Tag Archives: Sheffield United

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

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Bamford on thin ice after mayhem at Leeds. Brentford in limbo after mayhem at EFL.

29 Apr

What a way to finish the weekend in the Championship. Norwich City are up. Sheffield United are up. Brentford (and Bolton) are in limbo. Leeds United are in the play-offs whilst Patrick Bamford is flat on his arse after being allegedly floored by I don’t know who, or what, exactly in their game with Aston Villa that gave new meaning to the word controversial.

Starting with Brentford, three days on and we still have no idea if or when Saturday’s rearranged game with Bolton will take place. Or with what level of team. Not much else to say there. Everyone, from both sides, gets it. Let’s just hope that for everybody’s sake a resolution can be expedited. Whatever the direction of the eventual decision. Certainly, this morning’s update from ‘Official’ suggested a degree of frustration at the lack of any progress from the EFL.

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Draw your own conclusions

Next up, congratulations Sheffield United. Their promotion was confirmed on Sunday lunchtime as Leeds United could only pick up a point against Aston Villa rather than the win by at least 7(seven) goals which would have kept the race for second place mathematically alive going in to the final round of fixtures. It was the game which had everything that typifies the Elland Road outfit at present.

Accusations of dirty, cheating Leeds. Failure to win (see also Wigan and Brentford). Patrick Bamford going to ground like he’d been shot by a sniper ( see also: Brentford and the Keith Stroud non-penalty decision). Marcelo Bielsa maintaining his dignity and calmness whilst floating serenely atop a sea of madness.

I’ve seen the opening goal numerous times and am still torn. Yes. Kodjia was fouled but the ref never stopped the game. Play the whistle, not the ball is one of football’s most basic tenets. Some Villa players stopped but others continued. Even they weren’t sure . The real flashpoint being Tyler Roberts’ decision to play the ball through after the visitors had slowed up when it looked as though he was going to strike the ball into touch. That was the point when what followed should have been nipped in the bud.

One can well understand the reaction to that pass. It was something which the Sky commentary team described as ‘Disgusting’. Yet the mayhem which followed was even worse as Patrick Bamford went to ground looking like Ahmed El Ghazi had just emptied an entire can of pepper spray into his eyes. Instead, he was subsequently caught by the cameras pulling off an act of fakery that was up there with Ali Dia pretending to be George Weah’s professional footballer cousin. But by then El Ghazi had been shown red and the damage was done.

It did also beg the question as to what would have happened had Keith Stroud been in charge. Having called ‘no penalty’ when Bamford hit the deck against Brentford on Monday, would he have made the same call? Is Bamford more Bambi on ice? Or just the wrong player in the wrong place at the wrong time?

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Bamford and El Ghazi go for it

Regardless, Bielsa once more reigned supreme. Say what you want about Leeds United but he is the absolute boss. Literally and figuratively. As the inevitable chaos ensued, he did what Mr. Attwell  should have done and made sure his team kept the scores level. Albert Adomah was given the freedom of the Leeds defence (on purpose, for once) as he was allowed to run through unchallenged to restore parity.

Bamford may not have had a punch thrown at him but one can only presume he will have the book perform that task today. It was as embarrassing as Rivaldo back in the 2002 World Cup. A shameful, cringeworthy act that only poured more fuel on the fire of Leeds’ reputation.

The one positive to come out of this is Bielsa. Whilst Leeds have missed out, for now, could his persona prove to be the crucial difference once we get to the pressure cooker atmosphere of the play-offs? Moreso if we get the Villa-Leeds final that currently looks as though it could be based on league positions. If Sunday was tasty, just imagine what that one would be like……

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Was there another reason Bamford collapsed

Nick Bruzon

Plenty of great news and action despite the P-P. Have they fallen apart yet…?

28 Apr

I love the business end of the season. Saturday afternoon saw all sorts of promotion and relegation issues coming to conclusion with more to follow today. Despite Brentford and Bolton seeing their game called off by the EFL for those well documented reasons, there was still plenty for Bees’ fans to keep an eye on. Norwich City are promoted from the Championship. Sheffield United all but there. Leeds United now in need of beating Aston Villa by, at least, brackets today in an attempt to keep their mathematical ‘automatic’ hopes alive. Further down the league pyramid there was joy for Leyton Orient and tears for Yeovil Town. And what of Doncaster Rovers, whom we mentioned yesterday…..?

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It’s all over barring goal difference

First up, the fall out from the Bolton – Brentford P-P. The EFL have ordered that the game still be played, regardless of who the home side put in the line up. It’s a farcical scenario for all concerned with the real prospect of a men against boys match taking place, should it actually happen. Which I still can’t see being the case. Although if it did come down to the home side fielding youths / reserves then what an opportunity to give our B-team some genuine league experience. If nothing else, a sporting gesture that would see, at least, the game played on a level playing field.

With the whole footballing community firmly behind Bolton, there’s no real resentment here. More, frustration. Especially for the Bees’ fans who have shelled out on weekend travel. The plus side here being chief executive Jon Varney’s message that the club are now investigating ways of helping those supporters who had travelled.

He told Brentford ‘Official’ that, “I will be working over the coming days to find ways to compensate those who have had their day spoilt by the game being called off, particularly as it will, I’m sure, be difficult for some to get back up to a rearranged fixture at short notice.

At the top end of the Championship, Norwich City were promoted after a 2-1 home win over Blackburn Rovers. Sheffield United are as good as there following their own defeat of Ipswich Town.

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Congratulations (and happy birthday??) to my good friend Delia

The only team who can catch up are Leeds United, whose only chance of taking second place is to win both games, hope the Blades lose their final match but also overturn a goal difference that currently favours the Bramall Lane outfit by 13. Effectively, a double bracketing in each game will be needed. Whilst a 7(seven) goal margin at Ipswich Town next week is vaguely feasible, to do it against Aston Villa is a nigh on impossible task. You’ve more chance of Keith Stroud keeping his cards in his pockets for 90 minutes.

It is an incredible situation that United find themselves in, after such a strong start to the campaign. They were looking an absolute shoe in for promotion to the Premier League and, you know what, they still might do it via the medium of the play-offs. Yet as in seasons gone by, and to coin a phrase, “Leeds. Leeds are falling apart. Again.”.

The Easter weekend, especially the game at Griffin Park, was proof of this. Brentford were magnificent against a team who were second to everything. Yes. There may have been a penalty. To us aswell, after Ollie Watkins was impeded. Regardless of Mr. Stroud’s decision making, the net result was Thomas Frank playing Leeds like a cheap fiddle. I fully expect Dean Smith to do the same today as he looks to get a psychological advantage over his opponents going into that end of season promotion shoot out.

There’s simply no way Sheffield United can miss out from here. Indeed, there was a keen Brentford interest in yesterday’s game where the goals came from Scott Hogan and Jack O’Connell. More proof, if any were needed, of our consistent ability to find players who can then go on and do it elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare when plying their trade in the top flight next season. 

In League Two, Yeovil Town saw their run come to an end with relegation to the National League (conference). There were few tears shed by the Griffin Park fans as the results came through. Six years ago, after Doncaster did that thing, Brentford faced Yeovil in the League One play off final at the W place. Whilst we did what we always do there, Gary Johnson made himself public enemy number one in TW8 doing what he did as his side edged past us and into the Championship. 

Coming up to League Two are National League champions Leyton Orient. No doubt they’ll have spent the night celebrating like they’ve won the FA Cup. And rightly so. If Bolton are suffering from shonky ownership at present, nobody needs any reminder of how things have played out in East London over the last few seasons. 

But for Marcello Trotta in that magnificent 0-1 (possibly one of the greatest Brentford performances ever) as we went up to the Championship, it could have been The O’s who took our place. Who knows how things may have turned out for both teams had it been then rather than us who claimed second place. For that, I am eternally grateful and moreso seeing the respective fates of Orient, Yeovil and Doncaster in the years since.

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What a game. What consequences

And talking of Doncaster Rovers….. Their draw and defeat for Peterborough saw them secure a League One play-off place. It’s going to happen. I’m calling it now. Final game at Griffin Park next season…….

Nick Bruzon

Leeeeeeds. Leeds are falling apart. Again.

23 Apr

Not just my words but those of the Brentford fans ringing around Griffin Park through most of the second half and well after full time last night. This, after the Bees beat Leeds United at home (yet again) by two goals to nil and, in the process, dealt a massive blow to the visitors hopes of automatic promotion whilst offering a huge boost to both Norwich City and Sheffield United in the top two slots.

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Sergi and Ezri celebrate

Whilst, naturally, anybody looking in will focus on Leeds United hitting the skids so close to the line (let’s not forget their incredible home reverse against 10 man Wigan on Friday) take nothing away from a Brentford team who were up for this from the off. One penalty shout aside, Leeds offered nothing. Even then, referee Keith Stroud called ‘no foul’ as Julian Jeanvier and Patrick Bamford came together in the box. Whilst it looked an iffy one for The Bees from where I was, on the half way line, the man in black was perfectly placed. Move along, nothing to see here.

But that’s football. They’re the breaks. We’ve had copious stonewall shouts denied this season. Duffers given against us. Ultimately, as was the case at Elland Road, a spot kick decision went our way. Leeds heads dropped. The Bees kept going and who else but that man, Neal Maupay, to give us the lead just before half time.

Sergi Canos (a deserving man of the match) played it through the middle to the talismanic Frenchman. He made no mistake as he got on the end and, running through on goal, steered it past Casilla for 1-0 Brentford. The crowd erupted as Neal made it deja-vu in front of the Leeds fans with a mirror of his celebration after putting us ahead in the reverse fixture. It was also a mirror of their reaction with several making hand gestures that, presumably, were to recognise how many times he had found the net against them.

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Pick that one out ! (thanks, Matt Davis

It was a strike that takes him to 24 league goals for the season, a figure which is the best from a Bees’ player since Nicky Forster reached the same total back in 1994-95. Only Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa) and Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) lie ahead of him on a Championship top scorer’s race that is sure to run until the very last kick of this season.

If the Brentford fans went in for their HT cuppas in ebullient mood, things were to get even better soon after. Sergi Canos doubled the advantage as he finished off a wonderful move involving Watkins and Maupay to dink it past Casilla for 2-0.

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Yessssss. 2-0 !!

The celebration from crowd and players alike said it all and was the perfect reward for a top class performance from Sergi. This was him at his very best although – to be fair – you could say that in regards to just about every player in the team yesterday. 

From that point there really was no way back. It was a two horse race where Leeds couldn’t even come second. Brentford played with confidence and calmness whilst Bielsa’s boys visibly wilted under pressure. When they did get through, Luke Daniels was authoritative. The defence an impenetrable wall of red and white. Mads Bech having his best game in a Brentford shirt by some distance. Jeanvier and Konsa were rock solid throughout. Moses and Rico pushing up the flanks with abandon. 

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View from the Braemar – Josh also impressed when he came off the bench

As for Romaine Sawyers in the middle. My word, it was one of THOSE games. Filthy flicks and silky tricks had the fans drooling. On this sort of performance I’ve no doubt that Dean Smith will be itching to get his hands on the player once more when the summer transfer window opens. It really was sublime performance and one of utter confidence.

There’s not much more to say here, really. Brentford were magnificent. We’ve beaten Leeds United more times than I care to remember in recent times. Last night was probably the best of these. Not only the way we played but a wonderful riposte to all this ‘tinpot’ jibes and conspiracy talk after the game back in October.  Don’t let one potential penalty call take anything away from how we played yesterday. The crowd were up for it from the off and kept going all game. Even Mr. Benham made his way on to the pitch at full time, heading down the touchline towards the dressing rooms.

The Championship promotion race may have a few more twists in it but I’m not sure where these will come from. Sheffield United play bottom club Ipswich Town next whilst Norwich City only need one more point to absolutely guarantee it. Goal difference for both teams is already significant as to make that three point gap from Leeds in third to  the Blades in second, effectively four. 

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, there are two games left to get the four points needed for another top ten finish. We’ll need results to go our way, too, but put in any sort of shift like we did yesterday and I wouldn’t bet against even that happening.

Bring on Bolton and then Preston for our last hurrah of 2018/19. If they’re even half as much fun as yesterday then it’s going to be a cracking finale. See you there.

 

Nick Bruzon

Can Brentford scupper promotion race as Championship chokepoint approaches?

22 Apr

Here we go again. The Easter Bank Holiday began with the 1-1 at Millwall (take a bow, Josh Dasilva – what a strike !) and now it ends with Brentford facing the prospect of a visit from Leeds United. With the Sky TV cameras pushing this one back to a 5.15 kick-off, one of the two automatic promotion could already have gone by the time Mr. Stroud waves his first card. Norwich City, already five points clear of Leeds in third, travel to Stoke earlier in the afternoon where a win will see them promoted and a draw as good as there (barring a monumental goal difference swing). Indeed, the Canaries could even finish the day as Champions should results – including a favour from the Bees and a slip by Sheffield United – fall their way.

So no pressure on Leeds United then. Although it is a situation that is as much of their own making after the quite incredible 2-1 home defeat administered by 10 man Wigan Athletic on what was a very Good Friday for Norwich and Sheffield United. That game saw the hosts miss a penalty before taking the lead but then conspiring to press the self-destruct button. It was the ultimate ‘deserved to win’ performance where the only reward available was ‘nil points’. 77% possession and 36 shots count for naff all if you can’t put the ball in the back of the net as, somehow, Paul Cook’s team did. Twice.   

The situation at the top of the Championship is now a quite intriguing one. Being realistic, Norwich City are home and clear. However, with Sheffield United and Leeds both locked on 82 points, it really will come down to two factors. Firstly, who can hold their nerve and pick up all 9 points? Second up, who can increase their goal difference over the course of those three games? With the Blades +6 ahead, as long as they win their final three then Leeds are consigned to the play-offs. Unless, of course, they have the ability to administer a 7(seven) goal bracketing at some point in the final few games.

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Things are tight a the top this morning

Football’s never that simple, of course. Look at our first season in the Championship where quite phenomenal results at Derby County (I’m still not quite sure who hapless Reading so comprehensively outplayed them) or Blackburn Rovers (where Ipswich slipped up) allowed Brentford to overtake both teams, and edge back into the  play-off zone on the final game of the season. I’m sure this race still has more twists to come. Pressure and expectation can do incredible things and it won’t be anywhere near as simple as either United just turning up to get their three wins.

If nothing else, there’s the small matter of Brentford. Naturally, the focus is on the visitors today yet we’ve more than enough points to try and prove. The fixture at Elland Road in October was one which had it all. THAT Neal Maupay celebration, a wonderful performance from Luke Daniels in goal and then the pain of an 88th minute equaliser from Pontus Jansson. His own post match reaction was one which then saw the player charged by the FA  (as were the club for fans throwing objects at Neal Maupay) after accusing the referee of ‘robbery’ and saying on live TV that the result felt a bit ‘shit’.  There was talk of conspiracy, too, as United’s seemingly unstoppable start to the season had begun to hit the buffers.

I saw an intriguing tweet from Beesotted yesterday, which is repeated below.

Draw your own conclusions from this and know that if weren’t already up for it, we’ll be even more so now. This one is already a game that is sure to be played out in a powder keg atmosphere. Leeds know they HAVE to win. We’d absolutely love nothing more than to see them scuppered by our ‘tinpot’ pub side. They’ve not beaten us at Griffin Park since 1950 whilst the last few seasons have seen United comprehensively played off the field.

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of current form. If anybody has the ability to motivate it’ll be Marcelo Bielsa. What a man Leeds have in the managerial hot seat and, realistically, the main reason they haven’t choked it from a promising position as has been seen so many times before. Instead, they’re up there on merit and will be gunning for goals against a Brentford side who, let’s be honest, are looking a tad ‘patched up’ at present.

Yet the inspiration of history, our own desire to still end the season ‘top ten’ aswell as the chance to get one over Leeds should be all the motivation we need. Will it be enough? Could Leeds wilt under the pressure? Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out

Quite frankly, in a game where Keith Stroud is in charge for the ref to barely warrant a mention then you know that the on [itch action is promising to be something special. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

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More of the same would be very nice

Nick Bruzon

Bees hoping for more, more, more as West Brom visit this afternoon

16 Mar

What a run it has been for Brentford. 7(seven) wins in succession at Griffin Park. The crowd behind the team. The team playing for fun. Those full time celebrations and walks around the paddock now becoming a very welcome, and regular, feature. Most of all, it’s fun. The smiles are broad and the goals are flying in. I love it and can’t wait for the next game to come around. However, promotion chasing West Bromwich Albion are in town today and will be the latest team looking to put a spoke in the wheel of Thomas Frank’s runaway home form. Everybody needs to be on red alert for this one. Despite relieving manager Darren Moore of his duties last week, they got back to winning ways on Wednesday night against Swansea City. It was a game which featured what must surely be a contender for worst. penalty. ever as the Swans missed out on the opportunity to equalise in quite spectacular style. When you have that level of fortune smiling on you, it’ll be no surprise if The Baggies come in to this one with their tails up. Yet with the table still tight and The Bees 7(seven) points off 6th with a game in hand, despite our own midweek slip up at Sheffield United, there’ll be no excuses for not going at this one full tilt.

And full tilt is what Thomas Frank specialises in. Our home record speaks for itself whilst last month saw Brentford hit five goals at Griffin Park on two separate occassions. Hull City and Blackburn Rovers being the teams to take that pummelling at the back. QPR were put to the sword with what looked like consummate ease last time we were all here. Then, of course, there was the win on the road at Middlesbrough. Finally, it happened. What a reward for all the hard work, effort and self-belief.

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Thomas celebrates at home. Again

Even our substitutions are positive. There’s no looking to run down the clock or grind it out in the last few minutes with additional defenders or holding midfielders. Instead, Thomas is swapping one attacking player for another. It worked a treat in that QPR game whilst was a tactic deployed very early up at Sheffield United. It was a tactic that almost paid off against a side whose own defence is tighter than a pair of 80’s football shorts.   

As for the team, Saïd Benrahma has been on fire and this week captured the Championship goal of the month award for February aswell as also being earlier nominated in the ‘player’ category. Neal Maupay is becoming a cult hero to rival the best of those we’ve seen over the years as he mixes fighting spirit with goals. His 20 in the league, to date, is a figure beaten only by a small clutch of players and the crowd love him. Sergi is once more playing like the Sergi of old. Romaine is the absolute unsung hero of the side. The choice of wing backs and three centre backs is giving both added protection in along with another option of being able to turn defence into attack. 

The squad is about as full strength as one could hope for at this point in the season. Rico Henry remains absent whilst, of course, Daniel Bentley is a casualty of that game at Middlesbrough. Luke Daniels came in for the Sheffield United game and Thomas has already confirmed he’ll be starting again today. We’ve all see what Luke can do over the last couple of seasons and he can, perhaps, count himself unlucky not to have been given a chance earlier on this tie around. The life of a goalkeeper must be a frustrating one at times.

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Saïd, Neal and the team are providing goals and smiles

So it all sounds very promising for The Bees but let’s not forget the small matter of our visitors. West Brom almost pulled off an 11th hour stay of execution from Premier League relegation last time out and they’ve picked up where they left off. At least, in terms of position. The play off zone has been an almost constant feature this time out, something that their illustrious neighbours (please note, your definition of illustrious may vary) have really struggled with in recent seasons following their own demotions from the top flight. Aston Villa and Birmingham City, I’m looking at you. 

Dwight Gayle is still banging them in, sitting just behind Neal in the Championship goal scorers table. He has managed 3 from his last 2 games against The Bees and will no doubt be looking to improve on that today. The run of results that saw Darren Moore pushed out was immediately reversed with that 3-0 defeat of Swansea City. If nothing else, could the change of manager (given what many fans were describing as confusing tactics) and the huge slice of luck in ‘that penalty’ prove pivotal in lifting them back to a position of being promotion favourites ?

All is forgiven, Marcello…

My heart says ‘home win’ today. Brentford have been on fire, especially at Griffin Park, whilst West Bromwich Albion are still dusting themselves down after the upheaval and wayward performances of the last few weeks. Yet with the visitors looking to lock down their play-off position and the Bees still with hopes of ghosting up the table to sixth, could pressure and expectation be the biggest factors here? Will the winning team be the one the handles this the best? Or will Thomas Frank have more of those wonderful motivational cards up his sleeve to inspire the team and the fans to another home win?

I’m just the numpty on the terrace and have no means of being able to answer that with any form of accuracy. But I tell you what, I can’t wait for kick off to find out how this one is going to go. It promises to be as exciting a game as any we’ve had to date.

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Bees blunted by Blades as goals fly in elsewhere but the dream remains alive.

13 Mar

On a night where most of the headlines were grabbed by Manchester City hitting brackets as they beat Schalke 7(seven)-0 in the Champions League, there was as telling an encounter playing out at Bramall Lane where Brentford succumbed 2-0 to hosts Sheffield United. With Leeds United winning on the road and reclaiming top spot in the Championship, there was as much pressure on The Blades to secure their own victory and keep pace with those teams in ‘automatic’ as there was on The Bees to close in on a play-off spot that had seemed totally improbable going in to Christmas. Yet our performances since then have propelled us to the position where last night had more than just the chance to get one over our old boys riding on it. Alas, it was not to be. 

First off, credit to Sheffield United. They took their chances and defended like Titans. For all that Brentford dominated the latter stages of the first half and most of the second, there was no way through. When there was, Dean Henderson was quite magnificent in goal for the hosts. Two wonder saves from Neal Maupay were equalled by one from himself as he skied a clearance high into the air and back over his head towards the unguarded goal. With the question of ‘backpass’ (can you even be penalised for doing one to yourself?) clearly going through his head, it was almost the most comedic of equalisers. And when he was beaten by Mokotjo, the post was there to preserve his own impregnability.

We’ve likely all seen this one. The already flimsy match reviews normally found on these pages are probably best sourced from the usual sources if you somehow haven’t – the BBC, Beesotted or  Brentford ‘official’. Alternatively, the highlights and goals are up here. Those hardy souls present deserve the maximum of respect. Making that long trek to Yorkshire on a Tuesday evening, when the last train home would have been missed by anybody wanting to stay until full time, is a big ask. Moreso, off the back of Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough and the fact it was available on the Sky red button.

Mind you, not that there was great service provided by the broadcaster on this occasion. The red card awarded to Gary Madine just after the half hour was totally missed by our commentator, who called it as a yellow before making an astonished outburst two minutes after the event. At least he had the good grace to acknowledge that later on but the first most of us realised were via the updates coming through on social media. Personally, I’d thought there was trouble with my eyes / TV contrast button as I could have sworn it was an immediate red that had been waved in the air for the lunge on Konsa. Sure enough, it was.

It DID happen, Sky.

Prior to this, Oliver Norwood had opened the scoring from the spot following a clumsy, at best, challenge from Yoann Barbet – or Benrahma, as Sky called him. It had seemed innocuous at best watching first time and even the referee turned away before being advised of the alleged indiscretion by his linesman. Penalty it was and Luke Daniels, deputising for Daniel Bentley, was beaten by Norwood’s firmly driven penalty. 1-0 Sheffield United.

The timing of that one was pivotal. After being dominated for the opening twenty minutes, Brentford had begun to find a way through. It was a theme that continued after the goal and well in to the second half. Indeed, The Bees managed an impressive 29 shots and 69% ball control but could find no way through a rock solid and disciplined defence. When they did, Henderson or the woodwork were on hand to thwart Thomas Frank’s plans. Despite his most attacking substitutions yet (Canós and Marcondes on for Odubajo and Konsa), there was no way through. Lots of puff, huff, oohs and aahs but United held firm and with the clock running down, a rare sortie upfield saw them secure the points. 

A mix up between Jeanvier and Daniels ended with a potentially simple clearance being headed past the onrushing ‘keeper for a corner. From it, David McGoldrick made no mistake with his head from close in and that was it. Game over bar the shouting and all three points to the hosts. With Leeds United recording a 3-0 win at Reading, the relief was palpable albeit the win was throughly deserved. When opportunity came knocking, United were able to convert the chances. Brentford, for all we played well, for once didn’t have that cutting edge. Our normally prolific frontline blunted by the resilient Blades.

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‘Official’ also kept us appraised on Twitter, but it wasn’t to be. This time.

There are no complaints from here. This was always going to be a huge ask yet one we almost pulled off. On another night we might have done it. Had we found the equaliser I have no doubt that screw would have been turned and all three points secured. But it wasn’t to be. Compare this to Manchester City who I couldn’t help but admire upon seeing how their game ended up.

It was the third time they’ve hit 7(seven) or more goals this calendar year whilst they have a fair few sixes under the belt since the season began. Oh, to have that sort of consistency in front of goal. That’s not to knock our boys who have seen them flying in from all angles. Indeed, our goal difference is bettered by only six teams in the Championship and so there are few complaints from yours truly. It’s more a case of awe for a team that, no matter how much they have cost, can dismantle their opponents so consistently and emphatically.

Money doesn’t buy automatic success but, as Brentford know so well, it is more how you spend it and how you earn it. There was one moment last night where the commentary team made the most incredible statement when decrying our own transfer protocol  when nothing that “Yennaris went for five and a half million to China.” Seemingly, this wasn’t another mistake but more the most incredible bit of business I think we’ve pulled off in the last few years. I liked Nico, a lot, but £5.5m is just staggering. That must have been one hell of a show reel (and rewind to Birmingham City….).

Whilst we may not have riches of the sort Manchester City enjoy, with the gap still six points and ten games to play, that GD figure could be worth more than its weight in gold when the final table is declared. If there is to be any hope of continuing an unlikely resurgence towards the upper reaches of the table, then Saturday’s visit of managerless West Brom now has even more riding on it. Leeds United, Norwich City and Sheffield United are all duking it out over the top two positions. That’s their battle, sadly, although sixth place is still within grasp.

It is something I just couldn’t see coming two months ago – even allowing for optimism, the maths seemed against us. I’m the first to admit that, despite the regular admonishment on this fact from correspondent David Carney. Hats off for your faith, sir. Win after win has now seen us given a fighting chance. All of a sudden we’ve started reeling them in and the gap to sixth place has got smaller. Whilst last night may have seen us stumble, we’re by no means down and out. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Roll on Saturday. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Sterile Boro’ beaten by Frank’s Jaffas. Matthew beats all comers on Twitter.

10 Mar

One down, two to go. Brentford kicked off a potential season defining fortnight of games against promotion chasing sides with an emphatic 2-1 win over Middlesbrough. An own goal from Ryan Shotton (cheers) and a quite wonderful effort from man-of-the-moment Saïd Benrahma secured the points after Sergi Canos had also hit the crossbar aswell as having one chalked off by the officials. See also: Neal Maupay. All of a sudden the gap to ‘that’ zone in the table has closed to six points with an additional game on our rivals. Whilst points in the bag are better than games in hand, with the trip to Sheffield United and then the visit from now managerless West Bromwich Albion next up, destiny is very much in our control as the season builds to an intriguing denouement. 

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Sky cameras capture the winning moment

Where to even start with this one, though? It seems to be the perennial question as Thomas Frank and Brentford continue to astound the critics. And the fans. Honestly, who amongst us thought a win was on the cards yesterday? As much given the miserly defence of our hosts, the previous record against Middlesbrough or simply the fact that we were turning out in our beloved brown /orange away kit?

For the record – and I am going milk this one given the general amount of p*ss poor punditry on these pages – yours truly did note prior to kick off that: “Firstly, past form counts for nothing. Brentford may not have beaten Boro’ since our paths have crossed in this division but that was then and this is now. Players change and the squad we have now is not the one it was then. Results from seasons gone by count for nothing more than statistical niceties / horror shows (delete as applicable). Believing they are anything more is akin to suggesting that the colour of our away kit dictates performance. Jinx shirts? Never heard such nonsense.”

Those fortunate enough to be present were witness to a game where, for once, the results were born out in the stats that showed the Bees ending this one with 63% possession.

It’s not a figure I generally hold any credence with. If for no other reason one then get’s drawn into the Dean Smith ’deserved to win’ mentality when results don’t go the way you think. Balls in the back of the net are what count but at the same time, it’s always great to see domination rewarded. Moreso with Julian Jeanvier having to be replaced during the warm up ( I think that’s the third time we’ve suffered a player being subbed pre kick-off  in 2018/19  – hmm…) and then having gone a goal down within minutes of kick off. That, after Ashley Fletcher had capitalised on a defensive faux-pas to make it seem as though normal service would be resuming.

But there was to be no laying down by the Riverside. Quite the opposite. That confidence at home became more and more evident on the road as Brentford attacked with flare and continued the neat pass and move game that has become synonymous with Thomas Frank’s team. Eventually, the pressure told.

First up, the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard ™ of Brentford caught George Saville with his pants down and fired in a shot that the aforementioned Shotton could only steer home. It’s always nice to get one over the ex and with Saville caught short, it was 1-1 with 70 on the clock.

Yet things got better. That man Benrahma continued his current hot streak with a contender for the March goal of the month competition. He started the move that saw Romaine Sawyers play a  sublime ball through the hapless Saville and football Friend. The World Cup’s Henrik etc etc etc squaring it back from the touchline to find the onrushing Benrahma as the Algerian raced onto the ball to guide it home. What a strike! What a move. He’s already in the running for February’s award (and there is still time to vote) but could already have a contender for March. As my good friends at Beesotted put it so wonderfully…. 

This is Brentford though. We don’t do easy. And sure enough, the substitution of goalkeeper Daniel Bentley (shoulder) with just under a quarter hour to go saw Icelandic youth international Patrik Gunnarsson make his first team debut. What a time and place to do it. What pressure for the 18 year old. Moreso with a buttock clenching 7(seven) minutes of storage time added at the death. 

Yet this is also Brentford, where there is nothing but confidence in what we do. Where Thomas Frank brought on Marcondes for Canos late on rather than try to close out the game. It was a move akin to the one he did against QPR and helped bring about the same outcome – three more points for the Bees. It was a level of confidence shown in our entire set up that was rewarded most wonderful. For me, Lars Friis nailed it at full time, as he tweeted:

There was as much to be read in comments after the game to show you just what a job we’d done. There was a welcome return on social media for the phrase #TeamsLikeBrentford . That most magnificent of exclamations as alleged ‘big club’ come unstuck against ‘little’ Brentford. I guess it’s been a while coming from Boro’ given our singular inability to beat them since paths have crossed but, like proverbial revenge, a dish very much best served cold. 

Middlesbrough legend Bernie Slaven was full of expectation going into this one but was brought down to earth with a bump at full time. His pre kick off tweet of: “Good Luck to Boro today against Brentford, No excuses  this lot have only had 1 away victory.” had to be considered somewhat at full time. On the plus side, he was magnanimous enough to admit “Majorly disappointing display + result from the Boro this afternoon – Brentford zipped the ball around with accuracy + intent and deserved  all 3 points.”

Unlike Tony Pulis – outplayed and somewhat out of he’s depth in the post match analysis where he moaned that, “We got off to a great start, then we should have had a penalty – one of three definite penalties…..Refs have to get those decisions right and how he’s got that wrong I don’t know. He has a clear view and that’s three definite penalties in a home game and we didn’t get any.

Awww. It’s Leeds United all over again. Still, That’s Pulis’s issue to get over. Brentford showed the never say die style that has epitomised performances since Christmas. That freedom to play football without fear of defeat or making mistakes (albeit, we’ll pretend Sheffield Wednesday never happened). Of having a head coach who enthuses confidence, to the point of making attacking substitutions in the final few minutes rather than attempt to hang on to slender leads. Contrast that to Pulis who pulled off Assombalonga at 1-0 up, removed their threat and ended up paying the ultimate price.

Next up is Sheffield United away. John Egan, Jack O’Connell and Scott Hogan all started The Blades 2-0 defeat of Rotherham United yesterday. Simon Moore was on the bench. Better the devil you know or a game that will be as tough as they come? Who cares. After the Boro’ performance, I’d fancy us to beat anyone. Jaffa cake kit or otherwise.

The spirit in our camp is stunning. We’ve seen the smiles on the players faces after home games. Thomas embracing the crowd at full time. Now that has been translated to about as big an away performance as they come. The highlights are up on Sky and deserve to be enjoyed. Even Matthew Benham is in fine form, deploying the 🎣 emoji in fine style as the subject of seat colours joking with supporters about, amongst other things, the seat colours at Lionel Road….

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I can’t top that. Roll on Tuesday…

Nick Bruzon

 

Bees put a quarter pound of rubbish back in the bin as Thomas makes it 4 and 7(seven) in a row.

3 Mar

This is getting embarrassing now. Another home game, another win for Brentford. That’s 7(seven) on the bounce. Another visit from QPR, another win for Brentford. That’s four on the bounce. The latest, Saturday’s 3-0, was about as one-sided as they get. But for a somewhat moribund first half performance from both sides, with neither willing to concede first blood in the penultimate 237 derby to take place at Griffin Park, it could likely have been another 5 goal finish for the Bees. In the end we had to settle for goals from Sergi, Saïd and Neal’s 20th of the season – from the spot – to keep the points safe and see Queens Park Rangers fans streaming out early as though the proverbial fire-drill was taking place. Elsewhere, the excitement continued North of the Border where Partick Thistle and their ebullient mascot Kingsley even got in on the act.

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Thomas celebrates at full time

But we can only start at Griffin Park. It was magnificent. Again. That’s starting to become a regular phrase on these pages but when you see Brentford scoring goals for fun then it’s no surprise. The approach play has the crowd on the edge of their seats ; the inevitable finishes have them leaping high into the air. The excitement palpable. The celebrations euphoric.

Once more it was Neal Maupay who lead the charge. The first came from the penalty spot after Keith Stroud decreed that Ollie Watkins had, indeed, been thrown to the ground. The finish was as calm and comfortable as they have been all season from the spot. If ever there was a moment when the occasion might get the better of him then here it was. Instead, the net rippled and the crowd exploded.

The poacher turned provider for our second, breaking down the right and riding a challenge from goalkeeper Lumley outside the box that would have had Keith reaching for his red had the Frenchman tumbled. But no, with the scent of goal in his nostrils Maupay evaded the lunge and squared the ball for that man Benrahma to fire home. 2-0 and game over.

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Yesssss!!! HB celebrates at 2-0

It could have been more even prior. Dalsgaard producing a stunning save from Lumley with a point blank header whilst Kamo, amongst others, came close after the Bees had opened up our opponents as easily as somebody deploying an umbrella when the heavens open. 

QPR had no response. If they had looked out of it after the penalty, they were dead and buried now. All they could produce was gallows humour from the away end as they started singing about having had one shot. That, from Jake Bidwell, causing more danger to his own fans sitting in the upper tier than Daniel Bentley and his rock solid defence.

Yet rather than attempt to lock it down, Thomas Frank kept going. With just shy of ten minutes to go, the stage was surely set for Josh McEachran. But no. Instead we were treated to more pace as Emiliano Marcondes and Sergi Canos were introduced to the field of play. The crowd celebrated (and consulted the big book of Brentford tactics).

It proved to be inspirational stuff as the fresh legs mad further inroads into the already porous blue and white ‘defence’. More importantly, keeping the ball down the correct end until Sergi wrapped things up with another word class run and finish deep into injury time. 3-0. Dead and buried. Game over. 

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Sergi (and team) celebrate the third

The goals are up on the Sky Sports website. Enjoy them again. Please. With them comes a win that sees Brentford up one place in the table to sit four points off tenth and eight off the play-off zone with twelve to play. Is that possible? 

Well, if home form could translate to away then who dares to dream. Next up is a trip to Middlesbrough. If there is to be any aspiration of reeling in our rivals and making an incredible leap towards the top flight then now is the time to find our feet on the road. Moreso given that the game immediately after is a midweek trip to Sheffield United. By the time we all come together at Griffin Park once more, Thomas Frank could be planing for next campaign in the Championship or masterminding a blitzkrieg assault on the upper echelons of the table with only one target in sight. Sixth place.

That’s to come, of course. For now I’m still buzzing about another stunning performance from Brentford. Griffin Park is certainly the place for goals, points and excitement. Off the pitch as well as on it where man-with-the-mic Peter Gilham, for whom the attempted takeover of ’67 is still fresh in the mind, was steadfast in his refusal to acknowledge QPR. At various points in the afternoon he described them as the visitors, the opposition and just about anything else he could find from a well thumbed thesaurus. Kudos to the legend that is PG for sticking to his principals so strongly.

We all know what this one means to him. Even the players. Saïd celebrated his goal by running the entire length of the Braemar Road touchline. Whilst we weren’t sure what that particular celebration was about at the time, Thomas Frank would later reveal that the player had gone in search of Peter. To give him a hug and celebrate together. What a club !! 

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Saïd celebrates whilst looking for Peter

He wasn’t the only one celebrating. Hats off to football’s best mascot (that isn’t Buzzette). North of the border it would be fair to say that Partick Thistle’s Kingsley seemed pleased about his mention in the match day programme. 

If the  potential of Brentford going up a division is one to tantalise, equally exciting is the prospect of one day getting Buzzette and Kingsley together. What a photo-op. What an image.

Full time saw the players perform their now customary lap of Griffin Park at full time. The smile on Saïd’s face, in particular, almost as broad as those on the faces of the fans he stopped to talk with. Which was just about everyone along the Braemar Road paddock.

Thomas Frank was sporting an old school Bees scarf he’d, presumably, picked up from somewhere along the way before making his way to the press box for a chat with the BBC Radio London team of Billy Reeves, Sam Parkin and Phil Parry.

I can’t wait to hear that one in full. Just to see him walking around the ground and talking to fans, you can feel how much this all means to Thomas. How much he is enjoying life but, also, empathises with the supporters and the players. The aforementioned double-substitution was yet another demonstration of his ability to buck the trend and deviate from the Brentford norm.

Then again, the performances his team are puling out of the bag are evidence of that. Get things right away from Griffin Park and this could be a run-in to end them them all

As the song goes, “I did it myyyy wayyyyyy”. And yesterday, he certainly did.

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(with thanks to the brilliant BBC Billy)

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Saïd and young fans enjoy the moment at full time

Nick Bruzon

In the end the lure of the beach was too much.

23 Jan

What can you say? Congratulations Chris Mepham on finally securing his dream move to the Premier League. The Welsh centre-back completed one of the most expected moves of the season yesterday when he finally left Brentford for AFC Bournemouth with the fee reported at £12million plus the usual, copious add-ons. It was no surprise given Eddie Howe’s previous bids in the last two windows along with the player’s own omission from the squad that beat Rotherham United 4-2 on Saturday. This, following injury absence that had coincided with Thomas Frank rejigging his defensive line up and seeing his Bees finally return to unbeaten ways. Yet the gain here is all for Bournemouth as, despite a suggested higher offer from Dean Smith (something c/o my good friends at Beesotted, who are always on the money), the young Welsh International has declined a move to Aston Villa and chosen to take a trip to the beach. So to speak. 

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We can take consolation in great memories, lots of money and no hashtag

For Brentford, it means further shrewd transfer business as another player who we have picked up for minimal outlay (Chris joined as an under-16 back in 2014) has departed for the sort of money we could only dream about a few years ago. The club has made no secret of saying it will sell if the valuation and deal is correct and here we would seem to have another example. Bournemouth have made no secret of their intent to acquire a player whose rise has been, frankly, stratospheric. He hit the ground running last season and regular Welsh call ups were soon to follow. 43 games and one goal (oh, that knee slide against Sheffield United…) after his Griffin Park debut he has now reached the top flight with Bournemouth.

Eddie Howe must be purring like the metaphorical cat who got the cream. In one respect it is a gamble given Chris has played so few games but my word, what performances he has put in over that time. Last season, especially, where nobody could quite believe the confidence, precision and calmness of a player thrust into the squad and then the first team following the departure of Harlee Dean to Birmingham City. 

Things continued a pace this time around with Chris a regular call for ‘first name on the team sheet’ although, it would be fair to say, things did go somewhat amiss from mid-October. For the whole team. Thomas Frank’s first game in charge, a 1-0 defeat at home to Bristol City, saw Meps shown red for two bookings (the second somewhat innocuous) but from that point a malaise came over the Bees defence and midfield. It has something that has only been over remedied with the restructure of our our line up and with Chris having missed the resurgence through injury, perhaps the thinking is that with the fee on offer we have sufficient cover now in place to continue the upwards surge.

Whatever the reason, nobody can deny the talent that Bournemouth now have at their disposal. Chris has the potential to go all the way to the very top. On a personal note I’m obviously sad to see him go but it’ll be intriguing to see how quickly he adapts to life in the top flight. One can only assume he’ll take to things like a duck to water and despite the apparent ‘better terms’ offered by Aston Villa, taking the direct route to follow your dream is very much the way to go. As the ever eloquent Bernard Quackenbush put it on Twitter last night:

“As someone who has lived in Bournemouth for 38 years, with its miles of sandy beaches, warmer climate and with Sandbanks, The New Forest & the Dorset countryside on your doorstep.

Why the f@ck would you choose to live in Birmingham over Bournemouth. It was the only sane choice“.

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‘That’ knee slide

Elsewhere, we’ve had some downtime on these pages recently and so didn’t comment on the 4-2 win at Rotherham on Saturday. It was a result that saw our first win in the quite wonderful brown/orange kit as the unbeaten run continued to 7(seven) games. Those hardy souls who made the long trip to Yorkshire were treated to goals of the highest quality. Kamo’s second (our third) has to be the pick of the bunch  – a quite wonderful pass and move display direct form kick-off after being pegged back to 2-2. That Rotherham didn’t get a touch until fishing the ball out of the net tells you all you need to know about this one.  With an FA Cup fourth round trip to Barnet next up, what a time to find your form on the road. Wha ta time for the Jaffa cake shirt to finally come to the fore.

Albeit, the word on the street is that Thomas Frank has never tasted Jaffa cakes before. The training ground address is 100 Jersey Road, Osterley, TW5 0TP…..

Mmmm. Jaffa Cakes

Nick Bruzon