Tag Archives: Preston

We’ve finally jumped the shark. Off-pitch, at least.

5 Oct

Disgraceful. Appalling. Spineless. I’ve not seen such a lousy and shameful performance in a long, long time. And I’ve been supporting Brentford FC for over forty years. But hey. Enough about our yoof element and their Twitter opinions. Thankfully, the club is run by professionals rather than a committee of angry school kids. Just imagine if social media had been available in the Butcher, Rosenior, Noades, W£bb eras ! How quickly people forget about the Marinus experiment. And most of this ranting was before we’d even stepped out against Preston. By the time our 2-0 half time lead had turned to a 4-2 humping, the nuclear button had been long pressed all over the internet. On a day Manchester United were one short of being bracketed at home and Liverpool succumbed to that fate at Aston Villa (including an Ollie Watkins hat-trick), perspective is needed . Of sorts.

About the one part of Twitter we can reproduce – this, from ‘official’

If you use Twitter you’ve no doubt seen all the vitriol. The nonsense. The whinning self-pity or pathetic justification of the abuse being doled out to certain players. The expectation that we should be a Premier League side and somehow falling short of those lofty aspirations by not wining every game 20-0 is a cardinal sin.  The abuse handed out to other supporters for having the temerity to even question this. Those brave keyboard warriors wading in before their bedtime. 

Personally, I just find it utterly baffling. There’s clearly no ability to read a game, to understand our club or for that matter, football. And I say this prior to the Preston performance. Which was a disgrace to the word performance. Ivan Toney taking two magnificent goals that should have set Brentford on the way to 7th(seventh) place. Instead, the second period saw our defence fall apart like Leeds United on steroids.

That’s football. It’s inexplicable. Perhaps inexcusable. The team losing their way the second Christian Norgaard limped off. Only Josh Dasilva and Sergi Canos keeping us in it. But one man shouldn’t make that much of a difference and for whatever reason, they were off their game today. Marcondes invisible. Jensen likewise. Benrahma a shadow of the talent who electrified us on Thursday night. The back four leakier than Julian Assange. Sometimes it happens. When one or two go awol, the rest of the team can generally cover them. Do it en-masse and you bring on the inevitable. Which in this case was four goals conceded in 18 second half minutes. What looked at one stage like certain victory turned into a brutal humbling.

Credit to Preston, btw. They went for it and got what they deserved. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Goal followed goal followed goal followed goal. Ivan Toney’s early brace rendered nothing more than a statistical nicety. The opportunity was there and they took it. No complaints here. No sour grapes.

For me, the big take away was Brentford fan social media. Genuinely, I don’t get it. My longevity as a supporter doesn’t make my opinion or viewpoint any more relevant or important than that of those who have jumped on the Brentford bandwagon in more recent years. We want the club to grow. We want our stadium full. We want new supporters. 

I’ve seen a lot of awfulness over those forty years. I’ve had a lot of fun, too. Yet until Matthew Benham came along we know that the good times were very much the thin end of the wedge. A genuine playing talent something that came long once every five years and was inevitably sold the second we received our first offer.

Now, we’re generally winning for fun. We’re turning vast profit on our transfer business as though that was the BAU model for any football club. Watching Ollie Watkins and Ezri Konsa destroy Liverpool at Aston Villa on Sunday evening just another reminder of how well our former players do when making that next step. How much we make, funds vital for keeping alive a club that was shaking buckets in easy living memory, when they take that leap.   

So why are ‘fans’ now so quick to turn on a team that have already reached the quarter-finals of the league cup and had picked up 4 points out of 9 prior to what was an absolute debacle? Why the hate campaign from certain quarters against certain players? Why the expectation that we should win every game? Why the calls for Thomas Frank’s head? Of course people get upset about losing but this has been going on well before that. It’s almost as though they relished the excuse of a diabolical showing – we’ve chucked in a couple a season as long as I’ve been coming – to really then let rip.

I can’t answer that. Lonely? Self-indulgent? Craving attention? Small penis? Who knows? Brentford were bobbins but it was one game. But for those arbitrary moments on which football turns we would have drawn or beaten Birmingham City. Millwall away is never easy but we still took a point. Huddersfield were annihilated. We were shocking against Preston. All round. But one lousy performance in weird circumstances does not even come close to justifying some of the abuse being dished out. And yes, there is a mute button. Or a block. But this isn’t about that. It’s about trying to get the head round why anybody who purports to be a fan thinks this is even vaguely appropriate at any time. Let alone when we have a new stadium, a team that came so close last time out and a solid start to the season. For me, Clive, this really was the moment they jumped the shark (and kids, if you are somehow reading – if you can read – go look that one up).

Was Sunday the moment we finally jumped the shark on social media?

It’s not been electric in the league but we are getting better as our team adjust to a new striker and an absent Benrahma / Raya. Sunday WAS horrific but it was one game. Look at Nottingham Forest whose record reads LLLL. Look at Manchester United – shipping six goals at home to Spurs. Liverpool took an absolute tonking at Aston Villa. Even I’d agree with Dean Smith that his team ‘deserved to win’ this one. Not everybody can do it every game. Although, apparently, Brentford must. 

I could go on but, really, what’s the point? I’d love to win every match but that’s just not how football works. If you are of the mentality that bullying certain players, calling for a successful head coach to be sacked and abusing fellow fans is justifiable then this won’t change a thing. If you are in the other camp then we already agree.  Players have off games and it is absolutely right and proper that we can comment on it. That we can analyse a game. See who might have done better or been switched. But that requires a brain. Requires a genuine opinion. Requires the ability to reply without having to resort to ‘f*ck off’ or ’n*nce’ as your counter argument to anyone trying to defend our team.

We had a stinker. No question. It was rancid . But it was also one game. Get over yourselves, kids. Try showing a bit of support. Try enjoying yourself. Teams don’t win every game. Team have off days. Players have shockers. Looks at Manchester United. Look at Liverpool. Errr, Klopp out?? 

Hey, perhaps he can take over from Thomas Frank. Alternatively, get a grip.

At times like this there can be only one explanation

Nick Bruzon

Brentford join the rest of the pack on a day of shocks. And kids, get over yourselves.

4 Oct

Article proper is now over the page. Identical (typos aside) but now with a few pictures etc. You can find it here

Nick Bruzon

It was Boy’s Own stuff on Thursday but who starts now ?

3 Oct

The League Cup has been and gone. Brentford are through and that’s fantastic but that’s also as far as it goes. For now. Thoughts of a Christmas quarter-final with Newcastle United can wait for another month or so. Instead, the focus is back on the Championship and Sunday afternoon’s visit from Preston North End. With the mood at Lionel Road one of optimism – as much due to the performance of Said Benrahma as off-field updates that came in a new signing and the David Raya to Arsenal story finally being put to bed – the big question being who starts? And up at Aston Villa, the love story between Dean Smith and  Jota has come to an end.

First though, Brentford. Cripes. Who’d be a head coach? What lovely problems for Thomas Frank to have. What decisions to make. Everyone’s a manager and will have different options as to the team. Sergi Canos has been wonderful but Said Benrahma sent a reminder about what he can do in the most jaw-dropping style.

‘That’ goal against Fulham, with Michael Hector humiliated by the backwards nutmeg, before the Algerian lashed it low and hard into the bottom corner from distance was pure Boys Own stuff. A more incredible return than the second coming of Jota.

Benrahma’s skils – an obscene publication?

Then there’s Mbeumo and Ghoddos. The waiting for Saman was rewarded as he provided the perfect tee up for Marcus Forss to open the scoring on Thursday.  Bryan is immense though. We all know his pace down the flanks and prowess in front of goal. Could Emiliano be sweating tonight as we at least try to fit three of the four into the starting XI? That’s before you even consider Toney v Forss. The big money replacement for Ollie Watkins or the young pretender with the thunderbolts in his boots and the habit of scoring whenever he takes the field?

Dominic Thompson had a great game whilst in goal, David Raya has shown just why Arsenal were so heavily linked. Those rumours should now be dispelled for a while after it was confirmed our number one had signed a four year contract extension on Friday. Pity Luke Daniels who has done a fine job deputising in the league for a man who has pulled off some world class saves during the Cup run. A man who, don’t forget, is the current holder of the Championship golden gloves.

Luke, of all, has most to lose should Thomas twist rather than stick when it comes to selection for Preston. Having waited his turn, it has finally come. Drop him back to the bench and you may aswell start looking to the B team for our reserve ‘keeper. That is, assuming Luke wants first team football. He’s more than good enough for it at this level, that’s for sure. I don’t envy Thomas that choice or that conversation – with either ‘keeper.

For me, Clive, assuming there are no injury doubts I think he’ll go :

Raya, Henry, Dalsgaard, Pinnock, Jansson, Norgaard, Dasilva, Marcondes, Benrahma, Mbeumo, Toney.

It’s going to be harsh on anybody who misses out after Thursday but with international break approaching, this is the time to go for it. Personally speaking, I’d love to see Marcus Forss start but if nothing else the bench should be tastier than a slice of sour-dough toast smeared in marmite i.e very.

Elsewhere, there’s been more transfer news. The bees have signed German Under-21 Vitaly Janelt from VfL Bochum. There was no pretence about the  midfielder’s skillset from Thomas, describing him as “Dynamic in his play and strong in the middle when it comes to duels. Most importantly, he has the aggressiveness and intensity in the high press that we want to have”.

Another classic set of signing photos suggesting we’ve picked up a player who would fit in as well as alongside a Jonathan Douglas or Christian Norgaard as he would in a cold war era spy thriller. Think the Man From Uncle or anything from the second best Bond, Connery.

All being well Vitaly is as stylish on field as he is off it

700 words in and no mention our opponents. Well, those early season results are tricky to get too much of a reading from. The Lilywhites have only managed a single point so far but that was up at Carrow Road – not a performance to be sniffed at. Are home defeats to Stoke and Swansea the sign of a team on the way out or simply one finding their feet in another bizarre season of behind-closed-doors football?  

We’ll find out on Sunday afternoon, that’s for sure. Season ticket holders should have been sent their I-follow codes by now. Don’t forget those all important tricks to ensure stress free sign on… Firstly, use Chrome. Not Safari. Surely something as simple as an internet browser thingy shouldn’t make such a significant difference but, as we now know, it does. Secondly, even though the codes allow you to watch for free, credit cards details are still required. Presumably supporters wanting to watch the Huddersfield game the other week will have now bypassed that pitfall but for anybody just coming in from work, please be aware.

And talking of watching football over the internet… Rasmus, bring forth the crowbar. The latest edition of ‘The Warm Up’ has now gone live on YouTube. Marcus and Stu are again joined by Karleigh Osborne for a look back at Fulham and Millwall along with a couple of very special challenges. Even  Harlee Dean, sorry Crash Bandicoot, puts in an appearance in the ‘nutmeg’ challenge. There’s another competition and the results of last week’s. Plus a forfeit that must now be paid. And how……

Finally, Jota. I make no secret of the fact he has been my favourite Brentford player in years. As much for the hair. The excitement of Benrahma, the last minute goals, the leaving opponents for dead (poor Jake Bidwell) and the return from loan after his love-letter to the fans. It all ended on somewhat of a disappointing note with the triple transfer swoop by ten times better Birmingham City before the King finally found his place in the top flight with Aston Villa. 

Sadly though, it wasn’t to be. After just 16 appearances his contract has been cancelled a year early by mutual consent. He is a free agent and surely Spain beckons? I mean, there’s no way he’ll come back here a third time. Is there…?

I’ll never forget all those good times and wonderful moments. Hail to the King. Wherever he goes.

Oh Jota…. Any excuse

Nick Bruzon

Crash, Bang, Wallop. (What a video).

2 Oct

Brentford will play Newcastle United in the quarter finals of the league cup. A tie with another top flight side the reward for trashing Fulham in a game where Said Benrahma reminded the world just why he is so highly valued. Oh, that second goal. If the likes of Aston Villa, Crystal Palace or others are interested they’re going to have to stick another couple of 0s on his price. But this has to be about the brilliant Bees and a performance that means Championship Brentford have now beaten three Premier league teams this season. For context, that’s three more than Fulham. Who play in the Premier League.

Brentford were brilliant. Fulham were woeful. Dreadful. A top flight team on technicality alone. Certainly not on current performances. Only Michael Hector surviving from the team that were humped by Aston Villa at the weekend. He probably wishes he hadn’t after the public puling down of his pants administered by that man Benrahma en-route to his second, and our third, goal. Pure, pure filth. Something so obscene that by all rights, should have been shown well after the watershed rather than the second half of a late afternoon kick-off. 

Benrahma. So cool, he doesn’t even need to see his man to beat him

Cripes. The run, the turn, the nutmeg – oh the nutmeg – and then the finish from distance. If only to have had a full house there to witness it. Thanks a bunch, Corona. Instead, we had to be content with TV where there was at least the option to rewind and watch it again. And again. And Again. It was that good.

And if you’d like to watch more…..

Will he stay or will he go? (as popular music’s The Clash almost once sang). The transfer window now has an agonising few days until it finally creaks shut at 11pm on Monday night. I’d be ecstatic if he were to stay at Lionel Road. Certainly, there’s no need to sell but that’s not necessarily how it works.

As Thomas Frank himself commented at full time, “Am I confident he will stay? I’m confident that I would love him to stay…But I don’t know. Honestly, if the price is right we are open to selling, but if not we will be happy for him to stay.

That goal was so good, I barely remember our second (and the Algerian’s first). Something, something, something, backpost. It also drew all the attention from our opener. A quite wonderful move involving debutant Saman Ghoddos, who delivered a ball into the box from the right where Marcus Forss absolutely leathered it home. A strike combining equal parts power and placement. It would have graced any goal of the month competition but has already been blown out the water and had thunder very much stolen.

What a reaction from Marcus’ mum though….

More importantly though, it gives Thomas a real selection headache for the Preston game on Sunday. Does he revert to Ivan Toney, who of course got off the mark against Millwall last time out, or stick with the young Finn who seems to have a sledgehammer in his boot? Honestly!! How hard can he hit the ball? 

For what it’s worth, I’m sure he’ll go with Ivan. Our marquee signing will be chomping at the bit to further add to his haul whilst the lure of a rematch with former club Newcastle United is sure to have him even quicker on the toes than he already is. Forss will be a regular for sure. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but if he carries on like this it will soon. Another huge tick in the box marked ‘recruitment’. Who’s laughing now?

The one ‘sour’ note of the evening, and I use that word in the loosest sense, another piece of shameless tie-in obligation. With a hashtag. This time promoting the latest in the Crash Bandicoot series of video games. The competition was simple – spot the eponymous character on the screen and share a picture accompanied by the mantra #FoundCrash. Win a copy of the game.

It was no #novemberkings or #trophyfriends  (never, ever forget) but certainly in our top five. As one North Stand observer noted to our WhatsApp group , “I still can’t fully decide if this is better/worse than the Varney/Kurupt FM cringe off” . 

As shameless a promotional crossover as ever we’ve been obliged to undertake

Personally speaking, Kurupt FM’s visit to our chief executive was one of the best things we’ve ever done. So awkward it was amazing. Acting that, by all rights, should have seen Jon fast-tracked to a cameo role in Dream Team. If only that still existed. Certainly, a programme he knows well – as we learned over lockdown. If you are reading (you aren’t) then how about using your influence to nudge it back into existence. Imagine basing it at Lionel Road…

But we digress, massively. Brentford gave the fans plenty to smile about. Newcastle United are next up in the cup just before Christmas. Dean Smith may well be opening his cheque book. With Aston Villa having been knocked out by Stoke City last night, he doesn’t even need to worry about Benrahma being cup tied. Whether he, or anyone else, can afford the man of the moment is another matter of course.

That’s a question for another day. For now, we can wake up with smiles on our faces. Brentford looked back to their best. All being well we can do it again on Sunday. Preston sure to provide a sterner test than Scott Parker’s starting XI. As one Twitter wag noted, even Crash Bandicoot would have been more mobile than their defence.

Still, that’s their problem. Let nothing detract from the way we played. From that full Forss Finnish. From Benrahma doing what only he can with a quite outrageous goal. From Brentford making our longest journey, and counting, in the League Cup. Bring on Newcastle United in December.

Until then, why not catch up on another piece of brilliance…

Nick Bruzon

Can anyone beat Droid Owusu? Are these the three best videos ever?

30 Sep

With Brentford facing home games against both Fulham (cup) and Preston North End (league) in the next few days, there’s going to be a whole load of on-pitch stuff to talk about between now and Monday morning. So for now, there a bit of a round up regarding season tickets – admin and humour. Plus, because we can, the latest in the series of ‘spotter denied’ videos. Something which is nothing to do with football but always worth a watch – even if it did see legions of Harry Potter fans (the boy wizard rather than the green-jacketed super fan) left distraught. Stop sniggering.

Brentford’s own Harry Potter

First up, season tickets. Friday October 2nd is the deadline to ‘Freeze. Reserve. Refund’.  Whilst, for many, the first option is the most practical, individual circumstances may well be different. These are tough times for many. As such I guess this is as much a note to remind supporters that the default option for taking no action will be ‘Freeze’, with all the associated benefits of course.

The club have sent reminder emails whilst anybody with questions can either email tickets@brentfordfc.com with your query or call our Box Office team on 0333 005 8521 and they will be happy to assist you. Not my words etc but I’m sure it is true. Our ticket office have been one of the standout areas of supporter service in recent years.

Option selected

There is also a third option, our new ‘chatbot’. Cripes, I hate these things normally. The shame faced attempt to lure you into the belief you are talking-to a human being when, infact, it’s nothing more than series of computer generated responses designed to match up to common questions. Hurrah for algorithms. Said nobody ever.

Brentford official have now gone down this route too but there’s no pretence. Quite the opposite. We’re advertising it. And how. There’s a quite magnificent thread on Twitter, asking supporters to come up with a name for our own in-house ‘bot’. Why we need to name it I’ve no idea, beyond awareness, but it has spawned a quite magnificent thread of bot-based bad Bees punnery. Whilst blowing my own trumpet, I defy even Jim Levack at his Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80s alliteration best to beat that one.

But , as ever, its all about substance rather than headline. And what substance. For me, Clive, the stand out contenders are.

Mark Chatman 

Murray Drones

Botinho

Droid Owusu

Johnny 5 – Birmingham 0

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chatman get it. Great wordplay and as popular a name in recent times as Ollie Botkins or anyone else associated with the club.  Botinho is magnificent, too, although there’s a danger it would only run for 13 minutes then disappear without a trace. Murray Drones is probably more one for the grown ups (and remember kids, don’t have nightmares) whilst Droid Owusu deserves it on merit alone. Quite brilliant. 

As Tom Arron noted on Twitter: Someone said Droid Owusu? They win.

The full thread is here. Help yourself and why not play along too? Is it too late for me to add Harry Botter?

Next up, Harry Potter. Or, rather, Potter fans. We’re all, I am sure, with the trainspotter denied orgasm video. One of the all time classic YouTube clips, there is no explanation required. All I’ll say is to wait for the exasperated cry of “bollocks” before anything even comes into view. You can hear the anticipation falling off a cliff.

Another video has started doing the rounds now of something similar happening up in Scotland. The chance to see the ‘Hogwarts Express’ was denied fans of the popular children’s character when another commuter service got in the way. If only they could make the 18.26 to Edinburgh disappear….

To this series of shorts, we’ve also been sent this one. From the States. The moment the historic (apparently) Georgia Dome was demolished. With onlookers all set to capture the moment for posterity, a bus pulls up to…. well, just take a look.

They’re nothing to do with football, of course, but sometimes you just need to realise that however bad life feels, there’s always somebody else having their day ruined. With Griffin Park now in line for a similar fate at some point, will the first swing of the wrecking ball be recorded forever or caught behind an Amazon delivery truck?

To be honest, I’d rather not think about it. Perhaps let’s just rewatch Potter once more.

Nick Bruzon

Time to start putting the boot in. Or, rather, on.

27 Sep

Brentford are up to 9th in the fledgling table and unbeaten in all competitions since the season opener at Birmingham City. The latest result, a 1-1 draw at Millwall in a game that will be remembered as much for the return of Said Benrahma and the excessive wind coming down the I-follow line. That, less a comment on Marcus and Mark’s personal hygiene and more a reflection of the howling gusts rattling around the Harchester United stadium. Very much a case of Cold Blow Lane despite the Lions having long moved home. Certainly it wasn’t one to live long in the memory but it’s another point on the board and another chance for this team to reacquaint themselves with playing together in these oddest of circumstances. Besides, thing could be worse. Looks at Nottingham Forest. How IS that close (closed ?) season investment working out? 

What is there to say after this one? Both teams pressed. Both pushed. Both scored. Both could have won it. We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages as the regular reader will be aware (you can get the ‘official’ view here if you want). That’s no bad thing. It wasn’t that we put in a bad performance but, like Birmingham City away, the trip to Millwall is generally a game of few goals (that one where Danny Shittu gave us the o.g. winner aside). You can now add Saturday to the list and, being honest, after conceding an early goal I’m more than happy we were even able to pull it back rather than succumb to yet another 1-0 defeat. 

‘Official’ capture the equaliser in their match report – link above

Moreso, given the manner in which it was given away. Pontus somehow seeing a boot go flying high in to the sky as he tracked Mason Bennett. The Swedish international unable to keep pace, or balance, with uneven footing and the ball was delivered in Jed Wallace who made no mistake. You wouldn’t with that much space.

The defending from Brentford absolute schoolboy for the opener, regardless of the Swede’s footwear faux-pas. Surely one for Thomas to review on the whiteboard when we all reconvene at Jersey Road. 

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Pontus’ shoelace.

It was a defence that had already seen Rico Henry replaced just three minutes in. Dominic Thompson coming off the bench to cover our unsung hero. Something clearly not right – whether picked up in the warm up or earlier. Regardless, it was an opening five minutes you’d happily forget about. Many following on I-player not even watching as yet. Several reboots were needed to update the somewhat random commentary (again no reflection on Mark of Marcus) as it switched between Millwall’s effort and our own. The lack of pictures also somewhat disconcerting. Once again, a simple solution (once you realised) that Safari and the EFL app do not make happy bedfellows. Chrome all the way. After last week’s ‘credit card’ farce, a frustrating start to what should have been a super simple process. 

Regardless, we had it all to do now. And that was just being able to watch the game. But with the challenge of grappling with technology overcome it was onwards and upwards. Mark Burridge was coming loud and clear, the pictures were sharp and Brentford were pushing. Surely the Millwall goal would soon be breached. Sure enough, with little more than 20 minutes on the click we were level. Ivan Toney hauled down in the box as he waited for a Dalsgaard cross to plop onto his head.

But if the opportunity to score his first league goal was denied, he made no mistake from the spot. Ivan’s approach to the ball was more amble than run up. Not even the Brentford yoof element are this casual (that Stone Island won’t wear itself)  but it made no difference to the result. The ball calmly stroked into the bottom corner, as close to the post as was possible. The precision of the shot, over power, giving Bialkowski in the Millwall goal no chance. 

1-1. Over an hour to go. Surely one of the teams would kick on? It didn’t happen. Both had chances and, being honest, it was probably the hosts who had the better of them. Mahlon Romeo hitting a first half thunderbolt against the post from the corner of the box with the diving Luke Daniels beaten and then Tom Bradshaw offered the freedom of the box before steering wide in the second. For the Bees, a lot of threat but no real cast iron chance. Benrahma made his way on for the final quarter hour and played one delightful ball towards Toney but, alas, it was cleared.

It’s was interesting that Thomas used Sergi Canos to make way for the return of the mercurial Algerian. Even Mrs Bruzon was amongst those questioning why it hadn’t been Emiliano as the one pulled off. Still, that’s why Thomas is the head coach – he’s the one paid to read the game and make the tough calls.

We’ve picked up another point and, as ever, all the conjecture in the world and ‘if onlys’ don’t make a difference to the table at full time. Millwall probably feel they should have had all three points. Brentford will be happy with one but on another day we might have taken the lot. 

Still, I’m happy to be picking up the points. The trips to St.Andrews or The Den are never pleasant experiences. We’ve got them out the way early and are climbing the table. Look at the bottom for some context.

Wayne Rooney’s Derby County ™, Nottingham Forest and Wycombe Wanderers only have one goal and nil points between them after their opening three. Sheffield Wednesday’s start of -12pts the only thing keeping that trio off the bottom and even then something being reeled in at a rate of knots by the Owls.

Ten games in is that real marker of form. Of who will be the teams to beat and who are the division whipping boys. Certainly, I’d had Forest in the former category at the start of the campaign. These are still very early days but it’ll be interesting to see how they bed in or whether the ever sartorial Sabri Lamouchi will fall out of fashion.

Next up is the visit of Fulham L in the League Cup. A somewhat unusual Thursday afternoon, 5.30pm kick off on Sky Sports. As a consequence, the Championship game with Preston has been shunted back to Sunday 3pm.

I’d only expect a raft of changes for the visit of the Cottagers. This 100mph start to the fixture list will be killing players and perhaps the ever present Rico Henry was the first victim of this. Is it time to wrap up Sergi in the cotton wool and cup-tie Said ?

Whoever Thomas starts with, my hope for that one is the pundits and commentary team don’t go into pay-off ‘verload’ . Yes. We know. It happened. Move along now. It’s all abut the future. History belongs in the past. So to speak. 

See you there, Thursday. Well not Lionel Road but on the couch. Here’s to the chance of reve… D’oh !

Nick Bruzon

Top, top football. Just two more to go….

16 Jul

And relax. For now. Brentford have done it again. This time with a hard fought 1-0 at home to Preston North End. That’s eight wins in a row and the gap to second placed West Bromwich Albion cut to a single point with two games to go. Ollie Watkins got the goal early doors, setting the scene for a stressful but solid performance to keep the visitors at bay. With us and the Baggies both facing trips to relegation threatened teams this weekend (West Brom at Huddersfield Town on Friday evening and then our own game with Stoke City the following lunchtime) there’s everything to play for heading in to the last few games.

My word that was tough. For the fans. The players looked comfortable and in control all the way through but a goal can be conceded in a moment. In a freak of nature. At the death and then all the hard work is undone. We’ve all been there too many times over the years. Thankfully, this team haven’t.

Ollie had found the back of the net with less than five minutes on the clock.  A thunderbolt of a shot on the half volley, latching on to a quite delightful ball through from Emiliano Marcondes. The Championship top scorer almost taking goalkeeper Declan Rudd’s head off as he unleashed a howitzer from just outside the corner of the six yard box with a defender bearing down.

Truly, it was class finish although as much praise is due to the build up play that saw Emiliano set a high water mark for Championship assists since the return from lockdown. Yet instead of opening the floodgates as so often happens, Preston stood firm. If anything, they came back in to the game and could probably consider themselves unlucky not to go in level. David Raya was on fine form between the sticks for his sixteenth clean sheet of the season – more than any other goalkeeper in the division. That’s when the Lilywhites got through – Christian Norgaard was as much a rock in front of the back four as Pontus Jansson was at the heart of it.

Watching on TV, you could see him bellowing, directing, guiding and shaping his team. The club captain filling the role in style. What a man to have around you in a pressure situation. How important could his experience prove over the next couple of days?

It was a stonking win, with absolute credit due to Preston. The longer the game went on the less likely it felt – to those of us watching back at home on TV – that a second goal would come. Instead, it was a case of gritted teeth and waiting for the clock to slowly wind down. Limping towards full time at almost snail like pace before a torturous five additional minutes were added on. Like being strapped to a chair and force fed Mrs. Brown’s Boys, there was palpable relief when it was all over. At least, from the fans watching at home. I’m sure the players will tell us they had no worries and it was all under control.

But for all the discomfort of watching the game from a distance, it played out wonderfully. The final score at full time shows it ended 1-0 to Brentford and the record books won’t give a damn that Preston did everything possible to keep there own play-off dream alive. The table doesn’t lie and we’re that single point behind West Bromwich Albion.

Having reached a place where we are now breathing down the neck of a team who were ten points ahead of us before the season took that mid-season hiatus, can we go that bit further? To come out of a game like that with the win is a sign of our top, top football. Our spirit. Our never say die approach.

To an extent, control is still out of our hands. Favours are still required. Even assuming we fulfil our part of the bargain, we are still beholden on assistance from Huddersfield Town or the Loftus Road mob. Could it really be a tale of two Marks to help get the Bees over the line? Chief executive Devlin or manager Mark respectively. 

That’s to come though. And all out of our hands. Even Thomas Frank admitted he’d be watching the game on Friday – but only because he’d have nothing else to do on the coach to Stoke.

We’ll be with you Thomas . In mind if not body.

Nick Bruzon

Like watching Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

15 Jul

Three games to go. Brentford host Preston North End this evening knowing that, should we win, Thomas Frank and his team will be just one point behind West Bromwich Albion with two to play. That, after The Baggies’ 0-0 bore draw at home to Fulham last night. 90+ minutes we’ll never get back after sitting through a tepid game between two teams that seemed to be doing their level best not to concede a goal. The net result being the Cottagers are now reliant on mathematical improbability in their own hunt for ‘automatic’ whilst West Brom have a trip to relegation threatened Huddersfield Town on Friday evening. Yet all that is irrelevant if we can’t fulfil our own side of the equation and that begins at 5pm with the hunt for an eighth successive victory.

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Time we’ll never get back

There’s not really much one can say. For once, I’m with Thomas Frank in the not wanting to look ahead stakes. There is only one thing to focus on and that is absolutely the job in hand. If nothing else, Preston will themselves consider this their own last hurrah in a play-off push that at one time looked nailed on but has now come off the rails somewhat since we emerged from the other-side of Lockdown. Their only win since the return came at Sheffield Wednesday last week and they now find themselves five points outside the top six with inferior goal difference. Tonight really is ‘win or bust’ for the Deepdale outfit.

For Brentford, a win would be a staggering achievement. If not so much for the continued good form as the position it would then put us in. We’ve everything to play for and nothing to lose. West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United have held the top spots for so long that nobody expects them to slip up. Yet, slowly, we’ve reeled them both in. A play-off spot is already assured and so there’s nothing to lose by just going for it. In showing more of that relentless ‘never say die’ approach. 

I’d love to be there tonight. It’s not possible for any of us. But the couch is prepared. The goal sweets are in place. There’s beer in the fridge. No amount of talk, hype or conjecture can change it or influence the result. All we can do is enjoy it. Take pleasure from the brand of football our team continue to play.

One can’t blame West Brom for taking their point. Destiny is still in their own hands. But after making the emotional investment in ‘home defeat’ – something which would have required a Fulham goal –  almost anything would be better than watching that again. A tired trip through the motions in the guise of enjoyment that left the viewer feeling disappointed and dirty.

If Mrs. Brown’s Boys did football?

MRS BROWN'S BOYS

Despair was the feeling

Nick Bruzon 

Strange times call for strange bedfellows. Paging Brian Guest…..

14 Jul

West Bromwich Albion host Fulham tonight. Brentford entertain Preston tomorrow. Whilst the theoretical chance to go top, midweek, was taken away by Leeds United nabbing an 89th minute winner on Sunday, there is still a very real possibility we could head into the weekend sitting in an automatic position. For that, two things needs to happen. A win for the Bees on Wednesday and, say this quietly, victory for the Cottagers this evening. Even thinking about that feels wrong but for the greater good, lets all crack open a Victoria sponge, pour a large G&T then see what plays out at 5pm.

With The Baggies three points ahead and Fulham two behind, the most realistic chance of either West London side taking an automatic position starts with a win for The Cottagers. Equally, West Bromwich Albion know exactly how much closer to the finish line victory will take them and I can only see them going for it. Regardless of their own ability when the moment arrives, Fulham look awful at the moment. Our own 2-0 win in the first match post lockdown has seen the wheels coming off and they were also swept aside at Leeds United. Games with the good teams seem to be somewhat of a challenge. The only hope here seems to be what looks like a paper thin West Brom defence which, but for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, should have been down and out rather than taking the draw at Blackburn on Saturday. 

It’s all well and good talking theory but it still relies on a win for Fulham. And in the normal course of events nobody wants that. Do they? Well, perhaps one person does. At this juncture it seems an appropriate time to share something I published at Christmas (in the matchday programme rather than online)…..

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My name is Brian Guest and I support Fulham. Except of course it’s not and I don’t. Yet in this season of peace on Earth and goodwill to all, I’d like to give my own Festive gift to our guests. A confession and, perhaps more importantly, a vital lesson in being extremely careful that the person you are speaking to via the internet is actually who they say they are. Moreso when you outsource your programme content to a third party provider. Based in Liverpool.

Back in January 2017, Fulham ‘official’ put out a tweet looking for supporters to complete a brief Q&A for the ‘My club’ section of their matchday magazine. Anybody interested should contact the aforementioned Merseyside publication house via email. With nothing to lose, a message was sent from an account in the name of a Mr. B. Guest expressing interest.

Quicker than you can say ‘Neutral Stand’ , a reply was received : Hi Brian. If you could answer the attached and return it with a jpeg pic of yourself, we’ll let you know which programme it will go in.

No? Surely not? It couldn’t be that easy, could it? Fearing this too good to be true, I consulted a fellow Bees supporter who we’ll just call ‘Mr. Griffiths ‘ to protect his identity (that should fool them, Tim). We both came to the conclusion that there was nothing to lose and so the next morning a reply was sent. Including the requested picture although, because it had all been too easy so far, why not really push the boat out and use my own pen pic from the Brentford programme column of that season? The one wearing our Spall ‘87-‘88 away shirt.

And then that morning, less than 24 hours after putting the balls in motion, the following response was received:  Thanks Brian. A while off, but you’ll be in the Brentford programme on the last day of the season. Quite apt given they were your first game?

Quite apt? The reaction was one akin to the moment Stuart Dallas hit ‘that’ shot in our 4-1 Championship win at the Cottage. At which point , and after a brief catch up with ‘Tim’, the pair of us had to then maintain a lips sealed silence for the next three months. Not so much to stop Fulham finding out but more to really try and deliver a surprise for our own fans who, on seeing the answers, would hopefully twig. And so come April, with the secret told only to a few the night before, the stage was set.

My word. They bit. Hook, line and sinker. It was printed in full. Even the photo. Space precludes us from sharing the full article but choice extracts included:

First game? 26 April, 1992. Division 3. Away at Brentford. 4-0 down at halftime. At least the second half was 0-0. A baptism of fire. Obviously the score line wasn’t the best (I suppose like saying that the Titanic had stability issues) but what an atmosphere. I’ll never forget it and have been hooked ever since.

First shirt? Unusually enough, I’ve never owned a replica home shirt. That said, I’ve got a soft spot for the 2001 Pizza Hut kit. A perfect symmetry between sponsor and supporter – who doesn’t love a stuffed crust after a game?

Favourite game? Can I cheat and have two? Winning the two-legged Intertoto cup final in 2002 against Bologna. What an honour, what prestige and what a reward as it meant Fulham earned full European qualification for the first time ever.

A game you’d like to forget? Continuing an earlier theme (sorry) but definitely the 1-4 home loss to Brentford in April 2015. Given Fulham’s long top flight status the chance to avenge that first ever game had been a long time coming. Not so much a dish ‘best served cold’ as more one best served up to the river rats.

Favourite goal? Dickson Etuhu vs. Blackpool 3 April 2011 capped a brilliant day for me. A 3-0 win for The Whites whilst, of course, Michael Jackson’s statue was officially unveiled before kick off.

Favourite season? 2009-10 Established in the Premier League under Roy Hodgson, Fulham got all the way to the final of the Europa League beating Juventus along the way. The journey may have ended in defeat but what an incredible season.

Greatest sacrifice to watch the Whites? Giving up two tickets to the World Polo Championship final in California to see Fulham play Bournemouth in August 1998. It was a 0-0 draw . Argentina beat Brazil in the Polo, for the record.

Pre-match ritual? I used to go up to the statue and touch Michael Jackson but these days I cannot leave the house unless I’ve watched an episode of Pointless. It’s not a prematch prediction (LOL) but in honour of the legend that is celebrity fan Richard Osman.

I’d like to thank Mr. Griffiths for his help. Specifically around Dickson Etuhu and the Polo. Most of all, I’d like to thank Fulham. Whilst Mr. Osman may deem a game with the rivals to be an irrelevance, certainly if you believe what you read on social media, for me there’s no finer team to mug in their own backyard. Dallas did Fulham and Maupay had his moment but for me, Clive, it’s all about Brian Guest.

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Brian Guest – thanks, Fulham

Nick Bruzon

Hamer House Of Horror. Killer Bees do it again but now face awful prospect.

12 Jul

Oh. My. Word. Even by current Brentford standards that was just ridiculous. Wayne Rooney’s Derby County swept away 3-1 to make it a magnificent 7 (seven) wins on the spin for The Bees. Saïd Benrahma on fire and Ollie Watkins back to the top of the Championship goal scorer charts after giving us the lead with less than four minutes on the clock. West Bromwich Albion subsequently held 1-1 at Blackburn Rovers, despite taking the lead, and now just three points ahead. Likewise, Leeds United, although they play their game in hand today against Swansea City. That’ll be a Swansea team who know that victory will see them hit the play-off zone. It’s all getting crazy exciting. And that’s before we get to the most bonkers bit of all – Tuesday night will see us all cheering on, err, Fulham… Open brackets: for one game only, not a typo, purely due to longer term potential benefit. Close brackets.

First things first, Brentford. It was a day of miracles. Not least our family managing to avoid the scores all day long until our return home at 8pm. Phones off. Wine opened. Game successfully recorded. Sit back on the couch and let enjoyment begin. But enough about studio pundit Sam Saunders and the returning Sergi Canos. 

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Sergi was back

Within moments, any stress had melted away. Ollie Watkins popping up at the back post with the wine still breathing. 1-0 Brentford. Derby left floundering as the Bees sliced them apart. The neighbours presumably thinking we’d lost the plot. Screaming our heads off and dancing around the front room like a bunch of loons. Game on. What a start. What Manager of the month curse?      

It was shortly after that I chose to remind Mrs. Bruzon of the game at Pride Park a few years back where we’d been 1-0 up, missed chance after chance before being pegged back at the death. Lightning doesn’t strike twice though. Does it….?

So of course, Jason Knight chose to level things and serve up a plate with some words, a knife and a fork. Hey, it’s not easy being a numpty on the couch . Words were well and truly eaten. Washed down with the obligatory ‘goal sweet’ (one Starmix per person per goal, regardless of which team scores).

Still, 1-1 at half time. Brentford looking comfortable. Rooney and (eighteen year old – are we still doing that?) Louie Sibley keeping the hosts alive. Norgaard and the defence snuffing out pretty much anything, as ever. Pontus fired up and putting himself about. Pinnock a rock. Roerslev overlapping down the right in lieu of the benched Henrik Dalsgaard and Rico Henry on the other flank doing his level best to become this season’s unsung hero.

Sam Saunders came on to do his half time thing and then thirty minutes later we all settled down to watch the second period. Oh. wow. One can’t even begin to imagine what Thomas did with his white board at half time. Brentford went ballistic. Derby were obliterated. The Bees starting at 100mph once more with man of the moment Said Benrahma restoring the lead as quickly as Ollie had done first time around.

His shot from distance going at, through and past former Bee Ben Hamer. It had no right to go in but, frankly, at this stage of the campaign we’ll take any gifts offered. The shake of the head from Derby manager Phillip Cocu said it all. As did the smile on the face of Saïd. It was as awful a moment for the home side as it was enjoyable for us. A real horror show of a moment but you don’t score goals without taking shots. Sometimes they go in.

Hamer had another spillage soon after, somehow flapping it just past the back stick, before he was beaten by a strike of ridiculous quality from the Algerian wideman. Stepping in from the left wing, Saïd curled it from outside the box and into the top corner on the far side. Hamer diving but not even getting close to it. Cocu would later bemoan the space offered to Benrahma by the two defenders nearest him but the form he is in at present, you wouldn’t bet against him doing that with blindfold on. It was a quite special goal from the man who continues to exceed even his own incredible standards.

Little over an hour gone. 3-1 up and in complete cruise control. The final 25 minutes passed in a blur of red wine and wotsits. The bench was used to full effect although there was to be no return to action for Sergi Canos. Yet. Who knows what the visit of Preston may bring on Wednesday evening.

And what a match that promises to be. The beauty about watching yesterday’s game on an 8 hour time delay meant the West Bromwich Albion result was already in the bag before we even hit play. So huddled around the laptop there was a scroll upwards through the results for the big reveal. Charlton.. Derby…. Barnsley…. Blackburn….. YESSSSSS!!! Oh my. 1-1. More screaming. The police knocking on the door having received a report from the neighbours. Not literally but nothing would have surprised me, given the reaction at that moment ! Oh.. My… Can we be manager of the month every week, please ?

All of which means that the Baggies are three points ahead of us but with inferior goal difference and on level games. Three left to play. Fulham visit the Hawthorns on Tuesday evening, knowing that any aspirations they have for ‘automatic’ are 100% reliant on their winning that one.

Which means if they do, and then we beat play-off chasing Preston on Wednesday, we’ll finish the day in second place. At the least. Leeds still have to host Swansea today and then aren’t in action again until their home banker with Barnsley on Thursday. They’re still as good as up but, put simply, wins for Swansea, Fulham and Brentford will see us top on Wednesday night. 

I appreciate one shouldn’t be looking too far ahead. Thomas Frank has been adamant about that as he attempts to keep his players’ feet on the ground. Yet, at the same time, one has to dream. It’s what football fans do. We look at the next game. We look at what other results may do. And if it means that we need to wish Fulham well for one night only, then let’s at least be ready for that awful prospect. Crack open the Victoria sponge, pour yourself a G&T and dig Thriller out of the record collection. See you next Tuesday for that horror show.

All that’s to come. I don’t want have to consider the prospect overly. Perhaps taking a leaf out of Thomas’ book is the way to go. Just check the result at full time. Besides, any emotional investment in foam fingers counts for nothing if we don’t do it in what is a huge challenge against Preston. Perhaps that’s where the focus really needs to be.

For now, though, let’s pause to reflect on where we have got to. How close we are to what would be a quite incredible conclusion to the season. At are very least, we are guaranteed a play-off place. A few more results in our favour, combined with this quite scintillating form continuing, and  who knows what may happen……  

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Brentford ‘official’ Twitter capture the moment at full time

Nick Bruzon