Tag Archives: Reading

Thank you NHS. Thank you Sergi. Thank you Jan.

22 Mar

What can you say? Yesterday we should have been watching Brentford play Reading in an out of town car park. The most soul destroying of trips to somewhere that looks, as the crow flies, so close yet in reality is a trip that would test even Bear Grylls. The sort of thing we’d take an almost masochistic pleasure in moaning about yet, right now, I’d give my right arm to be in a position to be upset about having made the shlep to the Madjeski. The realisation of just how much we take for granted is hitting home with all the subtly of Ian Moose at a buffet. Should such a thing still exist. Buffets, I mean. Football is over for the foreseeable. Life is all about staying sane and staying healthy. Thoughts of Griffin Park and the last game with Barnsley nothing more than an optimistic light on the horizon. 

Yet optimism is what we need right now. With the news making for such hard going it would be easy to sink into despondency. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t had low points in the last week or so. I’m sure I can’t be alone and I am sure there will be more to come. With self-isolation becoming more and more prevalent – whether enforced or voluntary – even walking past Griffin Park yesterday morning on an almost clandestine trip to the shop felt like a guilty pleasure.

Moreso given how hard those people on the front line are working to keep things going. Food and drink should be available (as long as people don’t act like dicks in the supermarket) and our NHS staff are busting an absolute gut, despite being in the very forefront of what is impacting us all.

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Griffin Park is understandably on lockdown

The trip back from the shop was punctuated by a call from Mrs. Bruzon. Where was I? Harry had suffered a horrific fall and smacked his head open!!! Blood everywhere and losing consciousness. My heart stopped. Panic set in – and as much because I had to start running to get the last mile back to them. It wasn’t a pretty sight on arrival (but enough about my knackered lungs). Blood everywhere, H looking grey and not even crying. Just slumped lethargically against mummy who was heading off to the hospital.

The short hop to West Mid was not a good one. I have to be honest I’ve not been so scared in a long, long time. Sat in the back with Harry, he was barely coherent. Barely awake. I did my best to keep him talking. Asking silly questions about Brentford. The answers made no sense. Dalsgaard isn’t a centre back. Ollie Watkins has scored more than 16 goals. This was not a good sign. At least he recognised that Sergi Canos is his favourite player.

All I could do was promise that if he kept talking to me and then did everything the doctors and nurses asked, I’d give him the one shirt from my collection he’s had his eye on to go in his bedroom – Jan Zamburek’s Ecoworld blue ‘Farewell Griffin Park’ shirt (don’t ask ; that’s a story for another day).

We reached the hospital in a hurry. Thankfully, people seem to finally be taking the advice to stay indoors seriously and traffic was at a minimum. Scooping him from the back seat, I ran in with H in my arms. Heart pumping – but , again, as much through lack of fitness as panic. Here we go…..

Wow! The NHS staff were amazing. Incredible. Moved so quickly. Got him in, cleaned up, assessed, treated and slowly the colour returned to his cheeks. The shock he had suffered worn off. The huge gouge above his eye now sealed up and sure to leave a proper ‘Action Man’ style scar. With all the carnage going on in the outside world and the incredible pressure / stress they must be under at present, to see how calm and caring they were was nothing short of life affirming. Huge love and huge thanks from me and Mrs B, that’s for sure! 

Harry is now fine. He is home. His composure returned and Zamburek’s shirt is hanging in his room, alongside what I think is Gary Blissett’s 92-93 ‘away’ (again, don’t ask). I’ll say one thing for H, he does have good taste. 

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H now has a new favourite shirt

We’re all sitting around in self-isolation – wondering how to get through the coming weeks but knowing that we will. Knowing that thanks to those wonderful people in the NHS, a personal nightmare has been avoided. Things are likely going to get very tough for while. They’ll be the ones out there looking after us. You only need to look at the news to see how things have played out in other countries. To see how irresponsible some people have still been as recently as Friday night, having ‘one last hurrah for the road’ before pubs shut down.

I don’t want to go all holier than thou because I’m not. But having seen health workers in action first hand, the last thing we need to do is pile any more pressure on them. The last thing we want is them, or anyone, going hungry. Do think before you hit ‘stockpile’ mode or go walkabout. It might not be much fun compared to our usual freedoms (although the alternatives are 10 times worse, to coin a phrase).

If for no other reason that aside from going stir crazy, many of us need to double up as teachers. Cripes!!  If the NHS, supermarket workers and all those others whom we have, let’s be honest, probably taken for complete granted over the years deserve respect than I am sure this will be equally applicable to those who keep the schools running. Me and H have already had our first science class – making bouncy eyeballs (well, he was worried he may need a replacement). 

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It is also a time that is bringing out the best in people. Neighbours are suddenly looking out for each other. Strangers doing good deeds. Streets and communities coming together to try and help each other through these unprecedented times. We have warmth. We have the internet. We have a lot of TV and board-game time coming up. Hopefully we all have food.

But I also know we will get through this. Stop. Think. Look out for your friends. Your neighbours. Each other. Pick up the phone. Send a text message to somebody who might not be expecting it. Let’s stay talking to each other. This is the chance for Social Media to be an amazing power for good rather than the hotbed of vitriol and nastiness it can so often be.

Just reading the words of Sergi Canos yesterday put a huge smile on my face.  There may be no football at present but it’s probably the least of our concerns in the immediate grand scheme. Let’s keep on remembering the good times and look forward to them returning at some point.

Nick Bruzon

Can our own Winston Churchill inspire further success ?

22 Feb

It seems an age since Brentford picked up a point at Birmingham City last weekend. Since then we’ve all had a chance to wonder just what happened to the guy in the green jacket. We’ve beaten Albion Rovers in the World Cup of programme covers final after an epic semi-final replay defeat of Blyth Spartans. We’ve learned that Bryan Mbeumo has recovered and will be starting today. Likewise that Sergi Canos is fit, although that’s a different set of pictures. Wayne Rooney’s Derby County have held Fulham in game that, arguably, they could have won last night –  a result that would have been the perfect tonic ahead of today’s visit from Blackburn Rovers. Yet as one New Road observer opined last night : ‘Result! More dropped points’. And he’s right. It is a result that means a win for Brentford this lunchtime is guaranteed to take us third, just one point behind Leeds United ahead of their own home banker against Reading. But , as ever, things are never as easy as they may seem on paper. Blackburn sit just outside the play-offs, very much sneaking up the blind side to a position where their own three points in front of the Sky cameras will see them edge into sixth. 

This is very much a day with everything to play for. Very much a day for Brentford to make a name for themselves and for Blackburn Rovers to try and ruin our moment with their own promotion seeking agenda. I’m just glad this one is a lunchtime kick off. There’s less time to wait until things get going albeit it’s somewhat of a drag for those living away from TW8. Welcome to what may await should we be successful in our aim of starting life at Lionel Road in the Premier League. 

That in itself being a phrase (or variant of) I have to pinch myself each time it is written. Not because we don’t deserve to be where we are. We do. The table doesn’t lie and this team is one of THE best we’ve ever had the good fortune to see. More because we all know how grim things were for so long. How desperately we all fought just to keep the club alive. It is a point we do return to on these pages as much to remind ourselves how incredible it will be should the dream play out.

Standing in our way today are Blackburn Rovers. We’ve a lot to thank them for. Mainly David Raya who has been one of the major contenders for player of the season. No goalkeeper in the Championship has conceded less than his 27 in 33 games. With the BMW firing at the other end, just think how significant this may prove to be when the final seasonings play out.

Then again, the Blackburn defence is pretty miserly. They’ve barely troubled the ‘A’ column this year and their last two games have seen back to back clean sheets as they picked up wins over Charlton and Hull City. It is a string of results that has marked a positive start to 2020 and now the play-off zone is beckoning. But what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Think Batman v The Joker or KITT v KARR in Knightrider. Who comes off unscathed? Who can pick a less relevant cultural reference ?

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KITT v KARR. The BMW v Blackburn

The heart, of course, says Brentford come out on top. The head says this is football. This is never easy. Nothing is guaranteed . It’s why this year has already seen Leeds United come unstuck against Wigan. Against QPR. Against Sheffield Wednesday. Held by many others. Why Charlton won at Nottingham Forest the Tuesday before last. Editor – bring forth the clichés. Every game absolutely needs to be taken as it comes. Past form counts for nothing when the referee blows his whistle – opponents expected to roll over and die rarely do. Something which would be very much appreciated if Reading could also adhere to.

Pressure can do strange things to top sides but confidence can also inspire them. If we carry on doing what we’ve been doing, and the crowd keep it loud, today has the possibility to be an auspicious one. Our fans are nothing but magnificent, as we saw again at Birmingham City on Saturday. Harry Potter in evidence, as ever. Loud and proud.  Our own man in the green jacket very much helping play a part in out-smarting theirs. More of the same very much the order of the day.

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Can Simon – Brentford’s answer to Winston Churchill – inspire us once more ?

Elsewhere, it would be remiss of us to not to round up recent coverage of the World Cup of Programme Covers event that has played out on Twitter. We’ve not graced these pages over the last few days – mainly due to half-term based exhaustion. Self-inflicted as a social life has, oddly, reared it’s head once more. Ahh – alcohol and live music – I welcome you both back into my life, old friends. Guinness, The Strokes and Bluetone Mark Morris amongst others to get in the way of writing this nonsense.

As such, we’d left things in the build up to the semi-final with Blyth Spartans. An incredible victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat as a last second vote in Brentford’s favour took the tie with Roger Mellie to a dead heat. You couldn’t make it up. Scenes. Limbs (whatever they are) and all other manner of cyber celebration greeted the result. A bitter gut punch to the stomach of the Viz inspired red-hot favourite. The replay seeing Bees cruise into a final shoot out with Albion Rovers.

We looked dead. Buried. The people’s favourite from North-of-the-border storming into a 72% lead until…. the votes began to swing. Was it the ‘RT’ from official that did it? Or just good taste coming to the fore? Either way, the Daliesque stylings of Albion’s wing wizard were pushed in to second place. The victory ours. The tournament complete. A plucky runner up denied the prize of victory which many, myself included, could have had no complaints with had they won.

And finally…. Editor – bring forth the crowbar. Whilst normally I don’t bang on about the match day programme, today is different.

The team have produced an issue based on the classic design from season 1991. A time when the Bees finally achieved promotion from what is now League One and those of us a bit longer in the tooth were wondering whether this really was the last we’d seen of Kinightrider.  Aswell as interviews with David Raya and Lee Towersey – the man behind the controls of R2D2 in Star Wars (apparently), Greville Waterman’s look back at the aforementioned promotion and my own personal favourite page Triple B, (Big) Ben Burgess – The Last Word (if nothing else, it’s a great title) I would crave your indulgence for my own column. If for no other reason then the hope that before the end of the season we may be able to bring back an old friend. Or two……

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Nick Bruzon

Last game at Griffin Park – all you need to know about tickets so far.

18 Feb

Contender, ready! Gladiators, ready! Thus demanded (or asked, I was never quite sure) referee John Anderson back in the day. And it has the feel of a titanic struggle as the Barnsley tickets go on sale this afternoon. On the surface, an innocuous fixture but in practice the last time Brentford will get to run out at Griffin Park (officially – there’s always the possibility of the play-offs….).  In the role of the plucky contenders, we have the non-season ticket holding members. Lined up in Wolf’s clothing, TAPS. And with the club already warning that “We have significantly more Members than available tickets for this game”, expect somebody to end this one unhappy.

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Who will end up unhappy?

What are the club to do though? Already the hard luck  / panic stories are coming out on social media and the tickets aren’t even on sale. Moreso given the apparent worry / fear of Griffin Park being flooded by tourists (especially those on apparent Scandinavian package deals). We’ve had high demand games before and things have generally worked out for those wanting to get in. Yet this is next level. As emotive as they come and demand is absolutely sure to outstrip supply – even with the Ticket Access Point (TAP) tiering.

Club Members with 900+ TAPs (one per Member):
From Tuesday 18 February at 4pm to Tuesday 3 March at 4pm

Club Members with 750+ TAPs (one per Member):
From Tuesday 10 March at 4pm to Tuesday 24 March at 4pm

All Club Members (one per Member):
From Tuesday 31 March at 4pm 

You can absolutely understand everybody’s desire to get in for this one. The club could charge double and it would still sell out. They could but they won’t. They don’t really have any alternative as to how tickets go on sale. These are member only (with ST holders guaranteed a place so excluded from buying) and then members raked by TAP rather than an ‘all-in simultaneously’ bundle or even a lottery. In my opinion, and for what it’s worth, this is the fairest way possible.

Absolutely somebody will miss out that almost certainly deserves to be in there. Somebody will buy a ticket for their brother/mother/cousin who has been once in a blue moon. We’ll no doubt have our usual contingent of visitors from abroad (something which, for the record, nobody seems to have had kicked off about previously). This one is different though…

This one is huge. This one will have Brentford fans that miss out up in arms. That’s natural. We all want to go. We’ve all got reasons for not being able to attend certain games. We’ve always used Season Tickets and TAPS as a means of attempting to reward the most loyal supporters previously.

How could it have been done differently? Delegate attendance to a random away game as a means of prioritising for tickets? We’ve done that in the past – oh, the joys of a midweek coach trip to Wrexham in the fog and rain. But what about loyal supporters with prior commitments that weekend? A lottery is even worse whilst giving all members simultaneous access was a recipe for website meltdown and even huger fan upset as ‘deserving’ supporters with a long history could well have missed out.

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2002 – demand was ferocious.

Brentford are in a lose-lose scenario here. Whatever they do will upset somebody. Only Season Ticket holders are guaranteed access and whilst it’s easy to pontificate in that situation, one can’t help but feel for those that do miss out. I’ve been there before back in the  dark days of being so skint there were weeks I couldn’t even afford a match day ticket for Division One fixtures. Let alone the luxury of a season ticket. Of having to hope somebody somehow had a spare or trawl around the outskirts of Griffin Park to get in to the promotion decider with Reading (thanks, Jamie Cureton). My own cousin Charles from Gibraltar, who has been bringing a close to 100% record with him since the 80s, will likely miss out. That’s how it goes, sadly.

The club have made the best of trying to untangle this Gordian knot of a problem. It was always going to be impossible to keep everyone happy in advance. Asking Keith Stroud to keep the cards in his pocket or getting a cat into a bath tub would have been easier. 

That said, before fans get any more anxious than they already (and understandably) are, the club has also offered a further rays of light should the tickets indeed sell out. The article on the subject, which you can read in full here, notes that : 

A limited amount of additional tickets are likely to become available at a later date once we have a clearer understanding of the requirements we need to fulfil for various parties, including, but not limited to, the EFL and Brentford FC partners, the opposition club and players. As such, further sales information will follow in due course.

Likewise, there is also the prospect of the Brentford Ticket Exchange closer to the time whilst I’d be amazed if Utilita don’t run some form of competition. This seems to be de-rigeur at present and, whilst they don’t announce the winners or even get kick off times correct, it is another avenue of possibility. Woudn’t have happened on Siracusa’s watch, that’s all I’ll say about our goal sponsors.

So hold steady. Don’t panic. Easier said than done, I realise. Just be ready to sign on at the appointed hour and then cross you fingers that our server is up to the job. Failing that, get following Utilita on Twitter. 

Otherwise, we’re relying on Leeds United not falling apart (nobody wants that) and the prospect of our last game turning out to be our penultimate game with the play-offs coming in to contention……

Nick Bruzon

The huge prize awaiting if……

27 Nov

Oh my. What an incentive going in to this evening’s game at Blackburn Rovers. If Brentford win and West Bromwich Albion avoid defeat at home to Bristol City, The Bees will end the night in the play-off places. The maths are that simple even if the application of these facts may not be. Football has a funny habit of kicking you in the nuts when you least expect it. When your hope is highest. Yet, at the same time, it would be churlish to ignore the position we now find ourselves in after Swansea City were held at Huddersfield last night.

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The top of the table via the BBC – basic maths.

For Thomas Frank, naming the team would seem an easy decision. Ethan Pinnock more than impressed against Reading on Saturday and so, with Julian Jeanvier still suspended, his retaining his place is an absolute no-brainer. Thankfully, a decision that can be justified on merit rather than card induced necessity. In the midfield, Christian Nørgaard is available once more and could be in with more of a chance at getting his place back. However, Mathias Jensen won’t give up his place without a fight and the cross he supplied to set up Ollie Watkins’ winner last time out was sublime. Inch perfect delivery that was begging to be put away. Watkins duly obliged.

Could Josh Dasilva be moved to accommodate Nørgaard or is, as is more likely, it simply a case of having to bide his time on the bench with Thomas selecting an unchanged starting XI? I can’t see beyond the same team as started against Reading beginning this one tonight. Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace and would have more chance of calling the lottery numbers than getting something as vital as a team selection correct.

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Jensen supplied a delicious cross for the goal on Saturday.

Blackburn Rovers are no pushover, that’s for sure. A Bradley Dack brace and a shot from Stewart Downing earned them all the points in a 3-2 fight back against basement boys Barnsley on Saturday. No doubt they will be looking to build on this and climb further up the table from their current 17th. But Brentford are going to be confident. We have every right to be so, too. The last three away games have seen us pick up 9 points and scoring 3 goals each time out with fine wins at Loftus Road, Swansea and then Wigan. We haven’t won four successive games on the road since back in 2011 and so there is yet another incentive to really go for it tonight. That is, if getting Ollie Watkins to the the top of the Championship goal scorer charts or ourselves into the top six wasn’t enough already.

This one is going to be tough. Win, lose or draw it makes no real difference in the long term. At least, at this juncture. It would be quite magnificent to get the points and hope West Bromwich Albion can do us the proverbial favour. With Leeds United grabbing a late winner at Reading last night, the Baggies currently find themselves in second place. One place off the top of the table. If The Bees have the motivation to go for it then surely Slavan Bilic’s team have just as much themselves? The battle of Romaine Sawyers v Daniel Bentley could be a fascinating one although, for obvious reasons, not one I’ll be following.

Instead, it’ll be the red-button and Sky Sports smudge vision in our house. A mid-week trip to Lancashire is one that is diametrically opposed to the budget, holiday allocation at work and domestic green cards. The efforts and ability of our travelling fans to get to games like this one never ceases to amaze me. Would that being there was an option. Tonight will be very much a case of mind over body and true faith in our boys.

Brentford have been superb in the last two months. The victory over Reading very much a case of grinding one out against stubborn opposition who had set out to strangle us. Something we have often struggled with yet this time around kept going for the entire 90 minutes. However we play and whatever Blackburn do, the opportunity and ability are there. 

I can’t wait for this one. Enioy.

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We’ve had some fine away performances this season.

Nick Bruzon  

Are we getting close to dusting off ‘that’ hashtag after another fine performance?

24 Nov

Get in Ollie Watkins! An 11th goal of the season was sufficient to separate Brentford and Reading, with a 1-0 win for the Bees seeing us climb up to 8th in the Championship table. A mere 2 points outside the play-off spots. With a midweek trip to Blackburn Rovers and then the visit of Luton Town in six days, there’s everything to play for ahead of this time next week. How far away does that season opening home defeat to Birmingham City seem now? Thomas Frank’s fifth win in six league games seeing us on a fast track to dusting off the dreaded ‘Novemberkings’ hashtag. And with Ollie, likened at full time to none other than Juventus legend Cristiano Ronaldo, just one goal behind Aleksandar Mitrovic at the top of the Championship goalscorers table the mood at Griffin Park is buoyant. 

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Heyyyy. Thomas Frank a very happy man at full time

This one was about as hard fought as it comes. In form Reading setting up to stifle the play (see also: Huddersfield Town last time out) and restrict the attacking prowess of The Bees. It was a tactic that worked in the first half with Rico Henry nobled early, requiring a lengthy period of treatment, as Brentford eased their way in to a game that had chances at a premium. Indeed, it was the visitors with the best opportunity of the opening period when George Puscas found himself clean through and bearing down on goal. It had 0-1 all over it but David Raya was equal to it and then some.

Haring off his line, he closed down the gap before spreading himself to close out the threat of certain goal. It really was a magnificent piece of quick thinking, Virtuoso goalkeeping from a man who has fast become a hero the The Griffin Park faithful. The need for precision vital, with referee David Coote showing two very early yellows and then set to ‘random mode’ in his decision making. How Andy Yiadom stayed on in the opening period I have no idea.

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Rico took an early hit

He wasn’t helped by his officials, with the linesman on the Braemar Road side making the foolish mistake of interacting with, and talking back to, the crowd. The magnificent ‘angry dad’ seized on this in a heartbeat and was amongst the many explaining the rules and cajoling the hapless assistant. I will miss this level of interaction and closeness at Lionel Road but, with the price of Premium seating to replicate my current touchline view being what it is, we’ll likely be up in the Gods next time out.

But we digress. Raya did brilliantly. There wasn’t even a glimmer of a potential penalty or a goal as the chance chance was extinguished. And with it, seemingly, Reading’s hopes. Brentford built the pressure in the second half with that man Ollie Watkins finding the back of the net on the hour. Mathias Jensen delivering a beautiful cross from the New Road side of the field straight on to the head of the free scoring number 11. Watkins made no mistake with a powerful downward header back across the face of goal and into the bottom corner.

Griffin Park erupted. As it does. The rain soaked crowd off their seats. Voices raised as high as those pumping visits. Players celebrating as the deadlock was broken. Oh, what a moment. There’s no place like it at times like this. But still there were thirty minutes to go. Still, a referee with no grip on the game or idea what was really going on. Yet Brentford kept going. Watkins again with the chance to double the lead just a few minutes later but not quite able to turn it in on the line.  And as the clock wound down, the pressure built.

Reading are no slouches and they showed it. With five minutes of additional time added on at the death, they started turning the screw. Attack followed attack with more scrambles than an 80s amusement arcade (I absolutely LOVED that game – go check it out). It felt very much like the last attack in a game of rugby. Phase after phase of possession in an attempt to find that elusive way through. Chance after chance cleared as the Brentford defence held firm until Mr Coote finally put us out of our misery. Yesssss!!!!  Well done Pontus, Ethan Pinnock et al as the rejigged backline kept it up until the death.

It was an afternoon of tension and brilliance. Full credit to Reading for pushing us to the absolute limit. They may feel hard done by but it is chances taken that win games. Not possession. Not frustration. Not bad luck. Ollie Watkins got the one effort that counted and it was enough for Brentford. His stock continues to rise and talk on the Quest TV highlights show this morning has very much been that that he is the one that the (so called) big clubs will be looking towards when the transfer window opens.

I’ve no doubt that he will remain in the public eye but why would Thomas want to sell? As he noted at full time, “He’s definitely a number nine now, because he’s so flexible. Cristiano Ronaldo did quite well in the beginning as a winger. Hopefully Ollie can do something similar.

What higher praise is there? What better indication of his ability as the goals continue to flow?

All that’s to worry about in January, though. For now we’ve had another fine win and another three points. The table is really starting to lock up as our progress continues upwards. Keep the wins coming and the rest will look after itself. Blackburn Rovers away on Wednesday is going to be another tough one. But then so was Wigan. So was Swansea. And look what happened there.

Bring it on. I can’t wait…

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Hands off

Nick Bruzon   

An unusual case of The Royals enjoying time in the public eye.

23 Nov

Guess who’s back? We are back. Oh yes. International break blah blah blah. Brentford host Reading this afternoon, no doubt keen to continue the recent run of fine form that has seen us pick up 12 points out of a possible 15 and find the back of the net three times with each victory. It is a purple patch that has seen the 3-2 win at home over Millwall aswell as 0-3 at Swansea, 1-3 at Loftus Road and, most recently, that brutal 0-3 at Wigan. We’ll draw a discreet veil over the Huddersfield Town sludge fest. The net result of all this being that the Bees now find themselves in a position where victory over the Royals could take us to within a single point of the play-off zone. Yet if Huddersfield came to Griffin Park as the Championship’s form team, you can today substitute the Terriers for Reading.

Recent form has been (mostly) wonderful – home and away

Despite what could be described as patchy start, the visitors have come good. And how. Since taking over, manager Mark Bowen has seen his side pick up 10 points from his four league games in charge. By means of showing just how hard he has yanked on the handbrake, this is 2 more than they won in their first eleven matches of the season. Don’t let their position fool you. The table may never lie over the course of a season but, at present, the Royals are very much enjoying life in the public eye. And it’s not often you can say that. 

These next words make me a little queasy. Chief architect in their on-pitch revival seems to be none other than John Swift. He, of course, being one of several from the Chelsea youth production line that went on to enjoy a run at Griffin Park. I’ve said this before, to much chagrin from our reader, but I never really thought he quite cut it. Not at McEachran levels of underwhelming  but the form relative to potential was excruciating at times. We could all see the class but the consistency wasn’t there. 

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File photo.  I don’t remember what this tenuous link was about , either.

Hey, let’s put it down to youth. Certainly, John seems on form now and you are only as good as your last results. Historical form counts for naff all. The BBC note how he has has already created 50 chances in the Championship this season. A figure which comes in at 13 more than any other player. At the same time, he has also been credited with the ‘assist’ six times and, as such, would seem very much their danger man. These are impressive figures although one would imagine that should Saïd Benrahma continue this own prolific return from injury, they are stats that will soon see him overtaken.

Excitingly, the mercurial Algerian is available to Thomas Frank today. A double bonus given the absence of Joel Valencia, who sustained a shoulder injury in the win at Wigan. Like Pontus and Ollie, Said is one of the first names on the team sheet. Inked in with permanent marker in style akin to Mark Warburton with Harlee Dean and Jonathan Douglas. The sort of players deemed utterly essential by the head coach to his own strategy, regardless of their form. Thankfully, our three current stars have all been shining brightly and they will need to be today. 

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Saïd – ever popular with the fans

Also missing are Christian Nørgaard (suspended) and Julian Jeanvier, after seeing red very late on at Wigan. Pontus will need to be at his very shoutiest today with a new look defence in operation. Presumably Ethan Pinnock will slot straight in alongside the vociferous Swede but knowing Thomas, anything could happen. The squad is very much at the thin end with several other key players out injured (Canos and Karelis at the top of that list) but, as we all know, the starting XI is a match for anyone on their day. Or should that be month?  And then some given recent results.

Thomas Frank really has his team on fire. The win at QPR was about as exciting and exhilarating as they come. The victory on the road at Wigan as unexpected yet complete as any we have had this campaign. The alleged ghost of orange/brown long laid to rest. Today has all the potential to lift morale even higher than it already is . To propel The Bees ever upward. To maintain a stranglehold over our visitors that, and not to put any pressure on Thomas, hasn’t seen us slip up at home since the dark days of the Marinus experiment back in 2015.

No pressure Thomas. No pressure…..      

Roll on 2.01pm when we see who he starts with.  Roll on 3pm when it all kicks off.

See you there. Enjoy.

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Any excuse to crowbar this one in – no pressure, Thomas.

Nick Bruzon 

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 

What do you associate with specific other clubs? Oh, and Sergi Canos…

13 Apr

With just five games to go, next season in the Championship already has the potential to include a whole raft of local games for Brentford. Fulham are already down, down deeper and down whilst QPR should be safe. In league One, it’s looking good for Luton Town whilst my most favourite of away games, Charlton Athletic, could well be back on the menu with the Addicks sitting pretty in the play-off zone. Yet today’s trip to Reading could be our last in a while with the Royals placed just two points clear of the relegation spots. Hot on the heels of our 2-0 stroll agasint Ipswich Town on Wednesday and chasing a fifth, successive top ten finish (the gap to Sheff Wed just five points there), Thomas Frank will now doubt be exhorting his boys to give it their all. Yet with Reading playing for their lives, this one is going to be anything but easy and has the potential to be a real cracker.

It’s funny how football throws up certain associations with certain clubs. For example, Liverpool and the media love-in with the fact they did ok in Europe for a couple of seasons  in the late 70s/early 80s go hand in hand. Get your bingo cards ready and eyes down for an Anfield glory, glory nights full house. I’m particular partial to reference of Manchester United and the phrase “playing with the shackles off” that we have at present whilst, apparently, West Ham moved from the Boleyn Ground / Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium a few season back. You may have missed that one, of course, but I gather it was mentioned once. The plus point to that being how it stops us being reminded how they won the World Cup in 1966 or FA Cup in 1980 (a Trevor Brooking header, I believe).

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We can still play this season

With Charlton Athletic (given we’ve mentioned them earlier) it is always the walk through what looks like the deserted set from an episode of The Sweeney, before settling in to one of my most favourite pubs on the ‘away’ circuit (should such a thing even exist).  Strolling through the back end of North Greenwich there’s always the expectation of a Ford Cortina or some such vehicle screeching to a halt outside a gangland lock up, accompanied by a shout of “ Get your clothes on. You’re nicked”.  

With Fulham, the list is endless. Foam fingers, clackers, run out music for the warm up, the neutral stand, Michael Jackson, the gin bar, Brian Guest, Stuart Dallas, Neal Maupay, Gary Blissett, Jota in the last minute. The list goes on and on.

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one best served up to the river rats.. in their own programme. I thank you

As for Reading, there are two things in particular. First up, Boxing Day 1989 and a trip to Elm Park. Brentford lost that game 1-0, apparently. I say apparently as despite being there, the fog was so bad one could barely see beyond the half way line from behind the goal. To this day I’m still amazed that game went ahead but somehow it did. I guess having made the effort to get everybody there, it would have taken an absolute disaster to call it off so late.

The other memory is a more recent one. Sergi Canos and THAT goal. Brentford official shared it again yesterday and I’m still salivating over the thought of it. Moreso, given Ryan Woods had already done more than enough to win goal of the month to give us the lead Than Sergi did his thing….

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Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair

To be honest, there’s not much more we can say after that. So I won’t. Beyond, enjoy. With over 2,000 Brentford fans making the short hop to Reading station and then the long hop to Reading’s stadium, whilst I’m still banking on the three points coming back to West London let’s hope that other results go the way of the Royals to keep alive the chance of more moment’s like this…

Nick Bruzon

All to play for on Saturday after a gritty night and controversy at Griffin Park.

3 Oct

Brentford climb the table after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Griffin Park but it was very much a case of Cheer up, Garry Monk. Or however it is the song goes. Blues manager Monk was left fuming after a red card for Maikel Kieftenbeld, following a clash with Neal Maupay, saw his side reduced to ten men. And his own subsequent dismissal from the touchline. Yet if it was a soft decision, and both managers’ words at full time were telling, The Bees were due something back after Saturday’s quite awful officiating in the 2-2 with Reading. As Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship, themselves 1-0 winners at Hull, Dean Smith has a lot to think about ahead of our trip to Elland Road on Saturday.

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View from one New Road observer.. fight,fight, fight….

If we were due a refereeing kick back (and in true Arsene Wenger style, I didn’t see the incident whilst even Sky Sports Leeds were somewhat selective with their post-match highlights package) then perhaps we were also due one on pitch. Dean Smith very much shuffled his after replacing Daniel Bentley with Luke Daniels. This, following Saturday’s double fumble. So there was no irony lost in Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp – a man who has had more clubs than Harlee Dean has had red cards – allowed Josh McEachran’s first half free-kick through his hands and into the back of the net for 1-1. It WAS a wonderfully hit effort from the New Road side but, being honest, should never have allowed a first goal in 188 appearances for a player who would rightly go on to scoop ‘Man of the match’ honours.

Prior to this, Michael Morrison had given the visitors the lead, heading home from a Jota cross. Or Hoe-ta, as Peter Gilham still insists on calling him. How I’ve missed that wonderful pronunciation from our redoubtable man-with-the-mic . Yet it was just about all the mercurial Spaniard did in the hour and a half he was on pitch. Yoann Barbet had him in the back pocket whilst Josh whipped the ball of his toes a number of times.

Daniels wasn’t the only change for the Bees. Out wide, we were missing both Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins (suspended and injured respectively). Whilst Alan Judge and Sergi Canos are both wonderful, it deprived Dean Smith his normal option to mix it up in the second half. And with Birmingham City packing 11 behind the ball, there was no third gear to accelerate into as the game progressed. Indeed, and you have to give credit to Monk, his stifling of the game meant our short sharp passing game had no way through. Our 74% possession unable to be turned into real chances. Only Henrik Dalsgaard, pushed forward towards the end with Maupay having little joy against the lumbering Birmingham defence,  came close to sending The Bees faithful home happy. Camp making amends for his earlier butter fingers to pull off a point blank save with the clock deep in injury time.

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Brentford ‘Official’ capture the goal on Twitter

It was very much a case of parking the proverbial bus with the Bees unable to get past. That’s a tactic I suppose. Whatever you think, it worked. The only exception being with the goal where rather than parking the bus, Harlee and crew may aswell have parked a small car, slapped a bow on the front and left the keys in the ignition with the engine running. It was all the more silly given they’d had time to line themselves up and so, perhaps, as much credit needs to be given to Josh for pulling off something that nobody expected. Either way, in a scrappy match let’s be grateful for the opportunity.

One apiece at full time. The Ealing Road reminding Harlee Dean that “You can’t”. At least, I think that’s what they were singing. Another point gained and another place climbed in the table. We’re now up to fifth after other results went the way of The Bees. Yet, at the same time, Leeds and Middlesbrough have opened up a five-point gap on us in the top two slots whilst only two points separate The Bees from Bolton in fifteenth. The table really is that tight at present.

Dean Smith would use his own post-match interview to give credit to Birmingham for their game play which saw our own bright start snubbed out in a game that very much felt “Like one that got away again.” As for the sending off his opinion was that, “The lad raised his hands…so he goes down. Have a go at the fourth official”.

Dean talks to ‘official’ at full time.

For Birmingham City, Garry Monk had his own thoughts on the red card. He told reporters that “I thought the opposition player would be booked for feigning injury so to see a red card was a complete shock…After 23 years in football I know something when I see it.” Certainly, his reaction was one of fury as he was sent to join Kieftenbeld for an early bath. Or wherever it is red carded managers go to. I’ve no doubt the player’s ban will be appealed going by his own touchline explosion

As for Saturday, let’s hope Ollie is fit and able to rejoin Saïd in the matchday squad. Dean would tell ‘official’ how he had an injection in an ‘angry toe’ at the Reading game. By his own admission, the absences limited our own attacking options but, and it needs to be noted again, Birmingham City did a job on us. They were deserving of a point that makes it an incredible 8 draws out of 11 games for them. That record, I fear, something that is going to be trotted out as much as West Ham’s moving stadium West Ham’s winning the World Cup in 1966, Trevor brooking’s header in the cup final or The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard being a Brentford player. If only somebody had said.

There’s not much more to say. We didn’t win. We have a tough trip to Leeds United coming up. But nobody said it would be easy. More importantly, we’ve jumped another place in the league. I’m not quite sure how that has happened but the table doesn’t lie.

And that’ll do me.

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Garry goes for a bath – c/o Matt Davis

Nick Bruzon

Time for Brentford to let the football, not the music, do the talking.

1 Oct

Brentford host Birmingham City on Tuesday night, knowing the significance of a return to winning ways. The Bees are just four points off the top of the table, chasing new leaders West Bromwich Albion. Blues, five points off the bottom and looking to improve a record that has seen 7(seven) draws from their ten games played. But what can we expect, aside from the Griffin Park Oktoberfest Lederhosen? Surely there’s no way we’ll get a repeat of last season?

Let’s get one thing clear. The Monkees are old news. Fun though it was (and it was) let’s not get distracted by any of that stuff this time around. Too much. The last thing we need is Harlee Dean fired up, feeling hard done by and with a point to prove before the game has even kicked off. That’s when mistakes happen. I’m all for letting our football lead the way rather than #BeeTheDJ, which opened on Monday evening. Albeit there are some quite wonderful suggestions going up already. Aswell as the obvious.  Yet one would hope that the memory of our 5-0 victory at Griffin Park in February should be all the incentive needed to go again.

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The Bees celebrate the fourth last season. Or was it the fifth?

Besides, our old boys have been talking to the press once more. This time in an article that appeared in The Birmingham Mail on Monday. Whilst in no way anywhere near last season’s quite wonderful soundbite, there’s still enough in there for anyone looking to find a fuse for this particular powder keg of a game.  

We can only start with former captain Harlee, who tells the Mail that “The comments I made before the home game against Brentford were blown out of proportion, but that’s football.”

For me (Clive), that’s less football and more a matter of conjecture. One man’s proportion is another’s petrol poured on a chip pan. Thankfully, we did our talking on the pitch (and singing off it, at full time) with that epic 5-0 win last time out.  

It’s Jota who gives the numerical assessment of the current side this time around, saying that, ”It is 100 per cent a better Birmingham team going there on Tuesday than the one that lost last year.” Fair enough. Although does that then make them twenty times better than the Brentford team that finished fifth in the Championship, reaching the play-off semi-finals?

Oh Jota. What a hero he was back then. I still have his shirt and struggle to imagine him in anything but the red and white. Skinning Jake Bidwell. Causing Mark Burridge to lose himself in the Ewood Park commentary box. Writing that love letter to the Brentford fans when he left us the first time. The less said about his second one the better. He remains, from what I’ve seen of them this season, the most potent weapon in Garry Monk’s arsenal. A hero to many Bees and now, presumably, beloved by the St. Andrew faithful. Yoann Barbet’s ability to read that step inside will be key to stopping the visitors.

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Faster than a speeding bullet – the Spanish superman was a hero at Griffin Park.

Brentford, of course, are without our latest wing wizard. Said Benrahma misses out this time after running the gauntlet of Eltringham’s confetti card dispersement system on Saturday. Presumably Sergi Canos will step directly into the team in his place, looking to keep up the supply to the division’s top scorer Neal Maupay. With Ollie Watkins on the other side, we still have more than enough to give any defence in the league a run for their money. As long as we can stay fit and the referee can offer some protection. The likes of Aitor Karanka, Gary Rowett and Paul Clement have already set their teams to ‘hack’ mode in a bid to combat Dean Smith’s free flowing Bees. Cards have followed.

Yet, and this is nothing to do with our former players or what happened last campaign, I’m struggling to see anything beyond a return to winning ways at Griffin Park. This team has so much talent available when on song as we’ve seen numerous times already. Had the officals not got in the way on Saturday we’d more than likely have 15 points from 15 at home rather than a ‘mere’ 13. By the same virtue, Birmingham City are undoubtedly a tough nut to crack. Like our Bees, they’ve only lost twice this season. The key difference being we’ve scored double the amount of goals they have. And what do goals make….?

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Yoann Barbet is our latest goal scorer

Forget any monkeying around. It’s time to focus. To let the football, rather than the music, do the talking. Genuinely, I want a good game. I want to win, of course, but it would be great to do it on our terms. To beat a team going for it and playing football rather than a bunch of backs-to-the-wall hackers of the sort we’ve come up against several times already this campaign. Surely Monk’s revitalised Birmingham are better than that?

How many times, better I’m not sure. Roll on 7.45pm, Tuesday, when we can all find out.

Nick Bruzon

PS. That said, if anybody feels the need to sing then who am I to stop you….