Tag Archives: QPR

Don’t let patchy away form mask longer term potential. Are we preparing for take off?

14 Apr

There’s not much to say about the result, really. Let’s look at the positives. Another goal for Neal Maupay. Another chance for Brentford to make the short trip to Reading next season. Who knows how important it may be to have the 2000+ fans we’ll take to the Madjeski rather than the 500+ we’d likely take to a Wigan Athletic or Rotherham United, for example. That is, assuming of course, that there are no further twists in a Championship race that is reaching an intriguing denouement. Likewise, and we spoke about this yesterday, the position of Charlton Athletic was further strengthened on a Saturday that saw them record a handsome victory over all but promoted Luton Town in League One. With even Millwall hanging in there via a last gasp equaliser at Bramall Lane, our final season at Griffin Park looks like it could have all the makings of a campaign that is played out very close to home.

Ruddy hell, even QPR won yesterday (not a typo) as did Fulham (not a typo). For the former, Championship football is all but a mathematical formality whilst the Cottagers have already been plugging the likes of Stoke, Swansea and Preston into the sat-nav following their rapid demotion from the top flight. And, of course, Brentford. See you next season, chaps. Whilst it would be trite to ignore our own blip in form that has seen the campaign very much decelerating to a gentle halt after briefly teasing a stab at the top six, the focus surely has to be about looking forward.

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See you next season…..

Thomas Frank alluded to this in his own post match press conference. Trying to pluck positives from a 2-1 defeat at Reading, he praised our second half improvement whilst making his intentions clear. “We now have four games left and we need to do everything we can to get 12 points. That’s the aim.” With trips to Millwall and Bolton aswell as visits from Leeds and Preston to come, it’s still possible. With the exception of the Leeds match, you’d bet on victory for the Bees in each of those. Theoretically. Of course Marcelo Bielsa is going to be about as formidable an opponent as they come but we’ve had home advantage over Leeds United in recent seasons and with our visitors having the added pressure of a promotion shoot out (3 into 2 just won’t go) to contend with, who knows what could happen in that one.

Ultimately, it counts for nothing in the short term beyond the mathematical nicety of ending the season as high as we can and increased prize money.  Of course finishing in the top ten once more will be a tremendous notch on the progress chart of Matthew Benham and his directors of football. We’ve done it in the previous four seasons and that must be the final objective for this campaign.  Whether we make it it or not won’t really change what comes next though. Whatever that is. And therein lie the biggest questions as to life at Brentford. With Season Ticket sales racing ahead of previous levels, the fans are already well up for 2019/20. Whatever that brings. 

Will there be more sales? More accumulation of untapped talent that has served us so very well in recent years? For all the derision and scorn poured at Brentford over the years as we moved away from traditional management and scouting techniques, the acquisitions and subsequent sales have more than proven we are on to something. Now, with Lionel Road on the horizon, might the top brass be tempted to ‘stick’ for a season rather than twist? The likes of Daniel Bentley and Yoann Barbet are already amongst those presumed to be on their last knockings. Sadly. Josh McEachran is who knows where (mini golf course?) whilst Ollie, Neal and Said are a holy trinity of players very much coveting some admiring glances from the wider footballing wolrd. That’s before you even factor in Dean Smith. With Aston Villa well set for a play-off push this time around, could he be thinking about using the Villa Park cheque book? Regardless of how that attempt turns out? 

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Whatever else happens, we’ll always have this

For all the paper talk, gossip and click bait nobody actually has a clue what is going to happen. Beyond Mr. Benham and his inner circle. One thing he has done consistently is surprise us all. Flip, we don’t even know what next season’s kit is going to look like or who will be replacing Adidas? How on earth are we meant to be able to figure out a recruitment strategy that has always been played very close to the chest when we don’t even know the colour of the shirt.

Just because we have sold when the price is right in the past, doesn’t mean we’ll do so again when there’s a new stadium on the horizon. How incredible would it be to start life at Lionel Road in the top flight. To make those “Bees up, Fulham down” chants a reality once more.

The fact we’re even having this conversation is ridiculous enough. In the nicest sense possible. That some fans were losing their heads as Autumn turned to Winter because we’d embarked on a bad run of Championship form. Three months later we were talking about play-off potential. That’s life at Griffin Park though. After years of underwhelming performance on the field of play (albeit a whole load of fun off it) we’re now well established. The kids don’t know they’re born.

I apologise for going all ‘during the war’ but some of those league one / two (or equivalent) campaigns over the years have been hard work from a footballing perspective. Some of the players we’ve had plying their trade, whilst full of commitment, did make you wonder just ‘how’ in retrospect. But that’s the level we had to operate at then. This is the quite wonderful scenario we are in now. Where success and victory is the expectation. Multi-million pound players , and sales, are the norm. Even if carried out within a very controlled environment. Nobody wants another Birmingham City or QPR…. 

So we lost to Reading yesterday. Bugger. Away form has been a challenge this time around, certainly compared to previous seasons at this level. There almost seems to be an acceptance amongst fans that we’re weak away from home. Which is not to have a pop at our supporters who have been consistently magnificent on the road . More, that the inability to consistently channel home performances into similar on our travels is perhaps the biggest frustration of all.

Then again, we won at Middlesbrough this season. If we can do that, and if we can hold on to this squad, then who knows what could happen next time around? Either way, I can’t wait. Once we’ve got the small matter of those final four games out of the way. How wonderful will it be to head into the summer holidays smiling, with the prospect of more to come…..

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Despite all the unknowns about next season, it’s a safe bet the Jaffa cake will be retired. Sadly.

Nick Bruzon 

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Bees hoping for more, more, more as West Brom visit this afternoon

16 Mar

What a run it has been for Brentford. 7(seven) wins in succession at Griffin Park. The crowd behind the team. The team playing for fun. Those full time celebrations and walks around the paddock now becoming a very welcome, and regular, feature. Most of all, it’s fun. The smiles are broad and the goals are flying in. I love it and can’t wait for the next game to come around. However, promotion chasing West Bromwich Albion are in town today and will be the latest team looking to put a spoke in the wheel of Thomas Frank’s runaway home form. Everybody needs to be on red alert for this one. Despite relieving manager Darren Moore of his duties last week, they got back to winning ways on Wednesday night against Swansea City. It was a game which featured what must surely be a contender for worst. penalty. ever as the Swans missed out on the opportunity to equalise in quite spectacular style. When you have that level of fortune smiling on you, it’ll be no surprise if The Baggies come in to this one with their tails up. Yet with the table still tight and The Bees 7(seven) points off 6th with a game in hand, despite our own midweek slip up at Sheffield United, there’ll be no excuses for not going at this one full tilt.

And full tilt is what Thomas Frank specialises in. Our home record speaks for itself whilst last month saw Brentford hit five goals at Griffin Park on two separate occassions. Hull City and Blackburn Rovers being the teams to take that pummelling at the back. QPR were put to the sword with what looked like consummate ease last time we were all here. Then, of course, there was the win on the road at Middlesbrough. Finally, it happened. What a reward for all the hard work, effort and self-belief.

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Thomas celebrates at home. Again

Even our substitutions are positive. There’s no looking to run down the clock or grind it out in the last few minutes with additional defenders or holding midfielders. Instead, Thomas is swapping one attacking player for another. It worked a treat in that QPR game whilst was a tactic deployed very early up at Sheffield United. It was a tactic that almost paid off against a side whose own defence is tighter than a pair of 80’s football shorts.   

As for the team, Saïd Benrahma has been on fire and this week captured the Championship goal of the month award for February aswell as also being earlier nominated in the ‘player’ category. Neal Maupay is becoming a cult hero to rival the best of those we’ve seen over the years as he mixes fighting spirit with goals. His 20 in the league, to date, is a figure beaten only by a small clutch of players and the crowd love him. Sergi is once more playing like the Sergi of old. Romaine is the absolute unsung hero of the side. The choice of wing backs and three centre backs is giving both added protection in along with another option of being able to turn defence into attack. 

The squad is about as full strength as one could hope for at this point in the season. Rico Henry remains absent whilst, of course, Daniel Bentley is a casualty of that game at Middlesbrough. Luke Daniels came in for the Sheffield United game and Thomas has already confirmed he’ll be starting again today. We’ve all see what Luke can do over the last couple of seasons and he can, perhaps, count himself unlucky not to have been given a chance earlier on this tie around. The life of a goalkeeper must be a frustrating one at times.

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Saïd, Neal and the team are providing goals and smiles

So it all sounds very promising for The Bees but let’s not forget the small matter of our visitors. West Brom almost pulled off an 11th hour stay of execution from Premier League relegation last time out and they’ve picked up where they left off. At least, in terms of position. The play off zone has been an almost constant feature this time out, something that their illustrious neighbours (please note, your definition of illustrious may vary) have really struggled with in recent seasons following their own demotions from the top flight. Aston Villa and Birmingham City, I’m looking at you. 

Dwight Gayle is still banging them in, sitting just behind Neal in the Championship goal scorers table. He has managed 3 from his last 2 games against The Bees and will no doubt be looking to improve on that today. The run of results that saw Darren Moore pushed out was immediately reversed with that 3-0 defeat of Swansea City. If nothing else, could the change of manager (given what many fans were describing as confusing tactics) and the huge slice of luck in ‘that penalty’ prove pivotal in lifting them back to a position of being promotion favourites ?

All is forgiven, Marcello…

My heart says ‘home win’ today. Brentford have been on fire, especially at Griffin Park, whilst West Bromwich Albion are still dusting themselves down after the upheaval and wayward performances of the last few weeks. Yet with the visitors looking to lock down their play-off position and the Bees still with hopes of ghosting up the table to sixth, could pressure and expectation be the biggest factors here? Will the winning team be the one the handles this the best? Or will Thomas Frank have more of those wonderful motivational cards up his sleeve to inspire the team and the fans to another home win?

I’m just the numpty on the terrace and have no means of being able to answer that with any form of accuracy. But I tell you what, I can’t wait for kick off to find out how this one is going to go. It promises to be as exciting a game as any we’ve had to date.

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Bees put a quarter pound of rubbish back in the bin as Thomas makes it 4 and 7(seven) in a row.

3 Mar

This is getting embarrassing now. Another home game, another win for Brentford. That’s 7(seven) on the bounce. Another visit from QPR, another win for Brentford. That’s four on the bounce. The latest, Saturday’s 3-0, was about as one-sided as they get. But for a somewhat moribund first half performance from both sides, with neither willing to concede first blood in the penultimate 237 derby to take place at Griffin Park, it could likely have been another 5 goal finish for the Bees. In the end we had to settle for goals from Sergi, Saïd and Neal’s 20th of the season – from the spot – to keep the points safe and see Queens Park Rangers fans streaming out early as though the proverbial fire-drill was taking place. Elsewhere, the excitement continued North of the Border where Partick Thistle and their ebullient mascot Kingsley even got in on the act.

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Thomas celebrates at full time

But we can only start at Griffin Park. It was magnificent. Again. That’s starting to become a regular phrase on these pages but when you see Brentford scoring goals for fun then it’s no surprise. The approach play has the crowd on the edge of their seats ; the inevitable finishes have them leaping high into the air. The excitement palpable. The celebrations euphoric.

Once more it was Neal Maupay who lead the charge. The first came from the penalty spot after Keith Stroud decreed that Ollie Watkins had, indeed, been thrown to the ground. The finish was as calm and comfortable as they have been all season from the spot. If ever there was a moment when the occasion might get the better of him then here it was. Instead, the net rippled and the crowd exploded.

The poacher turned provider for our second, breaking down the right and riding a challenge from goalkeeper Lumley outside the box that would have had Keith reaching for his red had the Frenchman tumbled. But no, with the scent of goal in his nostrils Maupay evaded the lunge and squared the ball for that man Benrahma to fire home. 2-0 and game over.

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Yesssss!!! HB celebrates at 2-0

It could have been more even prior. Dalsgaard producing a stunning save from Lumley with a point blank header whilst Kamo, amongst others, came close after the Bees had opened up our opponents as easily as somebody deploying an umbrella when the heavens open. 

QPR had no response. If they had looked out of it after the penalty, they were dead and buried now. All they could produce was gallows humour from the away end as they started singing about having had one shot. That, from Jake Bidwell, causing more danger to his own fans sitting in the upper tier than Daniel Bentley and his rock solid defence.

Yet rather than attempt to lock it down, Thomas Frank kept going. With just shy of ten minutes to go, the stage was surely set for Josh McEachran. But no. Instead we were treated to more pace as Emiliano Marcondes and Sergi Canos were introduced to the field of play. The crowd celebrated (and consulted the big book of Brentford tactics).

It proved to be inspirational stuff as the fresh legs mad further inroads into the already porous blue and white ‘defence’. More importantly, keeping the ball down the correct end until Sergi wrapped things up with another word class run and finish deep into injury time. 3-0. Dead and buried. Game over. 

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Sergi (and team) celebrate the third

The goals are up on the Sky Sports website. Enjoy them again. Please. With them comes a win that sees Brentford up one place in the table to sit four points off tenth and eight off the play-off zone with twelve to play. Is that possible? 

Well, if home form could translate to away then who dares to dream. Next up is a trip to Middlesbrough. If there is to be any aspiration of reeling in our rivals and making an incredible leap towards the top flight then now is the time to find our feet on the road. Moreso given that the game immediately after is a midweek trip to Sheffield United. By the time we all come together at Griffin Park once more, Thomas Frank could be planing for next campaign in the Championship or masterminding a blitzkrieg assault on the upper echelons of the table with only one target in sight. Sixth place.

That’s to come, of course. For now I’m still buzzing about another stunning performance from Brentford. Griffin Park is certainly the place for goals, points and excitement. Off the pitch as well as on it where man-with-the-mic Peter Gilham, for whom the attempted takeover of ’67 is still fresh in the mind, was steadfast in his refusal to acknowledge QPR. At various points in the afternoon he described them as the visitors, the opposition and just about anything else he could find from a well thumbed thesaurus. Kudos to the legend that is PG for sticking to his principals so strongly.

We all know what this one means to him. Even the players. Saïd celebrated his goal by running the entire length of the Braemar Road touchline. Whilst we weren’t sure what that particular celebration was about at the time, Thomas Frank would later reveal that the player had gone in search of Peter. To give him a hug and celebrate together. What a club !! 

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Saïd celebrates whilst looking for Peter

He wasn’t the only one celebrating. Hats off to football’s best mascot (that isn’t Buzzette). North of the border it would be fair to say that Partick Thistle’s Kingsley seemed pleased about his mention in the match day programme. 

If the  potential of Brentford going up a division is one to tantalise, equally exciting is the prospect of one day getting Buzzette and Kingsley together. What a photo-op. What an image.

Full time saw the players perform their now customary lap of Griffin Park at full time. The smile on Saïd’s face, in particular, almost as broad as those on the faces of the fans he stopped to talk with. Which was just about everyone along the Braemar Road paddock.

Thomas Frank was sporting an old school Bees scarf he’d, presumably, picked up from somewhere along the way before making his way to the press box for a chat with the BBC Radio London team of Billy Reeves, Sam Parkin and Phil Parry.

I can’t wait to hear that one in full. Just to see him walking around the ground and talking to fans, you can feel how much this all means to Thomas. How much he is enjoying life but, also, empathises with the supporters and the players. The aforementioned double-substitution was yet another demonstration of his ability to buck the trend and deviate from the Brentford norm.

Then again, the performances his team are puling out of the bag are evidence of that. Get things right away from Griffin Park and this could be a run-in to end them them all

As the song goes, “I did it myyyy wayyyyyy”. And yesterday, he certainly did.

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(with thanks to the brilliant BBC Billy)

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Saïd and young fans enjoy the moment at full time

Nick Bruzon

QPR visit is time to get the arousal level up (although hopefully not the ref).

2 Mar

Let’s draw a discreet veil about what happened midweek. Brentford went down 2-0 at Sheffield Wednesday after what has been reported all round as somewhat of a horror show of a performance. Our neighbours, on the other hand, arrested a run of form that had seen them lose 7(seven) league games on the bounce after getting one over Leeds United at Loftus Road. Well done there. That recent set of results has now been tweaked to read: LLLLLLLW . 

And we can now chuck all of that out of the window. It’s derby day. West London, as opposed to Frank Lampard’s County (TM) . Queens Park Rangers visit Griffin Park in a game that is a must win. Not so much for the chance to put further clean air between us and the not so super hoops as the opportunity to continue a fine home record against our neighbours from the other end of the the 237 bus route.

Last season saw us triumph 2-1 thanks to Sergi and Flo Jo. The year before it was 3-1 as Jota ran riot. 2015/16 saw us take the honours 1-0 in front of the Sky cameras courtesy of Marco Djuricin. The big question now being if Brentford can make to four on the bounce whilst, at the same time, wiping the memory of the return encounter earlier in the season where that ten minute blip just after half-time meant a less than happy afternoon spent in the environs of White City.

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Results at home to QPR have been stunning in recent seasons

The short answer to that one is ‘Yes.’ Being blunt. Even allowing for the reversal of league fortune suffered by both teams during the week, I’m still going into this one buoyant. Leeds United were clearly suffering from an ‘off day’, as was evidenced last night when West Brom took an absolute hammering. 4-0 that one finished and I’ve no doubt Thomas Frank will have Brentford producing a similar reaction.

Our home form has been blistering in recent weeks. The performance against Aston Villa was magnificent whilst to put five goals past both Hull City and blackburn Rovers has made it a quite incredible February.  The form of Saïd Benrahma has been electrifying whilst Neal Maupay was named as EFL player of the year the other night at the London football awards.

Besides, if you can’t get yourself up for this match then what’s the point?  There’s a great quote from Thomas on the BBC website in their match preview, where he notes that: “We know it is a massive game for the fans and the club. Griffin Park will be bang on it…..it is one of these games where I feel the same tension as the Brondby-Copenhagen derbies in Denmark, where you don’t have to say much to the players as the arousal level is up there.”

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Wonderful news for Neal, midweek

The arousal level is certainly up there at home. I love this game. I sit next to a Rangers’ fan at work whilst HB has been telling everyone from his school friends to Chairman Cliff Crown (after a chance encounter yesterday)  about the forthcoming visit from Quarter Pound of Rubbish. No idea where he picked up that from – the things they must say at football club or in the schoolyard. 

It promises to be a fierce encounter. One to set the pulse racing and the blood pumping. One where fans from both sides will be doing all they can to push their team on and remind the officials about the rules of the game (I’m looking at you, Braemar Road linesman). One where tempers could threaten to boil over in the heat of the moment and the passion of the occasion . So the great news is that the EFL have named Keith Stroud as our man in the middle….

We all know Keith of old. The battle of Bramall Lane can never be forgotten. The soul destroying flourish of a red card with all the authority of a picked upon school kid granted immunity from the bully by virtue of his prefect badge. The infamous penalty incident  at Newcastle United where he disallowed a goal for the Magpies and awarded an indirect free kick to Burton rather than allow it to be retaken after encroachment.

That one seemed to be the death knell of his career but he’s been back this season – officiating 20 games where, stat check, Keith has only shown two red cards and averaged 3.5 yellows. Somewhat restrained compared to his former reputation. Could we see a mellower version in action this afternoon? Or will he be performing his one man Clintons’ tribute show?

Roll on 3pm when we find out. See you there.

Keith Stroud montage

Which Keith will we get today?

Nick Bruzon

Another defensive copy/paste but at least we’re getting good at kick-offs.

11 Nov

QPR 3. Brentford 2. What can you say? Not much. Try the BBC, Beesotted or ‘official’ for your match reports. Results saw The Bees end the day in 15th whilst our next opponents, Middlesbrough are up to second after their own win. Only Norwich City, our previous ‘away’ opposition, stand between them and the table top. Nobody said Championship life was easy, that’s for sure. But those goals against yesterday. Ewww. Not pretty. It felt like Preston all over again. If you want to see them once more then the defensive highlights are below.

Defensively challenged

It had all promised so much. The Bees back to winning ways and picking up the first points for Thomas Frank after steam-rollering Millwall last weekend. The team flying once more after being bundled (and rained) out of it at Norwich City. QPR with the somewhat dubious lure of having just seen Steve McClaren named as October’s ‘manager-of-the-month’. We all know what ‘should’ happen after that.  Everything was in place for another win. And then disaster struck as the defence went walk about for a ten-minute spell in the second half.

You were there. You don’t need me to repeat the obvious or dissect this further. It was something that Thomas had no choice but to acknowledge in his own post-match interview –  which you can see in full further below. That chat, one which looked like it was taking place in front of a room previously occupied by the Loftus Road firing squad.  

Yet more agonising was the fact that this was the second time in the last three away games that we’ve gone awol for a short period, during which time three goals have been conceded and the game effectively lost. Don’t forget there was also the trip to Preston last month where the score reached 3-0 to the home team before we’d even left the changing room.

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Thomas  updates us. (But has anyone seen Ian Holloway or Chris Ramsey, recently?)

That we almost turned that one around and gave ourselves hope yesterday when the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford made it 3-2 with 82 on the clock makes it all the more frustrating. All the more confusing. Similar happened at Deepdale. We can score goals. We play beautiful attacking football at times. Our young centre backs are quite magnificent whilst it’s wonderful having Moses Odubajo back aswell. We all know how strong Daniel Bentley has been for us. Just why do we have these blips?  

Well, as Thomas noted in that video, “The most important thing for me at the moment is the desire to get better”. Likewise, his comments on the BBC after both yesterday’s game and the one at Preston have a very similar feel.

Preston: Three goals away from home should be more than enough to win three points but we need to defend better in general. In this league you need to be on it.

QPR: In the second half we had a blackout more or less for 10 minutes, where we defended way too soft for all three goals. We need to do that better in general.

Doom and gloom from me? No. Frustration and confusion. That’s for sure. As much due to the injuries. Ollie Watkins, who had a blinder after he came on against Millwall, was missing due to what Thomas described as, “A toe issue where the joint in the toe is twisted“. So nothing to do with any rumoured transfer interest, which is good….

Yet it was those injuries that occurred once the game had started that caused as much concern. With Brentford heading towards half time one up c/o Neal Maupay (now up to 12 Championship goals already) things were looking good. Then, with the tea brewing, he collapsed to the floor unchallenged and ended up being stretched off. The concern was palpable and was later confirmed as the result of a concussion.

Sadly there was worse to come with Said Benrahma taking his place on the stretcher after rolling his ankle in the build-up to Henrik’s goal. Thomas would later confirm that the Algerian had rolled his ankle although, as yet, there’s no prognosis as to severity or recovery time. Here’s hoping it’s not as severe as first thought. The only saving grace here being that we’ve two weeks off thanks to International break for that recuperation process to begin in earnest. And to practice defending…..

From 1-0 up on fifty minutes, Brentford were then given three further attempts to perfect our kick off routine as the clock reached the hour mark. Whilst we’d lost Neal Maupay, that shouldn’t stop goals going in. Should it?  

Well, with no viable alternative then taking the option to push Sergi (or anyone) up top would only ever have an impact on the shape. But who else was there to fill that void? With absolute respect to Alan Judge, we’ve tried him there at Loftus Road and things didn’t exactly work out well for the team. The lack of alternate striking option has long been flagged on the terraces as a concern. Moreso, with Ollie also sitting this one out. In this instance, the percentages backfired.  

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Recent periods of the defence going awol have been a gift for our opponents

But I still maintain we have absolute quality in this squad. On its day, our first team is about as strong as we’ve seen. Talking to a fellow dad (and former Bee) at Harry’s football training in the morning, he was enthusing about the quality of football he’s having the pleasure of watching at present. On the way home from that, we happened to spot Neal Maupay whose enthusiastic hello to HB and chat about what was coming up that afternoon suggested everything was set for a fairytale ending.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. A frustrating finish to a day that had promised so much but, equally, one step missed in a longer journey being taken. The forthcoming Middlesbrough game is about as tough as they come. Moreso, given our own recent form against them. It would be great if for that one the defensive blips could be cured on the pitch rather than afterwards in the post-match analysis.

We’ve two weeks to really figure them out and get our players fit again. There’s been a hell of a lot of football played in the space of a few weeks. Perhaps all of us recharging would be for the best.

In the meantime, here’s that interview with Thomas…

Thomas talks

Nick Bruzon

The many reasons we must win. The one reason we will.

10 Nov

Saturday morning and the 237 derby awaits. West London’s finest, and also QPR, prepare to do battle. With tier-gate resolved and the away-end sold out (barring a few £37 ‘restricted view’ seats), Brentford can prepare for the trip to Loftus Road in high spirits. Last weekend’s dominant performance saw The Bees back to winning ways and assuredly looking to pick up where we left off against Millwall. That one finished 2-0 and could easily have been double, but for the woodwork. Yet in a build-up that has been dominated by Friday’s news of Chief Executive Mark Devlin announcing his own departure from Griffin Park after 7 (seven) years, are we all missing out on the key factor that may decide this one?

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Off to Loftus Road again

First up, Mark Devlin. We’ve by now all heard the news of his own forthcoming departure which was shared yesterday morning. We’ve all read the praise being lavished upon Mark by everyone from Bees United to Matthew Benham and beyond. Understandably. The strides that Brentford have made in the last 7 (seven) years have been quite incredible. In no small part helped by his enthusiasm and dedication. His time taken to talk to anyone about everything – a spirit which continues to run through the club.

I’ve often maintained that if you want to know something at Brentford, just ask. Mark typifies this approach – where confidentiality allows, of course – whilst few could deny his openness with the fans at the forums, responding to email, on social media or in person. He’s a regular on the forecourt when there’s a game and will always stop for a chat. How many other clubs are fortunate enough to have this level of approachability from one of the men at the very top? There’s nobody doubting how much he’ll be missed whilst, personally, I’ll now need to find somebody else to harangue about the new kit. Good luck Mark. And thank you. Our loss is very much somebody else’s gain – even if it is Twitter spambots…

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Open comms. On any subject !!

Before he goes, Mark has one last QPR match to sit through. Which of his teams (wink emoji) will emerge with the points today? Brentford, obviously. Aside from our own strength and goal scoring potential, Nico Yennaris used his own appearance at the press conference to reveal how the team were fully aware of what this one means to the fans.

He explained how, “We know the importance of the game. Peter Gilham reiterates that every time we play QPR ; how important it is …the likes of myself, we’ve heard it enough from Pete but it’s the new guys coming in. The one’s that haven’t really been involved in a QPR – Brentford game. He lets them know aswell…”   

If anyone knows the history between the two clubs then it’s Peter. The story of the failed takeover can’t be told enough. It’s over fifty years on from that now yet still things remain fresh. In part helped by QPR’s own ‘accidental’ celebration of this event on their own programme cover last year. Something that their own head of media would subsequently explain, “Isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order”. This, before going on share how the dog had just eaten his homework and he’d left his P.E. kit on the bus. Probably.

QPR programme Holloway

Old news on the programme cover. And the failed takeover

But then its all about the excuses with them. Who could forget the time they accidentally breached FFP rules after running up a deficit of £9.8 m aswell as owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders writing off a £60m loan? October 2017 saw the £58m fine deemed not disproportionate and upheld. This, despite Fernandes’ earlier assertion that “My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

 “If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.”

Ahhh. Poor QPR. If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em. In the end, the club and football league settled on a ‘mere’ £42m which included a £17m fine, amongst other measures. Perhaps a somewhat fortunate escape for a club who employed Harry Redknapp.

Whilst we all know this of course, there’s no harm reminding ourselves of the context. Moreso given our own efforts to comply with the financial regulations imposed on EFL clubs have often resulted in our own stars being sold to ensure compliance and fair play.

Recent form is very much with Brentford going in to today’s big game. Of the last 8 league and cup encounters, the record read W5 D2 L1 in favour of Brentford. The solitary blip in that run being Dean’s Smiths attempt to play Alan Judge as a false 9 in a 4-6-0 formation whilst the highlight being our April 2017 destruction of Rangers at Griffin Park. With Jota in inspired form that day, a 3-1 win was about as generous a scoreline to the visitors as they come.

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I wouldn’t disagree

I predict more of the same this afternoon. Forget form. Forget rivalry. Forget everything. There’s one fact more telling than any motivational speech Peter Gilham may give. More important than whether Thomas Frank starts with Yoann or Moses, Luke or Dan, Sergi or Said.

Put simply, Steve McClaren has just been named manager of the month for October.

What magnificent timing for yesterday’s announcement! Could it have been any better? We all know how this one works. Scoop the prize, fail to lose your next game. It’s a jjnx as long established as not shaving on a winning run, wearing the magic shirt, pulling on the lucky pants or whatever your own particular match day-ritual is. Yet none come bigger than having to make the awkward pose with the trophy, safe in the knowledge that the next points are sliding down the drain.

I’m pretty sure it’s a scientific fact. But don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on is that this will be another three points for Brentford. I don’t want to rain on Steve McClaren’s parade but back-to-back wins are heading our way. Roll on 3pm when it all starts again.

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Incredible but true. It really has happened

Nick Bruzon 

Toothless Lions tamed with strike of Sergi-cal precision.

4 Nov

My word. What an afternoon. What a way to return to form. What a time to do it with the trip to QPR next up. Brentford beat Millwall 2-0 in a game that, as it progressed, could easily have seen that score doubled. It was a magnificent team performance exemplified by solid defence, rapid counter attack football and a forward drive that had been so desperately missing last weekend at Norwich. Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins took their chances brilliantly to give us the goals, each player clean through to tuck it home, but don’t underestimate the way the whole team played here. Said Benrahma must be wondering how his delicious first half curler from the outskirts of the penalty box stayed out (curse that far upright) whilst Said Maupay also touched wood in the second period. Even Daniel Bentley had to stay alert to make one smart save with the scores locked at 0-0. That’s not to overly lavish praise on one over another here. It was about as ‘team’ as it comes yesterday. You could see what this one meant to Thomas Frank at full-time, clapping all the home fans and acknowledging anyone who looked to single him out, as our new head coach got his first points on the board.

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View from the Braemar – Said had a cracking game

That’s the game in a paragraph. As you know, we don’t do the full-fat match reports here. Go to the always wonderful Beesotted, the BBC or, of course, Brentford ‘official’ for that. Sky TV have the highlights here but I’m equally looking forward to seeing if we get a chance to hear what Mark Burridge and Greville Waterman made of this one when the 12pm ‘official’ coverage gets released into the wild. No doubt voluminous praise and excitement of ‘Jota at Blackburn’ levels will be the order of the day. It really was that sort of afternoon as the team returned to a style of play and clinical finishing that we’d become somewhat spoiled with over the early part of the season. Pity QPR on Saturday if we can keep this up. Millwall weren’t even given a chance to come second in this one as Brentford defended about as solidly as I’ve seen us do (some first half faffing across the box in search of the perfect distribution aside – sometimes, it’s not wrong to lump it up if there’s a defender closing in).

What else can we take away from this? Well, first up the celebration from Sergi was just a thing of beauty. With the net still rippling he tore over to the Braemar Road touchline, leaping high in the air as his teammates joined him. This was followed by a double fist pump and exuberant salute – the smile on his face broad. This one meant one hell of a lot. It was a moment of joy only matched by an equally emphatic routine from Ollie Watkins as he made the points safe late on.

Kudos, too, for Neal Maupay’s wonderful interplay in providing the assists for both our goals. He’s the Championship’s leading scorer and provider now. The adoration of fans in marked contrast to 12 months ago as a new signing beginning to find his feet in this division, the likes of Ian Moose pouring scorn and dripping poison.  

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View from the Braemar  – Sergi salutes the fans

Romaine Sawyers was named captain, again. His third time in four games. Thomas Frank would later confirm that he has dispensed of our rotational captain system. Something that Dean Smith had specifically introduced but has now gone with him to Aston Villa. Instead, the pool of leaders has been whittled down to just two – Romaine and Henrik Dalsgaard (of Brentford). Romaine had a great game yesterday after what, it would be fair to say, had been a dip in the form of last season’s ‘players’ player of the year’. Long may this continue!

I thought Josh Dasilva really impressed on his debut, coming on late for Josh McEachran. He drove forward as he added fresh legs and further goalscoring potential with the Bees looking to close this out rather than sit back and allow Millwall to press. Interestingly, I’ve this morning had a message from a Lincoln City fan I work with, noting: “Young lad you have out on loan at Forest Green, Archibald, he can play the game! We won 2-1. Absolute smash and grab though as we were outplayed. He is a very good player, great balance and change of direction. Some would say a ‘typical Brentford player’. We couldn’t deal with him tbh.”

With Josh stepping up and Theo showing his own potential for Forest Green, it’s great to see the B-team system continuing to flourish.

I had fun yesterday. A lot of fun. It was just that sort of celebratory occasion. Moreso, coming after a rightfully sombre start with Peter Gilham leading a minute’s silence to recognise both Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and, especially, the 100 years since the end of WW1 as part of the Remembrance Sunday observations. It was impeccably observed by both sets of fans whilst due praise to Sam Marshall and his programme team in recognising this hugely significant event. The production that he – ably assisted by Paul Briers and Dave Lane – put together to recognise this was a quite wonderful piece of work and compulsive reading.  

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Get one if you still can

The Millwall fans continued their respectful silence throughout the game. Aside from the odd chant of “No-one likes us, we don’t care” (really – then why do you persist in telling us so often?) they were largely as impotent as their team. Toothless Lions on and off the pitch, easily tamed by ringmaster Thomas Frank. Brentford, on the other hand, coming in for rightful recognition in his full time press conference.

There’s not much more to add after this one. On a personal note, Harry’s reaction to the game told me all I needed to know about how exciting it had been. He grabbed my phone, asking if he could call Uncle Tim to give him a full time update, then broadcast this to the Braemar Road forecourt (including one senior club figure whom I can only thank for his own subsequent observations and chat with an uber-excited five year old). He next proceeded to remove his coat to show the world his Ollie Watkins shirt and sung all the way home. Harry, that is.

Yet it was at Harry’s bedtime that I was given the sign that the Thomas Frank era is truly now underway. “Daddy” he entreated. ”As a special treat can I wear my Watkins shirt in bed instead of pyjamas?”

Yeah, he’s hooked. Thank you Sergi. Thank you Ollie. Thank you Thomas. Roll on Saturday and QPR.  

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Unconventional pjs but it would have been churlish to deny him

Nick Bruzon

Prophetic Peter calls it and Matthew goes full Partridge as Neal and Josh do the business. Again.

16 Sep

7(seven) games down and Brentford are up to second in the embryonic Championship table after a fifth, successive, home win. This time, over Wigan Athletic. In a display of quite delicious passing football, Neal Maupay grabbed both goals to take his individual total to 7(seven) for the season and move clear in the Championship goalscoring charts. This, despite his missing two league games following the Villa Park affair. Just to put that into context, Neal already has two more than the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have scored all season. Then again, with four league wins under the belt that’s already four more than both the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have earned all season.

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View from the Braemer – Brentford strolled past Wigan on Saturday

The visit of Wigan was never going to be easy. On paper. Paul Cook’s team were only a point behind the Bees before kick-off whilst the visitors had ex-Bee Will Grigg in their squad. The inevitability of a former player doing the business is never a particularly enjoyable moment for home fans of any club. Even moreso in the case of Will when no doubt ‘that song’ would have been given a rendition.

Yet there was a comfort about this one, especially once the second goal had gone in, that is true testament to the confidence flowing through both Dean Smith’s squad and the home support. Maupay scooped man of the match honours but I thought Lewis Macleod and, in particular, Josh McEachran were quite wonderful. The latter starting the move for the opening goal with a cheeky nutmeg followed by a delightful crossfield ball forward to Said Benrahma. If only the sky cameras had captured the moment for their post-match highlights. Here’s hoping those on ‘official’ catch the full move when they appear at lunchtime. (12pm update: Yes! They did. Enjoy…..

 

Credit to Josh. If any player has taken his time to start winning over the critics it is him. Yet he has plugged away and the management have shown faith. With Ryan Woods having moved on the chance has been seized after what were, if we are being honest, a patchy couple of seasons. And how. We’ve already noted his increased presence this season on these pages a few times. The killer pass and/or move forward being a key change in his dynamic.

Indeed whilst being gently probed by Natalie Sawyer during this week’s TalkSport interview, Dean Smith was full of praise for a player who has admitted to still having England aspirations. Consistency will be key, of course, but for now one can only applaud a quite wonderful start to the campaign.

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Neal was MOTM but Josh played blinder, too

That Maupay goal came half-way through an opening period that Brentford dominated. Whilst it had felt as though the flood gates would open within seconds when the Bees swarmed forward from the kick-off, Christian Walton in the Wigan goal held back the tide. Something which proved to be the theme of a game in which, a brief first-half flurry aside, was about as one way as they come.

The threat of Grigg never materialised. He wasn’t so much on fire as on the bench. A place he never left, save for the warm ups. But then as Our Graham (a Huddersfield fan making one of his semi-regular but always welcome visits to Griffin Park) noted, perhaps the judgement here being that the ball needed to be near the Brentford goal in order for him to put it in it, and it was seldom in that vicinity.

One up at half-time became two just after the hour. That man Maupay with his second, this time against ten men rather than eleven. Sam Morsy having been sent off five minutes earlier for poleaxing Yoann Barbet with a head butt that had referee Darren England instantaneously calling for the medics before subsequently brandishing the red card. And from that point on it really was game over. Two clear and coasting. Despite Walton mountin’ a one-man resistance, in the end it was a case of goodnight Wigan Athletic. With other results falling kindly the Bees move up to second, just a point behind Leeds United.

What a time to be alive. What a time to be a Brentford fan. What a reward for all those who’ve been with us through thick and thin. Now able to enjoy what Matthew Benham would later describe on Twitter as “Liquid football” .

Back of the net, indeed ! There is no finer moment in life than anybody embracing their inner Alan Partridge. Accidentally or otherwise. All the while of course, just up the road our new home continues to grow. On current form I can only imagine Mr. Benham naming that one ‘Jurassic Park’.

Credit to Matthew and the current regime for allowing this to happen. There can’t be a fan amongst us who isn’t appreciative of what is being built here and how it has happened. Yes, there have been some tears and frustration along the way – this is football, we are passionate supporters who often think with our hearts in the heat of the moment rather than our heads  – yet only a fool would jump off this train now.

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The site at Lionel Road, (very) early on Saturday morning

Next up, Ipswich Town on Tuesday night. Whilst their record was mentioned in the introduction by way of comparison to Neal’s form, they also need to be recognised for the genuine threat they present to Brentford’s own aspirations. And as much, a mark of our own progress. True, they are bottom of the table but they are only two wins away from the top half. They may have lost to Hull City yesterday but the season is still young. They aren’t, surely, a bottom three side? If nothing else, we’ve the likes of Preston, QPR, Reading and Birmingham City for that particular task.

Last season saw Brentford take nine games before we got our first three pointer. It was a run which was typified by performances that Dean Smith swore by, maintaining we were deserving of victories. Eventually they came.

Yet the game at Portman Road was one of those from that early, ill-fated patch. It was a perfromance noted at the time on these pages as, “Wonderful attacking play (the first half especially). One-way traffic. The proverbial kitchen sink chucked at the opposition. 65% possession and twenty-one attempts at goal compared to Ipswich Town’s four. Yet it was the Tractor Boys who took the points and kept a clean sheet with a 2-0 win that left the Bees bottom of the pile in the Championship after four games

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Portman Road (and what Billy Reeves calls the best font in football) is next.

That was then. This is now. Nottingham Forest two weeks ago saw us win the sort of game that, last season, we’d have lost. Refusing to be outmuscled as the team converted chances into goals and, eventually, all three points. Could Tuesday night promise more of the same? It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. Yet on this sort of form I wouldn’t bet against Dean’s team.

As a final note of the day, could we see a new partnership forming at Griffin Park? Not so much the Ollie Watkins / Neal Maupay combo but that of Peter Gilham and Stuart Wakeford? Our own ‘man with the mic’ joining in during the #BeesLive segment prior to kick off where I walked in on his line: “I don’t know what the question was but the answer was Josh McEachran”.

How prophetic. On yesterday’s performance at Griffin Park the answer was very much Josh McEachran. With perhaps, a soupçon of Neal Maupay.

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Stu does his thing on #BEESLIVE – but what WAS the question?

Nick Bruzon

Who’s on fire when league action returns this weekend?

14 Sep

Finally. Championship action returns this weekend with Brentford hosting Wigan Athletic, straight off the back of the news that out allocation of 7,700 tickets for the league cup game at Arsenal has already set out. For the masochistic amongst us, winless Birmingham City tonight entertain (if that is possible) a West Bromwich Albion side who know that victory will take them up to third place in a still coagulating table. Yet one which is almost at that magical ‘ten game mark’.

First up, Brentford. Obviously. Two weeks of inaction with nothing but the evolving site at Lionel Road have been a tough void to fill. Moreso given how frustrating it has been having to slam the brakes on what has been a quite wonderful start to the campaign for the Bees.

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Lionel Road ; Thursday morning

Our current fifth place has been achieved through three wins out of three at home and only one defeat on the road. That at Blackburn where we were missing Neal Maupay following that thing at Villa Park. Yet the team have been scoring goals for fun, with the aforementioned Frenchman the division’s top marksman on 5 and Ollie Watkins right behind him on 4. Chuck in a further four assists between them aswell as no other Championship player having more touches in the box than Ollie’s 44 (although I’m sure Ian Moose would probably just call that dilly-dallying) and you can see how well they are going together.

Indeed, only West Bromwich Albion (15) and Leeds United (14) have managed more than the Bees 12 goals to date. Even then, the West Brom total includes the, albeit magnificent, bracketing of hapless QPR when the not so super hoops conceded 7(seven) in a single game.

Brentford’s football has been a joy to watch. Positivity that was shared by our own Dean Smith, talking to Natalie Sawyer on Talksport Radio last night. Some things are worth breaking my own, self-enforced, ban on all things Ian Moose for and with the catering obsessed narcissus nowhere near the studio I tuned in.

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Thankfully, there was no Ian Moose last night

There were big ups for Josh McEachran. Talk of expansive football. Discussion about the Arsenal game, where with the squad having been thinned out by the loans of Chiedozie Ogbene to Exter City, Tom Field to Cheltenham Town and Ryan Woods (albeit the cat was initially let out of the bag before Dean corrected his own use of the word ‘sold’) to Stoke the implication was that we would go with a strong team. And rightly so. Who would want to miss out on that one?

Yet what was clear through all the twenty minute probing Natalie administered to Dean was his ongoing self-belief and enthusiasm. For the squad, the style of football which the benevolence of our current regime has enabled him to play and his immediate focus being on Wigan Athletic rather than anybody beyond. In his eyes its all about Saturday. Talk of Arsenal was tempered with the fact that there are another two games after Wigan (as part of another intense 22 day run) before we get to the League Cup.

If you missed this one you definitely missed out. Anyone who has had the pleasure of listening to Natalie’s podcasts for The Times know she is a most engaging presenter. Frankly, she could make any subject from Tom Moore’s socks to Josh McEachran’s phone case collection (both hypothetically) sound interesting. So when you have a guest who was as on fire as Dean, then it was radio gold.

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Captain Barbet sums up the spirit in the Bees camp , last time out

Certainly, if I was up for the weekend fixture beforehand then it’s even more so the case now. With our 7,700 tickets sold out for Arsenal (and a further 700 being made available) presumably we can only expect a close to sell-out crowd for this one? No doubt all those heading to the Emirates will be at Griffin Park (and beyond) in the build-up to that one? If nothing else, seeing the alleged conflagration that is Will Grigg being extinguished will put a lot of smiles on faces. For no more reason than silencing ‘that song’ – something akin to the England Supporters ‘band’, the Portsmouth bell, vuvuzelas and goal songs as musical interruptions that should be consigned to video games rather than football stadia.

Still, we’ve been there and done this before. Let’s not get distracted by the England band. There’ll be enough to keep us busy this weekend. Moreso, given we have the TV treat (errr) of Birmingham v West Brom tonight. Can the Blues get their first win of the campaign at the 7th(seventh) time of asking? Will the visitors keep on banging in the goals that have propelled them towards touching distance of the play-off zone already? Will ‘you know who’ need to trot out his usual combination of post-match tweets – we go again / fans deserved more / apologies / KRO (whatever that means)? Or could the St. Andrews team finally start to fulfil the promise that a club of their former glory and current size would no doubt expect?

Besides. It’s that or Coronation Street so I’ll certainly be watching the game. Whilst Mrs. Bruzon may prefer the cobbles of Weatherfield, there’s not quite a KRO-bar in our house. Yet.   

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Taxi for Grigg? Here’s hoping on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

Will Stoke get Woods? Does it have a beach? Can Bees push on at Blackburn?

25 Aug

Strap yourselves in folks, this could be some day. Brentford travel to Blackburn Rovers looking to continue that unbeaten run of early season form which currently sees us sitting fourth in the pack of twenty-four teams. Yet the big question is whether Ryan Woods will be travelling with The Bees as news of the rumoured interest from Stoke City cranked up a few notches yesterday when the Potters as good as let the cat out of the bag. If you believe them. Yet if this comes to pass, it will end one of the most protracted moves of the summer following the initial stories and bid from Swansea City. At the same time making somewhat of a mockery of a transfer window which contains the biggest hole this side of the QPR defence (nil points. P4 L4).

The trip to Blackburn represents the mid-point of an intense two-week period that has already seen us beat Wednesday on Sunday and then have victory at Aston Villa cruelly slip from our grasp deep into the 95thminute out of 95 on, erm, Wednesday. That was a game which will as much as anything else be remembered for the goals from Neal Maupay which took him to the top of the Championship scoring table. Likewise, his retrospective red card which means he is missing from today’s game aswell as the League Cup on Tuesday and then the visit from Nottingham Forest next weekend.

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The Villa game ended 2-2 (and with a retrospective ban for Neal)

So what does Dean do to compensate? Personally, I think he’ll push Ollie up top and mix the wingers up. Said Benrahma and Sergi Canos have been doing quite magnificent battle over that right hand berth but can they be accommodated at the same time? Will Alan Judge make a start (although hopefully not as a false 9 – see yesterday) ? Does Marcus Forss then come off the bench and Ollie go back to our traditional shape if we need to change things up? Or, indeed, might Dean start like that anyway?

Who knows? I’m just the numpty on the terrace rather than anybody with any real knowledge – whether behind the scenes or just of football in general. Whilst on the one hand it may expose our lack of an alternative out and out second striker, based on what we’ve seen to date, the one thing Brentford have always done is play as a team. Score (and show) goals from every angle. From every positon bar goalkeeper. And with the length he gets these days, one wouldn’t be totally surprised if Daniel Bentley was to find the back of the net.

The other change I would think may also come is in central midfield. Both Nico Yennaris and Kamo have been superb when they have come off the bench for Lewis and Josh. The step up in play at both Stoke and Aston Villa was demonstrable by their entrance to the field of play. Dean has a wonderful bench available and is yet to change his starting XI in four league games. Yet with the matches coming thick and fast, and one enforced move in Maupay already thrust upon him, don’t be surprised if Dean twists further when the teams are announced at around 2pm.

One player that even I’m not so naïve as to think will be starting is Ryan Woods. Sadly. As noted in the introduction, Stoke City seems to be edging ever closer to getting their man. BBC Radio Stoke were bigging it up on Wednesday evening (be glad you can’t get it down here, given the Bees observer they had to drag in to opine on that one) and then yesterday it was the turn of current Stoke manager Gary Rowett. He announced that Woodsy, who was of course an unused substitute for that Aston Villa game, has already had a medical. He went on to claim that, “We are quite close to concluding a deal but we are not there just yet.

Brentford official are, of course, saying nothing. The club never comment on rumours and whilst history teaches us that you’ll never learn anything from fanzines, this all has a somewhat familiar ring to it. I think back to July 2013 when Simon Moore was being linked with Cardiff City, Back then their manager Malky Mackay (who, for the record, is currently the performance director of the Scottish Football Association – good luck with that one) told the media two days prior to signing the player that, “It’ll be paperwork first thing Monday morning, that’s the only thing holding that one up.”

An odd statement to make when infact we all knew Simon was simply on holiday. At the beach. In Cardiff.

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Cardiff beach. Simon Moore once holidayed there. According to Uwe.

Unless Stoke does have a beach then it kind of suggests this one is all but nailed on. The fee reckoned to be £6.5-£7(seven) million depending on which which source you read. Presumably with the usual clauses that Brentford have the shrewdness to insert. Who’d have thought we’d get money from Alfie Mawson’s sale to Fulham after all this time?  

Do I want him to go? No. In a word. That’s me being an emotional, selfish fan. Will we miss Ryan? Absolutely. The tussle that has gone on for his services (and those of us looking in only know of Swansea and Stoke’s interest to date) show the regard with which he is held in this division. Would we cope? Well, here’s the thing. I don’t want to tempt fate overly but look at what we’ve already done this season and Woodsy hasn’t got close to the pitch. The first XI and oncoming substitutes have performed quite wonderfully. It has been our best start to a campaign since 2013/14 and we we ended that one with promotion to the Championship. The squad would be stronger with him, no question, but it has still had a stunning start without.

This club has made no secret of transfer strategy. That we won’t stand in the way of players who want to leave if the price is on our terms. That we have got the player replacement technique pretty much nailed on now. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to stay. But I also trust what we’ve seen before. Adam Forshaw, Simon Moore, Moses (welcome back), number 26, Andre Gray. The Birmingham three – Jota, Maxime and Harlee. Aww, I do miss those defensive wobbles. They’ve all gone. We’ve survived. If Ryan decides his time has come then good luck to him. And huge thanks. He’s a hero and an inspiration at Griffin Park.

Yet now it seems that chapter is coming to a close, should the announcement indeed be confirmed today. Stoke City need a player of his ability, that’s for sure. Despite the wealth of talent they already seem to have their midfield was conspicuous by its absence when we traveled up there the other week. Supporters disappointment at ‘only’ getting a draw, further exacerbated by then seeing Wigan hump them 3-0. Even Will Grigg scored a penalty. The reward for that a (surely temporary) place in the relegation zone.

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Stoke have bite. But not much more…at present

The one other thing this has exposed is just the vagary of a transfer window that shut weeks ago yet still sees players able to move between Championship clubs on loan or, as would seem to be happening here, ‘loan with a permanent contract in January’ deals. It does seem to defeat the purpose somewhat and one can only feel for managers trying to put their squads together when they now have not one but effectively two windows to cope with.

QPR themselves have signed strikers Tomer Hemed from Brighton and Burnley’s £5m man Nahki Wells on loan for the duration of this campaign. Not quite sure how that all works but it seems to be legal – an unusual strategy for them given the £42m fine and transfer ban they finally agreed to in July following the breach of FFP rules.

Still, that’s their issue. I’m focussed on Blackburn and Brentford. Regardless of whether Ryan Woods is in the squad or sitting in the bottom three with Stoke. That a position I can’t imagine that they’ll occupy for very long should the move go through.

As for us, I’m calling this one as an away win. Complete confidence for the boys in brown and orange. Maupay may be missing but this squad is just too good at present. Enjoy the game!

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The current table. Come on Ryan. If you go, at least leap frog 20th….

Nick Bruzon