Tag Archives: Rico Henry

And that silenced The Kop

17 Jan

Liverpool 3 Brentford 0. The Bees returned to Anfield for the first time since that 1989 FA Cup tie for the return Premier League fixture following our 3-3 draw at Lionel Road earlier this season. This time, however, there was no contest. The odd flurry of chances aside – Bryan Mbeumo channelling his inner Richard Cadette for the closest of these – it really felt like one-way traffic. Yet with Manchester United next up there were still plenty of positives to take ahead of Wednesday night’s home game. Primarily, the return of Rico Henry and the backs to the wall defending – a mile away from the Southampton horror show – that accompanied the opening 44 minutes. Liverpool dominating and pushing but unable to find a way through.

Bryan runs at the Liverpool defence

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages, albeit the player review is now up. For now, the headlines surround two levels of Bees’ defence. That opening phase where despite the hosts having 75% possession, there was no way through. Kris Ajer ploughing through Jota. Pontus heading it clear time and again. Most exciting of all, the return of Rico Henry. His substitution just into the second half confirmed by Thomas Frank as being nothing more than precautionary, with the left back apparently available for Manchester united during the week. Whilst he was on the pitch, there was no holding back the man who is on a fast track to challenge for our player of the season.

Yet when the goals came, they were awful. Awful. A corner that bypassed the entire defence for the opener. A cross that could have been claimed or cleared for the second. A totally needless attempt to play it out from the back that culminated in the inevitable disaster for the third. What Alvaro Fernandez was thinking not once but twice before Minamino wrapped it up I have no idea. A huge shame because he has kept us in it as much as anyone prior to that with a series of smart saves.

What can you say? Resolute defence and valiant effort count for nothing when the final scores are read. Moreso when the nature of the goals conceded was as frustrating as we all saw. Yet having contained our hosts for the vast majority of the opening period and only falling out of sight relatively late on, the contest always felt even. At least in terms of Brentford potentially hauling themselves back in to it. Had Bryan gone the other side of the post with the away support already cheering the equaliser, who knows what might have been? Instead, class eventually shone through and the game ended as comfortably as the scoreline and the statistics suggest.

Ah, yes. Class. Let’s not forget who we were up against. And where. A team second only to Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title. A transfer budget, spending power and sheer quality of playing staff. A stadium with three times the amount of supporters than is possible at Lionel Road.

At face value these were insurmountable odds but we gave it a damn good shot before administering the fatal blow ourselves. That’s not to be harsh. This was a huge learning curve and should Premier League football be on the agenda for next season (Liverpool do seem safe, to be fair) then this sort of experience will only stand us in good stead.   

The Brentford fans were magnificent, btw. What an atmosphere being generated at the away end. What a noise. Singing throughout and cranking it up as the game progressed. In contrast, The Kop less a 12th man as more a library. Certainly, by the sound of things. The fabled atmosphere very much muted for vast swathes of the game.

Keep it like that for Wednesday and who knows what could happen.

Special mention for the rail seating, btw. Everyone stands away from home, anyway, so nothing new there but great to see this legitimised. Hopefully more to follow in our own West Stand shortly off the back of a trial that is only going to get formal approval based on all the evidence seen so far.

The only thing probably worth being aware of as we progress our own drive towards this type of standing, being how anybody lacking in stature gets to see the game. Specifically the kids. Our Harry spent the opening period staring into the backs of the fans in front given, unlike a traditional terrace, there was no room to move. The obvious answer is to stand on the seat, which he did, much to the chagrin of two Brentford ‘fans’ behind him who then started taking photos and went crying to the stewards about it. This despite the eight year old’s head being lower than everyone else in the rest of our group. My word. Seriously? Hats off to the stewards, too, who after ten minutes of their nonsense told him to stand on the seat and get on with it. He wasn’t overly phased whilst all this was going on and, instead, spent the time asking why it was called The Kop rather than The Klopp.

Rail seating looks here to stay based on the evidence

On the other hand, it was so good seeing all the other friendly faces. Including Harry Potter, whom I still can’t get used to seeing in anything beyond his now absent Gunnersaurus coat (Burgundy is not the new green), and somebody who came ‘full Sherlock Holmes’. The good vibes culminating in a chorus of “We’ll race you back to London” as the Liverpool fans poured out before full time.

Overall, a result which was expected by many observers but despite pressure, pressure, pressure The Bees held strong for so long. Had Bryan’s second half chance gone in at 1-0 down well, it would have been dreamland for Brentford, wouldn’t it? It was inches wide of the post. And that…silenced the Kop.

RIP Tony Gubba.

See you all on Wednesday for Manchester United

Nick Bruzon

Jurassic Park !!! Crazy costume heralds ‘keeper return.

11 Jan

Game on. Brentford travel to Southampton this evening. Victory, should it be earned, will take us into the top ten. Any other result is not even an option being considered by yours truly. Optimism is high following a strong start to the year and some wonderful news off the training ground. We’ve got Liverpool (a) and Manchester United (h) to come after this one and an FA Cup fourth round tie at Everton. Immediately followed by the trip to Manchester City in the league. If Thomas Frank’s team ever wanted to be tested at the highest level then the opportunity is very much here in the next few weeks. First up though, the injury update.

Ordinarily we’d start with some reference to the Southampton game. Rightly so. It is the immediate focus but the news out of Brentford ‘official’ yesterday was jaw droppingly good. Not to mention laced with the simple question…. “Why?”

If ever some ‘Monday motivation’ (urghh – see also humpday Wednesday and Gameday Saturday) were needed then here it was by the bucketload. David Raya back in training. Or, rather, David Raya back in training but rocking up at Jersey Road in a T-Rex costume. Repeat, a T-Rex costume. To clarify, a dinosaur rather than a Mark Bolan corkscrew perm and dapper threads combo.

Jurassic Park !!!

Back on the grass? Or just the painkillers taking hold to inspire a remarkable return? If the smiles were broad at Jersey Road they were even bigger in cyberspace. The Brentford family as exited on Twitter about the next step in his return as his choice of unexpected training gear. It was one of those,  “What the actual…?” moments. One best just enjoyed. As much for his entrance as the sight of our number one looking as solid as one could hope in a shot stopping drill for the cameras.

Brentford official captured it in full. David’s idea, apparently. No idea why but you can’t deny its impressive. Not to mention making me wonder whether there is somebody else inside Buzzette at present if this is what he does as part of that journey back to full fitness?

Whilst a return to playing may be some way off still, just to see David doing his thing was a phenomenal boost. Kris Ajer’s return against Port Vale in the FA cup at the weekend had already given Bees’ fans a lift and then there was this. Yet just when things couldn’t get any better, they did. Thomas Frank using his press conference for the Southampton game to talk about Josh Dasilva. We’d all seen those pictures of him back in training last week but the news on a potential return was about as good as it gets for a player who has missed the entire Premier League campaign.

“I said to Josh the other day that he could be our best signing this year. I really hope he comes back in a fantastic place. Hopefully, five or six weeks if everything goes to plan and he could potentially be available”. That’s no time at all.

Granted, there was an understandable air of caution in the proviso that, “We need to build him very carefully and strong. He needs to have a proper pre-season to load him well. We can’t get too over-excited but everything has been fine so far. The medical staff have been fantastic and done a top job”. However, this suddenly feels close. Very close.

Josh was absolutely immense in the Championship and has already gone on to represent England U-21. With him and David back out there and Kris already in the team, it feels like we’ve had a transfer window hat trick without signing anyone. Just phenomenal news. Let’s not forget either that Josh is only 23. Whilst this absence has felt like an eternity, time is very much on his side when it comes it the future. Here’s to it being with Brentford.

Exciting news from the training ground

As for tonight, Southampton are no push-overs, that’s for sure. The challenge will be as tough as the aforementioned games with Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City. If not harder, given nobody outside of TW8 expects us to do anything against the teams from the North-West. Yet tonight, we are ahead of our hosts in the Premier League and are back to winning ways following the thing at Brighton. The comeback against Aston Villa was inspirational, with the pressure being cranked up to the nth degree until victory eventually came (even if the ultimate talking point remains Trezeguet’s theatrics at the death…).

So yes, we may be back in the zone but that still needs to come with the ultimate respect for who we are up against. Thomas would talk about their pressing and their drive.  “They go very front-footed and are at some stages the best high-pressing, energy team in the league. Then they have some key players; James Ward-Prowse is maybe the best set-piece taker in the league”.

He knows it. We know it. Sadly, there isn’t even time to parachute Ward-Prowse into my Fantasy Football team. A curse which worked so well against Aston Villa with the no-show from Ollie Watkins and two goals conceded by Ezri Konsa. Perhaps just an ‘any time’ goal scorer bet. Whilst it may mean missing out on a whopping £2.30, it could be the best pound invested given my own ongoing ineptitude when it comes to predicting football or winning bets.

Forget Wissa’s rocket – the Villa win was as much down to my own team selection

Still, whatever nonsense takes place in the build up, it all comes down to who Thomas starts and how they go? Can Kris Ajer force his way into the back three or will an appearance from the bench be part of his own, well planned return? Sergi Canos and Matthias Jensen are both available once more although I’d be amazed if Mads Roerslev misses out on the right. So it turns out to be a three-way fight between Dominic Thompson, Sergi or perhaps even the wildcard option of Saman Ghoddos on the left. Rico Henry is expected to be back for the weekend trip to Liverpool. With respect to the other three, the second he is fit then he will unquestionably go straight back in to the team.

As for the middle of the park, it has to be Janelt, Baptiste and Norgaard. Only injury to one of those will see Matthias Jensen force his way into the starting XI. They’re simply that good at present. Up top, Bryan alongside Ivan writes itself after the weekend. Albeit, we don’t know how much strength is in the legs after that short-term lay off. Roll on 6.46 when ‘official’ announce the team news.

Finally, just a thought about those who can’t make it at present. And no, this is not a reference to the ‘plastic’ fans who weren’t at Port Vale. Seriously? Personally speaking, I had a great time drinking a glass of wine on the couch with Mrs. B in front of the tv on Saturday. Sometimes, things have to give for any number of reasons – financial or otherwise.

Something which has come to a head for some of our own friends who sit alongside us in the North stand. If they are somehow reading (stranger things and all that) then know your presence has been sorely missed. Whilst we hope you are back soon, just look after yourselves and know that all in our group are thinking of you. Some of us miss games through choice. Others have less control over matters. It doesn’t make you any ‘less’ of a fan. Genuinely, I’d love a 100% attendance record but that’s just not always possible. At least I get a choice though. Take care and see you soon x

Until then, its on to Southampton. Safe travels to all that can make this one. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Do this again and the next game will be brutal. The next game will be brackets.

27 Dec

Is there a way to dress that up? Can Brentford take any consolation in the no show at Brighton (sadly, we don’t mean the home fans). What next for the visit of Manchester City on Wednesday evening? With Pep Guardiola’s team bracketing Leeds United the other week and then falling one short of the magical 7(seven) against Leicester City themselves, that one has all the potential to be a turkey shoot if the Bees don’t find whatever was missing at the Amex. Starting a game without Vitaly Janely (covid) and Rico Henry (hamstring) was always going to be tough. Moreso, given the longer term injuries felt by David Raya and Kris Ajer. Yet, yet, yet surely we could have offered something, anything, more than a first half so laid back as to be practically horizontal. Beautifully taken first-half goals by Leandro Trossard and Neal Maupay (of course, although kudos to the man for his own reaction and post-match comments) were the least Brighton deserved but by the time Brentford got their arse into gear, it was too little too late.

Neal. Class, as ever

There are no words to really describe how frustrating this one was. Bryan Mbeumo limped off with little more than a half hour gone whilst Matthias Jensen was pulled off with the tea cups still being thrown around the dressing room at half-time. The makeshift defence having twice held open the door for Brighton to seize the initiative and put this one beyond reached after the initial threat that Brentford had been hinting at disappeared into the ether. By the time we rediscovered our mojo in the second half, the game had already been put to bed. Robert Sánchez in goal for the Seagulls preserving their dignity when Baptiste and Pinnock got the ball goalwards.

Having now caught up on the highlights, it feels even more deflating than seeing it at the time.

The legs, as much as the door, held open for the second goal

Perhaps we have been spoiled this season. Perhaps it is as much the fact that, at times, we’ve made the step up to the Premier League look easy. Perhaps games like this – whether outclassed or just not showing up – were always going to happen. Likewise, there is the dreaded Covid factor to factor in. An added element of pot luck to chuck into the mix of trying to prepare for big games with key names already absent. 

I’m certainly not in the doom and gloom camp – anything but. Prior to this we’d had two wins, two draws and a solitary defeat in our previous five league games. It could, probably, should have been three wins but for the 95th moment up at Leeds United. The only performance of real concern being that one at Spurs. This ranked alongside it. Alongside Burnley away. Signs as much has anything else that the Premier League is just so, so tough. Play slightly below your best and watch that gulf in class unfold into a gaping chasm.

We don’t generally do match reports on these pages. Not huge ones, anyway. Besides, we’ve all seen the game – whether at the Amex of c/o our friends at Sky. Thanks a bunch, again. Instead of regurgitating what we all know (albeit the player feature will be up later) , it is as much about where we go from here. Manchester City, Aston Villa and Liverpool (a) are next up in the league. Assuming, of course, Covid doesn’t do its thing in either camp. They’re going to be as tough a set if fixtures as they come. One could almost argue they are games with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Moreso given we know that Christian Norgaard will also be on the casualty list for the City game, given his (soft) yellow card now takes him to five and a mandatory one game ban. 

Certainly, there’s a chance for a midfield bereft of him and Vitaly to either crank it up a notch or be brutally exposed. Given the current popularity and wayward form of his Danish international team mate, one can guess which way supporter feeling will be leaning. 

The pace of Rico Henry was another crucial dimension to our game missing last night. Here’s hoping his stint on the sidelines is as short as possible albeit hamstring injuries don’t, as a rule, cure themselves overnight. On the plus side, Shandon Baptiste is really adjusting to this level well and looking more and more exciting with each game. Had Sanchez not been equal to his effort early in the second half we could well have been sitting here in a different frame of mind today. But we aren’t. That’s not how football works.

So close – Brentford ‘official’ capture the moment on their Twitter feed

Crying over being below par won’t help us recover. It certainly won’t help us against Manchester City on Wednesday. Just about the toughest job in football – stopping pep Guardiola – will only become ten times harder if we aren’t all fully on it.

So, yes, it was a terrible performance. No question. It shouldn’t take that long to get out of first gear – at any level. But it is the Premier league and the game is now over. We put it to bed, file it under b and move on.

Here’s to Wednesday. Here’s to some good news on the health front. Here’s to Manchester City. Here’s to emulating one of my all time favourite football moments. Perhaps…… See you there.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

Nick Bruzon 

Chelsea play their cards right as Brentford are undone by Kanté’s class.

23 Dec

Brentford fans could be forgiven for having that flat feeling this morning. Chelsea supporters the ones waking up with a semi in the pocket. A 2-0 defeat at Lionel Road means the Bees’ League cup progress stops in the quarter-finals. Chelsea join Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal in the last four. Yet for Thomas Frank and Brentford, it was a useful runout and one that could well have had a different ending. At least, until N’Golo Kanté came off the bench with just under fifteen minutes to go. Thomas Tuchel playing his substitution cards oh so right as he slowly cranked up the second half pressure. The arrival of Kanté being the defining moment which transformed the game from evenly balanced contest to one way traffic. The World Cup winner showing his absolute class and importance to a club that may have started the game with a relatively unfamiliar line up but ended it in a much more recognisable style – both in terms of players and performance.

Brentford had no answer to Chelsea’s Tuchel bonus

For Brentford, the team was as familiar as one could have expected given Thomas Frank’s prematch assertions about ‘going for it’. Starts for Mads Bech and Wissa aside (albeit Ivan Toney, now recovered from his positive covid test results, would come off the bench with half an hour to go) the rest of the team picked itself. Contrast that to Chelsea where names such as Vale, Simons and Soonsup-Bell, amongst others, had many of us from this part of West London scratching our heads as to just how deep and strong Thomas Tuchel was going. Yet what we got was more of the same. Chelsea dominating possession (if memory serves, they’d had 68% when the halftime stats flashed up) and Brentford having to work socks off.

Yet it was the Bees who had the better chances in that opening period.  Bryan and Rico working brilliantly down the left. Our left back in particular showing a continued turn of electrifying pace to cause mayhem down that flank. Vitaly strong again and Matthias Jensen getting stuck in. First Wissa and then Jensen were both denied by Kepa between the sticks for the visitors. It could, probably should, have been Brentford who went in a goal up but with the first half tapering off and the second continuing in equally even fashion, it began to take on the feel of looking to take the chance in a spot kick shoot out.

A plethora of changes for Brentford did nothing to significantly up the tempo but with our guests always one step ahead of us on the substitutions, you could see their quality cranking up with every change.  Jorginho and Christian Pulisic on as the second period began, followed by Reece James and Mason Mount. This was the Chelsea we recognised. This was the Chelsea now starting to open the door until , with 76 minutes gone, that man Kanté entered the field of play and booted it wide open. The step up one pace and the drive forward was a clear as day. His part in both goals there for all to see. 

First up, Pontus Jansson somehow slicing it past his own ‘keeper to hand the lead to our visitors with less than ten minutes to go. Urghh. Hearts sank. There was no blame attached or recrimination offered. It was one of those things but now there was little choice left but to go for it. Rather than running the clock down for spot kicks all we could do was go for one final throw of the dice. Instead, it was Chelsea who kept on pushing. Chelsea who scored again five minutes later. Kanté who once again opened us up, leading to Pulisic being felled in the box by Alvaro Fernandez. It felt soft at the time and whilst replays have yet to be seen, there were no real complaints. Jorginho despatching it with his trademark efficiency. There was no way back from there. For Brentford, a chance to focus on Brighton and Manchester City in the league. For Chelsea, the tournament remains alive with the draw now seeing them face Tottenham.

Hey, its a shame but there’s no bitterness. We gave it a shot but were ultimately undone by a master class in cup football and Thomas Tuchel’s strategy. By one man’s Christmas presence ultimately being that tipping point between two teams who had both felt as though they had half a foot in the semis prior to his arrival. Hats off to Kante. Well played Chelsea.

The only real negativity to talk about is around our forthcoming Covid tests. With three games coming up in close succession (Aston Villa joining the Seagulls and City to make up the trio of festive fixtures ) staying healthy is probably the best present we can get this Christmas. I’d love to have won this, of course, but as long as we can stay fit that’s probably just as important in the current climate. What an aspirational thought to end on. Groan.

Instead, let’s be glad we’re back. After two games were pulled in close succession its been a long wait for football. This may have felt like little more than a glorified friendly at times but who knows how important it might have been in simply allowing some ring rust to be worked through. Perhaps that’s the positive we need to draw from this. A decent run out against World Class level opposition. Champions of Europe, too. If only their fans had mentioned it.

Bus stop in Hounslow, you’ll never sing that. And that’s how we like it. Now bring on Brighton.

The GPG may be on to something

Nick Bruzon

Apologies to Bush (Andy, not Shepherd’s) as hectic month awaits and social media delivers.

30 Nov

December is here. A non-stop charge into action with Brentford facing 7(seven) league games aswell as that league cup quarter final at Lionel Road. Victory against Everton on Sunday the perfect way to set ourselves up for the coming month. Next up are Spurs, Leeds United, Watford, Manchester United etc etc etc It’ll be nuts. It’ll be chaotic. It’ll be a whole lot of fun.

Everton already seems an after thought. A game of football that will live long in the record books as a 1-0 win for Brentford. That’ll do for me. Take the points, exorcise the memory and move on. Our opposition in about an awful a run of form as they come and for whom a lesson in injury related sportsmanship wouldn’t go amiss, either. Thoughts and prayers for Lucas Digne. Thoughts and prayers. What a shame the same didn’t happen and the ball kicked out when Rico Henry was actually crocked. 

Still, its all been and gone now. A win for the Bees is a win. Not to mention a clean sheet, another Ivan Toney penalty taking masterclass and a couple of (perhaps) unexpected entrants into the look at our top five performers. Were we wrong? Who missed out? Who should have been included? The journey to discover our season long contenders continues, too, and you can see that here.

Did Sergi’s hair make the top five?

As for this morning, I’m feeling a bit ‘Peter Gilham’. Specifically, the time he was obliged to promote the club’s latest foray into social media. Live on pitch he encouraged us to use, “Snapchat”. Then paused for a moment before adding, “Whatever that is.”

I was sent a video by a friend who was making his first visit to The Brentford Community Stadium. And no, it wasn’t Absolute radio DJ Andy Bush and Everton who, as it turned out, may not actually have been making his initial trip to our new home. In fact, it seems the frustration endured was limited to TV viewing, judging by the first hour of yesterday’s Hometime show.

As such, my apologies for the mix up which saw his file picture published in the announcements page. And when I say his, I mean ‘a’.

DJs with glasses – they all look so similar…

We’re fortunate enough to have many friendly and familiar faces around us where we sit in the North stand. Some we’ve been near for years and others who, Brentford being Brentford, we just know because everyone knows everyone.

Our H has picked up where he left off at Griffin Park and, sitting in relatively close proximity to the pitch,  still absorbs the moment of victory like no other. Perhaps barring one. So it certainly put a smile on our faces when ‘the moment’ was captured on a Tik Tok (whatever that i…) .

@brentfordfc

This. Is. Football. ❤️

♬ original sound – Tik Toker

And talking of Peter / social media, well it would be remiss not to revisit this one. We’ve all seen it but on a bitter cold Tuesday morning, may well put a smile on the face. Mr. Brentford delivering again. And again. Any excuse…..

As for Spurs, we go into our game at their new home on Thursday with several injury related questions in the air. Whilst Shandon Baptiste and Yoanne Wissa both made it onto the pitch from the bench against Everton, Christian Norgaard went off minutes after sitting down and clutching his back. Likewise Sergi Canos and Rico Henry. Fingers crossed both were precautionary. Having to reshuffle the pack once more, just as payers are returning, a headache Thomas Frank could well do without. Moreso given we head to Leeds United on Sunday. 

My £30 ticket is in hand for that one. £30. Thank you Leeds. So generous. Worth going for the pleasure of not having our pockets picked on the way in as happened so often in the Championship. And League One. Remember that? Oh, Ben Strevens….

Still, that’s to come. As are Watford, Man U et al . With forthcoming programme columns coming out of the ears, these pages may go a bit darker territory than normal. Perhaps not. Let’s just play it by ear. One things for sure, with a game every few days next month it’s going to be football, football, football. And I can’t wait. See you there.

Ben Strevens. At Leeds United. In League One

Nick Bruzon 

Bravery and aggression are the key as we look for Rico, Ivan and, err, Allan.

28 Nov

Brentford go into Sunday’s game at home to Everton with positive news on the injury front and the taste for goal after hitting three at Newcastle United last week (summarised here). The downside being our recent form has also seen defensive solidity thinner than the laughs in an episode of Mrs Browns Boys. With ten conceded in the last four games there’s only one way back from there. A battling point at St. James Park saw the focus very much being on the front foot and more will be the same when Rafa Benitez brings what is left of his injury ravaged squad to Lionel Road.

Thomas Frank used this week’s press conference to emphasise the importance, and intent, of taking the game to our opponents. The words brave and aggressive cropped up again and again with the mindset being that the best chance of beating Everton will be to outscore them. Obvious, perhaps, but why not throw caution to the wind and dictate the pace?

Thomas – come for the quotes, stay for the knitwear

Brentford are the home team and the desire to take the game to our visitors is, as Thomas noted, the piece of the puzzle that is in our hands. “It is very important that our approach is front-footed, aggressive, and brave. That is the bit I can control”, also nothing that “We need to consistently press high, be aggressive, and run in behind….we need to be able and have a mindset to take risks if you want to have a better chance of winning football matches.

You can read that in full on Brentford ‘official’. The other good news to come out of the press conference is on the fitness front. Wissa will be on the bench whilst Mads Bech is available once more, as is Mathias Jensen. For me, Clive, this is nothing but positive. Mads gives that extra option at the back and, of course, has those long throws that cause mayhem in the box. As for Wissa, well we’re all familiar with his heroics. It’s as close to a certainty as possible that we’ll see him put in an appearance at some point. With Shandon Baptiste also getting a late run at Newcastle, all of a sudden there are options. 

This is even better news given that if ever there was a chance to get back in the saddle then today is the day. Mind you, we said the same against Norwich City and look how that turned out. Groan. Everton’s confirmed absences include Richarlison and Mason Holgate (both suspended) whilst Yerry Mina, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Andre Gomes and Tom Davies also miss out. Indeed, there’s a stat on the BBC that highlights the importance of Calvert-Lewin, with the club winning just 21% of their games without him since the beginning of last season compared to 50% when he plays. Ultimately, stats don’t win games just as a single player does not make a team. Yet, at the same time, one can’t overlook the importance of a game-changer and, for Brentford, that absence can only be a boost.

The downside being the availability of Allan. Our H, just as with Lucas Biglia of Argentina during World Cup 2018, has become fascinated with a random player outside of our own. Whilst I’ve still no idea what drove the Biglia thing and nor does he in retrospect, it’s happened again.

Biglia. Why?

In the Premier League it is the Everton midfielder although at least this time we do know why. Much like our own Zanka, it’s the fact that he’s that rare breed of footballer known by a single name. Something that is very much associated with Brazil. And H is intrigued by it.

Pele, Alisson, Ronaldinho, Socrates, Zico….Allan (or some variant in the long list of exotic sounding South Americans) has become the refrain in the build up to this one. He’s certainly the one we have marked as a major road block to our potential success today. On a sidenote, my bookmaker (used purely for research purposes) has him at 14-1 to score at anytime today. I’m already terrified. Then again, for what its worth I’m calling this one 3-1 Brentford today so if anybody must score for the opposition then…

Allan – the main man for Everton and 14-1 to score at any time. Gulp…

The other stat of note in the build up to this concerns Lionel Road. Funnily enough, given the fortress that it has felt, less than a third of our points have come at home. This is the lowest ratio of any top-flight team and equally surprising given the way we played against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. Then again, the way we played against Brighton and Norwich City (in particular) perhaps tells a tale. Big games + big noise = big performance. The visit of Everton certainly fits into the former category so let’s hope that the rest, combined with Thomas going for goal, follows suit.

Off field, pre-match covid status checks aside (joy), the excitement surrounds the return of the Panini Adrenalyn XL cards swap-shop under the Family Stand from 1pm. Try saying that three times in a row. Fair to say H (definitely H) has taken to the trading cards with some enthusiasm. Despite the downside being a haemorrhaging of the piggy bank, he’s almost completed the whole Brentford team. Just Rico Henry and Ivan Toney (elite) to go. If anyone has either of these and is doing swaps, he’ll be there with the spares and the other ‘needs’ list from 1.30pm.

Until then, see you there. It was bitter standing on the sidelines for 90 minutes at football club yesterday so for crying out loud, don’t freeze your bits off today. Wind chill factor alone sure to dampen the spirits. No harm in wearing the pre-match beer jacket either. It’ll help the volume and keep the cold out. Bring it on. And bring your swaps.

Can anyone help complete the set?

Nick Bruzon 

Result fails to match the experience. This is why our club remains like no other.

7 Nov

Well wasn’t that just the afternoon that was both simultaneously awesome and awful. On pitch, Brentford made it LLLL after going down 2-1 to Norwich City. Early goals for the visitors giving them a 2-0 half time lead which proved that little bit too much to overcome. International break cannot arrive soon enough. With it, the chance to regroup and refresh before we go again (shudders) with games against Newcastle United and Everton. It should have been a home win. It could have been a home win. Tim Krul twice denying Christian Norgaard from point blank range when it was odds on ‘goal’. The offside flag chalking off one for Mbeumo (not Boo-mo, Match of the Day. Cripes, how hard is it to do a little research? ) early into the second period. It was the correct decision, sadly, but with the Bees coming out like Thomas Frank had let off a few half-time fireworks, the impetus of halving the deficit so soon after the restart would have been immense. Instead, the marauding Rico Henry pulled one back on the hour but that was as good as it got.

Looking down on Pukki doing his thing

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages. No bad thing given the frustration of that one. Norwich City, sitting ducks based on their current form. Instead, the prey became the predator. They were quickest out the blocks and had the lead within six minutes. The otherwise exciting Sergi left flat on his arse half way through a move that culminated in Mathias Normann being offered the freedom of the pitch. Waltzing through everyone, the Bees midfield and defence were more standoffish than a bunch of nervous teenagers at a school disco. Eventually he picked his moment with a low strike that stand in goalkeeper Fernandez couldn’t quite reach. 

Soon after, it was two. Pukki from the penalty spot after Charlie Goode (an early sub for Zanka) was adjudged to have brought down the Norwich man when clean through. He had no real choice and did the best of a bad situation but there was deemed sufficient contact and the ref pointed to the spot. 2-0. Game over. Despite the second half resurgence it was three points dropped. Norwich with a first win of the season. A deserved win. It wasn’t enough to save Daniel Farke who it was confirmed had left the club after the game. The Canaries board acting now in a bid to salvage their Premier League place. With Nuno Espírito Santo, Neil Warnock and Steve Bruce all now available, the next incumbent of that particular hot seat could be an intriguing decision.

That’s the football. Brentford played well in patches but that was it. Patches. The early season confidence taking a bit of a battering and providing for a frustrating experience on pitch. If you want to read more (somebody might) the Hollywood Bets column will be up shortly. Link to follow.

Yet off field, it was Brentford at their very best. At our most awesome. Sometimes you need to take a step back and appreciate just what a club we have. Just how that ‘family’ feel we had at Griffin Park has been retained. Anybody reading yesterday’s column may recall the fact that our Harry was spending the afternoon up on the gantry with fellow competition winner Luke Mitschke and the Ifollow commentary team of Mark Burridge, Karleigh Osborne and Charlotte Tanner. Well, he’s had his moment and, my word, one can’t thank the club, Mark and the rest of the team enough. 

H was bouncing off the walls before, a little nervous on the walk up to Lionel Road but once into the groove had an absolute blast. Gassing away on the mic and looked after like royalty. To give two youngsters the chance to get involved in everything from pre and post match analysis to actually commentating on a Premier League game something that they’ll never forget. All being well, the listeners enjoyed it. Certainly, we’ve had more than a few messages back. Specifically in regards to Harry’s on-air observation that clearly the referee was a Norwich City fan. Likewise, apologies to anyone who heard him raging off-mic at Tim Krul for manhandling Ivan Toney.

H, Mark and Karleigh preview the game. Or discuss ‘that’ goal for Bristol City. I’m not sure which

The view from up on the gantry nothing short of incredible. The highest point in the stadium but still felt on top of the pitch, with the action unfolding in a glorious panorama. Mark Burridge, cool as you like. Handling it all in his unflappable style. A huge pang of jealousy from yours truly at his ability to make it all seem so effortless. So natural. So much fun. Actually, not jealousy but respect. And also for his engaging Luke and Harry. Making their day so special.

What a view

We’ve said it many, many times before but there is no other club like it. Where fans feel like family. Where supporters still have the chance to get involved to such an extent. Even with Premier League status putting us more under the microscope and Covid continuing to ruin everything for everyone, to keep this ‘Griffin Park’ vibe was nothing short of wonderful. To keep it real and remember what we do so well just the best feeling. Cripes, the onfield stuff hurt yesterday but off it, Brentford were, and are, the best.

Thank you everyone. Long may it continue. Now here’s to Newcastle United.

Mark Harry and Luke at the end of a wonderful experience

Nick Bruzon

All to play for in second leg with key decisions to be made.

18 May

90 minutes from Wembley. Brentford a goal down after a 1-0 first leg play-off defeat at Bournemouth. A game our hosts may feel should have been out of sight after creating the lion’s share of the chances but, instead, we go into Saturday’s return fixture at Lionel Road with the deficit as narrow as they come. Indeed, it could well have been a case of honours even had Bryan Mbeumo managed to convert a glorious opportunity in the second half from six yards out. That’s football. The Cherries will no doubt be upset about not having a larger advantage after the combination of David Raya and a resolute defence combined to keep them out on all but the solitary occasion. The other semi final saw Swansea City hold on to a 1-0 win at Barnsley in a tie that, like ours, remains wide open.

All to play for, still

Positives? The tie is wide open still. Only an idiot would prefer to be behind rather than level or better but at 0-1, we find ourselves no worse off than last season against Swansea. The difference this time around being we’ll have close to 4,000 supporters lifting the roof off Lionel Road on Saturday lunchtime. Bournemouth manager Jonathan Woodgate would describe last night’s atmosphere as “Just unbelievable, it was electrical.” Imagine what it will be like for the second leg with double the amount of fans and Peter Gilham egging us on? If ever there was a time to welcome supporters back it is now. 

Last years’s return tie saw us storm out of the traps and the aggregate the lead restored within fifteen minutes. Thomas will no doubt be expecting the same, noting at full time that “We’re 1-0 down, so there’s plenty of time still to turn this round. We’ll be ready and come flying out 100%.”

It is the only way to approach the game. The noise will be incredible and the players will be chomping at the bit. Likewise, we’ll have Rico Henry and Henrik Dalsgaard available for selection once more. Both players made second half cameos from the bench to give Thomas the nicest of selection headaches for the return leg. Stick or twist? Sergi or Rico? Mads or Henrik? Revert to the mid season formation or keep on doing what we have for the last few months? Who’d be a head coach?

The obvious negative being we go into it a goal down. All the aspirations and parallels won’t change that. Having weathered the first half storm, it was a soft goal to give away. Pontus losing possession and Bournemouth breaking with devastating speed. Carving us open with no possibility of salvation. It was a blitzkrieg assault and a brutal finish. For once, Raya left with no chance. A lesson very much to be heeded for Saturday. For all we will approach this one differently, taking the game to our opponents from the off, one can’t under estimate their own ability to make something out of nothing. To turn a spark into a flame. I predict goals. I predict noise. I predict a riot (on field).

There’s not much left to really say this morning. We’ve all seen it and Bournemouth deserved to win on the night – they scored , we didn’t. It wasn’t even as though it felt stolen or against the run of play. We lost the battle in the midfield and didn’t create enough opportunities. The flip side being that , cliche alert, it really is only half time. Get it right on Saturday and last night’s result will count for nothing. A historical curio en-route to the final. IF we get it right…. You can bet that Bournemouth will have their own tails up. They’ll have their own decisions to make about approach. Go for broke as we will or look to stifle the game and run down the clock? If Thomas has selection decisions, Jonathan Woodgate will very much have tactical ones. 

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, we know exactly what needs to be done. I can’t wait for this one. Bring it on and hopefully see you there. As Thomas said at full time, “Bournemouth fans did an ok job… we need you guys. We need a hostile environment.”

This could be fun….

Nick Bruzon

Three games. Two weeks. One winner….

16 May

Congratulations Leicester City. Their 1-0 win in yesterday’s FA Cup final over Chelsea as much a victory for the fans in the stands and those back home as it was for the Foxes. With Brentford next up in enjoying supporters present (albeit of the ‘home’ variety only) for Monday evening’s play-off first leg at Bournemouth, one can only help this cautious return is one which can now escalate. The difference between an empty stadium and a ground not even a quarter full was palpable. The noise a cacophony with cheers and boos greeting every blast of the referee’s whistle. No more than when VAR once again proved itself to be as a big a passion killer as Mrs Brown smooching with Donald Trump whilst being serenaded by the England Supporter’s ‘band’. At least, if you wee a Chelsea fan. The jubilation that came from the Leicester end as the late equaliser was chalked off for the most marginal of offsides, the loudest noise off the afternoon. At least, until the cup was raised. If ever there was something for Brentford to try and emulate then there it was . The chance to enjoy the sweetest of triumphs in front of our supporters. Wembley sounding like the loudest place on earth despite the enforced emptiness of most seats. Not that anybody was sitting down.

Passion killer – VAR in ‘human’ form

That’s all a long way off, of course. First things first, Thomas Frank has to mastermind his way past Bournemouth. Brentford go into the mini tournament as 6/4 favourites with the bookmakers, followed by The Cherries, Barnsley and then Swansea City at 4/1. Scratch all of that. This is about as even as they come. This is as much to do with nerves and remaining calm as it is footballing ability and current form. Monday evening is going to be huge but I can’t wait. Genuinely excited. Of course, there is also a level of trepidation but after all that has come before us this season, we now have a chance to take those final steps towards the Premier League.

This time last campaign we were about as down as it is possible to get in footballing terms. The ultimate prize dropped on the line. Brentford had missed out on automatic and then went into the semi with a Swansea City team who had edged past Nottingham Forest to finish sixth in that most well documented and exciting of fashions. They had their tails up and won the first game by a single goal. Rico Henry saw red and, whilst Keith Stroud’s decision was eventually over turned before the return fixture, the evening felt like yet another step down that well trodden path signposted, ‘It’s Brentford, innit?’. The fortitude shown in the return fixture was immense. Unfortunately the final turned out to be a victory for Cheatrovic and some industrial challenges over a team who just ran out of steam and had no way through until it was too little, too late.

Keith Stroud…..not for the first time, Brentford suffered his thing in the play-offs

Hindsight it a wonderful thing, of course. Things haven’t exactly been a bed of roses for Fulham since going up. They’ve played out the campaign in an empty, three-sided ground and returned directly to the Championship. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. We can’t tell what we would or wouldn’t have done but the important thing at this juncture is to take all of that and learn from it. The vast majority of this squad went through it all together. Hurt together. Kicked on again this season together. The primary addition to the group being Ivan Toney. A player in whom the way to goal is as instinctive as anybody with a three figure IQ reaching for the remote control whenever Mrs Brown’s Boys comes on TV.

All good in, theory.  Football doesn’t work like that. Just ask Chelsea. Cliche alert : this boils down to who wants it most. We know what we can do on our day. Insatiable going forward, Impenetrable at the back. We also know we can have our ‘Coventry away’ moments. That, as much as the form of Watford and Norwich City, the reason we are now facing a tenth stab at the play-offs. Finishing third for a second successive season is wonderful but now is the time to back it up with a genuine reward rather than good wishes from the footballing community. 

The other three teams fighting it out are going to feel equally deserving and will be 110% committed to winning this thing at any cost. Just turning up, expecting to win and being seen as the ‘nice guys’ won’t cut it. Thomas Frank is going to have to give the mother of all team talks on Monday. And Saturday. He has the talent at his disposal, that’s for sure. 

Yet, yet, yet. I still can’t but help feel properly excited by all of this. That’s not right. It’s the play-offs. We all know our record. It’s terrible – in terms of sheer horror, one to rank alongside the 2000 version of ‘The Great Escape’ that had the temerity to reach number 26 in the hit parade. We should be quaking but, instead, I’m buzzing with anticipation. An air of calm currently very much the vibe in our house. Table INSIDE the pub booked for Monday evening and as much the prospect of seeing old friends from a social distance a cause for additional excitement as is the game at hand. 

It really exists. People really bought it…

We are three games away from playing in the top flight next season for the first time in just about everybody’s living memory. Even our Methuselah on the mic, Peter Gilham. Three games away from hosting teams like Leicester City and Chelsea as well as those other names we are all so familiar with. Most importantly, we get the chance to see an actual live game of football again. Judging by the cup final yesterday, that in itself is a prize worth fighting for. A trip to Wembley something to be savoured. Something to be enjoyed. Something that, unlike previous attempts, won’t be something to fear. IF we can get past Bournemouth first. 

Cripes, the noise that came out of 21,000 yesterday was a thing of beauty to behold. A reminder of why football is nothing without fans. Here’s hoping there is more to come in the coming two weeks. For Brentford….

Imagine experiencing this….. What an aspiration.

Nick Bruzon

Needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle.

2 Apr

Finally, the Championship is back for Brentford after the interminable two week international break. This highlights of which included a first cap for Ethan Pinnock aswell as those much celebrated goals for Ollie Watkins and Gibraltar. The former on his international debut. The later, a brief moment of respite against Montenegro that came either side of home defeats to Norway and the Netherlands. For once, no consolation in seeing the brackets wheeled out as the boys from the Rock took a second half shoeing from the Dutch after an inspired opening forty-five. This, despite the wonderful form of goalkeeper Dayle Coleing. Not often you can concede ten in two games yet still be lauded as a player of the week. That’s now been and gone. Instead, we’re off to Huddersfield Town for a TV game tomorrow lunchtime. Today, we have to sit tight and wait for Watford to host Sheffield Wednesday before Swansea travel to Birmingham City this evening. If ever there was a ‘can both sides lose?’ derby then here it is.

No celebration. No brackets

Of course we should just focus on ourselves. The squad, one hopes, mostly refreshed. Recent pictures of Rico ‘on the grass’ providing some optimism. How close he remains to full fitness is, of course, another question altogether. Likewise Josh Dasilva.

Both sorely missed in recent weeks. Both players who can only strengthen our chances in the run in should they be available. Both players who will be in the Premier League next season – one way or another. See also: Ivan Toney. Cripes, we’ve got some first XI when everyone is fit.

Might we see Rico in action again soon?

Whilst just looking out for Brentford is the text book answer to any question about the last stages of a promotion campaign, we all know that’s nonsense when it comes down to it. Every decision, every goal, every result from our rivals is scrutinised in agonising detail. Moreso, when they are in action and we have an extra day to wait before our own game. Watford are the ones currently in second place. A 3pm kick off at home to Sheffield Wednesday in their game and, surely, no possible outcome beyond a win for the Hornets? Our only hope of a favour here being the Owls fighting a desperate rearguard against relegation. Who knows? 

For Swansea, a trip to Birmingham City in the evening. Last time out Lee Bowyer’s Blues were hammered at Vicarage Road. Tonight’s test equally tough and they’ll have to be ten times better to get anything out the bag here. The combination of Harlee Dean at the heart of the defence and the Swans propensity to be awarded penalties has me worried, that’s for sure. The one real hope being that, like Wednesday, City are also perilously close to the trapdoor. The only thing keeping them out of the bottom three being their having played about a hundred games more than Rotherham United. Any salvation for them needs to start immediately.

With Brentford not in action until tomorrow, let’s not pretend we won’t be following both games with a combination of intrigue and blind optimism. I’m not expecting any favours out of either and know we’ll have to rely on ourselves. Wednesday and Birmingham will only be able to offer the expected resistance of any team facing the dual factors of a relegation battle and promotion contenders. The bookies are giving 2.75 – 1 as the current price on Watford and Swansea in a win double. Lump your mortgage on it. I have. Well, if not the mortgage the remaining contents of my online betting account. Which should see me able to spring for a Creme Egg come Saturday morning.

Whatever happens, happens. None of it counts for anything if we can’t hit our own winning streak. Whilst not a ‘must win’ game, the trip to Huddersfield is one where three points will be very, very welcome. Time is starting to run out for all of us. Brentford have nine games left. That’s still almost 20% of the campaign – a significant proportion of course – but it doesn’t feel like that many when they can be counted on your fingers and thumbs. Especially when you know how the pressure will crank up in those final few fixtures. If ever there was a time to show what we’ve got then it’s now. The Terriers tomorrow and then Birmingham City at home on Tuesday. No irony to be lost there if, somehow, they rediscover the way to goal and any semblance of form today. Stranger things.

It doesn’t feel like there are too many to go….

If you can’t face watching either of today’s games on TV then there are two alternatives. First up, The Beesotted podcast. Billy and team providing an hour long distraction in their own big game build up. You can get that here.

Then there’s the combination of social media and kits. The World Cup of Brentford shirts seeing an epic head to head between Adidas 80 and Hummel 93. That one comes to a conclusion on Saturday morning and, whilst we are sadly lacking the Chad 92, Osca yoke and Funky Bee pin stripe, let’s not pretend the two finalists are nothing but amongst the very best we’ve ever had.

You can vote below. Until then, that’s me. See you on the other side. Tonight, Matthew, I need to be Birmingham City. And that’s not a good thing for anyone, especially those of us who supported the club during the early 90s. Then again, needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle, or whatever somebody much clever than me once said. 

Nick Bruzon