Tag Archives: Saïd Benrahma

Bring it on! Championship action is back.

14 Sep

Preston boss Alex Neil faces a raft of injury concerns ahead of Brentford’s visit to Deepdale…… Not my words but those of the BBC big match preview this morning and, with the greatest respect to our hosts, great news for the travelling Bees. After the interminable wait through international break following the humping of Derby County – a period punctuated by the obvious results of double victory for England along with twin defeats for Gibraltar & Scotland (sorry, JJ) – we’re back to the important stuff. Championship action. And, as ever, I can’t wait.

There’s something quite special about that moment you wake up and, as the fog clears, realising that it’s a weekend. For most of us, there’s no mad rush to get ready for the school run. No stress of having to go to work for the day. No commuter hell to fight through just to face all manner of other challenges once you reach the office.

Instead, waking up can be done at leisure. Lie ins can be enjoyed – yours truly had the luxury of 7(seven)am today. Fantasy football teams can be prepared, BBC match previews read and blogs written. The morning can be eased in to. Until the mad rush to get ready for Harry’s football club begins. But it’s fun. It’s relaxing. Mrs B is asleep and H is yet to surface. A rare moment of stolen tranquility before the fun starts. 

And that’s all before train rides North and the proper action scan be served up where this afternoon we have Preston v Brentford as our dish of the day. I’m really excited about this one. We’ve already kicked last season’s away day blues in to touch with the win on the road at Middlesbrough. Last time out at Griffin Park was magnificent. Derby County were trounced in a game that saw us really unfortunate not to extend the 3-0 lead that had been built at half-time. 

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Raining (goals) last time out, against Derby County.

Brentford really were scintillating with the team looking solid at the back and irrepressible going forward. Wing back Sergi Canos a joy to behold. Bryan Mbuemo a new hero in the making. Ollie Watkins making centre-forward look more and more comfortable a role with each passing goal.

Then there was Saïd Benrahma – a player who seems to have a permanent smile on the face and one who has the ability to pass it on to the supporters, too. Words cannot say how pleased I am that we’ve retained the mercurial wide man. Consolidating our form and position over the next few months will be crucial to retaining his services, one would presume, as the top flight can only be his inevitable home. Fingers crossed it will be with Brentford.

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Just a few men of the moment. 

Getting ahead of ourselves, perhaps, but one needs to aim high. It’s part of being a football fan. One of the many reasons we come . The expectation. The hope. Yes, there’s the social side too. Something that is more prevalent on those wonderful away days we get to experience in the Champinship. “Why are you leaving at 9am” asks Mrs Bruzon, “when the game doesn’t kick off until 3?”. She is yet to experience playing away and so doesn’t understand that the 90 minutes of on-pitch time are often the least enjoyable of the day.It’s as much about meeting your friends sharing that train ride, discovering a new pub in a new town and ticking another stadium off the list. The football itself is another bonus added to a great day out with your mates. Especially when there’s a win at the end of this.

And today, Preston is the place. This one won’t be easy, despite their own apparent injury concerns. Even at this early stage in proceedings the Deepdale outfit find themselves separated from the play-off zone by nothing more than goal difference. It is a  position they will no doubt expect to consolidate after three wins out of three in the league (Stoke, Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan). Yet Brentford are no slouches. We’ve seen the team really start to find their feet as we adjust to the loss of Neal Maupay and the acquisitions of those new faces. Derby County was the quintessential demonstration that Thomas Frank has the tools at his disposal. How he uses them today will be key.

Thankfully, injury is not something that will trouble him. Whilst we had nobody on England duty (one day…one day), those who did represent their countries have come back healthy. And hopefully not too tired ! With England scoring goals for fun – and shipping them too – supporters went home happy after the victories over Bulgaria and Kosovo last week. We won’t overly dwell on Gibraltar v Denmark and Switzerland, where the ‘shipping’ was our main issue.

The point being that it was still enjoyable. But it was still England qualifying. A largely redundant exercise for those seeking a competitive edge given the size of the groups, the amounts of teams who can get through and the quality of those playing. Give me the Championship any day of the week. At least until the tournament proper kicks off in 2020.

Until then, here’s to Preston away. Enjoy…..

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Supporters enjoy watching England win at Wembley

Nick Bruzon

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Thomas Frank’s Demolition Derby.

1 Sep

Well that was something else. Brentford tanked Derby County in a game that finished 3-0 and could easily have seen the scoreline double that. It really was as dominant a performance as one could hope for against a team who, back to full strength after their mid-week changes against Nottingham Forest in the cup (that worked well), offered nothing. Their manager Philip Cocu would afterwards accuse his team of ‘arrogance’. It looked more like impotence to me, with the Rams unable to penetrate as the Bees ran riot.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park

Brentford were boosted by the news that Saïd Benrahama was finally able to start a game. What a performance he put in. But then you could say the same for Bryan Mbuemo on the right and Sergi Canos coming from the wing back position. With Rico pushing high on the other side  it really was about as attacking a team one could expect to see. Topping it off was Ollie Watkins in centre forward role. Norgaard and Jenssen are becoming stronger and stronger in the middle whilst the final three of Jeanvier, Pontus and Dalsgaard were rock solid in the rare moments of the visitors breaking through. David Raya was in goal but it could have been David Bowie and we’d probably still have kept a clean sheet.

Mbuemo got the first on 17, after Watkins had been denied whilst the favour was returned just 60 second later. Ollie sliding home after a wonderful move. Mbuemo supplying the killer pass but don’t underestimate the work performed by Sergi Canos in either goal. He was magnificent. Devastating. Destructive. Left the Rams tied up in knots.

That it was only three at half time is a question to rank alongside where the Derby County of last season have gone. Back to their parent clubs from loans, perhaps ? Either way, there was no answer to the waves of relentless Brentford pressure. Ollie wrapped up the scoring before going in for his half-time cuppa but the Bees could equally have had a penalty after Keogh was adjudged not to have handballed it. Hmmm. Move along Derby, nothing to see here.

The second half continued as the first had ended. Bees on top. Derby nowhere. To be fair, they did have a shot but Raya had it covered. And that was it from the visitors. If anything Brentford could, probably should, have made it at least four. If not more. Mbuemo seemed clean through with the goal gaping although the benefit of hindsight and TV show the good work done by Roos in the County goal. Likewise, when Ollie found himself sprinting clear for the hat-trick chance. Keeper Roos came bouncing out of the box to chest it away.

The return of dancing Buzzette and Saïd had the crowd buzzing from the off. The enthusiasm was tangible. Whether Peter Gilham almost exploding as he announced the second goal through to Benrahama’s post-substitution long walk back to the dugouts, whipping up the home fans behind the goal to further heights of excitement. And there he was at full time once more, taking HB’s request for a selfie into something quite unexpected. The positivity coursing through the team a joy to behold. The relationship with the supporters as strong as ever.

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Saïd helps HB take the search for the perfect selfie to the next level.

Thomas Frank noted at full time that “The first 45 minutes is one of the best I have seen at Griffin Park since I have been here”. There can’t be any out there who would disagree. The second wasn’t bad either, although could never compare to the explosive opener. Had one of those other chances gone in then who knows what might have been. However, to be anything but happy with such a comprehensive win over opponents who came so close to reaching the top flight last time out would be churlish. County weren’t even at the races. Brentford, like a champion derby winner.

The month has ended with Brentford recording wins over Derby and up at Middlesbrough. I’m still bamboozled by the points dropped against Birmingham City whilst we were a lick of paint away from maintaining our recent domination of Leeds United. Ollie is looking more and more comfortable up top whilst I’m loving Bryan Mbuemo. Here’s hoping September picks up where August left off.

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Men of the moment. Sergi and Ollie needed for a full house

Nick Bruzon

No falling apart, this time, as shrewd loanees help the hosts.

22 Aug

There’s not much to say, really. Congratulations Leeds United after a rare victory over Brentford last night. A 1-0 win at Elland Road returned the home side to the top of the Championship table after a game that could have gone either way. But didn’t. Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah’s late strike via Wolves loanee Helder Costa was the ultimate difference between the two sides. It was a game where Bees new boy Bryan Mbuemo came within a lick of paint from seeing his first half strike find the back of the net from the inside of  the post and substitute Saïd Benrahama could have levelled things at the death. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Leeds failed to fall apart. Instead, we must focus on another road (and river) trip this Saturday with Charlton (a) next on the agenda.

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The only stat that counts. Sadly.

Brentford started this one on top. The view afforded via the Sky Sorts smudge vision option saw us dominant in the opening period but chances were at a premium despite possession. Oh, for a pound every time that phrase were used. The aforementioned Mbuemo effort about as close as it got, the wideman shooting from outside the edge of the box and across the face of the goal only to see his shot beat ‘keeper Casilla before bouncing back across the six yard box via the edge of the back stick. Half time came with the hosts finding their feet and the chance of a break in the action probably a welcome one for Thomas Frank.

Yet instead of allowing us to pick up the pace once more, the second period began as the first had ended. Leeds on the front foot and the Bees hanging on. It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. The game had that feeling about it and, sure enough, with less than ten minutes to go the net rippled. Nketiah making no mistake from close in after Costa’s wonderful run and cross. Inch perfect box delivery to rival the pizzas being eaten on our couch as this one unfolded (although not from a little Italian restaurant. At Brentford Lock). Hey, there has to be some compensation for missing out on seeing this one live.

That the move for the goal started with a clear foul on Benrahma was almost a moot point. There was still plenty enough time to stop the rampaging Leeds hordes but the pace of Costa and the positional awareness of Nketiah proved vital. It was a finish akin to Sergi and Ollie at Middlesbrough and showed how well Marcelo Bielsa has played the loan market. Being able to take players from Premiership Arsenal and Wolves certainly paying dividends for a team whose record in the Championship is now WDWW. 

It was disappointing more than anything else as on a different night we could easily have had a point. It wasn’t that Leeds were streets ahead but they took their chance whilst the longer the game went on the more it felt as though they were in control. Saïd could have taken the point late on but blazed over. It wasn’t to be and there are no sour grapes.  Besides, you’ve likely seen it all by now and, if not, the main action is up on the Sky website. We don’t particularly do match reports on these pages and there’s always the likes of the BBC, Beesotted or ‘official’ if you want any greater analysis. By which I mean any analysis.

I’m not sure what else to say at this juncture. One could take pleasure for another defeat suffered by QPR. Another penalty given away by Yoann Barbet. Another season where we are already ahead of the hapless hoops.  But with Fulham already up into the top three, let’s adopt the philosophy that with the table in fledgling state we need a good ten games before it is deemed to have ‘fully formed’. It is a mantra I have long stuck to and see no reason to change this time around.

Four games in is far too early to know who are the whipping boys and who are looking good for a fast track to the top flight. Besides, last season proved that running away with things early means nothing if the wheels fall off at the death. Just ask Leeds.

Instead, it’s Charlton next. They are currently unbeaten but the trip to The Valley is usually a wonderful occasion. A full house is guaranteed by the visiting fans with the short hop across London on a hot day something that will be enjoyed by all. Hopefully, we’ll be feeling the same at 5pm…..

See you there.

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Hopefully the result will be better on Saturday

Nick Bruzon  

Bees and Tigers share points in the proverbial game of two halves.

18 Aug

Brentford 1 Hull City 1. Whilst it wasn’t the 5-1 trashing of last season, the finish to this one was as exciting as the previous time these two teams had come together. Something all the more pleasing as it had started with all the excitement and enjoyability at a studio recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Yet in the end, Ollie Watkins and Julian Jeanvier came within inches of giving Thomas Frank a second league win on the bounce following last Saturday’s despatch of Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough.  

There was good news from the off. Kamo and Said Benrahama named as available, albeit having to be content with a place on the bench. Bryan Mbuemo starting. As did Christian Nørgaard in the centre.  Yet if the announcement of the team had us salivating, the mood dipped with a first half performance that both teams may aswell have been dialled in from last Thursday. Chances were at a premium and that’s the polite version. The moment Mbuemo left his man for absolute dead and pointing the wrong way was a crown jewel atop an otherwise staid opening period. 

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View from The Braemar… Mbuemo does his thing.

Yet as at Middlesbrough, the second half saw Brentford crank it up. Even if we did concede the opener. Jarod Bowen being given the freedom of the penalty box to fire home and give Hull City the lead on 52. It wasn’t pretty defending and looked worse on the highlights but at the same time proved the catalyst  for the Bees to wake up and start playing as we know they can.

Thomas Frank shuffled the pack and went for a Plan B. The defensive switch from three centre backs saw the midfield boosted. Josh Dasilva and that man Benrahma coming on to a heroes welcome in a seventieth minute double substitution. Little more than 60 seconds later and we were level. Sergi Canos performing wonders down the right hand side to place an inch perfect pass through to Ollie Watkins. The timing was magnificent. The calls for offside ignored. The goal stood as he swept home to joyful response from all around Griffin Park. 

Sergi has begun this season on fire. Ollie has his second goal in as many games. It could have been a third. Just moments later but for a quite wonderful save from Hull ‘keeper Long. Both teams pushed on and pushed up. Benrahma not quite fully fit but still had the crowd on their feet with every surging run. With every bit of trickery. The smile on his face returning although, if anything, he was perhaps guilty of trying to hard. His time will come and what a welcome return. Mbuemo grew into the game and it was great to see  Christian Nørgaard in action. 

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But despite all the attacking intent on display as the game reached a gripping denouement, it was the post (officially, but looked like a fine save to me)  that kept Brentford in it following a fiercely fired free kick from Kamil Grosicki taken deep in the heart of Saunders territory (with thanks to the Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s alliteration). But the with the clock ticking onwards, we had our own chance. A beautiful cross onto the head of Julian Jeanvier with the goal gaping. Surely? Surely?? Surely??? Nooooooo!!!  If anything he headed it too well and angled his effort just past the post when straight into the back of the net would have produced the necessary outcome. 

It was an afternoon where football was played in a good spirit and even the players got in on the humour. There’s no-where to hide at Griffin Park, as Hull’s Kingsley discovered upon hearing the shout “You’re not Kingsley. There’s only one Kingsley….” He turned to confront the Braemar Road with an angry scowl on his face before the shout continued… “and he’s got spikey yellow hair”.  Cue the look of confusion turning into a smile of appreciation. At least, I hope that’s what it was. 

It was also an afternoon where I thought we were somewhat unlucky in the end, even if Hull manager Grant McCann did feel that “I think we deserved to win the game. I’ve seen it back and their goal is a yard offside. It’s really disappointing at this level to get a decision like that wrong.”. Hmmm. Perhaps upon review he may feel differently. Ollie’s goal WAS tight but it was onside.

Deserving to win is as false a concept as the possibility of a joke appearing in an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys. The Bees had their chances but couldn’t quite take them. There was no ill-will directed towards the team. This is still a group of players finding their feet together and adjusting to life after Maupay. Leeds United are next up and that one’s only going to be wonderful. Assuming you can afford the £37 away ticket prices. I have no doubt there’ll be plenty of scores to settle from the Elland Road side following the events of last season and, of course, the acquisition of our own new captain over the summer.

Enjoy that one. For now, time to regroup and reflect on the positives

Nick Bruzon

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View from the Braemar. Captain Pontus cools down

And still they come. Double bonus ahead of the weekend action.

10 Aug

The transfer window that keeps on giving keeps on giving. Despite inward business having been officially concluded for the summer, Brentford fans were given a double bonus on Friday ahead of the trip to Middlesbrough. Ollie Watkins has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Lionel Road until 2023 whilst the heavily touted story in regards to Turkish youth international Halil Dervişoğlu coming in from Sparta Rotterdam was confirmed. He has signed a pre-contract and similar to Emiliano Marcondes before him, will join the club in January. These are stories that put paid to the Crystal Palace rumours whilst further strengthen the attacking options available to Thomas Frank.

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These are both exciting and important bits of news for Brentford fans. Ollie, in particular, given how important and highly sought after the player has become. Aswell as the Crystal Palace stories there were those linking him to Spurs last season and, whilst we normally give rumours a wide berth on these pages, the fact that our players are being talked up is both a worry and a compliment. Now he is ours once more.

What a way to announce the news, too. With season ticket holders and club members being told to check their email accounts where we got the exclusive on the story first. I have to be honest, that when I saw the preview on Twitter, telling fans to check their in-boxes accompanied by the picture of a 2023 shirt, part of me did think it might be a delay to Lionel Road. But no. It was good news. Great news. Wonderful news. Off the back of Saïd Benrahma revealing his new number 10 shirt and accompanying hashtag the day before, Bees fans are really buzzing. Hats off to the club, too, for choosing this method to share a bot of extra joy with the supporters.

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Then there’s the news about Halil. One thing our Directors of Football have got on lock down is talent acquisition. Nobody could deny that in recent seasons as the much derided (outside of Griffin Park)  ‘model’ has paid dividends time and again. Now we’ve made our latest swoop for an attacker who did the business helping Sparta win second tier promotion through the play-offs (not a typo). 

Beyond that, I’m in the dark. I’m not going to pretend that Halil is a player I’m overly familiar with. Then again, it was a case of Saïd who? Neal what now? And look at how that all turned out.Have the DoFs done it again? I can’t wait for January when we find out, although let’s not wish it away too soon. Brentford have the trip to Middlesbrough today where Thomas will surely be looking for three points after starting like a runaway train against Birmingham City last weekend yet somehow coming away with nothing. Curse that woodwork. Curse great goalkeeping. On another day we could have had a hatful.

Still, as B*Witched once sang, c’est la vie. Sometimes you just don’t get the breaks. As long as we don’t get sucked into the ‘deserved to win’ mentality then play like that opening period once more and we’ll be just fine. Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough (TM) had a tough opener in front of the TV cameras last Friday at Luton Town. That one finished 3-3 in a game marked by defensive lapses and a penalty miss from Britt Assombalonga to match some of our most glaring from the likes of Yoann Barbet or number 26 (ahh, who could forget that ill-fated dead ball experiment?).

There are now options available the likes of which we’ve not seen in a long time. Saïd is definitely not ready to play, sadly, whilst Thomas is sweating on international clearance for Bryan Mbeumo coming through. Not that I can imagine him overly stressing – at least in public. He’s calm, confident and in control. Never flustered. Perhaps a bit of directional clapping, exhorting his troops to do what they have practiced on the training ground but that’s about as far as he needs to go normally.

Don’t expect too many changes from last week, except perhaps on the bench. I have no doubt everybody will want a second bite of the cherry following a performance where there is nothing but incredulity at finishing the game empty handed.

But that’s how football works. Amazing play is great as long as the ball finds the back of the net. It didn’t last week but now we’ve got the chance to put things right. And I can’t wait.

Until then, here’s B*Witched….

 

Nick Bruzon

The window is closed. Kind of. All good, so far….

9 Aug

The domestic transfer window is closed. Dominic Thompson has joined Brentford from Arsenal. We’re still waiting for Ghoddos (c) all of TW8.  That one seems to be a transfer that, reading between the lines, isn’t going to happen now given there is as much interest in the agents as the player. Rico Henry is still a Bee and has not, yet, made the rumoured step down to the Scottish Premiership with Celtic. Halil Dervişoğlu is still at Sparta (for now?). Lyle Taylor is still at Charlton, who have done great business in hanging on to him. Best of all though, Ollie Watkins and Saïd Benrahma are still at Brentford. The twin news of Dean Smith declaring he had put the Aston Villa cheque book away without acquiring his man, accompanied by the player’s own instagram post, had Bees fans in raptures as the blow of losing Neal Maupay to Brighton has been very much softened.

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I feel sorry for Dominc in that his move from Arsenal was very much masked by ongoing stress and conjecture amongst elements of the fanbase as to whether a replacement would come in for Neal or whether anybody else might depart. In the end, there was nothing. And that’s great news. We all know how many goals the likes of Sergi, Ollie and Saïd contributed last time out. Marcus Forss, or whomever Thomas goes with at the top of the attack, has a great opportunity to pick up from where he left off on his debut. This is before you factor in Joel Valencia and the rest of the new signings. Get ready for a season of ‘Total Football’, Brentford style.

As for Saïd, never have I been so glad to see the Brentford number 10 in recent seasons. Never have I been so glad to see our stripe free back. Never have I been so pleased to use a hashtag. If #SB10 keeps him happy then who am I to argue. Perhaps #newgoals is a bit much but such is the mood about his still being at Griffin Park that we can go with it. Sorry Aston Villa, but your loss is very much our gain. For now at least. 

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Saïd is back. With hashtags.

The one other point to be aware of is that up in Scotland, the window still has three weeks to go until that closes. Arsenal picking up Kieran Tierney does mean we’ll still be sweating on whether Rico is being lined up to replace him at Celtic. The chance to miss out on the group stages of the champions league doesn’t come around very often but hopefully common sense will prevail and the draw of that final season at Griffin Park remain as potent a force as ever.

All in all, its been a quite wonderful window for Brentford. Pontus Jansson from Leeds United still remains the deal of the summer for me. I’m gutted about Neal, obviously, but the attacking potential in this team is immense. We’ve come out of this quids up – by approximately £35m (in) to £30m (out), if you believe what you read in cyberspace. Of course, the club never publish details so we’ve no idea what has really been paid. Better still, whilst we have lost a talisman overall the balance of the squad is arguably better than it was before. With Kamo also due back any minute now even the centre of the park, arguably getting used to the absence of him and Romaine on Saturday, will have that bit more oomph to it. 

Who is now match fit and who starts on Saturday at Middlesbrough are the next big questions. It will take time for the new look set up to gel and there’s no place tougher to go. Out victory there last season was as incredible as was rare, and that’s just because we were wearing the brown/orange. (Note to self: don’t upset anyone by saying how gorgeous that kit was ). So we go into this one with absolutely nothing to lose. Apart from the game itself. But that’s not my mentality and that won’t be the attitude from Thomas or the squad. Competition in this squad is now so tough that there’s no room for slip up and no margin for error. Whilst the centre backs seem set in stone, even that’s up for grabs should Thomas revert to two rather than three.

How nice to have a Plan B available.

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Bring out the crowbar for the combination of Arsenal and Brown/Orange

Nick Bruzon

Seagulls follow the trawler and end up with more than sardines. Au revoir, Neal.

5 Aug

There was an almost inevitable end to Monday with the news finally announced that Neal Maupay has left Brentford. His non-appearance over most of the summer, followed by his absence from the squad at the weekend, left the writing somewhat on the wall and now it has been confirmed. The Premier league is the destination. Brighton and Hove Albion the choice, in a deal reported as being worth £20m. At least it wasn’t Dean Smith and Aston Villa although until that window slams shut on Thursday, one can only envisage Said Benrahma continuing to be linked with a move to the Midlands. On the plus side, we have not one but two news signings. Midfielder Dru Yearwood makes the switch from Southend United whilst French youth international attacker Bryan Mbeumo joins from Espérance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne.  Or Troyes AC, as ‘official’ helpfully confirmed they are better known.

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I feel for Dru and Bryan. Both look like more shrewd acquisitions from Matthew and the Directors of football. Southend and Troyes’ loss, very much our gain given how well our acquisitions over the last few years have turned out. Yet all anybody is talking about today is Brighton and Neal.

Oh, how we loved him. The shithousery – there’s no other word for it. The speed. The work rate. The aerial prowess from one so small. The goals. The balls. Oh my, the size of those balls. What a way to celebrate not once but twice against Leeds United. Both times, right in the faces of their rabid support. 

And that equaliser at Fulham wasn’t bad either. ‘Limbs’ as I believe the kids call it. What a moment. What a celebration. What a photo from Mark Fuller. What a way to seal your place in club legend. To ensure that whatever came next (what stamp at Aston Villa ?) could never tarnish your reputation. Would only make you even more universally loved.

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What balls

Yet it was a love that seemed to go both ways. Talk to Neal and he would only enthuse about all things Griffin Park. Promises were made at the end of last season about his return for this one. Sadly, now, things have moved on somewhat. Money talks but so do agents, it would seem.

And whilst that may be bleedin’ obvious, the Twitter thread published on Monday night by the GPG makes for very interesting reading as to how this all played out. About how things have changed as this marriage made in footballing heaven between player and club has ended in the Bees being jilted for the Seagulls.

Do read the thread. In full. It starts below and makes for a fascinating insight as to what went on with this one. There’s no animosity towards player, Brentford or Brighton – for what it’s worth. But, as has been noted part way through, “ In this day of low morals in football these days – I’m glad that we demonstrated that we are a decent club with manners. The fact that we have done right by the player demonstrates to future signings that we provide a potential route to PL, it keeps us in business of course. 

There’s not much else to say at this point. There’s a genuine feeling of good luck to Neal, from me. Of course I’m absolutely gutted to see him go. No question. I was itching to see him stay put for one more season. To guide us to the top flight. Now that responsibility rests elsewhere.

In my heart of hearts I really did think he might stay until January. Mind you, I think the same about Said and Ollie. At least the latter started on Saturday and looked formidable during that opening salvo. I’m sure Dean Smith is opening the Aston Villa cheque book we speak but I’m also, perhaps naively, thinking this really is it . 

We’ve sold Ezri. We’ve sold Romaine. Of course we’ve sold Neal. We’ve also invested very wisely with the likes of Jansson, Jensen, Pinnock and Norgaard now joined by Blackwood and Mbeumo. Keep Benrahma and Watkins amongst their ranks and we will remain more than a force to be reckoned with.

Sell either/or and, you know what, there’ll be no meltdown from me. As with Neal this evening,  I would be gutted with further departures. Yet our DOFs and Matthew Benham have shown us time and again that they are three steps ahead of everybody else when it comes to doing the business.

I really didn’t think it could get any more depressing than selling Jota and Maxime to Birmingham City (and Harlee makes three) but we survived. We got stronger despite the crushing blow of seeing our hero put out to pasture. That trust is there and I cannot wait to see how the next chapter in the Brentford story plays out.

Until then, we’ll always have Fulham.

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What a moment. Thank you, Neal

Nick Bruzon

Almost there. How about a few facts?

1 Aug

We’re that close now you can almost smell the aroma of bovril drifting across the forecourt. Thursday lunchtime and the season proper kicks off for Brentford in little more than 48 hours with the visit of Birmingham City. A team whose ‘yoof’, it would seem, are still learning how to spell ‘obsessed’. Saturday afternoon can’t come soon enough, even despite the somewhat dubious allure of Luton Town v Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough ™ on Friday evening to open proceedings in the Championship. That in itself, a game packed with intrigue as the former Leeds man and his club attempt to pick up the media inflicted hype gauntlet laid down by Frank Lampard’s former club Frank Lampard’s Derby County last season. But before things kick off at Griffin Park, we’ve already been dealt a blow. Two words designed to strike fear into the heart of any supporter. Gavin. Ward.

I’ve been away this week. That’s not information of any particular interest beyond being somewhat out of the loop in terms of keeping track of all our news. Re-enabling the 4G after landing at Heathrow yesterday evening produced a flurry of interesting updates. Maupay, Watkins and Benrahma all still at Brentford. Brighton and Crystal Palace apparently sniffing but nothing much more out there beyond that.

Even the usual Sheffield United ‘nailed on’ news has died a death. For now. It won’t be long before they’re definitely going there. Or Aston Vila. Or both. If you believe every rumour you read. Ahh, it’s all part and parcel of this time of year. Just grit your teeth, clench butts and hang on for the ride until that window slams shut.

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Flying in to Heathrow via Lionel Road – not a drone in sight, this time.

What we can say for sure is that Matthew Benham’s model (the mathematical one rather than Cliff in the brown/orange shirt) has struck again. Or maybe it was Cliff. Either way, the ‘in’ door has swung once more and the ceremonial half-chewed biro been cracked out with the news that we’ve signed Ecuadorian wide-man Joel Valencia from Polish champions Piast Gliwice. A player who certainly seemed happy to be here, that’s for sure. 

His signing gives even more choice on the flanks (read in to that whatever you need to – I have no intel. In general) and whilst he may be somewhat of an unknown quantity to those of us in the stands, have no doubt that the DOFs and Mr. B know their onions when it comes to talent spotting. The kinks in the machine that brought us the likes of Marinus and Nick Proschwitz seem to have been well and truly ironed out as our recruitment model has gone from strength to strength. 

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Welcome Joel (#)

Will he start against Birmingham City? I think the question is more a case of who will start against Birmingham City ? With the big three names barely even being mentioned, let alone featuring, over the close season it gives Thomas Frank an almighty selection headache. Of the best sort. I’m presuming that should any of Neal, Ollie and Said be deemed match fit then the bench is the best they can hope for. But, and has been said many times, yours truly is just the numpty on the terrace rather than a font of any serious knowledge. Then again, the prospect of bringing on Neal Maupay to run at new Blues captain Harlee Dean, with Gavin Ward holding all the cards in the middle in his role as referee, is a quite fantastic one. 

Whilst his is a name that never brings any pleasure when announced as our primary match day official, given Harlee’s tendency to ‘go rogue’ at crucial moments, and with the added burden of wanting to make a good impression in his first game with the armband – against his former fans and team mates – for once the presence of Mr. Ward could be a good thing. Please note: I reserve the right to retract this comment on Sunday morning. 

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Regardless, I’m itching to start once more. The Brentford record against Birmingham City has been first class since our paths have crossed once more. Each of those last five seasons has seen us finish higher than Blues. They’ve not beaten us since November 2016. There was, of course, also ‘that’ 5-0 and ‘that’ song. Those are nothing more than facts. Bloody good ones, mind you. 

Here’s to Saturday and the chance of seeing whether we can add to that record. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

This is my last request. And have Beesotted seen the transfer vultures circling?

26 Jul

If you hold your breath, you can almost hang on until the season proper kicks off. Brentford have beaten Norwich City midweek. We host Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon as the final bit of prep ahead of ‘the big kick off’ ™ against Birmingham City. The squad numbers have been released and we’re good to go. All that is needed is for the accursed transfer window to shut and all will be good with the footballing world. Talk of West Bromwich Albion or Aston Villa nothing more than a passing reminder about the butt-clenching way in which business is now conducted.

What can we say at this juncture? Word on the street (and by which I mean Beesotted, so a ‘legitimate’ source in my eyes rather than the usual clickbait nonsense) suggests Romaine Sawyers is bound for The Hawthorns today.

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We don’t normally do rumours on these pages but Dave, Billy (Grant, not Reeves) and the gang are normally bang on the money when it comes to their information. £3million subject to medical is the fee in the air. With the centre of the park having been strengthened by Nørgaard, Jensen, McEachran leaving and Josh Dasilva getting stronger each game, one can see why this may well play out. Don’t forget, Kamo has been dominant there too. And with Romaine having a year left on the contract perhaps we have no real choice but to cash in on the silky-skilled midfield-maestro. (c) The Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80s alliteration (see also: Beleaguered Bees Boss).

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Romaine brings the ball out of the back

Whether it is a case of ‘done-deal’ of 2+2=5, remains to be seen, of course. The Beesotted boys are always a reliable mine of information so I’m only bracing myself for this one. Besides, it wouldn’t be pre-season if the previous campaign’s captain didn’t move on! And if it does transpire then it’ll be a case of trusting the DOFS, saying a huge ‘thank you’ to Romaine and moving on up. 

On the plus side, it does detract from all the talk about Neal and Said moving on. For now. With both players conspicuous by their absence over the pre-season games – even the 3-1 defeat of Norwich City – one can only curse those niggly injuries that have kept them out. Presumably that’s all it is.

No doubt the visit of Bournemouth tomorrow will see Thomas Frank trying out as much of his ‘first choice’ starting XI for Birmingham as is possible? Assuming he even has one. And that’s no disrespect to either him or the players but with the diversity of talent available, we are more and more approaching a position of choice in many berths. Whether it would be the supporter choice, of course, is another thing altogether. 

Neal and Said are without doubt amongst the first names on any and every Brentford fan team sheet. The flair and raw talent that both players have is undeniable. Their popularity unrivalled. Nobody can deny what they bring to the team and nobody wants to see them leave. If talk about Romaine is tempered by the fact that we’ve had the pleasure of seeing him grow over the last few seasons, to lose either or both of this pair after the impact made last season will be truly gutting.

No matter how much faith and trust I have in the upper echelons of the club, I can’t pretend it won’t be demoralising should either depart. Equally though, the ecstasy about somehow hanging on to beat the transfer window will be something else. 5pm on Thursday August 8th, that’s still almost two weeks, is when we have to hang on in there until. Nothing to it….

Next up, squad numbers. These have been now published although there are some noticeable gaps. Mainly at number 10 (unless that one has moved sideways and become 11). A shame that Marcus Forss wasn’t given this. Our goalscoring Force 10 from Navarone (as one Braemar Road observer noted) will have to wait for another day. Sadly.

I would also have accepted: Fox Force 5 but Ethan Pinnock has been given that honour. And with David Raya understandably bequeathed Daniel ‘David’ Bentley’s old number (sorry, Billy 😉 )(Grant), the cinematic trinity of bad puns has been missed as there can be no Air Force One. 

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Instead, we’ll just have to content ourselves with rushing out to get our number 19 shirts printed. Unless, of course, that news is confirmed. In which case it’ll be 9 or 21 for me. I’m trusting here. I’m convinced both will feature against Birmingham City next week. The transfer gods can do one! 

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Does this tell us anything…..?

Next up, and finally, this is the last time I’m mentioning this. It’s been a summer of me annoying you and you indulging me. The Last Word season review e-book (The Jaffa cake Shirt) has been limping off the cyber-shelves to ‘entertain’  – your definition may vary – dozens of you via the medium of kindle, i-Pod telephone or other electronic reading device. However, with all proceeds received from the £1.99 sale price going to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust I can only thank everybody who taken the time to download this already. 

I make no apologies for the fact that I’m still spotting typos in it. That some of the jokes are almost as weak as The Huddersfield ‘shirt launch’. That much of it has been seen before. Equally though, it does have new material in all the ‘Park Life’ programme columns (which have never been published on these pages) and, if nothing else, is simply a way to relive some of the exciting moments from last campaign as we wait for Harlee Dean and his Birmingham City team-mates to visit next weekend. Ahh, ten times better. 

Best of all though, it’s all for charity. I don’t like to overly bang on about ‘good deeds’ – that’s not my thing. But the chance to help the BFCCST, more than anything else, is why I keep on at you about getting hold of this. No more. You can now relax. I’ll be sending the BFCCST a postal order on Monday morning.

Just please go grab it now. You can download it here. Who knows, you may even enjoy it….

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Nick Bruzon

Neal going? Neal staying? Names – and nonsense – all over the place.

14 Jul

Yawn. Rumours. We should be talking about amazing things such as how the live YouTube stream of Dynamo Kyiv v Brentford (0-0) held stable throughout Saturday morning’s game. About how solid we looked at the back – second half especially (sadly, HB’s football club meant I missed a first half that Thomas Frank would later describe in glowing terms). We should be talking about the wonderful new home strip that the team wore and whether this may be the week where the ‘away’ colours finally put in an appearance (Come on Umbro, do your thing. Please). About our first proper look at the likes of Pontus Jansson and David Raya. But instead, it is all Neal Maupay – Sheffield United, Leeds United, Aston Villa and now even West Ham are being added to the rumour mill. Presumably as a result of their non-purchase of Scott Hogan a few years back.

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Still hoping to say happy birthday to my good friend next season – to coin a phrase

OK – let’s just cut to the chase and deal with the Neal Maupay situation from this perspective. That of outsider looking in and, as such, not privy to any club knowledge. Oh to have Phil Giles or Matthew Benham’s numbers in my i-pod telephone now. But, to be fair, even if I did I can’t imagine either party would be letting any cats out of bags. Why would they? This is a football club – not a committee meeting between supporters and top brass. Strategies and models have been laid out, precedents have been set and trust has long been earned. The amount of money invested in this club over the last 10 years and the players we have seen are a thing to behold. The sight of the new stadium springing up at Lionel Road, something to make the heart beat a little bit faster every time I walk past it.

I’m not in the employ of the club. Yes, I write in the match day programme but that’s voluntary and as much for my own pleasure or the chance to sneak past the editor some ‘in jokes’, a couple of references that only two or three other New Road Observers, Ealing Road fans & Braemar Road residents may get or simply a few open digs at our rivals. Thanks, Sam 😉

If something needs to be said on these pages then it’ll be said. But frankly, it hasn’t in recent years. The team are magnificent. Our top brass open and engaged. Our transfer business phenomenal. We’ve shrewdly and carefully built this club up. Improved and strengthened . Seen new heroes created. And, yes, leave. I still weep at the though of Jota sent to St. Andrews but take comfort in the fact that he is, at least, now an Aston Villa player. There’s one name going straight into my Fantasy Football team. Perhaps alongs side Chris Mepham, Ezri Konsa and number 26.

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Oh, Jota….. Any excuse

I also know that, like myself, we’ve a hardcore of long standing supporters for whom this positive period is something that still feels somewhat unusual. That success is brilliant but odd. That we’re only a moment away from selling Dean Holdsworth and replacing him with Murray Jones. To saying farewell Nicky Forster, Andy Sinton, DJ Campbell et al. That it’s Brentford, innit. Something is bound to go wrong. We’ll discover that Lionel Road is built on the site of an ancient burial ground. That somebody messed up the bluerprints and got the cms / inches mixed up a la Spinal Tap. That Neal Maupay’s contract was signed with invisible ink that is slowly disintegrating before our very eyes.

But it won’t. The evidence is there before our eyes. The difference is that when things happen that supporters may not like  – primarily the sale of a fan favourite – we now have a Plan B and C already lined up and in operation. Sometimes we sell early. Sometimes we sell late. Always we invest in potential. Now we are also investing in experience. The signing of Pontus Jansson a huge marker post that things continue to evolve at Griffin Park. 

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The final piece is lowered in to place at Lionel Road. Errrr “Chaaaaappp-mannnnn”

It is so apparent how things work these days. That Brentford still feels very much our club despite Matthew Benham and his team being at the helm. That they are deserving of our faith and trust. Be honest, NO football club is going to share transfer plans and divulge details of bids to supporters or journalists. Not even Brentford. Ignore the clickbait. Ignore the rumour. Trust the system.

Sure, Neal Maupay may well end up leaving us imminently. He may not. He was missing from the Dynamo Kyiv game, with Thomas conforming at full time that he had gone back to France for a couple of days but that there was nothing wrong with his approach and he’d be in training next week. Likewise, Said Benrahama although Kamo will be out for a few more weeks given his extended progress at the African Cup Of Nations.   

I’m not an idiot. I know we’re in clickbait season and that all manner of publications publish all manner of nonsense. Some of it may stick in hindsight. Most of it won’t. Maupay can’t be going to Aston Villa, Sheffield United AND West Ham. Romaine Sawyers can’t be going to Leeds United AND Aston Villa. Somebody might move. They might not. I’d love it if Neal lines up against Birmingham City on August 3rd. Absolutely love it. If only because I think he’ll destroy Harlee Dean and that’s worth anybody’s entrance fee. Let’s be blunt – I do NOT want him to leave. No matter how strong my trust in the system.

But, at the same time, IF he does then it’s not going to be a case of wailing and moaning. Most of our fans seem to get it, too. A twitter poll set up by the GPG (below) showed only 29% of voters saying that Neal must stay whatever. Likewise, the piece published by fellow blogger Luis Adriano – which you can read here – really hits the nail/neal on the head.

The last few years have more than shown that the board know what they are doing. Without Matthew Benham there probably wouldn’t even be a club now. We’d likely be watching AFC Brentford Phoenixes running out against Dulwich Hamlet or some such. Look at how Leyton Orient’s fortunes changed as a result of roping those three points to Marcello Trotta’s goal when we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. Look at how Doncaster and Yeovil have fared since being promoted at our expense the season prior.

We may not always do it immediately. But we ARE doing it right. I’d love Neal and/or Said to stay and really hope they do. Yet if they don’t, we’ll survive and who knows who we’ll unearth next….  

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The mutual love at Brentford is palpable – from Neal to Said and beyond

Nick Bruzon