Tag Archives: Ollie Watkins

Bees and Tigers share points in the proverbial game of two halves.

18 Aug

Brentford 1 Hull City 1. Whilst it wasn’t the 5-1 trashing of last season, the finish to this one was as exciting as the previous time these two teams had come together. Something all the more pleasing as it had started with all the excitement and enjoyability at a studio recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Yet in the end, Ollie Watkins and Julian Jeanvier came within inches of giving Thomas Frank a second league win on the bounce following last Saturday’s despatch of Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough.  

There was good news from the off. Kamo and Said Benrahama named as available, albeit having to be content with a place on the bench. Bryan Mbuemo starting. As did Christian Nørgaard in the centre.  Yet if the announcement of the team had us salivating, the mood dipped with a first half performance that both teams may aswell have been dialled in from last Thursday. Chances were at a premium and that’s the polite version. The moment Mbuemo left his man for absolute dead and pointing the wrong way was a crown jewel atop an otherwise staid opening period. 

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View from The Braemar… Mbuemo does his thing.

Yet as at Middlesbrough, the second half saw Brentford crank it up. Even if we did concede the opener. Jarod Bowen being given the freedom of the penalty box to fire home and give Hull City the lead on 52. It wasn’t pretty defending and looked worse on the highlights but at the same time proved the catalyst  for the Bees to wake up and start playing as we know they can.

Thomas Frank shuffled the pack and went for a Plan B. The defensive switch from three centre backs saw the midfield boosted. Josh Dasilva and that man Benrahma coming on to a heroes welcome in a seventieth minute double substitution. Little more than 60 seconds later and we were level. Sergi Canos performing wonders down the right hand side to place an inch perfect pass through to Ollie Watkins. The timing was magnificent. The calls for offside ignored. The goal stood as he swept home to joyful response from all around Griffin Park. 

Sergi has begun this season on fire. Ollie has his second goal in as many games. It could have been a third. Just moments later but for a quite wonderful save from Hull ‘keeper Long. Both teams pushed on and pushed up. Benrahma not quite fully fit but still had the crowd on their feet with every surging run. With every bit of trickery. The smile on his face returning although, if anything, he was perhaps guilty of trying to hard. His time will come and what a welcome return. Mbuemo grew into the game and it was great to see  Christian Nørgaard in action. 

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But despite all the attacking intent on display as the game reached a gripping denouement, it was the post (officially, but looked like a fine save to me)  that kept Brentford in it following a fiercely fired free kick from Kamil Grosicki taken deep in the heart of Saunders territory (with thanks to the Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s alliteration). But the with the clock ticking onwards, we had our own chance. A beautiful cross onto the head of Julian Jeanvier with the goal gaping. Surely? Surely?? Surely??? Nooooooo!!!  If anything he headed it too well and angled his effort just past the post when straight into the back of the net would have produced the necessary outcome. 

It was an afternoon where football was played in a good spirit and even the players got in on the humour. There’s no-where to hide at Griffin Park, as Hull’s Kingsley discovered upon hearing the shout “You’re not Kingsley. There’s only one Kingsley….” He turned to confront the Braemar Road with an angry scowl on his face before the shout continued… “and he’s got spikey yellow hair”.  Cue the look of confusion turning into a smile of appreciation. At least, I hope that’s what it was. 

It was also an afternoon where I thought we were somewhat unlucky in the end, even if Hull manager Grant McCann did feel that “I think we deserved to win the game. I’ve seen it back and their goal is a yard offside. It’s really disappointing at this level to get a decision like that wrong.”. Hmmm. Perhaps upon review he may feel differently. Ollie’s goal WAS tight but it was onside.

Deserving to win is as false a concept as the possibility of a joke appearing in an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys. The Bees had their chances but couldn’t quite take them. There was no ill-will directed towards the team. This is still a group of players finding their feet together and adjusting to life after Maupay. Leeds United are next up and that one’s only going to be wonderful. Assuming you can afford the £37 away ticket prices. I have no doubt there’ll be plenty of scores to settle from the Elland Road side following the events of last season and, of course, the acquisition of our own new captain over the summer.

Enjoy that one. For now, time to regroup and reflect on the positives

Nick Bruzon

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View from the Braemar. Captain Pontus cools down

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Cambridge follow Oxford in giving Bees the third degree.

14 Aug

Well that wasn’t great. Cambridge United reached the second round of the League Cup at the expense of a Brentford team chock full of new signings yet tinkered with to such an extent that it was almost at the level of  Marinus and the car keys in a bowl team selection of Oxford United from the same stage a few season back. Almost. At least this time we held on for a 1-1 draw before succumbing to fatal spot kicks taken in front of an ecstatic away support. On the plus side, the arrival of alleged Celtic target Rico Henry and long term signing Ollie Watkins put some much needed spring in the step to a game we almost won but, obviously, didn’t. 

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Griffin Park looked great under lights. Despite the result.

Upset? In a cup sense then of course but personally I slept well upon returning home. Dru Yearwood’s mistake early on presented Cambridge a chance from which they made no mistake but then they barely had a look in. Dru himself looked composed after that and grew into the game but the challenge of throwing so many new faces together was one that Brentford struggled with. Thomas Frank would later describe it as a disjointed performance and few present in the 5000+ crowd could argue with that.

Trying to look on the bright side this morning, there are still plenty of positives. Thomas was always going to play the new boys  – even this self-confessed numpty on the terrace called that one out yesterday – so it was a self-imposed challenge. The visitors came at us from the off and got the early goal as we struggled to settle in. Fair play to them in doing what they needed to but after that there was no more. Rather than turn into an Oxford style car crash (3-0 down after 12 minutes with Kemar Roofe’s 40 yard lob of Jack Bonham the ultimate slap in the face for the hapless head coach back in 2015) Brentford put the brakes on. Even though we struggled to get through our opponents, looking to walk it in rather than shoot, at least it stopped the goals going in.

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Marinus and the Oxford fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never, ever forget

Thompson, Mbuemo, Valencia and Yearwood in particular all grew into the game and now have vital minutes under the belt. Zamburek and Racic stepped in and stepped up to a line up which was very much one for this evening only. Rico Henry and Ollie Watkins made a huge difference when they came on and showed what might have been had Thomas not used the game to try out new faces and give his starting XI a break after their exertions in the weekend win at Middlesbrough. Hull City on Saturday is going to be a tough one so you can understand why he has done this.

Outside of the rested faces, we’ve still got the likes of Said and Kamo to come back in to the team. And Marcus Forss scored another goal for the Bees. Huge news there with a starting berth possibly up for grabs in Thomas Frank’s all attack front line for Hull.

The subsequent second round draw saw Cambridge United drawn away to Swansea City. That in itself a reason to be grateful for crashing out. After last season’s horror shows against the Swans (home, away and FA Cup trip) the less we see of them in the short term the better. Besides, it also means we are now free to concentrate on the league.

And, of course, Celtic lost. Knocked out of the Champions League at home by CFR Cluj of Romania. Their own collapse at the death seeing them fail to make the group stages once more. This in itself of huge importance to Brentford, given the apparent interest in Rico Henry and the fact that their window remains open for a few more weeks so anyone could still leave for the Scottish top flight. Should they desire.

With the lure of Europe’s top table no longer available (as ever at this time of year), might a move to Glasgow be quite so appealing for Rico?  If, indeed, it was? The way he played last night, he is somebody who will surely be part of Thomas Frank’s plans this season so hanging on to him will be another boost.

Also, the cover of the programme looked great. Clutching at straws now, granted, but it was that sort of night. Some would say ‘couldn’t be bothered’ . Personally, I’ll go for slight over-tinkering in a bid to get new blood circulating. Another time we may have got away with it but not this time and there’s not much else to say, really.

Well done to our visitors. No gripes for me there. Bad luck Bees. We tried but much like Oxford, Cambridge gave us an education in how to play cup football and it was Brentford left with the blues. Nobody needs any further lecture from me on the subject.

Roll on Saturday and Hull City. See you there.

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Nice artwork

Nick Bruzon

Away win? What’s the fuss about? Easy!

11 Aug

That’s one jinx well and truly laid to rest. Not just last season’s awful away record but, it would be fair to say, Middlesbrough have had the psychological advantage over Brentford since our paths crossed in the Championship. Of course, The Bees ended that one in some style, and a rare three points, with a 2-1 win at the Riverside a few months back. Fast forward and we’ve done it again. Three more points on the road against our one time nemesis in what was almost a mirror of last Saturday’s visit from Birmingham City. Domination from the home team that should have seen them out of sight before being caught out and then unable to get back in to the game. This time, though, the architect of victory was the the ever enthusiastic Sergi Canos who did magnificent work down the flank to serve it up Ollie Watkins, yards out from the goal. He needed no second chance and that was it. 1-0. Game over. And elsewhere, have you got anyone from Aston Vila or Brighton in your Fantasy Football team as yet?

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Not my words etc….

Whilst we don’t do full-fat match reports on these pages anyway, I wasn’t at this one due to a prior family commitment in a gale on the South coast. However, what has become evident from the mid-match messages being received, intermittent Twitter updates when the 3G was in the right spot and a subsequent watch of the highlights is that Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough (TM) are likely to be fuming over their cornflakes this morning. Two disallowed first half (handball and offside) were marginal as David Raya was on hand, with the woodwork, to keep them out after the home team opened the game in rampant form. Sound familiar? As the shot count ranked up in their favour to our nil, it had the fetid whiff of Birmingham City all over it.

Even official would take to Twitter at half time to declare: “We’ll be happy to get into the break on level terms after a disjointed opening 45 minutes on Teeside.”  

Few could disagree but football is a game played out over 90 minutes. A game of taking the opportunities when you can. As Thomas Frank’s unchanged team started to find a way in to the game during the second half we did wonder if something might happen . And then it did…

WATKINS…. read the text message. This was either really delayed news coming through about his recent contract extension or something even better. The internet signal couldn’t be that bad? Could it?

We’d been following the game together in a cafe and when that one flashed up on the phone it was enough to make a bored 6 year old leap up from the swivel chair he’d been practicing his Blofeld ‘reveal’ in – albeit, I’d been unable to persuade him that uttering the words, “I’ve been expecting you” was a really cool thing to do – to see what the fuss was about.

Goal, was the answer. And from there followed as anxious a countdown for the final half hour, and five minutes of injury time, as has ever been squirmed through. It can be tense enough at a game but when you are out of touch with nothing but a flaky Phone reception and trusted friends to keep you abreast of proceedings, it’s tough. Yet by all accounts, like Birmingham the week before the Bees really snuffed out the hosts and made the denouement a comfortable one. Perhaps. I’ll never know but I’ll also take those three points all day long.

Ultimately, it was a conversation between Harry (6) and Mrs. Bruzon as we watched the highlights together later that evening which summed it all up:

Rachel: Blimey. It’s all Middlesbrough.

Harry: But mummy, WE got the only goal.

Captain Pontus Jansson had taken to Twitter before the game where he declared: Such an important decision. Will be really important for us the coming years! Let’s go Ollie.

Spot on, Pontus. It was a comment borne out during the game and cemented afterwards by Sergi:  Who needs a striker? Myyyyyyy guy OLLIE WATKINS!!!! “

True enough, although hats off to Brighton who of course have signed the aforementioned missing striker. Their own 3-0 win on the road at Watford was rounded off with a goal from none other than Neal Maupay. What a start to his top flight career. Now our paths have gone in separate directions but we’ll survive. I’ll take the FPL points c/o Neal and, more importantly, the Championship points c/o Brentford.

For all that yesterday made me smile a lot on the footballing front, it was one comment just prior to the Spurs – Aston Villa game that really showed why it has been such a special few days,

OH Fuffuxake! On Twitter (aka @TheChauffeur) noting : They just announced the Vila team. Benrahma must be on the bench.

Whilst Neal did the Fantasy Football business for Brighton, Dean Smith didn’t use Ezri Konsa and Jota had to wait for a hour before getting on the pitch as a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-1 defeat at the death. For me, there was as much interest in the post match interviews in this one. Would Dean trot out the standard line about his team deserving to win after going down to the Champions League finalists ? Well, “The better team won on the day….” he noted before continuing with “in the second half”.

Oh Dean. You are great. I loved his tenure at Griffin Park and, like Neal, was sad to see him go. That’s football. Players and coaches move on. It’s how you adjust to it that’s important. As we saw yesterday.  

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The view into Harry’s room this morning whilst he sleeps. That was him. Thanks Sergi & Ollie.

Nick Bruzon

And still they come. Double bonus ahead of the weekend action.

10 Aug

The transfer window that keeps on giving keeps on giving. Despite inward business having been officially concluded for the summer, Brentford fans were given a double bonus on Friday ahead of the trip to Middlesbrough. Ollie Watkins has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Lionel Road until 2023 whilst the heavily touted story in regards to Turkish youth international Halil Dervişoğlu coming in from Sparta Rotterdam was confirmed. He has signed a pre-contract and similar to Emiliano Marcondes before him, will join the club in January. These are stories that put paid to the Crystal Palace rumours whilst further strengthen the attacking options available to Thomas Frank.

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These are both exciting and important bits of news for Brentford fans. Ollie, in particular, given how important and highly sought after the player has become. Aswell as the Crystal Palace stories there were those linking him to Spurs last season and, whilst we normally give rumours a wide berth on these pages, the fact that our players are being talked up is both a worry and a compliment. Now he is ours once more.

What a way to announce the news, too. With season ticket holders and club members being told to check their email accounts where we got the exclusive on the story first. I have to be honest, that when I saw the preview on Twitter, telling fans to check their in-boxes accompanied by the picture of a 2023 shirt, part of me did think it might be a delay to Lionel Road. But no. It was good news. Great news. Wonderful news. Off the back of Saïd Benrahma revealing his new number 10 shirt and accompanying hashtag the day before, Bees fans are really buzzing. Hats off to the club, too, for choosing this method to share a bot of extra joy with the supporters.

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Then there’s the news about Halil. One thing our Directors of Football have got on lock down is talent acquisition. Nobody could deny that in recent seasons as the much derided (outside of Griffin Park)  ‘model’ has paid dividends time and again. Now we’ve made our latest swoop for an attacker who did the business helping Sparta win second tier promotion through the play-offs (not a typo). 

Beyond that, I’m in the dark. I’m not going to pretend that Halil is a player I’m overly familiar with. Then again, it was a case of Saïd who? Neal what now? And look at how that all turned out.Have the DoFs done it again? I can’t wait for January when we find out, although let’s not wish it away too soon. Brentford have the trip to Middlesbrough today where Thomas will surely be looking for three points after starting like a runaway train against Birmingham City last weekend yet somehow coming away with nothing. Curse that woodwork. Curse great goalkeeping. On another day we could have had a hatful.

Still, as B*Witched once sang, c’est la vie. Sometimes you just don’t get the breaks. As long as we don’t get sucked into the ‘deserved to win’ mentality then play like that opening period once more and we’ll be just fine. Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough (TM) had a tough opener in front of the TV cameras last Friday at Luton Town. That one finished 3-3 in a game marked by defensive lapses and a penalty miss from Britt Assombalonga to match some of our most glaring from the likes of Yoann Barbet or number 26 (ahh, who could forget that ill-fated dead ball experiment?).

There are now options available the likes of which we’ve not seen in a long time. Saïd is definitely not ready to play, sadly, whilst Thomas is sweating on international clearance for Bryan Mbeumo coming through. Not that I can imagine him overly stressing – at least in public. He’s calm, confident and in control. Never flustered. Perhaps a bit of directional clapping, exhorting his troops to do what they have practiced on the training ground but that’s about as far as he needs to go normally.

Don’t expect too many changes from last week, except perhaps on the bench. I have no doubt everybody will want a second bite of the cherry following a performance where there is nothing but incredulity at finishing the game empty handed.

But that’s how football works. Amazing play is great as long as the ball finds the back of the net. It didn’t last week but now we’ve got the chance to put things right. And I can’t wait.

Until then, here’s B*Witched….

 

Nick Bruzon

The window is closed. Kind of. All good, so far….

9 Aug

The domestic transfer window is closed. Dominic Thompson has joined Brentford from Arsenal. We’re still waiting for Ghoddos (c) all of TW8.  That one seems to be a transfer that, reading between the lines, isn’t going to happen now given there is as much interest in the agents as the player. Rico Henry is still a Bee and has not, yet, made the rumoured step down to the Scottish Premiership with Celtic. Halil Dervişoğlu is still at Sparta (for now?). Lyle Taylor is still at Charlton, who have done great business in hanging on to him. Best of all though, Ollie Watkins and Saïd Benrahma are still at Brentford. The twin news of Dean Smith declaring he had put the Aston Villa cheque book away without acquiring his man, accompanied by the player’s own instagram post, had Bees fans in raptures as the blow of losing Neal Maupay to Brighton has been very much softened.

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I feel sorry for Dominc in that his move from Arsenal was very much masked by ongoing stress and conjecture amongst elements of the fanbase as to whether a replacement would come in for Neal or whether anybody else might depart. In the end, there was nothing. And that’s great news. We all know how many goals the likes of Sergi, Ollie and Saïd contributed last time out. Marcus Forss, or whomever Thomas goes with at the top of the attack, has a great opportunity to pick up from where he left off on his debut. This is before you factor in Joel Valencia and the rest of the new signings. Get ready for a season of ‘Total Football’, Brentford style.

As for Saïd, never have I been so glad to see the Brentford number 10 in recent seasons. Never have I been so glad to see our stripe free back. Never have I been so pleased to use a hashtag. If #SB10 keeps him happy then who am I to argue. Perhaps #newgoals is a bit much but such is the mood about his still being at Griffin Park that we can go with it. Sorry Aston Villa, but your loss is very much our gain. For now at least. 

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Saïd is back. With hashtags.

The one other point to be aware of is that up in Scotland, the window still has three weeks to go until that closes. Arsenal picking up Kieran Tierney does mean we’ll still be sweating on whether Rico is being lined up to replace him at Celtic. The chance to miss out on the group stages of the champions league doesn’t come around very often but hopefully common sense will prevail and the draw of that final season at Griffin Park remain as potent a force as ever.

All in all, its been a quite wonderful window for Brentford. Pontus Jansson from Leeds United still remains the deal of the summer for me. I’m gutted about Neal, obviously, but the attacking potential in this team is immense. We’ve come out of this quids up – by approximately £35m (in) to £30m (out), if you believe what you read in cyberspace. Of course, the club never publish details so we’ve no idea what has really been paid. Better still, whilst we have lost a talisman overall the balance of the squad is arguably better than it was before. With Kamo also due back any minute now even the centre of the park, arguably getting used to the absence of him and Romaine on Saturday, will have that bit more oomph to it. 

Who is now match fit and who starts on Saturday at Middlesbrough are the next big questions. It will take time for the new look set up to gel and there’s no place tougher to go. Out victory there last season was as incredible as was rare, and that’s just because we were wearing the brown/orange. (Note to self: don’t upset anyone by saying how gorgeous that kit was ). So we go into this one with absolutely nothing to lose. Apart from the game itself. But that’s not my mentality and that won’t be the attitude from Thomas or the squad. Competition in this squad is now so tough that there’s no room for slip up and no margin for error. Whilst the centre backs seem set in stone, even that’s up for grabs should Thomas revert to two rather than three.

How nice to have a Plan B available.

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Bring out the crowbar for the combination of Arsenal and Brown/Orange

Nick Bruzon

Seagulls follow the trawler and end up with more than sardines. Au revoir, Neal.

5 Aug

There was an almost inevitable end to Monday with the news finally announced that Neal Maupay has left Brentford. His non-appearance over most of the summer, followed by his absence from the squad at the weekend, left the writing somewhat on the wall and now it has been confirmed. The Premier league is the destination. Brighton and Hove Albion the choice, in a deal reported as being worth £20m. At least it wasn’t Dean Smith and Aston Villa although until that window slams shut on Thursday, one can only envisage Said Benrahma continuing to be linked with a move to the Midlands. On the plus side, we have not one but two news signings. Midfielder Dru Yearwood makes the switch from Southend United whilst French youth international attacker Bryan Mbeumo joins from Espérance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne.  Or Troyes AC, as ‘official’ helpfully confirmed they are better known.

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I feel for Dru and Bryan. Both look like more shrewd acquisitions from Matthew and the Directors of football. Southend and Troyes’ loss, very much our gain given how well our acquisitions over the last few years have turned out. Yet all anybody is talking about today is Brighton and Neal.

Oh, how we loved him. The shithousery – there’s no other word for it. The speed. The work rate. The aerial prowess from one so small. The goals. The balls. Oh my, the size of those balls. What a way to celebrate not once but twice against Leeds United. Both times, right in the faces of their rabid support. 

And that equaliser at Fulham wasn’t bad either. ‘Limbs’ as I believe the kids call it. What a moment. What a celebration. What a photo from Mark Fuller. What a way to seal your place in club legend. To ensure that whatever came next (what stamp at Aston Villa ?) could never tarnish your reputation. Would only make you even more universally loved.

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What balls

Yet it was a love that seemed to go both ways. Talk to Neal and he would only enthuse about all things Griffin Park. Promises were made at the end of last season about his return for this one. Sadly, now, things have moved on somewhat. Money talks but so do agents, it would seem.

And whilst that may be bleedin’ obvious, the Twitter thread published on Monday night by the GPG makes for very interesting reading as to how this all played out. About how things have changed as this marriage made in footballing heaven between player and club has ended in the Bees being jilted for the Seagulls.

Do read the thread. In full. It starts below and makes for a fascinating insight as to what went on with this one. There’s no animosity towards player, Brentford or Brighton – for what it’s worth. But, as has been noted part way through, “ In this day of low morals in football these days – I’m glad that we demonstrated that we are a decent club with manners. The fact that we have done right by the player demonstrates to future signings that we provide a potential route to PL, it keeps us in business of course. 

There’s not much else to say at this point. There’s a genuine feeling of good luck to Neal, from me. Of course I’m absolutely gutted to see him go. No question. I was itching to see him stay put for one more season. To guide us to the top flight. Now that responsibility rests elsewhere.

In my heart of hearts I really did think he might stay until January. Mind you, I think the same about Said and Ollie. At least the latter started on Saturday and looked formidable during that opening salvo. I’m sure Dean Smith is opening the Aston Villa cheque book we speak but I’m also, perhaps naively, thinking this really is it . 

We’ve sold Ezri. We’ve sold Romaine. Of course we’ve sold Neal. We’ve also invested very wisely with the likes of Jansson, Jensen, Pinnock and Norgaard now joined by Blackwood and Mbeumo. Keep Benrahma and Watkins amongst their ranks and we will remain more than a force to be reckoned with.

Sell either/or and, you know what, there’ll be no meltdown from me. As with Neal this evening,  I would be gutted with further departures. Yet our DOFs and Matthew Benham have shown us time and again that they are three steps ahead of everybody else when it comes to doing the business.

I really didn’t think it could get any more depressing than selling Jota and Maxime to Birmingham City (and Harlee makes three) but we survived. We got stronger despite the crushing blow of seeing our hero put out to pasture. That trust is there and I cannot wait to see how the next chapter in the Brentford story plays out.

Until then, we’ll always have Fulham.

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What a moment. Thank you, Neal

Nick Bruzon

One shot. One goal. No excuses. No sales.

4 Aug

Every good run comes to an end. Birmingham City enjoyed that rarest of experiences on Saturday afternoon, victory over Brentford, after coming away from Griffin Park with all three points for the first time since 2016. It was our first home defeat on the opening game of a season since 1992 – that, a 2-0 loss to Wolves which ushered in the start of the post Dean Holdsworth era and saw talismanic Terry Evans crocked for the vast majority of the campaign. It almost felt like that with Neal Maupay missing amid the stories linking him with Brighton, Aston Villa et al not going away. Yet there was plenty to be encouraged by  from what was, ultimately, a frustrating afternoon. One not helped by referee Gave Ward doing his very best to lose control of the game in the second half.

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Deano and Terry  – their last game together as Bees

With transfer speculation hanging heavy in the air, there was an audible gasp when the team was announced 59 minutes before kick off. Or was that just my asthma? No Neal Maupay in the 18. A bench where Josh Clarke was the most experienced of those named by Thomas Frank. Kamo and Benrahma both absent (although that had been expected, given fitness reasons as much as anything else).

Despite those missing, Ollie Watkins (whose name has been linked with Crystal Palace on the clickbait sites all week) did start and hit the ground running. As did my man of the match, Sergi Canos. With Pontus Jansson named as captain at the heart of a three man central defence the new look Brentford  team still had a solid feel to it. And it WAS new look, with only three of those who started the equivalent game last season, the 5-1 pasting of Rotherham, beginning this one. Sergi, Ollie and Henrik – for the record.  

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View from the Braemar – Captain Jansson impressed.

But with Peter Gilham getting the crowd going, his task aided by the presence of Harlee Dean (C) in the blue of Birmingham City, Thomas Frank’s boys wasted no time in pouring forward. Surely it was only a matter of time. Boom – the crossbar hit not once but twice in close succession as the goal threatend. A clutch of great saves from Lee Camp. Another onto the post. Shots fizzing just wide. A goal was coming….wasn’t it?

We’re in danger doing a Brentford here”, I quipped to one Braemar Road observer sitting alongside after the second shot onto the bar. That, from Marcondes who may be disappointed not to have found the net in retrospect.  Within 30 seconds Kristian Pedersen had headed the visitors into the lead. A quickly taken free kick where I’m not sure if Mr. Ward had even blown was met deep. Nobody picked up Pedersen’s short run and his precision header looped over and in from distance. One effort. One goal. One nil to the visitors. 

Much like Shakira’s hips, the stats don’t lie. At least, the one that says ‘goals scored’.  Despite that being they solitary time Birmingham threatened, and our own first half dominance which saw the game end on 76% possession to Brentford, the only piece of data that really counts is balls in the back of the net. And Birmingham City edged that. Somehow. Yet goals win games and, as such, one can’t try to deny them the points.

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Brentford 0 Birmingham City 1

Looking across social media and match reports, the ‘d’ word is being floated around by all manner of observers. Deserved, not Dean. Yes, we looked fantastic at times. Yes, we DID play well in the first half. Very.  But NO, we didn’t deserve to win because we couldn’t score a goal. We slowed down noticeably in the second half and looked laborious in the build up where the cut and thrust of the wide men and wing backs had diminished noticeably. No matter how leaden, physical and solid Birmingham City looked, they did manage to score and then succeeded in closing us out. On the plus side, I take heart from the clear and almost universal recognition of the way played for a significant chunk of this game.

I liked the look of Mathias Jensen in the centre of the park when he was able to push forward although Romaine and Kamo were clearly conspicuous by their absence. Josh Dasilva struggled whilst one free kick that he took from the heart of Saunders territory ended up in the heart of Tarkowski territory as it cleared the Ealing Road stand.

Romaine’s not coming back – we’ll just have to get over it – but Kamo’s presence around the ground did put a smile on the face at full time. As did a chance encounter with Sam Saunders who was as amiable as ever when discussing the game with an enthralled HB. Something all the more special given that the uttering of standard line: “And this is Saunders territory…” when the aforementioned free kick was awarded was met with the response “Daddy? What IS Saunders territory?” Where do you even start? Just not with the wife….

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Ian Moose was loitering. Amazingly, a look at his Twitter feed this morning shows there’s no criticism of Neal Maupay’s performance. Despite the player’s absence it is a mode that seems so hard-wired into the Talk Sport shock jock that I half expected to see some form of negativity towards Neal. Perhaps the pillars were in his way.

For now though, there’s nothing more to do beyond clenching the buttocks ahead of our trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday.  We’ve another painful wait until the transfer window finally slams shut at 5pm on Thursday afternoon. Will Neal still be here or might Brighton make an offer we can’t refuse? Has Said’s absence made him invisible to big spending Aston Villa? Indeed, has Dean Smith run out of money after his latest acquisitions this week in Tom Heaton and Marvelous Nakamba ? Might the Griffin Park ‘in’ door swing further ? 

All or none of the above happening wouldn’t surprise me. The one thing to expect these days is the unexpected. Let’s not forget that despite all the rumours and whispers, nothing has actually happened as it stands. None of the names in the frame have left the club. All we can do is sit tight and wait to see who Thomas has available when the team sheet is handed in at the Riverside.

Enjoy.

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The look from Thomas says it all….

Nick Bruzon

Almost there. How about a few facts?

1 Aug

We’re that close now you can almost smell the aroma of bovril drifting across the forecourt. Thursday lunchtime and the season proper kicks off for Brentford in little more than 48 hours with the visit of Birmingham City. A team whose ‘yoof’, it would seem, are still learning how to spell ‘obsessed’. Saturday afternoon can’t come soon enough, even despite the somewhat dubious allure of Luton Town v Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough ™ on Friday evening to open proceedings in the Championship. That in itself, a game packed with intrigue as the former Leeds man and his club attempt to pick up the media inflicted hype gauntlet laid down by Frank Lampard’s former club Frank Lampard’s Derby County last season. But before things kick off at Griffin Park, we’ve already been dealt a blow. Two words designed to strike fear into the heart of any supporter. Gavin. Ward.

I’ve been away this week. That’s not information of any particular interest beyond being somewhat out of the loop in terms of keeping track of all our news. Re-enabling the 4G after landing at Heathrow yesterday evening produced a flurry of interesting updates. Maupay, Watkins and Benrahma all still at Brentford. Brighton and Crystal Palace apparently sniffing but nothing much more out there beyond that.

Even the usual Sheffield United ‘nailed on’ news has died a death. For now. It won’t be long before they’re definitely going there. Or Aston Vila. Or both. If you believe every rumour you read. Ahh, it’s all part and parcel of this time of year. Just grit your teeth, clench butts and hang on for the ride until that window slams shut.

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Flying in to Heathrow via Lionel Road – not a drone in sight, this time.

What we can say for sure is that Matthew Benham’s model (the mathematical one rather than Cliff in the brown/orange shirt) has struck again. Or maybe it was Cliff. Either way, the ‘in’ door has swung once more and the ceremonial half-chewed biro been cracked out with the news that we’ve signed Ecuadorian wide-man Joel Valencia from Polish champions Piast Gliwice. A player who certainly seemed happy to be here, that’s for sure. 

His signing gives even more choice on the flanks (read in to that whatever you need to – I have no intel. In general) and whilst he may be somewhat of an unknown quantity to those of us in the stands, have no doubt that the DOFs and Mr. B know their onions when it comes to talent spotting. The kinks in the machine that brought us the likes of Marinus and Nick Proschwitz seem to have been well and truly ironed out as our recruitment model has gone from strength to strength. 

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Welcome Joel (#)

Will he start against Birmingham City? I think the question is more a case of who will start against Birmingham City ? With the big three names barely even being mentioned, let alone featuring, over the close season it gives Thomas Frank an almighty selection headache. Of the best sort. I’m presuming that should any of Neal, Ollie and Said be deemed match fit then the bench is the best they can hope for. But, and has been said many times, yours truly is just the numpty on the terrace rather than a font of any serious knowledge. Then again, the prospect of bringing on Neal Maupay to run at new Blues captain Harlee Dean, with Gavin Ward holding all the cards in the middle in his role as referee, is a quite fantastic one. 

Whilst his is a name that never brings any pleasure when announced as our primary match day official, given Harlee’s tendency to ‘go rogue’ at crucial moments, and with the added burden of wanting to make a good impression in his first game with the armband – against his former fans and team mates – for once the presence of Mr. Ward could be a good thing. Please note: I reserve the right to retract this comment on Sunday morning. 

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Regardless, I’m itching to start once more. The Brentford record against Birmingham City has been first class since our paths have crossed once more. Each of those last five seasons has seen us finish higher than Blues. They’ve not beaten us since November 2016. There was, of course, also ‘that’ 5-0 and ‘that’ song. Those are nothing more than facts. Bloody good ones, mind you. 

Here’s to Saturday and the chance of seeing whether we can add to that record. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Luis on fire. Pontus on the move? Matthew one step ahead? New ‘keeper lost in the gossip.

7 Jul

Ok. So this bonkers. All the talk on Saturday has been of Brentford signing Pontus Jansson from Leeds United . A story which has emanated from BBC reporter Adam Pope, amongst others, rather than the usual clickbait grabbing rumour mongers that dominate the headlines at this time of year in a desperate quest for ‘hits’. It is one which has blown the signing of goalkeeper David Raya from Blackburn Rovers somewhat out of the water. Whilst we don’t normally do those stories on these pages – Ezri Konsa to Wolves and Neal Maupay to anywhere after missing the Wimbledon win (AFC ; not Andy Murray) being the latest offerings from the scaremongers – could there be any truth in this one? Or is it another case of better transfer news being found in a packet of cereal?

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The normal sort of transfer stories

The head says absolutely no chance. Jansson, whilst being a class act, is a player so far removed from the Brentford transfer model that any talk of Leeds United letting him come to Griffin Park is one that would need to be met with a huge pinch of salt. And an even bigger dollop of cash. £10m was the offer that Leeds reportedly turned down last season for the Swedish International. Everybody knows we buy low (relatively) and sell high, once the price is met. We’ve already picked up a new centre back in Ethan Pinnock whilst at 28, Jansson would be heading towards the upper end of the squad in terms of age range. I can’t imagine he’s earning peanuts, either.

Yet, Phil Hay (formerly of the YEP) is saying that the player is leaving. BBC Pope is quoting Brentford. Everybody else is jumping on the back of it with relationships between Leeds and Jansson said to have broken down following the Aston Villa ‘open goal’ incident. A player who clearly wears his heart on his sleeve, he was the only one to try and stop the equaliser ordered by Marcelo Bielsa following the Kodjia affair and Bamford Incident  (both of which were on pitch matters rather than prog-rock bands favoured by Billy Reeves).

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Touring soon – The Bamford Incident

Then there was his equaliser at Elland Road agasint the Bees, back in October. Despite his late strike earning a point for Leeds, after Neal Maupay’s penalty (awarded for the foul on Ollie Watkins). Instead of celebration, his interview with Sky Sports was somewhat direct:

Jansson: “It feels sh*t to be fair.”

Sky: “Mind your language please.” 

Jansson: “No, no, no, I don’t care man.”       

Fair enough. And another reason to question the accuracy. The right side of dressing room passion? Or disruptive influence that would upset the harmonious applecart that Thomas Frank is currently pushing. Take your pick. I like the view adopted by fellow supporter and kit nerd, Luis Adriano on Twitter yesterday.

 It’s not for me to say but the story is of huge, huge interest for two reasons. IF by any chance this one turns out to be true it would be a huge statement of intent from Matthew Benham. That Brentford really are going to go for it in our final season at Griffin Park. After Championship consolidation, we are really going to make a push for the Premier League. 

Likewise, that he has revamped his model to now factor in established marquee players. It’s just not something that we’ve really done before. Players join from League One, from France and Spain. From Denmark. From clubs we’ve not really heard of. That’s not to say that the likes of Jota, Benrahma, Barbet, Maupay and Colin – amongst others – haven’t more than proven their worth. They’re all class. They’re also players that we didn’t really know existed before Matthew brought them to Griffin Park. Pontus Jansson is the complete opposite. And, as we said at the top end, so far off our sale that it deserves no credence. 

Yet, equally, as we also said on these pages just last week, “One thing we continue to do is surprise with our transfer policy – both in and out.” Could Matthew be keeping one step ahead of his rivals, yet again, by bucking the trend he has made oh so clear? Or is it just smoke and mirrors?

Ultimately, I have no idea. I honestly can’t see this one happening but I’d love to be proven wrong. If nothing else, it has got us all talking. David Raya’s signing from Blackburn has barely touched the sides – lost in a sea of Leeds gossip.

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We have a new man between the sheets

Likewise,  Neal Maupay has recovered from the injury (hmm) that saw him and Said miss Friday’s 3-0 win at Wimbledon. There he was stepping off the plane at Munich airport ahead of our pre-season training camp in Austria. 

This, something we were all very much pleased to see and subtle as a ton of bricks from ‘official’, but especially given another earlier tweet from the aforementioned Mr. Adriano. Forget Will Grigg (presumably, ‘that song’ is no longer a thing), Luis was very much on fire when he summed up what we’ve all been thinking with this one ……

And I can’t top that. So I’ll simply sign off by kindly asking you once more to please download the e-book for your kindle, iPod telephone or other electronic reading device (which you can do, here, with all proceeds go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Now we can all leave each other to enjoy the next few days*. Regardless of what happens off pitch.

*Please note. I reserve the right to bother you all once more should anything happen.

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Nick Bruzon

To cap it all, they had a drum. A f***ing drum.

31 Mar

It really was that bad. Brentford and Wigan Athletic played out as insipid a 0-0 draw as one could imagine when Championship football returned on Saturday afternoon following the International break. The scintillating football which has been a trademark of Thomas Frank’s team in 2019 nothing but a distant memory in a game that was as awful as the smell wafting over the DW stadium. For the record, chicken manure from a local farmer – no manners, but what a critic. To borrow a phrase. Instead, it is nothing more than a case of scratching around for positives as the Bees are left chasing a fifth, successive top ten finish and a midweek trip to Swansea City. This before Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ are next up at Griffin Park.

I’ve watched the highlights. If anything, the 1minute 47 seconds offered up by Sky are overly generous. The other 88 mins 13 were as turgid as it comes. Wigan were determined to strangle any life out of the game. Brentford, unable to find a way through as any attacking intent was choked out of the game. Paul Cook’s team administering a vice like grip around the throat of the Bees. Whenever Neal Maupay got in the box there were three men on him. Saïd was closed down every time he got on the ball. Several players seemed off the pace (first half Henrik and Ollie in particular – sorry, but..) whilst the team were desperately crying out for the fluidity of Romaine Sawyers to guide the ball through the midfield and open up play. And, Wigan had a drum. A f**king drum. At home. That was worse than anything we saw on pitch or smelled off it. At least we had Harry Potter up our sleeve to counter the moribund banging. Nice work, Simon.

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A lone drummer is no substitute for a home atmosphere

Instead, we ended the game with a solitary shot on target. According to the stats. I was struggling to remember even that although the highlights have duly offered it up. Our hosts had three, with Brentford very much grateful to Luke Daniels for keeping us in the match. Three times he retained parity including one effort from distance in the first half that looked as though it might catch him unawares and drift in to the top corner. Instead, it was guided to safety as our virgin goal remained unblemished.

Thomas was bang on the money at full time when he noted “It was a game of very few chances and I think it was a fair result.…. Our normal fluent play between the lines just wasn’t there and we weren’t good enough to play around them”. Not ideal reading but it was exactly what happened and infinitely better to have a head coach who acknowledges what we could all see rather than trotting out the usual “We deserved to win this”.

Look, it wasn’t great. There’s no real action of note to talk about and to compound matters, we lost Yoann Barbet just a few minutes into the second period. He’d needed treatment late on in the first after a nasty looking fall and was clearly limping as he emerged after his half time cuppa. The boos from the home supporters whilst he was being treated both unfair and uncalled for. Something that was consistent with any of our players going down after a lot of rough treatment.

There was little protection offered from the man in neon yellow, referee Andy Woolmer in a game that ended with him blowing up for fouls on 33 occasions. Just to put that into context, there were only 20 awarded as Birmingham City L went down at West Brom on Friday night and 21 as Frank Lampard’s Derby County came one short of hitting 7(seven) goal brackets against Rotherham.   

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View from the away end – about as close as it got

So Wigan stifled it. Brentford were off the pace. But can we take anything positive from this one? Well, the fact that Wigan played with such a negative style and formation shows the threat presented by normally free-scoring Bees. Indeed, as the clock moved on it felt like the sort of game that so many times in the past we’ve seen the team lose 1-0. At least this time around, Luke kept us in it with a number of saves that were as smart as the all red goalkeeper’s kit he was sporting. 

There was a return to match action for Lewis Macleod, too. His appearance as a late substitute for Josh Da Silva being the latest attempt to relaunch what should be such a promising career but one which has, sadly, been blighted by injury after injury. How unlucky has Lewis been? Here’s hoping he can put a few games under his belt and then hit the ground running next season. Indeed, even Josh starting this one and a very accomplished performance from Mads Bech Sörensen off the bench being further testament to a B-team system that is seeing players segue through to the match day squad.

What else. It was another game unbeaten in orange / brown (what jinx?) whilst the pub before and after the game was quiet magnificent – despite the bizarre formation of a canteen style queue to order the drinks. This a phenomena I’ve now witnessed twice in less than a week after having never experienced this previously. How has this been allowed to happen? Why? Did I miss a memo ? It’s quite bizarre.

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Wigan – great beer, despite the queue

The lack of social element aside,  how do you see the full contents on offer across the whole bar front when approaching a fixed point in the corner. Moreso, when you are staring at the back of the prior punter? Why can’t the staff work out who is next up without looking ? Even then, service was still granted by answering the question “Who’s next?”.  Err, me. I’m at the top of the queue. All that was needed was a plastic tray for the full school dining hall experience . Still, as an away fan it made an alternative to being greeted with the words ‘Ow Much..?’ from the previous transaction ringing in the ears.

We digress, as ever and that’s a rant for another day. For now, we’ll file it alongside waiters describing coffee as Expresso and made up coffee words (what the hell is a ventissimo?). Team GB. The faux-verb “To medal”. Mrs. Brown’s Boys. People who think Roger Moore shouldn’t top a ‘Best Bond’ list. Star Wars Day  – that’s the one after May the third.  Ian Moose. iPod headphones. The England Supporters band. Indeed, any form of musical interlude at football. See also: goal music, drums, Mr. Portsmouth and his bell. John Bishop (he’s from Liverpool, apparently. If only he’d mentioned it in his routine). Use of the words Derby County preceded by Frank Lampard’s….

And relax. All of a sudden, a 0-0 at Wigan doesn’t seem so bad. Despite the drum.

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Thomas salutes the fans at full time

Nick Bruzon