Tag Archives: Reading

One out of three ain’t bad. Ian Holloway does it again as Huddersfield make it so (sorry).

30 May

That really is it. Football is over for the season. Congratulations to Huddersfield Town who made it up to the Premier League after beating Reading on penalties. For the Royals, a return to Griffin Park awaits as they endured a pain us Brentford fans know only too well – play off capitulation.

In truth, the first ten minutes aside, it was a dreadful game. Huddersfield came flying out of the blocks and looked like they were going for broke. Yet after missing two gilt edged chances from Izzy Brown and Michael Hefele it soon settled down into a game of cat and mouse. Cagier than a cage fight between Nicolas Cage and Xander Cage, it was two and half hours we’ll never get back.

But frankly, who cares? Whether you win on penalties or in a 4-3 goalfest, the net result is the same. Promotion for one side and tears for the other.

So football aside (and largely because there wasn’t any) what did we learn from yesterday’s game? Well, apparently Patrick Stewart was there. Yes, I know, you probably missed it too.

The Star Trek and X-men actor being to Huddersfield as Rhino from the Quo or Cameron Diaz (allegedly) are to Brentford. And once the cameras had picked him up, that was it. We saw as many shots of him as we did of Reading fans crying. Yes Sky, we get it – there’s Picard. Again. All we needed was a ‘make it so’ pun for a full house.

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What a miss from Izzy Brown

We learned, once more, that penalties are a most wonderful thing for the neutral to watch. Yet for the players and fans the most painful of all ways to decide promotion. Unless you are on the winning side in which case seeing your fate revealed at the exact moment of that one, decisive kick must be the most incredible feeling ever. Again, something us Brentford fans can’t really relate to. Play-off success (8 doomed attempts so far) or promotion sealing penalty kicks being something that we don’t overly talk about.

But the real talking point to come out of it was that Ian Holloway is to making pre-season predictions as Donald Trump is to tact and diplomacy. We’ve already mentioned his efforts for Sky TV on these pages many times. Holloway, not Trump. Indeed, they form much of the thrust in the current 2016/17 Championship season review. That’s available now on e-book, with all proceeds going to the Community Sports Trust.

But a focus on Holloway is no surprise given his prediction of Brentford to finish 22nd, and the narrative:  “Brentford are regressing. Mark Warburton got them punching above their weight. They still haven’t replaced Andre Gray and Alan Judge will be missing for the start of the season. They could be in trouble”.

Well, that one was thrown royally back in his face. We did the double over QPR, including a 3-1 win over his side at Griffin Park, as the Bees finished 11 points and 8 places above the not so super hoops. Our own management had immediately poo-poo’d his prediction at the fan forum and how great to see the confidence rewarded.

But for Huddersfield Town, he predicted even worse. They came out at 23rd in his table and his own summary of their fate was: “I haven’t seen much progression from the club during the back end of last season. David Wagner is pretty inexperienced and if results turn, then they may struggle to turn things around”.

If 22nd to 10th was a mile out, then 23rd to the Premier League was  his failng to hit a barn door with banjo in a brewery. An incredible miss on the punditry front.

It was a point well made in the aftermath of Huddersfield triumph. Not by the fans but the manager, who offered “Ian Holloway , all the best for the next season” . And the team, chanting “There’s only one Ian Holloway” as they celebrated in the dressing room.

Hey, at least Ian got basement club Rotherham United right. One out of three ain’t bad, I suppose.

Congratulations David Wagner. Congratulations Huddersfield. Tough luck Reading. We’ll see you at Brentford next season.

And, as noted earlier, season 2016/17  is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise any sales from the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also now going to the BFCCST.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17, you can pick it up, here. It’s all for a great cause and, hey, you may even enjoy it, Unless your name is Ian H…..

Nick Bruzon

This is the big one (for Wagner). And a special ‘thank you’ for Bees fans.

29 May

This is it. Today’s the day Brentford discover their final Championship opponent for next season. The play-off final sees Huddersfield Town and Reading doing battle in the, so-called, £100million match. Certainly, that’s the figure usually quoted in TV revenue for the team fortunate enough to come out on top in the choke off (there’s no other word for it) to reach the Premier League. That said, reading an article in The Independent last week, they are quoting it being as much as £170m rising to £290m. That’s just incredible.

For the winner . Riches and acclaim. Then the chance to see if they’ll emulate the likes of Watford, Bournemouth or Burnley in survival rather than Hull City and Middlesbrough with an immediate return. For the loser there’ll be tears, ‘if onlys’, the chance to come back Griffin Park (see – its not all bad) and inevitable comparisons to Derby County.

As a neutral, I love watching the play-offs. Moreso, this match. The FA Cup on Saturday was fantastic. Much as it loathes me to say it, Arsenal fully deserved their victory as Premier league Champions Chelsea were swept away. Victor Moses performing the worst dive since Greg Louganis cracked his head on the board during the 1988 Olympics pretty much summed up their effort.

Yet talking to a friend in The Griffin (other pubs are available) during the game, the conversation turned to the relevance of that tournament. It is the world’s oldest cup competition and, as a Brentford fan, I’d simply love us to do well. To embark on an epic cup run. To perhaps emulate that wonderful run of 88/89 or even go one better. To take a tinfoil cup to Wembley itself.

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The Bees haven’t reached an FA Cup quarter final since Liverpool in 88/89

But for other teams, certainly at the business end of the top flight, it is treated largely as an afterthought throughout most of the campaign. Weakened teams are fielded in what has become more of a nice to win than a need to win. Qualification for the Champions league, and the riches/prestige that come with that, is very much viewed as the ‘must have’ prize by many.

Did Spurs have a better season by finishing second in the Premier league and reaching that European tournament? Or could Arsenal, who played like they really wanted it, be argued to have been the more successful through getting their name on a trophy but missing out on the big one in Europe? The romantic in me says it is the FA Cup. The realist in me knows just what the Champions league can bring in terms of revenue and reputation to those clubs whose financial model and being able to compete absolutely rely on repeat qualification.

As it stands, Brentford are yet to make an FA Cup final (I’m not counting the War cup) or reach the play-off for the Premier League. That said, we gave it quite a go in 2014/15 when Middlesbrough were all that stood between us and a trip to Wembley for a crack at the top flight. Move along. Nothing to see here beyond another notch in the bedpost marked ‘challenging record’ after 8 attempts made.

Yet I’ll absolutely be glued to the screen this afternoon when Huddersfield and Reading walk out. This is no ‘nice to have’ match. This is all about the pressure and the reward that comes with victory. Everybody knows what is at stake. It is a game that combines the prestige of winning the FA Cup with the finances that come with making the Champions’ league.  There’ll be a global audience tuned in to this in a battle of who can hold their nerve.

Let’s be honest, nobody could pick a definite winner out of these two. I’m still amazed Reading made it, certainly based on the way Brentford played against them this season. Huddersfield led the table early and did the double over the Bees, yet it was the Royals who came third and despatched a very, very good Fulham team along the way. Much as it pains me to admit.

Instead, we’ll just have to leave this one to the players on the day. Who wants it more? Personally, I’m backing David Wagner’s team. And for no more illogical reason than the oft made reference on these pages to him and that one time X-Factor singer, err, Wagner.

Well, it seems that now worlds have actually collided. And how!! I’m not sure if this is car crash or sheer brilliance. Enjoy…

And finally.. a HUGE thank you to call those who have already downloaded this year’s e-book: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all funds from this one (and the previous titles) are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17 you can pick it up, here. Along with all the usual Brentford stuff, we look at how the Championship season played out as teams came and went aswell as the ‘other stuff’ (fans of Mrs. Brown and her boys should probably look away now).

Hearing Yoann Barbet and Lasse Vibe speak at the player of the year dinner after sharing the Community player of the year award for the work they do with the Trust was truly inspirational. We all know how wonderful our club is and so, from a personal note, I’d love to make some gesture back – no matter how small.

Downloading any of the titles is now for a great cause. Hey, you may even enjoy reading. Funnier things have happened.

THANK YOU

This is it - the latest version now available. For a great casue

The latest version now available – for a great cause
Nick Bruzon

Now isn’t the time for gloating.

17 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Max, Matt and Bob say it with shirts

Nick Bruzon

Can anything beat last season’s unicorn? The top ten moments of the campaign.

13 May

The season is over. Almost. There’s still the small matter of the play-offs to come but for us Brentford fans, at least, its time to put our feet up and relax. Leave that stress to the likes of Fulham and Reading (who’ll both be back in the Championship next season) and, instead, look back at the campaign just gone by means of a top ten. But not a conventional top ten. There’s no on pitch action.

As such, we’ve no room for discussion about Jota’s sublime goals against Derby County or QPR. Indeed, talking of the not so super hoops, this is a hit parade that has no space for discourse on our double over these near neighbours or the eventual 11 point gap that saw them end he season trailing well in our wake.

Instead, it is a top ten of the different. The unusual. The in-jokes. A top ten where the yardstick was set last season with ‘that unicorn picture’ . But what, if anything, can surpass Antonio Bergasse’s wonderful creation……

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Any excuse to crowbar this one in – love that unicorn

10: Ian Holloway. We can only start with the QPR boss. Specifically the pre-season prediction that he would subsequently go on to deny making. Brentford were regressing. Brentford would be relegated Brentford couldn’t cope without the likes of Andre Gray and Alan Judge. Didn’t we prove the (then) Sky pundit wrong. Instead, it was his own side those words would have been better applied to.

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Pundit Ian Holloway’s words have come back to haunt him

9 Brian Guest. Forgive me one moment of personal indulgence. Or, should I say, forgive my never before seen identical twin brother Brian. A prank that went too far saw the Fulham programme publish, amongst other things: References to the 4-0 defeat at Brentford. Mention of that 4-1 home hammering administered by Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jota et al. The wonderful Michael Jackson statue. The Pizza Hut shirt – a perfect symmetry between sponsor and supporter. Even the Richard Osman / Pointless ’joke’ made it in – along with a picture of Brian wearing the Spall ’87 away shirt.

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8 Josh McEachran. The first of two entries for Josh is one that caused more questions than answers. How many phones does he have? Why does he need so many phone cases? Well, two questions but no answers. Josh, if you are reading (you aren’t) could you shed some light?
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7 Jugde . Just what happened here? Do we have a fan with an almost identical surname to last season’s player of the year? Was it a typo in the club shop that nobody noticed? A bet that went wrong? Jugde was spotted at several away games over the season, wearing his colours with pride. With GetWestLondon getting themselves all excited after Cardiff City away with the revelation that : Brentford fan wears Bees shirt with BREXIT 16 on the back, perhaps their energies would have been better focussed getting to the bottom of this one.

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There are just too many questions

6 Peter Gilham. What can you say about Mr.Brentford? Football’s longest running man-with-the-mic turned an incredible 70 this year. 70?!!  How is that possible? Yet, like a fine wine, he continues to improve with age. And nowhere is this better seen than in his goal announcements which, of course, are sponsored by “A little Italian restaurant. At Brentford lock”.  The more goals Brentford score, the more enthused he becomes. Yet what should be the most cringeworthy and toe curling of sponsorship announcements is already becoming part of club folklore with Peter losing his composure (in the best way) should we score more than one goal in a game.

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Peter, Buzz and Buzzette. The epitome of cool

5 Sergio Canos. The Burton away game, with Brentford turning a round a 3-1 half-time deficit to end it as 5-3 winners, is already the stuff of legend. The archetypal example of football being a game of two halves that saw our hosts snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (to borrow a well used phrase). But just when the afternoon couldn’t get any crazier, none other than man of the moment Sergi Canos popped up at the station alongside the Brentford fans making their way home. As you do. Cue mayhem, chaos and photos galore as he posed with each and every supporter that asked for a snap before embarking on his own train journey.

Sergio does it again. And again. What a man.

4 Big Bob Giveaway (and his April fool). If Peter Gilham is Mr. Brentford, Kitman Bob Oteng is fast carving his own niche into club folklore. An all round ‘good guy’, his BBGiveaway (which sees supporters given the chance to win a player shirt, boots or some other ‘money can’t buy’ prize) is a huge part of our match day ritual. But, with everybody looking out for stories of Jota being sold to Fulham or the Bees wearing blue and white hoops next season, he snuck one under the radar on April 1st this year. 270 fans fell for his gag about the none existent black goalkeeper’s jersey.

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3 Aston Villa. In particular, uber-fan Simon Hateley. He typified the attitude of many on social media, unable to adjust to his club’s fall from Premier League grace. Whereas Newcastle United were dignified off field and as strong as expected on it, Villa seemed to have some trouble adjusting. Hateley summed it up with an ongoing series of bizarre and boastful tweets, reminiscent of Leeds United when Brentford stormed into the Championship. The biggest sense of self-entitlement this side of Arsenal TV was met with as much success as the Gunners have in the top flight.

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2 Sam Saunders – that tweet. Sam’s departure in January was one we’d braced ourselves for but, at the same time, was still a sad moment when the inevitable happened. Like Peter and Bob, he is somebody who lives and breathes Brentford. That suntan, the rubber glove car wash and Saunders territory are just some of the many ways he built up a relationship with the supporters that few other players have matched. But top of the list is THE song, to the tune of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’:

Oh Sammy Saunders. You are the love of my life.
Oh Sammy Saunders. I’d let you shag my wife.
Oh Sammy Saunders. I want fake tan like you.

So when one supporter had a special request on the occasion of his best friend’s wedding, the repose was one which summed up Sam in a nutshell.

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1 Josh McEachran – dressed for mini golf. No words required. The tweet says it all :

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Better than the unicorn? Quite possibly ! Thanks everybody for a great season. Here’s to next year.

Nick Bruzon

Cardiff. We lost. And? It was sunny.

8 Apr

Cardiff City 2 Brentford 1. Apparently. Come for the football; stay for the sunshine and Cardiff beach. On a day that saw brackets in the Championship as Norwich City beat Reading 7(seven) – 1, we are clearly at the ‘relaxed’ end of the campaign.

Those who travelled to the Cardiff City Stadium were treated to as non-commital a stroll in the sunshine as one could expect. Perhaps it was just the net result of playing 3 games in 8 days but, with mid-table safety assured and QPR 6 points behind the Bees, this one had all the feel of a pre-season friendly.

A late shout for a penalty aside, when surely Alan McCormack was felled on the edge of the box, there was little to get the blood pumping. But perhaps this alone is testament to where our team are and where we have come from.

What’s that you say? We should accept a defeat like puppies rolling over to have our tummies tickled? At the same time, whilst I can’t imagine anyone having that specific thought, the point is more a long term one.

Sure. Brentford lost. However we’re now a regular mid-table Championship team and, moreso, one with every potential to really push on next season. The post Hogan era is one which has offered nothing but goals, points and exciting football.

I’d love to have won. I’d love to have pulled Fulham ever closer to us. But we didn’t. At the same time there was an acceptance about the game. Cardiff offered nothing. Nothing.

We Are Hoilett‘, declared the big screen at one point. Whilst perhaps true, Brentford were no better. In that whilst we equalled the Bluebirds, even taking the lead as half time approached thanks to the mercurial talent of Sergi Canos, it was what felt like our first real attempt at goal. To Cardiff’s none. A lot of huff. A lot of puff. But no penetration. Neil Warnock nullifying the attacking threat of the Bees as Dean Smith was unable to find a plan B.

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But hey. Sergi had done the business. Despite the reluctance of the City scoreboard controller to acknowledge our goal, Brentford went in at half time a goal up. Surely this would be enough?

Sadly not. Failure to defend another corner (remember Burton?) was a gift to the Welsh hosts before many of the visiting fans had returned from their half time tea and a wee (other drinks/activities are available). And from there, the die was cast.

Despite Dan Bentley doing his very best, it was soon 2-1 to the hosts before everything reverted to the pre-season feel. And from that point, nothing. From either team. The Bees had the odd sortie forward, one culminating in the foul on McCormack, but there was little or nothing to get the blood pumping.

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There was a big hint outside the ground

That’s no real complaint. We’ve no divine right to win everything. The players must be on their last legs and have done nothing in recent weeks than offer encouragement for next season. Now, the season is all but at an end. Although there are still plenty of highlights left.

Good Friday at home to Derby. The trip to Barnsley where our own Buzz has the chance to avenge his alleged defeat to Toby Tyke in our early season mascot race. Then there is the small matter of games with QPR and Fulham.

Whatever the time of year. Whatever the season. Whatever our league placings. Whatever the division. Those are games where nothing but a Brentford win can be the aspiration. Games where we know how incredible a win for the Bees can feel. Games where defeat can be that emptiest of sensations.

Think of Stuart Dallas at the Cottage. Romaine Sawyers at Loftus Road. Likewise, Alan Judge being pressed into that ‘false 9’ position a season earlier. When it’s great; it’s incredible. When it’s bad then there are no words.

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View from the terrace – didn’t he hit that well

We may have lost today, but the season is still ending on a high. It is an odd feeling though.

From a personal perspective I’ve never been to an away game where the entire vibe was so relaxed. From both sets of fans. About the most that got Cardiff excited was the funfair in the car park. Perhaps one to give a wide berth to when Lionel Road is built. Even Billy Grant of Beesotted fame (and it’s always great to see our favourite fan group out and about) was in stealth mode with ne’er a selfie stick in sight. But at least he was here and still doing the much loved podcast thing. Have mobile phone, will travel.

With Simon Moore and his Sheffield United team earning promotion to the Championship today, perhaps it was ironic that we spent a sunny day in Cardiff, very much in beach mode.

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Come for the football. Stay for the newspapers

Nick Bruzon

Mark Burridge wins Twitter for the day as Brentford prepare for trip to Ipswich Town

3 Mar

Roll on Saturday. Brentford travel to Ipswich Town looking to make it three wins in a row whilst, at the same time, building on a ‘goals scored’ record that has seen us find the net 16 times in the last 6 games. The last of which saw that smile inducing hat trick from Jota (just think of it and tell me you aren’t still grinning). And those of you up early may have spotted something on Twitter from the midweek win for Newcastle United at Brighton, c/o of our commentator par excellence Mark Burridge.

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View from the Braemer – unadulterated joy from Jota and the team on Saturday

But we can only start with Brentford and Ipswich Town. Last season saw a 3-1 win for Brentford at Ipswich, in a game that was marred by Luke Hyam’s horrific lunge through Alan Judge. It was a foul subsequently defended by Tractorboy’s boss Mick McCarthy who, even given time to reflect , made no attempt to reconsider his opinion.

Hyam was shown a yellow for the assault on Judge which broke his leg, ruled him out of EURO 2016 and 11 months later still sees him nowhere close to a first team return. The Ipswich man was eventually shown a second yellow for going at Ryan Woods just before half time.

Dean Smith’s suggestion that he had been  “a bit naughty” and deserved straight red prompted a somewhat bizarre reply in which McCarthy noted, “I’m disappointed if he’s said that. I don’t think it is. I think he’s won the ball. I’ve actually complained to the referee as to why it’s a booking if he’s won the ball. I don’t think it’s naughty at all. That surprised me and disappoints me if he’s said that, but we all have opinions”.

Hyam hasn’t featured this time around but don’t expect anything different from Mick and his team. If not career threatening injuries, certainly a side who are robust in the challenge and have lost the form that has seen them threatening the play offs in previous campaigns. Instead, a squad that contains Jonathan Douglas and Toumani Diagouraga have seen their stock fall and sit below Brentford in the league table.

As for Brentford, there’s been more than a touch of Keegan-era Newcastle United about us in recent weeks. Dean’s return to picking a four man defence has seen goals aplenty, at both ends. Is kamikaze football better than the turgid possession game? Absolutely. Is it just a matter of time before the team re-adjust to both their ‘new’(traditional) system and new faces  such as Flo Jo and Sergi ? I have no doubt. Which of those two Dean starts with on Saturday will be tough choice but, like Justin Shaibu, the impact made from the bench by the Spaniard was clear for all to see.

Harlee Dean has flourished in recent months. He really has been indispensable, both at the back and going forward. He’ll be missed in his second game out following his tenth yellow, but it gives Andreas Bjelland  and John Egan a chance to really give Dean another selection headache. Along with Yoann Barbet, we really have been blessed with centre backs – the trick for Dean being which combination to pick and which players to sit alongside them.

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Suspension saw Harlee spending Saturday very much put of position

And there’s another thing. Rico Henry. He’s barely featured on these pages since, finally, making his debut in the 2-1 win up at Sheffield Wednesday. Rico, if you are reading (you aren’t) I can only apologise.  Commentators and supporters alike were left enthusing about his performance. Those who saw him in the flesh against Rotherham could only agree. Pace, skill, tricks and tackles. In abundance.

Tom Field has been magnificent at left back but Rico really has thrown down a gauntlet. In doing so, he has shown just why the statistical model has identified a second Dean Smith ex-player as one we should move for.

As for Romaine Sawyers, his killer ball through for the goal to complete Jota’s hat-trick showed just why our head coach must have been smiling when ‘the model’ threw up his name over the summer. Like Brentford, consistency has been the main problem here in a tricky first season but we’ve nobody who can split a defence like Romaine when he is on his A game.

Rotherham, like Sheffield Wednesday, saw him very much a fish out of water. The ‘false 9’ formation is not one that we’ve been overly comfortable with and Saturday was the archetypal example. A set up that looked good on paper pre kick off clearly wasn’t working and Dean Smith really should have rescued his man earlier.

As for the experts, the bookies see Brentford as 39/20 to win this one whilst ‘over 2.5 goals’ is evens. And for those of you with a penchant for curse of the ex-player (as so ably demonstrated by John Swift at Reading) Toumani is 15/2 to score at any time. Whilst the big man was only the bench last time out, football being football then surely that’s where the smart money is?

Calling the shots will be Mark Burridge, as ever. With travel chaos expected thanks to the rail service, could Beesplayer be the best place to catch up on the action? Whilst there is no substitute for being there, the thought of spending the afternoon with Mark and his team is a tempting one. If for no other reason than we can expect quick off the mark observations from our man at the mic.

Does he ever sleep? Is his attention permanently tuned in to all things Brentford and Greyhounds ? We alluded to an early morning social media spot at the start of the article and sure enough, Mark / Newcastle United delivered.

Nice one Mark . Here’s to more zingers on Saturday. And goals.

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Nick Bruzon

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

16 Feb

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

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

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

Thanks Dave. Much appreciated.

Trying to focus on the positives – Dave Washer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Half time at Reading. Things could be worse…

Will there be more of the same at a price that, surely, is beyond generous?

4 Feb

Saturday morning. Match day. Except, of course, it isn’t. Brentford fans have to wait an extra day for the chance to see if we can match Tuesday night’s annihilation of Aston Villa. This time around, the visitors are none other than Brighton. A team who, whilst managing to reel in and then fend off long term runaway leaders Newcastle United, went down 3-1 at Huddersfield Town in front of the Sky TV cameras on Thursday night.

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Will the Seagulls fall victim to Dean’s killer Bees?

There’ll never be a better time for the Bees to take on the Seagulls. Brentford blew away Aston Villa on Tuesday night as though they were nothing more inconvenient than an empty crisp packet. 3-0 really doesn’t even begin to do justice to a scoreline that saw added width courtesy of Florian Jozefzoon and the wonderful Jota.

It was something noted by Dean, who used his press conference to note that “They give us an extra dimension and that enabled me to flip the system on Tuesday” (and, as ever, you can read his full interview on ‘official’).

With one defender less and more room in the middle of the pitch, Dean set his team up in much more balanced and positive formation than we’d seen in a long time. The results more than justified the tactical reshuffle. And this is before the returning Sergi Canos has even got a look in. Whilst I can’t imagine he’ll start in this one, I can already hear the reception he’ll get coming off the bench.

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Jota was back in the starting XI on Tuesday night

The big question now being whether it was a one off or if we can expect more of the same against Brighton? I hope so. Desperately. Tuesday night saw genuinely exciting football as the Bees, perhaps with a point to prove to Scott Hogan, tore Villa a new one.

Brighton, meanwhile, may well be back in second place by the time we cross paths. Newcastle United play on Saturday although a visit from Derby County won’t be the easiest fixture in the calendar. Yet if they can get the win, that adds the pressure to Albion. Especially if third placed Reading can also do the business at hapless Ipswich Town. A win for the Royals will take them to within just two points of Brighton.

Then, of course, we’ve got Thursday night to consider. Nobody needs a midweek trip to Huddersfield at the best of times, let alone when you then put in a performance that Chris Hughton would later describe saying, “Every now and again you get a real bad one, and that was a real bad one.

Perhaps he should compare notes with Steve Bruce !  To compound their misery, highly rated defender Lewis Dunk was shown the red card so misses out at Griffin Park.

One can’t help but think Brighton will be exhausted. With little over 48 hours to recover from the game and subsequent trip back from Yorkshire to the South coast, they are back on the road again.  Whilst we’ve all been victims to the vagaries of TV scheduling, this one seems extreme and yet another example of the TV companies putting teams and fans firmly in second place.

The question being if Dean Smith and his team can take advantage of this gift we’ve been offered. Brentford have already beaten Brighton in the corresponding fixture – becoming the only team this season to leave the Amex with all three points. Can we now become the first to do the double over the Seagulls? Could Sergi cause havoc in the final twenty minutes as tiredness starts to tell?

At odds of 11/5 with club sponsors 888, it seems to be free money for anybody looking to invest. Surely that’s too generous a price?

On Sunday afternoon, we find out.

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Nick Bruzon

Amidst all the noise and distraction, let’s not forget the main event this weekend as Newcastle visit.

12 Jan

There’s been so much going on in the last week that one could be forgiven for being distracted by the main event for Brentford. It’s been all West Ham this, West Ham that over the alleged £15m sale of Scott Hogan to the Olympic stadium team. Likewise, Chelsea have been at the forefront of our attentions as the FA Cup draw has paired us with the current Premier League leaders once more. There’s even a case for adding Norwich City into the mix, given the paper talk about Sergi Canos – the only piece of transfer gossip to have the longevity of the Hogan rumour. Yet amongst all this I’ve not seen many people getting excited about Newcastle United in social media.

This Saturday sees one of THE games of the season as the Magpies are the visitors to Griffin Park. The match was, of course, originally moved to Monday night for the benefit of the TV cameras before a last minute rejig (and the inevitable travel chaos that will be caused for many) as a result of their FA Cup draw with Birmingham City.

This is a huge occasion and was without doubt one of the first games we looked for when the fixture list was published last summer. Yet now it is here, such are the other distractions at present that Newcastle United seem to be the last team on anybody’s radar.

Which, for me, is just great. Whilst nobody can deny our visitors’ history, let’s go into this as just another game rather than any form of special occasion. Newcastle have earned their place in the Championship through top flight ineptitude just as we have done through hard, hard work. Now, both teams are competing in the same division on the the same terms. If not financially then certainly in terms of opposition, games, TV rescheduling and even just the random level of refereeing.

Despite a blistering first few months to the campaign, the wheels are starting to fall off the ‘Rafalution’. Relatively speaking. Not only have Brighton caught up with the one time runaway leaders of the Championship but they now sit two points clear with a game in hand. Indeed, should Reading win their home game with hapless QPR tonight then the gap between second and third place will have shrunk to just three points.

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Worst. Hashtag. Ever.

That’s not to say I won’t be looking forward to Saturday’s game. It’s not every day that Rafa Benitez comes to town – the last time seeing him leave Griffin Park as the beneficiary of a very late draw in the FA Cup with his then Chelsea side . I’d love to see us go one better this time around, and if only to avenge the 3-1 defeat his team inflicted on us at St. James Park back in October. At one stage, that looked like it was going to be a real drubbing as the Bees were somewhat overawed by the occasion and the venue in the opening quarter hour.

Yet, equally, that can work to our advantage. There can’t be too many of the Newcastle team to have played in such a compact stadium as Griffin Park. A place where the changing rooms are less ‘palatial’ and more ‘garden shed’. A place where the fans will be on top of the pitch and on top of the opposition. A place where songs about table service  will, no doubt, be sung in the vicinity of the away dug out.

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Rafa has been here before; albeit he was outthought and outplayed by the Bees

So our approach to this one has been quite low key. That’s good. The Chelsea game will happen regardless whilst West Ham will, by all accounts, need to invest in a bigger calculator before even considering an investment in of our prize assets. If these things act as smoke screens to take the pressure off in the build up to Saturday then all well and good.  If John Swift and Reading win tonight to heap the pressure on Newcastle then even better.

Best of all though, with all of this going on there’s been no room to focus on the most horrific story of all this week. One worse than the image of the soon to be President Trump indulging in whatever golden medal wining video performance he is alleged to have indulged in. Yes, the BBC have announced the return of Mrs Brown in a new prime time Saturday night show.

The blurb from the Beeb tells us that the new show will featuring celebrity guests and allegedly outrageous stunts. Even more scary is the promise of ’shenanigans’. See also: ‘zany’ and ‘crazy’ in the list of words used to massively over compensate for extreme tedium.

I want to beat Newcastle United. I’d love the Bees to get promoted. Yet, if we are to find ourselves in the Championship  in 2017/18 then, at least, there’s the consolation of not having to sit through this tediously unfunny nonsense (It’s a man. In a cardigan.) whilst waiting for Match of the Day to start.

See you at Griffin Park on Saturday.

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Mrs Brown. Be afraid. Be very afraid

Nick Bruzon

Christmas present from Crystal Palace helps Brentford draw with 12 man Cardiff.

27 Dec

A fair point, lucky to get away with it or robbed? Brentford and Cardiff City shared the spoils in 2-2 Boxing Day draw that sprang to life late in the second half but, prior to that, had been a game which felt as stodgy and bloated as a third helping of sprouts and Christmas pudding. Only the presence of Crystal Palace loanee Sullay Kaikai managing to save the day.

And talking of Christmas puddings (oh, the crowbarring…) referee Simon Hooper was giving out no gifts (the penalty to Cardiff for their opener, aside) as he enraged the Griffin Park faithful, management and players – with Harlee Dean being awarded a yellow card for his (correct) protests at yet another stonewall penalty being turned down.

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Harlee tells the ref what we all think and saw – c/o Beesplayer highlights (below)

It was as shocking a display of refereeing as one could hope to see. Consistently poor decision making as appeals for three nailed on spotkicks were waved away by the man in the middle. But it wasn’t just him.

The assistant on the Braemar Road side  proving absolutely no use in telling him what we could all see. Their existence on the pitch proving pointless which, ironically, was how Brentford were almost left after Cardiff had retaken the lead with minutes on the clock.

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Pointless officials almost left the Bees , erm, empty handed

One point for the visitors would have been harsh, let alone all three. They’d taken the lead in the first half with the one penalty that Mr Hooper saw fit to award, for the most innocuous of innocuous ‘challenges’ (please note: yours, and everybody else’s definition of the word ‘challenge may vary).

Yet if the Bees had been robbed we were hardly making a fight of hauling ourselves back into it. Turgid, apathetic, lazy. Every manner of ’too much Christmas dinner’ related cliche. Any of these would have been an apt description of a team that not so much failed to get going as failed to make it out onto the pitch.

With Cardiff opting to go for muscle , brawn and height there is enough talent in this team to have kept it on the deck and run rings around them. Instead, it was tedium in football form. Bounced off the challenge and as many sideways and backwards passes as attempts to take it forward dominated our play. The first half was, frankly, as entertaining as a Christmas cracker joke.

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Answers on a postcard…

An hour in, substitutions . And good ones. McEachran for Sawyers and Sullay Kaikai for Lasse Vibe. Neither had played well whilst, for whatever reasons, the form of our great Dane seems to have long gone off the boil. How he is still justifying a starting berth is confusing to many but, with the new look team in place, things did step up.

With an added positive substitution of Philipp Hofmann coming on for Bjelland, the Bees began to push. And push. The penalty appeals aside, it was surely going to be matter of time.

And then it happened. Visiting ‘keeper Brian Murphy could no longer hold off the red hoardes as, despite a number of fine saves, he finally saw his net bulge courtesy of a quite magnificent effort from Sullay Kaikai. That’s one to hit rewind for again and again once the official highlights come out (until then, we have the Sky variant available).

Mark Burridge now on hand for ‘official’ comms

But with the Bees pressing for a late winner, we were caught short. Kenneth Zohore beating the last man when played on side and, with a generous shove chucked into the mix, was able to fire the Bluebirds into an 89th minute 2-1 lead.

With fans trooping out early for the pub, and City gloating, it was dead in the water, wasn’t it? Those who stayed were rewarded for their faith. That man Kaikai popping up again to head home John Egan’s cross and salvage a point for the Bees.

We should have won this. We could have lost it. Don’t let the anti-performance of the referee or our late surge disguise the fact that we were so desperately poor for huge swathes of this game. But for the Crystal Palace man we’d have had few complaints, barring the referee, at coming away empty handed.

A team just can’t rely on arbitrary decision making from the man in the middle to determine their fate. Cardiff offered nothing beyond grunt yet even that was too sophisticated for the Bees in the opening hour.

The record books will show a point earned and, in the longer term, we’ll have few complaints. Yet I do wonder why Dean’s teams are so inconsistent and such late starters?  Why can’t we play for 90 minutes? See also : Birmingham City . Why do we just fail to turn up at times? See also: Barnsley, Norwich City and Fulham.

I’ve no issue losing but the consistency, or lack off, is perplexing. We just don’t know which Brentford we’re going to get. Here’s hoping that when we play Norwich City on New Year’s Eve it’ll be the one that humped Reading 4-1 or Preston 5-0 way back in September.

Not the Brentford who got turned over 5-0 at Carrow Road earlier this month.

On Dec 31st, we find out. See you there.

Nick Bruzon