Tag Archives: promotion

Bamford on thin ice after mayhem at Leeds. Brentford in limbo after mayhem at EFL.

29 Apr

What a way to finish the weekend in the Championship. Norwich City are up. Sheffield United are up. Brentford (and Bolton) are in limbo. Leeds United are in the play-offs whilst Patrick Bamford is flat on his arse after being allegedly floored by I don’t know who, or what, exactly in their game with Aston Villa that gave new meaning to the word controversial.

Starting with Brentford, three days on and we still have no idea if or when Saturday’s rearranged game with Bolton will take place. Or with what level of team. Not much else to say there. Everyone, from both sides, gets it. Let’s just hope that for everybody’s sake a resolution can be expedited. Whatever the direction of the eventual decision. Certainly, this morning’s update from ‘Official’ suggested a degree of frustration at the lack of any progress from the EFL.

06A1E6D6-BAE9-4CE5-99CE-BD7AA0CE94A0

Draw your own conclusions

Next up, congratulations Sheffield United. Their promotion was confirmed on Sunday lunchtime as Leeds United could only pick up a point against Aston Villa rather than the win by at least 7(seven) goals which would have kept the race for second place mathematically alive going in to the final round of fixtures. It was the game which had everything that typifies the Elland Road outfit at present.

Accusations of dirty, cheating Leeds. Failure to win (see also Wigan and Brentford). Patrick Bamford going to ground like he’d been shot by a sniper ( see also: Brentford and the Keith Stroud non-penalty decision). Marcelo Bielsa maintaining his dignity and calmness whilst floating serenely atop a sea of madness.

I’ve seen the opening goal numerous times and am still torn. Yes. Kodjia was fouled but the ref never stopped the game. Play the whistle, not the ball is one of football’s most basic tenets. Some Villa players stopped but others continued. Even they weren’t sure . The real flashpoint being Tyler Roberts’ decision to play the ball through after the visitors had slowed up when it looked as though he was going to strike the ball into touch. That was the point when what followed should have been nipped in the bud.

One can well understand the reaction to that pass. It was something which the Sky commentary team described as ‘Disgusting’. Yet the mayhem which followed was even worse as Patrick Bamford went to ground looking like Ahmed El Ghazi had just emptied an entire can of pepper spray into his eyes. Instead, he was subsequently caught by the cameras pulling off an act of fakery that was up there with Ali Dia pretending to be George Weah’s professional footballer cousin. But by then El Ghazi had been shown red and the damage was done.

It did also beg the question as to what would have happened had Keith Stroud been in charge. Having called ‘no penalty’ when Bamford hit the deck against Brentford on Monday, would he have made the same call? Is Bamford more Bambi on ice? Or just the wrong player in the wrong place at the wrong time?

BE148E98-5A64-4825-B7EE-CC715BC06882

Bamford and El Ghazi go for it

Regardless, Bielsa once more reigned supreme. Say what you want about Leeds United but he is the absolute boss. Literally and figuratively. As the inevitable chaos ensued, he did what Mr. Attwell  should have done and made sure his team kept the scores level. Albert Adomah was given the freedom of the Leeds defence (on purpose, for once) as he was allowed to run through unchallenged to restore parity.

Bamford may not have had a punch thrown at him but one can only presume he will have the book perform that task today. It was as embarrassing as Rivaldo back in the 2002 World Cup. A shameful, cringeworthy act that only poured more fuel on the fire of Leeds’ reputation.

The one positive to come out of this is Bielsa. Whilst Leeds have missed out, for now, could his persona prove to be the crucial difference once we get to the pressure cooker atmosphere of the play-offs? Moreso if we get the Villa-Leeds final that currently looks as though it could be based on league positions. If Sunday was tasty, just imagine what that one would be like……

A1C4C294-BF53-4232-93AB-430700F85DFE

Was there another reason Bamford collapsed

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

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

27 Apr

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

villa-park-external

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 06.21.20

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

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

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

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

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

DbqAGlaXkAAeUfm

The amazing pile of swaps

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 05.58.11

Nick Bruzon

Goals mean wins see. No matter how they come.

14 Mar

There’s not much you can say after that. Cardiff City beat Brentford 3-1 in a game that was as much a victory for the much derided tactics of manager Neil Warnock as it was for his players’ ability to find the back of the net. With Aston Villa being thumped at home by QPR (how?) and Wolves finally getting back to winning ways, the top two are going to require a horrific stumble to be caught. But at least there was something for us to smile about at the bottom end of the table. A point for Barnsley in their ‘game in hand’ along with victory for Hull City has increased the pressure on this month’s Birmingham City manager Garry Monk and his team.

We can only start with Brentford where there’s not much more to be said. If you weren’t there then you’ll have likely caught it on TV (unless you were busy swooning over Sam Saunders in the pundit’s chair). The Bees came flying out of the blocks at 100mph. Neal Maupay with a wonderful chance to have opened the scoring whilst most people were still taking their seats before finding the back of the net for 1-0 with little more than five minutes on the clock. Cardiff a goal down and on the ropes. Brentford continuing to spread the ball amongst them as they couldn’t cope with our free flowing football. Surely a second goal was only a matter of moments away?

And on twenty-five minutes it came. To the visitors.  Sol Bamba with a quite wonderfully taken turn and volley that left man of the match Dan Bentley beaten all ends up. It was a finish one can only doff the hat to, no matter how begrudgingly that feels, yet it was one that  let the visitors back into the game. From that point on, they started to really make their presence felt.

Hooooofffff” went the crowd as every ball was humped forward out of the back. “Crunnccch” went the challenge as Warnock’s team made themselves known in the most agricultural of styles. There was no real help from a referee and his assistants who seemed set to random mode. I don’t envy them their role but they need to do it properly if they step up to the challenge. Dean Smith seemed incensed by some of the decision making and inconsistency at full time. As were the crowd throughout a second half that saw Sergi quite perplexed (that’s the polite word) with the officials on more than on occasion.

DSC00871

Sergi saying what we were all thinking

But for all that the men in the middle didn’t help, a goal on the stroke of half time gave the visitors a lead which they would never surrender, whatever the cost. Football very much coming second to the three points. They fought us in the penalty box. The fought us in the middle. They fought with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. A style of football that ended up being little more than scraping and spoiling. Despite our own 67% of possession, they mopped up everything and made sure there was no way through. With a third goal sealing the deal just shy of the hour, there was no way back for the Bees. The clock was carefully run down and it ended 3-1 to the visitors

It was a triumph for Warnock and his team. You can’t deny them their current run or the win that their methodology presented. 7(seven) points clear of third placed Aston Villa suggest they are doing something very much right in terms of getting the results. At the same time, for all Dean was rightly frustrated at full-time, perhaps this was a beneficial lesson in the long term. Our ability to play against the more ‘robust’ teams in the division has been questioned before. The first twenty minutes, with the Bees at full flow against a team we dictated the pattern of the game to, were quite beautiful to watch. The final seventy had a painful inevitability.

Next up for the Bees, the visit of Middlesbrough. Whilst they are looking to consolidate their sixth place, if Brentford are to have any chance of reeling in that 8 point gap then Dean was quite clear about how it needs to be done. Every game is going to be a cup final for us,” he said at full time. “If we want to hang onto the coat-tails of those above us we have to make sure we win games, starting on Saturday”. It’ll be a tough one that’s for sure and if for no other reason than our failure to beat Boro’ since paths crossed in the Championship. Six defeats (including two play-off semis) and a draw are the best we have to show. But what a time to break that record Saturday is. What a chance to show that although we struggled against a Warnock team, we’ve learned from this and can do it against a Tony Pulis side.

DSC00865 (1)

View from the Braemar – the Bees were outmuscled last night

I’ve woken up this morning feeling disappointed and frustrated more than anything else. I’m still immensely proud of what our team have achieved and one has to remember that Cardiff City are where they are for a reason. At the end of the day (Clive), and as one visiting supporter noted last night on Twitter: “Goals mean wins see“. I can’t argue with that.

Besides, looking to the lower end of the table a gap really is starting to form in the relegation zone. Barnsley’s draw with Norwich City last night sees them open up a three-point lead over Birmingham City. When you factor in the Blues’ inability to score and wonderful propensity to concede, the goal difference is so significant as to effectively make that difference four.

They entertain (sorry, that’s surely a breach of trades descriptions) they host Hull City on Saturday. With the Tigers running out 3-0 victors at Ipswich Town last night, they are surely safe. Three more points would all but secure this and what a time to get them.

I can’t wait for the weekend. The atmosphere is going to be huge at Griffin Park where it really is a case of win or bust in the race for the play offs.

See you there.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 06.16.22

The gap is starting to grow

Nick Bruzon

 

Bees miss out to Leeds but still have it all to play for. Sunday could be huge, though.

25 Feb

Leeds United 1 Brentford 0. With other results going the way of the chasing pack, the Bees were unable to capitalise on an opportunity to narrow the gap to sixth place and so remain four points shy, in tenth place. Yet our own next game could be as much impacted by a Sunday lunchtime encounter between Cardiff City and Bristol City. Victory for the Bluebirds will put them to within a mere six points of a table topping Wolves team who slipped up again yesterday.

DW0iMiXW4AA8Nh_

There was no way through this time. Sadly.

Some of us came. They saw. Leeds conquered. What can you really add about a game where only a relative handful of away fans were there to report back? Needing a second mortgage to attend a football match will do that to you. Information was further limited by Brentford ‘official’ noting on Twitter that: “Apologies for the lack of updates so far, you’d have thought at £44 a ticket, the wifi might work …

For the record, the key incidents seem to be a solitary goal that had an apparent element of offside. A possible penalty not given against Neal Maupay. A red card missed against Ezgjan Alioski, which had Dean in fighting form at Full Time.

He told iFollow that the player threw his arm at Yoann Barbet, adding: “How that can be just a yellow card I don’t know. At times today, the officials could have come off the pitch and the game could have been refereed by the Elland Road crowd.

Tough words indeed. Here’s hoping Dean has kept the right side of league sanction for speaking his mind and saying what he thought so clearly. It was a game that not unusually, Dean didn’t think we deserved to lose.  He also cited the quality of the pitch,  specifically specifically the long grass, although also acknowledged our shortcomings when summarising that, “On our second-half performance we didn’t deserve to win anything but we didn’t deserve to lose the game”.

DW0jFe4XkAAToa7

So perhaps a draw would have been a fair result? Certainly the stats bear that out although as we’ve said so many times about possession and shots relative to finding the back of the net….

You can read, and subscribers see, Dean’s comments in full on Brentford ‘official’ They’re up there now and you can find them here.

Leeds United also took to Twitter after this one. If we’d been guilty of moaning about their wi-fi there can be no complaints about their own Full Time hi-jinks. Moreso , given Tuesday night’s fun at Griffin Park. If you can’t take it then don’t give it.

The highlights, all 1.01 of them, are on Sky now. Don’t expect any of the controversial decisions or close ups of the pitch though. Will update these pages with the Mark Burridge version, once that goes live after mid-day. Hopefully there’ll be a little more meat to pick off the bones of this one then.

That said, catching up with our commentator par-excellence this morning his own considered opinion on this one is that it was: “A tight, dull and cagey affair. The game changed on another poor performance from Oliver Langford, who IMHO should have shown Alioski a red for his swinging arm on Barbet, followed by an goal that is clearly offside. We were well on top at this time.

Having said that our response was poor, we looked weary, the subs seemed to have a negative impact and we looked a if a long week have taken its toll. We need to start digging out points when we are below par in games like these. I’m sure lessons will have been learned from yesterday and we need to win on Saturday against Cardiff to get back on track.

Next up, Cardiff City. If results went Brentford’s way, then equally they are suddenly in much better place than a week or so back. Wolves have hit the skids (DDL in their last three) as the gap between the runaway leaders and the rest has started to narrow. Cardiff are now 9 points off with this lunchtime’s game in hand at home to Bristol City to come. Victory there will not only help their own automatic/title aspirations whilst also give a boost to those just outside the play off zone, where The Robins occupy the final berth.

The downside to this being that a morale boosting win for Neil Warnock’s men will set them up very nicely for next weekend. Yet if Brentford are to have any hope of our own dreams coming true, we need to keep pace with our rivals and then beat whomever comes up next. And if that means hoping for a Cardiff win today, then c’est la vie.

As one final thought, spare a thought for Birmingham City. No, please. With other results going any way but theirs, The Blues own capitulation at home to Barnsley saw them overtaken by the Tykes in the relegation six-pointer at St. Andrews.

Just when they thought things couldn’t get any worse after Tuesday night, they have. The Blues now join Sunderland and Burton in the bottom three.

There’s nothing much more to say. Leeds may have beaten us but every cloud….

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 09.08.25

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?

IMG_1325

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.

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

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

 

Now isn’t the time for gloating.

17 May

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_7244

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 06.48.45

Max, Matt and Bob say it with shirts

Nick Bruzon

Dean Smith. If you are reading (you aren’t) I’ve got a few questions.. .

4 Dec

Norwich City 5 Brentford 0. Cripes. That’s bad. Really, really bad. And I mean from the Bees’ perspective. Up against a team touted by their own support prior to kick off as ‘pedestrian’, ‘slow’ and ‘dull’, a team who had lost five in a row prior to this one – that’s LLLLL – didn’t they administer a humping of royal proportions ? No complaints with Norwich. You can only beat who you are up against and that would seem to have been the grand total of naff all.

We’ve all caught up on what happened by now, surely. Whether through being at the game, listening on Bees Player, catching up on the video highlights c/o Sky, reading the match report, following the observations of those on social media or just a combination of the above. Yet at a time when we needed to pick up where we left off in that final half hour against Birmingham City, instead we picked up where we spent the entire game against Barnsley, Fulham, Wigan..etc . 1 step forward 8 steps back.

penalty-build-up-norwich

The sky video shows how 1 on 3 outside the box became a penalty and 2-0

Prior to this one Dean Smith had gone on record as saying,”Sometimes we can catastrophise defeats and that leads to a demise in confidence.” If previous defeats were being talked up as a catastrophe , I can’t even begin to imagine what he makes of this one. What he can do next or how he can rejig his team and remotivate his players?

Hints are dropped in his interview on official  where Dean tells us:  “It is a performance that I thought I wouldn’t see from this group of players” before adding “I had a chat with the players and that performance can’t happen again.”

Come on Dean. Have some balls. Please. Your team who, prior to this had only won 1 in 8, have been blown off the park by the side with the worst form in the Championship. Incredibly, even Rotherham United (currently 1/50 to be relegated) managed a point over that period. For the record, 29th October against Ipswich Town. Is that response  – one which ended with ‘we go again’ style talk of future results – really the one you felt best in the circumstance?

Perhaps harsher words were exchanged in private rather than a simple chat. Here’s hoping, because something needs to be said. I recall Uwe adopting a similar line in the post match interview after the debacle at Stevenage a few seasons ago. Things transformed themselves from there as opinions were made clear in the dressing room – from all sides.

Indeed, Daniel Bentley alluded to it in his own ‘official’ interview where, amongst other things, he has come out and said: “I think I can speak for myself and the boys that I am embarrassed with that result. We weren’t good enough all over the pitch …. It was totally unacceptable. If there is stuff that is underlying then there comes a time when it needs to be said. After that tonight it was probably overdue. There’s only so long you can go without saying things that need to be said”.

What was said? By whom? And to who? Whilst I doubt we’ll ever know, let’s hope this has now cleared the air and given both Dean and his squad some element of clarity. Saturday sees us play Burton Albion, locked immediately below us in 19th place on 22 points. With the Bees in free fall – there’s no other word for 6 defeats in 8 and a mere four points over that period, something needs to change around and fast.

There’s only so much optimistic glass half full spin one can try to impart on this torrid run from a season which had begun so brightly. Fans are turning on each other in social media – always a bad sign that things are less than rosy in the garden – whilst yesterday even saw our Chairman Cliff Crown compelled to delete his own tweet about being entertained pre-match by his Norwich City counterparts Ed Balls and Delia Smith.

I’m not sure I follow the furore, here. Hardly a case of Nero fiddling given Rome had yet to start burning at the time he published that one. Indeed, whilst taking the post down in retrospect was probably a sensible precaution given the vitriol flying around and bad vibe amongst the Brentford faithful, it now makes him look as though he’s done something wrong.

We’ve all seen it and presumably such activity happens in football stadia up and down the land every weekend (mutual boardroom diplomacy and hospitality rather than Cliff name dropping B list celebrities like Ian Moose on a footballer’s birthday). Unless, of course, they were discussing rumoured transfer activity.  Although to be fair to Cliff, I don’t think he’d have been so naïve to post such a comment if that had been the case. Surely?

Look, it’s very easy to be wise after the event but even putting himself in that position in the first instance, given how we’d been performing recently, probably something that in the cold light of a day should have been reconsidered. Had we won, it would have all been seen as the bonhomie which it was and nobody paying any more notice. We didn’t and now look.

Positives on waking up this morning? Struggling here. About all I can come up with is the fact that for all we’re on the slide, the bookmakers still see us finishing the campaign mid-table. Brentford are currently 25/1 to be promoted and 10/1 to go down. Indeed, looking at the relegation suspects, aside from aforementioned Rotherham United there are still another 9 teams considered more likely than the Bees to be plying their trade in League One next season.

That said, three points against Burton on Saturday are essential. For more than one reason. Dean – if you’re reading (you aren’t) I’d love to hear how you are going to make that happen?

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-06-01-32

Current prices to go down. Rotherham great value

Nick Bruzon

Gloves are off as rivalry with Birmingham City resumes

26 Nov

Saturday. Match day. Time to renew one of the more recent, but unlikely, rivalries. For Brentford supporters the likes of Fulham and QPR are, of course, the ones to get the blood pumping when it comes to those ‘must win’ games. Yet for those of us supporting a little longer, Birmingham City have more than given us a run for the money and some high stakes battles over the years.

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

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

Deano & Terry Evans lr

View from the terrace – Deano and Terry celebrate promotion at Peterborough

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

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

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

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

And that then, three seasons ago, something wonderful happened. Brentford returned to what is now the  Championship. With it, a chance to deliver some pay league back. Finally. Yet whilst our own campaigns at this level have seen wonderful finishes of 5th, 9th and the Bees currently five points off the play-offs, Birmingham have been somewhat of a bogey team. A solitary point from our four encounters to date being the best we’ve had to show for it  – that, a 1-1 back in August 2014 .

So which way will it go today? Money where the mouth is – a Brentford win. Gut reaction was to call it 1-1 in a match preview for the Birmingham Mail yesterday but, I’ve been thinking more and more about this. For me, this has the look of a gritty game played out between two sides with rock solid defences. Yet, at the same time, I think it will have goals in it. Three to be precise. With the Bees coming out on top by 2-1. Lasse, Scott and, for the visitors, a certain Mr Donaldson.

Clayton gloves Brentford

Clayton – a Brentford legend

Yes, the other highlight of today (not counting the free chili in The Hive) is the chance to see Clayton back at Griffin Park.

Always a hugely popular figure, even to this day, he’s a Brentford legend whose goals helped fire us to promotion and earn the chance to take on the likes of Birmingham once more. Of course, there’ll be no pleasantries when action begins (although hopefully fans will show him the respect due) but I’m sure I won’t be alone in feeling a pang of fondness for the big man when he’s out there.

As a final note, a quick follow up to yesterday’s piece in regards to Rainbow Laces weekend. Fans may already be aware of the special match day programme on sale in/around the ground whilst Captain Harlee Dean (who also gives an exclusive on his ‘coming of age’ and life at Griffin Park) has already been photographed with a special armband.

Fans expecting to see him sporting that one on match day may be disappointed. Infact, the rainbow captain’s armband is a promotional item and it is expected that regular versions will be used at the games this weekend.

Indeed, Stonewall have told clubs that they understand that players might not want to change their laces for a game. Instead, players can show and document their support in other ways, such as Harlee did in such wonderful fashion on Thursday.

harlee-dean-rainbow-laces-v2-4x3277-3434277_613x460

Harley Dean shows his support

I can fully get behind that. We all have our match day kit jinxes, rituals and comfort factors – magic pants, lucky shirt, the ragged old scarf from the 70s that all go towards Brentford winning. I was devastated when the lucky ‘spiderman’ undergarments went to that great bin in the sky. For the players, I can only imagine the importance of kit, footwear, boots and laces that they are familiar with is tenfold to that of us on the terrace.

Whichever way they are dressed, here’s hoping for a great game and the right result. It’s been a long time coming. 62 years, to be precise. Looking at the BBC preview this morning I was shocked to see the last time Brentford beat Birmingham in a league fixture at Griffin Park being a 2-0 back in March 1954. Top scorer Frank Dudley adding further to his tally with both goals on that day.

Perhaps time to look to history and revise that bet? 2-0 Brentford with Scott Hogan scoring is 22/1. Then again, the earlier 2-1 /scorers prediction comes in at a very handsome 177/1. On second thoughts, knowing my betting history spare coins will probably better spent on the aforementioned match day programme instead.

I wouldn’t want to jinx the team….

bcfc-front-cover

Nick Bruzon

As the Bees prepare for a last hurrah, why Middlesbrough will go up on Saturday..

6 May

What a day tomorrow promises to be. Brentford travel to Huddersfield Town looking to secure 10th (and a possible 9th) place in the Championship table. At the business end, the mythical beast that is the fixture computer has served up a play-off before the play-offs in the Middlesbrough v Brighton ‘winner takes all’. As for yesterday’s Josh McEachran to Chelsea story. Let’s just park that one right here.

First up though, I have to start with the Middlesbrough – Brighton game simply because of what it represents. And I can tell you who’s going to reach the Premier League aswell.

With both teams locked on 88 points, The Seagulls have to win to snatch ‘automatic’. Anything less, with Boro on a superior goal difference, will see Brighton consigned to a play off with Sheffield Wednesday.

Sadly, for Brighton fans, I’ve got Boro’ all over this one. If for no other reason than Chris Hughton has just been named manager of the month for April. No matter how strong the visitors are and what the weight of expectation from the home supporters, we all know how the award works.

Win manager of the month – lose your next game.

It’s a curse as longstanding as Clem featuring ‘your team’ for his prematch feature. Last season saw a mere 7(seven) winners for sides highlighted by the ever popular roving reporter. ‘MotM’ is, for the jinx wary amongst us, no different.

Genuinely, I’d love to see former Bee Chris do it. Realistically, I think ‘that curse’ may strike again.

In a way, whilst proud that Dean Smith was also nominated, at least Chris ‘taking the hit’ has increased our chances slightly. No doubt Huddersfield will want to sign off in style etc etc etc but equally Brentford fans know what another three points means. Already 5 clear of QPR and out of sight from Fulham, this really is a stunning chance to strengthen our stranglehold on the West London mini league.

Hopefully this message has also translated to Dean and the players. Certainly the build up to, and reaction from, last weekend’s 3-0 thumping of the Cottagers suggests this will be the case.

For us, the season is almost over. We’ll look back on it over the next week or so (although I promise that the cliché of an ‘end of term report card‘ is one I’ll leave to others). Instead, for now, here’s hoping the men in black can ‘go again’ one more time.

For those fortunate enough to be able to make the trip, Kitman Bob has suggested on Twitter that the players plan to give their shirts away at the end of the game. I’ve no idea how this will happen although if Sam Saunders is reading, perhaps rather than throw it to the crowd you could just put yours in an envelope addressed to….

In all seriousness, this kit nerd has loved the various giveaways over the season and what a great gesture to say ‘thanks’ to those who have travelled with The Bees this campaign. Good luck to the 400+ able to make the trip tomorrow.

And finally, Josh McEachran to Chelsea?? No. Seriously. I don’t normally talk about rumours but this one was so random it bears reflection. Coming from a source weaker than a watered down bottle of value brand low-sugar ketchup, the Express ran a ‘story’ yesterday saying how Chelsea “hadn’t ruled out re-signing” Josh.

This, in itself, turned out to be a comment on something they’d read in the Evening Standard the night before. Thankfully Tom Moore, West London’s Premier Journalist, was able to speak with Dean Smith where this one was not so much scotched but laughed off in a state of confusion.

Tom’s article quotes Dean as saying: ” I have heard nothing at all about this. Is that to help him with his treatment? I’m not aware of any buyback clause either

Perhaps the Standard/Express had got confused and were assuming John Swift would be returning to Stamford Bridge when his loan expires. That, surely, the most likely outcome when the season draws to a close.

Either way, it just proves once more the old adage about not believing everything you read in the papers. Unless it comes from Beesotted, I’ll generally give such speculation a very wide berth.

And with that out of the way, I can get back to lumping the mortgage on Middlesbrough’s promotion.

What can go wrong?

Sam Saunders black kit

One last look – at the shirt..

Nick Bruzon

Sparkly boots, club records and poison chalices – a brief history of (recent) time

21 Oct

Brentford take on Wolves at Molineux tonight. That’s the simple fact but to supporters there’s so much more to it. Over the last few seasons, games against Wolves have been at the forefront of those that Brentford fans have been looking forward to as the stand outs on the fixture list.

Wolves, of course, are a club with a huge fanbase, a cracking stadium and a great reputation. It is the sort of set up most teams could only aspire to yet, if we are being honest, they haven’t always lived up to that reputation on the pitch. No moreso than back in 2013/14 when they found themselves alongside Brentford in League One.

That, of course, the season that we finally escaped the lower tiers with a club record 94 points and went on that humungous unbeaten midseason run. One which was, of all teams, ended by Wolves at Griffin Park as they made no mistake when it counted – running out 3-0 victors in February’s top of the table clash. Whilst our two teams stayed neck and neck for most of the campaign, their class eventually showed and they deservedly scooped the title with a staggering 104 points.

Even then, they still played key role in our promotion. A 6-4 victory (only one short of doing it with brackets- I’d have probably self-combusted at 7(seven)) over Rotherham meaning that Steve Evans team would be unable to catch us in third place. At the same time, ensuring that the post Preston pitch invasion hadn’t been a somewhat premature and embarrassing one.

Confirmation of Wolves beating Rotherham saw us officially promoted after our own win over Preston

Confirmation of Wolves beating Rotherham saw us officially promoted from League One

That said, prior to and even during the early part of that season, there were a lot of sneering and arrogant comments from a small part of the opposition support. That’s football but the simple fact was that whatever their past and size, Wolves were playing the likes of Brentford for a good reason – they hadn’t been good enough so had suffered successive relegation.

If we are being equally honest, a massive respect seemed to grow between our two clubs. Nobody was stupid enough to pretend that, historically, Wolves aren’t one of English football’s bigger teams. Indeed, their most recent stint in the top flight had only ended in 2011/12 after three seasons. Yet on the pitch we were going neck and neck.

Then, last season, it all went bonkers. After a slow start to Championship life, Mark Warburton’s Bees hit overdrive and a 4-0 thumping of Wolves at Griffin Park was enough to take us up to third place aswell as securing him the poison chalice of ‘Manager of the Month’ . It was a game played in a stunning atmosphere – before, during and after – and one which more than lived up to the hype that surrounded Bakary Sako’s crystal encrusted golden boots.

Bakary Sako's boots failed to sparkle

Bakary Sako’s boots failed to sparkle

Former Bees boss Leroy Rosenior nailed things on the BBC Football League Show later that evening when discussing the game with Manish. He mentioned that a supporter had approached him the previous weekend saying, “Leroy, who would have thought we’d be beating Fulham at home, be challenging for a place in the Premier League, have a new stadium around the corner after you managed us.”

As Manish commented, “The only way was up from there”.

Whilst the reverse encounter saw Wolves run out 2-1 winners the following month, both sides kept their form despite tough fixtures and (for us) the frustration of Village-gate. Indeed, that crazy final day of the season that saw Derby and Ipswich self-destruct, allowed Brentford into the play-offs whilst, at one point in the afternoon, the results were also going Wolves’ way. In the end, they finished 7th(seventh), missing out on goal difference. However, for both our teams it had been one of the most exciting seasons on record, given the chance to test ourselves at a higher level.

Coming bang up to date, Brentford haven’t had the brightest of starts for reasons that have been well documented on these pages already. That said, victory on Saturday at home to Rotherham United sees us only four points behind a Wolves team who currently occupy 12th place. And with our own trip to hapless Charlton on Saturday, victory tonight would be a priceless one in reigniting our own campaign.

Can we do it? Despite all the good form over our recent campaigns, the Bees have only picked up one point and one goal from Molineux whilst we’ve been trading blows. Those two seasons may have had more incidents than some club’s entire histories but we have found the away trip a tough one

Then again, will the pressure of expectation show on a home side who got humped 4-2 at the weekend and have lost over a third of their league games already? Being honest, I’d take the draw. Being realistic, I haven’t got a clue which way this one is going to go.

At 7.45pm, we find out.

Alan Judge got both goals on Saturday. Can he keep up that strike rate?

Alan Judge got both goals on Saturday. Can he keep up that strike rate?

Nick Bruzon