Tag Archives: Nottingham Forest

The tickets are flying and ‘that song’ approaches as something incredible is found in the office.

11 Sep

Fast work Brentford fans. Looks like tickets for the trip to Arsenal in the League Cup on Wednesday 26th are flying out of the door. In league action, where has the ref gone? With apologies in advance, but the second week of international break really bites hard. Indeed, things have got to the point where the semi-imminent visit from Wigan Athletic and Will Grigg is now a major highlight on the calendar.  Even if it does mean ‘that’ song will be doing the rounds. Assuming ‘that song’ is even a thing still. Best of all, a chance encounter in the office has led to the discovery of 2018’s ‘must have’ accessory. 

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Will Grigg missed out on a home debut hat trick. Form went south from there

First, the Arsenal game. After all the discussion over 5,000 or 9,000 tickets for Brentford fans, we received the latter. And they’ve been flying off the shelves. Or rather, the internet. I saw a post last night suggesting we are close to half-way selling out that allocation on day 1. Just to season ticket holders. Most impressive for a game that, ultimately, could be against the Arsenal B-team – certainly, if the club go to Wenger based form. Could a new manger see a new approach to a trophy his side have taken lightly over the years (at least, in the early rounds) and haven’t won since 1993?   

Regardless, we’ll be there en-masse and looking to equal a best ever run in a tournament that hasn’t treated us too kindly since inception. The fourth round defeats to Nottingham Forest and, erm, Birmingham City (urghh – that one really hurt) being about as good as it’s got. As an interesting aside, 80% of those early tickets sales were made online and, even if the confirmation mail looked forward to seeing us at Griffin Park (erm, we have got this one right?) it would seem to speak volumes about the ease of the system. As ever, big up to Mads and her team who would have still undertaken 800+ Arsenal sales in person (something that could also have been the title of Arsene Wenger’s autobiography).

Next up, Wigan Athletic. They visit Griffin Park on Saturday for a championship game where a win could see the Bees reach the ‘automatic’ positions, subject to other results. That’s by no means guaranteed, of course, and it won’t just be a case of turning up with the expectation of three points. Moreso, given the visitors are sure to have ex-Bee Will Grigg in their side. How things could have turned out differently for him. They didn’t, despite the bright start, and with the greatest respect there were few tears shed when news of his departure was announced.

Of course, he’s performed really well since dropping back in to League One since aswell as flourishing for Northern Ireland on the international stage. Despite not appearing for them at Euro 2016, ‘that song’ still follows him around like a bad smell. Yet with the highly rated Daniel Bentley in goal, Yoann Barbet (a magnificent captain last time out) at left back as well as Ezri Konsa (England U-21), Chris Mepham (Wales) and Henrik Dalsgaard (something, something, something, World Cup) its fair to say our defence will probably be less terrified and more simply aware of a striker who will no doubt have a point to prove.

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Captain Barbet played a blinder last time out.

For now, we’ve no idea who the man in the middle will be for that one. A quick check on the EFL website reveals that the referees are yet to be announced for the forthcoming fixtures. An unusual occurrence given these normally go up faster than Keith Stroud raising a yellow card.

Instead, there is simply the realisation that the EFL seem to opt for a certain style of photograph when leading the stories about who will be ‘in charge’ for future games. A term that was certainly at it’s loosest the last time we were all together, for the 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest. That was the one where Mr. Bankes led the mayhem. Even if ultimately it was us and fouling Forest who were deemed not have controlled the players.

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The long arm of the law

And finally, something quite amazing happened at work yesterday. Please note – your definition of ‘quite amazing’ may vary. However, I’ve got first dibs on this. It seems that it’s not just the Bees who have incredible taste when they are on the road. As if the brown/orange change shirt couldn’t deliver anymore, I was on a different floor in the office on Monday when I spotted something quite wonderful.

A good omen for the games at Ipswich (next league – a, and Arsenal)? Or simply the ideal accompaniment for when it’s… raining goals?

I’ll get my coat on the way out.

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Where can we get them?

Nick Bruzon

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Natalie nails it as Forest fail to chop down the Bees.

2 Sep

What an afternoon. What a game of contrasting football styles. Brentford beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in a game which will be as much remembered for the three points that take us back into play-offs as it will an infuriating performance from ‘referee’ Peter Bankes. That, and a display of physical thuggery from the visitors which, as was said many times yesterday, came over as ‘a typical Aitor Karanka performance’. See also the phrase: Brian Clough would be spinning in his grave. It was an attitude which spilled over into social media afterwards where none other than Natalie Sawyer waded in to defend her beloved Bees in the face of what could, at best, be described as sour grapes from fans of the visiting team.

It gives me no pleasure in having to write about anything negative from yesterday. Especially about a club I’ve enormous respect for. Why would we want any form of downer after Brentford scooped the win that lifted us back into the play-off zone following last weekend’s blip at Blackburn? We’ve overcome the three game suspension of Neal Maupay and showed tremendous spirit to bounce back after an uncharacteristic fumble from Daniel Bentley allowed Forest to haul themselves into the game on the hour mark.

Yet it was the approach of the visitors which was so at odds with what we’ve seen from them over the years. A team who previously out-thought and out-played opponents to win the trophies for which they are so well known. A team who rightly earned the two stars that adorn their famous crest. Now, their manager has them playing not so much ‘kick and rush’ as ‘kick and punch’.

That there were only 7(seven) bookings for the visitors was a miracle in itself. They were cynical, scything and nasty. Mr. Bankes in the middle seeming to forget he even had cards in his pocket during a first half where Forest had no answer to wave after wave of Brentford pressure. Except, of course, the one shown to Lewis Macleod for apparent diving.

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Two stars, well earned. Plus a welcome return for the castle badge in the programme.

There was no attempt to tackle. The Bees were allowed to run at their opponents with the ‘permission to foul badge’ rotated between the players by manager Karanka. How nobody received a second yellow I have no idea. Yet it was an approach that also allowed us to see Brentford at their finest. And, in the end, crush the visitors as easily as they would a ripe avocado. 

Josh McEachran had an extremely positive game, making one incredible surge forward in the first half that must have seen him take the ball close to forty yards upfield as he rode challenges and played deft flicks. Romaine Sawyers did what he does. Sergi was felled time and again by the yellow shirted lumberjacks. Mepham and Konsa at the back continue to look as though they have been partners for years rather than weeks. Benrahma was magnificent, supplying the crosses for both goals and almost nabbing a couple himself. 

The first, a cross from the right that dropped perfectly for the unmarked Lewis Macleod to head home just before half time. The second, delivered to Ollie Watkins to stroke home with just minutes left on the clock. Between these, Peter Gilham’s quite wonderfully announced substitution of Lolley for Cash looked like it would be bang on the money for our guests. The hero of Forest’s midweek league cup win over Newcastle did it again. Yet the goal from Matty Cash proved to be a small change and, in the end, it was Watkins (nose stuffed full of gauze after receiving a boot in the face from Jack Robinson) who sealed the points that take us up to fifth place in the table.   

Again, I don’t want to come over as negative about the visitors and the ref. I’ve friends who are Forest fans and a healthy respect for the club that goes back to my own formative football years when they were THE kings of Europe. Perhaps they just had a bad day at the office whereby physicality was the only answer to the electric pace of a scintilating Brentford side.  Yet it was awful to watch them yesterday.

Equally frustrating was finding ourselves beholden to the whims of a referee whose performance switched between turning a blind eye and guesswork. All credit to captain Yoann Barbet whose cool head at the very end prevented a major case of handbags turning into a Keith Stroud convention. He led by example throughout although you could also praise the spirit of all Dean’s ‘leaders’. Our unique approach of rotating the captaincy providing its own demonstration of success.

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Yoann Barbet at FT. How was that for you?

I apologise. The point has been laboured and the point has been made. But it is done because so often over the last couple of seasons, we’ve had no answer to teams like this. We’ve seen points dropped and games lost when brute force has triumphed over attempts to play intelligent football. Yet we’ve toughened up and adapted, whilst still retaining that core belief. Being honest, this one never felt in doubt. Even at 1-1 or throughout the protracted period of stoppage time added on at the end. 

It was our own Natalie Sawyer who really summed things up nicely, taking to Twitter at full time to first note that: If ever there was a victory for football today it’s what I’ve witnessed at Griffin Park. Really surprised by how Forest played today considering I thought they’d give us a much better game following what I saw on Wednesday night..

Confronted by frustrated Forest fans, rather than sit on this one she continued to make her point (and rightly praise the Forest midweek match) before eventually going on to add: Excuse me you came not to win, you came to by physical and cynical. It’s the most disappointing performance I’ve seen from a team. I’m not saying that Brentford are wholly innocent in every game they play but today they outplayed a team that just wanted to foul and time waste.

Well said. Professionally put and spot on. There’s not much more one can really say after that. Perhaps a bit more praise for Dean Smith and his wonderful team. Kudos to Yoan Barbet and my man of the match, Said Benrahma.

Put your feet up and enjoy international break. Roll on the 15th for Wigan at home where it’s not so much Will Grigg as the Bees who are currently on fire.

Nick Bruzon

Arsenal and Leeds dates confirmed. Bees heading back to TV and the 70s as Forest visit.

1 Sep

Good news, Brentford fans. We’ve got a date for the Carabao cup tie against Arsenal which has been confirmed as taking place on Wednesday 26 September. Bad news, Brentford fans. Our game up at Leeds United has been changed and will now be a midday kick off on October 6th rather than the original 3pm start time noted when the fixtures were announced. And we’ve the small matter of a trip back to the 70s with our game against Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park this afternoon.

First up, the Arsenal game. The Gunners published a statement on their ‘official’ last night simply noting that:    

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There’s not much more to say about that beyond good luck to Mads in our ticket office and Chairman Cliff Crown today. Both will no doubt be plagued with questions, from different perspectives, in regards to that game.

One things for sure, there’ll be a huge crowd there. At least, from the away contingent. Whilst B-team games against the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and, on this week’s evidence, Bournemouth (whom King Kev’s boys beat 3-0 last night) are common place, this will be the first chance for the vast majority of us to see Arsenal reserves line up against the brown & orange army.

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A fine win at Bournemouth last night, via @BrentfordFC on Twitter

The other fixture news revealed yesterday saw the aforementioned update to our game at Leeds United. If ever a game was in doubt it was going to be the trip to Elland Road.

I’ve seen a stat that says Leeds were shown on TV an incredible 19 times last season. So far this campaign the’ve already been on at least (I may have missed one) four times – Stoke (h), Derby (a) , Swansea (a) and last night’s 0-0 with Middlesbrough. Then to come there’s a trip to Sheffield Wednesday in late September followed by the latest raft of games. Us and Nottingham Forest at home in October. Wigan and West Brom away in November. That’s 9 ‘main games’ already. And this before you discount the red button option which, to be fair, is available to all clubs for midweek Championship action.

Simply put, why? What is Sky’s obsession with Leeds United? They won something, once. Well done. Haven’t done in ages. There are plenty of other teams in the Championship who have done similar. The likes of double European Champions Nottingham Forest, West Brom and those other Sky regulars in Aston Villa.  Plenty of other, so called, ‘big clubs’. They don’t feature with anywhere near the same regularity. If it’s not Leeds, it’s not worth showing. Seemingly. Do the club just have a huge base of displaced  supporters? It’s not as though the footballing fare on offer is the sort to draw in the casual viewer, going by the Boro’ game last night.

Of course, that side of things is a matter of personal taste. If you don’t like it then don’t watch. Yet more pertinent is that fans of both Leeds and their opponents end up seeing travel plans in disarray. I know many Bees have already booked their trips to Elland Road to get in before prices go through the roof. I can’t see Sky or the train companies (LNER, in this case) refunding those. It would be great if they did or could team up with some sort of football related offer.  What a way to ‘give something back’ or show the fans they ARE thinking of them. No. Seriously.  One can only feel for Leeds supporters when their team are playing away – something they are infinitely more likely to fall foul of.

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The latest TV games are announced

On a personal note, whilst I’m in the minority this works out perfectly. Kind of. The Leeds fixture coincides with our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s a fairly safe bet Mrs. Bruzon isn’t reading this so I can continue with impunity.

The chance to travel for this game was never even an option. Not something even I’d been naïve enough to suggest. Now, there’s a chance of seeing the game. That rather than the special day out she (I mean we) had been planning there is the hope, albeit slim, that a trip to the pub could be on offer. Rather than a meal for two by the sea or at a swanky restaurant, how about a lunch of pork scratchings and Guinness? What better way of saying romance than finding a hostelry to show Leeds – Bees? Stranger things have happened…..

All that’s to come. For now, focus has to be on today’s visit of Nottingham Forest to Griffin Park where the club have announced that we’ll be going ‘Back to the 70s’. Hopefully this just means our ‘guests of honour’, a #BeeTheDJ special and the retro shirts that ‘official’ have suggested we wear rather than the dark days of hooliganism and vile chanting. Thankfully, those later elements have massively gone from the modern game whilst have rarely been an issue at Griffin Park – well done to the current regime for all their work on that front.

Given the advertising banner, I was wondering if Brentford were going to go for the controversial routine of wearing our quite magnificent ‘away’ colours at Griffin Park? Whilst there’s no doubt many would be in favour of an extra chance to see the incredible orange and brown in action, perhaps that is a flight of fancy too far. Instead, let’s just do the needful against Arsenal and hope for another away game.

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Nick Bruzon

Bring on the big guns. And also Arsenal.

31 Aug

Finally. It actually happened. The game that so many of us have been waiting for will finally take place. Brentford entertain Nottingham Forest on Saturday in a chance to head back to the very upper reaches of the Championship table. Elsewhere, and you may have missed this on social media last night, we’ve been drawn away at Arsenal in the third round of the league cup. It it is a tie that seems to be exciting just about everyone, no more so than our own chairman Cliff Crown.

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A fairly safe bet we’ll need to go brown for this one

You can understand the buzz around this game. We all know the history at Arsenal and of the many, many trophies they have won. Even if things have got (relatively) barren in recent years and Europa League qualification is the best they have to be content with. As the later end of The Wenger era saw them very much standing still, the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs have all overtaken Arsenal at football’s top table. With Tottenham currently sitting pretty as kings of North London football, I have no doubt current boss Unai Emery will view the Carabao Cup as a huge opportunity to try and start redressing that balance.

C137D36D-7E04-4531-81DE-C0D1C441FEA8For Brentford fans, this presents the rarest of opportunities. Our paths haven’t crossed in over 70 years and for many it is a chance to visit a new stadium. Whilst the records are under debate (certainly in regards to our own number of defeats) the one thing everyone agrees on is that Brentford have the lion’s share of victories. As much as five can be deemed any sort of lion’s share. Personally, I’m just grateful for a kind draw (the prospect of Boro’ away, urghh) , an eminently winnable game and the chance to return my books before they become overdue.

The other thing to catch my eye on Twitter was the number of people who already seem set to miss this one : New York, Vegas, Franz Ferdinand (the band rather than the deceased Archduke), recovering from a car crash……

These just some of the many, albeit wonderful reasons (perhaps not so much that last one), as to why people are now checking their diaries to see if there is any chance of avoiding a pre-booked clash. Yet with Arsenal playing on the Sunday, the game seems likely to be played on the evening of 26th September. A cup tie on a Wednesday evening is something that The Emirates won’t have seen for a few years, even if it does push yours truly dangerously close to the list of absentees.

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That’s the night of my own work Christmas party (being the last time all 11 of the team are in together prior to late December). And now I’ll have to let the team down. Them, not Brentford. Unless of course they fancy some celebratory cup football. Yes, do spare a thought for Mads and her team in the ticket office as all manner of strange(r) requests are likely to come out of the woodwork. I can only imagine the queue for this one being akin to the launch of our own brown and orange away shirt.

All of which is wonderful, but there is also the small matter of Nottingham Forest tomorrow. Of course I’m excited about the prospect of reaching the Carabao cup fourth round but the league campaign is where it’s all at. Can Brentford get back to winning ways after the slip up at Blackburn? Will we be able to inflict a first defeat of the season on a Forest team who themselves beat Premier League opposition in the cup this week. A very late brace from the wonderfully named Matty Cash seeing Newcastle United’s celebrations at a 90th minute equaliser being somewhat short lived. An eventual 3-1 win sees the Tricky Trees presented their own chance of further profession, with a home tie against Stoke City the reward.

I thought the Bees looked wonderful with the build up play on Tuesday night against Cheltenham. It’s great to see the players coming in adapting to the system used by the first team. I also think we were over elaborate, profligate and almost got caught out. Dean Smith will no doubt be making changes with Romaine Sawyers and Ollie Watkins amongst those sure to return.

There’s no Ryan Woods, of course. His own ‘loan to sale’ was confirmed last week Saturday and he is now a Stoke player. Let’s hope they don’t injure him. Although I’d imagine neck ache from looking up at the sky will be his main health concern.

There’s no doubt we’re all well up for that Arsenal game. Chairman Crown and his family may even don a half/half scarf (although hopefully not) whilst Nico Yennaris and Josh Dasilva have their own points to prove. Yet all that is to come. If nothing else, we’ve a score to settle after last season’s capitulation at home to Forest. 1-0 up after 40 minutes turned into 3-1 down after 47 and an eventual 4-3 defeat that was nowhere near as close as the score line suggests. Then (away) manager Mark Warburton doing his ‘Brittas Empire’ thing in a shirt / short combo that was tighter than the final score.

Still, that was then and this is now. Warbs has moved on from The City Ground. Brentford have moved up. Dean Smith and his team are playing some quite wonderful football. Here’s hoping we can find the back of the net and return to winning ways.

See you on Saturday.

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Mark Warburton – won at football but lost at fashion last time out.

Nick Bruzon

Dean’s Forss-Field keeps Cheltenham out as Forest await. Lionel Road delay sees extended life at Griffin Park.

29 Aug

Brentford ensured progression to the third round of the league cup on Tuesday night after victory over Cheltenham Town by the the odd goal in one, i.e. 1-0. It was as comprehensive a performance of build-up play as they come despite the solitary mark on the scoresheet. Only over complication in front of goal and a solid display from fan favourite Scott Flinders (who would have stopped just about anything coming at him, even a small child) kept the visitors in it until the final whistle. Yet with Nottingham Forest to come next in the league, perhaps the main thing was putting Saturday’s first Championship defeat (1-0 at Blackburn Rovers) behind us and marking a return to winning ways.

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Griffin Park always looking great under lights

Dean Smith was taking no chances on this one. The last thing we needed with a potato skin like this was his going ‘full Marinus’. Instead, the bench was chock full of first teamers whilst the likes of Chris Mepham, Nico Yennaris, Lewis Macleod and Said Benrahma all started alongside familiar faces Alan Judge, Josh Clarke, Tom Field and newboy Julian Jeanvier.  With Neal Maupay serving the second game of his three match stint out, Marcus Forss returned once more following his debut at Blackburn.

Indeed, it was French central defender Jeanvier who grabbed the game’s only goal, providing the final touch to a goalmouth melee just prior to half time. It was a strike that our performance had suggested was coming. Benrahma in particular enjoying the freedom of Griffin Park as the visitors sat deep and invited Brentford to come at them. Wave after wave of attack was repelled as our own pretty football was rewarded with everything but the finishing touch. Sometimes we don’t need to walk it in!

That said, final stats of 13 shots on target compared to none for Cheltenham tell their own story although it didn’t feel like that sort of game. Comfortable, yes. But without that second goal there was always the danger of being caught by the sucker punch equaliser. Had the visitors perhaps thrown the kitchen sink at it ten minutes earlier than the last knockings of a game they were always in,  there would have been a very real chance of taking it to those immediate penalties (no extra time here). But with a Brentford team including the combination of Forss-Field in the starting XI, perhaps there was never any danger of Luke Daniels’ goal being breached.

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Rare Cheltenham attacks were snuffed out

Still, we’re through and that’s the main thing. The draw for Round 3 is on Thursday evening at 7pm which is when all the Premier league’s top clubs, and also Arsenal, join in the fun. No doubt everybody will be hoping for a trip to an Old Trafford or Anfield. Perhaps a visit from Chelsea, Fulham or Manchester City. Instead, it’ll probably be Middlesbrough away.

Of more immediate interest is what Dean Smith learned about his side ahead of the visit from Nottingham Forest on Saturday. They are one of just three unbeaten Championship sides (see also: Leeds united and Middlesbrough) and now find themselves a point behind the eighth placed Bees as the table starts to slowly settle down. So who will Dean go with? The same XI as at Blackburn? A different option up top? Could he be tempted to entertain the return of Josh McEachran to his Championship team? How about Sergi Canos who must be chomping at the bit to get a run out in what will be the last game before international break? Whomever Dean picks, the Bees are likely to be facing infinitely more testing opponents. On paper.

Then again, on paper last night should have been a cake walk but Cheltenham contained us and almost nicked an equaliser late on. Don’t let paper or reputation fool you for a second. Goals are all what counts when it comes to winning games. Banging them in and keeping them out. A simple enough philosophy but all the pretty play in the world means naff all if you do get caught with your pants down at one-nil up. But we didn’t. We’re through and that’s the important thing. It was really nice also to see several familiar fan faces out and about in the second half – you know who you are if you are reading (unlikely, but..). It’s great that people retain that love for the Bees and always a mark of what the current regime are currently doing that they continue to inspire such passion amongst the fans.

These are exciting times at Griffin Park. We’ve had an impressive start in the league and are 90 minutes away from equalling our furthest ever league cup run (round four). We have a new home on the horizon, even if if our moving in date has been put back to the start of the 2020/21 campaign as was announced yesterday.  This is no surprise to anyone who has seen the, albeit impressive, work to date. Whilst the Lionel Road site is being developed at a rate of knots, we need to be realistic. Just look at the problems Tottenham now face as a result of trying to rush into their new home. You can read the full statement on Brentford official. No doubt more to come on this over the next day or so.

So one more full season at Griffin Park awaits once the current campaign comes to a close. Could it see top flight football? Who knows. Bring on Nottingham Forest this Saturday when we take the next step to discovering our football fate.

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Mark Fuller and Yoann Barbet do their respective things at full time

Nick Bruzon

Maupay banned. Funeral Directors appointed.

24 Aug

Brentford head to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday knowing we’ll be missing the services of the Championship’s leading goal scorer, Neal Maupay. A three game ban (which also takes in the Carabao cup tie at home to Cheltenham Town and then the visit from Nottingham Forest in the league) being the result of his accepting a violent conduct charge following the stamp on John McGinn at Aston Villa on Wednesday. In happier news, kind of, the club have announced G Saville and son as their latest commercial partners – the Official Funeral Directors of Brentford Football Club. Just for clarity, that’s Graham and not George. His career hasn’t died yet.

First up though, Neal Maupay and the incident at Aston Villa. The retrospective video review was no surprise to just about anybody who saw it on TV. Whilst referee Jon Moss missed this at the time, the subsequent going over and over in super slo-mo on Sky meant that there was only ever going to be one outcome. And understandably so on seeing the footage. It didn’t look good at all. There is a brief statement on Brentford official (you can read that in full here) although the jist of it confirms the games which will be missed, accompanied by an update from Dean in which he said that Neal understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games.

I reviewed the incident with Neal and spoke to him this morning. He understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games. We did not want to prolong the process so have accepted the charge immediately”, said Dean.

Nobody needs me labouring the point about what was an ugly incident which, despite the provocation, can’t be justified. The FA have delivered their verdict and so there’s nothing more to add on that aspect.

It’s a real shame for the team and a player who is the league’s top scorer (5) and also provider of assists (4). Instead, the conversation turns to how we replace Neal in terms of that centre forward role. In at the deep end for Marcus Forss or pull Ollie Watkins in from the left? It seems a shame to break up an otherwise winning formation but I suspect that’s the way Dean will go. Personally, I’d love to see Marcus given a chance in an otherwise retained shape. There’s also the option to stick Sergi up top although then we might be starting to stray into old ground….

Who could ever forget the the ‘false 9’ experiment? Few who remember ‘that game’ at QPR back in March 2016, in which Alan Judge was pressed into an advanced midfielder role (what was actually described as the aforementioned ‘false 9’) would be looking for a repeat. It was a nightmare afternoon where a striker free team were abysmal and, whatever the perceived logic from Dean, his gamble brought about inevitable consequences. Let’s please never, ever do that again.

That said, and we digress slightly, that afternoon sticks long in the mind for two other reasons. Both of which have been mentioned before and will no doubt again. But some things bear repeating.

Firstly, the magnificent Billy Reeves doing his zero-to-catwalk in three seconds shimmy along the touchline at half time. It was a move that was equal parts Zoolander and Moonwalk. Not even Ian Moose’s movement when the half-time pies appear could match this for impressiveness. Any excuse to drag out that picture once more.

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BBC Billy had provided the one moment of joy the last time we tried a ‘false 9’

Secondly, being ‘fly on the wall’ to a conversation taking place in the row directly behind me. There, the emotion had clearly got to another fan who had been giving a running commentary down the phone to his, presumably, better half during the second half. As the Bees collapsed his call, which had been getting more and more aggravated, reached a sad denouement with the line, “Yes. I love you my darling. But we’re sh*t. Now please f**k off”.

Whomever Dean starts with at Blackburn, it can’t be that bad. Instead, with our head coach now facing his first mandatory test of personnel, it will be very interesting to see which way he jumps. More importantly, how the team cope. Bring it on…

The other news of note was the announcement of the club’s official funeral partners. Whilst I’ve no doubt there will be some who think it is a commercial opportunity too far and indicative that the game’s gone, others will welcome it. Certainly I do, if only for the pun potential it now offers. It was something the club themselves have recognised, leading with the headline.: Brentford ‘til I die. Cue immediate references to dead ball specialists and experts in the box, although perhaps Will Grigg may not want to think about being on fire just yet. Urghh. Is that still a thing?

There have been the usual knockers but, frankly, who cares? It’s going to happen to us all one day so why not have a name ready for when that sad moment comes? Why shouldn’t the club explore unique and innovative opportunities that get people talking about both us and our partners?

Keen eyed observers had already seen the adverts at the Sheffield Wednesday game on Sunday. I was sent this picture, wondering whether George was currently lying low at the Holiday Inn ahead of the announcement of a controversial career change and forthcoming return to West London.

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Not George

Whilst it will be a blow to many, such flights of fancy are yet to transpire. Instead, the true meaning was revealed in yesterday’s announcement. And you can read that one in full on ‘official’.

Otherwise, there’s not really much else to say. Safe travels to Blackburn and roll on 2pm tomorrow when Dean announces his team.

Nick Bruzon     

Tonight is huge (again)….but not necessarily at Anfield.

24 Apr

Something, something, something, royal baby. Blah, blah, blah, Liverpool getting a semi. Those glory, glory European Anfield nights. Some perspective people, please. There are much more important matters afoot. Hey, Brentford aren’t even playing tonight and will have to be content with gorging on the memory of Saturday’s derby day victory over QPR combined with looking forward to the weekend trip to Barnsley. Yet if ever there was a case of ‘other results’ being of critical importance to The Bees then Tuesday night is that time as Derby County host Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest are home to Barnsley.

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Sergi and Romaine amongst the architects of QPR’s doom on Saturday

We all know the current position in the Championship table. Middlesbrough in fifth, are on 72 points. That’s four ahead of Brentford and the aforementioned Rams on 68. Yet sixth placed Millwall have 69. I’m no Stephen Fry but even yours truly has sufficient mental acumen to know that’s a gap of one point. One. Point. With two games left to reel it in.

Yet, as ever, there is a potential fly in the ointment. Derby County do have that game in hand. And they play it tonight. Against Cardiff City. Victory will stretch the gap to an, albeit still catchable, three points. Cardiff, on the flip side, know that a win will give them a monumental advantage in the race with Fulham for an automatic promotion slot. Success will see them four points clear in second place with just two games to go.

This is huge. You couldn’t make up a game of this consequence. West London will be split down the middle tonight with Brentford no doubt hoping for a Cardiff win whilst Fulham fans will be mildly waving their clappers in support of Derby. Even QPR supporters will be praying for…. actually, they won’t as they’re long dead in the water.

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Cardiff win tonight and I’ll even forgive them the hashtags

But if this one has impact on Brentford, then our attention is going to be split on two fronts. There’s also the game at Nottingham Forest where defeat for Barnsley will massively increase their chances of relegation. A win will see them leapfrog fourth bottom Bolton Wanderers and have the added benefit of dragging Birmingham City back into things. The Blues own safety net of five points will be a lot squeakier if that becomes three, once the remaining games level out.

Honestly, I’m not sure which result will be best for us here. No doubt Dean Smith would tell Brentford fans just to worry about ourselves. Yet with The Bees going to Oakwell on Saturday, do we want them with destiny back in their own hands and safer, or with that potentially demoralising punch to the gut having been administered by Nottingham Forest? In themselves, a team who have won just a single game out of the last nine, losing the other eight and managing just three goals in the process.

Is it better for us to go into Saturday’s game with Barnsley’s safety all but a mathematical miracle, potentially even hoping that Birmingham City could administer a mid-afternoon psychological blow to our opponents? Or is being the architects of their own survival a better option? Something that would then also see us in the utterly distasteful position of hoping for QPR success on Saturday, with the Blues heading to Loftus Road.

Sadly, having seen the ineptitude of the hapless hoops on Saturday I now have to declare Birmingham City safe. That hurts. But all good things come to an end. Bolton travel to fellow relegation candidates Burton on Saturday and then host goal shy Forest as the season reaches an intriguing denouement. I’m not even going to get close to calling those.

Instead, it really is a case of whatever happens tonight at the City Ground happens. Any result is both good and bad for us. It WILL have an impact but only Saturday at 3pm will tell what that is. Instead, the game of absolute importance will be the one at Pride Park.

I remember back in 1995/96, listening to BBC Radio 5 ( I think, sure the sport had moved on from Radio 2 by then) and Birmingham City v Bradford. It was the season that only one side went up and the Blues only needed two points to guarantee the league title from second placed Brentford. Their 0-0 with Bradford City was one of the most painful bits of self-inflicted torture I’ve ever sat through.  It was rewarded, briefly, the following weekend as The Bees were doing the needful at Bristol Rovers whilst Huddersfield Town took the lead against City. Sadly, results didn’t hold and we ended up in the play-offs. What I wouldn’t pay for that conclusion this time around…

So choose what you do tonight carefully. That Liverpool – Roma Champions League tie is, undoubtedly, a huge occasion. The Reds have a magnificent record in Europe that we can’t get close to. Yet. And if nothing else, the chance to play ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo is always a wonderful one.

But for me (Clive) it’ll a case of eschewing Anfield and BT Sport where, whatever happens, it will only be half time. At full time.  Instead, I’ll be glued to Sky Sports and the game from Derby. The prize at the end of that one could be of infinitely more importance in this little corner of West London…

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Liverpool bingo – celebrating both history and cliche

Nick Bruzon

Almost 24 hours on and it still feels fantastic.

11 Apr

Almost 24 hours later and I’m still buzzing. Having spent the last ten days on a very rare holiday, following Brentford has been that bit trickier than normal. Yet what do when the last night abroad coincided with our game at Nottingham Forest? Rather than stay in a hotel room with Mark Burridge whispering sweet nothings into my ear (via the medium of I-follow) instead it was a trip outside to find somewhere showing the Champions League thriller between Manchester City and Liverpool. That said, thanks to the joy of WhatsApp and Twitter pretty much all of my attention was focussed on updates from The City Ground rather than the TV in Popeyes bar, Lanzarote. A third 1-0 win in a row for The Bees, secured via a late strike from Henrik Dalsgaard, saw Brentford move to within four points of sixth placed Millwall with just four games to go. The most unlikely of play-off dreams remains alive and it makes Saturday’s game with a Fulham team whose own victory propelled them into the ‘automatic’ places even more significant than it already was.

Just four points to Millwall in sixth. Just four points to Derby County in fifth (albeit The Rams have two games in hand). Brentford held their nerve last night in a match which, statistically speaking, seemed to pour scorn on Forest’s recent record of failing to trouble the scorers for five straight games as shot followed shot. Despite hitting the woodwork twice in the opening period, Daniel Bentley’s goalmouth once again remained untouched. Despite 16 attempts, 3 on target, there was no way through for the home team.

Rather, it was the stooping Dalsgaard who got on the end of former captain Josh McEachran’s 81st minute corner to frustrate Nottingham Forest again. You have to feel for the home fans but, being quite selfish, that’s their issue. Instead, Popeyes erupted to a quite unexpected shriek of delight that had absolutely nothing to do with Liverpool snuffing out another Manchester City attack. Nothing to do with seeing Birmingham City en-route to yet another defeat; this time at Bristol City. Nothing to do with Roma making it 3-0 against Barcelona and thus lined up to progress on ‘away goals’. Instead, it had everything to do with our Danish international full back giving us the lead with less than ten minutes remaining.

And then the waiting game began. Waiting for the internet to refresh. Waiting for another Euro 3.00 beer to reach the table. Waiting to see if Brentford could hang on. Waiting to see if Barnsley could snatch a late equaliser at Portman Road. Sadly, the Tykes couldn’t. Whilst people all around me were in awe at events unfolding in both Manchester and Rome, there was one corner of a foreign pub that was forever Brentford. And it was beautiful.

Ding: Another WhatsApp message. The trumpet ‘emoji’.
Ding: Yes!!!!

We’d hung on. Oh my, that was quite remarkable. Quick. Where is that ‘As it stands’ table? Ah. There we go. What a sight. What a time for Brentford to narrow the gap. What a game awaits on Saturday afternoon. If you haven’t got a ticket for The Cottage then what are you waiting for? This could be even bigger than the 4-1 in terms of brilliance. The potential double whammy of railroading the Fulham promotion push whilst increasing our own chances. Could it be that game at Leyton Orient all over again? If we celebrated three points there like the FA Cup, victory at The Cottage would see Champions League levels of ecstasy.

Whilst Millwall are still in the box seat as play-off dark horses, if Brentford can keep up this wonderful run then who knows? Imagine. Could it end up a Fulham v Brentford play-off final, even? Win on Saturday and anything is possible. Call it the cabin pressure at 37,000 feet, but flying home now I feel euphoric about all things football. I feel as though anything could happen. We’ve even got Ryan Woods available once more.

Seeing what Liverpool and Roma achieved last night should be sufficient evidence that this most beautiful of games can continue to surprise us. Nothing is certain until that final whistle blows. Results really can defy expectation.

But for now, it has to be as much a time for reflection on overcoming what could have been a very tricky hurdle at Nottingham Forest. Take nothing away from our opponents. Opponents who, at least as far as yours truly is concerned, have remained nothing but sporting. This was a HUGE result in a season that has the potential to match our own first back in The Championship. The season of Mark Warburton and a play-off semi with Middlesbrough when all the results aligned on the final round of games to elevate us to fifth in the table.

Could similar happen again? Who knows but I’ll tell you one thing – I can’t wait to find out. Roll on Saturday and Fulham.

See you there….

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Following Brentford. From Lanzarote. Via the Champions League.

Nick Bruzon

Afternoon thoughts as the latest ‘must win’ game approaches.

10 Apr

Another day, another game. Sitting here at midday, waiting for the evening to come around, I’m struggling. Brentford travel to Nottingham Forest tonight to take on a side who have failed to win or score in their last five games. Three nil-nils is the high point of that ‘run’ whilst their last victory came against Birmingham City (as much of a given as one can expect these days). It was a stat I’ve needed to triple check, and will do once more for good measure, after being steered towards it by two separate Forest fans on Twitter whom I’ll simply call Jamie and Matt. Yet having tapped them up for a prediction, they both replied with devastatingly similar thoughts.

“After the best part of eight hours, a goal would be nice. Anything else would be a bonus…..”

and

“Our form is atrocious – may scrape a draw though. Of the 0-0 variety”

But here is where I’m struggling. Are we walking in to a trap? Is this too good to hope for against a team who are surely safe from both relegation and promotion? Can Daniel Bentley record a 15th Championship clean sheet and Brentford make it three wins on the spin in our final game without ginger Pirlo, Ryan Woods?

His own three game ban, following the handbags against Sheffield United, comes to an end tonight. With the trip to Fulham next up, Dean Smith resisted the temptation to appeal a dismissal that still seemed somewhat harsh. Yet in his absence we’ve seen two 1-0 wins and two goals from Neal Maupay. We’ve seen domination at Bristol City and then what reads as a somewhat grittier performance at home to Ipswich Town.

But with three points the absolute priority if those play-off aspirations are to remain a reality, we’ve done the needful in differing circumstances. Now there are just five games to go and a five point gap to reel in. Another win has to be the target with the fixtures running out. You couldn’t ask, on paper, for any more than to be up against a team for whom the back of the net is something as hard to find as a Neil Warnock post-match handshake.

Which scares me. That sort of stat has to give at some time. Opponents with nothing to lose can play with freedom of expression. Brentford will need to approach this with 100% focus whilst remembering how well we’ve played at times this campaign. It’s no coincidence that despite a rough start we’ve climbed into the top ten. That we’ve taken apart the likes of Leeds United, Aston Villa and Birmingham City.

Perhaps rather than playing our opponent’s statistical record and our own future state, this really is the time to concentrate on the game at hand. Switch off from what has gone before and what might be. The consummate example of that cliche about taking one game at a time (I would also accept : every game as it comes).

By rights, us football fans can be a pessimistic bunch. It’s no surprise that Nottingham Forest supporters Matt and Jamie have come out with less than positive predictions. Being quite honest I’d probably have made similar had roles been reversed. Even now, I’m struggling to call this with any sense of accuracy although, being equally fair, that’s long been a challenge yours truly has failed to rise to.

Instead, it’s a case of hoping that Dean Smith picks the right starting XI for the right result. For hoping that Forest prove anything but Tricky Trees. And if nothing else, at anywhere between 11-1 and 13-1, a few quid on 0-0 might not be the silliest investment ever made?

Here’s also hoping Neal Maupay can ruin that one.

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Last time out saw a win against Ipswich Town

 

Nick Bruzon

 

Snow day for Brentford still sees carnage at Birmingham City. Again.

4 Mar

So Brentford need to ‘go again’ with Cardiff City. The wintry conditions in the preceding few days putting paid to any chance of the game going ahead. And whilst hindsight may be a wonderful thing as things thawed rapidly on Saturday, making the call early was the correct decision. Moreso given the icy blast that was still blowing through TW8 at the weekend. Yet, with two away trips to come this week (Burton Albion on Tuesday and Millwall, Saturday) perhaps a day off was a blessing in disguise. Even without our game there was still plenty to keep us entertained in the Championship – starting and ending with Birmingham City who went down at Nottingham Forest.

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Griffin Park was among the places caught in the snowy conditions this week.

Positives for the Blues were that they scored their first goal in five games. Unfortunately, their opponents managed it twice, consigning the division’s lowest scorers to another defeat. Five in a row. Anti-manager of the month form for Steve Cotterill who despite embarking on a post-match Kevin Keegan style ‘I’d love it’ rant on BBC Radio, was consequently sacked. It is a decision which leaves Birmingham City looking for their fourth manager of the season and the club firmly locked in the bottom three. With a visit from Middlesbrough next up, it certainly won’t get any easier for whomever comes in next.

Garry Monk is hot favourite. His name being added to the mix over the last few days was something which proved the catalyst for Cotterill’s frustration. “If that’s been going on behind my back, it’s best for them to get on with it”, he told BBC WM 95.6FM. Gordon Strachan and Mark Warburton are names that have also been bandied about.

The latter’s selection, if it somehow happened, would certainly make things interesting for ‘BeeTheDJ’ (or at least, at full time)  – assuming our club paths crossed next season. The respective directions that Birmingham and Brentford are currently heading, could conceivably see a two division gap between us for 2018/19.

It finished 5-0. It finished loud…

Then again, the knee jerk actions of a board whose hiring and firing policy could be written on the back of a fag packet mean nobody is safe for any amount of time. Even if the Bees and the Blues are both in the Championship next time around, there’s no guarantee that whomever inherits the manager’s office will still be there when we play each other once more.

Since the incredible decision to jettison Gary Rowett with the team on the fringe of the play-off race back in December 2016, they’ve been through more incompetent henchmen than a Bond Villain. Think Max Zorin in his zeppelin, finger poised over the ‘eject’ button.  There was the disastrous Gianfranco Zola period, Harry Redknapp (but only after he’d splurged the the transfer budget and wage bill – mostly towards us), three games for Lee Carsley and then Cotterill’s ill-fated period at the helm. Talk about self-inflicted suicide.

Max Zorin

Max Zorin – any excuse

Our own model – in terms of management and spending – proving to be the infinitely stronger tactic. A fourth, successive Championship top ten finish, with the possibility of a second play-off challenge, is more than on the cards. Contrast this to a team who despite their huge reputation and even bigger spending, have finished below us every year since our paths re-crossed at this level

Brentford fans had been quick to request the likes of ‘Price Tag’, Money’ and ‘I need a dollar’ as pre-kick off song selection for our recent game with The Blues. What had happened over the summer still so very fresh in our minds. As such, there was no irony lost yesterday in Joe Lolley and Matty Cash getting the Nottingham Forest goals that would ultimately prove the final nail in the Birmingham coffin. Certainly, this this latest incarnation.

Can they pull themselves out of this downward spiral? Barnsley above them have a game in hand, are already two points better off and have infinitely better goal difference. Likewise, Hull City (who entertain Millwall on Tuesday) are starting to see a bit of clear air. Burton, one point below them, also have a game in hand but are the bookies favourites, along with seemingly doomed Sunderland and the Blues.

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The current relegation prices. For research purposes.

Still, that’s their problem. The only downside out of all this for the Bees being our own trip to Burton on Tuesday. Whilst the table suggests this will be a formality, a team with their backs to the wall and staring into the abyss always have that potential to come out all guns blazing. They really are entering ‘do or die’ territory now as games start to run out. Whether the target is one of still harbouring play-off aspirations or consolidating another top ten finish, then these are the sort of games that need to be won.

To even be talking like this is, I still think, incredible. And as much in the show of faith invested by the club in our players and staff. We all know the horror start that the Bees had. Four points and in the bottom three after eight games. A wealth of experience and talent sold. Yet we’ve put out heads down, not panicked and built on the base of shrewd acquisition, experience and belief in our own process. The evidence has been tangible.

I’m gutted that yesterday’s game was cancelled. I’d love to have seen how we went against Cardiff City. Yet, perhaps it has also given us a chance to take stock. Both on and off the pitch. To look at what is happening around us. With the first shovel due to be planted at Lionel Road on March 19th, it’s fair to say things are looking positive!

Moreso, compared to some of our divisional rivals.

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Until next time, Cardiff….

Nick Bruzon