Tag Archives: play offs

Will Brentford keep going? Can Aston Villa do us a favour? Saturday is HUGE!

27 Apr

Two games to go and this is still wide open. With the fixtures falling as kindly as one could have hoped for, Brentford travel to relegation threatened Barnsley on Saturday knowing that with two games to go we are three points off Derby County in sixth place. The same Derby County who head up to an Aston Villa side still looking at a slim chance of ‘automatic’ promotion to the Premier league. It is a chance that, much like our own play-off dream, will require three points on Saturday to keep it alive. Cardiff City may have dealt a blow to our own promotion ambitions on Tuesday night as they went down 3-1 to the Rams yet, at the same time, have given us a back door bonus by really handing Villa that incentive to try and catch them.

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I’ve always loved Aston Villa (eh, Simon ?)

Elsewhere, fifth placed Middlesbrough (four points ahead of Brentford) take on 7th placed Millwall (one ahead). That’s an evening game and by the time it comes around, our own game will of course have played out. Will it prove of supreme relevance or be a statistical anomaly by that juncture?

Realistically, three points for Brentford up at Oakwell are an absolute must. Any other result will leave us relying on a combination of mathematics and good fortune even more convoluted than the table already looks.  Barnsley have to go for it, too. Any permutation beyond home win will leave them all but down and needing both Bolton and Birmingham City to self-destruct. In itself, not an improbable combination based on the season’s results to date.

As ever, though, outside distractions really are that. Distractions. By virtue of the teams playing each other, something will go our way at some point. The worst combination of results being victories for Millwall and Derby. The best, home wins for Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. Both, more than feasible. Then again, I fancied Cardiff City to do it on Tuesday. One up at half time and in control, you have to tip your hat to a Derby County team that, aided by some suicidal defending, produced a devastating second half performance to break their three game losing streak.

Trying to call anything this weekend is a fool’s errand. As much as anything else, pressure and necessity will cause some teams to collapse like a house of cards. Others will rise to the occasion. The prospect of glory an adrenaline boost to the arm that sees them (and all being well us) surge towards those all critical three points.

Brentford were magnificent against Fulham. To the very end of the game where Neal Maupay produced one of THE moments. Likewise, for huge patches of the game against QPR where, but for Mr. Madley, the victory would have been a much more comfortable one. Then again, perhaps he has also done us an unintentional favour. What a way for a team to have to test themselves in the toughest of circumstances. 11 v 14 is never easy. Moreso, when the 14 were flying in with horror challenges, studs up, yet facing no real danger of card based justice.  

We know we have the ability to win this one. To beat anybody on our day. Only 3pm on Saturday will dictate how well we can meet that challenge. How much resistance Barnsley can provide or whether they are dead men walking. Either way,  I can’t wait for this one !!

Elsewhere, did you read Mark Devlin’s programme column in the QPR edition of BEES? Talk about putting his views on the line in a wonderful article about Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and, more importantly, her decision in regards to the Safe Standing application made by West Bromwich Albion.

With ‘Safe Standing’ a clearly stated and supported desire of The Bees, he was pulling no punches with comments that included:  “I fear that politicians will once more put their prejudice and fears ahead of what is needed and wanted by the football community” and “I was even more shocked that she appeared to claim there was insufficient demand or interest from clubs, fans and leagues”  

Well said Mark. How refreshing to see any Chief Executive standing up to be counted in such clear and uncertain terms. That’s Brentford, though. Trailblazers again.

The good news being that a public petition has now topped the 100,000 votes required for parliament to consider it for debate. Albeit, this still remains open and there is time to add your voice to the list on a matter that will potentially have a direct impact on Brentford, given the current construction of Lionel Road. The link to that one is here. Thirty seconds that could impact your club if you can make the time to sign.

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Lionel Road . I’ve not seen a hole this big since the Birmingham City defence turned up

Next up, football stickers. I’ve banged on a bit in the last few weeks about the World Cup 2018 album. Primarily, my son Harry’s rapidly developing interest in this most traditional of football related activities. For reasons unnkown the mere mention of the name’ Lucas Biglia’ (Argentina) has him in stitches whilst Spain and Iceland are his favourites. Not because of the countries but the kits – no idea where he gets that from.

So imagine my surprise just coming in from work on Wednesday to hear he had been presented with what Mrs Bruzon described as ‘a two inch wad of swaps’ (although, personally, I’d say it looked more like seven) by a mystery benefactor from the Bramear Road stand. 

I say ‘mystery’. I wasn’t with them at the time and so all we know is that she sits near us at Griffin Park and the one-sided exchange took place by St. Paul’s Park. If this was you – THANK YOU. I have a suspicion who it may be and will be donning the Columbo mac at the Hull City game.

Yet this is mentioned as much to say, yet again, how truly wonderful the Brentford FC family are. For a fellow fan to go out of their way to do this for a young supporter they’ve never spoken to before really made me feel proud. Thank you. Again.   

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The amazing pile of swaps

Finally, congratulations to my good friends (No, I’m not going all Ian Moose) at Beesotted. Their Pride of West London podcast has now made the final shortlist for the Football Blogging Awards. What an honour it would be for them to win this.

As noted before, we all know what a great job they do and just how entertaining Billy (Grant) and the team are. Likewise, how many painful train journies have been made ten times better by listening to them opine on all things Brentford. And beyond.

Please. Help give them the recognition they deserve in the Best Football Podcast category and vote Beesotted at the FBAS

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Nick Bruzon

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Just when it couldn’t get any more exciting……

22 Apr

What an afternoon. If Fulham last week was huge then this one was monumental. Magnificent Brentford beating QPR 2-1 in a terrific derby day victory gained against the toughest of opponents – referee Mr. Madley and his assistants. Yet let the inconsistency and poor decision making of the officials take nothing away from a Bees team who were simply immense. With a raucous Griffin Park crowd urging them on, Dean Smith’s team have now moved to within ONE point of the play offs as those around us all fell to draw or defeat. One. point. Even, say it quietly, Birmingham City did us a favour of sorts in beating Sheffield United 2-1. With Sunderland now formally relegated and the Blues getting a bit of clear air (for now) our trip to bottom three Barnsley on Saturday gains even more significance than it already had.

Sunday morning. Where to start? Having slept on it, I’m still thrilled by Dean’s team selection but also the way they played. There was only one team in this over the first half as the rampant Bees poured forward in wave after wave. Sergio Canos and, particularly, Romaine Sawyers were magnificent. Flo Jo displaying a turn of speed that left his opponent for dead on more than one occasion. The move that freed an electric Ollie Watkins for the penalty (more to come) was as spell binding a display of one-touch pass and move football as we could ever hope to see. Absolutely delicious.

To do that on the training ground would be one thing. But at full tilt, in a blood and thunder local derby, something completely different. It looked incredible live. To see that exchange of passes once more on video shows just how dazzling it was.

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Sergi and Romaine – a rare moment of ‘slow it down’

I’m so pleased for Romaine, in particular. He came in for obscene levels of criticism at the start of his Griffin Park career but what a way to win the haters around. What a way to keep your mental focus and prove the doubters wrong. To demonstrate just what you can do with a football. Do check out the Sky highlights package (up now on their site), until the full fat Mark Burridge version can be added after mid-day to see our man in action. I’ve still got a stupid smile on my face now just thinking about it. Hmm, perhaps better go and watch that just once more.

The first goal was only ever going to come to Brentford. QPR were left standing in the blocks as The Bees went for this one from the off. Wave after wave of attacks were somehow repelled until Sergi Canos fired home from close in on the quarter hour mark. The visitor’s inability to deal with a corner kick proving their downfall. The story of the afternoon, really, as they were second to everything for such long swathes of the game. Clearances missed, passes made directly into touch and seemingly simple balls miscontrolled. At one point Luke Freeman was left with his head in his hands by the Braemar Road touchlines after spectacularly failing to trap a high ball forward and gifting a throw on to Brentford.

One goal up and the Bees continued pushing. As half time approached we had the aforementioned moment of magnificence from Romaine. With Ollie Watkins clean through and a goal all but assured, goalkeeper Matt Ingram came charging off his line and ploughed through our man. Penalty !! But no red card. Instead, after a protracted period of medical emergency that ended with all players deemed fit enough to continue, referee Andrew Madley showed yellow. Ingram was allowed to stay on and promptly saved the spot kick. To compound the felony , the visitors went down the other end and with their first meaning fun attack, equalised. You couldn’t make it up. QPR’s Sylla leaving a black mark on our copy book.

So. The penalty. Should it have been a red? Absolutely in my eyes. There was no attempt to play the ball but a cynical assault on a player bearing down on goal with the net in his sights. The crowd were incensed and understandably so. Perhaps the injury period allowed time for the ref to draw the sting from the event. A sympathy yellow for a player who was clearly unable to carry on and, like Ollie Watkins, was subbed before the second period had begun.

Now it is true that the rules surrounding such an incident have been relaxed. Previously, had a penalty been awarded in such a circumstance then a red card would have been awarded by default. Likewise, followed by suspension. However, this ‘triple’ punishment was first reclassified back in 2016 following an 18 month review and, instead, the rules tweaked to say that only deliberate fouls warrant a red. The yellow would be shown if the referee deemed that it had been accident.

I’m sorry but this was no accident. There was no chance whatsoever of stopping that ball, such was the way the QPR defence had been split open like an overly ripe watermelon by Romaine’s tracer bullet of a pass. Watkins was home clear and running at full tilt. Ingram committed to come off his line and through the player. Even Ian Holloway would admit after the match that, “The penalty save was huge. Should he have been sent off? I think he should but he then stood up, probably concussed, and made a wonderful save”

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An accident? Hmmmm. Sky TV cameras capture the moment

Madley got this one wrong. Very wrong. But then that was the story of his afternoon. Those yellow cards he did show handed out at random. There was no consistency. No boundaries set and, most importantly, no protection of the players. The Bees in particular on the receiving end of several studs up and scything challenges that themselves could have been candidates for ‘straight red’. Alex Baptiste, I’m looking at you.

1-1 at half time and if ever there was a candidate for Dean’s oft repeated lines that ‘We deserved to win’ then here it was. Brentford had been rampant yet somehow scores were level. The second half began at a much more sedate pace (relatively) with players readjusting and substitutions having been made. The pattern of the game being broken up by an even more robust approach form the hoops. Eventually, class told. Florian Jozefzoon proving the telling factor as he made room in the box and fired home.

From there the lead was never going to be a surrendered. Whilst Rangers did try to turn up the pressure, I only recall one save of note from Daniel Bentley in the second half. The defence were otherwise rock solid, dealing with high balls and corners as though they were stealing candy from a baby. It felt tense at times. In reality, the players were the epitome of confidence.

A word also for the crowd. What an atmosphere. What passion. What noise. For all Griffin Park is small and old, having everybody so close to the pitch DOES make a huge difference. Moreso in a game such as this against our staunchest of rivals. With all the history, a visit from QPR is always the one we look for when the fixtures are announced. When the game comes around, it is always the one where the noise is the most voluminous (is that even a word?). Loud. The QPR players knew they were in a game. Jake Bidwell, especially. He looked a beaten man in the second half. A resigned shrug to the Braemar Road crowd before his eventual substitution.

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Home supporters jump up to express consternation to Mr Madley and Alex Baptiste – again.

What next? We’re eighth. One point off sixth placed Derby County with two games to go. The trip to Barnsley and then the visit from Hull City. Derby do have that game in hand but its a visit from a Cardiff City team locked in a desperate battle for the second ‘automatic’ place behind Fulham. Should the Bluebirds do us a huge favour on Tuesday night – something that will have the double whammy bonus of railroading The Cottagers – then Saturday becomes even bigger. If that were possible.

Even Middlesbrough in fifth can still be caught, such is the proximity of the teams from positions 5-9. This has all the hallmarks of 2014/15. We were reliant on favours, and our own results, then. We’re in the same position now. The difference being that under Mark Warburton we’d spent large chunks of the season in the play-off zone. WE slipped out after bit of a late wobble results wise before recomposing oursleves nad having results go our way on the final day. Thanks, Derby! To fall short then, having been in control, could have been all kinds of demoralising.

This time around, it is a perfectly timed run. A play-off push that, and please correct me if I’m wrong, has so far not seen us in the top six at any point this campaign. What a way it would be to finish the season – hitting the top six for the first time on game 46. Or, preferably, game 45 on Saturday. At Barnsley. Themselves up to their necks in a relegation scrap.

As a side note to that, there would be no irony lost on anyone if it turned out to be those Brentford players that Birmingham City didn’t sign who helped keep them safe, rather than the ones they did. No doubt Harlee Dean will be cheering on his old team mates although, perhaps, just wishing they were ten times better.

Let it never be said football doesn’t keep us intrigued.

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Even Harry was kept on the edge of his seat until the end of this one.

Nick Bruzon

One down. Five to go. We’re still in this.

8 Apr

One down, five to go. Brentford made it back to back wins as Neal Maupay’s penalty and Daniel Bentley’s record (at this level for a Bees ‘keeper) 14th clean sheet of the campaign proved to be the difference over an Ipswich Town side that began the game with Luke Hyam in the team and ended it with 10 players after running out of substitutes. Whilst, as ever, the likes of Beesotted and ‘official’ are usually the places to go for your match reports, in this case they really are. For reasons out of my control I had to miss this one. Instead of sitting at Griffin Park, I found myself holed up in a random pub with some random Barnsley fans (amongst others), watching the Merseyside derby and getting somewhat over excited by the Tykes comeback against Sheffield United. This before Birmingham City managed an 87th minute equaliser against fellow relegation candidates Burton Albion that brought everybody present back down to earth with a bump.

By that point though, it was too late to be overly concerned. Much as I’d love to see ‘ten times better’ Birmingham slip through the relegation trapdoor, primary focus has to be on Brentford. We’d absolutely done the needful despite a butt clenching final few minutes of time added on that had been spent waiting for the scores to refresh and confirm our 1-0 victory.

To be honest, I had considered spending the afternoon with Mark Burridge sneaking into my ear via a discreetly placed headphone. However, despite the wise words normally spoken by our commentator par excellence the lure of another beer in the afternoon sunshine and the somewhat less appealing prospect of Stoke City v Spurs on TV won out.

In a way, I’m glad. Not so much the sitting through the Stoke game (if ever there was any added incentive needed to go for the play-offs then just the prospect of bypassing them in the divisions should be sufficient) but more missing out on a match that sounded hard work. With Mick McCarthy setting his Ipswich team up on us man for man, it was always going to be a tough one for the fans. If you had to miss a game then in retrospect, and from a footballing perspective, this one sounds like it was up there.

Flicking through social media at full time, Chief Executive Mark Devlin seems to have summarised the feelings of most fans when he noted : “Thanks for your support and well done to the team. It was by no means a classic but the players got the job done.”

Likewise, Bees boss Dean Smith was quick to pay tribute to both his counterpart and the opposition. His post match interview (which you can catch up on in full over on ‘official’) includes the observation that Ipswich “Made it very difficult for us to get our free-flowing football going. We found chances hard to come by. We were due a penalty like that; it was soft and I would be slightly annoyed if it was given against us.

Hey, sometimes you just have to take the chances when they are offered. At this stage in the game, a win is a win. Whether scrappy, deserved, fortunate or other. That gap to the playoffs remains five points with five games to go. It’s all about getting the result and that’s what Brentford did. Whilst it may not have sounded like the most aesthetically pleasing performance, you get a feeling of what this one meant to all concerned. MrJamie88 summarising it quite beautifully on Twitter, with a bit of help from Sergi Canos.

Next up, the trip to Nottingham Forest awaits on Tuesday. There are five games to go. Five mini cup finals. Keep picking up the wins and I’ve no doubt we’ll be celebrating like a certain Russell Slade once so famously opined. Cliche alert but…..it really is about taking one game at a time whilst, perhaps, hoping for a favour along the way. It happened in 91/92; it could happen again.

Yet without wanting to get too far ahead of ourselves, at the bottom end of the table I’ve got half an eye on Barnsley. Yesterday showed yet again why I’d love them to stay up. Great fans and great camaraderie. There’s the added incentive that their safety would put even more pressure on Garry Monk’s Birmingham City team. With our final away game of the campaign being a trip to Oakwell, how big could that one turn out to be? Hopefully their fate will be well sealed by that point – in a positive way. Hopefully we’ll have carried on picking up the points that will make that game of quintessential relevance.

Before that, though, we’ve the Forest game and then a West London derby double header . First the trip to Fulham and then the home game with QPR. With just that handful of games to go, the season has got a ridiculous amount of fun left in it still and I can’t wait.

As one final word of note, how great to have Alan Judge back in a Griffin Park starting XI. Moreso given the opposition and their own line up. I won’t deny I felt a genuine pang of excitement when the team sheet was published at 2pm. What a journey back from the depths. What a team to do it against.

Nice one, Alan.

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The view from Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

 

Six of the best and who knows what could happen…

7 Apr

Match day. Saturday. Apparently. With the games coming thick and fast for Brentford after a hectic Easter weekend it’s hard to tell where we are at times. Yet following that four day flurry which saw the draw with Sheffield United followed by our wonderful win on the road at Bristol City, today Ipswich Town are the visitors to Griffin Park. Could we take inspiration from Liverpool to make the seemingly impossible, possible?

Ipswich Town. A club who have a deserved place in the footballing record books. A club with whom even just for Brentford, there seems to have been more than a crossing of paths in recent seasons. Of course, ‘official’ have picked the 2-2 that welcomed in the mercifully brief Marinus era for their ‘moment in time’ on the club website today.

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Bru celebrated (too soon) as Ipswich opened the Marinus era.

That one being a game which featured the return of a club legend in the eyes of many supporters, Jonathan Douglas. His only meaningful contribution being to break Jota as late goals from Andre Gray and number 26 salvaged a situation that seemed well beyond redemption with the score line reading 2-0 to the visitors and just moments on the clock. The post match handbags between the players masking the true extent of the Spaniard’s injury.

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Bees Player viewers saw Dougie appear to give Jota a ‘flamboyant slap’ at FT

You could also cite the game at Portman Road the previous season. Not so much the 1-1 score line, in which Dougie proved hero rather than villain this time around, but more for Daryl Murphy missing an open goal that even Ian Moose would have fancied himself to score. BBC Radio Suffolk matchday pundit Mick Mills would later describe it as: “Breathtaking. It will go into the top ten all time misses. If you can find ten worse ones I’d like to see them.”

Hey. Everybody’s a critic. We’re all master tacticians and 40 goal a season strikers when watching from the comfort of the terrace, tv or gantry. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a commentator got something wrong and you can’t knock Murphy’s fine, fine record at Ipswich. That said, I’m still amazed at how he failed to find the back of the net.

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And Murphy must score. Erm….

Yet for me (Clive), the quintessential coming together took place on Boxing Day of 2014. With Mark Warburton’s Brentford team riding the crest of the #NovemberKings wave (it doesn’t get any easier typing those words), Ipswich visited Griffin Park for a battle between the teams placed 2nd and 3rd in the Championship. With our game kicking off at lunchtime, whoever won would be guaranteed to top the table, even if just for a few hours.

The prospect of Brentford reaching these dizzy heights was one which was not lost on us. The December 26th game is always a special one anyway. The chance to shake off any excesses of the day before, escape the in-laws for a few hours whilst catching up with your friends and football family. The thought of what three points might bring made this one even more tantalising.

Nineteen seconds after kick off, that man Murphy took the wind out of our sails with an opening goal that was made all the more incredible by Brentford having actually had the ball to start the game. Not only was it under our control but we conspired to give it away and gift our visitors a belated Christmas present that was gratefully accepted.

Things got worse. With less than half an hour on the clock we’d had our fourth attempt to perfect that kick-off routine as the score leapt to 0-3. Despite a late brace from Sam Saunders we were never in this one and his pair only served to dress up a 4-2 scoreline in what was as one sided a game as I’ve seen in a while.

That was then. This is now. Brentford have six games to go to reel in a five point gap on the play off places. It’s a huge ask, for sure, but with the finish line in sight then what better time to line ourselves up for one final push. I’ll be honest, for huge parts of this season it is a push that I wouldn’t have bet on us being in a position to make. Yet, somehow, Dean Smith and his boys have kept at it. The results have kept coming and some have even worked in our favour.

Monday’s defeat of Bristol City was as dominant as they come, with Neal Maupay’s goal sealing the points that our domination had warranted. It was a performance that brings us bang up to date and in with a shout if the Bees can hold their nerve. Moreso, it was a game that marked Alan Judge’s first start for The Bees since the horrific leg break he suffered as a result of the assault by Luke Hyam at Portman Road back in April 2016. To go from the verge of the Euros to that long recovery must have been incredibly hard to take.

Full kudos to Alan and the Brentford back room team. Whether he starts this one remains to be seen but a Brentford team with Alan Judge in the side are a stronger outfit than one without him.

I really can’t wait to see how it plays out. Anybody watching the Liverpool – Manchester City game in the Champions League during the week will have seen what a difference it makes playing in a passionate arena. What an impact it can have on opposition who are streets ahead in terms of financial clout and league position. That’s not so much to compare Ipswich to Manchester City but more to show the impact a united crowd can have. It was something truly special to witness. For all the awfulness of having to play ‘Liverpool Glory, Glory Anfield European nights’ bingo, the Kop really were like a 12th man (house!).

The Ealing Road stand may not have the same depth as that most iconic seat of football Valhalla. However, size isn’t everything and what we lack in stature we can more than make up for in noise. Here’s hoping that come 3pm, our fans come together to raise the roof. With ‘other results’ going our way and the players doing their thing, imagine what it will be like should that five point gap shrink any further?

Bring it on…..

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Last time, at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

Bees blunted by Blades and random ref but what a celebration.

31 Mar

It’s a point closer to the play offs for both teams as a day that saw two controversial dismissals ended with Brentford and Sheffield United drawing 1-1. It was a day that ended with Daniel Bentley winning his personal battle with former Bee Clayton Donaldson as two great stops late on kept us alive. Bristol City, whose own last gasp equaliser at Barnsley gave hope to Birmingham City, are next up in what promises to be a real six-pointer at the right end of the table. With just 7(seven) games to go and the gap to the play-offs 7(seven) points, the chance of a spectacular climax to the season is still there. Just.

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Brentford entertained Harchester United at Griffin Park on Saturday

What can you say about events at Griffin Park where there was a very real danger of having to call out the Coastguard? Well, if the Middlesbrough game was made uncomfortable for the supporters thanks to the snow, this time around it was Biblical levels of rain. Somewhat appropriate for the Easter Weekend and what was still, mostly, a very Good Friday.

Those who took one look at the torrents heading their way and bailed out of coming to this one did, at least, have the consolation of staying dry behind their computers or in front of the TV as it lashed down from the warm up to the post-match handshakes. The water was already spraying up off the surface as Yoann Barbet stroked home dead ball after dead ball in his pre-kick off routine. Conditions didn’t get any better.

By the time we got down to proper business, you could have launched a flotilla down by the Braemar Road touchline. Flo Jo in particular, perhaps ruing one second half challenge that left him soaked through in the quagmire. But if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Pack it up and go home. Not that there was anything particularly hot about yesterday, the first half especially.

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View from the Braemar – Flo ended this one soaked through

That opening period being a somewhat tepid affair that saw even ‘angry dad’, my most favourite amongst those fans who sit around us in the Braemar Paddock (what genuine passion and enthusiasm that always stays the right side of ‘family’) remain silent for the vast majority of that opening period. The linesman on the near side saved the usual telling off that his performance so often warrants.

How things changed when the teams came back out after half time. There was vigour. There was gusto. There was the late arrival of Mrs Bruzon, delayed due to transport debacle. And as such, there was the customary goal for the opposition that her presence so often heralds.

If lucky pants, shirt and not shaving on a winning run work for some supporters, she’s almost the opposite. There have been several moments of what we shall simply call ‘unfortunate timing’ over the years. Within minutes of taking her seat, Sheffield United had taken the lead. A deflected effort from Chris Basham beating Daniel Bentley to make it 1-0. It spurred Brentford into life.

Yet, if Mrs B is somewhat of an albatross at times (in a footballing perspective), young Harry is the opposite. “Daddy. If we score a goal, will you lift me up?” he asked as play resumed.  Little more than ten minutes later, he was being raised aloft as Welsh international Chris Mepham (how good does that sound?) made it all square. His left footed drive from 12 yards out was followed up with the most incredible knee slide across the sodden surface.

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Chris Mepham leads the celebratory charge

Talk about enjoying the moment of his first goal in league football. Yet who could blame him? What a wonderful season it has been for a player plucked from the B-team to the Bees first team. And from there to his national side.

It’s no wonder he celebrated as he did. For once, the horrific conditions aiding the cause There are plenty of tweets doing the rounds of this one. Take your pick. They’re all brilliant.

Yet if the goal was a moment of ecstasy, we were bought crashing back down to earth with a sickening bump moments later. With most supporters watching the celebration, over in the goal mouth referee Jeremy Simpson had taken umbrage with visiting goalkeeper Jamal Blackman lashing out at Ryan Woods. He was red carded yet, likewise, so was our own ginger Pirlo.

Having seen one version of the footage, I’m at a genuine loss as to why we’ve been penalised. Perhaps something was said to the ref or perhaps he had a better view. Perhaps he simply made the mistake that Woody’s subsequent reaction suggested. Who knows? Dean Smith told the waiting media after the game that he hadn’t seen the incident as yet. Perhaps on review he’ll then appeal.

It was a game changing moment. From Brentford pushing, it was United who once more gained the ascendency. Simon Moore was brought on between the sticks to join Clayton and Jack O’Connell as three ex Bees playing for the visitors. Yet it was Daniel Bentley who proved to be busiest from that moment on. He was the man responsible for us gaining the point which has kept faint play-off hopes still alive.

As Dean Smith would note in his press conference, “Nothing has changed. It is still must-win. The less games you have left then the less likely you are to make the Play-Offs if you don’t win games. We have gone four without a win now. We have played very well in two of those games and should have got something. We have to turn that around very quickly now on Monday.

So where do we go from here? Will the Bees appeal? Do we have any hope of the play-offs? A win at Bristol City is a must if that is to happen. Should we be content with aiming for a fourth successive top ten finish? Something that would, in itself, be an incredible achievement for a club with our history and budgetary challenges relative to our rivals.

When you have the likes of Sunderland (whose incredible 4-1 humbling of Derby County was THE result of the day) and Birmingham City tripping each other up at the bottom, it shows yet again that size, reputation and spending prowess count for nothing if you can’t do it when the ref blows his whistle.

Brentford couldn’t quite get the win yesterday. But given all that was going on, I’m well happy with a point.

Roll on Monday.

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Where’s Karl Fletcher?

Nick Bruzon

Mamma Mia, here we go again. Brentford score big but who are this season’s dark horses?

1 Aug

With the Championship season almost upon us, it would be fair to say that anticipation is rising. Nowhere moreso than at Griffin Park where last night young Brentford fans were given the chance to meet their heroes at the now traditional summer ‘open day’. Sky Sports have launched their own season preview (remember the one Ian Holloway did last time out?) where along with the standard installation of Middlesbrough and Aston Villas as favourites, there’s no surprise for Bees fans. And the EFL have announced a shake up to penalty shoot outs that will have local journalists and bad bloggers in pun heaven.

First up, last night at Griffin Park. What can you say? It never ceases to amaze me just how incredible our players are. I’ve said this before but it needs to be said again. What for them could have been a tedious contractual obligation became a wonderful hour and a half (if not longer) for all those young fans lining up to get a peak behind the scenes and a photo with the stars. Not to mention an autograph or two.

HB, Harlee, Lewis, Jota

 

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

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Nick Bruzon

Now isn’t the time for gloating.

17 May

For Brentford, the season is over. A third successive finish in the top ten of the Championship and some of the most exciting play we’ve seen in years was the hallmark of a job very well done. For Fulham, Reading, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday there is one additional bite of the cherry via the play-offs. Or, should that be, was ?

To paraphrase popular music’s The Spice Girls last night, was the night, that four become three. Fulham did what we needed them to do and lost out at Reading, going down 2-1 on aggregate to ensure that, along with the Loftus Road mob, there will be three West London teams in the Championship next season.

Despite all the giving it large on Twitter in recent weeks, it has come to nothing. Clappers. Richard Osman. The neutral stand. The ghost of Michael Jackson. The gin bar. Clappers (so bad they had to be mentioned twice). Brian Guest. An inability to sell out your own ground for the big games. We’ve got them all to look forward to again in the Championship next season. And I can’t wait.

smilelaughBut this isn’t the time for gloating. Oh no. Us Brentford fans know the pain of the play-offs. Our tilt at the Premier League two seasons ago being the most recent of several, what we’ll politely call ‘challenging’, attempts to earn promotion via this roulette wheel of nerves, choking and pressure.

Likewise, it would be fair to say that Fulham were one of the better sides to visit Griffin Park this season. An attractive brand of football whilst even the game at the Cottage should have seen them going in at half time with at least a three goal lead. Such were the chances created yet not taken in a game which, with Leeds United still alive at that point, they had to win to guarantee a play-off place.

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View from the stand – Brilliant Bentley does his thing at The Cottage

That it ended 1-1 tells you everything you need to know about Brentford but, perhaps, gave a greater clue as to Fulham’s own ability to perform under pressure. When they needed to find the back of the net, the combination of a quality opposition goalkeeper and the inability to hit a barn door in a brewery with a banjo were the architects of their own shooting themselves in the foot.

The other thing to catch my eye yesterday concerned the legend that is kitman Bob. We all know how amazing he is and how lucky Brentford are to have him around. Anybody who follows him on Twitter would have seen yet another reason why on Tuesday. Something all the sweeter for the fact that we wouldn’t even have known about but for Maxime Colin blowing Bob’s trumpet.

What a gesture. Especially for the goalkeeper (That. Red)….

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Max, Matt and Bob say it with shirts

Nick Bruzon

A new look – in more ways than one. But do you like it?

10 May

Boom. No sooner has the regular season ended than out of nowhere Brentford have launched a new club website whilst our new crest has also began to appear all over cyber space. And, although slightly delayed (this nonsense can’t write itself every day) we now know another opponent for next season as Middlesbrough make a swift return to the Championship following the briefest of sojourns in football’s top flight.

First up, the website. There was no real build up but visitors to what is now brentfordfc.com on Tuesday morning were greeted with a new look. And what a relief. What a blessed relief. Gone is that awful, awful cluttered template look. Gone is the almost random way articles were thrown together on screen. Gone is that stream of outdated and long defunct ‘news’ that we’d get on the right hand side of the screen.

The previous incumbent was awful. I make no apologies for saying this and it was something that had been noted on these pages previously. Equally, it wasn’t one of the club’s direct making. Look around the websites of other EFL clubs and you’d see the vast majority with the same, restrictive template. Even the ability to write in paragraphs was an enhancement that only came about this season.

First impressions of the replacement are nothing but positive. What a great decision by the club to look at breaking the mould and what a great job, certainly on first impressions, to those responsible for putting this together. For a non-techy like yours truly, it was simple to use, intuitive and I loved the fact that there’s even a tab for our fan groups on there (most of whom will grant you access !).

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Early visitors to ‘new look official’ got a treat – our important fan groups being represented.

Nice one Brentford. I can’t wait to see how it looks once we get back into a season ‘proper’.

Next up, the crest. We’ve made no secret on these pages of loving the castle and not being the biggest fans of her replacement – the cluttered, clipart that until the weekend has been the public image of BrentfordFC for over 20 years. To me, it was always the graphical equivalent of  Murray Jones replacing Dean Holdsworth. Equally, I’m not so naive as to ignore the fact that it remained hugely popular amongst a large section of out fan base who view the crest’s passing with some sadness.

But whether you loved it or loathed it, the crest is dead. Long live the crest. The new look Bee began to take pride of place on the website and Twitter from yesterday, with the promise of a club wide rebrand to follow. For me, the is nothing but good news.

On a personal note, there was no secret of my approval for the new version when it was revealed earlier on the season. It is an opinion that I most definitely stick with now we’ve had time to acclimatise. Stylish, smart and displaying a modern take on a former classic, this really is a good look.

Looking around the internet yesterday I saw those interminable muttering about the legs and the ‘wasp’  factor being mentioned once more. It is so clearly a bumble bee as to be almost unrecognisable as anything else. Likewise, it is possible for a Bee to only have four of the six legs on display at any one time. And if we’re really going to split hairs, just look at the crest that has just shuffled off this sartorial coil. Examine the legs on view and count them. One, two, three, four, fi..no. That’s it. The same four as we have once more.

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The new crest is now live (and a bee, for comparison)

Look I don’t want to dwell on that anymore. Our new crest is, in my opinion, worthy of a big thumbs up. It isn’t the Castle (what is, though?) but it is now the look of our club. The next big question being just what it is going to look like on a shirt. Kitman Bob, any clues here?

And finally, Middlesbrough. As suspected by many, they’ve bounced straight back to the Championship after a solitary season in the Premier League. Which is awful for them and potentially worse for us. Nobody needs any reminder of our record since the return to this level of football. Played 6 Lost 6.

That was then; this is now. Four of these six were in our first season and included that play-off semi final loss where we came so close to an incredible end to the campaign. Then again, do we do play-offs any other way?

I think both Middlesbrough and Brentford will find each other very different opponents next time out. Our own set up has undergone a huge overhaul and the starting XI is probably now our strongest in years. Certainly when the players hit their stride. As for Boro’, they’ll have had the wind taken out of their sails somewhat and will no doubt have their own rebuilding exercise to undergo.

Will they be a Newcastle united or an Aston Villa? We saw vastly different responses to Premier League relegation from those two fallen giants this campaign. Newcastle bouncing back in style; Villa finding the Championship a much tougher division than could have been anticipated. Whilst the Magpies ended it as champions,  the Villans finished the campaign below the Bees in the final table.

Whilst the suspicion is that Boro’ will use their experience and set up to be nearer the business end of the table, they’ll no longer be that big fish they once were. Neither will Brentford be the perceived minnow.

I can’t wait for the chance to do battle once more and look at getting that first win under our belts. Until then, it simply remains to say, RIP to the previous crest.

Now bring on our new look….

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Nick Bruzon

Who wants it most? There’s all to play for in West London today.

29 Apr

What a few days. There have been awards, goal of the season and of course a game or two coming up with Saturday seeing a huge day for West London football. Brentford travel to Fulham, hot on the heels of last weekend’s 3-1 win over QPR. It was an encounter which saw Jota’s latest stunner wrap up the points in a game where, at times, we played some quite sumptuous football yet at others Dan Bentley and the linesman kept us in it. However, the net result was anther three points for the Bees and QPR still flirting with relegation. As for Fulham…..

Well, what can you say? They are in with a very real chance of making the play offs, as it stands, and have even finished above Brentford for the first time in three seasons. The table doesn’t lie and they’ve slowly reeled in Leeds United et al to finally break into the top 6. A derby day win for them will all but mathematically see that play off spot guaranteed, with the gap to 7th (seventh) currently 3 points and +13 goal difference.

But Brentford have their own motivation. Fulham’s win at Griffin Park earlier this season was as decisive as a 2-0 scoreline could be. Much as it pains me to admit, they were one of the better teams to come to this part of West London and we were very much left in second place that night.

Equally painful, it saw their first win over us since both teams returned to the Championship – albeit from different directions. Prior to that one, 2014/15 had seen Jota do his thing in the last minute at Griffin Park and that screamer from Stuart Dallas very much the pick of the bunch in a 4-1 rout at The Cottage. Last time out, only an errant linesman denied us all three points away from home with Jota ruled offside as he headed it in for 3-2. The return fixture saw the season come to an end in some style – Tom Field making his debut and Sam Saunders getting us of to a flier as we were three goals clear by half time to comfortably wrap up the points.

View from the stand - Stuart Dallas celebrates doing that thing.....

View from the terrace – Stuart Dallas after doing that thing at The Cottage…

The Bees were crowned Kings of West London. Again. Then this season happened. With David Button between the sticks, Fulham have had the honours.  A return to winning ways will be very much the requirement. The possibility of a nil points against these neighbours, moreso given such strong previous form, is just not on the agenda.

Then there’s the current table. The Bees are just two points and one place off last season’s points total with the potential to finish a place higher than our previous 9th. What a wonderful incentive to go for it. And that’s without pooping a party.

For the last month or so it has become apparent that Fulham are heading upwards. Crashing this one and doing Leeds United a favour, no matter how distasteful that might seem, is a very real possibility and has long been something many fans have been aware of. Now the game is here and that chance is available for both teams. Who will take it? At 3pm we find out….

As for QPR, they host fellow bottom six side Nottingham Forest still needing two points to guarantee safety (third bottom Blackburn, needing two wins themselves, have too close a goal difference for a draw to be sufficient). With Rangers in freefall, current form of LLLLLL leaves them with nobody to blame but themselves for their predicament.

Much as the situation is a novel one, they won’t go down. Birmingham City are just horrific whilst Blackburn still need six points from a season that concludes with a trip to Griffin Park That said, wins today for Mark Warburton, Birmingham and Blackburn could make the final round of games very interesting indeed.

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Can Fulham make the play offs, Brentford beat last season or QPR stay up?

All that of course is to unfold later today. However, there’s been plenty to keep us intrigued over the last few days. Alongside the Player Of The Year vote, supporters are now able to nominate their winner for goal of the season.

Oh, wow. If picking POTY was tough then this is another level of hard. I struggled to draw up a shortlist, let alone select a winner. They are, all ten, corkers. The build up play and finish for Josh Clarke v Reading, Nico’s piledriver in the Birmingham City game, Lasse Vibe finishing off the most incredible run from Sergi Canos at Forest or Jota’s recent pair against Derby County and QPR.

In the end, it’s just been an excuse to watch the video again. And again. The level of Burridgegasm also being an added help. The more excitable our commentator par-excellence gets, the better the goal seems to be has become a handy yardstick when trying to rank these in some sort of order.

In the end, I’ve voted. It had to be Jota. It had to be QPR. Derby County was that close and I’ve swung back and forth between the two of them yet, in the end, the way he collected Nico’s wonderful pass was the deciding factor.

That’s my opinion. Yours will quite likely, and quite rightly, be different. All we can say for sure is that whoever gets it will be a worthy recipient. You can see the video below and vote here.

Which is top of the pile?

Next up, awards. It was a double celebration for the club yesterday as the EFL have awarded us both their Family Excellence Award for the 2016/17 season aswell as the Friendliest Club Staff Award. Particular recognition has been given to both the ticket office staff and the stewards in the family enclosure.

One can’t begin to stress how deserved these awards are. Part of the pleasure in supporting Brentford FC comes from our wonderful family atmosphere. The club, players and staff cannot do enough for supporters – of all ages. The ‘meet the players’ pre-season event and Junior Bees Christmas party are staples on our calendar whilst who doesn’t get excited, young or old, when receiving a high five or fist bump from Buzz and Buzzette?

pay what you can Buzzette

Buzzette always makes time for fans – of all ages

The players and staff never fail to stop for an autograph or photo  – whether in the ground or in the street – an attitude that courses through all echelons of club. We’ve had supporters heavily involved in the kit launch this season whilst the care and attention shown to the match day mascots is just staggering.

What could have been quite an intimidating experience for a three year old – walking out in front of over 10,000 supporters – turned into one of the best days of his life. Big thanks there, again, to Harlee Dean and apologies once more for the lollipop covered hands you had to hold walking out (that’s HB, not me).

HB Harlee and Dan

The smile says its all (apologies again for the sticky fingers)

Then you’ve got kitman Bob Oteng. His own BBgiveaway is the stuff of legend but even outside of this he is a cult figure among Bees fans. His reaction to those who regularly sing his name at away games as he goes where he wants on the visitor’s pitch is always wonderful. Even the likes of Chief Executive Mark Devlin, Chairman Cliff Crown or Mr Benham himself consistently take time to respond to and interact with fans on social media.

As for the ticket office staff ! Special mention and rightly so. We’ve all had some form of interaction with them. We all know just how incredible the level of service they offer is . We all know how consistently friendly and helpful they are. Doing what could be deemed a somewhat stressful job – given how demand often outstrips supply – isn’t something I’d be able to cope with.

I could go on. But instead, why not read the official take on the awards which you can find on Brentford ‘official’?

And finally, Billy Reeves & Grown Men In Tears have closed the door on the Welcome Home, King Jota charity single. The video has come down from YouTube and the song is no longer available for download.

The net result has been a donation of £350 for Prostate Cancer Research. As Billy noted himself on Twitter yesterday, “not bad 4 an arvo’s fun

Not bad indeed, Billy.

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Billy shares the news, and the love, yesterday

Nick Bruzon