then see where we ago from there. Try telling Derby County or Birmingham City that football life is bad. Our situation is ten times better than their plight. I’ve no doubt Wayne Rooney and Harlee Dean would trade positions with us in a heartbeat if such a thing were possible. I’ll keep on backing our team and our head coach for promotion until that chance is gone. For now, it remains very much on even if it will require us going through that dreaded end of season lottery. 

Yes, it IS frustrating. I was convinced automatic was in our hands. It still could be but we are now relying on Watford failing to pick up a single win against Millwall or Swansea City. Likewise, us winning four games in a row (including that penultimate game with the Hornets). Much as I am an optimist I am also a realist. Football is full of surprises, that’s for sure, but one of this magnitude at this late stage would seem unlikely. The again, pressure does strange things. A win for the Bees at Bournemouth on Saturday lunchtime combined with Millwall beating Watford makes it interesting. Both results are possible although the broader sequence of fixtures still make it unlikely. There’s no way Watford will drop that many points. For us to win all four will also need something huge.

Last night saw two ‘must win’ games. For us and for Norwich City. Neither happened and clearly the Canaries don’t want win the title. Farke out. Or should that be Farke off? In all seriousness, they’ve been great. Watford have been on fire in recent months. Both are going up. The only question being who wins the league, who gets the second automatic slot and then who wins at the W place. That’s all that counts now. That’s all we should be focussing on. For Brentford, automatic relies on maths. Promotion relies on us pulling together and getting over the line at the tenth attempt. 

I can already see Ivan walking up to the penalty spot in the 89th minute…. 

Is it coming to this once more….? (The place rather than the hats)

Nick Bruzon   

I want a squirrel and I want one now!!

18 Apr

Congratulations Norwich City. It is the only place to start a look at our own Championship fortunes this morning after their return to the Premier League was confirmed yesterday. Despite a home defeat, every favour possible was cashed in after Brentford were held 0-0 by Millwall, Watford lost at Luton and Swansea City left it late to salvage a draw with Wycombe. Not that these favours would have been needed in the longer term. The Canaries have been outstanding this season in terms of both ability and consistency. It has been apparent for months that ‘automatic’ would be theirs if they held the nerve. Instead, there has barely been a ruffled feather on that front. The goals and wins have kept on coming. The reward fully deserved.   

For Brentford, still all to play for but getting tougher every game. A frustrating afternoon no doubt and moreso given it followed that stonking 5-0 win at Preston last weekend. The same side selected yet, this time, the opposition infinitely harder to break down. Chances at a premium with the only one I can remember that from Marcus Forss early on in the second half. He did tremendously well to wriggle past two defenders on his way into the box before firing his shot the wrong side of the near post when squaring it would have been the easier option. In hindsight. One can’t blame him for seeing the goal open up after working the chance and our fortunes should have hung on more than this solitary opportunity. Instead, Millwall did what Millwall do. Indeed, they had their own chances to take an early lead before the game meandered to another stalemate.

The optimist in me could say it is now 7(seven) unbeaten. And it is. Another game where the pre kick-off presence of one-time albatross Clem in his Football Focus interview barely caused a murmur of consternation given his current form. His historical ‘jinx’ factor currently set to ‘positive’ and so, if anything, was a good sign going in to this one. On a side note, the interview with Thomas is well worth watching. Clem, his usual blend of gentle probing and charm personified. Thomas giving a much needed reality check on last season aswell as the challenge ahead for the remainder of this.

Clem and Thomas do their thing

It was a game that saw another point gained but, really, if there is any aspiration of automatic we need to be turning those into wins rather than becoming divisional draw specialists. Brentford are now fourth. One point behind Swansea City and eight behind Watford with a game in hand a visit form the Hornets still to come. Bournemouth on fire and tucked in behind us on level points. Their own victory at Carrow Road yesterday making it six in a row for the Cherries. Their own fine start to the campaign coming off the rails before bouncing back in some style. If anything, they are the danger team making that late surge although perhaps second place a touch too far out of the way.

For Brentford, all we can do is focus on winning then hope something happens in our favour. Tuesday night is the big one. No question. The evening of ‘must win’ games. A visit from Cardiff City as tough as any we could face. Oh, for a repeat of the Sergi Canos hat-trick against the Bluebirds back at Christmas. Of course, football doesn’t work like that and it is the first of our five remaining fixtures. Five high stakes games which could see this team become legends. From this point in the stress levels are only going to build. For everyone. How Thomas Frank manages that is going to be key to our fortunes. How he gets his team performing consistently a conundrum only he, and his staff, can unravel.

The same XI were world cup winners against Preston. Chance after chance created, and taken. Fast forward a week and it would have been easier to unlock a front door wearing oven gloves and a deep sea diver’s helmet than it was the Millwall defence. The doom and gloom in the air at full time totally disproportionate to a team that are still sitting fourth in the Championship. I’ve largely been off social media these last two weeks. Not even having the heart to update these pages. I love talking about the Bees but seeing all the negativity is just doing my head in. I’m  done with what, at times, feels little more than arrogant entitlement from a group of Veruca Salts throwing their worthless opinions around like spoiled brats hurling toys out of a pram. 

I. DEMAND. AUTOMATIC. NOWWWWW.

I’ve no real issue anyone putting the boot in if they can back it coherently. Make a case for what they feel is going wrong and, more importantly, what they might realistically change. Instead, its nothing but bullying of individuals and the same tired, lemming like phrases:

Bottle jobs.

Frank Out.

Canos / Marcondes / Jensen (delete or add as applicable) is sh*t.

Should have bought over January (I’d love to know who and how). 

Then there’s Tariqe Fosu being feted as the saviour of the team. He IS good, very good, no question. Yet one player does not win games on his own. One player is not the be all and end all of our chances. The responses to yesterday’s final result being announced on Twitter saw so many of the the usual suspects doing the usual thing. Forgetting, also, that a campaign lasts 46 games rather than something determined by the latest round of results.

Look at who is injured. Look at how we do things. Look at the pressure on everyone. On every club – something seen in yesterday’s results. Instead of whine, whine, whine how about actually backing your team? Save the post mortem for later, if it is really needed.

I’m pretty much done with Twitter and Facebook for the moment. Yesterday illustrated that just perfectly – shouldn’t have looked at the full time update but a few beers in the sunshine helped pique my curiosity later in the day. The return to The Griffin, seeing old friends and discussing football in person just wonderful. Another positive to be taken from the day. Sadly, the same can’t be said about social media. I want to enjoy my football, no matter how hard it is at times. How tense. How excruciating. Not have it dragged down by bitching. So I’m done. Let them shout into the void. I’ll go on there if it suits me and that’s it.

The replies to this. Only Wilf talking sense

We are on the threshold of greatness. Whilst only a moron would fail to recognise things are ten times harder for us than they might have been, getting out of the Championship is one of the toughest things possible. Twenty four teams fighting for three spots. The calibre of opposition and budgets of those who have parachuted down from the Prem illustrate it in some style. That’s before you get to those well established clubs. The pressure on everyone is immense. We saw that with the sequence of results that came in this weekend. It was a lost opportunity for Brentford but, then again, also for Watford and Swansea. Perhaps even Norwich City who would have been confirmed champions.

Instead, it is all eyes forward to Tuesday and that other must win game, for Norwich at home to Watford. To be fair, even a point hands them a title that is now only out of their grasp by virtue of mathematics and goal difference. I’d love them to do it if only for what it then means for Brentford, of course. As Thomas Frank said in his interview with Clem (and if you haven’t seen that as yet then you can, no should, take a look. There’s a link here) I think it is for Watford to lose but of course we need to do our bit.” 

Of course. The absolute priority has to be us getting our act together first, rediscovering our cutting edge and then seeing what else happens. Starting with Cardiff City on Tuesday at 6pm.

Nick Bruzon

A terrible morning after a frustrating night before.

7 Apr

Another game unbeaten. Third placed in the Championship table. A clean sheet. Clear of Swansea City on level games. Ordinarily one would be ecstatic to be in this position heading in to the final seven games of the campaign. Yet a 0-0 for Brentford against Birmingham City, a fourth successive draw for the Bees, has left nothing but a feeling of deep frustration. An opportunity spurned. The gap to second placed Watford 9 points. As if to underline the gulf in class at the top end, Norwich City took the opportunity to inflict a 7(seven) – 0 bracketing on Huddersfield Town. The Terriers on the receiving end of what happens when the opposition actually take their chances rather than just create them. 

There’s no disguising the final score

Brentford are now closer to 7th(seventh) place than automatic. Bournemouth currently sitting five points behind as they look to break in to the play-off zone. We’ve been saying for weeks that automatic is possible but failure to look over the shoulder has cost us – both Barnsley and Watford storming up and, in the case of the Hornets, through. Whilst the play-offs are the more realistic option for the Bees now (albeit, I’ll never say never until it’s mathematically out of sight) even falling over the line into that final-four shoot out isn’t as cut and dried as once it looked. Comments on Twitter to any post from ‘official’ were the usual mix of FrankOut and calls for Fosu to start. The Messianic pressure being heaped on Tariqe’s shoulders as odd as Thomas Frank’s refusal to mix things up and give his man a start or even just a bit more than a late run.

Instead, the only change from Saturday’s draw at Huddersfield saw Mathias Jensen start in place of Saman Ghoddos. To be fair, it looked good. Pressure built. Chances were created – Jensen blasting over before Sergi Canos had the very best of them. The Spaniard timing his run to break clear straight down the middle, only to Clayton it when one on one with ‘keeper Etheridge. There were others, too. Yet it already felt like ‘one of those’ as we headed in to half time. Lots of pressure and neat play. A statistician’s dream but no clinical finish or even ‘out and out’ chance, the Canos opportunity aside. And the longer the game went on the more it lacked any cutting edge. Brentford looking flat, muted, impotent. Ivan Toney rarely getting a sniff. 

Clearly we’re missing the threat offered by Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva. Two of our three best players missing for weeks now. No coincidence the results have slipped away with their injuries. The added absence of Henrik Dalsgaard further limiting our attacking threat. At least we kept it tight at the back although still had to be grateful to the woodwork after Scott Hogan caused merry hell in the box, freeing up Gary Gardner close in on the angle. Thankfully, the Birmingham player saw his shot cannon clear off the post and the Bees survived. It was part of a sequence that saw our visitors take the game to Brentford early on. Clearly, they weren’t here just to throw 11 behind the ball and with that level of open play we should have had enough about us to convert something of our own. Instead, it was another case of ifs, buts and maybes. A definite feeling of two more points dropped rather than one gained.

Bryan Mbeumo had one of his best games in a while. Coming close himself aswell as creating opportunities, such as they were. We might have had a few good shouts for penalty kicks – Mads Bech Sorensen in particular – but ultimately it was an evening where full time came with a feeling of emptiness. Of lethargy. Of bang average performance rather than one of having seen us kept out by a combination of cat like ‘keeper, shonky refereeing, ratlling woodwork and all those other things that so often come together to aid the opposition. This one was down to us and us only. When the time came, we couldn’t rise to the occasion. 

When Watford had finally left a glimmer of light we were unable to take advantage and close down what, this morning, feels less like a gap and more like a chasm to second place. It is one we can still cross, and let’s not forget that as part of a tough run in, they also have a six pointer at Lionel Road. Hopefully, things won’t be too late by the time that comes around. Ultimately though, every passing game sees it more reliant on maths than it does on our own ability to play football.

I was genuinely full of optimism yesterday.About both the game and our longer term prospects but even having slept on it, the feeling of self-destruct and now being really up against it that hit home at full-time remains. All being well it’ll go by the weekend when we travel to Preston.

I’m not sure what Thomas does from here to help his team rediscover their clinical edge. Short of a miraculous return for Rico or Josh, his squad remains as it is. The clamour for Fosu remains loud on social media and whilst teams have never been picked by fans before, something needs to change. Some fresh blood needed to reinvigorate a team who are so tantalisingly close to the ultimate dream yet, for whatever reasons, so far off the pace at present. There is still time to turn it around, even if it is just our form that returns. Anything else beyond there, from anyone else, nothing more than a bonus.

Then, when things couldn’t get worse, they did. I’ve woken up to the club highlighting the racist abuse once again directed towards Ivan Toney on Instagram last night. The club published their own reaction, one mirrored by all of us with brains.

There are no real words and no excuse to justify what was written by the perpetrator. ‘Frank Out’ is easy enough to ignore or even laugh at but this is totally different. Spineless. Cowardly. Hateful. Ignorant. Here’s hoping they catch whomever it is and use all the powers available to deal with this. How anyone thinks that sort of language about a fellow human being is acceptable remains beyond me. I can’t imagine how utterly horrific it must be to have this directed towards you. It’s awful enough reading it.  A crappy end off the pitch after a frustrating evening on it.

So I’m done. Here’s to a few days of ‘down time’ from social media, from football, from all this nonsense and then back to it for Preston. I think we could all do with a reset.

Nick Bruzon  

Anything but a top draw afternoon.

4 Apr

Another point for Brentford. The draw at Huddersfield Town marking a mixed bag of results from the opening round of the Easter Championship fixtures. With Swansea City making it three defeats in a row at the hands of Birmingham City but Watford winning, again, the gap from the Bees in third to the second placed Hornets is now nine points. True, we still have that extra fixture and a visit from the Vicarage Road club to come but, for now, points in the bag are very much better than games in hand. For now… Who knows how things will or could change over the next few games?

We can only start with events at Huddersfield Town. A game which finished 1-1 after a first half in which we were frustrated by tenacious opponents and referee Oliver Langford. The man in the middle clearly set to ‘random’. Our case not helped by a shambolic opening goal conceded via a bit of defensive playmaking as haphazard and frustrating as the ‘officiating’ in the opening period. Raya playing out to Roerslev rather than booting it. The young Dane seemed to lose his footing before giving it away. Norgaard shoved before losing it and then Raya caught flat-footed after man of the match Lewis O’Brien reacted quickest. Just 7(seven) minutes gone and a goal down. Mere words can’t describe how awful it looked from start to finish. Dig out the video if you can do it to yourself. Anyone giving up the booze for Lent would have been forgiven for cracking at that point.

Help very much needed to get through the opening to the game

It was a goal all the more frustrating given Langford had adjudged Sergi Canos to have ‘fouled’ Demeaco Duhaney when running clean through on our hosts just moments earlier. Wonderful though he is, you’ve more chance of the Easter bunny displaying that level of dirty play. The Spanish playmaker one who very much embraces the positive side of attack, preferring to do it with the ball rather than his elbows. A player who trusts the referee to do his job. Sadly, the man in the middle failed spectacularly. See also the clear handball by Naby Sarr with Ivan Toney bursting clear or our man being bundled over yet adjudged to have conceded the foul. 

Let’s be clear, you still need to make your own chances but against opponents facing their own battle at the other end of the table, nothing is going to be handed over on a plate. The referee still needs to do his job and my word, Mr. Langford failed spectacularly in the first half. It was an opening period that actually had me yearning for the card waving discipline of Keith Stroud.

Our own cause not helped by Ghoddos and Mbeumo joining Dalsgaard in missing the game. At least the later had the excuse of being injured so not making it onto the pitch. Marcondes and Fosu amongst those given their chance far too late. Even Marcus Forss coming on for his 80th minute ‘subs by numbers’ appearance was as predictable as it was reactive. I’m no manager but the lack of impact and spurned opportunities in the opening period should have been a clarion call to action at half time rather than waiting until the usual 60-70 minute ‘Warburton zone’ to start proceedings.

Mr. Langford’s first half performance left a lot to be desired

Then again, we came out for the second period with a rocket having been delivered. Mads Bech Sørensen stabbing home the equaliser with just five minutes gone. Ivan Toney then hitting the inside of the post moments later. Surely, now, the pressure would build and the screw be turned? Surely? Alas not. Whilst Brentford had the lion’s share of the ball and possession, inability to carve out any further clear opening saw the game meander to an inevitable finish. Actual goals, rather than expected ones or retention stats, being what wins games. Huddersfield Town proving as resolute hosts as when they scuppered West Brom in game 45 last season. We weren’t complaining about their approach then. Perhaps it is something we might have done well to  remember.

Disappointed? Well, yes. Nobody has a divine right to win but Brentford just feel very samey at the moment. Our free flowing play and attacking intent parked in the sickbay with Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva. Games we might have won earlier in the season now turning into draws. Blame the ref. Blame lost chances (see: Nottingham Forest). Blame late wobbles (Derby County). Either way, the top two places would be infinitely nearer had we been able to close out any of the last three games. On the plus side, the meltdown ushered in by the FrankOut brigade after the Coventry debacle hasn’t seen Swansea City win their three games in hand to stride clear by the eight points predicted. Instead, we’re now ahead of the Swans whose current form reads LLL. Yet, like Barnsley, nobody has really kept tabs on Watford and they are the ones who have kept on churning out result after result after result.

What next? Watford travel to a Middlesbrough team who still have play-off aspirations. That, before another promotion hunting team in Reading, the derby with Luton and then Norwich away. Come out of those in any semblance of good form, off the back of an already mammoth run, and they deserve everything that comes their way. For Brentford, a visit from Birmingham City to set the pulse racing. Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin, Scott Hogan plus  Jon ‘and Toral must score’ amongst those likely to feature on Tuesday.

And Toral must score….

‘Automatic’ is still well possible but it is going to take a huge effort. Not just from those lining up against our rivals but from Brentford themselves. On and off the pitch. My word, if ever there was a time to return to winning ways then this it is upon us. Even Thomas seemed subdued after yesterday’s game, noting that “I would assess it as a decent performance. Not a top performance.

Here’s hoping for a return to winning ways and the chance to hear ‘Daydream Believer’ at full time. Oh, to be there on Tuesday.

Nick Bruzon

The end is nigh…

12 Mar

Brentford travel to Blackburn Rovers tonight. We all know the shape of the league table. We all know that the result will only be one step on the way to deciding which team joins Norwich City in the Premier League. Us, Watford, Swansea City or perhaps a surge up the blindside by one of the other contenders now putting a run together. Fingers crossed for the right result, obviously. Goal difference means that should we pick up all three points tonight, we will go ahead of the second placed Hornets on level games. They then travel to Cardiff City tomorrow whilst the Swans face the prospect of a trip to Luton. No doubt hoping Andre Ayew (pen) will keep up his current hot streak of converting dubiously awarded spot kicks. Whatever the methodology in Steve Cooper’s team being given these things, there’s no doubting Ayew’s precision from the spot. Sadly. 

Still, we’ve done all this to death in the last week or so. Brentford have had some rare ‘down time’ with the Rotherham game being postponed due to the hosts Covid results last Friday. It has been our first stretch without a midweek game in I don’t know how long. The backlog of league fixtures and our run to the semi finals of the League cup making it as relentless a season as has ever been experienced. Now, we are in to the final 12 games of the campaign. The regular campaign, that is. The reward for coming out on top in these will be indescribable. The agony of the play-off roulette wheel nothing any of the teams in the mix will want to go through. The three of us, at the very least, will have their eyes and expectations on securing that second place spot. This really is going to be high stakes stuff with those that miss out on automatic facing the prospect of the W place in North London. And whilst we’re not in the ‘must win’ game category yet, you can be sure every point won or lost is going to be scrutinised as we get closer and closer to the line.

Here’s hoping the unexpected break has helped our knackered legs. Blackburn played midweek and got a draw at Ewood Park. They were even winning until they were adjudged to have conceded a penalty which etc etc etc. Deja vu and all that. We’ve got no new injury concerns as far as I am aware – just the ongoing ones – and, of course, none other than Geoff Eltringham at the helm. I’d say ‘in charge’ but, you know.. The amount of times we’ve crossed swords with him a source of ongoing frustration. Stoke away, last season, just one of the many horror showings. Fingers crossed for a more measured approach tonight. There has already been enough refereeing based interference at the top of the table in recent weeks for him to add to that sh*t show.

Thanks, Geoff. One of the many.

Whichever way it goes, kick off is 7.45pm this evening. Sky have the game and, as Thomas said in his own press conference to the the build up “The biggest task for me, and the staff, and the players is to keep all the noise away so we can simply focus on training well today and playing well tomorrow. If you think too far ahead you don’t focus on what you can affect. The only thing we are focussing on is how we can perform best tomorrow.”   No bad thing. Thankfully they don’t read this. Hopefully, they pay little attention to social media. One game at a time and all that is the obvious mantra, even if it is tempting to look ahead and around.

Other news from yesterday saw Ivan Toney being nominated for manager fo the month alongside Teemu Pukki. Somebody at the EFL Twitter missing out on the ‘proof reading’ option before pressing publish. Of course, it transpired he had been nominated for player of the month (although at least the FrankOut brigade would have been happy for a while). An award which has this morning been announced as going to the Norwich City man. Well played Pukki. He’s a machine.

Also this week the kids have returned to school. Thank goodness. The brand of home-teaching in our house as dodgy as a Swansea penalty award but that’s all over now. The teaching, I mean. Instead, the school run is back on and it is one which takes us past Griffin Park. A place I still cast a wistful eye towards every time. So many memories. So much time spent and emotional investment poured into the famous old ground. Now, it has a new occupant. A mechanical digger. There it was on the forecourt yesterday, doing something to the ground side turnstile entrance gates on Braemar Road. It would seem the inevitable is definitely now underway.

Here’s hoping the only demolition work we’re talking about tomorrow is a job done on Blackburn. See you there. Metaphorically speaking. Confined to barracks once more. Joy. 

Sad times at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

No show Flo Jo. The game is off so what next?

6 Mar

Matchday. Time for Brentford fans to get back on the horse after the midweek reverse at Norwich City. Except, of course, we can’t. Friday morning saw the announcement of our visit from Rotherham United being cancelled due to their second Corona Virus outbreak of the season (following that in December). Instead, the game has been pushed back to April 27th and we can do nothing more today than watch the results roll in. Watford – Nottingham Forest and Swansea – Middlesbrough being the key fixtures of note. Given our own lack of action we could well end up sitting in fourth place by the end of the day. Whatever else happens, by the time we play next (at Blackburn Rovers on Friday evening) at least it will be in the knowledge that Swansea have finally caught up their two games on us. Following today’s encounter, they also travel to Ewood Park. Tuesday night could be a huge one for them. And us.

However the table looks at that point, I’m not gong to get over excited or angry. As we’ve been saying all season the Championship is a marathon not a sprint. Positions ebb and flow. It won’t be until the final game of the campaign that Brentford know for sure how things look. Obvious, I realise. Obvious that is, to those of us who understand football. Who resist the tendency to hit the panic button and go for the knee-jerk, lemming like meltdown because a player mishits a pass or the team fail to score. Who think that enjoying our highest position in years and pushing for the top flight is something to celebrate rather than being “up the club’s ass(?)”. Weird. But that’s old ground covered off a few times already. I think, by now, its fair to say we fall into two camps. The objective and the keyboard warriors. Which is probably the same at most clubs, to be fair. The difference being we’re second, everyone, rather than fighting a Birmingham City style relegation battle.

I’m gutted about today. Initial thoughts are with the players and staff at Rotherham United. Unlike the Bristol City symptom-gate affair (which, unless I have missed something, all seems to have gone very, very quiet despite the promise of an EFL investigation) positive tests were returned. Hopefully all will be well in their squad.

Instead of seeing former Bees Chiedozie Ogbene and the ever popular Flo Jo once more, we are confined to barracks. Stuck on the sofa watching Watford and then waiting for updates from the Swansea City game.

Not today….

Personally, I’m not overly fussed about sitting through either. Boredom aside. As noted before, they won’t be definitive in the final placings, regardless of any flux experienced in the table. It goes without saying we’d love a pair of away wins but I can’t see Nottingham Forest or Middlesbrough able to offer any resistance whatsoever. Boro’ in particular will be up against a Swansea team buoyed by their 96th minute ‘penalty’ at Stoke. Shut happens. They still need to pick up points in their surplus games and then maintain that position. The subsequent tough run they face is their problem, not ours.  

So yes, I expect Brentford to be an interim fourth place come 5pm. And when we are, we are. The plus side to Rotherham’s misfortune being that at least, in the short term, it allows our players some extra recovery time. The injury list is a long one. Fatigue must be setting in. The heart would rather see us playing but the head says that at least we can gain some advantage by this enforced inactivity. With three teams currently fighting it our for one automatic place (Norwich City won’t blow their chance) this will come down to who can hold their nerve. Who can keep their squad trim. Who can put a decent run together over the final dozen games rather than hitting the skids. Let’s not forget that Watford had their own wobble at Bournemouth last week whilst Swansea have been humped by both Huddersfield Town and Bristol City in recent fixtures.      

There’s a touch under a quarter of the season to go. It is going to be huge for Brentford. Let’s just focus on ourselves. Starting at Blackburn on Friday. Anything else that comes our way is a bonus. And if there are no gifts, there’s always the social media meltdown button to press…

Fingers at the ready

Nick Bruzon

Grow up or go support Manchester City.

4 Mar

Wednesday evening is proudly sponsored by a punch to the gut. A horrible low blow of a night that leaves Brentford still second, everyone, but now locked tighter than ever with Swansea City and Watford at the business end of the Championship. Norwich City an incredible ten points clear at the top after a thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory over the Bees. No complaints about how it played out at Carrow Road, beyond their gratuitous use of goal music, although what came afterwards left a somewhat numb feeling in the stomach. The usual suspects lining up to put the boot into one player – the apparent desire to see him fail and subsequent relish that accompanied what was, admittedly, a poor showing by his standards, very much a showcase for both the frustrating side of social media as it was their own ignorance as to how the season, the squad and the club work. A blinkered avoidance of the fact that, on the night, the entire team were very much second best to a  Norwich side that may aswell start ordering in their 2021/22 Panini sticker books now. 

No complaints. Sadly

It all started off so brightly. David Raya standing up to Teemu Pukki with the Norwich goal machine clean through. Barely minutes on the clock. He should have scored. Ian Moose would, no doubt, have gobbled that one up (or demonstrated how to do so on the training ground afterwards) but the Brentford goalkeeper maintained his composure and ensured we didn’t concede a customary early goal. 

Yet if this was to be a warning sign it spurred the Bees into life. Running 100mph at our hosts, Sergi Canos hit a stunning drive from distance that Tim Krul did well to parry away. The same player then guilty of a brutal looking miss after magnificent work down the right hand flank by Mbeumo. The winger squaring it for the Spaniard who, somehow, steered it horribly wide rather than stroking it home from his unmarked position yards out. Whether he slipped or got tangled up in his own feet, I’ve no idea. Either way, it should have been 1-0. Either way it looked awful.

Ivan Toney and Canos again had chances. The former perhaps with the better of the pair before it all went South. A sloppy pass from Sergi allowing Norwich to turn defence into attack. They broke at speed, opening up the Brentford defence as easily as they would a packet of biscuits. The ball found Emi Buendía who made no mistake, shooting through a crowd of players low into the far corner. 25 minutes gone. 1-0 Norwich City. Brentford very much on the back foot after a sterling start to proceedings. The social media hate mob now going full tilt for Sergi. A player who, at most, as suggested at half-time by Sam Saunders in the Sky Sports studios was guilty of nothing more than trying too hard against his former club. Sam’s right.     

And that was it. The first half ended quicker than you can say ‘keyboard warrior’. The second half saw Norwich City dominant. Mbeumo disappearing as quickly as he had sparked into early life. Winston Reid riding the gauntlet of yellow cards. Obvious changes with Tariqe Fosu and Christian Norgaard, amongst the players to come on, doing nothing to change the momentum of the game. Hello? Are we going to put the boot in? Hello..? Twitter..?  Both players powerless to stem the yellow tide. If anything, Norwich grew stronger. Brentford failing to even come within a sniff beyond a last minute surge when rough play in the box on Bryan Mbeumo went unpunished. Penalty? Surely? No!! I’ve seen them given, Clive. 100% VAR gets it right. 100%. The irony given what came later in the evening for Swansea City. 

Hmmm….

In short…. best team in the Championship proved why they are so far clear at the top. Established first team player has ad-hoc bad game and isn’t Benrahma. Rest of his team mates unable to do anything better against deserving winners.

Insert Face palm. We’re still second, everyone, but Saturday at home to Rotherham United is one where we’ll definitely be looking for a return to winning ways. Despite their own battle with relegation, I’m going into that game with an expectation of nothing more than three points. It’s a crucial time with the chasing pack breathing back down our necks and Swansea City boosted by a 95th minute winner at Stoke City. Kyle Naughton’s theatrical fall after Jack Clarke was deemed to have breathed on him being sufficient to earn the Swans a late, late penalty. Andre Ayew duly converted it to earn his side an additional two points after the scores had been locked at 1-1 for so long.

That’s football. Decisions go for you. Decisions go against you. We can’t change it and there’s no point crying. Get the inevitable frustration out and then look forward. For Brentford, that game with the Millers. Swansea host Middlesbrough and Watford entertain Nottingham Forest at lunchtime. We may well have been overtaken by the time we start and, if we are, that’s fine. The only thing that counts is how we perform at 3pm. On and off the pitch.

I do wonder what social media would have been like had it been as easily available in the Butcher / Rosenior eras, amongst others. When we were skint. When we had to have a fanzine buy us a player. When we were rattling buckets and kicking around the lower end of League One or Two. When the stadium was falling apart around us. 

Whilst I loved those times, unquestionably, let’s not pretend that things were always rosy. There was some absolute dross served up to go with, what was, an incredible bond between fans and players. We were all in it together. Fans united in our love for the club and brutal acceptance that we were where we were. Still with the dream of bettering ourselves. Still cheering our team and our heroes on. In person. Now, the keyboard warriors are out there doing their thing from the safety of their mummy’s house. 

Nobody expects blind loyalty. That’s as dangerous as failing to recognise consistent poor performance or accepting it because we used to be genuinely awful. Yet the over reaction from certain quarters to what was, absolutely, a mistake littered performance was shameful. The blinkered, hypocritical witch-in-chief leading the charge to put a hobnailed boot in once more. Take a look at yourself, learn to read a game, learn to recognise that a football team still has ten other players and that a season lasts for 46 games. Learn to accept that, perhaps sometimes, the opposition might just be a better team than us. Learn how our club works and that nobody has infinite supplies of cash. Then grow up or go support Manchester City.

I know I’m shouting into the wind here. Just as they are. The players and staff don’t read that crud. Or this. But it doesn’t make it right. Now, time to move on and focus on Rotherham. And breathe. Perhaps updating the social media ‘follows’. Nobody needs that nonsense either.

Nick Bruzon

Sergi? Jota? Dallas? The Hoff? Who scored our best ever goal?

3 Mar

Curses. Overslept. Normally this nonsense falls out at some ungodly hour, through no other motivation than general insomnia. Not today though. Small mercies I suppose. For all of us. So instead of a look ahead to tonight’s huge game for Brentford, the second v first clash at Norwich City, let’s just cut to the social media chase. Goals. Goals. Goals. We all know what Vitaly Janelt did against Stoke City at the weekend. An absolute howitzer of a shot that had fans and pundits purring alike. If you have, somehow missed it, then here you go. Albeit, please forgive the ropey editing that sees the normally mellifluous Mark Burridge replaced with North Norfolk’s finest.

However, it got me thinking. Incredible an effort that it was, have we had better? Quite simply, what was the greatest Brentford goal ever scored? As ever, social media came to the rescue. Roger Cross against Notts County. Glenn Poole’s volley direct from a corner when Wycombe Wanderers were in town. Tony Folan and Paul Evans, twice. Peterborough and Cambridge United / from the half way line and, err, from the half way line respectively. Jota, Benrahma and Ollie Watkins also amongst those appearing multiple times. 

Those earlier efforts goals which, magnificent though they were, only live on in the minds eye or some really grainy footage. With apologies to Glenn Poole whose effort was later highlighted on this old Sky Sports feature by Ian Westbrook. That one is still worth a look and you can see it immediately below.

Instead, the various choices were whittled down to four choices and the vote is now live on Twitter. If you need any reminder of these then why not take another look? Come for the goals. Stay for Mark Burridge. Then the vote is at the bottom.

1: Stuart Dallas at Fulham. Where to even start? The approach play. The lay up by Andre Gray. The acceleration. The power. To do this at any time would be amazing but in front of your own fans, in our neighbours’ back yard was nothing short of wonderful. ‘Limbs’ indeed. What a return to Championship action for the West London derby.

2: Jota at Blackburn. The king scored some incredible goals. Fulham in the last minute. Making a mockery of Jake Bidwell as he ran rings around QPR. Take your pick. However, we settled on this one up at Ewood Park. Not usually a happy hunting ground, especially midweek, he re-wrote the rule books with this run that covered almost the entire length of the pitch before a sublime finish. #Burridgegasm.

3: Sergi Canos . Oooohh, Sergi Canos. I wanna know etc etc etc . A goal which you can’t see enough. If only for how young he looks (even compared to now). The trap, then feint, the second touch, the finish. Poor Ryan Woods, his opener in this game had ‘goal of the season’ sewn up. For about forty minutes…

4: Philipp Hofmann. The game with Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park was one with everything. A red card for Harlee Dean. A scoreline hanging in the balance. Sergi at his finest. A crowds. Ah, I remember them. Then, with full time almost upon us, up stepped the Hoff. It may not have been a thirty yard blockbuster but chocked full of deflections (count ‘em, 1.. 2.. 3) is sent the home crowd wild and was the perfect denouement to the most stressful of evenings at Griffin Park.

The vote is here. Dive in and enjoy. Thanks . And then for a proper preview of the Norwich City game, why not read Ian’s piece. You can find that here. At least one of us was up on time !!!

The choice, is yours…..

Nick Bruzon.

What a difference 7(seven) days can make. Was this goal of the season?

28 Feb

Well, well, well. Wasn’t that the day? Brentford pulled the quintessential game of two halves out the bag to further tighten the screw on second place after a 2-1 win at home to Stoke City. It was a game with numerous highlights, and a few lowlights, but the standout moment being an absolute blockbuster of a goal from Vitaly Janelt. The midfielder leathering it from 25 yards out on the diagonal, hard and high into the top corner. It was a strike which reignited our fire in a game containing so many elements of classic 2020/21 Brentford. Yet with every other result going our way, it really was a quite wonderful Saturday. Watford losing to Bournemouth in a fixture which ended with more handbags than Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe was followed by Swansea City getting tonked at home by Bristol City, leaving the Bees three and four points clear of the Hornets and the Swans respectively. Plus, of course, infinitely superior goal difference. Granted the Welsh outfit still have two games in hand but compared to full time at St.Andrew, when they were one point behind with three games over us, things feel a touch less angsty.What a difference 7(seven) days can make! With Norwich City travelling to Wycombe Wanderers this lunchtime before hosting us midweek, the battle at the top of the Championship table is more alive than ever.

We can only start with Brentford, though. My word, even by our standards it was a horror show of a start. There was the classic ‘early goal’ conceded after an attempted pass out by David Raya went the same was as it did to gift Coventry their second goal last weekend. With less than thirty seconds on the clock and seemingly under no pressure, he rolled a clearance straight to Stoke City player  Tommy Smith who took the unselfish option and squared to Jacob Brown. There was no mistake with the simplest of finishes and that was it. 1-0 down. 

You do it to yourself, you do. And that’s what really hurts,” as popular music’s Radiohead once sang. It was almost a mirror image of last weekend and totally inexplicable. For what its worth, I think Raya is hands down, if not feet, the best in the division although one can only imagine some specific practice in training this week ! Let’s put this down to bad luck and get it behind us. Fast.

So there we were again. A goal down. A goal that, being honest, was as gifted as they come. Opponents who we then struggled to make any headway agasint. They bossed the midfield and pressed us hard. So hard. Brentford forced to go backwards and sideways with such regularity it was almost as though Thomas Frank had been possessed by the spirit of Marinus Dijkhuizen. Oh, this was tough. The Bees unable to make any headway, time and again attempting to play it through the eye of a needle in midfield before getting snuffed out. Stoke City physical, solid, determined. Expending so much energy that as the quite excellent Charlie MacDonald in the I-follow commentary box noted,’There’s no way they’ll be able to keep this up in the second half.’ My word, he was right.

Once again, Brentford came out flying. The change in approach, coupled with some tactical substitutions for the Stoke players who had already picked up bookings, was palpable. If ever the notion that football is a game of 90 minutes could be demonstrated then then here it was. With Stoke seemingly burnt out, the Bees were flying. Pressure built. The flanks were finally used. Mbeumo finding his feet. Within ten minutes, the scores levelled after that absolute blockbuster from Vitaly. Sh*t. Did you see that? He must have a foot like a traction engine. To coin a phrase. Goal of the season contender and then some. It was a moment to make us scream the house down. The neighbours thinking, well I don’t know what but, frankly, for a moment like this then who cares? It was incredible. A strike that warrants viewing after viewing after viewing. How do we find them? Hats off to our DOFS once more.

Stoke left dead on their feet – loved this one from ‘official’

Magnificent though the goal was, and it was, there was still a hell of a lot more to do. Swansea City were winning. We weren’t. Then the bench kicked in. Jensen and Canos both on. The tempo increasing. The Bees coming ever closer to what felt like it must be inevitable. On 77 minutes a very welcome return fro Christian Norgaard. The Dane replacing Janelt who left with his head held high. A first league start in an eternity and what a time for him to re-enter the fray. Within two minutes we were ahead. Yet another Brentford trend of the season, a goal for Ivan Toney. He got on the end of a ball from Mbeumo to guide it home for 2-1. A 25th of the league campaign and now six clear of Adam Armstrong in the race for the golden boot. Incredible. Just incredible. With 13 games left, what could he finish on? What records could he break?

Even better though. As we took the lead, so did Bristol City. And then they did it again. With our own game  steered safely home, the Robins delivered the ultimate of favours. Three points denied Swansea and a further goal difference shift in our favour. There’s still a hell of a long way to go on that front but compared to last Saturday lunchtime, things certainly heading in a much better direction. If nothing else, it was quite wonderful seeing our more excitable element discover that the Championship is decided on a season’s worth of results rather than a car crash at Coventry or a 7(seven) day blip. Not that I’m counting chickens here because I’m not. I’m as confident as I have been all season but, also, acutely aware that  football is football and Brentford is Brentford. Get complacent or arrogant and you get bitten on the arse. At the same time, the table doesn’t lie and I’d rather be sitting in our shoes than anybody else. Perhaps Norwich City aside. The trick now is to keep on turning that screw. Starting Wednesday at Carrow Road. Cripes, that’s going to be immense.

For now, though, its all about another wonderful team performance. At least, in the second half. I’m still not sure what caused the no-show in the first half but kudos to the Bees for hanging in there. Likewise to Stoke City for really making us work for it. In the end though, it was a game we grew in to. It was a game that never felt it would slip away the more it went on. The return of Norgaard about as big a boost as one could hope for. Likewise, the signing of Winston Reid looking as shrewd an acquisition as they come.

I don’t want to get overly carried away here. The Championship still has a huge distance to run and will have more shocks, twists and surprises for sure. Yesterday was a huge psychological boost for Brentford – and perhaps even some of our Twitter crew – on and off the pitch What a way to set up the Norwich City game. See you there. On the sofa. Until then, I might just go and watch that Janelt goal one more time.

Things I’d forgotten about. Could Norwich’s loss be our gain on Wednesday?

Nick Bruzon 

We’re second, everyone….

21 Feb

Twitter was left reeling on Saturday with the shocking revelation that a season is determined by the result of one game. Football authorities were desperately thumbing through the rule books to see if the car crash performance dialled in by Brentford at Coventry City was sufficient to declare our promotion campaign dead, wiping all previous results off the board. Mathematicians have spent the last 24hours  trying to establish just how the 4-1 tonking administered to Swansea City by Huddersfield Town has kept us second. If anything, with a marginally improved goal difference on the now fourth placed Swans. It’s almost as if…. and kids please stop me if this is going too fast here, the teams that go up and down discover their fates by tallying up the total number of points earned over a full 46 games. As somebody once said, the table doesn’t lie. Whilst Norwich City have some clear air once more, things remain as tight as ever with 15 games to go. 17 if you are Swansea.

Stop. Seriously, stop. We all acknowledge that yesterday was horrific, awful, dreadful, woeful etc etc etc . There aren’t sufficient words to describe how hard it was to sit through. Our previously untouchable superstars looking a shadow of their former selves. Coming off the back of those recent defeats, it’s easy to understand why some of those that follow Brentford are getting anxious. Getting stressed. Hitting the big red button marked ‘social media meltdown’. Cripes, it was about as sloppy and lethargic a performance as I’ve seen in a long, long time. Words were exchanged on these pages and on Twitter at full time – I absolutely stand by them ; we were horrific. A colander like defence and a second goal that was about as self-inflicted as they come. At a time we should have been shooting at Coventry we shot ourselves in the foot. 

Meltdown incoming….

To a man, we were awful. Ivan Toney is out for a couple of games. Pontus on the grass but not close to a start. Rico Henry now looks as though he’ll be joining him on the sidelines for a few weeks, at least. Christian Norgaard still missing although hopefully his return will be imminent. Can he play left back? Solving that one is going to take all manner of juggling now. Three CB? Sergi sitting in the wing back role ? Fin Stevens getting a shot? This was always the risk of no recognised cover although you could say the same on the other flank where yesterday was a less than rip roaring success. Equally, players don’t grow on trees and we don’t have buckets of cash sloshing around to spend with abandon in an attempt to try and predict what might happen once the transfer window closes. Which club does at this level and even moreso this season with revenue streams decimated by Corona? Now, the strain of this rapid fire season means we have the dual challenges of injuries to overcome and form to rediscover.

Yet, yet, yet. We ARE up there. We’re second, everyone. Deploy fishing rod emoji. Swansea City have to win their two games in hand to bring about the doomsday scenario our excitable keyboard warriors were sh*tting themselves over before the Huddersfield game when they had three on us but, even if they do, it doesn’t mean the season is suddenly over. 

The wailing and gnashing of teeth from those unable to differentiate between a bad performance and a bad season was incessant. The fact that we are, somehow, still in ‘automatic’ a fact that seemed to cause even more irritation than the meagre offerings served up at St. Andrew’s. Our actually nudging a touch further ahead of Swansea after Huddersfield laced up their own shooting boots a further thorn in the side of those whom, it almost seemed, were desperate for us to be overtaken. Just so they could further justify their own impotent rage and say “I told you so”. 

I want Brentford to win. I want our fans happy. I’d love Thomas to turn around and explain how he picks his team and his tactics based on social media based insight from the armchair collective. But he won’t because that’s not how football works. Just as a season isn’t decided by one, two or three results. 

We were sh*t, no question. But it is how the team react now that is what counts. How we adjust to further absences and pick ourselves up once more. How we avoid a repeat of this week and ensure what is now a definite blip stays as such rather than becomes anything more severe. Something that will be forgotten about in the grander scheme as results play out and we plough through the fixture list.

Slag off the players and the head coach if you want. It won’t change a thing. If it makes you feel better then I’m pleased for you. There are 15 games to go and we won’t win them all. We might even lose a couple more at some point but until full time at Bristol City on 8th May, the shape of the final table remains a great unknown. Get used to it. Nobody has ever been promoted from the Championship after game 30. I tell you something though, I’d love it if we come second. Absolutely love it. For what it’s worth, and if anybody is still reading, I’m absolutely convinced we will.

Nick Bruzon