Tag Archives: Preston

A hot date for Brentford. In Stoke. Happy with the fixtures? And the World Cup sees tears.

22 Jun

The 2018/19 fixtures are out and Brentford fans are now planning whilst Stoke City have been afforded a rare privilege. Argentina are on the verge of going out (of the World Cup, that is) after being thumped 3-0 by Croatia last night. Henrik Dalsgaard and his Denmark team have a great chance to stay out in Russia for a while longer. A 1-1 draw with Australia sees them three points clear of the third placed Socceroos (that’s really the best nickname they could come up with?) and just one group game to go for both teams.

First up, the Bees. Are you happy with the fixture list? Yesterday saw those all important dates locked in. A chance to start planning those trips away. To see if we’d need an excuse to weasel out of a visit to the in-laws on Boxing Day. Figure out when to loosen the vocal cords to offer Harlee Dean et al a welcome return to Griffin Park. And, I have to be honest, for yours truly things have fallen very kindly – even if the contractual obligation of having to play some evening games on a Wednesday is one we are going to have to get used to.

Remember how it ended last time?

You can’t ask for more than a home start. A visit from promoted Rotherham United isn’t one to get the pulse racing in terms of glamour but you’d have to think the bookmakers will have The Bees as favourites. Even if we know that they will be well, well up for spoiling (or is that soiling?) the party on their return to the Championship.

Next on the fixture list is Stoke City (a). The Potters are the beneficiaries of our first away trip and I’m thrilled to get this one out of the way early. Before the former Premier league outfit have had a chance to adjust to Championship life whilst, at the same time, it means us making a trip to their ‘Bet365’ stadium (no longer the Britannia, apparently) in the late summer. Whilst not quite Oldham Athletic in terms of being Ice Station Zebra, I’ve seen Stoke play up there in the winter and it can be ‘brisk’.

For the home team, a rare treat. With Stoke playing in red and white it can only mean a first official outing for our magnificent new away shirt. You can be sure Brentford well travel well and turn the away end into a wall of brown and orange. I really can’t wait for this one!

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Christmas is ruined with the Bees playing away on Boxing Day. Bristol City is a long way to go for this one whilst I’m already fearing déjà vu for New Year’s Eve. A January 1st visit from Norwich City being one with the potential to come forward to the preceding evening. Not that we’ve ever had to do anything like that before to help out TV. Errr, move along – nothing to see here. QPR (a) is November 10 with the return on March 2nd. Things conclude with a home game – Preston North End on May 5th.

Imagine. Alan Judge to secure another Bees promotion at Griffin Park,  against the Lilywhites??? If ever there was an omen in the fixture list then here it is.

Some people are on the pitch - Juge's penalty v Preston saw a wonderful denouement

Alan Judge’s winner against Preston saw us going up

Other key dates include Birmingham City at home on Tuesday October 2nd – something that almost caused yours truly a catastrophic diary clash – popular music’s The Bluetones playing their London show the very next evening. And relax. Here’s hoping it will be a very slight return for Harlee and co.

The only other disappointment in the calendar  (the festive period aside) is, like QPR, our visit from Derby County comes late on in the campaign. April 6th. Surely, neither of their high profile but somewhat random managerial appointments – Shteve McClaren and Frank Lampard – will be in charge by then? A chance to see their likes run the gauntlet of the New Road crowd always an enjoyable one.

Still, whoever we have and whenever it is, the next 10 months can now be mapped out. Negotiations with the other half can begin. The domestic campaign can really start to take shape. Until then, we still have the World Cup and yesterday was brilliant. Specifically, seeing the tears from that short, fat kid in the crowd. Or Diego Maradona as he is better known. England fans were dominating Twitter with tales of payback for the ‘hand of God’ in ’86. Victory for Iceland over Nigeria today will see them in real trouble after a spineless display against a Croatia outfit who were more than up for it.

It’ll be just England’s luck that they somehow sneak through before paths eventually cross. But I can’t see it happening unless they seriously, seriously up their game. The mid-game theatrics and gesticulations of Maradona said it all whilst take your pick from photos of his sad face. Aaahh.

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Don’t cry for me, Agrentina – (c) the ENTIRE internet

Elsewhere, a critically acclaimed performance from Henrik Dalsgaard has put Denmark on the verge of qualification for the knockout stages. A draw with France in their final game will see both sides through. Not that, I am sure, either team will be going for anything less than a win.

Apparently, Henrik plays for Brentford. If only somebody had said. Like eighteen year old Ryan Sessegnons’s age (18, seemingly) and West Ham having moved from Upton Park into the Olympic Stadium, something that commentators, pundits, journos etc etc etc can’t seem to stop mentioning. Oh well. Their repetition is our gain and more egg in the face of those previously pouring scorn on the Griffin Park recruitment model.

Great job. All round. See you next season .

Finally, please don’t forget that I’d like to give one supporter this ultra-rare 2017/18 ‘third shirt’ with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in EFL font. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop. Indeed, this has been given to me by a source close to the club.   

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Help the BFC CST to be in with a chance of winning this

All you need to do is download one of the Last Word season reviews. This isn’t a get rich slow scheme for yours truly. All proceeds from any sales will go to the Brentford FC 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.

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

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. 

THANK YOU. And enjoy…

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Available now to download for your kindle / e-reader

Nick Bruzon

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Who will lose it at the bottom? Can the Bees make it another top ten success?

6 May

Well here we are. One final round of games awaits in the Championship. Brentford entertain Hull City AFC, knowing a win could take us as high as 7(seven)th in the final table. We already know we’ve a trip to Stoke City next season and a possible return to The Valley, if Charlton can do the needful in the League One play-offs. Yet it is at the bottom of the table where the longer term situation is perhaps more interesting. Birmingham City v Fulham is THE big one in the division today and is sure to have Bees’ fans split as to who they’d like to come away with the win. Along with the Blues, the final two relegation spots are predominantly in the hands of Burton, Bolton and Barnsley. And all this is before we get to the end of season ‘player of the year’ dinner and awards. Plus some nonsense on pitch at half time – I really wouldn’t be looking there. Move along; nothing to see.

First up, the visit of Hull. A club, like Wolves, I’ve developed a long standing and unexpected admiration for over the years. Standing up to crackpot owner? Tick. Some of the best kits ever? Tick. Correct use of AFC in their name? Tick. That said, not sure if I can forgive them for Nick Proschwitz but, hey, you can’t have everything.

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Great kits. Great principals

With the sun (and shorts) out, it promises to be a great day. At the time of writing (6.59am) the sky in TW8 is a wonderful clear blue and things are already warming up. The bank holiday awaits and it’s our last time all together for a couple of months. This really promises to be special. Even if we are left wondering whether this is the last time we see some of our heroes in action. Listening to the Beesotted podcast the other day I am curious as to whether it will be a case of farewell Ryan Woods, Andreas Bjelland and Josh McEachran – amongst other potential departures.

Whilst that is a column for another day, it’s mentioned more as a chance to really appreciate these great players. I’m desperate to see the likes of Woodsy and the World Cup’s Andreas back next season of course. Who wouldn’t? By the same virtue I’m also a realist as to how we operate. The last few seasons have taught us that. With the likes of Chris Mepham fast tracking up the football ladder at a rate of knots, the future is still looking good.

We digress. Plus ça change. The club have surprised us at just about every step of the way over the last few seasons. I can’t call what’s going to happen today, let alone further down the track. Let’s just focus on the here and now. Dean Smith wants to finish on a high. As do the fans. I can’t see much change from the side which went down at Barnsley last weekend. If only because it was so out of sorts relative to the last few months that the players themselves will be desperate to prove a point and end with three. Hull City AFC are clear of the relegation pack so can also play pressure free. This could, and should, be a good one. Get those calculators out and prepare to start tracking the goals.

At the bottom, I’m calling Burton and Birmingham City to go down. Blues fans, if you somehow see this then don’t cry. Don’t take it as some personal dig. Whatever some commentators to these pages think, I don’t ‘hate’ your club. Likewise, any perceived negativity is not down to the triple transfer swoop over the summer although, undoubtedly, it has added to a rich tapestry that has been woven over the last 26 years.

That said, Harlee Dean’s ‘ten times better’ comments are most definitely a long term dish that I would take great pleasure in serving up cold at 3pm. If you want to know why there’s such an interest in goings on at St.Andrews, then click here. You probably won’t care. That’s football and I’m not looking for any sympathy after a season spent doing battle with brave keyboard warriors, frustated by their own team’s inadequacy and looking to lash out.

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He said it….. Not me.

Yet given the hand that the fixture list has dealt today, I can’t look beyond League One for The Blues next season. If I’m wrong then will happily hold up my hands tomorrow. Likewise, I’d be genuinely happy if Birmingham do stay up – if only for another chance at six points next season. Ba-doom, Tish !

But I can’t see anything beyond a Fulham win at St. Andrew today. Words which are as distasteful to me as saying Happy Star Wars Day – May the fourth be with you.

With Preston chasing the play-offs, surely that one is a step too far for visitors Burton Albion despite their own impressive run of form in recent weeks. Sadly for Nigel Clough and his team their current streak of WWW is looking like it will be too little, too late. Even though pressure can do funny things, surely that one has to go down as ‘home win’ in the race for the final play-off spot? Doesn’t it…?

Barnsley travel to Derby County today. Derby County, a team who have mastered the art of ‘the choke’ . Who could forget that infamous play-off final against the Loftus road mob? What about the time we reached the Championship play-offs under Mark Warburton. All they needed was a point at home to an impotent Reading side yet somehow self-destructed and went down 3-0. With Barnsley fighting for their lives, that’s where I’m calling the shock (now watch it happen at Preston).

Which takes us to Bolton. Home to Nottingham Forest. Should they win, that takes them level on points with Birmingham. But they need to win well and that’s a BIG ask. The goal difference gap still sees them four behind the Blues yet they are the division’s second lowest scorers having managed just 36 all campaign. The only side having fared worse with the worse in the ‘F’ column being Birmingham who currently have a paltry 35. Compared to our own 61 or the 82 of Champions Wolves, it’s no surprise they both find themselves in such big trouble.

So the heart is ruling the head, here, but with Fulham having to win to have any chance of ‘automatic’ I’m calling four goals as a gap that can be reeled in for Bolton. Even if they need another club to do most of the legwork.

But before you go putting the mortgage on any of this then please bear in mind two things….

Firstly, I’ve not even mentioned Reading. They aren’t safe yet and travel to a Cardiff side that, like Fulham, are also chasing the other promotion slot. Secondly, my predictive skills are notoriously woeful. I’ve called Birmingham and Burton to go down but there’s as much chance of it being Bolton and Reading. Pressure can do strange things.

Instead, I’ll be at Griffin Park cheering on the Bees. Albeit with half a near on the terrace trannie. Purely out of curiosity….

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The BBC table shows just how tight things remain at the bottom

Nick Bruzon

Bees get the point as Changchun Yatai get that Vibe. What next as Sunderland await?

11 Feb

Brentford 1 Preston North End 1. After that mini run of double defeats, here was a chance to get back to winning ways before the double header against two teams up to their hips and necks in the relegation quagmire – Birmingham City and Sunderland. Yet on a day which saw the long anticipated transfer of Lasse Vibe to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai for a fee rumoured to be £2m and a much changed Bees team lining up against promotion chasing Preston, in retrospect was it as disappointing as it felt at full time?

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Any votes for ‘China in your hand’ on #BeeTheDJ ? Farewell, Lasse

No. In a word. As a fan, I’m always desperate to win no matter whom we are up against and whichever players are staring. Yet a first XI which, had it been picked during the transfer window would have had supporters screaming ‘conspiracy theory‘, more than held their own and arguably had enough chances and possession to have wrapped this one up. There was no Sergi Canos – suspended. Ryan Woods had to be content with wandering up and down the Braemar Road paddock, chatting to supporters and confirming he should be fit for the Sunderland game. Yoann Barbet was dropped to the bench whilst wunderkind Chris Mepham was awol.

Yet this was still a strong team with Josh McEachran having a very positive start before returning to the frustrating enigma that his performances so often are. When he’s on form he really is a talent and his forward passing is a joy to behold. Equally, there’s more sideways and backwards passing than down the road at Twickenham. Watching the England-Wales rugby after this one, I was half expecting our number 10 to put in an appearance. No irony lost, given one challenge he put in on Callum Robinson. Move along, nothing to see here. It’s a tough call for Dean how he crams that central midfield, who makes way and how he can get the very best from his available resources. Certainly, the arrivals of Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were very welcome.

It was a game played out in front of a sparse crowd under drizzle soaked skies. It was a game that saw Brentford give away a goal out of nowhere. Tom Barkhuizen putting Preston ahead before Florian Jozefzoon levelled things up just eight minutes later with a goal described by Sky Sports (and you can get edited the highlights here) as a superb strike. I say this given I missed it, in circumstances described in the trade as ‘doing a JJ’. Still, anything for the cause. From then on, it was one-way traffic and I can’t wait to hear how the ever wonderful Mark Burridge described all this when the full fat package is available later *.

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View from the Braemar: Andreas Bjelland v Preston – a Dane in the rain

With Greg Cunningham’s second yellow seeing the visitors reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes remaining, it was backs to the wall stuff. Ollie Watkins blazed just wide whilst Alan Judge came oh so close with a curling free kick in the dying seconds. Emiliano Marcondes added further threat from the bench and it is no surprise Dean came out with post-match comments that included his observation that, “We should have got three points today as our performance was good”.

Second half, it was good. Very. Although, equally, we can count our blessings The Bees didn’t go behind in the opening period. Tommy Spurr adjudged to have been marginally offside as he headed home for 1-0. But no. Instead it was that sweetest of football feelings – opposition cheers being snuffed out by the wave of a linesman’s flag. 0-0 it stayed, until Barkhuizen did the needful.

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It’s an early shower for you, number 3. Cunningham walks.

As for Brentford, up front remains a tough one for Dean. Neal Maupay had one, clear chance when put through one on one with Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd. The man in black (Rudd, not the ref – if Kitman Bob is reading, what ARE the rules on that?) quick off his line to smoother the striker’s shot from eight yards. Other than that though, there were slim pickings in what you’d deem a typical striker’s chance. One thing’s for sure, with Justin Shaibu on loan and Lasse sold without being replaced, Neal is in for the long haul. That’s no bad thing either. We saw early on in the season what an impact he had off the bench. Here’s hoping that given a prolonged run of starts he’ll push on and find the back of the net on a regular basis.

My other thought is in regards to Dean Smith’s post-match observations. Both in this one and the previous two games. The 3-0 Loss v Derby saw him note that, “We had the better chances… the score-line wasn’t a reflection of what I thought was two-evenly matched teams”.

The game prior, our 1-0 Loss at home to Norwich, saw him opine how: I feel that the better team got beaten” going on to add later that, “I think Norwich will feel fortunate that they have gone away with all three points”.

Yesterday, it was that we should have won. Personally, my take on it is that we could have won. What a difference a letter or two makes. At least Dean recognises the chances we are creating but as has been said a gazillion times on these pages, they count for nothing if you can’t put them away.

As has also been said, who’d be a manager? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Overall, He and his team are doing just about most things right. Certainly, there are no huge complaints from where I am sitting. Quite the opposite. We’re pushing it against the best in a phenomally tough division and more than holding our own.

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with not winning a game. We all want to. Myself included. I remember league two days. No money etc. etc. etc. I saw a reference on Twitter the other day to the Eddie May/ Micky Adams relegation season. Grim stuff. We’re more spoilt now than we’ve ever been. Moreso with the new stadium plans really gathering pace. But the football fan is never happy. We always want more. We live in hope of what might be. We all have a dream. We always want better.

I understand Dean’s passion and desire but I also know what I see when I’m watching the same game he is. Too much of the ‘we deserved to win/ should have won’ starts to lose impact after a while.

Hey, it’s a small gripe. At least he’s got faith in his team and is constantly reinforcing that positive message. If it’s the worst thing Dean does then we’re in good hands. He has tough decisions ahead, that’s for sure, and I don’t envy him picking the team to start against Sunderland. Likewise, his substitutions, whenever they happen….

But these are nice decisions to have to make. There is competition for the starting berth in just about every position. Yoann Barbet, in particular, must count himself very unlucky to have missed out this time around (albeit I love seeing Josh Clarke out there). No doubt he’ll be amongst those hammering down Dean’s door this week. Metaphorically speaking.

I’ve no clue who Dean will start on Saturday at Sunderland. Could this be Alan Judge’s time? I can’t wait to find out though. Given their own late comeback from 3-0 down to earn a point at Bristol City on Saturday, it’s not going to be as easy as the table suggests. That’s for sure.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a black cat backed into a corner and desperately fighting for survival. Bring it on.

As for Lasse Vibe, there’s not much more that can really be said. We all knew his contract was up. We all know what he has done for us over the last few years. How open and friendly he is. How enthusiastic and dedicated to the cause whilst at Griffin Park. Talking to supporters yesterday and reading through social media, I can’t see anybody wishing him everything but the best.

I can’t think of any other club or any other player where losing your main goal threat has been treated with nothing but universal good vibes. Yet that’s Lasse.

THANK YOU. Here’s to the World Cup..

* until then, here’s the post lunchtime update with the ‘official highlights’. Great job on the comms, too…

 

Nick Bruzon

 

Is this a chance to get back to winning ways? Or will the table talk?

3 Feb

Brentford travel to Derby County safe in the knowledge that, a mass exodus to China aside (and Lasse Vibe is still very much flavour of the month there, per Phil Giles’ interview during the week), we know the make-up of our squad for the rest of the Championship campaign. It’s a good thing too, because things don’t come much tougher than a trip to Pride Park where the Rams have remorselessly climbed the table to the point that only Wolves sit above them. And even there the gap is closing. Yet as last night’s game between Bolton and Bristol City showed, anything can happen in this division. Anybody can beat anybody. Few people expected the Trotters to beat City but their reward for a 1-0 win was an escape from the bottom 3. The Bees don’t need to worry about relegation but that’s not to say our job is any easier. Equally though, the reward for victory could be a fantastic one. As for Leeds United, you’ll have to wait for the Preston matchday programme for thoughts on them – I’m sure we’ll all cope.

However, today is all about Brentford and Derby County. Whilst other teams have started to reel them in over the last few games, it is still our hosts who occupy an automatic place in the promotion race. At present. The gap to Wolves still 11 points and one would think it’ll take a choke worse than Wayne Rooney’s form at a World Cup finals for them to blow that one. Yet the race to second place is still wide open. Aston Villa are just a point off whilst Bristol City would have started the day level with County had they done the needful last night. Cardiff City are in a similar position, going into their own game at Leeds United today. Expect them to come away from that one with all three points.

Pressure and expectation can do funny things, though. I reference this a lot on these pages but I’ll never forget that final weekend of the 2014/15 Championship campaign. Derby didn’t need to do much more than just turn up to confirm their place in the play offs in a home against a Reading team with nothing to play for but Pride. Yet they didn’t even manage that, missing a penalty en-route to a 3-0 capitulation that saw them miss out on a promotion shot as Brentford were amongst the teams to overtake them en-route to the play offs for the Premier League. It still seems incredible, even now.

Might knowing that they have a chasing pack breathing down their own necks increase the anxiety for the home support? Could Brentford sweep in and clean up just as Reading did three seasons ago? Whilst we’ve had it tough against County in the past don’t forget we have our own, huge incentive. Prior to last week’s game with Norwich we’d been flying. Our own victory then would have taken us all but into the top six . Instead, it is Fulham who now sit in that slot whilst The Bees faced with the toughest of tasks, on paper, if we are to get back to winning ways.

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Harlee and the Judge – not a 70s cop show but a tough trip to Derby from days gone by

Whatever happens, it is just one game. One, tough game but that hasn’t phased us before. We know how well we have been playing at times. How poorly in patches. On the whole though it has been a pleasure watching Dean Smith’s team these last few months. We’ve a great run of fixtures coming up and what better incentive to hit them with than performing some sort of Ram Raid today to take the points from the hosts.

Yet bludgeoning our way through isn’t the Brentford style. There’s no crude unsophistication. A lack of tactical imagination at times, perhaps, but if we were perfect then we’d be top of the Premier League and lifting trophies. Instead, we have a team who play for each other and can play some quite breath taking football when we hit peak flow. The challenge today will be just who Dean starts with and how he sets them up.

An obvious point, perhaps, yet the first half against Norwich was as gloomy as the second was bright. Ok, we didn’t get the goal but at least we went for it. I like Dean a lot and he generally talks very objectively. But I didn’t buy his post-match analysis about Brentford being the better team over 90 minutes and deserving to win. We lost to a belter of a goal against a team who out played us in the first half. A team who out thought us in the second despite our wonderful approach play and infinite step up in both personnel and playing style.

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The Norwich game has been and gone

That was then and I don’t want to labour the point. Instead it’s just a case of taking that one on the chin rather than dwell on what was a first home defeat since August. Of, dare I say it, going again. The only other team to beat us in recent months have been Wolves, and nobody needs a lecture form me on how well they’ve been doing this season.

So we are more than set up for today. We more than have the talent in this team. Who sits up top is going to be an interesting decision for Dean. As will be choosing who provides the width, how defensive his centre midfield is going to be and whether he has anybody to offer Neal Maupay support. Then again, I wouldn’t bet on him surprising all of us.

All this shows however is that like most of us, I have no clue who Dean will start. Does Neal continue up top? Will Josh McEachran retain his place in the starting XI? Could, no should, Sergi Canos be promoted from the bench?

Roll on 3pm when we find out.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Could a returning Sergi see it raining goals?

Nick Bruzon

As Bees beat Preston, brilliant Billy cuts to the chase about Birmingham.

29 Oct

Bring on Birmingham City. Brentford keep marching right on! Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Preston North End saw it 7(seven) games unbeaten in the Championship and 13 points out of the last 21. Our third win over this period saw the Bees move to within six points of the play off zone. Although with the bottom three the same distance behind us, things are still far too tight to be getting too excited. In either direction.

Preston away was always going to be a tough one. With Dean Smith changing his team once more, as he has done every game this season, Romaine Sawyers was dropped to the bench in favour of Kamohelo Mokotjo. But whilst the team was different, the outcome was the same. More goals and more points for Brentford.

As ever, the BBC, Beesotted, ‘official’ etc are your places for the full match report. Or you could catch the highlights on the internet c/o Sky – at least until the league allow the club to do their thing at mid-day. Yet what you get are another goal for Nico Yennaris (that’s four now) and Romaine Sawyers hitting a beauty from the edge of the box to restore our lead in the second half.

The sun is now past the yard arm

There was no irony lost in it being a year to the day since Brentford had beaten QPR at Loftus Road and he’d scored an absolute wonder goal that night. Twelve months later and another netbuster. Whilst it wasn’t quite in the same ball park, it was still a delicious strike. How nice to see Romaine continue to prove all the doubters wrong. He took an inordinate and unfair amount of flak last season. Some fans should now be eating humble pie.

Equally pleasing is being able to see our goals/shots ratio creeping up. A lot had been made in the opening phase of the season about how we’d had the most attempts of any Championship club despite failing to find the back of the net as frequently. 13 goals over the current unbeaten run certainly suggests this stat is changing for the better.

Yet the pick of the goals was, in my opinion, the third. “An absolute peach from a coaching point of view .” Not my words but those of BBC Billy Reeves as he probed head coach Dean Smith after the game. A beautiful exchange of passes at speed between Kamo and Flo Jo saw Preston carved open as easily as a Halloween pumpkin. The move culminated in the Dutch master delivering a ball across the face of the box which Ollie Watkins slid home.

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Ollie, Flo Jo and Lasse celebrate a wonderful winner for the Bees

Three more points and Brentford continuing to impress. The only sour note being the foul on Nico Yennaris that saw the player poleaxed by Jordan Hugill before going off after a lengthy period of treatment. Dean Smith would tell Billy in the aforementioned interview that : “For me its a possible red card because he could easily have got out the way, He’s dipped his shoulder into Nico’s head.”

More importantly, confirming that Nico is ok. Although with a similar injury being suffered by Henrik Dalsgaard recently he also added somewhat tongue-in-cheek that : “I spoke to the players earlier. A few of them have got be able to take one on the chin and not go down.”

Yet it wouldn’t be a Billy Reeves interview without him asking what the fans wanted to hear. There’s no sycophancy when the BBC man has the mic in his hand. And its why we love him so much. Master of the gentle probe, he gets the answers to the questions we all want to know. And there’s only been one subject on everyone’s lips this week. “10 times better” Birmingham City. Not my words but those of Harlee Dean etc etc etc

Billy cut to the chase. As he does. “For the fans, and maybe yourself, Wednesday’s a grudge match, isn’t it?”

Deans’ answer was as expected. “No, It’s just another game” and was meet with an immediate retort. “No, it isn’t”, pushed back Billy . At the same time echoing exactly what every Brentford supporter is thinking at the moment.

The man is a national treasure. A cat playing with a mouse. And whilst Dean’s answer was ever professional, we all know full well what is at stake this Wednesday. Not just three points but consummate bragging rights. The chance to really try and prove something. Not just following that deadline day triple transfer swoop but, probably of greater ire to supporters, Harlee Dean’s nonsensical claim this week about the current Birmingham City squad compared to our own from 2014/15.

DO listen to Billy’s interview. Not just for the probing but for Dean’s responses. Our Head Coach really is in good form at present. Not surprising, given the results. And with games against Birmingham and then Leeds United to come, things could get even more exciting.

But so is Billy. We are undeniably fortunate to have a local journalist who is a true fan. Somebody who asks the same questions that suporters would if we were lucky enough to be in his position. There’s no clickbait grabbing gumph lifted from twitter and padded out into a ‘story’ . Just a steel fist wrapped up in the most delicate of sik gloves, using the microphone like some form of journalistic broadsword to cut straight to the heart of the matter.

Here’s to Wednesday night. Whilst the players will, no doubt, be as level headed as ever, expect our fans to have an extra level of bite to them. And, perhaps, more of Billy’s oh so gentle probing.

It’s going to be fun.

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Billy – the Bard of Brentford did his thing quite superbly. Again

Nick Bruzon

As Blades go top, will Brentford enjoy more success at Preston?

28 Oct

There’s been a lot going on this week and that’s before a ball has even been kicked : all fine at Loftus road whilst Harlee seems to have forgotten his history and manners in Birmingham. But relax. The latest round of Championship action can now take place, having kicked off last night with Sheffield United winning at Leeds to go to the top of the table. It was a largely one way performance and a deserved win for the Blades. Yet whilst we’ll look a bit further at that shortly, our main focus has to be, as ever, on Brentford and our trip to Preston North End.

It would be fair to say that, after a somewhat rocky start Dean Smith’s Bees are beginning to find their feet. The squad has settled down after a frenetic summer of activity which culminated in that last minute triple cash in to Harry Redknapp (a man currently residing in the ‘where are they now?’ files). Yet with the uncertainty done, spleens vented and players returning from injury things are starting to get back to normal.

Brentford are six unbeaten and have even started to have some of that ‘luck’ whose absence had been frustrating our Head Coach. We’ve 10 points out of the last 18 and will be looking to take the current run of form to 7(seven) games when we play Preston on Saturday afternoon.

There’s more good news for Dean Smith. Specifically, no new injuries. Might he be able to name an unchanged starting XI (following last Saturday’s 3-3 with Sunderland) for the first time this season? Or will Sergi Canos be pushed back into the first team after his substitute’s appearance against the Black Cats?

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A sight for sore eyes last weekend

Having played and scored in the B-team’s 3-1 win over Inter Milan during the week (and count the things right in that sentence) might a first team start be a step too far at present? Moreso with games to come against Birmingham City on Wednesday and then Leeds United next Saturday. We’re all desperate to see Sergi back in action but having already been spannered by injury the last time, up at Aston Villa, caution will surely be the order of the day as he rebuild s match fitness.

With Lewis Macleod also getting B-team minutes under his belt after that long, long recuperation there’s more good news on the horizon for Dean. I’d imagine that Preston will be a trip too far for Lewis, at least now, but the midfield options available in a few weeks time could cause some real selection posers.

Still, all that is then. This is now. Let’s focus on the present. With many Brentford fans already licking their lips at the prospect of our midweek trip to Birmingham following Harlee’s comments on Thursday, keeping our focus today will be imperative. Preston are no slouches and know that a win will take them into the play off zone, potentially as high as fourth place following that defeat for Leeds United last night. This, after finishing just below our own top ten Bees in a more than impressive 11th place last season.

Whilst we’ve had plenty of joy against Preston in recent seasons (including that penalty – for Alan Judge, in League One) past performance is not indicative of current form. “It will be a tough ask for us” said Dean in Thursday’s press conference and he’s not wrong. But he has the options at his disposal to answer that ask. As long as he locks it up at the back.

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Happier times at the denouement of out promotion campaign

Yoann Barbet and Chris Mepham can both count themselves very unlucky to have lost out in recent weeks. With three first half goals shipped against Sunderland last Saturday, could this be today’s ‘change’? Or has Dean nailed his selection colours to the mast and this is it? At 3pm, we find out.

We couldn’t end today’s column without a brief nod to the Sheffield United connection . Not so much Jack O’Connell and the magnificent Clayton Donaldson (who I STILL miss) or Keith Stroud (who I don’t) but more their form. Like Brentford three seasons ago, The Blades have come up from League One and taken the division by storm. But whereas we missed our chance to go top in the Boxing Day game with Ipswich Town (move along, nothing to see there) there was no fluffing of the lines for United last night.

Their performance against Leeds was fully deserving of their position and whilst things may have shifted around come 5pm, nobody can deny who is currently top of the table. Yet for me (Clive) the telling stat is in that L column. United have lost four games. Brentford have lost 4 games. The difference being the ability to turn draws into victory. The Blades have proved to have the cutting edge in the box, winning their other 10. If we can get that bit right then who know how high we can go?

The draw at Middlesbrough last time we travelled showed just what this side can do. Here’s to more of that spirit this afternoon. Moreso, given Deepdale has been a relatively happy hunting ground for us in recent seasons whilst, for personal reasons, Preston are always a club I’ve followed with particular interest.

Preston letter

Keith never did write back. Or did he…?

To date, my first and only foray into the world of professional football club management. It was an application that would eventually prove fruitless. I never heard back with an interview date and can only assume that, in those pre-internet days the follow up letter got lost somewhere in the Royal Mail. Had the postal service done their job properly, who knows how things might have turned out had  a then struggling North End taken that gamble?

Not well, being my guess.

Nick Bruzon

 

As Bees prepare for a Royal visit, Dean remains confident. But can we win?

16 Sep

Tuesday 27 September 2016. It finished Brentford 4 Reading 1. It was a score that came just weeks after a draw at Aston Villa and a previous home game that had seen us thump Preston 5-0 at Griffin Park. Yet it was the game against the Royals which produced what these pages described as one of the great performances as Josh Clarke ran riot, noting “How it was only four I still don’t know. Hats off to Dean Smith and his team for a display of simply scintillating football.”

Needless to say that 12 months on we’d love those sorts of results. The W column is fast becoming a somewhat awkward monkey on the back with only Bolton Wanderers, who we play next Saturday, able to match the Bees in so far failing to pick up three points.

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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View from the terrace – Brentford were on fire at both ends last time we had a Royal visit

 

Nick Bruzon

Who are kings of the 888Sportderby? An honour for John and a gut busting revelation from the BBC archives.

29 Mar

Finally. We inch that bit closer to the return of Championship football. Brentford host Bristol City on Saturday in a game that most definitely has the whiff of goals about it. (So 0-0, then). Elsewhere our 888sport stablemates Nottingham Forest and Preston North End complete this season’s sequence of #888sportderby games when Mark Warburton’s team visit Deepdale. But who out of the Bees, Forest, North End and Birmingham will be lifting the trophy, should one exist, as ‘home international’ style champions? And (crowbar alert) talking of internationals, there was great news for John Egan last night as he made his debut for the Republic of Ireland. Plus, a disturbing discovery from the BBC historical archives that could blow the lid off everything we know and love about football.

First up, the final #888sportderby of the season. We’ve all seen the hashtags used on Twitter to promote games between the four teams that share a sponsor but who has come out on top when you tally them all together? Well, with just the aforementioned game to come, by my very rough calculations (and if anybody would like to redo the maths then please be my guest), Brentford are now uncatchable.

Doing the double over Nottingham Forest, combined with a win apiece against both Birmingham City (a) and the 5-0 home hammering of Preston sees us on 12 points from 6 games. That’s 4 points clear of North End who can only affect the table tomorrow by administering such a trashing it that it sends Forest below basement team Birmingham by means of goal difference.

Congratulations to Dean Smith on his first piece of silverware, albeit a totally fictional one. And if our club sponsors are reading (they’re not), how about a trophy with our name on it ? Its the least you could do after all those hashtags.

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The ‘as it stands’ 888sportderby table. Hashtag

Next up, the Republic of Ireland. I didn’t see it although, to be fair, I don’t think many people over here did. The game apparently buried on a channel even more obscure than BT Sport. Indeed, I saw one ‘blue ticked’ journalist whose own synopsis of the match was seemingly based on listening in to the local radio station.

So, as ever, there’s no match report on these pages. Instead, simply a huge congratulations to John for being the latest to join the list of Brentford players to have had the honour of representing their country. Whilst the Republic may have gone down (1-0) I have no doubt this will be the first of many for John. Certainly, if his club form is anything to go by.

And finally, the BBC. Regular readers will know of my love for footballing traditions. The orange ball in the snow, goals being celebrated by the roar of the crowd rather than a snatch of ‘Chelsea Dagger’ by The Fratellis or, indeed, ‘goal music of any sort and, of course, the daddy of then all – vidiprinter brackets. The sort that appeared on Grandstand – now the Sky Sports scrolly thing and other such programmes – to show when a team had scored 7(seven) goals.

Likewise, and as we all should know, the correct usage of brackets is with the subsequent text in lower case. 7(seven) rather than 7(Seven) or the somewhat brash preference of Sky, 7(SEVEN). So far, so good. We all know the drill even though, and it is incredible to think, not everybody agrees with the 7(seven) format.

No problem. With little Brentford activity this week, and in need of distraction, I started to sniff around the BBC archives. (Or YouTube). Specifically to lay this one to rest. What I stumbled across has left me reeling.

1984. Grandstand. A triple horror. Sheffield United earned the honour of a score clarification after six goals. Yes, six. Worse, it was in block capitals whilst there are no brackets. No. Brackets. What’s all that about? Score quantification shouldn’t begin at 6, surely? It is one of football’s most fundamental rules.

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All kinds of wrong with 6 SIX

Perhaps this was just a glitch in the matrix. Further digging leads us to a 1987 clip. Again, Grandstand. This time, there appears to be some form of cross-pollination. Nestled in amongst the football action on the vidiprinter were rugby scores (and, to be clear that’s the proper sort – Union). But regardless of the game’s clear superiority over League, even I wouldn’t have expected to see it in a football update. Why not just include the table tennis and horse racing updates (the other two staple events covered by mid-80s Saturday afternoon sport) ?

But if you are going to include rugby (union) at least get it right. NOTTINGHAM 62 PTS NORTHERN 7.

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No better in 1987

7? 7? With Rugby. This is wrong. All wrong. And why PTS for just one of the teams?

At the point, I gave up.A broken man. Instead, let’s just hope that with Brentford on fire, we put 7(seven) past City at the weekend. At least, that way, the BBC have the chance to right a historical wrong.

Nick Bruzon

With a jinx lurking, can Dean make it so when Huddersfield visit?

11 Mar

What an afternoon it promises to be at Griffin Park. Huddersfield Town are the visitors as Brentford look to make it 13 points out of the last 15 and increase upon a goalscoring record that has seen us nab 20 goals in the 8 games since Scott Hogan departed. With the Terriers hitting the back of the net 14 times over the same period, this could be one to keep the scorekeepers busy and little Italian restaurants (by Brentford lock) in the public eye. With Brighton joining Newcastle United at the top of the Championship table following last night’s 3-0 win over Derby, nothing but a win will do for our third placed visitors.

So what can we expect? Short of any midweek injuries after our fine win at Nottingham Forest, surely Dean Smith has no choice but to name the same starting XI. Jota continued to grab the headlines but the incredible run from Sergi Canos to set up the second was my highlight of the highlights whilst Lasse Vibe continues to flourish up top since the departure of Scott and got two more goals.

There will no doubt be expectation on the terraces for Jota to prove a point after missing out on the Championship player of the month to Aiden McGeady of Preston. The Spaniard’s five goals, two assists and bucketloads of exciting play being deemed secondary to three goals, four assists and keeping North End within optimistic distance of the play-off pack.

Personally, I can only imagine Jota’s motivation being enjoyment rather than revenge or point proving. Since his return from that loan period with Eibar, he more than lived up to his word in that emotional farewell letter. Not only has he returned but he has come back bigger and better than ever. He gives the impression of a man who plays for the sheer fun of it and boy do the fans lap up his enthusiasm.

With Sergi Canos doing the same on the other flank (thanks to Alex Neil for sanctioning that sale and just not playing Sergi before his own departure form Norwich yesterday) these remain exciting times at Brentford. “I think it is a fun team to watch” he said yesterday. Spot on, Sergi. Here’s to more of the same today.

As for Huddersfield Town, what can we expect? Well, if the Bees were disappointed about our lack of award for Jota, we’ve been handed a massive boost by Terriers’ boss David Wagner being named manager of the month for February.

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David Wagner is the latest to face the ‘Manager of the month’ jinx

There can’t be a football fan the land over who isn’t aware of the supposed jinx/curse (call it what you will) that accompanies this award. Pick up the honour, lose your next game.

With Brighton adding to the pressure last night by moving 9 points clear of third placed Huddersfield, could the weight of this trophy further crank up the tension for the Terriers? Forget David. Once that award is presented Wagner of X-factor fame would have more chance of coaching a winning team than the recipient of the trophy.

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Wagner – remember him?

And what of the other big name for Town? Well, if it was a case of Brentford saying #WelcomeGraham last week (Gooch, that is, in the Bees player commentary box), could there be more star names making the trek to Mark Burridge’s lofty perch today?

Sir Patrick Stewart is, of course, an avid fan of Huddersfield Town and not averse to visiting Griffin Park. Yet with promotional duties for the new Wolverine film, Logan, currently occupying his time in the States, it seems he’ll be missing this one out (unless, of course, he’s hot footing it across to Heathrow on the overnight red eye).

Instead, we’ll have to be content with shared tweet of the week (at least, it was until that BBC news video went viral) for those wanting a glimpse of the man best known as Captain Picard or Professor X.

As for the Bees, can we make it 4 wins out of 5? Here’s hoping Dean Smith can make it so.(I’ll get my coat)

At 3pm, we find out. See you at Griffin Park.

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Sir Patrick Stewart – somewhat harsh from Shaz

Nick Bruzon 

In defence of the defence. And Dean. A special guest looks at the positives

16 Feb

There’s been nothing on these pages for a few days. When you wake up with a head full of nightmares about Tom Field embroiled in a Twitter spat with Donald Trump regarding Matthew Benham’s question – ‘how do you kill the zombie?’  –  its probably time to step back from the football. Or The Walking Dead. So there was no preamble for the Reading game and no post match analysis of how Brentford had fought back from John Swift’s opener to take the lead before two goals in the final 15 minutes handed our hosts a 3-2 win.

Whether yours truly writes any nonsense, nothing really changes. Arsenal have begun their annual last 16 capitulation in the Champions League (please note: does not contain Champions), Jordan Rhodes wrote a letter to a supporter which is fast going viral and up in Scotland, Aberdeen achieved brackets with a 7(seven) – 0 win over Motherwell. Although given it is a win which takes the second placed team in the Premiership to within a mere 24 points of leaders Celtic, one does have to question the level of competition which allowed them to achieve this magical score.

So I had planned on leaving things for another day. To see if Dean comes out with any pearls of wisdom ahead of our next game, away to Sheffield Wednesday, when Dave Washer (aka beesyellow22 on twitter) got in touch. He has penned his own thoughts about Brentford post Reading and you can find them next up.

Thanks Dave. Much appreciated.

Trying to focus on the positives – Dave Washer

After Tuesday night’s stirring, yet ultimately disappointing, game at Reading, I was all set to write a piece today focusing on the negative. My subject: a Twitter poll I ran a couple of weeks ago, asking how many wins we would need out of the four games just gone (Villa, Brighton, Preston, Reading) for Dean Smith’s position as head coach to remain tenable.

Admittedly, not many people took part in my survey (I only got 16 votes!) but of those that did, 63% said we needed to win two games. Looking back now that the dust has settled, we obviously know now what happened. One win, one draw and two defeats. But it’s the manner of the performances that has convinced me to write a positive, rather than negative, blog.

Anyone who saw the Villa game will know how well we played. From back to front we were superb and played a pretty awful Villa team off the park. In fact, we could easily have had more than three goals.

And talking of three goals, we then move onto Brighton. A tough game against a side who have lost only four times this season, yet a performance that was uplifting and positive in equal measure. Yes, we should have killed it off with the penalty, and yes, we should have clung onto the lead with a minute of added time to go, but Brighton aren’t where they are by accident. So yes, a bitter pill to swallow but still an excellent point against a team that will probably be playing the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City next season.

Preston we can probably gloss over – poor defending, wayward passing and a distinct lack of tackling in midfield making Saturday a day to forget at Deepdale. And then there’s that game at the Madejski. 1-0 down. 2-1 up. 3-2 defeat. Yet 23 shots on target and, on another day, we could have scored six or 7 (seven).

And it’s the Reading game that has given me pause for thought. Okay, so we only won one out of those four matches, which, statistically isn’t great. But very often the final scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story. We should have beaten Brighton and we should have beaten Reading. That we didn’t is down to a combination of naivety, midfield frailty and inexperience. But that we’re all disappointed we didn’t beat two of this season’s best (and most consistent) Championship teams says a lot about the undoubted quality we possess in our squad.

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You just knew that if Reading won, he’d have a hand in proceedings

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to join the Dean Smith fan club anytime soon. I still don’t particularly think he’s the right man for the job and I find him about as inspiring as a Russell Slade half-time team talk – but at least since the Chelsea game he has gone all out to actually win the match. Jota. Canos. Josefzoon. Great players with loads of attacking threat. And on another day against Reading we would have surely scored five or six.

The worrying thing is surely our frailty when it comes to keeping clean sheets. Or not conceding four. Or three. Here’s where I find myself asking why Smith can’t see what, apparently, Warburton and Carsley both could: that we need at least one, if not two, ball-winning midfielders protecting our back four. My solution next Tuesday against Wednesday: play McCormack (if fit) and Barbet. Or, if McCormack isn’t fit, stick Clarke at right back and play Barbet and Colin in front of Dean and Egan. Essentially, they are tough tackling, cultured defenders (who both literally speak the same language) – so why couldn’t they do a job that so desperately needs doing – i.e. protecting our porous-like back four?

But we could discuss tactics, formations and personnel until the cows come home. So, back to my earlier point: I want to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Positives like the fact that we had 23 attempts at Reading… we were one minute away from beating Brighton… we should have scored five or six at the Madejski… we have a talented group of young players who maybe need a break and rub of the green… and, after Wednesday (on Tuesday) we have five winnable games at home (Rotherham, Wolves, Bristol City, QPR and Blackburn) and four away from home (Ipswich, Forest, Burton and Cardiff).

It has been a season of consistent inconsistency, and unfortunately we happen to currently be in the middle of yet another slump. But we should have won three out of the last four games, and at least we are now scoring lots of goals (more than Hogan is scoring for Villa, that’s for sure).

So, for now I will hold off on being too negative of Smith or critical of the team. (Although, if we only manage one win from the next four, I might change my mind…)

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Half time at Reading. Things could be worse…