Tag Archives: Nottingham Forest

A morning with Matt, afternoon with Phil and evening with wine. Plus ‘teaching’ on the fly.

4 Apr

It’s been a bit of an up and down week this time around. And we’re the lucky ones – I’m well, well aware of that. We’ve a park across the road from the house and I’ve been able to get out to both do running solo and exercise (football) with Harry. He’s now decided that he’s David Raya whilst I’m anything but Sam Saunders. “Sam Stupid more like, dad”, as another precision free kick is expertly stopped by the young Spanish wannabe or, more usually, sliced dangerously close to those invisible two metre exclusion zones orbiting others who are out and about. We should be preparing for Brentford v Wigan. Instead, we’re reduced to channeling our inner heroes as the floodlights loom over us from  the other side of St. Paul’s Park. Offering up a teasing reminder that football is so close yet so far. The nearest I got to that was doubling up with Nottingham Forest fan Matt Dyson on Absolute Radio this week, for the best possible reasons…

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‘Raya’ models his 2021/22 shirt during designated ‘exercise’ time as ‘Stupid’ spoons one wide.

Things could be a lot, lot worse. Reading stories in the press about people trapped in cramped hostel accommodation or even just looking out of the front room window to the tower blocks on the horizon, one can’t even begin to imagine how tough it is out there. Likewise, abroad where conditions everywhere from Italy to India make our situation seem like a stroll in the park. No pun intended.

Instead, my challenge is that of trying to combine being a teacher, good husband, quiz master, motivator (H is taking all of this really hard – especially the not being able to mix with other kids part ) with that of working ten hour days online and trying to maintain some form of normality. Whether that be in terms of routine or cooking. The later something I normally love and now has an added element of ‘challenge’ given the supply situation and no longer being able to “Just nip down to the shops” for those essential items that we’re always short of. Cripes, let’s add menu planning and preparation to the list of first world problems.

Then again, necessity is the mother of invention. The bread machine that has sat on the side for the last few years has suddenly sprung back in to life. Thanks only to an ongoing commitment, and failure, to use the thing so we’ve had a permanent supply of flour and yeast in the house which has gone untouched. All of a sudden it’s worth it’s weight in unintentional gold.  Sadly, those supplies seem very finite with no chance of being replaced although at least we have some form of toast and sandwiches. Of all the luxuries I’d miss it is alcohol, peanut butter and fresh bread which are very much at the top of the list.

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History lessons

But we digress. Food and booze. It’s where my mind is at the moment. I have both at the moment. I have exercise. I have a family around me . Albeit one who are finding this tough. Harry is carrying the monkey he’s had since birth around with him all the time, even to class. We’re really winging it as teachers. Some of which is fun and some of which is hard work. History lessons very much becoming case of fact mixed with fiction. Of being told that my original iPod “looks so old fashioned dad” . Art lessons are loaded on to YouTube by my brother. Inspiration for creative writing coming from author Lisa Thompson every Monday morning at 9.30am on Instagram live. 

People keep banging on about Joe Wicks. It’s good to see him branching out since that stint on TV’s Eastenders but not for me. Or Harry – and he has tried but told me that he got tired after a minute. Hmm. This is the same Harry who complains when the hour in the park is over or who is launching himself into Mrs. Bruzon’s DIY bootcamp sessions in the back yard? But stick Lisa in front of him and he’s engaged. Asking questions online and writing stories all week. You can find her page, here.

So we’re winging it. We’re lucky, all things considered. But this is still nowhere near ‘normal’ life. When home doubles up as both the office and the classroom it’s hard to separate the day as the various aspects of modern life all bleed in to each other. When do work or education end and fun begin? How on earth do you play or socialise when trapped between four walls? Especially trapped with me  – I do feel for Mrs B at times. 

Well, like most of life these days a lot of it is happening online. Zoom and house party video conferencing is very much the way forward. Harry is on with various groups of friends every afternoon – mixed results there. Sometimes you can’t shut them up. At others, it’s like watching a bunch of Star Trek fans trying to make small talk with the opposite sex. Although at least they have the social distancing part bang on. 

For the grown ups, there’s wine (presumably, we’re all drinking more at the moment and it’s not just us?) and chat in the evenings. Something which is nowhere near as cringe as I first thought it would be. Quite the opposite. There’s only so much we can talk about at home given the lack of external stimulus and so still being able to catch up with friends and family is really helping to keep us sane.

This afternoon, Saturday, we’ve got the big Brentford Zoom chat. The GPG have arranged the online session with Phil Giles. We should be playing Wigan. Instead, we at least have the opportunity to quiz our director of football on all things Griffin Park. This, something we’ve always done well and is probably even more crucial now. At least, in keeping fans informed and morale up. All the details on this one are below.

Then there was the letter from Jon Varney, Cliff Crown and the board yesterday. And the posts on Twitter. With the EFL declaring that the season has been suspended indefinitely, it really was informative and open stuff from the club. I’m presuming we’ve all read it but if not, the link is here. Please do take the time out to read it. Great work all round. I’d give anything for life to be back to normal and us all meeting up at Griffin Park once more. Until that can happen, I take huge consolation from what we are doing.

The weekend is here and, on a personal note, it feels like any other morning. At present. An early start with coffee. Sat in front of a keyboard but at least no school or work to prepare for. The radio is on, as ever, and with a bit of focus, it can feel like a ‘regular’ day at this time. Top tunes are playing, I’m sat here in pants/dressing gown combo and there’s the chance to throw some nonsense out on to the internet. It’s just like any other 6am. 

On that subject, I’d love to offer huge thanks to Absolute Radio for allowing yours truly onto Dave Berry’s breakfast show on Tuesday. We said at the top end of the article about it being an up and down week. This bit was very much in the ‘up’ part. Doubling up with Nottingham Forest fan Matt Dyson to try and win five grand. In theory for me but money that would have gone elsewhere. Our quite wonderful NHS who, and I apologise if anybody heard it, I think I may have gone in to one about. In a positive sense. It’s here, otherwise, and is worth it alone for Elton John doing Only Fools and Horses.

What the station does is just magnificent at the best of times, let alone now. Mental health has been a topic high on their agenda over the last year and is something they continue to promote. To remind people that we will get through this and it is ok to be anxious about everything that is unfolding around us. I’m not too proud to admit that radio is really helping to keep me going at present. Even moreso than ever. With DJs all broadcasting from home, the technology to keep the service and quality is quite incredible.

Whomever you listen to, keep it on. Keep that external input into your lives going and don’t underestimate how valuable a service is being provided at present. I do miss working next to people but one ‘positive’ is that at least I can do my job alongside that voice at the other end of the wireless and anybody from The Bluetones to Ash ; The Charlatans to Supergrass. But definitely no Mick Hucknall. Under any circumstances.

And it is another voice at the end of said medium that I need to offer up huge thanks to this Saturday morning. Not Absolute but the BBC and, of course, the quite wonderful Billy Reeves.

Aside from afternoon chat with Phil, the other Zoom activity in our house is an online quiz being hosted this evening. And, as ever, things have been left ‘last minute’. A tweet out to our man asking for a question has been met with not just one brainteaser but an entire section – the mother of all fiendish music rounds. With other Brentford fans also picking in off the back of this with questions, Cinderella will goto the virtual ball. Or, at least, the spangly jacket can come out of the wardrobe later.

But enough  about the chat with Phil.

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BBC Billy doing his thing in happier times

Stay safe everybody. I hope you are all bearing up. DMs are open if anybody wants to chat about anything. Football related or otherwise. Not that I’m really much good at this – I’m just a Brentford fan with limited knowledge about life who uses Twitter far too much –  but, as Bob Hoskins used to say. “It’s good to talk”.

Whatever gets you through this. Now go turn on the radio. Oh, and please send a quiz question via Twitter if you are bored: @NickBruzon.  Hey, I might even host one next week if anybody wants to play?

Just a thought….

Nick Bruzon

Could it be a case of advantage Fulham?

12 Mar

This all looks pretty fatal on the football front. Are Brentford and the rest about to be dealt a hammer blow? The confirmed positive test for Coronavirus of Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis had already thrown the Championship, and beyond, into doubt. Whilst large crowds were still able to see Liverpool and Spurs exit the Champions League this week, last night’s  game between Manchester City and Arsenal (who were recently beaten by The Greeks in the Europa league) had already been postponed and the number of games being played behind closed doors is accelerating across Europe. Whilst there is no word as yet given our huge game at Fulham tomorrow (not to mention the visit of West Brom to Griffin Park on Tuesday) could a tipping point be imminent ?

The Nottingham Forest players and staff have all been tested with results coming back negative. Even allowing for that good news, things suddenly feel very close to home. With public gatherings such as St. Patrick’s Day parades and schools being cancelled globally, surely it can only be a matter of time before we follow our friends in Europe and the shutters start to come down? What could that mean for Brentford? 

Forest getting the ‘all clear’ at least means that for now everybody is operating on a ‘level’ playing field. Will it be BAU and a full house for Brentford at Craven Cottage (the three sides of it that are open) on Friday? Will games start to go ahead to the sound of piped crowd noise and empty seats? This, something we witnessed on Tuesday in the Champion’s league game between Valencia and Atalanta. It was a surreal experience although still infinitely better than watching Tottenham capitulate. Not that having that famous Anfield ‘12th man’ helped Liverpool, either.  

The ‘closed doors’ option is not a route that I hope we are forced down. If for no other reason it will give Fulham a huge advantage  – playing in empty stadiums devoid of atmosphere something they are used to week in, week out.

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Could Brentford be faced with similar on Friday? (The 2-2 from a few seasons back)

At worst, players will start to be taken ill at some point and then we have that most terrifying of situations – the EFL forced to make a decision. That, something they struggle with at the best of times, let alone when the situation warrants serious action. Are games forfeited? Put on hold? The season potentially wiped or stopped dead in it’s tracks? Sides forced to put out a starting XI of healthy players, regardless as to whether they come from the heart of the first team squad or the depths of the reserves. These, all options I’ve heard touted and just any one of a number of options that may or may not come in to play at some point.

There are no answers here. Mainly because nobody knows what will happen. Martin Hardy in The Times reports this morning that actions to force all football matches in England to be played behind closed doors could be triggered as early as today. They suggest that there will be additional measures put in place to allow fans to still watch as much as possible over the internet and TV but clearly this will be an ersatz, if necessary, experience. You can read that piece, here.

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That headline from The Times…

I submitted my programme article for Tuesday’s game between The Bees and West Brom earlier. I don’t know if that will even be published or read. I hope it is and not for any egotistical reasons – it’s the usual nonsense with obligatory reference to the godawful Mrs. Browns Boys – but more because it means we are still in a BAU scenario. This may all start to settle soon, now that people are washing their hands (seriously, they weren’t before?) and have ample supplies of both dried pasta and toilet roll. Or things may get messier for the foreseeable (the U.S. now imposing a European travel ban for 30 days). Whatever happens, at best I suspect we’ll see the season run well beyond it’s scheduled finish in an attempt to wrap things up as smoothly as possible.

That’s the sporting side. Underpinning all of this is a very real human cost. People are being taken ill. Nobody wants that, to see cases accelerated or the situation worsening any more. Let’s not forget about those who are dying in all of this. Sport will always very much play second fiddle to a genuine medical crisis. When we hit that point, if not already, remains to be seen. From a sporting perspective, the next few days could very much impact how the rest of our season is going to play out.   

Until then, it’s Fulham on Friday. Our paltry allocation of 1700 fans sure to make themselves heard above the coughing and clappers. Here’s hoping we are still able to go ahead as normal.

Whatever normal is these days.

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Will our fans be allowed in?

Nick Bruzon

Keep your hands and noses clean – look who’s in charge….

7 Mar

The promotion push continues. With just ten games to go in the Championship campaign, fifth placed Brentford are all set to host Sheffield Wednesday at Griffin Park this afternoon. Whilst the eleven point gap to ‘automatic’ may be starting to look significant, we’ve already reeled in Leeds United once this season. Any hope of doing the same needs to begin today although primary focus needs to be on strengthening our current top six placing. To that end, we were given a small boost last night as Nottingham Forest were obliterated at home by Millwall. Still, the good news is that our man in the middle is Keith Stroud.

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Keith Stroud – NO card.

The big on-pitch question today is whether Pontus Jansson may be ready to make a long-overdue return. We spoke last time out about his importance and his presence but the BBC match preview really highlights this from a statistical perspective. Brentford have won just twice since his last appearance, that against QPR in early January. Indeed, we’ve only tasted victory in two of the eleven games he’s missed all season compared to fourteen out of twenty-five when he has appeared.

One does need to counter this with the fact that this recent ‘run’ has only seen us defeated twice in the league – Nottingham Forest and Luton (a). It has been a period of eminently loseable fixtures such as Cardiff City and Birmingham away ; Leeds United and Middlesbrough at home. Yet we’ve still survived those unscathed and it could be argued the had we hung on to the 1-0 lead against the Elland Road outfit, Brentford may well be looking down on more than just the 19 teams currently below us.

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View from the Braemar – I’d love to see Pontus back

That’s football. No point dwelling on ifs, buts and maybes. Instead, time to focus on Sheffield Wednesday. Of course I’d love Pontus in the team but we should still have enough in the starting XI to give anybody a run. Leading the charge will be Ollie Watkins who was, of course, named EFL Player of the Year at the London Football awards this week. Alongside him fellow nominees Said Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo. With Thomas Frank beating the likes Roy Hodgson and Frank Lampard for the managerial honour, one has to think that morale will be high in the camp.

For the visitors, they are currently the quintessential example of a mid-table side. On paper. Sitting 12th, Wednesday are 10 points off relegation and 8 off the play-offs. A late charge for the play-offs would seem even more optimistic than our own efforts to hit the top two slots. Aside from their own recent form, which has only seen 1 victory and 4 defeats in the last 8 league games, the sheer weight of numbers above them makes that more improbable. Millwall being the latest teams to knock on the door following their own 3-0 heroics at Nottingham Forest last night. Added to this are injuries suffered by The Owls in the FA Cup defeat by Manchester City midweek. Kieran Lee is  almost certainly out whilst defender Julian Borner went off at half-time. It’s just a shame that stamina levels weren’t tested further by a period of extra time and penalties. 

That’s not to say that today is going to be easier than recent challenges. It’s anything but. Yet at the same time I’ve got the feeling in my heart that we will win this. Whether Pontus plays or not. But for the referee we could have come away from Cardiff City with a lot more last weekend as Brentford kept going until the very end.

So let’s all breath a sigh of relief that Keith Stroud is in charge today. Could today see his traditional flourish of a red card? Will there be random decision making? Or might we have the more level-headed Keith of recent outings? Whatever happens, he can’t do a more frustrating job than Simon Hooper. 

Do get there early for his always entertaining warm up routine, too. Very much a modern day Burridge (John, of Crystal Palace goalkeeping fame, rather than Mark, of commentary and greyhounds).

Keith Stroud montage

Keith Stroud – has form

The other point of note about today is the additional health and safety precautions in place given the current concerns around Covid-19. You can read the full statement on the club website although the main impact for supporters will be a cessation of our usual close contact with the players whilst the traditional prematch hand shake will stop for now. The full gamut of measures and what to expect are noted here although I’d also note that we should probably be glad football is even going ahead. In Italy, all sporting fixtures are now being played behind closed doors whilst the top flights clubs have already started to mention they expect similar may follow.

For now, keep those hands clean and let’s see what happens down the line. Until then, heres to Sheffield. Let’s do this.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Tough conditions. Tough opponents. Tough to take.

26 Feb

The referee. The weather. Murray Jones. VAR. Barnsley tickets. Ron Noades, Marinus. The South dressing room at Millennium stadium. Jamie Cureton, Jasper Carrot. Birmingham City. It would be easy to find things to blame for last night but the simple fact of the matter is that a 2-1 defeat for Brentford at Luton Town was about as disappointing a performance as we’ve seen all season. The Hatters wanted it, were quick on their feet and first to everything. The Bees struggled to break down our hosts and despite the attacking options available, a rejigged line up was unable to make headway. With Nottingham Forest also winning to move third, the ball is very much in the court of both Fulham and Leeds United – should they want to try and take the opportunity this evening.

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Brentford were unable to find a way through the Luton defence

Ahh, look. I’ve slept on it before even thinking about committing words to paper. It hasn’t changed the disappointment. The sniping on Twitter was there for all to see last night. The struggle on the pitch apparent. Julian Jeanvier was added to the injury list before kick-off and Christian Norgaard joined him during the second half. Mathias Jensen was missing again whilst we were desperately crying out for the solidity of Pontus Jansson to add some shape to the makeshift back line. 

A bright start where we took the game to Luton came crashing down to earth with a bump where an innocuous looking free kick across the box seemed to elude everyone before going in on off Shandon Baptiste. Less than ten minutes gone and Brentford a goal down. With the clock being killed at every possible opportunity, our hosts refused to give an inch. The Bees’ super slick passing machine snuffed out time and again as the midfield and defence held firm. With no way through and Simon Sluga in inspired form between the sticks when an opportunity was forged,  the tension built. And built. 

Then, right into the depths of stoppage time, it was 2-0. Another free kick and another goal. This time at least Luton having the decency to score it themselves. Martin Cranie the man celebrating as he fired the half-cleared original effort back from where it came and high into the net. Brentford left the field to a chorus of boos. The smiles and bright start of forty-five minutes earlier nothing more than a distant memory, washed away in the incessant sleet and rain.

The second half brought more of the same. Frustration. Wayward passes. Ferocious defence. A brick wall midfield. A late goal from Ollie Watkins offering faint hope. A very late sortie upfield from David Raya almost bringing salvation as Ethan Pinnock saw a corner scrambled off the line and Said Benrahma curled one just wide. Yet it all felt too little, too late.

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David Raya – almost grabbed the equaliser (not a typo).

No excuses made – Brentford were second best last night. Luton Town wanted it more and got exactly what their gameplay and endeavour was due. On the plus side, we are still in the play-off zone. We are still six points off second place. Middlesbrough may do us a favour against Leeds United tonight. Swansea City may see their game with Fulham as the opportunity to reignite a rapidly faltering play-off push. Should those results go our way then we are no worse off than before. The upper places still in sight. There are only eleven games to go and we still have destiny very much in our own hands. The chance to lock down a play-off spot, at the very least, one which is ours to own.

But let’s not pretend that we can play like that again and get away with it. The patched up team looked knackered as they chased both the game and their tenacious opponents. Throwing mud at individuals won’t help and I’m certainly not going to start this now. We win together. We lose together. This one gets chalked down to the file marked ‘lessons learned’ and everyone can just pretend it never happened. 

A win at Cardiff City on Saturday will put the smile back on our faces. Perhaps Middlesbrough and Swansea may even do that job for us tonight. Otherwise, its a case of chin up and roll on the weekend. See you there. 

Nick Bruzon

 

With the terrace talk about Terrace Talk, it’s another point in awful conditions.

23 Feb

Another game unbeaten. Another game that Brentford fans may feel we should have won but, in the end, will be happy to have taken a point against a Blackburn Rovers team with their own promotion aspirations. A 2-2 draw played out in gale force conditions, alongside Fulham’s Friday night draw and a 0-0 for Nottingham Forest means we stay fourth. Leeds United won – fair play to them – as that once colossal gap to second place is still a very catchable six points. With the Bees next up before the teams directly above us play again (we’ve a visit to Luton Town on Tuesday before Fulham host Swansea and Leeds travel to Middlesbrough on Wednesday), the chance to apply further immediate pressure lies very much in our own hands.

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It’s up there, somewhere. Conditions were tough at gusty Griffin Park.

It was an absolute corker of a Griffin Park. Despite Blackburn playing with that howling wind at their backs in the first half, Brentford were the ones applying the early pressure. Right up until the exact moment that Rovers’ goalkeeper Christian Walton played a long, long ball up pitch and as it caught the breeze, Ethan Pinnock lost it in the air. There was Adam Armstrong to drift it over David Raya with a perfectly placed lob. The ball seemed to float over him in almost slow-motion with nothing the Spaniard, or anybody watching, could do to stop it hitting the back of the net.

Noooooooooooooooooo. 0-1 and Blackburn most definitely not reading the script. With the wind now behind the visitors and very much taken out of our sails, the rest of the first-half meandered way into nothingness. I’m struggling to recall much more in terms of incident. Still, there was always the second period to come…..

Urghh. 0-2 Rovers. With less than an hour gone, referee Tim Robinson pointed to the spot after Raya won the ball but continued his movement into somebody. Gut feeling at the time was that it was soft but legitimate. We’ve all seen them given etc. That man Armstrong made no mistake and Blackburn were home. The play-offs beckoning.

Except, they weren’t. Just minutes later Ollie Watkins had halved the deficit with an absolute howitzer of a shot. This time it was Dalsgaard who used the conditions to our advantage as his own pass through the eye of the storm was perfectly judged by the free scoring front man. Playing the offside trap to perfection, he brought it down and then leathered one from distance that swerved into the top corner and sent the home fans wild. My word, what a strike. It was as much about the timing, control and preparation as it was the finish. Hats off, Ollie. 

The crowd buoyant and Brentford inspired, we kicked on. Shandon Baptise and Mads Roerslev having come on from the bench both impressed. Should Mathias Jensen still be missing for the Luton game, I can only imagine it will be the new signing from Oxford who starts that one rather than Emiliano Marcondes. Yet it was Roerslev who was the real revelation down the right, as the Brentford player machine looks like it has spat out another winner from the B-team.

Boom. Felled in the box (apparently – move along, nothing to see here) it presented the opportunity for Benrahma to level things. There was no mistake from the spot and with 20 minutes left, there was only one team in it. 

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Saaaiiiiiiddddd!! 2-2 from the spot

Brentford pushed, poked, and tried. Benrahma’s legs a blur and Mbeumo coming close to making it another afternoon of the BMW doing their thing. At the other end David Raya keeping Arsmtrong at bay with a quite wonderful save after Dalsgaard’s back pass had dropped woefully short. It was the only realistic chance that Blackburn had between the equaliser and full time. How crucial could it prove? 

Alas, it wasn’t to be for either team. Promotion hopes hit with the lightest of pauses rather than being derailed or ground made. For either team. With West Bromwich Albion also winning, and so themselves now four points clear of Leeds United, anybody hoping for ‘automatic’ is fighting out for one place. I can’t see the Baggies surrendering another double point lead having once more found their form. Albeit their visit to Griffin Park next month could be interesting…..  

Instead, it looks like a straight shoot out between Brentford, Fulham, Leeds United, Preston and Nottingham Forest for second place. Statistically, Leeds have to be favourites. They’re the ones currently occupying that slot and with the lead over third place. Yet pressure does strong things and one thing’s for sure, nobody is going to give up on the chase. With Brentford missing Mathias Jensen, Pontus Jansson and Sergi Canos we’ve still got strength in depth to return. 

So, it wasn’t to be this time. The race for the Premier League is still alive and kicking. The players doing their thing, even at full time, where they and Thomas once more put the family feel into our wonderful club.

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Advice being given at full time….

We’ve a trip to Luton Town up next and then it’s off to Cardiff City on Saturday. The games are coming thick and fast as the excitement shows no sign of abating.

And finally, the (possible) return of the ever popular Terrace Talk video feature. Could it happen? It was a subject that was touched upon in yesterday’s programme feature and has already been picked up on by former host Sean Ridley.

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As seen in the programme….

Going by yesterday’s Twitter talk, Sean’s willing to give it a go for one last hurrah – assuming, of course, that ‘official’ are.

Just tweet @BrentfordFC and use the hashtag #TerraceTalk if you’d like to see it back just once more. Hey, the club may even agree.  And if you need a reminder of the feature’s brilliance, then here you go (from the 2016/17 visit of Nottingham Forest)…..

 

Nick Bruzon

There wouldn’t be a more beautiful set of brackets in football this season.

15 Feb

Saturday morning. 6.30am. It already has the feel of one of those days. No District line. No Piccadilly line. No South West Trains service. Even leaving Brentford to get as far as a station feels as though it is going to be epic. That’s nothing to do with Storm Dennis but simply the most ill thought out combination of track upgrades since – urghh, it’s too early for an analogy. Then again, time to grit those teeth, put head down and find a Plan C. Preferably one that doesn’t involve the four most horrific words in the English language – rail replacement bus service. The trip to Birmingham City awaits and it promises to be epic. With the added incentive of Nottingham Forest v West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United hosting Bristol City, today definitely has the feel of, erm, one of those days. One to focus on the positive and what may be. Subject to the weather.

Cheer up Harlee Dean. etc etc etc. Been there, done that. Whilst I’ll be amazed if we don’t hear at least one refrain of that song following his infamous comments on that ill-fated ‘Blues Cruise’, there are bigger things to focus on today. The promotion race remains wide open and the primary concern for Brentford has to be in looking to pick up those three points. Other results going our way could, theoretically, see us finish the day in that second place we occupied briefly during the midweek fixture against Leeds United.

Harlee

Don’t shoot the messenger. He said it. Not me.

Then again, other results could, theoretically, see Leeds United end the day outside the top six. Victories for the Bees, Forest, Fulham (a home banker against Barnsley) combined with Bristol City winning by 7(seven) goals at Elland Road will achieve that feat. There wouldn’t be a more beautiful set of brackets in football this season should that set of results play out. And whilst, of course, it won’t this serves more to show just how tight things remain. Just how how crucial those ‘other’ results could be as the top sides, and also Birmingham City, play each other.

Let’s not write off Blues though. My word, anything but. They are on a nine game unbeaten run and have picked up three Championship wins on the bounce. Despite the loss of Josh McEachran, they still find themselves chock full of ex-Bees. Maxime Colin, the aforementioned Captain Pugwash and of course Scott Hogan. He’s banging them in for fun once more and so we’ll have to be extra wary of that ball slotted through the middle. Christian Norgaard and, potentially, a returning Pontus Jansson will have key roles to play this afternoon. 

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I used to love a Scott Hogan goal celebration. Not today.

The game against Leeds on Tuesday was one where, being fair, just about everyone has acknowledged we were second best. The visitors will be disappointed not to have picked up all three points but, as we’ve said many times, possession and chances count for naff all if you can’t convert. They may have outplayed us but they couldn’t beat us. Brentford had an off day and still could have won. Perhaps we might have had things stayed at 1-0 rather than being pegged back just before half-time.

Ahh. Ifs, buts and maybes. The things that make football so intriguing. The things that provide for hours of conversation and conjecture despite having absolutely no impact on past results. The things that perhaps give us the inspiration to really go for it next time out and right any wrongs we may feel have been done to us.

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A rare second half  sortie on Tuesday.

For me, Clive, Birmingham City are an irrelevance today. I don’t mean that with any form of specific disrespect. Feelings for the team have been well documented before and I’d absolutely love to get a win at St. Andrews.

It’s more that currently they just feel like the opposition in the way and nothing more than that. A challenge to be overcome and points to be won rather than scored. There are no thoughts about relegation in 92/93, lack of promotion in 94/95 or ‘ten times better’ but simply whether we can keep heading towards the top flight. And the latest obstacle in the way is a Blue one rather than, all being well, a traffic jam or a tree on the track.

I can’t call it. Never can. I was 100% confident that we’d beat Leeds United on Tuesday and that didn’t work out. But we didn’t lose and we have the biggest incentive possible to go for it. Moreso with the Nottingham Forest – West Bromwich Albion game due to take place at lunchtime. By the time of our kick off we’ll have a little bit more of an idea how the table is looking and just what three points might do to our position at close of play. If we can pick them up.

Oh, I can’t wait for this one. Travel safe. See you there…..

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Here’s to more of this

Nick Bruzon

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But who will blink first?

13 Feb

With the midweek fixtures all played out, Brentford find themselves two points off ‘automatic’ and Leeds United still in second place. Just. For a while, it looked as though things may get even better with West Bromwich Albion behind and Fulham crying out for VAR (looked onside to me !) at Millwall. In the end, the Baggies got their win although the Cottagers ended things level. With Preston taking sixth and Bristol City warming up for Saturday’s trip to Elland Road after edging past Wayne Rooney by the odd goal in five, things remain as unclear and open as ever. Only West Brom starting to make a bit of clear air but, as we’ve seen all season, that can change in a heartbeat. Our own game at Birmingham City this weekend couldn’t be any bigger.

Before we go any further, I’ll likely mention Birmingham City a few times in the next couple of days. We’re due to play them  – why wouldn’t anyone do so in that situation? So to try, but no doubt fail, and avoid the usual nonsense about this tinpot team’s apparent obsession with their enormous club, the Griffin Park perspective on why I’ve absolutely relished our teams crossing paths in the Championship is noted further below. Why such pleasure is taken every time Brentford finish above Blues – which has been every season since our return to this level.

Sure… the financial misconduct, the managerial mayhem, that ten times better nonsense or the triple transfer swoop were factors – the sort of nonsense that makes football great in retrospect –  but nothing compared to what had gone before.

Anyway, getting back to the present, one almost had to feel sorry for Fulham last night. Almost. The brief window of opportunity I was afforded to watch that game before Kirsty and Phil started doing battle over Woodford Green property renovation (ah, the Wednesday night price of a green card for the trip to St. Andrews on Saturday is a huge one) saw two early goals and a huge controversy. Aleksander Miitrovic continuing to trade metaphorical punches with Ollie Watkins at the top of the Championship leading goalscorer charts before the Lions equalised with a goal so far offside even I spotted it first time out. Fulham were rightly incensed but, as we struggled to contain the laughs on our couch, the officials allowed it stand. 

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But there was no VAR. No second chance. No reprieve and things were level. Millwall even had the temerity to miss a penalty and that’s how things stayed. Apparently. What would I know? The things you do for the long term footballing pleasure.  With that result, Fulham go level on points with Leeds United whilst Brentford remain two points off the pair of them. The Cottagers may aswell chalk up the three points now with a home game against Barnsley this weekend but Leeds – Bristol City promises to be another massive one. 

The Robins are just outside the play off zone. Only goal difference keeping them away from a top six that once again plays host to Preston. It really is a case of seeing who can hold their nerve. Who blinks first. Whatever else, something has to give with West Brom hosting Nottingham Forest. I’m beyond trying to figure out who I want to win in these games though. Let’s concentrate on ourselves and hope those favours continue to come.

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As it stands…

That said, we are now at the point of experiencing that additional factor of a promotion shootout. That moment where the run-in starts and every result of every club around us seems critical. Phones are refreshed mid-game as goals conceded and points dropped here, there and everywhere are celebrated with abandon. Where even a win for the Loftus Road team is to be celebrated if it comes against one of the teams in close proximity. Where shifts in the table are tracked, even ‘as it stands’, and all favours are grateful accepted. We’ve had it by the bucketload during this week’s fixtures with Brentford even sitting in second place until Leeds equalised. Walking past Griffin Park on the school run with Harry, we’ve been going through permutations of results and possibilities – it’s amazing how much that can help with arithmetic. So, If Leeds lose, how many points will they have? Where will Fulham be if they beat Millwall?

There are, of course, a lot of games to go. Almost a third of the season still. But with nobody really striking out on their own, albeit West Bromwich Albion have a few points’ breathing space (at present) one can’t help but get drawn in by the situation unfolding around us. Which, as much as anything else, is why Birmingham City is a massive one for us Brentford fans. Regardless of the history. The obsession. 

I’ll absolutely love it if we pick up the points. Might even sing a song at full time. Roll on Saturday – see you there.   

 

Until then, here’s my take on it. Birmingham City – the ‘obsession’

For me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things feel as though they bear repeating. No matter how forlorn it may be. Yet it is as crucial now as a means of seeing how far we’ve come compared to how things were before. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day. 

1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning ,  there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a  3-1 aggregate win.

The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.

Deano and Bliss

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as  Birmingham edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.

However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the campaign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.

Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).

Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..

So, yes. Whilst I DO focus on Birmingham City (a lot) it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. Can we take it to the next level? Perhaps Saturday will give a bit more of a clue, but I wouldn’t bet against this race going to the very last weekend of the season. 

Nick Bruzon

A generous slice of good fortune keeps things tight at the top.

12 Feb

I’ll take that and party. Leeds United, arguably the stronger team on the night, were held by Brentford at Griffin Park. We were second to most things but stats, possession and performance count for naff all when the man comes around. The only thing that will be remembered  is in the ‘goals scored’ column and for that we must be truly grateful things finished one each. Benrahma’s early opener, gifted him courtesy of a horror moment for visiting ‘keeper Kiko Casilla, was matched just before half-time by opposition skipper Liam Cooper. Yet with Charlton Athletic doing both teams the biggest of favours after their stunning 0-1 win at Nottingham Forest, the Bees move up to fourth. Still two points off Leeds and five behind West Bromwich Albion at the summit.

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View from the Braemar – Brentford, erm, push up

So, in short…. Leeds United dominated. Leeds United pressed, pushed and took the game to Brentford. Should have wrapped it up in the second half and will no doubt consider this one that they ‘deserved’ to win. The Bees very much on the back foot but, equally, given the temporary moment of sitting second in the table after Casilla’s nightmare. Somehow, a soft backpass from Cooper evaded him and as he desperately stretched to recover, Said was there to hoover up the most generous of gifts. Boom. 1-0. Game on and Leeds set to fall apart. Again.

But no. This was a different United. A team of mental and physical strength. One that didn’t crumble but came straight back at us and cranked up the pressure until Cooper was there to pounce at the other end just before half-time. And that’s how things stayed. The second period being one noticeable by our absence from proceedings. Or rather, our attacking prowess. 

The defence still missing Pontus Jansson coped admirably, by and large, completing the first task of keeping the gap to second place close. With Charlton doing the business in Nottingham, one hopes that on reflection we’ll all be waking up today and consider this one with all the positivity that the situation warrants.

Of course I wanted to win. Of course I was desperate to deliver a knockout blow to Leeds United’s fragile nerves. But you have to respect the fact that they are second for a reason and played the almost perfect game last night. Yet still they failed to beat us. Still Patrick Bamford looked a luxury item in front of goal. Costa profligate. Still Leeds haven’t won at Griffin Park since the days of black and white telly.

We can’t win every game but the plus factor being we’ve still made ground on the top of the table. Put simply, we’re now back in front of Nottingham Forest on level games. Huge thanks to Charlton for that one.

There’s not much else to say about our on pitch performance. We got the point. Might have had three but, in the end, given the chances they had Leeds will undoubtedly feel they should have won. We’ll thank that huge slice of good fortune for our goal and our visitors’ lack of potency who opportunity knocked. Will that be enough to keep the demons pecking at the back of their mind? A home game with promotion chasing Bristol City on Saturday won’t be the easiest of challenges. For us, a trip to Birmingham City. That’ll be an interesting one with Scott Hogan doing the business for Blues again last night but it’s also a topic for later in the week.

Another night under lights. Another game at Griffin Park done. The board now reading 7 to go (no brackets, though) . It was a night where two moments really made me appreciate how much we’ll miss this place.

Firstly, ducking out to the ablutions block in the second half I spotted something you’d struggle to find anywhere else and which could only take place given our close confines. A chap leaning over his garden wall to watch the game  ‘live’  – via the stadium TV channel. The things you do to get past a sellout crowd.

stadium TV Griffin Park Brentford

Secondly, former Bee Stuart Dallas. It’s not often you get the chance to reminisce about the single best ever goal scored in a Brentford shirt with the man who scored it (My word – ‘that’ strike at Fulham still sends shivers up the spine) so grab those moments whilst you can. Even if it’s in the middle of a football match.

He even posed for a picture. Only a stadium as bijou as Griffin Park would allow this.

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Of course I’m looking forward to Lionel Road but, once again, it was a case of very much enjoying what is a rapidly dwindling number of chances to experience that which makes out current home so unique. So special. With Blackburn Rovers next to visit, let’s hope we can use it our advantage.

Until then, snaffle up those last few tickets for Birmingham City and see you there.  

Nick Bruzon  

Who will tear who apart? Why tonight will be epic.

11 Feb

This is it. This is the latest ‘big one’. Leeds United face their cup final. A trip to Griffin Park to take on a rampant Brentford team. The visitors wobbling and on the ropes after seeing their double figure lead over the play-off pack slowly eroded away to the point where defeat tonight will see them removed from the automatic spots. A result that, if Charlton can somehow avoid defeat at Nottingham Forest, will have the added bonus of seeing the Bees take second place.

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Brentford – rampant

That’s one way of looking at things, of course. Absolutely we’re full of optimism and rightly so. Saturday against Middlesbrough saw more of that ‘never say die’ spirit . The much touted attacking trio helping to make it eight goals from the last two Championship fixtures. If the BMW are making all the headlines for Brentford, our visitors are having theirs written by a horrific run of form that has seen them hit the self-destruct button once more. 

Leeds. Leeds are falling apart. Again. 

We all know the words. We all know why. Just two wins out of the last ten games will do that to you. Yet to underestimate them would be the cardinal sin. The ultimate error. Anything less than 100% focus on the game being played out in front of us rather than the reputation or the situation could prove fatal. So of course we’ll be behind the team. Of course we’ll be singing ‘that’ song – this is football and any cheap shots are, of course, going to be taken.

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But don’t expect this to be any form of foregone conclusion.

Leeds United are giants. A huge club. One that should be in the Premier league. Massive crowds week in, week out. One time European trophy winners. Champions of England back in the day. We’re just tinpot interlopers. A pub side. A bus stop. Imagine a team like Brentford having the temerity to challenge their divine right to promotion? A team that takes the notion of success and top flight residence being intrinsically linked, screws it up into a little ball and then kicks it firmly into touch. Or, rather, the back of the net.

They’ll be up for this tonight. More, possibly, than any game in recent weeks. A chance to reinstate what their fans consider to be the natural order of things rather than face the ultimate indignity. And this is where Headless Bee absolutely nailed things on Twitter last night, noting: 

I see tomorrow as one hell of a test, Yes Leeds are having a dodgy patch, but if anyone thinks this is a given is in for a shock, a team very much like us with a very good defence, they’re 2nd.

Probably end to end, the team and us need to be absolutely on it.   

Yes, we do need to be on it. We need to not think that this is any form of foregone conclusion. Bielsa is a genius. A king of psychology. Of ripping up the rule book. Of tactical brilliance. A tracksuited demi-god overseeing a once mighty empire and doing his level best to reinstate this to the, perhaps unattainable, heights demanded by his followers. Underestimate him at your peril. But I’d say the same to him and to Leeds United about Brentford. 

Thomas Frank was in fine form during yesterday’s press conference . Respectful but positive, he summed up the current mindset nicely: “We definitely have more momentum than Leeds right now. Everyone knows how much I respect Marcelo Bielsa and what he has done to build up Leeds as a club and as a team but they couldn’t pick a worse place to play Tuesday night”

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Thomas remains full of positivity

That’s not arrogance. That’s a fact. Griffin Park under lights is an incredible place to play football. Packed to the rafters with fans on top of the pitch, it’ll be a cauldron of passion.

Size isn’t everything but more what you do with it. Expect this one to be noisy. Exuberant. Especially when we have the free hit of ‘that’ song. 

Whilst it would be foolish for anyone in TW8 to presume that three points are in the bag already, by the same virtue Leeds have to expect us to go for it. They can’t believe we’ll just step aside and defer to their reputation. They are trying to arrest the decline and restore the natural order but we have momentum and incentive on our side. It has all the ingredients of a thriller.

With Pontus Jansson now close to recovery, he’ll be as desperate to be involved as we are. I don’t envy Thomas Frank that decision. Ethan Pinnock is as permanent a fixture as they come whilst Julian Jeanvier added to his impressive form with the opening goal on Saturday. Stick with the winning team or pick your inspirational captain?  

I can’t wait to find out. Then again, I can’t wait for this one. The one thing you can be sure of is that tonight will be epic.

7.45pm can’t come soon enough. 9.30pm could be incredible. See you there.

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Could Pontus be back tonight?

Nick Bruzon  

I’m buzzing. I’m excited. I want more.

7 Feb

Fun though the game at Hull was (and it was) there seems to have been an interminable wait for Brentford to get back in action. Perhaps it is wanting more of the same after that stonking 5-1 win on the road at the weekend. Perhaps it is knowing that if we are able to beat Middlesbrough (certainly, no easy ask) we move to within two points of second placed Leeds United. At least, until they travel to Nottingham Forest in the evening. Perhaps we just want to welcome back Saïd Benrahma and give him that hug in person – metaphorically speaking. Or actually. Saïd, if you are reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) the family Bruzon will be on the Braemar Road touchline at full time.

Elsewhere, for the lovers of social media amongst you it’s not Twitter we look at today but facebook, where there’s a new group you may wish to get involved with (blood oaths to the leader not essential).

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Thomas giving some big love. Here’s to more on Saturday

First, as ever, on pitch matters. Saturday was magnificent. We scored five. Being realistic, it could have been ten. That’s not arrogance but a fact. Saïd was on fire and grabbed the headlines but let’s not forget the unsung heroes in midfield – Christian Nørgaard and Mathias Jensen who, in particular was all kinds of the purest filth when carving open the opposition to push the Bees, erm, up. 

At the same time Hull helped us a lot, still reeling from the psychological blow of losing their two star players at the 11th hour (got to hate that transfer window – a pain we know too well). Twenty minutes in it looked as though the abacus and the brackets may need to come out but, in the end, we didn’t quite reach the magical 7(seven) marker. Yet to be anything but over the moon (Clive) about scoring five goals away from home and further boosting our already prolific goal difference would be nothing short of trite. So I’m not. I’m buzzing. I’m excited. I want more.

And it is Middlesbrough the team who offer that opportunity. Cripes, there was a time when even just mention of Boro would have had us quaking in fear. The Smoggies and defeat seemed to go hand in hand for Brentford as we began Championship life. The pain of the 2014-15 play-off semi finals being the rancid cherry on top of a very stale cake. That incredible first season almost coming to the fairytale ending of promotion to the Premier League. Instead, there were Middlesbrough to stop us in our tracks. Every time. An impenetrable fortress of iron clad solidity. A team of footballing Batfinks  – with Aitor Karanka making sure his team had added Karate. Kids ; ask an adult or just use the internet.

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2014-15 saw Middlesbrough like a shield of steel

That was then. This is now. A run of 7(seven) defeats and 2 draws out of 9 games reached an abrupt end with our 2-1 win at the Riverside last season – got to love that lucky brown/orange. Replacement goalkeeper Patrik Gunnarsson coming off the bench for Dan Bentley to keep the hosts at bay on his league debut whilst an own goal and Benrahma did the business for the Bees late on. Paths crossed again at the start of this season where Ollie Watkins popped up to grab the winner. Like the 65, you wait ages and then two come along at once. I guess there are advantages to being a bus stop.

Now for the hat-trick chance. Probably the most crucial of the three recent encounters, given the congestion now occurring at the top of the table. Leeds United are falli etc etc etc but looking purely at ourselves, we have a wonderful opportunity to start breathing down their necks and getting close enough to whisper in their ear (preferably ‘choke choke choke’).

Brentford will, in all likelihood, remain unchanged. Thomas Frank has already confirmed that Pontus Jansson will be unavailable. Albeit recovering rapidly and hoped to be ready for some part of the action on Tuesday night against his former club.  That said, one would imagine that new boys Shandon Baptiste and Tariqe Fosu may make the bench after our own deadline day shopping. 

As for the visitors, they are clear of the relegation zone they occupied for a long part of the early season although reaching the play-offs would seem even beyond the most optimistic supporter’s aspirations. Moreso, given a recent run of DLDD in the Championship. Cliche and expectation suggests they’ll be parking the bus at the Griffin Park stop. Past form also dictating that they’ll be robust in the challenge. These, situations the Bees have struggled against with an open and attacking flow to the game being very much our medium in which to shine. Still, with home advantage up the sleeve and the biggest incentive of all ahead of Leeds on Tuesday,  it’s our place to dictate the play. Here’s to giving that lesson.

Off field, for those of you wanting to increase your interaction with fellow Bees then there’s a rapidly growing group on Facebook – Brentford FC Facebook chat. It does what it says. Articles, chat, fan interaction and even the odd bit of dodgy photoshop (although perhaps not the full fat deification of the Bees found on some of the more, erm, intense pages). 

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Dodgy photoshop paying homage to our heroes? Why not?

As author Megan Whalen Turner so famously wrote in ‘The King of Attolia’ “It isn’t an easy thing to give your loyalty to someone you don’t know, especially when that person chooses to reveal nothing of himself. 

So why not reveal yourselves (not literally ; that isn’t what the internet is for) to your fellow supporters and get to know a bit more about each other – and our club. You can join up here.

Until then, here’s to Saturday. I can’t wait for  this one. See you there.

Nick Bruzon