Tag Archives: Romaine Sawyers

Natalie nails it as Forest fail to chop down the Bees.

2 Sep

What an afternoon. What a game of contrasting football styles. Brentford beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in a game which will be as much remembered for the three points that take us back into play-offs as it will an infuriating performance from ‘referee’ Peter Bankes. That, and a display of physical thuggery from the visitors which, as was said many times yesterday, came over as ‘a typical Aitor Karanka performance’. See also the phrase: Brian Clough would be spinning in his grave. It was an attitude which spilled over into social media afterwards where none other than Natalie Sawyer waded in to defend her beloved Bees in the face of what could, at best, be described as sour grapes from fans of the visiting team.

It gives me no pleasure in having to write about anything negative from yesterday. Especially about a club I’ve enormous respect for. Why would we want any form of downer after Brentford scooped the win that lifted us back into the play-off zone following last weekend’s blip at Blackburn? We’ve overcome the three game suspension of Neal Maupay and showed tremendous spirit to bounce back after an uncharacteristic fumble from Daniel Bentley allowed Forest to haul themselves into the game on the hour mark.

Yet it was the approach of the visitors which was so at odds with what we’ve seen from them over the years. A team who previously out-thought and out-played opponents to win the trophies for which they are so well known. A team who rightly earned the two stars that adorn their famous crest. Now, their manager has them playing not so much ‘kick and rush’ as ‘kick and punch’.

That there were only 7(seven) bookings for the visitors was a miracle in itself. They were cynical, scything and nasty. Mr. Bankes in the middle seeming to forget he even had cards in his pocket during a first half where Forest had no answer to wave after wave of Brentford pressure. Except, of course, the one shown to Lewis Macleod for apparent diving.

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Two stars, well earned. Plus a welcome return for the castle badge in the programme.

There was no attempt to tackle. The Bees were allowed to run at their opponents with the ‘permission to foul badge’ rotated between the players by manager Karanka. How nobody received a second yellow I have no idea. Yet it was an approach that also allowed us to see Brentford at their finest. And, in the end, crush the visitors as easily as they would a ripe avocado. 

Josh McEachran had an extremely positive game, making one incredible surge forward in the first half that must have seen him take the ball close to forty yards upfield as he rode challenges and played deft flicks. Romaine Sawyers did what he does. Sergi was felled time and again by the yellow shirted lumberjacks. Mepham and Konsa at the back continue to look as though they have been partners for years rather than weeks. Benrahma was magnificent, supplying the crosses for both goals and almost nabbing a couple himself. 

The first, a cross from the right that dropped perfectly for the unmarked Lewis Macleod to head home just before half time. The second, delivered to Ollie Watkins to stroke home with just minutes left on the clock. Between these, Peter Gilham’s quite wonderfully announced substitution of Lolley for Cash looked like it would be bang on the money for our guests. The hero of Forest’s midweek league cup win over Newcastle did it again. Yet the goal from Matty Cash proved to be a small change and, in the end, it was Watkins (nose stuffed full of gauze after receiving a boot in the face from Jack Robinson) who sealed the points that take us up to fifth place in the table.   

Again, I don’t want to come over as negative about the visitors and the ref. I’ve friends who are Forest fans and a healthy respect for the club that goes back to my own formative football years when they were THE kings of Europe. Perhaps they just had a bad day at the office whereby physicality was the only answer to the electric pace of a scintilating Brentford side.  Yet it was awful to watch them yesterday.

Equally frustrating was finding ourselves beholden to the whims of a referee whose performance switched between turning a blind eye and guesswork. All credit to captain Yoann Barbet whose cool head at the very end prevented a major case of handbags turning into a Keith Stroud convention. He led by example throughout although you could also praise the spirit of all Dean’s ‘leaders’. Our unique approach of rotating the captaincy providing its own demonstration of success.

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Yoann Barbet at FT. How was that for you?

I apologise. The point has been laboured and the point has been made. But it is done because so often over the last couple of seasons, we’ve had no answer to teams like this. We’ve seen points dropped and games lost when brute force has triumphed over attempts to play intelligent football. Yet we’ve toughened up and adapted, whilst still retaining that core belief. Being honest, this one never felt in doubt. Even at 1-1 or throughout the protracted period of stoppage time added on at the end. 

It was our own Natalie Sawyer who really summed things up nicely, taking to Twitter at full time to first note that: If ever there was a victory for football today it’s what I’ve witnessed at Griffin Park. Really surprised by how Forest played today considering I thought they’d give us a much better game following what I saw on Wednesday night..

Confronted by frustrated Forest fans, rather than sit on this one she continued to make her point (and rightly praise the Forest midweek match) before eventually going on to add: Excuse me you came not to win, you came to by physical and cynical. It’s the most disappointing performance I’ve seen from a team. I’m not saying that Brentford are wholly innocent in every game they play but today they outplayed a team that just wanted to foul and time waste.

Well said. Professionally put and spot on. There’s not much more one can really say after that. Perhaps a bit more praise for Dean Smith and his wonderful team. Kudos to Yoan Barbet and my man of the match, Said Benrahma.

Put your feet up and enjoy international break. Roll on the 15th for Wigan at home where it’s not so much Will Grigg as the Bees who are currently on fire.

Nick Bruzon

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Warning. Warning. Danger, danger. The robot on wheels and Doctor Smith sting harrowed Potters.

12 Aug

Ah, the fetid stench of a crowbarred headline. Apologies, but its that sort of morning after the night before. How about Disappointed? Dominated? These, just two of the words used by Brentford head coach Dean Smith to describes his feelings after the 1-1 draw at Stoke City on Saturday. He’s not wrong. It was a wonderful performance by Brentford where only a defensive faux-pas (move along, nothing to see here) kept the hosts in the game whilst only the reactions of England squad member Jack Butland in their goal afforded the Potters even a point. We’re only two games into the Championship campaign but with another one sided performance off the back of last weekend’s 5-1 trouncing of Rotherham United (themselves winners yesterday at home to Ipswich), could those chants of “Bees Up, Fulham down” which were ringing around the ‘bet365 stadium’ already be some form of early season prescience?

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Stoke City – home of the Tile Mountain. Apparently.

Brentford were stunning. Irresistible. Enthused. a constant threat. They pushed and probed. Romaine Sawyers pulling the skills in the middle with an absolute standout performance. Ezri Konsa and Chris Mepham looking like they’ve played together for years. Ollie Watkins rampant down the left whilst first Sergi, but especially Said Benrahma, bursting down the other side, and through the middle, with aplomb. It was beautiful to watch and the visiting fans were on their feet time and again.

Stoke City, on the other hand, were second to everything. Their squad is superb. On paper. Packed full of big names and new signings yet there was none of the team spirit which Brentford possess. Only their opening goal, after being on the back foot for the opening half hour, came about as a result of the one real mishap all game. Chris Mepham heading back over Daniel Bentley amidst confusion over who was going to go for the ball. Benik Afobe grateful to pounce on the loose ball as it trickled towards the back stick and tap it home for 1-0 Stoke. It was a goal that was as against the run of play as they come but that didn’t matter. Possession counts for nothing if you can’t take your chances. Stoke had one sniff and gobbled it up.

The home crowd woke up. Brentford hung in there. We survived. Half time came and the Bees were clapped off. The supporters still believing. And then the second half began. Kamo came on for Josh McEachran. The Bees regained their composure and twenty minutes in parity was restored. Ollie Watkins with a wonderfully drilled shot, low and hard from 25 yards out, levelling things up. It was more than ample reward for a performance that had seen the Bees slowly, yet relentlessly, turning the screw. And this was before we’d even been treated to the electric pace of new boy Benrahma.

It could have been 2-1. Perhaps it should have been one. The Potters had Jack Butland to thank as Watkins almost wrapped it up whilst Neal Maupay came close on a couple of occasion to. Whilst Tony Pulis out ranks the rest of the league (albeit having played a game more) taking his Middlesbrough team to the top of the table, at times it felt as though we had all stepped back in time to The Britannia and he was pulling the strings. Stoke kicked. Stoke tripped. The Bees were denied a stonewall penalty. “Hoooofffff” exhorted the Bees fans, everytime they took the industrial route out of defence.

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View from the away stand – spot the ball; spot another foul

It ended 1-1. Nobody would have been surprised had Brentford taken all three points. Everyone was surprised how Tom Ince was somehow named as man of the match. One for the sponsors, I’m sure.

In a shock turn of press conference events, Dean was quick to note how he thought we deserved to win. Whilst praising the magnificence of his team he would note that  “The only thing missing was that we didn’t get the three points that we deserved…

You can see that video in full below.

Brentford now up to six points in the ‘deserved to win’ table

What else can you say? Well, the new brown and orange away kit looked superb. The Bees performance matched it. Given the numbers on view in the away stand I can only presume that these are starting to gain the popularity already lavished on them by those of us with taste. I can only imagine that the comment of “It looks like curtains” from one Stoke fan on the way out was a reference to their own promotion chances rather than my own replica top. A few more performances like this and they’ll be flying off the shelves by the time we make the trip to Blackburn at the end of the month.

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Brown and orange was everywhere

Last week against Rotherham was brilliant. Yet they were the team that are rank outsiders for the league. Stoke are at the other end of that spectrum. The favourites by a country mile. Yet, if anything, I take infinitely more heart in the way Brentford played yesterday. Never surrendering. Never giving up. The sort of game that in days gone by we’d have sat back, 10 behind the ball, and hoped to grind out a point from or maybe snatch a lucky goal.

Instead, it was the complete opposite. Don’t fear the reputation. Don’t get over awed by the location. Just go out and play your game. Do your thing. Take it to the home side.  And my word, didn’t we do that with some style!

Four points from six has been our best opening to a Championship campaign in the five season we’ve now been playing at this level. Only Marinus Dijkhuizen in 2015/16 has matched this (not a typo) and we all know what came after next after that pair of games. Move along, nothing to see here. Editor, fetch me the Burnley unicorn graphic….

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Any excuse to crowbar this one in – how far we’ve come

It IS early. We do need to wait 10 games for the table to truly take shape. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but feel absolutely exhilarated by the 180 minutes of league football I’ve had the privilege of witnessing Dean Smith’s team play so far. Marinus he ain’t, that’s for sure.

Catching up afterwards with one observer who actually knows what he is talking about, it was opined that, “We were fantastic AGAIN today. I want automatic promotion AND the moral high ground“.

This, before adding that “ROMAINE SAWYERS IS A ROBOT ON WHEELS“. On yesterday’s performance, I wouldn’t disagree. 

Warning! Warning! Danger, danger. Sheffield Wednesday…..Robot Romaine and Doctor Smith are out to pick up where they left off.

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Sheffield Wednesday are next up in the league

Nick Bruzon

‘That’ day is here. Roll on 5pm.

9 Aug

Here we go, Brentford fans. Strap yourselves in and prepare for that bumpy ride until deadline day concludes at 17.00. With the talk of Ryan Woods to Swansea continuing apace, I’ve also seen plenty of ‘stories’ (hmm) about Chris Mepham to Leicester City (combined with their Harry Maguire to Manchester United) and Sergi Canos to Middlesbrough. We should be talking about the build up to Stoke City on Saturday yet all supporters are doing is crossing their fingers, sweating profusely (that could just be me) and preparing to listen to a day of bums squeaking. After last season’s triple transfer swoop by Birmingham City, one thing we’ve learned is that anything can happen before that accursed window ‘slams shut’ (TM).

Whatever happens today, there are plenty of positives. Plenty. For one thing, no deals have actually been confirmed as yet. Except, of course, that which brought Moses Odubajo back to Brentford for another season. This is a fantastic good news story and one can only hope that, for the player’s sake alone, he is finally able to put that injury hell behind him and get a hugely promising career back on track.

The one down side here was the use of an oh-so confusing hashtag to welcome him back to Griffin Park. Regular readers will know my feelings on these at the best of times. The event-specific comedy hashtag is the lowest of social media art forms (memes aside) and nobody needs another lecture on #trophyfriends (never, ever forget) or #novemberkings. Whilst we seem to have dropped these for a while, our own use of #MolsBack heralded an unwelcome return. Moreso, given the combination of the Twitter typeface and yours truly having a somewhat warped brain read it as Mols Back.

Who is Mol? I thought his name was Moses or possibly Mo for an abbreviation? And what’s up with his back?

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Mo’s back…

It brought all those horrible memories of Manchester United using the #Pogback hashtag to herald the £90m return of player they had sold for £1.5m a few season earlier. Compared to that, MolsBack (Mo Is Back, obviously) is worth every penny of a £3.5m sale turned into a free signing. Whilst in the minority, I wasn’t (quite) alone on this one.

The penny did eventually drop. Glaringly obvious once somebody pointed it out – thank you.

So whilst the out-door is yet to swing, could it? And how many times? The majority of, if not all, Brentford fans were gutted last time out when Maxime and Jota moved to Birmingham City at the death. Joining former captain Harlee who had moved a day or so earlier. Just about the only positives from that one were: the cash (so, so much of it), that Jota hadn’t joined Fulham (which was THE rumour doing the rounds in the few days prior), their subsequent horrific form combined with our own ascension up the table and, of course, THAT game at Griffin Park. Cheer up Harlee Dean etc….

Now we have several names in the frame with Ryan Woods to Swansea being the most talked about story of the summer in TW8. Rumours of an increased £7(seven)million bid were doing the rounds last night with their own Sam Clucas being an alleged target for Stoke. Then there’s suggestions of Harry Maguire moving from 2015/16 Premier League champions Leicester City to Manchester United (talk about a step down to a club who haven’t scoopped the top honour since 2012/13). Completing that merry go round would be our own Chris Mepham. Allegedly.

That’s before we even get to Sergi Canos to Middlesbrough or Romaine Sawyers to Everton. Hey, at least that one is a step up from last season’s rumour of a move to Southend United.

Will all of this play out? No. Will any of it? Quite possibly. The fact that Woodsy was left out from Saturday’s table topping annihilation of Rotherham United spoke volumes. Moreso when Dean used his post-match interviews to explain that, “We both felt it wasn’t the right thing putting him in the squad today.”

I don’t want him to go, let’s be clear on that one. If we get to 16.59.59 and Ryan is still at Brentford then I’m going to be an exceedingly happy man. Yet few could deny his wonderful service to the The Bees. If this one plays out. If Ryan wants to leave then it would only be with best wishes, albeit a few tears in the eye.

Ryan Woods celebration Leeds

Could it be an end to scenes like this?

For me, the real testing point will be Chris Mepham. Without a doubt THE shining star and most potential drenched player in the current squad, Meps is somebody who could go as far as he wants. He has already wowed the crowds, made his Welsh international debut and been the subject of several sky high bids from Bournemouth despite just a handful of league games under his belt. Will a bigger bid come in? Will we accept? Does Chris feel he is ready to step up so soon – he certainly has the talent.

With Ryan, there is a resigned inevitability. Saturday was the tell-tale sign of a wantaway player. With Chris, it is uber-angst about the great unknown playing out. Will he be in the squad for Stoke? Could his future lie elsewhere this weekend? There is absolutely no doubt he will play in the top flight. I just hope it is for Brentford.

And that’s before we get to any of the others. Who will Dean have left to pick from? Are the directors of football already padlocking the gates to Griffin Park, cutting off the phones and taking the players on a day trip to Brentford beach? Who knows? The only things for sure are that by 5pm it will all be over and we’ll know if anyone has ‘done a Birmingham’ to us.

I say it will all be over, that’s not strictly true. Whilst 17.00 is the formal cut off, that’s only for domestic sales and purchases. Reading the deadline day report on the BBC, it clearly notes how football league clubs can still sign loanees and free agents until the end of the month. Likewise, with the European deadlines later in August, they can also sign players after our own cut off this evening. Brentford lending Ryan to Swansea?  Meps to Madrid? Sergi to Barcelona? Stranger things have happened.

Yet if if last season and Birmingham City proved one thing, it is to expect the unexpected when it comes to transfer deadline day. More importantly that whatever short term pain we feel, things have a nice way of playing out…..

Brentford came out of deadline day with heads held high. And a bucketful of cash.

Nick Bruzon

One down. Forty-five to go. What a start!

5 Aug

What can you say? Where do you start? Did that really happen? Brentford thumped Championship newcomers Rotherham United in a Griffin Park goalfest that saw the Bees end the day top of the league and disappointed to have ‘only’ scored five. That in itself, a feat we’d not achieved since February when Birmingham City were the recipients of that famous 5-0 payback. Yet if that one was as as satisfactory as they come from a personal perspective, dare I say that yesterday was ten times better, performance wise?

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A glorious result on a glorious day

So many times last season we scored early. Threatened. Pushed. Came oh so close but couldn’t make that additional breakthrough. Possession and shots were high but the net refused to ripple. Then our opponents would pull one back. Undo all the hard work or salvage a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Yet this was different. A turning of the screw unlike any we’ve seen and, better still, in scorching conditions with new players in the squad. Against opponents that we had no idea how dangerous they might be. Without the ever popular Ryan Woods, whom Dean Smith would later admit that following a bid for the player, “We both felt it wasn’t the right thing putting him in the squad today”.

This was one-way traffic and attacking play the likes of which typify Dean Smith’s Brentford when we are on fire. To a man, they were magnificent. Good luck picking out a man of the match although I’ve since seen that two goal Neal Maupay scooped the honours.

Personally, I loved Romaine and Lewis pulling the strings whilst it was great to see Ezri Konsa slotting in alongside Chris Mepham (who is now an alleged target for Leicester City). Dan Bentley looked rock solid as ever, pulling off one incredible save in the ten-minute patch just before half time that Rotherham looked vaguely involved in the day’s proceedings. Even then, Sergi Canos went down the other end and made it it 2-0 with a beautifully hit shot to double the lead after Neal Maupay’s early opener.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance yesterday.

Two up at HT and the game was as good as wrapped up. Surely? Indeed it was. Immediately into the second period Ollie made it three with a sublime finish before Neal added to his opener with less than an hour on the clock. Four up and the play scintillating. A first opening day win in 7(seven) games all but on the cards.

Changes were made. There was a rapturous welcome to the field for the magician, Alan Judge. Likewise, praise in particular for debutant Said Benrahama. “My word. How do we keep finding them?” was the considered opinion of my fellow fan in the Braemar Road paddock after witnessing his own skill with the ball. It was a proper ‘tied to his foot with a piece of string’ display – and that was just in the warm up!!  

Goalwise, things all but dried up. Lewis Macleod made it five just before full time with a hard hit shot that stayed low. Rifled or drilled was the subsequent debate in the pub. Answers on a postcard marked ‘drilled’, please.  Even then there was still a few seconds left for Rotherham to grab the proverbial ‘consolation’.

It was a denouement that prompted Dean to have a go at his players (his words) in the changing room afterwards aswell as admitting that “You don’t get many opportunities when your 4 or 5 up in a game. That could have been one today to try and score a few more but we took our foot off the gas a little bit”.

Whilst he would also acknowledge the heat factor and our all-round attacking intent, it shows the standards he is looking to set. He wasn’t alone in wanting a few more. Five year old HB said to me, “Daddy. I hope we get 7 (seven) because that means brackets”. Honestly, I’ve no idea where he gets it from.

However, it was a marked contrast from prior to kick off where he’d got cold feet about going because Noah from school had told him that Brentford were rubbish. It had clearly been playing on his mind but we had a good joke about it when he opened up and were able to persuade him that Griffin Park was still brilliant. Walking to the ground and seeing all the shirts (even some brown/orange ones) the smile began to grow and he ended the day telling me about his friend, “Daddy. Daddy. Noah doesn’t….know-a lot about football”. 

Honestly, I’ve no idea where he gets it from.

Yet if you want the ultimate sign of how good a game it was then the evidence was there in the fridge this morning. The bag of ‘break glass in case of emergency’ white chocolate buttons remained unopened. Untouched and ready for daddy to demolish today. There have been times in the past when we’ve needed to open these before kick-off, just to keep his attention. Now, he can’t wait to go again and I get a bonus chocolate treat. Nice one, Dean.   

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Get in! If this is what playing like that does then I’m a happy dad

Brentford were electric but we weren’t even physical. Yet the visitors were second to everything. I’m not buying into that ‘little’ Rotherham gumph. We’ve been on the receiving end of it enough in the past ourselves. Teams like Brentford etc. There are no easy games in the division, as West Brom found out yesterday going down to Bolton. As promoted Wigan proved when they beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2. As Birmingham City discovered as they were pegged back by Norwich City deep into stoppage time at St. Andrews in a game which finished 2-2.

Watching the highlights on Quest TV (not a typo) this morning, studio guest Dean Ashton noted: “If I had money to pay to go and watch a team it would be Brentford” It is something that tells you all you need to know about our style of play yet how nice to see that endeavour rewarded with goals.

As for the show itself, Colin Murray was at the helm. A man who has had more footballing gigs than Steve Claridge and, had he been around at the time of the dinosaurs (velociraptors rather than Big Ron, Richard Keys et al), would probably have survived the asteroid. How DOES he keep going? Yet here he was again. Despite some early show hiccups where it looked as though the starship Enterprise was attempting to ‘beam us up, Scotty’, things settled down and we got what one would expect. Highlights. In order. A far cry from the debut of previous hosts Channel 5 three years ago – never, ever forget. That was the consummate example of how not to do football.

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An early transporter malfunction didn’t put Colin off his stride

The Bees were low down the pecking order yesterday. Understandable from many respects but with a trip to many people’s pre-season favourites Stoke City next up, I’m fairly sure that might have changed by this time next week.

For now, though, Brentford are top of the league. We are top of the league. #TOTL. Whilst we’ve said many times on these pages that the table doesn’t officially take shape until ten games in, I’m not going to deny that checking into the penthouse suite in the Championship hotel isn’t a quite wonderful place to be.

One down. Forty-five to go. Roll on Stoke City…

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The BBC table doesn’t lie…..

As a final note, huge thanks to the club and in particular Stuart Wakeford for the chance to take part in the Facebook live ‘Bees Live Beat The Bee’ competition prior to kick off, alongside Rico Henry. Stu is a legend in the making ; sadly, yours truly isn’t and the challenge ended in defeat to a man whose football knowledge is impressive. Likewise, one who has gone up hugely in my estimation. As much for his offering the prize anyway as his own ‘off air’ answer to the dress rehearsal question….. 😉  

If you fancy taking part against Sheffield Wednesday or beyond, then keep your eyes open for the #BEESLIVE on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It’s great fun and you never know what you might end up taking home !  

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Stu does his thing wonderfully.

Nick Bruzon

The final table. The last words (for now) as Dean makes his thoughts clear.

7 May

What a day. What a night. What a season. A 1-1 draw with Hull City meant Brentford finished in the top ten of the Championship. Again. That’s four times in a row. Brentford finished above Birmingham City and QPR. Again. I’m losing count on that one. Fulham choked their big moment as the Blues turned their form around at St. Andrews to produce one of the results of the season and ensure their own survival. We’ve had the ‘player of the year’ awards whilst enjoyed the relief of Derby County beating Barnsley. A result than meant our own slip up at Oakwell last weekend has subsequently been proven academic in the play-off race.

First up, Griffin Park. The sun was out. The shorts were on. There were more panamas, cravates, pastel shirts and slacks on display than the Riviera. Seeing Billy Reeves chatting to Peter Gilham on the forecourt prior to kick-off, one could almost imagine the conversation taking place on board a yacht in the Med. Such was the effortless sartorial talent on display. The TW8 equivalent of Stewart Granger spending a relaxed half hour with David Niven. Perhaps telling ‘the prawn story’ over a martini.

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

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In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

Griffin Park pre kick off Hull

Peter does his thing pre kickoff. GP bathed in sun

 

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Who wears short shorts? Could, no should, these make a come back?

 

Nick Bruzon

Tonight is huge (again)….but not necessarily at Anfield.

24 Apr

Something, something, something, royal baby. Blah, blah, blah, Liverpool getting a semi. Those glory, glory European Anfield nights. Some perspective people, please. There are much more important matters afoot. Hey, Brentford aren’t even playing tonight and will have to be content with gorging on the memory of Saturday’s derby day victory over QPR combined with looking forward to the weekend trip to Barnsley. Yet if ever there was a case of ‘other results’ being of critical importance to The Bees then Tuesday night is that time as Derby County host Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest are home to Barnsley.

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Sergi and Romaine amongst the architects of QPR’s doom on Saturday

We all know the current position in the Championship table. Middlesbrough in fifth, are on 72 points. That’s four ahead of Brentford and the aforementioned Rams on 68. Yet sixth placed Millwall have 69. I’m no Stephen Fry but even yours truly has sufficient mental acumen to know that’s a gap of one point. One. Point. With two games left to reel it in.

Yet, as ever, there is a potential fly in the ointment. Derby County do have that game in hand. And they play it tonight. Against Cardiff City. Victory will stretch the gap to an, albeit still catchable, three points. Cardiff, on the flip side, know that a win will give them a monumental advantage in the race with Fulham for an automatic promotion slot. Success will see them four points clear in second place with just two games to go.

This is huge. You couldn’t make up a game of this consequence. West London will be split down the middle tonight with Brentford no doubt hoping for a Cardiff win whilst Fulham fans will be mildly waving their clappers in support of Derby. Even QPR supporters will be praying for…. actually, they won’t as they’re long dead in the water.

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Cardiff win tonight and I’ll even forgive them the hashtags

But if this one has impact on Brentford, then our attention is going to be split on two fronts. There’s also the game at Nottingham Forest where defeat for Barnsley will massively increase their chances of relegation. A win will see them leapfrog fourth bottom Bolton Wanderers and have the added benefit of dragging Birmingham City back into things. The Blues own safety net of five points will be a lot squeakier if that becomes three, once the remaining games level out.

Honestly, I’m not sure which result will be best for us here. No doubt Dean Smith would tell Brentford fans just to worry about ourselves. Yet with The Bees going to Oakwell on Saturday, do we want them with destiny back in their own hands and safer, or with that potentially demoralising punch to the gut having been administered by Nottingham Forest? In themselves, a team who have won just a single game out of the last nine, losing the other eight and managing just three goals in the process.

Is it better for us to go into Saturday’s game with Barnsley’s safety all but a mathematical miracle, potentially even hoping that Birmingham City could administer a mid-afternoon psychological blow to our opponents? Or is being the architects of their own survival a better option? Something that would then also see us in the utterly distasteful position of hoping for QPR success on Saturday, with the Blues heading to Loftus Road.

Sadly, having seen the ineptitude of the hapless hoops on Saturday I now have to declare Birmingham City safe. That hurts. But all good things come to an end. Bolton travel to fellow relegation candidates Burton on Saturday and then host goal shy Forest as the season reaches an intriguing denouement. I’m not even going to get close to calling those.

Instead, it really is a case of whatever happens tonight at the City Ground happens. Any result is both good and bad for us. It WILL have an impact but only Saturday at 3pm will tell what that is. Instead, the game of absolute importance will be the one at Pride Park.

I remember back in 1995/96, listening to BBC Radio 5 ( I think, sure the sport had moved on from Radio 2 by then) and Birmingham City v Bradford. It was the season that only one side went up and the Blues only needed two points to guarantee the league title from second placed Brentford. Their 0-0 with Bradford City was one of the most painful bits of self-inflicted torture I’ve ever sat through.  It was rewarded, briefly, the following weekend as The Bees were doing the needful at Bristol Rovers whilst Huddersfield Town took the lead against City. Sadly, results didn’t hold and we ended up in the play-offs. What I wouldn’t pay for that conclusion this time around…

So choose what you do tonight carefully. That Liverpool – Roma Champions League tie is, undoubtedly, a huge occasion. The Reds have a magnificent record in Europe that we can’t get close to. Yet. And if nothing else, the chance to play ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo is always a wonderful one.

But for me (Clive) it’ll a case of eschewing Anfield and BT Sport where, whatever happens, it will only be half time. At full time.  Instead, I’ll be glued to Sky Sports and the game from Derby. The prize at the end of that one could be of infinitely more importance in this little corner of West London…

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Liverpool bingo – celebrating both history and cliche

Nick Bruzon

Just when it couldn’t get any more exciting……

22 Apr

What an afternoon. If Fulham last week was huge then this one was monumental. Magnificent Brentford beating QPR 2-1 in a terrific derby day victory gained against the toughest of opponents – referee Mr. Madley and his assistants. Yet let the inconsistency and poor decision making of the officials take nothing away from a Bees team who were simply immense. With a raucous Griffin Park crowd urging them on, Dean Smith’s team have now moved to within ONE point of the play offs as those around us all fell to draw or defeat. One. point. Even, say it quietly, Birmingham City did us a favour of sorts in beating Sheffield United 2-1. With Sunderland now formally relegated and the Blues getting a bit of clear air (for now) our trip to bottom three Barnsley on Saturday gains even more significance than it already had.

Sunday morning. Where to start? Having slept on it, I’m still thrilled by Dean’s team selection but also the way they played. There was only one team in this over the first half as the rampant Bees poured forward in wave after wave. Sergio Canos and, particularly, Romaine Sawyers were magnificent. Flo Jo displaying a turn of speed that left his opponent for dead on more than one occasion. The move that freed an electric Ollie Watkins for the penalty (more to come) was as spell binding a display of one-touch pass and move football as we could ever hope to see. Absolutely delicious.

To do that on the training ground would be one thing. But at full tilt, in a blood and thunder local derby, something completely different. It looked incredible live. To see that exchange of passes once more on video shows just how dazzling it was.

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Sergi and Romaine – a rare moment of ‘slow it down’

I’m so pleased for Romaine, in particular. He came in for obscene levels of criticism at the start of his Griffin Park career but what a way to win the haters around. What a way to keep your mental focus and prove the doubters wrong. To demonstrate just what you can do with a football. Do check out the Sky highlights package (up now on their site), until the full fat Mark Burridge version can be added after mid-day to see our man in action. I’ve still got a stupid smile on my face now just thinking about it. Hmm, perhaps better go and watch that just once more.

The first goal was only ever going to come to Brentford. QPR were left standing in the blocks as The Bees went for this one from the off. Wave after wave of attacks were somehow repelled until Sergi Canos fired home from close in on the quarter hour mark. The visitor’s inability to deal with a corner kick proving their downfall. The story of the afternoon, really, as they were second to everything for such long swathes of the game. Clearances missed, passes made directly into touch and seemingly simple balls miscontrolled. At one point Luke Freeman was left with his head in his hands by the Braemar Road touchlines after spectacularly failing to trap a high ball forward and gifting a throw on to Brentford.

One goal up and the Bees continued pushing. As half time approached we had the aforementioned moment of magnificence from Romaine. With Ollie Watkins clean through and a goal all but assured, goalkeeper Matt Ingram came charging off his line and ploughed through our man. Penalty !! But no red card. Instead, after a protracted period of medical emergency that ended with all players deemed fit enough to continue, referee Andrew Madley showed yellow. Ingram was allowed to stay on and promptly saved the spot kick. To compound the felony , the visitors went down the other end and with their first meaning fun attack, equalised. You couldn’t make it up. QPR’s Sylla leaving a black mark on our copy book.

So. The penalty. Should it have been a red? Absolutely in my eyes. There was no attempt to play the ball but a cynical assault on a player bearing down on goal with the net in his sights. The crowd were incensed and understandably so. Perhaps the injury period allowed time for the ref to draw the sting from the event. A sympathy yellow for a player who was clearly unable to carry on and, like Ollie Watkins, was subbed before the second period had begun.

Now it is true that the rules surrounding such an incident have been relaxed. Previously, had a penalty been awarded in such a circumstance then a red card would have been awarded by default. Likewise, followed by suspension. However, this ‘triple’ punishment was first reclassified back in 2016 following an 18 month review and, instead, the rules tweaked to say that only deliberate fouls warrant a red. The yellow would be shown if the referee deemed that it had been accident.

I’m sorry but this was no accident. There was no chance whatsoever of stopping that ball, such was the way the QPR defence had been split open like an overly ripe watermelon by Romaine’s tracer bullet of a pass. Watkins was home clear and running at full tilt. Ingram committed to come off his line and through the player. Even Ian Holloway would admit after the match that, “The penalty save was huge. Should he have been sent off? I think he should but he then stood up, probably concussed, and made a wonderful save”

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An accident? Hmmmm. Sky TV cameras capture the moment

Madley got this one wrong. Very wrong. But then that was the story of his afternoon. Those yellow cards he did show handed out at random. There was no consistency. No boundaries set and, most importantly, no protection of the players. The Bees in particular on the receiving end of several studs up and scything challenges that themselves could have been candidates for ‘straight red’. Alex Baptiste, I’m looking at you.

1-1 at half time and if ever there was a candidate for Dean’s oft repeated lines that ‘We deserved to win’ then here it was. Brentford had been rampant yet somehow scores were level. The second half began at a much more sedate pace (relatively) with players readjusting and substitutions having been made. The pattern of the game being broken up by an even more robust approach form the hoops. Eventually, class told. Florian Jozefzoon proving the telling factor as he made room in the box and fired home.

From there the lead was never going to be a surrendered. Whilst Rangers did try to turn up the pressure, I only recall one save of note from Daniel Bentley in the second half. The defence were otherwise rock solid, dealing with high balls and corners as though they were stealing candy from a baby. It felt tense at times. In reality, the players were the epitome of confidence.

A word also for the crowd. What an atmosphere. What passion. What noise. For all Griffin Park is small and old, having everybody so close to the pitch DOES make a huge difference. Moreso in a game such as this against our staunchest of rivals. With all the history, a visit from QPR is always the one we look for when the fixtures are announced. When the game comes around, it is always the one where the noise is the most voluminous (is that even a word?). Loud. The QPR players knew they were in a game. Jake Bidwell, especially. He looked a beaten man in the second half. A resigned shrug to the Braemar Road crowd before his eventual substitution.

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Home supporters jump up to express consternation to Mr Madley and Alex Baptiste – again.

What next? We’re eighth. One point off sixth placed Derby County with two games to go. The trip to Barnsley and then the visit from Hull City. Derby do have that game in hand but its a visit from a Cardiff City team locked in a desperate battle for the second ‘automatic’ place behind Fulham. Should the Bluebirds do us a huge favour on Tuesday night – something that will have the double whammy bonus of railroading The Cottagers – then Saturday becomes even bigger. If that were possible.

Even Middlesbrough in fifth can still be caught, such is the proximity of the teams from positions 5-9. This has all the hallmarks of 2014/15. We were reliant on favours, and our own results, then. We’re in the same position now. The difference being that under Mark Warburton we’d spent large chunks of the season in the play-off zone. WE slipped out after bit of a late wobble results wise before recomposing oursleves nad having results go our way on the final day. Thanks, Derby! To fall short then, having been in control, could have been all kinds of demoralising.

This time around, it is a perfectly timed run. A play-off push that, and please correct me if I’m wrong, has so far not seen us in the top six at any point this campaign. What a way it would be to finish the season – hitting the top six for the first time on game 46. Or, preferably, game 45 on Saturday. At Barnsley. Themselves up to their necks in a relegation scrap.

As a side note to that, there would be no irony lost on anyone if it turned out to be those Brentford players that Birmingham City didn’t sign who helped keep them safe, rather than the ones they did. No doubt Harlee Dean will be cheering on his old team mates although, perhaps, just wishing they were ten times better.

Let it never be said football doesn’t keep us intrigued.

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Even Harry was kept on the edge of his seat until the end of this one.

Nick Bruzon

Neal makes Moose eat more pie at Fulham as magnificent Brentford help Wolves go up.

15 Apr

Where do you start with that? A scoreline of Fulham 1 Brentford 1 doesn’t even begin to touch the sides of a dramatic afternoon that saw Wolves’ promotion to the Premier League confirmed, The Bees keep our own play-off dream alive and The Cottagers slip out of a top two they had so briefly graced. At the bottom, things are locking up with a win for Burton aswell as Bolton drawing at Barnsley really keeping the heat on Birmingham City.

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

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View from the away end – Brentford go for it at Fulham

 

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Dan Bentley snuffs out a rare first half attack from Fulham

 

 

Nick Bruzon

On pitch, we’ve Bees v Blades. Off it, we’ve reached the end of an era.

30 Mar

This could be a very Good Friday indeed. Brentford start the four day weekend with a game at home to a Sheffield United team who at one point were looking like the surprise package for automatic promotion and even now are just a couple of points outside the play-off zone. A Sheffield United team who have as many ex-Bees in their squad as Birmingham City (the difference being that the Blades have picked up the baton and run). Jack O’Connell, the always awesome Simon Moore and that demi-God amongst men, Clayton Donaldson, being the terrific trio.

Yet it’s more than simply the big game we need to look at. Away from the action, it seems that we’ll be saying goodbye in some form to a pair of long standing supporters who are both quite unique club ambassadors.  

Clayton

Baby Clayton. A star struck fan. And my son

I love Easter weekend. None of the random days off you get at Christmas. For those of us lucky enough to have regular jobs, there’s the regular going to work on a Monday and Tuesday, have Wednesday and Thursday off, then a shlepp back in for one, tedious day after the Festive break. That’s just a tease. Not a holiday.

But this is different.  We’ve got two shortened weeks with a full fat four day break in the middle. And within that, a footballing double header. The trip to Bristol City takes place on Monday but first up, Sheffield United at Griffin Park.

It’s not just the prospect of some down time but more the chance for a return to footballing action after the interminable International break. At least this time around our lack of league football was tempered by the pleasure of watching various past and present Bees in action – of which the appearances for Chris Mepham and Alan Judge were the clear highlights for well documented reasons. That, and a first ever win for Gibraltar as a FIFA member. Yes, I know we spoke about this last time out but some things are worth trumpeting. Liam Walker, you beauty.  Besides, the alternative is to bang on about England fans in Holland or number 26 earning us a cool half million. And nobody needs that.

So this one is all lined up, at least in my head, for that perfect storm of brilliance. The Easter break beginning with the return of Championship action after a few weeks out and and some old friends in tow. My own son doesn’t know how close he was to being called Clayton rather than Harry. Had the big man got the winning goal in the promotion shoot out with a Doncaster Rovers team currently residing in the ‘where are they now’ files, there was a very public agreement that would have resulted in a somewhat different name on his birth certificate.

Can we get the win, though? Absolutely. Play even half as well as we did at times against Middlesbrough last time out (remember that one? A blizzard going on around us and Romaine Sawyers sent off for two of the softest yellow cards you’ll ever see) and the win will surely come. Certainly, I’m expecting this one to be an entertaining goal-fest. Although going purely on my tipping skills, don’t discount the 0-0 at 23/2.

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Last time out v Middlesbrough. Sergi was denied a goal and an orange ball

That’s to look forward to. Off field, supporters were left in shock at the news that came through on social media at the back end of the week. Namely, that two of the most iconic faces linked to Brentford are moving on.

I have to be honest, I had to choke back the surprise and genuine upset at the story in The Times yesterday which said that Natalie Sawyer, THE face of Sky Sports News, has presented her final show without even a word from her employers to the viewers. No fanfare. No mention. No goodbye. That’s it.  I hope this isn’t true but it would certainly seem to be the case and has been picked up by plenty of other sites, too.

We all know what Natalie has done for our club. How much a public face of Brentford FC she is. How much time and effort she puts in to backing the Bees. Ever popular and always taking the time to talk to the fans. An ardent supporter of the BFCCST and even appearing as a regular on BeesPlayer (THAT Keith Stroud game up at Sheffield United) and hosting our end of season Player of The year awards. Amongst other things.

No doubt all of this will continue but, at the same time, it really is the end of an era if Natalie has presented her final bulletin. Truly an inspirational figure, I can’t help but think Sky will fully appreciate just who they have lost until it is too late. Here’s to bigger things.

Mark Burridge and Natalie Sawyer

The king and queen of Griffin Park commentary

But it’s not just Natalie. King of Stats and Futsal guru Luis Melville has this week worked his final office day at The Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

We all know what incredible work the Trust does and what a KEY individual Luis has been here. Whilst perhaps a little less high profile in the wider public eye, have no doubt that his leaving will as ground shaking as Natalie’s departure. The good news being I’ve seen a tweet from Luis in which he notes that he’ll still be part of the furniture at Griffin Park (good news indeed – and hopefully on comms, too) but perhaps this tweet best sums up the regards in which he is held….

Nick Bruzon

The weather outside was frightful, but Lewis was so delightful.

18 Mar

Oh my. How good to be back in the warmth after that one. Brentford and Middlesbrough played out a 1-1 draw in blizzard like conditions at a freezing Griffin Park on Saturday. That much snow was falling all around, I half expected Shakin’ Stevens to put in an appearance at half time (best. song. ever) . It was a draw which, after the blips against Millwall and Cardiff City, has all but mathematically ended our play-off hopes. Come on Bees, prove me wrong – again.

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A snowy Griffin Park

For those who missed it, Sky Sports have the video highlights on line already. Anyone who was there would have seen that despite dominating the possession, we couldn’t quite turn opportunities into goals. Yet against a side that have long been seen as a bogey team for the Bees, it was a more than creditable performance with man of the match Lewis Macleod and Ryan Woods pulling the strings in the middle whilst referee Simon Hooper pulled our legs erm, in the middle.

His sending off of substitute Romaine Sawyers for two yellow cards, the second of which was softer than than the avalanche of snowflakes that filled the air, rounded off a poor afternoon for the man in black. The visiting players surrounding a referee who should have been stronger after what was, at best, an accidental coming together. Yet his missing the opportunity to insist on an orange ball (one day, it will come back) should have perhaps warned us what to expect.

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Sky highlights show Romaine see red. The ref in no way allowing himself to be influenced.

For Middlesbrough, a first half lead came with an impressive strike from the commanding Adama Traoré after twenty minutes. Running across the edge of the box, he found the gap to fire a powerful drive past Daniel Bentley. It was a lead that came at a time when the game had been delicately balanced. Both teams having already seen a handful of efforts. It was a lead that didn’t last for long as Lewis Macleod, who had earlier seen a shot from just outside the area tipped over by Darren Randolph, fired home low and hard from the edge of the box to equalise.

One all and with over an hour to go, surely there would be more to come? Sadly not. That’s how it stayed despite the best efforts of Macleod and his colleagues as Brentford really began to turn the screw.

Even the appearance of Sergi Canos from the bench, for once the gloves understandable in absolutely bitter conditions, wouldn’t tip the balance. Brentford had the lion’s share of the possesion and chances but Middlesbrough were resolute and, for their defence alone, justified with the point that keeps them in the final play-off place.

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Sergi with his snow, ball. It should have been orange

But for sharper finishing or what the BBC match report describes as Brentford “guilty at times of overplaying in dangerous areas” it could have been all three points for The Bees. Instead, the late intervention of Mr. Hooper meant an early bath for Romaine and a draw being played out in those final few minutes as Boro’ finally pressed once more.  

Massive kudos to Lewis Macleod. We all know the injury hell he has been through over the last few years but how that seemed a thing of the past. With clear direction to shoot from the edge of the box, a single goal was the least his play, opening up the Boro’ midfield as easily as a can of tuna, deserved.

They were awful conditions to watch a game of football in with a howling, icy wind cutting through supporters as the snow fell. It can’t have been much fun playing in it and perhaps the desire to keep warm lifted both teams to really run at each other from the off. It was hardly the kick and rush game one would expect from a Tony Pulis outfit, even if that physical aspect was still there as they let the Bees push on.

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Lewis was head and shoulders above Middlesbrough

Instead, we were offered an entertaining spectacle with Brentford keen to underline the play-off credentials. Sadly, it was Middlesbrough who got the point that keeps them in but with Brentford 8 off with 8 to play, we’re now in the territory of really needing to pull in a few favours. Stranger things have happened of course and at least we’ve now got an international break in which to take stock.

On a personal note, a huge word of thanks to everybody at the club – players and staff – for all their efforts yesterday. Harry was lucky enough to be one of the mascots and had an absolutely fantastic time from start to finish. Talk about being made to feel welcome and a proper part of things. Even in so much as being allowed to kick the ball on the centre spot when the teams came out and leading the line in the handshake.

“Daddy. When I was shaking the hands of all the naughty team I felt like a real footballer.” They’re not my words but those of a four year old fan who had the time of his life when he could have been forgiven for asking to give this one a swerve and staying at home with a hot chocolate.

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Feeling like ‘a real footballer’

Nick Bruzon