Tag Archives: Norwich

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

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 

It’s all happening at the top of the table this weekend.

27 Feb

Another huge weekend in the Championship. It’s relentless. Exhausting. Captivating. Utterly, utterly compelling. For Brentford, a patched up team returned to winning ways against Sheffield, Wednesday, and now welcome a visit from Stoke City. Elsewhere, we’ll all be hoping that Bristol City and Bournemouth can reignite their spluttering play-off campaigns as they face off against Swansea City and Watford respectively. The Cherries getting things under way today with a lunchtime kick-off on Sky before we all wait for Norwich City to wrap things up at Wycombe on Sunday.

We all know the shape of the table. We can all see Norwich 7(seven) points clear with Brentford next up. Albeit hanging in there by virtue of our goal difference. What price the free-scoring heroics of Ivan Toney, ably assisted by Sergi Canos, now? Cripes, the top of the table is tight. There are going to be plenty of twists still to come in the final 13 games and the midweek result couldn’t have come at a better time. The horror show of Coventry City expunged and those thrown together to plug the gaps more than pulling it together in style. I thought Winston Reid was immense whilst Mads Bech Sørensen slotted in for Rico Henry quite wonderfully. Good thing too as he’s going to have to do it for most of the remaining season. Replacing the division’s best left back, and a player who one way or another will be in the top flight next season, no small ask. Kudos, Mads.

We all ended Wednesday happy

But it was a determined, feisty performance all round. Not our super slick best but still a million miles away from Coventry. The new look line up finding their feet and then stepping it up as the big guns eased their way back into action from the bench. There was Emiliano Marcondes. Josh Dasilva. Ivan Toney. All making late appearances that coincided with Brentford turning the screw. Samman Ghoddos and Bryan Mbeumo both starting and scoring. Both assisting. Both, being honest, afforded chances that had they been taken would have stretched the scoreline even further. But you can’t be disappointed to end the day with three goals, three points and a clean sheet. The stats, and table, don’t lie. 3-0 is 3-0 is 3-0. I’d have bitten my own hand off for that prior to kick off. Who know how much of a psychological boost Huddersfield Town’s thrashing of Swansea immediately after the debacle at St. Andrew’s proved to be? Either way, we go into the games today infinitely happier than when we turned off the TV last week. Cries of “What the actual just happened…” (or similar) ringing around our house following the most excruciating of displays. 

That was then. This is now. 7(seven) days is a hell of along time in football. Positivity restored and it will go through the roof should we come out of the game with Stoke smiling. Not that we’re going to find that an easy task. Four points outside the play-offs themselves, we join Swansea and Bournemouth in facing teams desperate to make that surge into the promotion pack. Teams who would jump at the chance for a cliffhanger at the W place in North London. The Potters, a dogged side that could almost be argued to have inherited the mantle of being our bogey team form Middlesbrough. 

Nothing needs to be said about our last two encounters – firstly the end of season implosion at their Bet 365 stadium when the promotion opportunity was finally in our hands. Following that was the disaster in this season’s visit when we didn’t so much fall apart as not even show up in that first half. Both deeply frustrating results but, in part, down to the pressure and then the team being re-jigged this time around. Both games we’ll learn from and what better time than now to avoid an unwelcome statistical hat-trick.

One can only assume that the starting line up today will be slightly more recognisable when ‘official’ announce it at 2.02pm. Might we even get a look at the lesser spotted Nørgaard? If Ivan Toney coming off the bench was a bonus, the return of someone who is probably our most influential player cannot come soon enough. The rock at the base of the midfield. We thought it was happening in December but then there was that late setback. Christian not celebrating at Christmas. Now, the talk from Thomas Frank has been super positive and with him, perhaps, underplaying the positions of Ivan and Josh prior to Wednesday, could this great Dane be closer than we think to an appearance? Optimistic to the last. That’s me. I’d love to see him back although can only presume it will be from the bench.

Today won’t be decisive in the promotion stakes whatever happens. Regardless of the 39 points still to play for, we’ve then got Norwich midweek and finish the campaign with games against Watford and Bristol City. Plenty of opportunity to shoot down our rivals (or them, us…) en route to the campaign’s denouement. Yet let’s not pretend that their isn’t a fan amongst us not hoping that Wycombe, Bournemouth and the Robins can pull off the results that their own supporters are so desperate to see this weekend. And if we complete our side of that equation, then all the better. If….

That’s where my focus is today. Anything else a bonus. A boost. All attention on Mark, Marcus and Natalie or whomever we have guiding us through the action from in the I-player commentary box. Edge of the sofa time as it is every Saturday. Lucky shirts back in play (last season’s Ecoworld ‘away’ being worn by me and H the true reason for our win) and waiting for the interminable adverts for FIFA 21 and Carabao that preceded every game.

It’s never easy watching it being played out in an empty stadium on TV. We’d all love to be there. Today probably more then ever where the atmosphere would be a huge factor agasint a team that always make me feel angsty. What play-off final? What disaster on the way home……….? Err. We all now know that won’t be possible this season following the latest roadmap to recovery (or whatever the buzzwords are) announced by Boris. Instead, I’ll see you on the sofa. Metaphorically speaking. Bring it on. Twitter is open. The beers are cold. The football snacks ready. Let’s do this !!!!!!

Nick Bruzon

And breathe. A return to winning ways more than welcome in the circumstances.

25 Feb

As you were in the league table. Brentford remain second albeit a 3-0 win (not a typo) over Sheffield Wednesday saw us nudge further ahead of the chasing pack on the goal difference stakes. However, Norwich, Watford and Swansea all picking up their own three points was reason enough to be glad we were back to winning ways as much because it saw an end to the blip which had seen our huge unbeaten run come to an end in quite cataclysm style. Instead, we’re level on 60 points with the Hornets whilst Swansea sit on 59 , having played two games less. Norwich are, of course, 7(seven) points clear in first but a televised trip to Carrow Road on Wednesday evening (17.30 for that one) could see the punch up at the top of the Championship get even tighter. That’s to come. As is Saturday’s visit from Stoke City. For now it a case of a job very well done.

A much changed Brentford team with no recognised left back or centre-forward saw Bryan Mbeumo  filling in for Ivan Toney (Marcus Forss out with a concussion) and Mads Bech Sørensen covering for Rico. This a position he is going to have to fill for the next two months although based on last night’s showing we seem to have dodged a bullet for sure. One swan doesn’t make a summer but an assured performance and the third goal would have given him confidence by the bucketload. 

Let’s be honest. Who amongst us didn’t feel slightly anxious going in to this one? Yes, I’ve got tons of optimism but the niggling self-doubt that goes with being a Brentford  / football fan had been tested on that three match run. With big names missing already, the press conference given by Thomas Frank yesterday had caused additional trepidation as to how we would line up. Along with Marcus, he also declared Ivan and Josh Dasilva missing (although both would be named on the bench, both would come off and both would help give the team some added familiarity late on ). However, in the end it saw the above mentioned changes with Sergi and Tariqe alongside Bryan aided and abetted by Ghoddos and Jensen give us a relatively familiar feel.

Understandably things started slowly although the positive being we didn’t concede first (see also: pretty much every game in February). Instead, the Bees took the lead mid-way through the first half when Bryan Mbeumo guided an effort from Sergi home at point blank range – or it hit him in the face and turned in, you choose. Either way, his reaction time was impeccable and the goal stood. The net rippling, Peter Gilham cheering and any pre-match nerves falling away by the bucketload. The memory of ‘that’ false nine formation at QPR under Dean Smith disappearing as quickly as it had come on seeing the inevitable team selection.

Half-time came and went. A game of few chances saw Brentford in control and biting hard. Some much missed steel returning in style. Move along Henrik, nothing to see here. Thankfully Keith Stroud was keeping time from the side rather than our man in the middle ! Sheffield Wednesday unable to make inroads and the changes from the bench, which also saw a return to action for Emiliano Marcondes, were sufficient to help wrap up the points. Samman Ghoddos first on the scoresheet, having missed out earlier in the half with a glorious chance when he placed it just wide after being left totally unmarked. This time there was no mistake , with Mbeumo turning provider and a beautiful finish to double the lead.

With the Bees pressing, Mads made it three. This time Ghoddos suppling the killer assist which was met with a well placed header that the keeper could only slow down on its way into the back of the net. 3-0 and game over. It might have been more had other chances gone in. That’s football though and the final score is all that counts. I’d have taken 3-0 all night long had it been offered beforehand. Which, of course, it isn’t. For the full match report you’ve got the usual places as a good start: Brentford official and the BBC (as long as you can go into it on the  assumption their reporter is either an Owls’ fan or has some sort of anti-Bees agenda).

It wasn’t overly pretty and it wasn’t our usual slick play. The absolutely key thing being three points on the board and our performance one which saw the Bees keep going and then turn the screw in testing circumstances. Winston Reid and Ethan Pinnock immense at the back. David Raya not really given the chance to be tested, barring one first half-effort. We’ll have more options for the game with Stoke City on Saturday and then the Norwich fixture. Neither are going to be easy, that’s for sure. Then again, nobody said the Championship was a walk in the park. All we can do is worry about ourselves and keep up the pressure. Keep on banging in the goals. Keep on churning out there results, It may not always be super slick but the-performance was a hundred miles away from the horror show at Coventry City. For that, I’m a happy, happy man. Lesson learned. Can they be applied again? Roll on Saturday when we find out.

And relax – we all feel it. Brentford official published this on their Twitter last night

Nick Bruzon  

Let’s just call this a bad day at the office and move on.

15 Feb

Well that was all kinds of awful. Brentford said farewell to the marathon unbeaten league run after going down 2-0 at home to Barnsley on Sunday. It was an absolutely deserved win for the visitors who pressed high, pressed hard and were first to everything. No sour grapes here and with the Bees not even close to being the second best team in this one, with too many players going inexplicably awol, the outcome seemed apparent from the off. A veritable … don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it….Valentine’s Day massacre. Urghh, did it. With it went the chance to retake top spot from Norwich City after the Canaries had swept aside Stoke City on Saturday. Instead, we start the week two points behind on level games played and looking forward to visiting Loftus Road on Wednesday evening. Norwich host Coventry and third placed Swansea entertain Nottingham Forest.

Let’s rephrase that a tad. It WAS awful but it is was as much frustrating. It is only one game. Nobody can keep going for ever and all teams slip up from time to time. Have the odd off day. Unlike last season, the Stoke City and Barnsley results haven’t fatally holed the good ship Brentford. Instead, they have provided some choppy waters and how navigate through the will be the real mark of this team. We all know just what they can do. How good the Bees are on the day. The inability to react to Barnsley and their approach was inexplicable but it happens. Certainly no indication that we are doing a Leeds United. Even they wobbled more than once last time out – see also West Bromwich Albion – and whilst this is the oldest cliché in the book, the league is a marathon not a sprint. 

The game had that feeling from the off with Barnsley coming at us and dominating. Yet again, Brentford conceded the opening goal but this time there was no  coming back at our opponents. No blitzkrieg assault with that free scoring form that has typified our performances this season. Instead, we looked lethargic. Sloppy. Out of sorts. Conor Chaplin making a Charlie of the Bees defence on 13 minutes to find himself totally unmarked and steer it home for 1-0. There was no answer. No reply. No nothing. A bit of huff and puff but Bryan Mbeumo’s inability to pick out Sergi Canos in acres of space summed it up. The screaming at the TV to play it out to the electric Spaniard could probably have been heard at Lionel Road, so open was the position. Alas, it fell on deaf ears. 

Bryan wasn’t alone in being off his game though. The normally magnificent Ethan had a stinker. The second goal, straight after the restart, also had the opportunity to to be snuffed out but instead Dike’s low cross bypassed the defender leaving Carlton Morris the easiest of finishes. Tariqe Fosu did nothing off the bench. Samman Ghoddos got into space but failed to capitalise. Josh and Vitaly invisible in the midfield compared to their normally dominant selves. Rico and Henrik off the pace. Ivan Toney had the first touch of a JCB. When he was fouled in the box, referee David Coote choose to perform his Arsene Wenger tribute act and instead elected not to see the incident. Barnsley were on it and got everything their performance warranted. This was not a stolen win but one which they fought hard for with the points going to the right team. For Brentford, nothing to do except wipe this from the memory and pretend it never happened.

Thomas Frank got it spot on at full time. “We know in this league you can lose to every team in this division if you don’t hit your highest level. We lost to a better team today. They won fair and square. We need to move on. It’s all about how we react on Wednesday.

He’s bang on the money here. We know only too well that there are no ‘teams like…’ in this division. That the Championship is the most exciting, toughest league in Europe with no foregone conclusions in any game. Just look at how Wycombe turned things around to win 3-2 at Huddersfield this weekend. What is more important is how we react at Loftus Road on Wednesday, at Coventry this Saturday lunchtime and further down the track. We may win or lose both of those. They won’t be season defining. What is more important is how we react. How we play. That we put this one behind us.

I’d much rather be where we are now (second on 57 points) than where we were last season after 29 games (fifth on 47 points having just gone down to Nottingham Forest). Even then, it felt good to be that high up. Knowing there were a whole stack of games and points  – 51 – still to go for. That destiny was still very much in our hands.

The same is true now. No side has everything their own way. Even the Premier League showed that this weekend with Manchester United being held by West Brom, Liverpool seeing their own title defence obliterated and Everton being undone by Fulham. Not a typo. If anything, the tech malfunction that saw us missing comms as the game started and the sight of Ian Moose pontificating before kick-off made me feel ill at ease and in mind that this was not going to be our afternoon. Presumably, the talk sh*te buffet burglar would have buried any of our half chances before posing for a selfie with one of his faux friends. How does that work in lockdown?

Look, we’re second in the table. Automatic promotion in our sights. We’ve ‘lost’ a game for the first time since October 24th last year rather than drowned a kitten. Still with a trip to Norwich City to come at the start of next month. The Championship still has plenty more twists to come. For what its worth, I’m absolutely convinced we’ll smash our hosts onWednesday evening. An empty Loftus Road and the opportunity to get straight back on the horse awaits. I cannot wait for that one – if only to get the stinky taste of Barnsley out of my mouth. 

I wouldn’t want to be in Mark Warburton’s shoes now. If Brentford do what we know they can it’ll be raining goals in West London. IF…..

The only possible explanation for Sunday – our visitors’ performance aside

Nick Bruzon

Did Swansea help Brentford? Who would you pick?

6 Feb

Brentford fans are waking up to a table that sees us back in third place prior to this afternoon’s game at Middlesbrough but with the door to ‘automatic’ opened that little bit wider following a 2-0  win for Swansea City over Norwich City last night. The current state of the table sees us sitting two points behind the Swans and four behind the Canaries, albeit with one and two games in hand respectively. The right results in those outstanding fixtures speak for themselves but before we get carried away and look to Wednesday’s visit to fourth placed Reading, focus has to be on the current state of play.

Cripes, last night was interesting. There was no real preference as to the result. Win, lose or draw  – any combination could have been construed to have a positive benefit for Brentford. Instead, it was simply a case of sitting back to see how Swansea would fare against another set of promotion seeking opponents. We all saw their WWE approach the other week as they salvaged a point against the Bees – last night was much more positive. Dominating possession and attempting to play football. A first goal that would have been embarrassing had it been conceded by a team of under 7(seven)s, let alone the Championship leaders. Norwich with half a dozen men between Andre Ayew and the goal line yet none able to get in the way of his effort following a butter fingers moment from Tim Krul. How nice to see Ayew doing what we all know he can rather than writhing around on the floor like a fish out of water. 

We got the ‘good’ Ayew last night

Conor Hourihane’s doubling of the lead a splendid second half effort that left Krul no chance and Norwich dead on their feet. If anybody in TW8 thinks Steve Cooper’s team are punching above their weight, or just punching, then think again. They were brutal. In the best sense. The win thoroughly deserved and one which never really felt in doubt. Certainly, to the casual onlooker.  

Whilst it is a victory that means Swansea have overtaken us, the psychological advantage of now having Norwich in genuine catching distance cannot be under estimated. Both in positives for us, should we win today (no small feat, of course) and negatives for them should we be able to heap even further pressure on a team who have looked so, so comfortable and in control of the table for so, so long this season. Just look at how, historically, Leeds United have fallen apart. Again and again. Three points for Brentford at the Riverside could be the catalyst for a similar level of stress to be applied.

Three points. It sounds so simple. In theory. This one is going to be about as tough as they come though. For Middlesbrough, their own chance to enter the play-off race is an opportunity sitting up and waiting to be taken. Bournemouth have hit the skids big time and a recent record of LLLL sees them now just two points ahead of Neil Warnock’s team. If we think we have incentive to get the win then let’s not be blind to that which is offered up to our hosts. Yet, for Brentford there is that own unbeaten run. The positivity coursing through the team immense. The bounce back against Bristol City midweek nothing short of magnificent. This, without Josh Dasilva whom one would imagine is match fit again for the afternoon game.

Tariqe Fosu was immense. Sergi Canos brilliant. Let’s not forget, either, only 13 players have scored more Championship goals this season than the Spaniard. Ivan Toney was, well, just Ivan Toney. A goal machine on legs. Finishing and confidence to match the very best we’ve ever had. A player who has not only filled the shoes of Ollie Watkins but, if anything, outgrown them already.

We’ve been blessed in recent years but you have to put this down to the directors of football and the vision of Matthew Benham. Honestly, if you could pick one out of Toney, Watkins or Maupay who would it be? There are no wrong answers here and I think we’d happily settle on any of them. Different personalities, different approaches but all able to find the back of the net with aplomb. If he carries on at this rate, Ivan has the potential to be the very best of the bunch.

Oh ambassador. With these strikers you are really spoiling us

For me, Clive, the return of Josh Dasilva will be huge. He really is one of those ‘first name on the team sheet’ type players. I still find it amazing we got him for nothing. How Arsenal must be regretting their decision to let him go as he has developed his own game and ability at a quite phenomenal pace. What price now on him? Then again you could say the same about Rico Henry. About Ethan Pinnock. About David Raya. About Vitaly Janelt who already feels like part of the furniture despite this only being his first season. No time needed to settle in – he’s hit the ground running. Henrik Dalsgaard, the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard, getting on about his business. A phenomenal engine up the right and a rock solid presence at the back. Cripes, this team is ridiculously strong on their day. That’s before you even factor in the next generation coming off the bench.

I am confident. Not in expecting victory – nothing is guaranteed in this game – but in knowing just how immense this team is when everything fires. When our top, top players do their thing. A game with Middlesbrough used to be a thing for Brentford fans to fear. A guaranteed defeat as our start to Championship life saw them beat us again and again and again. Not even the threat of a draw.

Middlesbrough used to be untouchable back in the day

Yet with that monkey now well and truly despatched, we can look at this fixture as just another game. Albeit against a team with their own huge carrot being dangled. I’ve just got a feeling that Brentford, and Ivan’s, will be bigger. 

Kick off is at 3pm. Its on ifollow, as ever. See you there. In spirit if not body. The couch, and there lucky socks, await…..   

Nick Bruzon

Who is The Masked Signer?

2 Feb

Take it off. Take it o… No, enough of that. At the start of a massive week for Brentford, the transfer window creaked shut with the loan signing of Winston Reid from West Ham, resplendent in face mask although disappointingly unchewed biro,  whilst there was a favour at Watford from the Loftus Road mob. We’ve got our own game at home to Bristol City on Wednesday (the game in hand on Swansea City) whilst Norwich City visit Millwall tonight and then play the, hopefully third placed, Swans in an epic showdown this Friday.

Winston joins

The signing of an emergency centre back was an obvious one. With Pontus Janson and Charlie Goode both currently out of action, it left us only Mads and Ethan as the regular starters. In Winston Reid we have a player with big league and International experience. A player who began his career at Midtjylland in 2005 (just how far back to Rasmus’ records go?) and has close to 200 games for West Ham. With a huge run of back to back weekend/midweek games coming up, having some extra experience and competition out there will be vital. His last action has been out on loan at Sporting Kansas City who let him return when that expired. Here’s hoping their loss is our gain.

The rest of the window saw loan deals tied up. Said Benrahma has now officially completed his transfer to West Ham (so we can put ‘loan update’ out of its misery), Patrik Gunnarsson, Jan Žambůrek and Luka Racic have returned to the fold. Samman Ghoddos has completed his transfer in. Those heading out for the short term  are Dominic Thompson, Patrik Gunnarsson, Ellery Balcombe and Halil Dervişoğlu.  And that’s it. Business concluded. The squad strengthened in our usual fashion – as much by returning B team members, that bit more experience under their belts, than anything else. More importantly, nobody out (let’s not forget that Said had already long gone). The squad now locked in and ready for the second part of the season.

I saw a tweet prior to the second half against Wycombe saying, “And some of you don’t think we need to sign anyone….? Deluded as f**k.” . Hmmm. Not sure I quite agree with that and whilst it felt grim after Admiral Muskwe got a second Wycombe equaliser just prior to half-time the second half proved (yet again) that football is a game of 90 minutes. That one early miss from Sergi Canos does not make him the devil incarnate as some would suggest. Wasn’t that a penalty earned and a blockbuster goal for the Spaniard in the second half? 

Sergi got my vote on Saturday ; Josh was first class

Where I would agree we had an obvious gap was in defence. You can only stretch it so far and any further injury would leave us brutally exposed. That gap has now been covered. I can’t see Winston stepping in to the team immediately but at least, now, we have extra options. Mads and Ethan don’t need to be run into the ground.

Elsewhere, Championship action took an unexpected turn last night when Watford missed out on the chance to go second. They went down 2-1 at home to the hoops from Shepherds Bush. Unexpected for sure but it leaves them  a point behind Brentford having played two games more. Should Millwall pull of something similar when Norwich City visit this evening it will leave that gap to the top as six points but with the same two games in hand. Cripes. The Championship just reeks of potential and has never felt more open. Yet whatever favours are delivered and results go our way, doing the business against Bristol City – a game already rearranged twice due to Corona Virus (‘suspected’ and actual) – will be the absolute priority.

That one kicks off at 7.45pm on Wednesday evening at Lionel Road. Here’s hoping Mark Burridge is already limbering up those vocal cords. I’ve got a feeling its going to be epic.

Nick Bruzon

Was this the performance that defines the season?

30 Dec

How good was that? Brentford with the king of comebacks. On the ropes from the off . Bournemouth raining early punches like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Our plucky heroes flat on their backs. Pontus scooping one off the line within seconds and, really, lucky not to be two down within the opening ten minutes. Yet the consummate display of determination, relentless pursuit of the prize and sheer balls saw the Bees turn 0-1 into an eventual 2-1 victory. Goals from Henrik Dalsgaard and Tarique Fosu sealing the points that saw us overtake Swansea City and move into second place. Norwich City, perhaps feeling they already had six fingers (one hand) on the league trophy, seeing the gap whittled down to just three points when full time came. It was a quite gargantuan performance of never say die football. Both teams giving it their all and, on this showing, sure to be battling it out for ‘automatic’ at the end of the season.

Fair play to Bournemouth. They flew out of the traps and should have been ahead within seconds. Dominic Solanke seeing Pontus somehow hyper-extend a leg as he chased down a nailed on goal before scooping it off the line to safety. Minutes later the same man had another glorious opportunity with Rico the one to this time hoick it clear after a butt clenching scramble. 

How Brentford hadn’t fallen behind is one to rank alongside the alleged popularity of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Nobody knows or can explain. Instead, Brentford grew back in to it and we were off. Rocky picking himself up off the canvas to take the fight back to their opponents. A shot from Sergi Canos fired just wide. A trio of fine saves pulled out of the locker by Cherries’ ‘keeper Asmir Begović . Mbeumo and Toney working their magic. It was only a matter of time before the goal came and sure enough, it did. To Bournemouth.

Urghh. Dominic Solanke the man to finally get the goal his efforts had warranted. Credit to the player for picking his spot. The Bees defence carved open and no mistake made this time. 1-0 up and the visitors’ strength finally paying dividends. That midfield would have graced most top flight sides, let alone the Championship. Yet if anyone thought this was game over they were sorely mistaken. Mathias Jensen (the ultimate man of the match) turning provider for Henrik Dalsgaard little over ten minutes later. The Danish World Cup star heading home an equaliser that our performance may have warranted but which was in no way guaranteed. Nobody deserves to score. Unless, of course, you actually take your chance. And Henrik made no mistake with his.

1-1 at half-time and both teams, surely, well happy with that. Bournemouth probably ruing those early chances spurned but still alive and in it. Indeed, they started the second period much like they’d began the first. Pressure building, the goalmouth threatened but nothing of real substance coming. Dominance not rewarded with anything beyond recognition of their potent attacking prowess. Then Bryan Mbeumo popped up to do his thing and, with it, the game transformed. His work down the right legendary. A run into the box lit up with his dazzling footwork. One little back flick in the midst of this opening the Bournemouth defence like a can of tuna. His delivery across the penalty box absolute perfection. Tarique Fosu had already done his own thing to find the perfect position and by the time the ball dropped, he was given the freedom to gorge at the Bournemouth ‘all you can score’ buffet. One bite at the cherry was all he needed.

Boom. What a ball across. What a finish. Open the social media floodgates as the gushing began. And rightly so. The final ten minutes and additional time added on trickled by with no real fear of conceding. Pressure, yes. Panic, no. Game management to the max mixed with a couple of substitutions as the clock played out. Drago floored. Brentford triumphant. Thomas Frank making an emotional post match speech in which he’d note our awful first ten minutes, our efforts to close out the game and our opponents’ class.

The result was a cracker. Had we lost, then it wouldn’t have been fatal. Having won, it’s a wonderful way to end the year. It sees us breathing down the necks of Norwich City. Come on!! Where are you? Right behind. Swansea City overtaken ahead of their own game with Reading. The Bees now 16 unbeaten in all competitions. The ‘Frank Out’ brigade silenced once more. Instead, the u-turn of support that (yet) another win brings was evident.  

Next up, Bristol City on Saturday. Here’s hoping we have fit players. Josh Dasilva looked uncomfortable as he went off. Fingers crossed that was nothing serious. Only time will tell there. For now, though, we need to catch our breath. To marvel at a quite fantastic game of football between two top, top sides. Brentford took the points. Bournemouth will feel hard done by. Understandably. Yet I’ll leave the last word tonight to our Harry. Only 7(seven) years old but his bedtime summary of the game proving that age is no barrier to insight…

Harry: You know Bournemouth?

Me: Yes.

Harry: They must be devastated right now.

Nick Bruzon

Time to go ape once more?

30 Dec

Brentford are now fifteen games unbeaten. The 3-2 Boxing Day knockout of Cardiff City seeing us move to within touching distance of the top. Sergi’s hat-trick the stuff of dreams. Now Bournemouth await in a 5.30pm kick off this Wednesday evening. Both teams level on 38 points and knowing that victory will take them second above Swansea City, who don’t play until later tonight. Their game with Reading has an 8pm kick-off. Even a draw all see the Bees and the Cherries gain a position thanks to our superior goal difference. There’s everything to play for in the latest ‘Biggest game since…’ . A game made all the more interesting by table toppers Norwich City dropping two points at home to the Loftus Road mob on Tuesday.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 on, err, Saturday (I think)

I suppose we should be thankful there’s even a game taking place at present. With Corona virus seeing fixtures now being pulled across all divisions, Big ‘Sam’ Allardyce calling for a ‘circuit breaker’ hiatus to action and talk of tougher restrictions coming in at a national level, it may only be a matter of time before things grind to another halt. 

The plus point being it may allow everyone at our clubs to stay safe and restore some tired limbs. The down side being that Brentford are flying at present. The league and the cup have both seen us come into our own as the pressure has increased on divisional (and Premier league) rivals. The points gap being reeled in by some relentless displays and magnificent use of the squad by Thomas Frank. Those called in have more than done a job. Those who have been regular starters somehow maintaining their energy levels over a run of games that has been as exciting as it has been exhausting.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting Bournemouth to be anywhere near as strong as they have been this season. So many times we’ve seen clubs drop out of the Premier League and struggle to adjust to their new surroundings. With players being shed and talismanic manager Eddie Howe leaving in August, things looked grim. To the casual observer. Instead, they’ve carved out a run of form that has only seen them lose twice since the start of November ( Sheff Wednesday ‘away’ and a slip up at home against Preston. Hmm – I think we can all relate to that.) 

Like Brentford, they have continued to astound. To perplex. To amaze. A club no doubt as tainted with the ‘teams like’ and ‘little’ moniker as we have been in recent times. Their own top flight residence lasting for five years until the end of last campaign. We’ve all got our own thoughts on howe they got there, of course. Who could forget the team they put together when going up in 2014/15 – cripes, that must have cost them a fortune – but once there they more than held their own at football’s top table. Now, they are back amongst us in the Championship and on current form giving every indication that this will be as short a stay as possible.

Nothing would give greater satisfaction than getting the win tonight. Memories of Mike Grella flooding back once more. His name was mentioned during Mark Burridge’s commentary of the Cardiff game as Sergi looked to add a fourth goal to his, and the team’s, total. Instead he had to be content with ‘just’ the match ball and all manner of plaudits. I can’t see it being anywhere near as comfortable as that 6-0 victory back in November 2011 when the gorilla went ape, but even a turgid 1-0 will do me come full time. Chance would be a fine thing. Bournemouth aren’t going to just roll over and anybody claiming to know how this will turn out is a better observer than me. So that’s everyone , then.  

The Gorilla went ape – for one night only

If I had to call it, I’d go for Brentford by the odd goal in three. But I don’t. So I won’t. Even knowing who Thomas will start with is as much a case of car-keys in a bowl as anything else these days. Josh Dasilva and Tarique Fosu were both amongst those to miss out in the starting XI against Cardiff. Sergi is on fire but must be knackered. See also Ivan Toney and Rico Henry. Surely Thomas will go for what he’d see as his strongest option on current form tonight? For me, that read him opting for : Raya, Henry, Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Janelt, Dasilva, Jensen, Canos, Mbeumo, Toney. 

That’s my own hypothesis and the obvious one based on what we’ve seen to date. Who knows what Thomas’ longer term plan and tactics are?  Christian Norgaard doesn’t seem to be quite match fit after that prolonged injury but perhaps Tuesday and Spurs will do for him. Assuming the game even goes ahead. Equally though, one thing we can predict is that Thomas has cards up his sleeve and will be just as likely to mix things up. To try and catch everyone, including Bournemouth, cold. Cripes, who’d be a pundit or anybody trig to write something accurate. Roll on 4.31pm when the team is announced.

I have to be honest, I’m quite liking this 5.30pom kick off time. It’s totally untraditional but at a time when as many of us are able find themselves ‘working from home’ is a cracking way to move direct from the company laptop when the whistle blows directly to the sofa and TV. To start the night early and sill have time to put the kids to bed at full time. Plus it means we’ve less time to wait until the big match kicks off. Which given the way Corona Virus cases are spreading, can only be a good thing. Let’s enjoy this one before it is taken out of our hands.    

It’s a real six pointer. More than that, given the bigger picture impact. Twelve pointer? Double six pointer? Norwich City and Swansea, both in that immediate touching distance, no doubt hoping both teams can lose. Of course that’s not how football works and something will have to give at the business end of the table by full time. It’s live on Sky and i-player so, all being well, everyone has a chance to follow this one if you like pictures with your words.

Bring it on. See you there (in spirit). ENJOY !!!

Something has to give this evening, whatever the result

Nick Bruzon 

Time for a bit of Frank talking with each other.

25 Oct

How are we all doing in Brentford this morning? Presumably still smarting over yesterday’s defeat at Stoke City or looking onwards and upwards? To the visit of Norwich City and then a trip to Luton Town. For what it’s worth (not much, apparently), I’m past it already. All the pontification about the formation won’t change anything. It’s how we react to it collectively that matters now. This was one game and there was enough there in the second half to suggest that, actually, change can be a good thing. I’ve also now seen the interview with Thomas Frank – at least, the 2 minutes 53 seconds put out by the club. That’s below… 

Say what you want about Thomas’s answers but he can only react to the softball questions casually tossed to him. These are the times when the fans are desperate to hear his thoughts on what went wrong but it felt as vanilla a Q&A as could be delivered. Of course,’official’ aren’t going to spill the tactical beans, overly show our hand or hang the coach out to dry but a bit of pressure would have been nice.

Oh, for BBC Billy Reeves and some of his characteristic gentle probing. The killer question delivered with all the charm of Leslie Phillips apologetically wielding a sledgehammer.  

Billy Reeves (kind of) – a portrait of charm and that sledgehammer blow

For me, Clive, the key point to take from this one was in regards to our formation. Was it tactical? Done due to personnel reasons? Or a bit of both?  Thomas’ answer confirming the combination approach but giving some reasoning and future notice that things are likely to be similar when Norwich City are in town. 

We are struggling a little bit with injuries, especially in the middle of the park with midfielders. For the second game in a row we only had three midfielders available from the squad and we know its most likely to be the same on Tuesday.” Going on to add that, “It’s a long season. We’re playing a lot of games. We are fit, we are strong but its also about keeping that freshness.”

Read in to that what you will. More of the same to follow, presumably, but which same? Five at the back or Ivan and Marcus back together again? The difference between the two formations was obvious to all. Going for broke and opting for the later one which puts all our attacking eggs in one basket from the off but I’m sure something which would shut the moaners up. And I don’t mean about yesterday’s performance – which was rancid – but in general.

That, and dropping Sergi who seems to have become the social media target of choice. He didn’t have a good one yesterday but you could say that about the vast majority. Henrik had a stinker. All three centre backs were stretched and caught out of line time and again. There was no service at all to Ivan. Yet the enthusiastic Spaniard is one kopping it from all angles and seemingly the reason we don’t have a record of WWWWWWW. Hmmm. 

Nobody came out of the opening hour with any credit. But if we learn form it then perhaps no bad thing in the longer scheme. Stoke City absolutely deserved their win, regardless of our own shortcomings. The season is a long one and there are going to be more decisions made which we don’t agree with. Decisions made based on fitness, tactics and a myriad of injury related factors we’re just not privy to. Sometimes it will work. At others, like yesterday, it won’t.

As Thomas himself acknowledged, “In the end it wasn’t good enough ……It was not spot on in the first half for various reasons but to be fair we could have played 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 7-9-13 and I don’t think that would have helped first half.

The one obvious positive has to be the role played by Marcus Forss. He can hit a ball but he can also read the game. Ice running through his veins, judging by the finish for his second. What composure. What calmness. It gave brief hope we could still pull something out of the fire and whilst it wasn’t to be, talk about impressive. Another one storming up the blindside to emerge into the light, a fully fledged Championship and international player. 

One from the official Twitter feed – the real shining light on an otherwise dark day

For all that Thomas has injury problems to contend with, what a nice challenge at the other end of the spectrum with both Marcus and Ivan banging them in for fun. Get the supply lines and formation right ongoing and the Stoke game could well be seen as a turning point in our fortunes, much like Stevenage away all those years ago.

Not that we’re in any form of crisis, btw. One shit hour doesn’t define a season. The key point to come is what we learn from it. In how we react over the next few games. I’m not joining those getting on Thomas’ back. Quite the opposite.  Of course people have opinions and every right to express them. Context is always nice. And justification , of course. 

For me, he knows this squad. He has a wonderful way of motivating players. Look at how last season went as we hit that wonderful run after the clocks went back. The players, head coach and fans in unison.

We’ve lost that, now. There is no physical support. No closeness. The bond broken thanks to Corona. Of course, every team has the same to contend with yet for for us at Brentford it was always a huge factor. That tight stadium and proximity of fans to the action was massive. Those post-match walkabouts seeing the symbiotic relationship between those on pitch and those in the stands growing ever closer. Geeing each other up to the point where we hadn’t even left Griffin Park and already couldn’t wait for the next game.

It is a massive advantage that has been removed from our armoury and with game following game following game, needs to be considered by those wondering why we’re not winning everything 5-0. Support and motivation from the stands are a massive thing for players. Everybody acknowledges that football without fans isn’t the same. Injuries bite and necessitate change. Tired legs are already obvious to see.

Thomas and the crowd have always fed off each other’s energy

It’s how we react to these factors that is going to be so crucial to our fortunes over the next month or so. Look at he bigger picture and we’re well, well set. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have a fantastic squad and a passionate head Coach who, for the record, better not be going anywhere. That’s my opinion and you may feel it is wrong. Fair enough but as one fan to another, explain why. Explain what you would do. How you would cope with a relentless series of games that would test the fittest of players. How you would motivate players rattling around empty stadia.

Those, for me, are the challenges faced by not just Brentford but every club in this division. This Championship campaign is going to be one of the most open on record. Careful management of the squad will be key to success. This is what we are trying.

Life’s too short and too hard at present to lose it on negativity. That’s not me wearing a club hat (they don’t employ me and I have no obligation to kiss anybody’s butt). It’s me fed up with the constant moaning about a team who have a progressive set up, a passionate head coach and are only four points off second place.

That said, please let’s never play three centre backs again.

Nick Bruzon