Tag Archives: Norwich

Who’s falling apart (again)? Is Chelsea off?

11 Mar

Questions. Questions. Questions. For a day where Brentford fans had to sit on the sidelines and wait the chance to follow up our defeat of Norwich with Saturday’s visit from Burnley, there was plenty going on. All the talk on social media was around Chelsea. With Roman Abramovich finally sanctioned (and his UK assets frozen) the club are able to continue playing but will not be allowed to sell any more tickets – amongst other special conditions. The other news of interest was Leeds falling apart. Again. New manager. Same result. A 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa puts the Elland Road club even closer to those bottom three places.  

Norwich, last Saturday.

First up, Chelsea. Its all a bit of a mystery what it means for Brentford fans. With the Bees due to visit Stamford Bridge in just a few weeks (April 2nd), ticket sales have gone on hold whilst clarity is sought from the Premier League as to what we can / can’t do. The statement out of ‘official’ was understandably nondescript, given as nobody has a clue. All sorts of theories are doing the rounds, ranging from full refunds for those who got tickets in the first tranche though those same individuals being allowed to attend as part of one of the final away contingents in the foreseeable. There was even, somewhat unlikely, talk of tickets being made available for free/ charity. One things for sure, regular sales are now stopped with immediate effect. 

The reaction from Blues’ fans was the usual polarising of opinion that is social media. Full support for the move versus full on rage about supporters being punished. Other being abused for daring to support what is now happening. For me, Clive, its the absolute right thing to do. Cripes – look out your window. Get your head out of your arse. Turn on the TV. The defence that ‘Abramovich isn’t making any money’ from Chelsea clearly ignoring the fact that he’d make dumper trucks full if choosing to sell off some / all of his assets. Regardless of your feelings about him as an individual, he has been targeted for a specific reason. His links to that maggot penised dickhead running the show in Russia. 

I’m no expert, but somebody really seems to be over-compensating

That’s it. End of. If it means we get our matchday experience pulled then boo-hoo. Of course I’d rather see Brentford play in person but should that fail to transpire then we’ll have to miss out in the context of the bigger picture. Besides, given Season Ticket holders are still able to attend Chelsea will retain a largely full house. Just less tourists and potentially no away support. All transfer activity has been suspended , their travel budget has been slashed and they might find themselves waking up next to Lenny Henry on overnight trips but they can still play. For now.

Shirt sponsors Three mobile have also asked for their brand to be removed from the shirt although that didn’t seem to happen in time for last night’s defeat of Norwich City.  More will, no doubt, become clear in the coming days.

As one observer looked to summarise it: They are stuck with Lukaku, but only season ticket holders will be booing him now.

Parking the bus may take on a new meaning for Chelsea

Elsewhere, Leeds United fell apart. Again. New manger Jesse Marsch followed up Saturday’s loss at Leicester City with a 3-0 home humping at the hands of Aston Villa. That’s six defeats in a row with 21 goals conceded over that period and only two scored. Those in the 2-4 reverse at home to Manchester United. All of a sudden, Saturday’s visit from Norwich City has the feel of a real relegation six-pointer with Marsch calling it a “version of a final”. This, something barely anybody would have considered at the start of the campaign but all of a sudden a very real prospect. With Watford also getting thumped last night (4-0 at Wolves), the two clubs in the bottom relegation slots are looking a long way from safety. Points in the bag very much better than games in hand, as we’ve been saying all season.

The big question being who is third favourite for the drop? Burnley currently have the box seat. Leeds and Everton have the anti-form. Of course, Brentford welcome Sean Dyche’s team this weekend. Our own victory over Norwich on Saturday left supporters in fine fettle. As much due to getting a win under the belt as the performances of Ivan Toney and, of course, Christian Eriksen. The Dane was simply magnificent. Ivan, ice cold with his finishing. Nerves of steel with his hat-trick put away in some style. 

Whilst I’m acutely aware that a win for Brentford will help Leeds out of their own predicament, it has to be all out for another three points to the Bees. Burnley have already confirmed they’ll be missing captain Ben Mee, meaning number 26 will be under more pressure. For Brentford, the team names itself unless there are any unexpected injuries. Whilst we have now lost the element of surprise, formation wise, that was so wonderful at Carrow Road the way that team played means more of the same has to be the only way forward. The difference that a switch to 4-3-3 made was evident to anyone who has been watching this team for more than three seconds. Sweeping attack. Playing on the front food. Laser-pointed delivery from Eriksen. It was a thing of beauty and now we get to show it off at home.

The world is a horrible place at the moment. Last weekend gave some much needed breathing space from the pressure. A chance to switch off from it all for a few hours and just enjoy football. Here’s to more of the same on Saturday.

Bring it on and see you there.

Norwich was a great chance to switch off and enjoy football for football’s sake

Nick Bruzon

New look Bees win after top, top performances from Eriksen and Toney.

6 Mar

My word – that was about as wonderful an afternoon as it gets on Saturday. Brentford came away from Norwich City with a 3-1 win under the belt and a whole host of talking points. The memory of last week against Newcastle well and truly exorcised whilst defeats for Leeds United, Burnley and then , on Sunday afternoon, Watford adding further pressure to that clutch of clubs at the wrong end of the Premier League. The Canaries rooted to the very bottom of that pile after a game they would have ear marked as eminently winnable saw Thomas Frank outsmart Dean Smith in his selections – both tactical and in choice of personnel.

Thomas won the tactical battle

First up, the formation. The reveal of the team at 2pm suggested it would be one last throw of the dice for three centre backs. Ajer, Pinnock and Jansson all being selected yet nothing could have been further from the truth. Kick-off saw Sergi Canos playing up top on the left rather than in the much anticipated right wing back role. Kris Ajer then slotting in to a more traditional right back position with Pontus and Ethan in the middle and Rico on the left. It was the formation so many fans have been crying out for – even if, for me Clive, Ajer should be a nailed on right sided CB rather than anything further out wide.

The other key change being the undroppable Mathias Jensen finally being relieved of his place in the starting XI. Christian Eriksen coming in for his first start in Brentford colours and didn’t he do well? With, by ‘well’, we mean amazingly so. He was truly magnificent. Norwich unable to get close whilst the BBC recorded his performance as seeing him with more touches (66) and more passes (44)   – of which he had more in the final third (16)  – than any team-mate. All this done over the course of almost 100 minutes of football. The expected substitution on the hour failing to materialise as he played the entirety of a game that ran to an additional 10 minutes of time added on over the course of both halves.

Thomas choosing not to bring a knife to a gun fight was a selection rewarded with precision passes, space making runs and inch perfect dead ball delivery. Our opening goal – the first of a hat trick for Ivan Toney – came as a direct result of his corner kick being delivered directly onto Ajer’s head and flicked on to the free scoring front man.

Ivan steers home Ajer’s flick on for 1-0 Brentford

Whilst the performances of Mathias Jensen have, it would be fair to say, polarised opinion the Brentford faithful were united in their adulation for Eriksen. He truly was that good and, on any other day, would have ended this one as man of the match. Instead, Brentford ‘official’ limited the choice to Toney, Toney, Toney or Toney? Which to be fair, is hardly a surprise given his and our first Premier League hat-trick. The first goal coming on the half hour from the aforementioned corner kick, with not one but two penalties being awarded over the opening fifteen minutes of the second half. Both despatched to the bottom left corner in that trademark style. Tim Krul able to do nothing beyond engage in childish attempts to psych out our man. They were as futile as his attempts to stop the subsequent spot kicks.

Brentford 3-0 up before VAR then came to the rescue when chalking off an effort from Milot Rashica after Pukki was adjudge to have flicked it on with his head from a marginal offside. Dean Smith’s already bad afternoon going from worse to even worse. His only crumb of comfort seeing VAR then return the favour after Bryan Mbeumo made it 4-0 Brentford. Ethan Pinnock deemed to have been fractionally ahead of play as the ball was being played in to a crowded box.

For a moment…..

Pukki pulled one back for the Canaries but it was too little, too late. Much to the relief of the vociferous Bees travelling support. In the end, the eight minutes of time added on dwindled away. The game closed out. Three points in the bag – our first win in 9 games and one which could not have come at a more opportune moment. 

Toney and Eriksen grabbed all the headlines but hats off to the rest of the team. David Raya immense – especially early on – whilst Kris Ajer proved more adept in his new role than yours truly had anticipated. Oh me of little faith. Surely more of the same will come against Burnley this Saturday. Whether it remains a permanent formation change remains to be seen but, for now, the back line held firm and provided much needed impetus in the attacking third of the field.

One can only imagine how things will look when Josh Dasilva is available once more (the trip to Chelsea on April 2nd). Vitaly Janelt likely to miss out if the rest of the squad are fit. It barely seems possible to be talking this way about a player currently running fifth in our season long review but the signing of Eriksen and recent return of Josh means we are now spoiled in midfield to levels previously only seen at an ambassador’s reception. The flare on display only matched by the one Mr. Carrow was sent to investigate at half time.

Make no mistake, this win was crucial. It was deserved and it was, at times, hard fought. Ultimately, though, the best team won. The best decisions won. Thomas Frank and his team now have the challenge of proving this was no flash in the pan and that normal service has returned. That Christian Eriksen really is the signing he promised to be. 

With all the horror and angst going on in Europe at the moment, how nice was it to just switch off and experience ‘normal’ Saturday afternoon once again? Blessed relief from the outside world, even if the banners waved to show support for Ukraine pre kick-off meant it was still at the forefront of our minds going in to the game.

For now, we’re been and done. Here’s to doing it all again next week when Burnley come to town. Bring it on and see you there.

Nick Bruzon

NGL this slaps. I think.

5 Mar

It’s not been the best week, if we’re being completely honest. The night times dominated by stress dreams about the situation in Europe. The days, seeing it tough to focus. As much as anything else due to the, so called, ‘mash-up’ of Wonderwall with the theme from TV’s ‘Friends. Something I still can’t decide whether is awesome or awful but has, regardless, stuck in the head like some insane ear worm that won’t stop nibbling. To cap it all, I’m trying to use the Pick your Bees starting line-up feature on the BBC for the Brentford – Norwich City game and it won’t let me select Sergi Canos as a defender. What the actual? Which is supremely frustrating because, if for no other reason, I wanted to see how he’d look in a flat back four today. So it’s Mads Roerslev – for BBC purposes. On the plus side, all of this various angst means we continue to push the Newcastle United game further to the dark recesses of the mind. Although if you would like to read more about that one then you can do so, here.

So, today’s game. Well we’re all fully fit. Apparently. The only absentee will be Josh Dasilva who starts the first of his three match ban for the red card he picked up against Newcastle. Thomas Frank used his press conference to tell us that Christian Eriksen keeps progressing and is in a good place. For me, he absolutely has to start today and should. We can always sub him out if fitness concerns  – natural given the length of time since he last played a competitive 90 minutes – kick in and legs begin to tire.  However, the key to this one is going for it from the off. 

On Ivan Toney, Thomas confirmed  that the player, “Is in a much better place. He played three lots of 20 minutes on Tuesday and looked good. Hopefully he is ready.”

Hopefully he is. Again, though, for me he starts. If he is fit then go for broke. Let’s not pussy foot around. Full tilt from kick off. The 20 minute salvo. And then the same again in the second half before the inevitable substitutions on 60+. 

Personally, I’d like to see us trying to play for the entire game but perhaps I’m just a dinosaur. The game and tactics have changed but, equally, can we at least have our strongest XI from the off today, please. Even if they only last an hour let’s go for that early lead.

I saw a stat this morning that said Norwich have scored the first goal in the fewest matches (5), but Brentford have conceded the opener most often (19). 

Those aren’t my words, Carol. They’re the words of the official Premier League Twitter feed. If that doesn’t tell you the opportunity for something to give is there then nothing will. The question being who takes advantage in a battle of tactical decisions? Thomas Frank or Dean Smith?

Tactics will be key today

The Norwich fans will be up for it. Their players knowing that each passing game sees the chance of Premier League survival getting slimmer and slimmer. This will absolutely be one they’ve targeted as winnable.

I would if I was Dean Smith – our current for is, on paper, terrible. Even if the performances haven’t always matched that. Yet the only stats that count are balls in the back of the net and points on the board. The time for justice and deserving has long gone. Instead, Brentford need to translate some of these words into actual results. As, of course, do Norwich City. 

The good news is that there is a whiff of change in the air. Thomas also used his conference to confirm some flexibility. To suggest we may look to a more traditional defensive line up, saying “I will be more flexible for the rest of the season so, depending on the game and the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, I will use a back three sometimes and a back four sometimes.”

This, something that should allow a higher, more pressing formation with players playing in their right positions. Even if this will inevitably mean Pontus Janson and Mathias Jensen are sacrificed from the starting XI. Kris Ajer on the right side of the the two centre backs and nowhere, nowhere near any sort of suggestion as a makeshift full back, please. Football is emotive and the thought of not picking Pontus is almost sacrilege in some quarters but, if we go two, we do it properly. None of this crowbarred nonsense. Rico, Ethan, Kris, Mads.  

And I say inevitably dropping Mathias Jensen. He’s clearly a nailed on starter for Thomas, in normal circumstances. For me, when he’s on it I’d agree. Recent performances have definitely been up there. The issue remains consistency. For every two good things there’s one wayward. For every man of the match performance (and there have been a few) he has a stinker. With Christian Eriksen available then he plays with Vitaly. Christian Norgaard sitting in front of the back four. Bryan and Sergi, or even Saman, wider. Ivan up top.

As we’ve said many times, everyone is an expert from the comfort of their armchair or playing Football Manager. It’s a pressure free environment when you are doing it in the pub with a pint or three. Proposed strategy quietly forgotten about when the team win; gobbed-off about when we slip up. Granted, that’s been a lot recently. There are very few amongst us who have actually managed a professional football club or even attempted to (ahem).

just saying

Then again, this passion and debate is what makes the game of football so wonderful. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone would do it differently. We all have players we love and others who we cannot believe get anywhere close to starting. Long may that continue.

At least change is coming. One would suggest that given the experiments Thomas has been undertaking on the training field, and his words in the press conference, that will start from today. Regardless, there’ll be those amongst us still not happy with how he picks. And if so, ask yourself what’s more important – backing that team and winning the game or bitching at individuals wearing the red and white? Just saying. You can read the full piece from the press conference, here.

Until then, safe travels to Norwich. If you really need anything to help eat up the time time then Dave Berry has a double Christian Eriksen special. Yours truly on yesterday’s Absolute radio breakfast show but, infinitely better, on his Doctor Next Door podcasts where, amongst other episodes, there’s a genuinely interesting and reassuring discussion on pacemakers and the heart.

This could be huge. I can’t wait. See you there. And if you don’t have time for a podcast, there’s always the Friends – Oasis thing…. Even if I’ve no idea what ngl this slaps actually means.

Da Kidz..? Little help please.

Nick Bruzon 

He’s only got four fingers but he still knows what to do with his head.

27 Feb

When does a blip become a trend? When does a bad run of results become more of a worry? The first of three games against teams below Brentford saw a 2-0 win for Newcastle United at Lionel Road. It was as abject a showing as we’ve seen all season (certainly in my bottom five ‘performances’ ) with the only two positives being the performance of David Raya and the entrance of Christian Eriksen into the field of play. If you want some further straw clutching at good news, then the ongoing holes in the Leeds United defence and use of VAR at Everton were further bonuses on an afternoon of slim pickings. It’s not time to enter panic mode but it IS time to now start getting points on the board. Failure to do so against Norwich City next week or Burnley in a fortnight and things could look very different.

What a moment

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe pretty much nailed it at full time. “If you can’t win, don’t lose”. Certainly that was our approach going in to that recent run of games against the clubs chasing Europe, for all our defensive heavy tactics ended up fruitless. This was different. This was the chance to turn the screw and aim for three points at home. To ride the wave of optimism engendered by the return of Ivan Toney to the squad. By Josh Dasilva starting once more. By the promise that we would see Christian Eriksen make a debut. The chance for Brentford to take a home game by the scruff of the neck. Instead, it was an opportunity that saw the Bees fall flat on their collective faces. 

Referee Mike Dean didn’t help matters, that’s for sure. The red card shown to Josh Dasilva after just 11 minutes about the only thing he got right all afternoon and even that was a decision that had originally been given as a free kick to Brentford. Then VAR stepped in and, upon review, there can be few of us not wincing at a challenge which, whilst I am 100% sure was made with no ill intent, did not look pretty on the replay. The Bees down to ten men for the majority of the game and any early impetus gone in a flash.

Let’s not blame Mike Dean for our own failings, though. He didn’t help matters but Newcastle United wanted this 100 times more than we did. Their 26 shots (to our 6) and 63% possession (for an away team !!!) matched by their two first half goals. Indeed, were it not for David Raya who was absolutely dominant in goal for Brentford things could have ended up a heck of a lot worse. Joelinton magnificent with his head for the eventual opener. An absolute blinder with Ajer made to look invisible. Joe Willock finishing a rapier like counter attack just before half time after Jensen had delivered a Brentford corner so deep it needed its own scuba gear.

The players trooped off with ‘All Apologies’ playing out over the tannoy at half-time. Irony alive and well at Lionel Road where it was anything but a state of Nirvana. 

It was a case of All Apologies to the Brentford fans at half time

On the plus side, if there can be one, it perhaps accelerated the entrance of Christian Eriksen. What a moment. What a reception. Universal applause and good will. Not just in the stadium but , no doubt, further afield. The moment we’d been building to finally where. A standing ovation and the player straight in to the action in place of Jensen. Within a minute he might had opened Newcastle up. His game then demonstrating the passing and movement we’re all so familiar with and which could prove invaluable in the coming weeks. 

Sadly, it wasn’t quite enough but ten men are always going to struggle against opposition that stretched us further than the elastic on a pair of granddad’s pants. That were on their game and had their fans singing throughout. One song about Joelinton, to the tune of ‘She’s Electric’ on repeat after he’d bagged the opener. “He’s only got four fingers” ringing around Lionel Road again and again and again. 

Albeit subsequent post match discussion suggesting the line might, actually, have been a reference to his price tag. That’s what £40million gets you, I suppose.  

As for Brentford, hindsight is wonderful thing. The popular opinion being that Eriksen should have started from the off. Should have take the game to Newcastle and let them play catch up. Personally speaking, I’d have made the same call. Bring him on. We have an abundance of midfield options. Norgaard, Janelt and Dasilva in the middle with Roerslev at right wing back. Instead, we got the three of them plus Mathias Jensen (who should have been dropped after his cameo at Arsenal), no Roerslev or Canos and Ivan Toney on the bench. It survived just 11 minutes.  

I guess if Ivan is not 90 minute fit the thinking was to have him, Josh and Christian Eriksen on together. Besides, as one terrace wag put it in the pub after the game, having played for Spurs Eriksen is used to coming on at 2-0 down. It didn’t work though. Not this time. Personally, I’d have started Ivan and brought him off if needed. Then use impact player Wissa up top with Bryan.

Being an armchair manager is easy. There’s no consequence to your decisions. No comeback or tirades of abuse for getting it wrong. None of us know what goes on behind the scenes. How fit players are. Why some start ahead of others. It’s not the team I’d have picked but it was still a team that should have been good enough to perform a hell of a lot better than they did. The ten men didn’t help, of course, but it just felt as though we barely got even half way close to sniffing the chance of having a look in.

It’s done. It’s dusted. It’s put to bed. The player review and ‘deeper dive’ is here. A bad day over. A bad day made even worse by then having to watch Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. In itself, always an awful experience and one made even worse by their proving how ‘live’ the show was by harping back to the result. There it was again. And again.

Instead, it’s time to focus on Norwich City. They looked desperate against Southampton on Friday night. Another team spending huge swathes of time on the backfoot and inviting pressure on themselves. Bringing the inevitable goals against with even Dean Smith replacing his usual “We deserved to win” with, “The better team won on the night, we can’t argue with that.” . Like Eddie Howe, a manager reading the game correctly, even if the result didn’t go as planned. 

It will be crucial how Thomas and his team react to this performance when we go to Carrow Road next week. Otherwise, those last two games of the campaign (Everton away and Leeds United at home) might end up proving very significant. All that’s to come, of course. For now we need to focus on Norwich City and then Burnley. 

Nobody said life at this level would be easy but I’m still loving it. Bring them on and see you there.

So much optimism from the young Bees before kick-off

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

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