Tag Archives: Sergi Canos

Half man. Half Robot. All Burridge.

15 Jun

Another date with the reality of our situation is coming. Fast. As Brentford fans continue to bask in the excitement of our play-off win, Wednesday sees the Premier League fixture list released. The moment we discover when The Bees will entertain and (hopefully) visit the famous names we’ve only seen in sticker books, on Match of the Day, the odd cup tie or perhaps their own ad-hoc visits to the lower leagues. Leeds United, Wolves, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool. The list is a long one and is laden with anticipation. As was noted in the previous column, there’s not one opponent who doesn’t provide an added element of intrigue.

Yet before we get there, its time for another book back at last season from another of our special guest columnists. This time, the man that has seen it all. The man who has described most of it to us. Brentford’s commentator par-excellence and the king of I-follow, Mark Burridge. We caught up this week for a chat about all things from play-offs and Premier League to commentary and covid. Mark talks through his highlights on the pitch, his players of the season and the ethos coursing through the club – on and off the pitch.  Enjoy…..

As for today’s headline, we WILL get there…..

Mark and team at Wembley

Mark, let’s start at the end. 29th May at Wembley. For those in the stands it was the culmination of a life’s dream. Can you put it into words, both as a fan and a commentator.

How did you keep your cool? Did you? Any tears shed?

It was ultimate professional performance from players and staff, started fast, a brilliant counter attacking second goal and then they just comfortably managed the game. Swansea had only scored 3 goals twice all season, so I was convinced it was our day early in the match. There was no way back for Steve Cooper’s team. Every player was 7/8 out of 10 and when that happens with Brentford the opposition are in for a long day.

Being relaxed early on made it all more enjoyable, the fans clearly felt that way too, so many smiling faces on display at half time. It was a strange feeling at the end, nothing dramatic from me as the result had been clear for some time, particularly after the red card.

I felt intense relief, pride, a sense of justice and simply enjoyed the celebrations around me. The tears, hugs, generations of families together, a truly special moment that you knew had to be enjoyed. Stuart Wakeford came to embrace Marcus Gayle and like many fans, the final whistle was the signal for raw emotion and Stuart had found it overpowering. There was such a genuine warmth.

Marcus and Stu embrace

That very same togetherness was everywhere within our eyesight. Some fans had sunk to their knees, others waving flags, shirts, hats. It was our day, at last. The football gods, had called time on play off & cup final pain for Bees fans, at least for now. The infamous Doncaster penalty, the most cruel and numbing of last minute dramas, well if this now was the pay off we’ll shake hands and call a truce!

Knowing that we were finally going to leave Wembley as winners and had experienced just what reward the play offs could be, was very new to Bees supporters.. Martin Lange was smiling down on us.

We were going to carry on with broadcasting until after the trophy presentation, so it was just a time to treasure. Then I looked at my phone and saw a ridiculous number of Whatsapp messages…

After clicking on the first few, it was a still of my Dad in the stands which I knew might happen if we were victorious, as Sky wanted to feature some of the elder fans who were inside Wembley and had been watching Brentford the last time we were in the top flight (which has now gone viral much to Dad’s bemusement).

That really was an emotional moment and I started to think of our dear friend Greville, of Dan & Jamie Powell, how much this would mean to them after such a difficult time in the respective lives. They are here at Wembley, somewhere, loving this and drinking it in.

It was a beautiful emotion right then that I couldn’t put into words.

I just felt incredible gratitude that this moment could be shared by so many & mean so much to so many fans all around the world. Dry eyes suddenly became a little tearful, I’d never enjoyed a moment so much watching others and trying to describe what was taking place in front of our eyes. 

Being with Marcus Gayle & Ben Burgess and hearing their emotion and their thoughts on what this will do for the Club and community was another reminder of why ex pros have such an affinity Brentford Football Club. Contrasting backgrounds with Ben on loan for just one season (2001/2) but has always kept in touch with BFC, writes such good articles in the match day programme and does a sterling job on commentary when he joins us for games in his native north west.

Marcus is the fan who became a Bees professional footballer, Premiership player, World Cup international and then a role model through his work with Kick it Out. The man who had bought a season ticket and was enjoying the games as a fan again until we bumped into each other in a local food shop in 2016 and we had a conversation about joining us on match day commentary.

As everyone knows Marcus is now our proud Club Ambassador. Having seen him make his debut for Brentford many years ago, then to share this victory with both he and Ben, with my Dad in the stadium as well, it simply does not get any better than this. What a magical end to a long season.

You and the team have provided an absolute lifeline this season, With the gates to Lionel Road locked you’ve kept us going with the usual passionate commentary. To us, that side of things felt ‘normal’ but what was it like commentating in what was effectively an empty room? How do you maintain the enthusiasm?

I’ve heard others say working at stadia was joyless and soulless and can certainly understand why that would be said but everyone working at a match would no doubt have realised they were in a very privileged position. Travelling to and from games alone (EFL guidance) was something different and it was often a case of arrive, set up equipment and leave as soon as possible. It was all very well organised but quite surreal compared a usual match day

The games generally lacked the intensity & energy you would enjoy with crowds, which was to be expected. The players may well be professionals but they are human beings first and foremost, so it was tough for them, particularly with the condensed season. It was very difficult without crowds but we got use to it early on and had experience of this at the end of last season. The fans are the energy of football. They are to players, others fans and certainly commentators too!.

I had encountered some of the top names commentating on radio a few times without background noise and it was a hard listen. At Lionel Rd the gantry vantage point is simply incredible (a MUST see when tours are available) but we were the only ones up there broadcasting unless it was a SKY game, with the press level pitch side there’s so little you would hear in the way background noise, as we were are quite detached. 

One of the SKY commentators said he would find it very difficult without the fake noise they would have piped in their ears during the game. It certainly must have helped somewhat.

Fortunately I was lucky to be around people with a great knowledge of the game, all things Brentford and who were passionate, yet measured.

It wasn’t until the Bournemouth away leg in the play off semi final that it probably dawned on Marcus Gayle & I just how different football felt again. This totally changed again for the play off home leg. The volume was simply remarkable. Off  the scale. With just 4,000! This bodes well for next season!

iFollow raised about £42m for EFL Clubs. Were you aware just how important the service was to fellow fans. Did you feel it was important to stay as positive as you did?

There was hope that fans would be back after a few months, at least in reasonable numbers. So we had a numbers of ex players booked to join us who would be experiencing Lionel Rd for the first time and would be introduced to the fans inside the stadium before the match. Covid saw so many changes throughout the season, mirroring the case levels so it was effectively an ever changing feast. Some ex-players had to be cancelled and dignitary numbers were often being lowered from an already miniscule number.

Contrary to what was said after one game we certainly did not have 200 fans in the ground!!

Considering supporters had missed out on what should have been a packed house for the very last game at Griffin Park and then not had the chance to be at the first game at the new stadium it is fair to say that Bees fans had every right to feel very disappointed and frustrated. Allowing the options to freeze ST’s and offering iFollow free for so many games, along with the GP Tours are all examples of the Club being in tune with supporters. The input from the various fan groups playing a big part in the right decisions being made.

iFollow suddenly had a much larger audience and with it quite a few adverts! We never knew when they were coming on! Plus half time discussions were cut short because of the same. The cost to watch the games appeared to be good value and did allow fans to stay in touch with the season, even if it’s nothing like being at the game. 

Some supporters freely admitted they enjoyed it more as it allowed the opportunity to see all games when they might previously have only attend a handful during a usual season.

Covering both audio & visual commentary at the same time was also something that required tolerance from fans, as it is not perfect plus there appeared to be the occasional technical issue.

Overall though, iFollow worked well during a very testing time for everyone.

These past 16 months have tested the mental health of everyone and football has been so important for us all to feel connected to ‘normality’ so we were very aware that Brentford’s success might have mean more to people than ever before. Match day routines changed for everyone. No drink with your mates before, maybe now it was sit around the laptop, or the whole family around the TV.

We were positive because I know everyone involved on commentary regularly felt this team would get promotion from quite a long way out. When the squad was struggling for rhythm and consistency I don’t feel it is unfair to say so. Following the draw at Wycombe we did say as much.

We knew fans were getting frustrated. It was fast approaching winter, with much fear & uncertainty away from football itself and message platforms were the only outlet to vent an opinion.

At most games supporters will use up emotional energy at the game but last season was so very different and you probably saw the best and worst of social media. We couldn’t cover the ‘Boro away game due to Covid issues and the local BBC team did a great job. Once Brentford took control they were full of praise for our Club. Unfortunately there was criticism on a phone in by several home fans post match who, rightly or wrongly, felt the commentators were too generous to the opposition.

We have always intended, as is very the Brentford way, to be respectful to the opposition but it is a Bees service so you are representing the fans. Often away fans will connect to the opposition service, presumably just to hear what is said about their team. After the Leeds game last season we had their fans writing on Twitter how nice it was to hear opposition commentary say they the best team we had played since Wolves, some extending this as the ‘fairest’ they had heard.

Giving an honest opinion, hopefully a fair one is all you can really do. Some will like it, others not.

We love the game because not everyone sees it the same way.

What was a real tonic throughout the season is getting some lovely messages from fans, something for which we are very grateful.

What do you think was our performance of the season?

There were some key ones for me.

The 3 points at Barnsley came in the middle of monthly wins in South Yorkshire and got our season going. Some robustness was starting to become clear.

We were excellent for a long time at Watford, showed great character to get a point in the end and the Bournemouth league win at home was probably the best of the season at Lionel Rd

The formation change at Preston was much needed at a difficult time, the 5-0 win against a normally solid side was flawless.

The Cherries feature heavily for me in the whole season, the win at The Vitality Stadium at the end of the season was another important 3 points. 

Jonathan Woodgate’s team were on a great run at the time with 7 (errr brackets) straight wins, scoring for fun and clearly believing they had timed it right, to entering the upcoming play offs with an air of invincibility. Brentford winning, with 10 men for nearly 50 mins, dealt a blow to Bournemouth from which they never truly recovered.

In the end there can though only be one game that had absolutely everything.

Football is about excitement and drama, none of which you truly experience without fans. We all wish there were more supporters in The Brentford Community Stadium, on 22nd May but in this wretched season 4,000 was a huge bonus. 

It was the day Lionel Road finally became our new home, rather fitting in a week that saw bulldozers doing their worst at the wonderful Griffin Park.

So much has been written about that play off win but there wasn’t a hint of panic when Bournemouth went 2-0 up in the tie, in rather strange circumstances. Brentford still believed, Thomas Frank believed. Lionel Rd still believed. Our fans believed. Bournemouth did not.

So it proved, as we witnessed a catastrophic decision making meltdown by the opposition whilst under pressure from a rampant Brentford team that refused to give up. After Chris Mepham’s red card there was an air of inevitability about the outcome, yet it remained wonderfully tense at the same time.

Forss strikes late and Lionel Road erupted.

Begovic goes up for a corner in time added on and we notice the M4 Elevated Section is at gridlock both ways. ’Everyone wants a piece of this game’ we said, as it did feel the whole world would have been engaged in this thriller.

The scenes at the end will never fade either.

It was a reminder just why you love football and  simply worship Brentford Football Club.

There can be only one for Mark

Ivan Toney is, understandably, in line for our player of the season. You’ve seen a lot of Brentford teams over the years, is he our best ever? And who else do you think deserves to make up the ‘top three’ at the end of season awards

Without doubt Ivan Toney is the best for me. Not just for his goals. Barry Fry said he was also Peterborough’s best defender and we’ve all seen why. The amount of times we have seen our striker heading away from an opposition set piece. ‘I get back and defend because I want to help the team, I want to win’ he said at Wembley.

That’s what we had witnessed all season. He was a little rusty at the start of the campaign but once up to speed you could see Ivan’s quality.

It was at Sheffield Wednesday in October that he showed us what an incredible touch he possesses, linking up play with the cutest of touches and headers to feet. That’s when I thought there wasn’t much missing from his game. He scores, he’s brave, he has the skills of a midfielder, he defends, he leads. Can play out wide too, just see the quality of his cross for Ghoddos’ goal in the win against Luton!

Ivan was substituted late against Rotherham in the away game, allowing Aaron Pressley to make his debut. Before leaving the pitch he urged all his players to stay focussed for the last few minutes to see out the win, one of the little things you notice at a game that make you realise what a special team player he is too.

One of the greatest leaders in a red & white shirt we have ever seen. Pure winner.

My second choice would be Vitaly Janelt. Half man, half robot. A signing I thought likely to be ‘one for the future’, like many no doubt. Following the injury to Christian Norgaard the timing of his introduction was perfect. A solid debut up at Hillsborough, then impressive in the win at Oakwell, followed up with scoring his first Brentford goal against QPR.

Then he just kept getting better.

At Cardiff he got scythed down twice but just got up and on with it. A man made of steel.

He scores big goals as well – none more than against Bournemouth in the play off second leg.

Editors note: There have been more than a few from Vitaly – although not all commentated on by Mark…. 😉

Third choice has to go to Sergi Canos.

The way he has come back after a tough start to the season and following a bad injury has been remarkable. Nothing but admiration for him and the flexibility to play wing back so effectively was vital in helping gain promotion. 9 goals for the season, including a hat trick at Cardiff, he has been a bright spark for us on & off the pitch.

Love his ‘We want more’ tweets after each win. Still only 24. Hard to believe.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

Over the years you’ve been alongside the likes of Greville Waterman, Luis Melville, Geoff Buckingham, and co, what do you think the current team bring to the commentary?

Diversity, knowledge, pragmatism, humility and a big understanding of all things Brentford, both past and present.

They have all been excellent plus Karleigh Osborne & Charlie MacDonald fantastic new additions.

We always say to ex players ‘just come in when you like, at any time, fans want to hear your views more’. Their opinions are vital to make it work on a match day.

Where do you thing Brentford will finish in the Premier League next season?

I’ll go for 15th in our first season in The Premier League. Bees will take some big scalps and also possibly have a few uncomfortable scoreline.

Lionel Rd will be an important advantage when near or at full capacity. The crowd can play a very big part, as always. It will be fascinating to see how new signings blend in, alongside the players we all believe will prove their quality at the top level.

One thing is for sure, Brentford will have no intention of being tourists.

Finally, just how special do you feel last season has been for everyone connected with Brentford Football Club?

It has been a truly remarkable achievement to gain promotion this past season.

The team had the shortest of breaks last summer before the new campaign got underway and had also lost two huge players in Watkins and Benrahma.

There was a somewhat inevitable hangover from last season and the squad were at a new stadium where there was little advantage as fans had never been experienced – it was never going to feel like ‘home’ under these circumstances. After the last game it most certainly will do!

We lost the fewest amount of games (joint with Norwich), were top scorers again, and went of an unbeaten run of 21 games, then ending with another one of 12. Considering the gruelling schedule, this says all about the quality & character of the players and management but also speaks volumes about some of those not in the spotlight, such as Neil Greig, head of medical, plus Chris Domoney (aka ‘Sladey’) who looks after the aching limbs and muscles so well, whilst his effervescent personality can be infectious for all around.

Take in the Carabao Cup run as well, where we reached the semi final (including a quick taster of VAR) then to go on to achieve the ultimate prize is unheard of at this level.

How often do you hear of knockout tournament runs derailing a promotion campaign? Not to Brentford though, who bucked the trend with a relatively small squad.

If you also factor in losing the talismanic Christian Norgaard for a big part of the season, as well as captain Pontus Jansson, then hitting the top of the table only to promptly lose two more big players in Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva, you start to realise a little bit more about the magnitude of this success, to still achieve promotion.

Off the pitch we also have our heroes. Such as Bees fans Jamie Powell & Billy Coleman, whom the Club and fans have supported through extremely difficult times.

This shows the strength and warmth of the Brentford family. We all need each other. Together we are stronger.

The fans groups, Bees United, Bias, the social media message boards. All have played their part in trying to keeping fans engaged. When automatic promotion slipped away there were many reasoned voices stating the case to stay positive, including this column, and it has been very much appreciated by many.

Jim Levack also wrote an informative article towards the end of the season after a timely conversation with a staff member following the Cardiff game.  It was a time for cool heads.

There were also so many confident fans who sparked calmer debate ahead of the season extension.  After all if you’ve supported the Bees for some time the mere thought of play offs make your head spin a little! Yet there were so many believers this time who probably helped others to keep the faith.

Next season will hopefully see crowds back and we can all enjoy football as we have been use to over the years. In The Premier League.

The Club is in good shape. Both on and off the pitch. It is run by people with understanding of others, true empathy, kindness and warmth. You will be treated as a supporter, not a customer.

Brentford is entering a new chapter, the brand is set to grow. Most of us never dreamed we would see our football club play in the top flight. Yet he we are. Awaiting the fixtures this Wednesday.

Bring on the fixtures…The Bees haven’t played Liverpool since the FA Cup in 1989

Friends reunited. The big one has arrived.

28 May

The much anticipated Friends reunion show has just taken place on TV. Apparently.  Moving swiftly on. There is, thankfully, something even more hotly anticipated (sadly not the Mrs Browns Boys dissolution show). It is now Friday and we are only one ‘wake up’ from the play-off final. Brentford v Swansea City at Wembley. A game which, after our own ‘friends reunion’ last week against Bournemouth, sees us once again given the chance to attend a match together.

Following our own prolonged absence from live football  – we were on a break?  (note to self, insert tumbleweed emoji before publishing) all of a sudden we are being spoiled to ambassadorial levels. Two games in 7(seven) days. An unexpected sale of player shirts and other amazing items at the Brentford superstore last night and, as expected, the additional 1000 tickets made available through the NHS experiment have flown off the shelves.

Friends reunited on Saturday

We’ve done the Bournemouth game at some length but for me, Clive, it was as much being handed the opportunity to catch up with those faces we’ve not seen for over a year which was as amazing as our performance on the pitch. Brentford has always felt like family and no moreso was this proven than at the weekend. We know how painful the enforced absence has been but meeting up again felt as comfortable as putting on an old shirt. Hobot Funky Bee? Don’t mind if I do. Seeing long missed faces and all the pain of being forced to play in empty stadia melted away in a heartbeat. 

Of course, a reduced crowd is never the same although you wouldn’t have guessed had you been standing outside. If anything, the noise generated was unlike anything I’ve heard in a long while at a Brentford game. Perhaps it was the occasion, the acoustics in the new ground, the fact that we all missed it so much or just Thomas Frank and his bonkers pre-match lap of enthusiasm that fired us up to insane levels. Whatever the catalyst, the response was immense. Oh to bottle that for Saturday against Swansea.

The great news being that we’ll have even more supporters present. 5,000 Bees screaming the place down. And we’ll need to. The stadium is cavernous whilst the reaction from the players to having fans present was clear. Henrik Dalsgaard showing that with his reaction to our third goal. Bournemouth crumbling from the off as the supporters gave it their all. There are no tickets left though. This is it. The ‘sold out’ signs went up last night on ‘official’ as the final TAPS threshold was met by the lucky few.

Henrik celebrates with the fans

Now, there is only one focus. Swansea City. No more ticket talk. No more Bournemouth. It is all about Saturday. All about who Thomas Frank starts. Who he has available. How Brentford deal with the pressure and enormity of the situation. The Swans likewise. At least we have last season to relate to, no matter the crappy outcome which eventually transpired (and there are no words to truly describe how horrific it felt).  At least we have fans present this time around.

Genuinely, I’m buzzing. I CANNOT wait for this one. Sleep has been a commodity as limited as belly laughs in a studio recording of Mrs Browns Boys this week. Only what feels like intravenous espresso and adrenaline are keeping me alive at this stage. Yet the excitement is palpable. Its a play-off, I shouldn’t be feeling like this. We all know our record. WE all know the stats.

Fine. Take them and stick them where the sun don’t shine. Cliche alert but… you’re only as good as your last result. What a result that was. In Thomas Frank we have a head coach who lives and breathes every moment as much as the fans. A team who, on their day are unstoppable. It doesn’t feel right to be this positive but there is no apprehension about our own ability. 

Equally, one has to recognise that Steve Cooper will have his own team fired up. The prize for Swansea as big as for us. The desire and expectation as huge. They aren’t just going to roll over except, perhaps, when tackled so let’s hope referee Mr Kavanagh has his eyes wide open). They aren’t going to hand it over on a plate. This will need to be earned. This will be hard fought. This will be about as big as they come. And it can’t come soon enough. It needs to be 3pm on Saturday right now.

Recent games against Swansea have seen a fair amount of theatrical ‘rolling over’ and flapping around

All the anticipation in the world won’t bring it any closer. Enjoy the build up. Enjoy the moment. Most importantly, enjoy Saturday. Swansea will be out to ruin the party. Let’s make sure this is one Wembley visit with a happy ending. One play-off campaign that has that sweetest of finishes.

We’ve been here before. This time, let’s make it happen. Everyone from David Raya in nets through to Ivan Toney, the Championship’s leading goalscorer, has the ability to play at the highest level. Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo tearing it up down the flanks. Mads Roerlsev showing maturity beyond his years. Dalsgaard busting every sinew. Pontus with all his experience to draw on. Ethan Pinnock, a colossus alongside him. Emiliano on fire, Matthias Jensen finding his groove at the perfect time and Vitaly Janelt yet another one to roll off the conveyor belt of talent that our DOFS continue to astound with. My word, that goal last week still has me grinning like a split watermelon.

There’s not much else to say. We could big it up for pages and pages but this all comes down to 11 v 11 on the pitch and 5,000 v 5,000 off it. Now let’s do this !!!!

We’ve been here before. This time it feels different…

Time to make some history.

15 May

Welcome back / Crud, him again. Delete as applicable. We’ve needed a few weeks of ‘downtime’ on these pages for a multitude of reasons but that’s all finished. Been there, done it, bought the t-shirt. There’s been no room to talk about Brentford making a winning run to the end of the season. On Ivan Toney scooping the golden boot and breaking Glenn Murray’s Championship record with his 31st of the season at Ashton Gate. Indeed, no room to talk about the near coronary induced by the decision to keep him on the pitch when he picked up the yellow card in that final ‘regular’ game of the campaign prior to scoring. No place to talk about how the final four have played out for the play-offs. As we all know, Monday evening sees Bournemouth host Brentford followed by Swansea City visiting Barnsley. Perhaps most importantly, no real time to talk about the buzz of being allowed back into games from next week. The lucky supporters over the 3000 TAP point limit know they will be at Lionel Road next Saturday. Those entered into the ballot no doubt sweating on the results of that as much as the first leg.

Yet for everything that has gone on, the only real subject on anybody’s lips has to be the play-offs.  Positive though I have been about our promotion chances this season (spoiler alert: it’ll continue), there was perhaps a resigned inevitability about our chances of reeling in a Watford team recording win after win after win in the final few furlongs. Their own victory at Norwich City the point where deep down even the maths was too outlandish a leap of faith to make. Their 1-0 defeat of Millwall confirming a return to the Premier league. Now, Brentford are looking to join them with a tenth bite at the play-off cherry. A monkey on the back the size of King Kong. We all know the stats. We all know our record. Nine attempts. Four finals. Nine defeats. The whole process starting with Tranmere Rovers back in the early 90s and coming all the way up to Fulham last time out. An extra time defeat as much a triumph for brutality as it was football. In between we’ve had Huddersfield Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Swansea City and Middlesbrough in the semis along with final game slip ups against Crewe, Yeovil Town and Stoke City in Cardiff. That one followed up by the worst train journey ever. Apologies again to all impacted. Only Preston North End had experienced more attempts than us without success, albeit even they have finally done it. Ten play-offs ; one win. Can we do the same?

The play-offs. We all know what happened the previous nine times…..

The short answers is a categoric YES. For me, Clive, I’m convinced this is finally our turn. Dark horse for second place in ‘player of the season’ Sergi Canos popping up to get the winner at Wembley. Hey, one can dream. The simple fact of the matter is that despite the plethora of injuries we’ve readjusted our formation and hit our groove once more. Brentford are keeping clean sheets at one end and scoring goals at the other. Of course, we’d love Rico, Josh and Henrik back (and who knows what unlikely cameos may be made at some point? ) but the team have rediscovered themselves. Sergi at wing back, Tariqe in flames and Christian Norgaard alongside the centre backs a formation rejig that has seen the Bees back to winning ways. The other three teams doing their level best to trip over themselves in a bid to discover the most anti-form in the final lengths. 

Of course, football isn’t that simple. No matter how well one team is playing versus the other three, everyone has had a chance to reset and pick themselves up once more. All four teams go into this fresh and it comes down to one thing only – who holds their nerve? Swansea, Barnsley , Bournemouth or Brentford? Obviously we’re going to talk up the Bees where, perhaps, we can draw some historical parallels. Blow the dust off the previous column (during the war, Grandad) and it spoke about how we fell into the play-offs after being presented with a golden chance after Huddersfield beat West Brom in game 45. Oh, the pain of tripping up against Stoke and then home to Barnsley was indescribable. Of watching our ‘automatic’ chances slide away. An inexorable torture session viewed from behind the sofa with fingers over eyes. Played out in empty stadia as our hopes of hitting the Premier League were replaced with a ninth attempt at the play-offs. We all know what happened.

Yet, longer term, might this have done us a favour? Perhaps. Like ‘that penalty’ against Doncaster  (a pain only matched by the play-off penalty defeat to Huddersfield the season we came second when there was only one automatic slot), we bounced back in a style that had to be seen to be believed. Marcello Trotta and the team taking that pain, scrunching it up into a little ball and booting it into the net. The victory at Leyton Orient perhaps the most ballsy thing I have witnessed a football team ever do. Too right we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. Partridgesque levels of bouncing back following the most indescribable anguish.

This time around, rather than watching our team play in the Premier league with out us present, we’ve had to hit pause. We’ve reached the semi-finals of the League Cup. We’ve had that huge unbeaten run mid-season. We’ve discovered the most coveted goal-scorer in English football in Ivan Toney. If ever there was a shoe in for ‘player of the season’ it is him. The only real battle there as to who comes second? The fairytale ending is all lined up. A first season in the Premier League, to be played out in front of supporters, the prize at stake. Not to mention a few quid. If nothing else, a chance to avoid the most undesirable play-off record.

Who do you want in the play-offs?”. That, the most common question that has come in this direction in recent weeks. Honesty, I don’t care. Four tough teams. Four teams after the same thing. Only one can make it through. This comes down to nothing more than bottle. The fans will, of course, bring an additional aspect that wasn’t there last time out. And a good thing too. We all know how awful football in empty stadia has been. The echoy thud of the ball and the shouts from the touchline the only sounds to punctuate the players calling out to each other. Urghh, it has been grim. All being well, it is now over. Being part of the crowd against Blackburn  earlier in the season, the clamour of 2,000 fans was the most incredible noise. The sweetest of sounds. We’ll have double the amount in this time around. All four stands populated. If not heaving, certainly more present to lift the players further. Peter Gilham finally having a crowd to play up to. The players being roared on. 

Oh, I can’t wait for the play-offs. Not a typo. As much as anything else the chance to see a game of football. To enter this game of Russian roulette feeling positive is the most alien of feelings. Yet, perhaps, the depressing familiarity of what we do at this stage will finally work in our favour. There is no pressure. At least, not in our house. I’ve had the somewhat dubious pleasure of experiencing all nine of our previous attempts and have been finally numbed against the feeling of what comes next. We’ve nothing to lose because we only lose. The team can play with freedom. Without the albatross around the neck. The script is written. All we need to do is turn up and deliver.

All we need to do…… If only football were that simple.

Bring it on. Seen you next Saturday. In person.

Nick Bruzon   

I gave you every break possible. You had a 50-50 chance. You weren’t even close.

17 Mar

A point on the road and avoiding defeat. Something you’d normally be ok with. Moreso with one of your main promotion rivals falling to a 3-0 defeat. Yet there’s nothing but a hollow feeling this morning off the back of as frustrating an evening as they come. Brentford were held 2-2 at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County in a game that saw us electric in the first half and anonymous in the second. Early goals from Ivan Toney and Sergi Canos setting our stall out but there was always the feeling that missed opportunities, primarily one from Bryan Mbeumo, may come back to bite us in the second period. Its Brentford, innit? Yet there was no legislating for how costly our inability to punish opponents when they were looking dead on their feet would ultimately transpire to be. The aforementioned defeat for Swansea City at Bournemouth providing scant relief in the face of our own disappearance and Watford cruising past Rotherham 4-1. Saturday’s game with Nottingham Forest will be huge. Another early kick off to try and lay down a marker. A chance to exorcise the demons of the second half.

Cripes, it all started so well. A return for Pontus Jansson alongside Winston Reid at centre back in his first game of the year. Wayne Roon etc etc  Derby County so anonymous in that opening period we could have filled the defence with a couple of paper bags fluttering around randomly in the breeze and we’d have been just as safe. Bryan Mbeumo and Sergi Canos, the other change to the team, driving us forward. Norgaard and, especially Janelt, imperious in the middle. Vitaly winning every ball and breaking with speed. Ivan Toney doing his thing from the penalty spot once more with less than ten minutes gone after Mbeumo had been felled in the box. No complaints from Derby and about as stonewall as they come.  

It was another one stroked home to the bottom corner. Another one preceded by that most heart stoping of almost nonchalant ambling up to the ball before unleashing a trademark precision strike. 1-0 up and soon it was double. Canos getting our second from the corner of the box with a fine shot, hit low into the corner. Tariqe Fosu may feel hard done by, and personally I thought he’d retain his spot following the game at Blackburn, but Sergi was there to to do what he does. To show the critics just why he deserves his chance.

2-0. Sergi did his thing…

In between these came the Mbeumo opportunity. Jensen bursting clear and squaring to the unmarked wideman. He was clear, albeit on the angle, but  somehow managed to hit it painfully wide rather than coming close to even troubling Derby ‘keeper Kelle Roos. It wasn’t the only chance we had in that period but certainly the clearest. The sort that might have had Ian Moose punching the directions to the training ground into his sat nav. With the pressure building and the Derby goal being peppered, it was the sort of half where we felt hard done by in ‘only’ scoring twice. Arrogant? Not really. More symptomatic of the possession we’d enjoyed and chances we’d created in one of the most intense periods of football we’ve played this season. Yet, as we all know, stats and chances count for nothing if you can’t turn them into goals. If the first half had been nothing but Brentford, the second period saw the baton handed to our hosts in quite remarkable style.

Wayne Rooney has been lauded for the triple substitution he made as the players returned. Rightly so. Derby hadn’t been at the races and drastic action was needed.. There was no messing around. No further opportunity for the no-shows to redeem themselves. Instead, a change in set up was the decision and what a reaction. Within minutes they’d pulled the first goal back. Nathan Byrne bursting down the right and squaring the ball for Louie Watson with the simplest of chances. He made no mistake as he steered home from close in. Now we had a game on our hands. Now we saw 2-0 and dominant become 2-1 and wobbly with almost the entire second period to play. Brentford resembling nothing more than punch drunk boxer. Derby raining strike after strike in a bid to find that knockout blow. The Bees on the ropes, offering nothing. Hanging on to a 2-1 lead and waiting until the final twenty minutes to start making changes. 

The arrival of Tariqe Fosu providing some respite as we began to open up the Rams but there was little end product from anyone to provide a genuine threat to Roos. The feeling that a second Derby goal was coming growing by the minute and then, with the clock reading 86, it arrived. Louie Sibley making the opportunity for himself and then unleashing a fine curler past David Raya. 2-2. Game over, man. Game over. A point gained but a match that feels like nothing except a gut busting defeat. Even having slept on it. We could have put it out of sight in the first half, true, but it was more our complete inability to even come close to keeping pace with our opponents in the second that is the real mystery. Our inability to get even close to the ball or hang on to it when we did pick it up that I can’t get my head around. You have to credit Wayne Rooney and his side, of course. Yet at the same time, it takes two teams to play a game of football and there was only one present in the second 45. Thomas is going to have to give the mother of all pep talks today in the build up to the TV game with Nottingham Forest on Saturday lunchtime. 

Win that one and we overtake a Swansea City team who then have their challenge with Cardiff City the visitors. Win that one and we close back in on second place Watford ahead of their visit from Birmingham City. Let’s hope Lee Bowyer is ten times the better manager than the recently displaced Aitor Karanka.

Yesterday started off badly with the sad news of Yaphet Kotto passing at the age of 81. To cinema goers, he was best known for his roles as William Laughlin in The Running Man, Parker in Alien and, of course, Doctor Kananga in Live and Let Die. The role that saw him face off against the best Bond, Roger Moore, trading one liners and high end fashion with 007. As full time went at Pride Park, I couldn’t help but think back to his own impassioned speech to tarot reader Solitaire (Jane Seymour) upon discovering her betrayal as he despaired, “I gave you every break possible. You had a 50-50 chance. You weren’t even close.

The highlights are up. Somewhere. I’m not sure I can face watching them again today. The post match catch up last night was painful enough. No team has a right to win every game. It’s not the fact we lost, sorry drew, that hurts, but more the manner of our no show. Instead, perhaps time to crack open the Bond collection instead. Time to switch off from football for a few days.

See you on Saturday for Nottingham Forest. Maybe sooner.   

Deadly rivals face off.

Nick Bruzon

Rams await as Sergi speaks out.

16 Mar

Tuesday night. Another round of fixtures at the business end of the Championship table. The weekend played out with Brentford seeing our own win on the road matched by away wins for Swansea, Barnsley and Watford on Saturday. Norwich picking up three points the following day. Now, we’ve another chance to see if things can change around any. For the Bees, a trip to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County awaits. The Hornets are at Rotherham whilst Steve Cooper’s side face a trip to Bournemouth. Themselves, once looking nailed on for automatic and now trying to play catch up to the play-off pack. How quickly things can change. How quickly they can return with a few wins on the bounce. Easier said than done, of course. Elsewhere, Sergi Canos has spoken to Sky Sports about his own return from injury and the social media abuse being handed out this season by some of our followers.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

First up, Brentford face Derby County at 7pm this evening. The Rams are very much at the wrong end of the table compared to recent seasons and whilst relegation is probably not a subject on the agenda, they’ll want to start picking up a few points to make sure. Should Birmingham City start winning a few Derby may find themselves sucked in once Rotherham’s mammoth four games in hand play out. Stranger things have happened.

They’ll need to start finding the back of the net though. Saturday’s home loss to Millwall was their fourth game in a row without troubling the scorers. The sort of stat that always makes me angsty. I’ve been following Brentford far too long to take anything of that nature for granted. Following football far too long, to be fair. Complacency is the mother of all f*ck ups and we’ll need to be at our very best tonight. Pride Park never an easy place to go, regardless of how well our opponents are playing. The Championship a division where anyone can beat anyone. Something we’ve said many, many times. Mainly because it’s true. All being well a philosophy Watford and Swansea City will be on the receiving end of this evening. Much as we need to focus on ourselves only, let’s not pretend we won’t be keeping an eye on those other results.

The good news is the Bees played out of their skins to beat Blackburn Rovers on Friday night. Rock solid at the back and dominant in midfield. Winston Reid and Ethan Pinnock (a player I saw described afterwards as a ‘heading machine’) locking it up in the CB positions. The combination of Vitaly Janelt and the returning Christian Norgaard made the midfield a dream to behold. Ivan Toney doing what Ivan Toney does. Scoring. It was the sort of game that might have seen us pegged back or even beaten in days gone by. This time around, we held our nerve and took three crucial points. More of the same tonight would do very nicely, thank you. Here’s hoping everyone remains fit as, if so, I can’t see Thomas changing anything up. Sergi Canos the obvious choice to come in but given how the team played, I’d imagine he’ll have to be content with a place on the bench and trying to make his usual high energy impact.

Ah, Sergi Canos. What can you say? Well, if we’re on these pages its only going to be positive stuff. Or, at least, fair.  Then again, any regular reader (should such a concept exist) will know that. Aside from being our Harry’s favourite player he’s one of those you can’t help but love. The passion, the desire, the team spirit. The goals. The speed. The enthusiasm. The love for Brentford and our fans. Sure, he’s had his off days but who hasn’t ? The season has been a long one and players must be knackered. Moreso coming off the delayed end to the previous campaign. For Sergi, there was also that injury suffered at Nottingham Forest that kept him out for the best part of 2019/20. It’s amazing to think that at only 24 years old he’s fast closing in on his 200th Brentford appearance. 

Yet all this hasn’t stopped a quite bizarre hate campaign, bullying even, from a sub-strata of apparent fans on Twitter this season. Criticism and objective comment is one thing but this has been nothing short of consistent bile. Poison. Keyboard warriors at their very worst. We all know who they are. Their crud keeps popping up. You can try to avoid but still it appears. Frankly, I’ll call it out anyway. We can pretend it isn’t going on but it is. See also: FrankOut. Err…..?? Our team have been on an upward trajectory all season, everyone wants the same thing – promotion – and moreso after the frustration of how last season played out. So how does a ‘special’ group think they can help? By putting the boot in to one of the players trying to achieve that goal. Go figure. And sure enough, Sergi has seen it.

His interview with Dan Long on the SkySports website is here. Everyone should read this. Regardless your opinion on the player. WE all have favourites. We all have players whom, perhaps, we may inwardly groan when we see their name on the team sheet. My word, some of those to have worn the red and white over the years…. Cripes, it makes your hair curl to think back. Yet despite all of this we’ve supported them through thick and thin. Certainly, at the time. No matter how frustrating it was. And that’s been the (relatively) crap ones. The sad thing being Sergi’s actually ‘any good’. Yet the lemmings have had it in for him. His own comments sum it up..  

Normally, when you are not injured, you are playing and you manage that criticism during the season, but because I was going from zero to 100, it did affect me a little bit because it wasn’t only coming back from injury, it was also handling that pressure and that criticism from everyone. It was quite shocking because it was all at once. It didn’t help me, I’m not going to lie.

Perhaps it’ll subside. Perhaps just one person might change their choice of words or think before committing comment to social media. Might also consider the mental health of players. Just because they have the dream job and the public eye doesn’t make them immune to a constant barrage of abuse. Be kind, everyone. Would you say it to his face? Well, we all know the answer to that. 

I’m glad Sergi has said his thing. It’s a shame he has had to but it’s nothing we haven’t been banging about for months on these pages. Now, perhaps, everyone can just shut the heck up and back our boys. All of them. There’s 11 games to go and every point, every goal, is going to be crucial. Starting tonight at Derby County.

I’d love to be there in person. Instead, it’ll be time spent on the sofa with Mark Burridge. Metaphoriocally speaking. Sky also have it on the red button. See you there. In spirit.

Amazing to think this was 2015 yet he’s only 24

Nick Bruzon

Grow up or go support Manchester City.

4 Mar

Wednesday evening is proudly sponsored by a punch to the gut. A horrible low blow of a night that leaves Brentford still second, everyone, but now locked tighter than ever with Swansea City and Watford at the business end of the Championship. Norwich City an incredible ten points clear at the top after a thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory over the Bees. No complaints about how it played out at Carrow Road, beyond their gratuitous use of goal music, although what came afterwards left a somewhat numb feeling in the stomach. The usual suspects lining up to put the boot into one player – the apparent desire to see him fail and subsequent relish that accompanied what was, admittedly, a poor showing by his standards, very much a showcase for both the frustrating side of social media as it was their own ignorance as to how the season, the squad and the club work. A blinkered avoidance of the fact that, on the night, the entire team were very much second best to a  Norwich side that may aswell start ordering in their 2021/22 Panini sticker books now. 

No complaints. Sadly

It all started off so brightly. David Raya standing up to Teemu Pukki with the Norwich goal machine clean through. Barely minutes on the clock. He should have scored. Ian Moose would, no doubt, have gobbled that one up (or demonstrated how to do so on the training ground afterwards) but the Brentford goalkeeper maintained his composure and ensured we didn’t concede a customary early goal. 

Yet if this was to be a warning sign it spurred the Bees into life. Running 100mph at our hosts, Sergi Canos hit a stunning drive from distance that Tim Krul did well to parry away. The same player then guilty of a brutal looking miss after magnificent work down the right hand flank by Mbeumo. The winger squaring it for the Spaniard who, somehow, steered it horribly wide rather than stroking it home from his unmarked position yards out. Whether he slipped or got tangled up in his own feet, I’ve no idea. Either way, it should have been 1-0. Either way it looked awful.

Ivan Toney and Canos again had chances. The former perhaps with the better of the pair before it all went South. A sloppy pass from Sergi allowing Norwich to turn defence into attack. They broke at speed, opening up the Brentford defence as easily as they would a packet of biscuits. The ball found Emi Buendía who made no mistake, shooting through a crowd of players low into the far corner. 25 minutes gone. 1-0 Norwich City. Brentford very much on the back foot after a sterling start to proceedings. The social media hate mob now going full tilt for Sergi. A player who, at most, as suggested at half-time by Sam Saunders in the Sky Sports studios was guilty of nothing more than trying too hard against his former club. Sam’s right.     

And that was it. The first half ended quicker than you can say ‘keyboard warrior’. The second half saw Norwich City dominant. Mbeumo disappearing as quickly as he had sparked into early life. Winston Reid riding the gauntlet of yellow cards. Obvious changes with Tariqe Fosu and Christian Norgaard, amongst the players to come on, doing nothing to change the momentum of the game. Hello? Are we going to put the boot in? Hello..? Twitter..?  Both players powerless to stem the yellow tide. If anything, Norwich grew stronger. Brentford failing to even come within a sniff beyond a last minute surge when rough play in the box on Bryan Mbeumo went unpunished. Penalty? Surely? No!! I’ve seen them given, Clive. 100% VAR gets it right. 100%. The irony given what came later in the evening for Swansea City. 

Hmmm….

In short…. best team in the Championship proved why they are so far clear at the top. Established first team player has ad-hoc bad game and isn’t Benrahma. Rest of his team mates unable to do anything better against deserving winners.

Insert Face palm. We’re still second, everyone, but Saturday at home to Rotherham United is one where we’ll definitely be looking for a return to winning ways. Despite their own battle with relegation, I’m going into that game with an expectation of nothing more than three points. It’s a crucial time with the chasing pack breathing back down our necks and Swansea City boosted by a 95th minute winner at Stoke City. Kyle Naughton’s theatrical fall after Jack Clarke was deemed to have breathed on him being sufficient to earn the Swans a late, late penalty. Andre Ayew duly converted it to earn his side an additional two points after the scores had been locked at 1-1 for so long.

That’s football. Decisions go for you. Decisions go against you. We can’t change it and there’s no point crying. Get the inevitable frustration out and then look forward. For Brentford, that game with the Millers. Swansea host Middlesbrough and Watford entertain Nottingham Forest at lunchtime. We may well have been overtaken by the time we start and, if we are, that’s fine. The only thing that counts is how we perform at 3pm. On and off the pitch.

I do wonder what social media would have been like had it been as easily available in the Butcher / Rosenior eras, amongst others. When we were skint. When we had to have a fanzine buy us a player. When we were rattling buckets and kicking around the lower end of League One or Two. When the stadium was falling apart around us. 

Whilst I loved those times, unquestionably, let’s not pretend that things were always rosy. There was some absolute dross served up to go with, what was, an incredible bond between fans and players. We were all in it together. Fans united in our love for the club and brutal acceptance that we were where we were. Still with the dream of bettering ourselves. Still cheering our team and our heroes on. In person. Now, the keyboard warriors are out there doing their thing from the safety of their mummy’s house. 

Nobody expects blind loyalty. That’s as dangerous as failing to recognise consistent poor performance or accepting it because we used to be genuinely awful. Yet the over reaction from certain quarters to what was, absolutely, a mistake littered performance was shameful. The blinkered, hypocritical witch-in-chief leading the charge to put a hobnailed boot in once more. Take a look at yourself, learn to read a game, learn to recognise that a football team still has ten other players and that a season lasts for 46 games. Learn to accept that, perhaps sometimes, the opposition might just be a better team than us. Learn how our club works and that nobody has infinite supplies of cash. Then grow up or go support Manchester City.

I know I’m shouting into the wind here. Just as they are. The players and staff don’t read that crud. Or this. But it doesn’t make it right. Now, time to move on and focus on Rotherham. And breathe. Perhaps updating the social media ‘follows’. Nobody needs that nonsense either.

Nick Bruzon

Sergi? Jota? Dallas? The Hoff? Who scored our best ever goal?

3 Mar

Curses. Overslept. Normally this nonsense falls out at some ungodly hour, through no other motivation than general insomnia. Not today though. Small mercies I suppose. For all of us. So instead of a look ahead to tonight’s huge game for Brentford, the second v first clash at Norwich City, let’s just cut to the social media chase. Goals. Goals. Goals. We all know what Vitaly Janelt did against Stoke City at the weekend. An absolute howitzer of a shot that had fans and pundits purring alike. If you have, somehow missed it, then here you go. Albeit, please forgive the ropey editing that sees the normally mellifluous Mark Burridge replaced with North Norfolk’s finest.

However, it got me thinking. Incredible an effort that it was, have we had better? Quite simply, what was the greatest Brentford goal ever scored? As ever, social media came to the rescue. Roger Cross against Notts County. Glenn Poole’s volley direct from a corner when Wycombe Wanderers were in town. Tony Folan and Paul Evans, twice. Peterborough and Cambridge United / from the half way line and, err, from the half way line respectively. Jota, Benrahma and Ollie Watkins also amongst those appearing multiple times. 

Those earlier efforts goals which, magnificent though they were, only live on in the minds eye or some really grainy footage. With apologies to Glenn Poole whose effort was later highlighted on this old Sky Sports feature by Ian Westbrook. That one is still worth a look and you can see it immediately below.

Instead, the various choices were whittled down to four choices and the vote is now live on Twitter. If you need any reminder of these then why not take another look? Come for the goals. Stay for Mark Burridge. Then the vote is at the bottom.

1: Stuart Dallas at Fulham. Where to even start? The approach play. The lay up by Andre Gray. The acceleration. The power. To do this at any time would be amazing but in front of your own fans, in our neighbours’ back yard was nothing short of wonderful. ‘Limbs’ indeed. What a return to Championship action for the West London derby.

2: Jota at Blackburn. The king scored some incredible goals. Fulham in the last minute. Making a mockery of Jake Bidwell as he ran rings around QPR. Take your pick. However, we settled on this one up at Ewood Park. Not usually a happy hunting ground, especially midweek, he re-wrote the rule books with this run that covered almost the entire length of the pitch before a sublime finish. #Burridgegasm.

3: Sergi Canos . Oooohh, Sergi Canos. I wanna know etc etc etc . A goal which you can’t see enough. If only for how young he looks (even compared to now). The trap, then feint, the second touch, the finish. Poor Ryan Woods, his opener in this game had ‘goal of the season’ sewn up. For about forty minutes…

4: Philipp Hofmann. The game with Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park was one with everything. A red card for Harlee Dean. A scoreline hanging in the balance. Sergi at his finest. A crowds. Ah, I remember them. Then, with full time almost upon us, up stepped the Hoff. It may not have been a thirty yard blockbuster but chocked full of deflections (count ‘em, 1.. 2.. 3) is sent the home crowd wild and was the perfect denouement to the most stressful of evenings at Griffin Park.

The vote is here. Dive in and enjoy. Thanks . And then for a proper preview of the Norwich City game, why not read Ian’s piece. You can find that here. At least one of us was up on time !!!

The choice, is yours…..

Nick Bruzon.

Did Swansea help Brentford? Who would you pick?

6 Feb

Brentford fans are waking up to a table that sees us back in third place prior to this afternoon’s game at Middlesbrough but with the door to ‘automatic’ opened that little bit wider following a 2-0  win for Swansea City over Norwich City last night. The current state of the table sees us sitting two points behind the Swans and four behind the Canaries, albeit with one and two games in hand respectively. The right results in those outstanding fixtures speak for themselves but before we get carried away and look to Wednesday’s visit to fourth placed Reading, focus has to be on the current state of play.

Cripes, last night was interesting. There was no real preference as to the result. Win, lose or draw  – any combination could have been construed to have a positive benefit for Brentford. Instead, it was simply a case of sitting back to see how Swansea would fare against another set of promotion seeking opponents. We all saw their WWE approach the other week as they salvaged a point against the Bees – last night was much more positive. Dominating possession and attempting to play football. A first goal that would have been embarrassing had it been conceded by a team of under 7(seven)s, let alone the Championship leaders. Norwich with half a dozen men between Andre Ayew and the goal line yet none able to get in the way of his effort following a butter fingers moment from Tim Krul. How nice to see Ayew doing what we all know he can rather than writhing around on the floor like a fish out of water. 

We got the ‘good’ Ayew last night

Conor Hourihane’s doubling of the lead a splendid second half effort that left Krul no chance and Norwich dead on their feet. If anybody in TW8 thinks Steve Cooper’s team are punching above their weight, or just punching, then think again. They were brutal. In the best sense. The win thoroughly deserved and one which never really felt in doubt. Certainly, to the casual onlooker.  

Whilst it is a victory that means Swansea have overtaken us, the psychological advantage of now having Norwich in genuine catching distance cannot be under estimated. Both in positives for us, should we win today (no small feat, of course) and negatives for them should we be able to heap even further pressure on a team who have looked so, so comfortable and in control of the table for so, so long this season. Just look at how, historically, Leeds United have fallen apart. Again and again. Three points for Brentford at the Riverside could be the catalyst for a similar level of stress to be applied.

Three points. It sounds so simple. In theory. This one is going to be about as tough as they come though. For Middlesbrough, their own chance to enter the play-off race is an opportunity sitting up and waiting to be taken. Bournemouth have hit the skids big time and a recent record of LLLL sees them now just two points ahead of Neil Warnock’s team. If we think we have incentive to get the win then let’s not be blind to that which is offered up to our hosts. Yet, for Brentford there is that own unbeaten run. The positivity coursing through the team immense. The bounce back against Bristol City midweek nothing short of magnificent. This, without Josh Dasilva whom one would imagine is match fit again for the afternoon game.

Tariqe Fosu was immense. Sergi Canos brilliant. Let’s not forget, either, only 13 players have scored more Championship goals this season than the Spaniard. Ivan Toney was, well, just Ivan Toney. A goal machine on legs. Finishing and confidence to match the very best we’ve ever had. A player who has not only filled the shoes of Ollie Watkins but, if anything, outgrown them already.

We’ve been blessed in recent years but you have to put this down to the directors of football and the vision of Matthew Benham. Honestly, if you could pick one out of Toney, Watkins or Maupay who would it be? There are no wrong answers here and I think we’d happily settle on any of them. Different personalities, different approaches but all able to find the back of the net with aplomb. If he carries on at this rate, Ivan has the potential to be the very best of the bunch.

Oh ambassador. With these strikers you are really spoiling us

For me, Clive, the return of Josh Dasilva will be huge. He really is one of those ‘first name on the team sheet’ type players. I still find it amazing we got him for nothing. How Arsenal must be regretting their decision to let him go as he has developed his own game and ability at a quite phenomenal pace. What price now on him? Then again you could say the same about Rico Henry. About Ethan Pinnock. About David Raya. About Vitaly Janelt who already feels like part of the furniture despite this only being his first season. No time needed to settle in – he’s hit the ground running. Henrik Dalsgaard, the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard, getting on about his business. A phenomenal engine up the right and a rock solid presence at the back. Cripes, this team is ridiculously strong on their day. That’s before you even factor in the next generation coming off the bench.

I am confident. Not in expecting victory – nothing is guaranteed in this game – but in knowing just how immense this team is when everything fires. When our top, top players do their thing. A game with Middlesbrough used to be a thing for Brentford fans to fear. A guaranteed defeat as our start to Championship life saw them beat us again and again and again. Not even the threat of a draw.

Middlesbrough used to be untouchable back in the day

Yet with that monkey now well and truly despatched, we can look at this fixture as just another game. Albeit against a team with their own huge carrot being dangled. I’ve just got a feeling that Brentford, and Ivan’s, will be bigger. 

Kick off is at 3pm. Its on ifollow, as ever. See you there. In spirit if not body. The couch, and there lucky socks, await…..   

Nick Bruzon

What a performance. None moreso than from this man!

4 Feb

Second in the Championship. Unbeaten in 19 league games. Perhaps, most important, an opportunity taken when it was presented. Brentford beat Bristol City 3-2 last night to move within four points of Norwich City at the top of the table. Still with a game in hand. It was a game that, aside from a few minutes at the start and the end, always looked in complete control. The early and late goals for the visitors causing a few anxious moments but ultimately the strikes from Sergi Canos, Ivan Toney and Samman Ghoddos proved sufficient. Now we can look forward to Friday night and seeing which favour is done when Swansea City host Norwich. All that, prior to our our game at Middlesbrough on Saturday. 

No words needed

Let’s not underestimate the scale and importance of this victory. With everything going our way in the build up (Norwich held, Watford and Bournemouth losing, our own domination of the physical Swans) there was always that nagging doubt that it might go a bit Pete Wrong. Perhaps scarred by the memories of Stoke and Barnsley at the denouement of the previous campaign where West Brom’s falling apart was only matched by our own LL after looking untouchable for the entirety of the post lockdown run-in. It was a feeling only perpetuated after the Robins took an early lead, Zak Vyner guiding home a free kick at the back post. A free kick that probably shouldn’t even have been awarded but, alas, it was. It was punished with clinical precision and Bristol City were away. 

Except, they weren’t. Boom, Brentford came flying out the traps from the restart and turned up the pressure. Sergi and Tariqe pulling the strings down the flanks. Ivan Toney getting involved everywhere. Josh Dasilva missing but replaced by unsung hero Vitaly Janelt. Ethan close. Sergi closer. Noooo. Almost. “It feels like its going to be one of those,” I said to Mrs. B. with almost half an hour gone. Oh me of little faith. Superb work down the right from Ivan saw the ball played into the box. Fosu took first bite at the cherry before who else but Sergi was there to add another goal to his haul. Daniel Bentley’s parry out falling perfectly for the Spaniard who made no mistake. One each, Brentford dominant and pushing on.

Half time came with the scores level but if it felt like welcome relief for the visitors, the moment was short lived. As with Wycombe on Saturday, Brentford came back out at 100mph. Bristol City nowhere close to being prepared for what came next. Tariqe Fosu’s cross from the right was about as perfect as they come. A tracer bullet of a delivery that tore through the heart of the Robins to be met withI the brilliance of Ivan Toney. The timing and execution as he steered it home about as beautiful as one could hope to see. His twentieth goal of the season as wonderful as any that have come before and one which owed a huge debt of gratitude to Tarique. Lovely stuff.

The Bees pushed on, dominating possession. City shell shocked and although trying to get back in to it, offering as much resistance as a chocolate lime left in the blazing sunshine. There was no way through and instead it was Brentford who controlled the pace. It felt like the next one was inevitable and sure enough, as the Spice Girls almost once sang, tonight is the night that two become three. This time it was Samman who got on the scoresheet. Again, Fosu was the architect with his run and ball being picked up by Ghoddos. His first effort saw Bentley beaten all ends up but came back off the bar. Alfie Mawson’s clearance wasn’t but Ghoddos still had to stretch before connecting with the other foot to blast it straight back past the ‘keeper and into the back of the net for 3-1 with not much more than an hour played. Game over, surely? 

Well, yes. The game was contained and the final quarter-hour saw a flurry of substitutions. Understandable given this was the first of 8 league games over just 24 days in February. The trip to Middlesbrough at the weekend no doubt playing on Thomas Frank’s mind. Freshness will be key and a two goal lead was enough to preserve. Errrr. Well, yes it was at the end although let’s not pretend there wasn’t a bit of squeaky bum time with the plethora of defensive changes leaving us feeling a tad lopsided. Certainly, to the usual observer. Ultimately though the record books and table don’t lie. They show Brentford second and with a 3-2 win. They don’t show how the late consolation from Nahki Wells was offside. At least, by the rudimentary calculations offered up by the GPG. Who needs computer graphics when things appear this blatant?

We won. We’re happy. Very happy. It was a game that, as Thomas was quick to remind viewers, was played without four players who would likely be considered part of his starting XI : Pontus, Josh, Christian and Bryan. He was also quick to praise the roles played by those who have stepped in and stepped up. The way Tariqe has grown from being in Benrahma’s shadow. The way Sergi has flourished – wonderful to hear although anybody following the games could see that. Yet let’s not forget, either, that at least two of those four have missed most of this season. The ‘stand ins’ have already well stood up and taken their chance. Vitaly Janelt has been immense. Bryan Mbeumo must be wondering how and when he gets back in. I’d love the options provided by a fit Pontus but even he was there roaring the team on from the sidelines. Besides, you can’t have everything and to be where we are  at this juncture, with this squad, is quite fantastic.

Whilst an all round team performance, Fosu deserves special singling out. Sergi and Ivan were immense and could rightly consider themselves hard done by in not scooping the MOTM award. Yet to have given it to anyone beyond Tariqe would have been criminal. He’s been growing into the team and offering up more and more of his brilliance. Cripes, last night (and also Saturday v Wycombe) see him as undroppable. He was incredible. Thomas Frank mutt be smiling to himself at the perfect timing of this talent explosion.

Tarique swept the board when the votes were counted

February is going to be huge. It is going to be exhausting. Yet get through it with any sort of form and the finish will be in sight. There’ll be just 12 games left to play and the position at the top will, one hopes, be clearer. That’s not to get too far ahead of ourselves though. That’s not to enjoy the moment of another fine win. Like all of us I’d have loved to be there. Alas, it wasn’t to be but at least we had the pleasure of seeing another win. Of seeing Ivan go three clear at the top of the Championship goal scorers charts. Of seeing Tarique play a quite wonderful game of football. My word he was immense. 

There’s plenty of fun, stress, excitement and expectation to come. For now, let’s catch our breath and say ‘Well done’ after another stonking win. Bristol City may have been generous in their own pre-match donations to a local food bank (well played, well played) but once things kicked off there was no gifts being offered. The Bees had to scrap for everything but what a way to do it. Class on a plate. Here’s to the hope of more being served up at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Nick Bruzon   

Put down the crowbar and look at the shoddy photoshop. The latest big game is upon us.

3 Feb

Tonight’s the night. We hope. Brentford finally play Bristol City after the teams have already seen our coming together twice cancelled. First due to Corona Virus suspicions and then, actual, cases. It is a game that reeks of potential for both clubs after recent results from our Championship rivals. Defeats for Watford and a fourth in a row last night for Bournemouth, along with Millwall holding Norwich City, make the business end of the table as open as it has been all season. The Bees are 2 and 7(seven) points behind Swansea City and The Canaries respectively but have games in hand on both. For The Robins, a win will take them level on points with sixth placed Bournemouth and possibly above them, should GD swing by more than one. Elsewhere, Manchester United did their one team bus tribute act. Not so much parking it as waiting for one.

We can, of course, only start with Brentford. It seems we’ve waited an eternity for the Bristol City game. One can only hope that severe injury list that coincided with their 11th hour cancellation of our New Years Day fixture has got a bit healthier. Much like their staff whom one can only be thankful that the sudden onset of Corona Virus symptoms proved to be nothing more than a false alarm at a time where the testing laboratories were closed. Relief all round, I am sure. It feels like we’ve all got a lot older waiting for the Bees to play the Robins…. And, with that, I’ll put away the crowbar and instead present the shoddy photoshop.

We’ve all grown old waiting for the Bees to play The Robins (kids, ask a grown up)

We all know the stats, of course. Brentford remain unbeaten in the league since October 24th and the Stoke City debacle. Since then, we’ve been unstoppable. Ivan Toney has been banging them in for fun with the hat-trick (now officially confirmed) against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday the latest in a long line of goals, goals, goals. That was quite the performance from the entire team. Tarique on fire. Josh a welcome return to our midfield and Sergi blitzing it in the second half. The net still rippling from his goal(our fifth). An absolute blockbuster. 

If only we’d been allowed in to see Sergi, Josh and co..

We’re currently third placed on 48 points after 25 games and have just hit Wycombe for brackets. A 7(seven) -2 victory one that, being honest, could have gone to double figures had we taken those first half chances rather than allowing them back in to the game. For context, at the same marker last season we were sitting fourth with a still hugely respectable 40 points 3rd. We’d just gone down 1-0 at Millwall, fourth on 40 and were hoping Leeds United would fall apart. Again. 

Now, destiny is in our complete control. The table doesn’t lie and the prize for winning tonight , whilst not season defining, would lay down a huge marker to the top two teams Norwich City and Swansea. Especially given they then play each other on Friday night. Yeah. Frank Out!! Sergi’s rubbish. Sign somebody Benham, we’re doomed. Oh, and insert Picard graphic. Again, I’ll put away the crowbar and insert…. 

Hmm. They’ve gone very quiet…..

All this, of course, ignores Bristol City. They aren’t just going to roll over and die. Surrender meekly and hand over more points to Brentford. Although it would be nice if they did. However, with Bournemouth picking up the mantle from Leeds United, the Robins will be chomping at the bit to do their thing. The play-off zone is back in sight and Dean Holden has the hottest instead of the sadly departed Lee Johnson. Last season’s fun and games feeling even further away than the original date for tonight’s fixture and another excuse to wield the photoshop.

Last season was fun. Farewell, Lee Johnson.

Moreso, we need to be wary of the Robins given how they slipped up to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County at the weekend. Or, should that be, Rooney’s derby. Cripes, the castration of the Rams continues apace. Having got through Frank Lampard’s, Steve McClaren’s and, to a lesser extent, Ashley Cole’s it looked like they were once more Derby County. Then Rooney came in, took over, and now Derby have already lost their capitalisation. Rooney’s derby proclaimed the weekend updates….

derby further emasculated (thanks to Trevor for spotting this one !)

Etc etc etc. We could go on. But won’t. With Bournemouth serving up that favour last night and reopening the door to Bristol City, they’ll no doubt have their own spirits lifted. Here’s to our high flying Bees doing our thing one more. Even half the performance on Saturday would be sufficient. As long as it’s the second-half.

The other news last night came at Old Trafford where Manchester United hit Southampton for 9. Cripes. If we were destructive on Saturday, this was next level. Like buses, you wait ages for brackets to come along and then two appear at almost the same time. My own phone alerts suddenly going off late in the evening suggesting something happened and , sure enough, The Red Devils hit the magical 7(seven) goal mark. A feat they managed on 87 minutes yet still then finding time for an additional two goals. Well played all round and a scoreline we could only aspire to. Whilst there’s no chance of it happening tonight – Daniel Bentley’s not a flappy ‘keeper – I’d be happy with a gritty 1-0 and the three points. 

Will we get them ? Roll on 7.45pm when we find out. Mark Burridge has the hot seat on the quality comms. There’s also Sky for those of you with that option, should you prefer. Regardless of the provider, this could be huge. Bring on kick off and see you there. In spirit, if not body.

Nick Bruzon