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Bees get a draw, ref has a stinker and Matthew Benham says his piece.

27 Sep

Brentford 1 Derby County 1. Another game, another draw. We’ve now reached that magic 10 played marker, have eight points and sit in 20th place. Barring the statistical miracle of Birmingham City winning by 6 goals tonight when Sheffield Wednesday visit St. Andrews, it means that’s where we’ll be heading into Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough.

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Griffin Park always wonderful under floodlights

But if Birmingham winning by 6 would be a statistical miracle (come to think of it, the Blues just winning at the moment would be a case for the Pope in itself) then last night’s encounter at Griffin Park could be deemed much the same. Brentford ended it on 76% whilst the first half alone concluded with Derby seeing just 17.3% of the ball. Talk about one way traffic. On paper. Yet there was no irony lost in the Rams going in for their half time cuppa with a one-nil lead under the belts after Joe Ledley was given the freedom of Griffin Park to head across the goal and past Dan Bentley with little more than a quarter hour gone.

It was goal that sparked fury amongst the Brentford defence. Well, certainly hand waving and accusations at each other. But then when you watch the Sky Highlights you’ll see why. Truly, schoolboy defending given the space afforded to the Welsh international.

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Sloppy defending gifted Derby the lead

But from there, that was it from Derby. Rather than play to win they seemed intent on playing to foul. One would have thought it was Keith Stroud in the middle rather than, apparently, acting as fourth official given the flurry of first half yellow cards and poor decisions made by referee Andy Davies. Andre Wisdom in particular can count himself very lucky that his own poor judgement, charging in on Romaine Sawyers by the angry mob in the paddock, saw him given just a caution.

It was a refereeing performance that continued right to the end where, with Ollie Watkins bearing down on goal, the ref called time as the wideman was about to shoot. It was a decision which summed up his night – Davies, not Watkins. The youngster having minutes earlier scored an equaliser for the Bees from close in that our balance of play, if not our shots, had suggested would be coming.

Derby were big, dirty and physical. Brentford were given minimal protection from the ref. How this one ended 11 v 11 I still have no idea. Yet, equally, Gary Rowett’s men did a job on us. They were solid, resolute and Dean Smith’s team had no way past them. Balls were passed sideways and backwards time and again in a bid to break through. Substitutions were lacklustre and like for like, with no visible attempt to change formation or tactic. Purely adjustments to personnel. That said, Chris Mepham really did impress when he came off the bench for Andreas Bjelland at half time.

Our own shot target wasn’t in the same ball park as our possession but you can’t deny this team keep on going. This team have guts. This team kept playing. And eventually our persistence and domination was rewarded by that man Watkins as he slid home FloJo’s cross.

Should we have won? Possibly. Did we deserve more? Well, no. Sadly. Goals are what win games. Not stats. There is a grudging respect to Derby for playing a certain way. A way we couldn’t get through. Gary Rowett had done his homework and set out his stall. Poor Neal Maupay, dwarfed by the Derby defence, struggled desperately and needed either support or to be given a break. Josh Clarke and Ryan Woods, both amongst our most positive players, were removed early. At one point the disembodied voice of Peter Gilham , commentating on our Oktoberfest Oompah Band from the back of the stand, was the highlight of the first half.

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The extent of our first half oomph, ah

But the team kept going. The team plugged away. The team would eventually get the equaliser that sent the fans home relieved.

Matthew Benham would later make a rare foray onto Twitter where he had a few things to say. Alongside his own criticism of the ref there was more than a fair share for the supporters as he noted :

A really excellent performance tonight from a young, hungry side, created the vast majority of chances. Think the moaners must’ve been watching a different game! #brentfordfc

1. Yes I know boos at the end were for the ref 2. Can’t see how constantly getting on the backs of players DURING the game helps the team.

Fair? Well, I thought we struggled at times. Not in terms of being outplayed but in terms of trying to break through the opposition. As a football fan, I’m somebody who has been brought up on the unconventional tactic of trying to get the ball into the net. Perhaps I’m just out of touch. The self-confessed numpty on the terrace rather than Head Coach. Indeed, at full time Dean would talk about how well we’d stuck to our game plan and the quality of the opposition.

That latter point in particular, one that can’t be ignored. Yet what Dean and Matthew both, perhaps, overlook is that as paying fans we go into a game with a certain level of expectation. Winning the game. That’s what football is about. Surely?

We don’t have the involvement of almost being too close. Of being within that inner circle. Of seeing what goes on behind the scenes. Of being the ones stumping up the cash for the players and the stadium. What we have seen so far is our heroes sold from under our feet (for well documented reasons), some shocking defensive lapses that have turned potential victories into defeat or draw and an average of less than a point a game after reaching that magical ten game mark with a solitary victory under the belt.

That’s not to say we’ll support them any less. That’s not to say we have that divine right to ‘be any good’. I love watching the Bees but do reserve anyone’s right to shout at times. This is West London, not North Korea. I have huge respect for our owner and understand the frustration from his perspective.  But I think he was wrong on this one. If nothing else, I didn’t even hear that much moaning from my seat on the touchline. It wasn’t a great game to watch. It was a physical battle that we were often second best in. It was also a game where our team were offered minimal protection from a fussy referee.

But it was also a game that showed we keep going. So often, Brentford teams of old have just given up. Have accepted defeat. This isn’t the Butcher era. The days of Leroy are gone. I don’t agree with everything Dean does tactically in his role as head coach. But I support this club come thick or thin. I’m well pleased with another point in what were really tricky circumstances.

At the same time, I’ll never admit that last night was any form of classic. It wasn’t. It was a game that shows just how tough this league can be. It was game where we eventually got what, on balance, we deserved through grit and determination.

Saturday will be another tough challenge, no doubt. But with Middlesbrough losing at home last night (0-1 to Norwich City) is there a chink in their armour we can exploit?

Roll on the weekend when we find out.

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Matthew says his piece on Twitter at full time

Nick Bruzon

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Enjoy Championship action….after dark. Strange thoughts abound ahead of tonight’s game.

26 Sep

Brentford Nights. It goes without saying that an evening game at Griffin Park is always a special occasion and tonight’s visit of Derby County promises to be just that. With confidence high following Saturday’s demolition of Bolton Wanderers, the bar of expectation will have been raised and fans will be hoping for more. In our way stand a Rams side who also played a basement club in Birmingham City and came away with a point themselves.

I really can’t wait for this one. The marketing campaign – Brentford Nights – has given added spice to this one with the lure of Oktoberfest mentioned in the build up and an image of those iconic floodlight pylons on the promo poster. Much as I love the thought of German hot dogs and beer, I’d happily settle for a goal fest or a flood of points.

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For Brentford, back to back league wins can only be the target. Full time will see us having reached the ‘ten game’ mark and the table having officially ‘taken shape’. Will the Bees be heading towards mid-table with another win and just four defeats from this opening period? Will we be starting to look like draw specialists? Or will we be sucked back towards the Birmingham zone at the foot of the division?

If nothing else, yet another changed line up is sure to come. Whether because of ongoing injury to John Egan or Dean Smith quite rightly rewarding the performance of his replacement at Bolton, EFL Star of the day (their words), Yoann Barbet. The BBC report Lasse Vibe and Sergi Canos as still injured and so I can’t see any further changes beyond the return of the Frenchman.

But then, why would you? Saturday’s game saw all the potential that Dean had talked about. You can only beat who you are up against and 3-0 away from home is as comprehensive as it comes. I can’t see any goalkeeper in the land as having been able to stop any of those goals. It just shows what happens when you have the confidence to shoot. I’m still in awe at all three strikes.

The Rams won’t be any form of rollover. Far from it. That same BBC report also suggests that there’ll be no Lawrence, no Davies and no Thorne in the side tonight for Derby. For which we can only be grateful as Tom, Curtis and George all remain doubts. Quite frankly, the less options available to manager Gary Rowett the better.

Yet you can still be sure that he’ll have any team he selects fired up and ready to go for it. If nothing else, the 4-0 tonking administered at Griffin Park last season will be a performance they’ll want some form of pay back for. Truly, the Bees were magnificent that day. More of the same will do very nicely, thank you.

The one disconcerting thing about this evening’s game is the club’s aforementioned strapline of : Brentford Nights.

It may just be me, but I can’t read it without thinking of bad TV. Very bad TV. So bad it’s beyond bad and is genuinely compelling TV. Namely, the David Hasselhoff spin off show: Baywatch Nights. A two series run in which Mitch Buchannon (the Hoff) swaps his red lifeguard’s shorts to form an after dark detective agency in Malibu. As you do.

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Baywatch Nights. The Hoff. It really happened

As career changes go, it was leftfield. The strangest Hasselhoff vehicle since Kitt, the back talking car. Yet if the opening season plots – about serial killers, robbery, and Hasselhoff going undercover in the drag queen circuit (episode 10) were your standard Miami Vice lite – the second series went truly bizarre. Rather than drug rings and kidnapping, the show took an X-files twist as Hasselhoff and his team investigated vampire sightings, Werewolves, a museum mummy and a time travelling log cabin.

Odd doesn’t begin to describe it. Baywatch  Nights never got a third series. Sadly. Mitch returned to the beach and the only surreal happening involving The Hoff were the four goals he scored in red and white. Yet it goes to show that the strangest things happen after dark.

Here’s hoping for more tonight. Strange things going on. Such as a home win. As for the Vampire sightings, I’ll settle for Scott Carson being scared of crosses.

I’ll get my coat.

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The Hoff. Gone but not forgotten

Nick Bruzon

Decisions to be made. Will we get off the mark today?

23 Sep

Matchday. Winless Brentford travel to, erm, winless Bolton Wanderers with Dean Smith in confident mood. He used yesterday’s press conference to tell us: “In terms of how we play, then more of the same will certainly put us on the road to getting a win“.

Agreed, IF we keep up the good bits for a full 90 minutes. IF we are able to change how we play should things not be going to plan. IF we don’t need to rely on refereeing decisions to sink or save us.

As a management team and playing squad those people out there pulling the strings and kicking the balls need to take collective responsibility for performances. It’s not the fault of the paying supporters who, being honest, have been remarkably fair. Whatever has been said on social media where the keyboard warrior is king (and nobody forces anybody to read that), there hasn’t been any dissent where it really counts – the game.

Outside of the Norwich ‘performance’ in the cup (and I use that word at its loosest after we’d aped the Marinus/Oxford farce), there’s been none of the booing or moaning one might expect for a side at the foot of the table and without a win after almost 20% of the league campaign.

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No real booing to date.

It was interesting to note Dean used his briefing to also note this, saying “On the whole, our supporters have been very patient” as well as adding that “expectation and pressure is only built up from outside. The pressure we put on ourselves in the eighth or ninth game is no different to the first game”. You can read this in full on ‘official’

Expectation IS building up on the outside, Dean. Of course it is. This is our team and we want to win. Especially given the much touted quality of our squad. Indeed, I expect a win. Wins even. No question. I’m realistic enough to think the title may be a step too far but does that make me a bad person for hoping we should be able to pick up three points every now and again?

Even prior to the transfer window closing, where we still had the likes of Maxime Colin and Jota available. Stupidity at the back against Bristol City and Nottingham Forest saw us pick up 1 point instead of 6. The opening periods in the games at Ipswich Town and then the visit of Reading should have had us out of sight. By all accounts we dominated Aston Villa and were unlucky not to leave that one with a W.

So today is the day. Today IS the day. The BBC tell us that super computer SAM, the Sports Analytics Machine, is calling this as 54% chance of an away win. Having checked my online bookmaker (for research purposes only), they see Bolton at 5/2 and the Bees at evens for the win. However, having done that I made my excuses and left. If Mrs. Bruzon is reading, no bet was placed. Honest.

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SAM calls this one as ‘away’

It won’t be as simple as the odds make out. Dean was the first to acknowledge how determined Bolton will be to break their own duck whilst admitting that he’s “clashed swords with Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin many times. You know you are going to be in for a battle.

With our head coach confirming there’s still no Sergi Canos or Lasse Vibe, it’s a case of as you were for his selection options. Which two of three play at centre back this week? Surely Josh Clarke to push up on the right ahead of Henrik ?

Does the (currently) misfiring Neal Maupay keep his place up top? Could there be a start for Justin Shaibu who was denied a beauty against Norwich by the thickness of paint on the inside of the post. Curse that meddling groundsman. Had it not been for his attention to detail we might have scored. Or how about goal scoring Ollie Watkins?

As for midfield, the impressive Romaine Sawyers was off this season’s pace against Reading but I’m sure he’ll be back in alongside Ryan and Nico with the likes of Kamo and Josh (M) on the bench.

And this is as much our problem as Dean’s . Just who is the starting XI? Who is the preferred team? It’s great having a squad but you also need some consistency. Chopping and changing every game , whether forced by circumstance or through deliberate choice, is not an ideal means of playing football.

But if we and Dean (at least, in public) don’t know, then you can be sure Bolton do. And, being quite honest, whatever pressure and expectation there is I still think we’ll have far, far too much in us for this one.

Prediction time: I’m with SAM. Dean will be able to sleep easy tonight. The Bees will open the gap over Bolton to five points and, with Tuesday’s visitor Derby County hosting Birmingham City, there could be further distance made between us and Brentford reserves. Gary Rowett will no doubt be desperate to prove a further point to his former employers and it’s a result that I for one could also get behind.

It’s one theory. I hope for all our sakes that at 5pm it proves to be the correct one.

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Dean Smith – hopefully he’ll inspire us to victory today

Nick Bruzon

0-0 at Griffin Park as the Lionel Road fan forum provides the main highlights.

26 Aug

Brentford 0 Woves 0 . A point apiece probably a fair result as both sides ended this one guilty of missing gilt edge chances. For The Bees, Jota and Maupay. For Wolves, some players. At the death, it was almost a case of Doncaster Rovers all over again as a fluffed dead ball (Nico’s great, but he’s no Sam Saunders) saw a three on one break saved only by the linesman’s flag. And that wasn’t the worst of them. Yet before all this was the lunchtime fan forum to discuss the Lionel Road updates.

Joining compere Billy Grant at the event were Chairman Cliff Crown, director Nity Raj (also CEO at Smartodds and Matthew Benham’s lawyer, as he was introduced), Mark Devlin, Dave Merrit from Bees United, Trevor from the GPG and representing BIAS, Gemma Teale. The hour and a half session was split between the panel answering pre-submitted questions before going to the floor.

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Last minute preparations from the panel

Whilst Matthew Benham’s personal message yesterday had clarified a lot of what was happening, we still learned more from this meeting than we’ve done from any of the previously published press releases. As Billy noted from the off – this wasn’t meant to be negative or positive but more that there were a lot of questions in the air .

So how to summarise 90 minutes in a few paragraphs? First up, I’d suggest you listen to the podcast when Beesotted release this. Likewise, one needs to say it’s a case of hats off to the club, our fan groups and our supporters. Cliff talked eloquently and in depth about the reasoning behind Matthews’ decision making process. Mark was very realistic and open with fans about strategy – especially around premium seating. Even if it was a message we may not have wanted to hear. Gemma wasn’t shy to hold back, speaking passionately and from the heart about why it was so important to involve the fans, even at this juncture.

Salient points? Whilst the external build, with the new schematics, is locked down there is still scope for review internally. It was confirmed that after listening to BIAS the area allocated for a potential safe standing zone has been flipped to allow for additional capacity. The board also acknowledging that giving over that entire stand to a potential safe standing zone was something that hadn’t been overly considered. Yet.

That the primary revenue stream is going to be through the ‘premium seating’ . A move away from the original conference and event business.Market research carried out by the same team who reviewed West Ham’s stadium has brought us to the decision to have 2930 places in this bracket. It is a number that the club consider is achievable, with first dibs going to existing Season Ticket holders. Albeit, unlikely there’s any age related discount if you want these places. Yet Cliff also confirmed there would be several tiers of premium seating and you would have the choice of if you wanted to pay ‘thousands’ (for the full works) or ‘hundreds’.

The flip side of all this being that it will allow the rest of the stadium to provide affordable seating for longstanding supporters. Even with the smaller capacity, after you factor in away fans and premium seats, that still leaves 11,820 – 12,920. With current supporter levels on an average gate (again, after factoring in the away fans and your 80 premium seats) at approximately 7,700 this allows 5,000 additional seats for newcomers. As Mark noted, we’re not looking for the new stadium to rinse the fans.

This in response to Gemma’s point that if you aren’t here today, if you haven’t even been born, then how can you get a ticket in the future? How can you be a part of this? It is a proposal very much aimed at current fans. That people aren’t going to be able to bring along friends, new family members.

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The new look Lionel Road picture as doing the rounds

The Hive has had to be sacrificed as part of the Outside Broadcast facilities being incorporated directly into the stadium at a Premier League standard. This is all part of the future proofing model, illustrated by the fact that despite Brighton having a spanking new ground, their recent promotion has required an additional upgrade cost of a figure estimated between £3.5 – 5 million.

The build will be quicker as a result of the redesign allowing the road to be built. With a fair wind it could be completed by October / Novemebr 2019 (Cliff’s words) although could slip to early 2020. This would then be followed by a series of test events before health and safety was passed – whether pre-season friendlies or league games played out in front of a reduced, but steadily increasing, capacity.

That said, the capacity is what the capacity is. Whilst technically there is always the potential to increase this would involve buying land on the other side of the railway and building over it. Something that would need the co-operation of Network Rail, too. Instead, there will be no future foundations laid and , if the council green light the scheme, the intention is to be on site and working by the end of January 2018. Cliff also announcing that if the new plans are not approved by the council, there will be no stadium.

Nity was at pains to point out that the change in plan was due to the need to de-risk the investment. That what we are talking about is a bet on football. It happens to be with Matthew’s money. He’s pretty good at bets on football and in his opinion we have reduced the risk by following this path.

Gemma would eventually thank him for allowing everybody to fill in their Benham bingo cards (‘It’s his money‘ being mentioned more than once). Yet, by the same virtue, rounded this off with both thanks and an emotional plea to keep taking this plan forward, but with us all involved.

Several questions from the audience, along with observations from our fans groups, made it clear that whilst we are all aware his plan is the way forward, we still have opinions. That these could and should be considered . Especially whilst there is scope to still do this on the internals. It is something that Mark acknowledged (twice over the meeting), “We certainly will be consulting with fans”.

Was more said? Absolutely. I’ve likely missed tonnes so please go and download the podcast. Is it perfect? No, but with the ongoing communications now being made the rationale behind the new plans is a lot clearer. So much more flavour was given as to what we are doing and why.

Were we ever going to change anything? No – at least to the physicals. Yet what was abundantly clear from the club side was a desire to now explain the reasoning. Likewise that the focus for all of this was in finding the most risk free means of building the stadium quickly, with premium seats the way forward. Mark noted that there would have to be some difficult conversations – although hopefully not too many.

From the supporter side, there is an absolute desire to remain involved and discuss what we may still be able to have an influence on. Not just from the likes of BIAS, The GPG and Beesotted but the fans on the floor. We know this is Matthew’s money. We know what he has done. We know we’d be dead without him. But as the people supporting the club and buying the seats, we still have a voice. It would be wonderful if this can continue to be heard as we take the next steps forward. Together.

Back to the game at Griffin Park, there’s not much to be said that hasn’t already. Both sides had their chances. Neither side took them. Sky have the video highlights – you can catch them here. We should have won. We might have lost.

Jota looked off the pace, less the usual thoroughbred and more a retired greyhound. I single him out purely because, with all the stories going around, one can only wonder if this is the last we have seen of him? Obviously I hope not yet the usual flare and excitement seemed to be missing and there were few complaints when Flo Jo came on in his place.

We’re now off the bottom of the table. Just. But in the words of Yazz (feat. her Plastic Population) in the 1988 chart topper, the only way is up.

Here’s to international break and the transfer window slamming shut ™.

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Jota on a sortie forward

Nick Bruzon

A ball of confusion in the cup. Matt Dyson talks Warbs, radio and football ahead of Brentford v Nottingham Forest

11 Aug

Another League cup draw; another ball of confusion. If the first round draw was a farce (Charlton being drawn both home and away) things were no better second time around. Brentford will meet QPR in the second round of the League Cup. Seemingly the game to be played at Griffin Park on first call but the somewhat odd use of a third pot to determine ‘home’ or ‘away’ left fans and officials what we will politely call ‘baffled’. All this before we get to the main event of the next few days – the visit of Nottingham Forest in the league.

Who’d have thought that using three pots to determine a two team cup tie would end in anything but a cock up? And sure enough, it did. Despite the Bees being called as ‘home’ by former player John Salako, question marks were immediately raised over the colour of his venue ball. Even official, once more displaying this season’s new found sense of humour, hit the nail firmly on the head.

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They weren’t alone in wondering just what was going on. Supporter comment on twitter quickly cut to the nub of the matter

Lou Boyd: Hounslow v Hammersmith in a World Cup qualifier I heard

Lee : And Dianne Abbott has concluded that the game will be played on the 43rd September

Oh Fuffuxake!: Why don’t we just play at Craven Cottage?

Even a QPR fan, James Skinner, getting in on the action: How about doing the first half at Brentford, then everyone gets a bus to Loftus Road for the second?

Emma Briden: Please don’t get changed to away cause going to that shit hole once a season is enough..

Alas Emma, it eventually transpired that Brentford are due an additional visit to Loftus Road. Instead of home comforts we have cramped seating, no beer and apathetic support from our hosts. On the plus side, the choice of opponents means that passage to round three remains very much on the cards. How good would it be to see an early season rematch between Jota and Jake Bidwell?

At least it wasn’t just us who suffered. Charlton, Bristol City and Ipswich have also had home ties rebranded as road trips.

Red, H = home. White, A = away. Simple? Surely? Apparently not. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – just give me Jim Rosenthal, a lectern, some fascinating facts and 64 balls. Problem solved.

John Salako cup draw

Confused faces at the draw. Home? Away? Help? Anyone?

Still, all that’s to come. Next up for the Bees are Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon. With Mark Warburton in charge.

We all know how that story ended previously and, whilst the full facts behind his departure seem limited to that explanation about the changed structure and approach differing from his football philosophy, there are more than enough other theories and suppositions doing the rounds. Warbs remains a hero to many; not so much others. That’s football and we’ll probably never know the whole truth on this one.

Yet whatever the catalyst, we’ve all moved on. Mark is now manager at a Nottingham Forest side who almost went down last season but this campaign have won their opening games. Millwall in the league and Shrewsbury Town in the Cup. You can’t ask for more than that and Matthew Benham will no doubt be more than keen to get one over his former charge. But can we do it?

stickers-matt-videoWell, to find out we’ve caught up with one Forest fan whose voice may be familiar to anybody up and about between 6-10am.  Absolute Radio DJ Matt Dyson. The co-host of Saturday afternoon show Rock ‘n’ Roll football, he also mans the sportsdesk on the award winning Christian O’Connell breakfast show and even has a weekly podcast, Gameweek, talking (and singing) all things Fantasy Football.

We can only start with Mark Warburton. A legend to many at Griffin Park and now carving out a new reputation at the City Ground. What’s your take on how he has settled in? And the opinion of the broader fan base? Well he kept us up! So that was good.  He comes to us with a good reputation and seems like the right man for the job.  He’s got his backroom team around him and I hope our new Greek owners will give him the backing he needs.  We should certainly improve this season, after years of back to back decline under the Kuwaiti fridge magnate who used to run our club.

Warburton has made a few good signings from Scotland – a place he knows well from his time at Rangers.  I’m glad he’s not spending loads on big name players on huge salaries whose careers are on the way down.  He seems to be going for young hungry players and I think that is the key to getting out of the Championship.  Not big names who don’t give 100 per cent (e.g. Nicklas Bentdner).

Look at a club like Manchester United, where the spectre of Fergie still looms over anyone to follow in his footsteps. He’s up there in the stand looking down; a stand with his own name on it. Yet at Forest you have one of the greatest names the game has ever seen to contend with. Can Warbs escape from the shadow of Brian Clough? Well Fergie was literally in the stands at Old Trafford watching Moyes like a red faced angry hawk every game, God has left the building.  Brian’s name is quite rightly adorning what used to be called the Executive Stand (despite very few execs ever going to watch the Tricky Trees) and I don’t think his amazing legacy should affect our current manager.

What he achieved is something that all clubs should try and emulate.  Leicester came close, but didn’t get those back to back European Cups.  No cigar, I’m afraid guys.  Clough is quite rightly celebrated to this day by all Forest fans, for being the best thing to’ve ever happened to football in this country. So, no, I don’t think it will effect Warbs.

Bees 1-0 v Watford Warburton

Warbs – in there somewhere. Will he be as popular at the City Ground as Griffin Park?

Will he bring success back to The City Ground? We’ve had pre-season optimism many times in recent years. We get through managers quicker than most people get through bottles of shampoo.  I’d just be happy with a season of consolidation and then a play-off push next year.  He’s the best man available to us right now and I hope he’s given the rime and backing to achieve big things.  But the crucial thing he needs is TIME.  Some old trigger-happy owners never seemed to realise that.

Having survived last time around, you’ve already sold Britt Assombalonga to Middlesbrough for £14m. Good business (he missed a sitter at Griffin Park last season) with the chance to re-invest ? Or will this make things even harder for you?  He is a very natural goal scorer the like of which we’ve not seen at the City Ground for many years. But he had a really bad knee injury and was still recovering last season.  We signed him for £5 million from Peterborough a few years back, so I think it’s good business and a good profit.  I was hoping he’d go to a Premier League side though, as he will no doubt score against us this season.

Where do you see Nottingham Forest finishing this season? I’ve called 5th for Brentford so optimism is allowed.  I’d genuinely be happy with mid-table. After all the years of hurt, we just need to consolidate.

As a fan, what are your long term aspirations for the football club?Premier League, obvs.  But I’m not holding my breath.

Working in radio, specifically Rock n Roll football on a Saturday afternoon, how often can you get to see the team play? In short, not very often.  I’m really gutted to me missing the Brentford game because I’ve had a few great times stood behind the goal in the huge open terrace at Griffin Park.  Lovely old ground and the whole pub in each corner thing is also nice. We never seem to do very well here though, So it’s probably for the best that I’m not at this one.

You star on the breakfast show alongside fellow football fans in Christian (Southampton) and Richie Firth (Arsenal). Like Forest, Southampton have been up and down over the years but there seems to be a sense of entitlement from the Arsenal ‘faithful’ like no other club I’ve seen. Do you have any sympathy for the likes of Richie and those jumping on the ‘Wenger out’ bandwagon?  No. No sympathy whatsoever for the spoiled brats that go along to that ground and  are more interested in talking to their girlfriends on FaceTime than watching the match.  They’ve never known really bad times so aren’t in a position to fully appreciate the good times and they throw their toys out of the pram whenever they drop out of the top 4.  They don’t know they’re born!

Also, I’ve got quite a few mates who are glory hunting Gunners I’d much rather talk football with supporters of REAL football teams with proud histories like Forest and Brentford (…apart from the ‘proud history’ bit).

Christian once debunked the urban legend that Cameron Diaz was a Brentford supporter when interviewing the ‘Something about Mary’ star for the breakfast show. But what’s the scoop with Jason Statham? Whilst the likes of Stuart Broad, James Dean Bradfield and even Su Pollard are confirmed Forest fans, is this another story that’s too good to be true?  Sounds like bollocks to me

Why should people listen to Rock n Roll football on a Saturday? It’s a bit of an alternative to the serious, formal and frankly boring sports coverage that’s saturated the media in this country.  We give you top music and all the goals as they go in with one of the best young comedians in the UK at the moment, Rob Beckett, on the wheels of steel.  We also regularly intersperse the football with clips of Elaine Page laughing, Ronaldo selling blankets and Nigel Spink talking about his love of Ribena.

You can read more from Matt in this week’s ‘official’ matchday programme. The Gameweeek podcast can be found at the i-tunes store   – its free and well worth a listen for anyone with an interest in football – fantasy or otherwise.

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The Gameweek podcast – out now

Nick Bruzon

 

Will we slip on another potato skin or dodge that lower league bullet ?

8 Aug

It seems like only five minutes ago that Brentford performed those League cup heroics against Hull City and Everton, before narrowly missing out on Round 5 via a last minute equaliser and penalties against Birmingham City at St. Andrews. Infact, it was 2010 and The Bees first XI included the likes of Mickey Spillane, Craig Woodman and Pim Balkestein. Whilst the squad has evolved from that small League One group it would be fair to say that our record in the competition hasn’t been a great one since then. Could Tuesday night’s game in Kingston against AFC Wimbledon see us get back to winning ways?

The wins over higher division Hull and Everton were wonderful occasions, no question. The latter in particular seeing a practically full strength Premier League team beaten by a never say die Brentford XI. Gary Alexander scored the equaliser and Charlie MacDonald even had the luxury of seeing a penalty saved before the eventual spot kick triumph. Richard Lee the man on form then.

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Gary Alexander does his thing against Everton. 1-1

Now, we are the team to be shot down. A high performing Championship club travelling to an AFC Wimbledon side whose own ascension through the divisions and struggle to find a home has been a story in itself. Yet the game presents a huge potato skin for a Brentford side that is sure to be changed one from that which lost out to Sheffield United on Saturday.

The last time we won a League Cup tie Montell Moore and Nick Proschwitz (not a typo) were amongst the scorers in that defence shredding 6-6 at Dagenham and Redbridge. Kevin O’Conor played what was, if I am correct, his last ever game for the Bees – scoring what proved to be the decisive spot kick in the subsequent shoot out.

Since then the wheels have come off somewhat. We lost at Griffin Park to Fulham. At the time, something of a rarity for the Cottagers whom we would go on to take 10 points out of 12 from over the course of the following four league games. Didn’t Jota do something in the last minute, too?

Then there was the humiliation handed out by Oxford United at home as the Marinus experiment came crashing down to earth with a bump. Regular readers may be aware this gets mentioned a lot but it is important to never forget how bad that was. The team he selected was one which, long term, had a few players who are now regular (Nico, Lasse, Andreas) but at the time was an untested mixture of youth and new faces. 3-0 down in 12 minutes, that we only lost 4-0 was the main miracle of the night.

It was the consummate example of the flawed logic in both wholesale, untested change and woeful man management. Never forget.

Marinus Oxford touchline

The Oxford United fiasco  / Marinus experiment (neither being prog rock bands)

Then last season it was the turn of Exeter City to dump us out in the first round. Despite Harlee Dean, John Egan, Josh Clarke and Sam Saunders amongst those picked, Brentford struggled to a 0-0 before Ryan Hartley got an extra time winner for the Grecians.

And now is the time to go again. I can only expect more change tonight but this time I fear for Wimbledon. Harlee is available after suspension.Yoann Barbet was benched on Saturday. Likewise Maxime Colin. Expect the pace of Josh Clarke down the flank and surely starts for Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins. I’d imagine Flo Jo will begin on the left with with a very strong bench, just in case.

As the higher placed team we’re there to be shot down, just as Everton and Hull were all those years ago. That’s one of the privileges of being a Championship side and, sadly, a bullet we’ve taken more than once in recent years.

Will this time around be any different? A full house of Bees fans will be there to roar us on with only 200 tickets remaining on the gate. Watch out for the traffic delays though and get there early.

See you there. Until then, here’s one of the highlights from the Everton game. When our mascot was told to keep holding the hand of his young counterpart, he took that instruction quite literally.

 

Nothing puts Peter Gilham off his stride

Nick Bruzon

Football is back as Blades set the standard and Bees miss out.

6 Aug

Another season begins, another round of opening day disappointment for Brentford. The Bees left Sheffield United on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat which could have been more – the second of the hosts two disallowed goals subsequently being deemed very unlucky to be chalked off. Yet on a day dominated by home teams where only three away goals were scored in the Championship, including one for Hull City in their 1-1 at Aston Villa (as predicted yesterday – I’m still in shock), Bees fans should remain upbeat.

As ever, Sky have the highlights online already whilst the BBC, official, Beesotted and the likes are your place for match reports. This one moreso, where the long arm of the wife and her plans meant it would have been easier to escape from Alcatraz than TW8 yesterday. Yet despite an enforced absence from Bramall Lane, I was full of optimism.

Even the London Evening Standard had failed to put me off my stride on Friday’s journey back from work. Their typically supportive piece on the Bees highlighting our opening day win record. Or, rather, our opening day lack of win record.

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And now make that six. Yet it so easily could have been at least a point.

Most people will point to the double opportunity presented to Nico Yennaris and Lasse Vibe in the second half. Understandably so. It was the proverbial gilt edged chance. With Jota’s shot from outside the box only parried by Blackman in the Sheffield United goal, and the aforementioned players in acres of space just yards out, the ball was headed first against the crossbar and then over.

I’ve rewatched it a few times. You can look to the looping trajectory and height of the ball as it approaches our players. Blackman did well to put them off their stride, too. Yet being honest, one would still have expected to see the net ripple. Only the good people at TheIntakeGroup, Pinders, H.E. Barnes and Sky Bet taking any pleasure from seeing this one again….

Lasse and Nico at Sheff U

If ever an image summed up an afternoon. Sky have it in full

That’s football. Let’s not forget the staggering miss from Lucas João at Griffin Park last August when that other Sheffield side, Wednesday, were the visitors. Just yards out and unmarked in front of the goal, the back of the net was at his mercy as a Fernando Forestieri pass found its way past Daniel Bentley. João was even afforded the luxury of having a couple of stabs at the before somehow conspiring to hoof it clear of the bar.

I could also refer you to Daryl Murphy at Ipswich Town a few seasons ago. One that still sticks in the mind as the Bees were, once more, the beneficiaries of an impossible to miss opportunity being somehow missed with goal gaping and an unmarked player just needing to tap it it in.

It happens. A lot. Obviously we’d have preferred a goal but I’m not going to get hung about it. Besides, overall performance comes across as a largely positive one with the Bees dominating possession and shots at 59%/41% and 12/9 respectively.

Probably not what our performance deserved” said head coach Dean Smith after the game and while he may well be right, as we’ve said many times on these pages that its balls in the back of the net being the only stat that really counts. Sadly for us, Sheffield United aced that column by 1 to 0.

Still, at least our head coach acknowledged this too, noting: “Unfortunately, it’s about putting the ball in the back of the net and we didn’t take our chances today. Billy Sharp’s had one and has ended up winning the game.” And you can read read/see his interview in full on official.

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Dean does his thing at full time

Fair play to the Blades for doing so, too. The warning about their form and their packed house was there for all to see in advance. Safe to say they didn’t let the occasion get the better of them and, subject to the result of the Bolton – Leeds game, are one of eight sides on three points after this opening round of games.

I’d have loved three points. You can bet Sheffield United will be chuffed to bits with their win. And rightly so. On the plus side, we’ve now got a brace of home games in quick succession. Mark Warburton brings his Nottingham Forest team to Griffin Park on Saturday before we host Bristol City three days later. And there’s the small matter of the League cup first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday night.

After months of inactivity, the games are suddenly approaching us thick and fast. And I love it .

Nick Bruzon

Bees playing Buckaroo and Celta Vigo ahead of big kick off at Sheffield.

29 Jul

“Saturday afternoon. Red army. Griffin Park. I want to be there”. Not my words but those (possibly) of popular music’s One Touch Go. I may well be making that last bit up; its been a long time since I’ve heard this song and the memory plays tricks. But with Brentford visiting Sheffield United a week today, I’ve had that as my current ‘ear worm’ with this afternoon’s game against Celta Vigo giving us a last chance to get down to GP before the season kicks off in anger in 7(seven) days time. And with the Bees holding Southampton (2-2) last week then recording another win on the road (3-2 up at Franchise FC on Tuesday), could Dean Smith’s men go an entire pre-season unbeaten?

It would be fair to say that, to date, the build up to the impending Championship campaign has only been a positive one for Brentford. Five impressive names have come in (with another to follow once Emiliano Marcondes sees out his contract with Flemming Pedersen’s FC Nordsjælland) whilst nobody has left. To date.

It is true that we’ve shipped a few goals but you’d be hard pressed to deny the mental strength of this team as the Bees have come back time and again to keep up this unbeaten streak – albeit needed a late helping hand from Fraser Forster to close things out in an impressive display with Southampton last week.

Forster. More sinner than Saint.

This is Brentford. We sell. Jota is the main target and subject of paper talk, with the likes of Ryan Woods (Sunderland), Harlee Dean (Sheffield Wednesday), Rico Henry (Hull City) and Romaine Sawyers (Southend United – not even making that one up although still laughing) some of the more outlandish theories I’ve seen this week. Yet with the big kick off fast approaching, we remain intact. Indeed, the club officially announced our squad numbers yesterday and they’re all in there. From Harlee at 6 through 19 Romaine and Jota 23.

The closer we get to that Sheffield United match, the more it feels like we’re trapped inside a giant game of Buckaroo. Every passing day is the equivalent of another item being added to the overladen saddle. Surely something has to give any second? Surely? Yet, to date, that mule is yet to kick. Is it conceivable we could get to Bramall Lane with the ‘out’ door remaining locked and bolted?

Waiting for the trnasfer window to shut is very much like playing Buckaroo

Waiting for the window to shut – very much like playing Bucakroo.

Only Matthew Benham and the players know the answer to that question. One can only dare to dream at the possibilities and implications of keeping this squad together.

The flip side of all this being who Dean Smith starts with against Celta Vigo? With immensely strong competition in just about every area of the park, will he still be trying out combinations? Is it a case of giving his preferred starting XI a final chance to gel before mixing things up a bit? Or does he need a defensive rejig just to stop the goals flying in ?

For me, and on the optimistic assumption that nobody is being sold, I’d be looking at a starting XI today (albeit just reminded that Harlee has that one game ban looming) of: Bentley, Colin, Egan, Dean, Henry, Mokotjo, Woods, Watkins, Jota, Canós, Vibe.

Yes, we’ve had newcomers but I’d also want those who ended last season so well to see if they can pick up where we left off. Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. Dean Smith is the man in charge and I can’t wait to see who he starts with. Who gets a last look in. What the likes of Neal Maupay and Henrik Dalsgaard can offer as the season progresses.

This afternoon will give us more of an idea. The game is pay on the day still and at the time of writing, 7am, there are clear blue skies and bright sunshine over TW8. So why not get down to Griffin Park?

Then again, I said the same thing last weekend before the Southampton game and things turned somewhat. Still, what’s a bit of climatic negativity for the chance to see our boys in action ?

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

West Ham ? Sheffield Wednesday? Hull City? Which Brentford star is going where? If any…

25 Jul

Jota to Newcastle United, West Ham United, other? Harlee Dean to Sheffield Wednesday? Now Rico Henry and an apparent interest from Hull City is the latest story being touted in the press involving the possibility of a player leaving Griffin Park. You can tell the impending football season is approaching at a rate of knots with rumours surrounding Brentford stars cranking up. As ever.

Ordinarily these pages don’t do transfer gossip. The only source close to the club I trust (Beesotted aside, given they are almost always bang on the money) is the ketchup that comes with the half time chips. Yet this time it is worth paying note. If not for the quality of the ‘story’ – please note, your definition of ‘quality’ and ‘story’ may vary – as to the bigger picture questions.

Everybody is focussed on Jota. Understandably so given his unadulterated ability and contract length are diametrically opposed to each other in terms of size. The stories about West Ham won’t go away although I’d refer you back to the Scott Hogan tedium. Likewise the fact that they’ve already acquired the likes of Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Marko Arnautovic.

All this, before £16m Javier Hernandez became the latest to join the 1966 World Cup winners at the Olympic stadium yesterday. Are we really expected to believe they could also splash out on the likes of Jota aswell? Is the West Ham acquisition process now at an end? They were bad last season, that was plain to see, but surely no mid-table team needs this much rebuilding? Or can afford it? Then again, the TV money is at the ridiculous level and so not surprising our man’s name is mentioned in such circles.

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Jota and Harlee amongst the main men for Brentford in 2017/18

Yet for me all this Jota talk has been an unintentional smokescreen that has detracted from a real possibility – that of losing a centre back. We are more than amply catered for in this area of the field with Yoann Barbet, John Egan, Andreas Bjelland and of course  Harlee Dean all jockeying for position. This is before you even factor in the B-team. But then the Sheffield Wednesday rumour appeared.

Nobody on the terraces can imagine Harlee will leave. That surely the club will do all in their power to hang on to our player of the year and club captain. I’m not convinced this is anything more than a story that will come and go. But this hasn’t stopped us before.

At the same time, how does Dean Smith keep four quality defenders happy with only two positions to fill? He’s tried to play three of them and despite some initial positives, it was hardly the roaring success he had anticipated. So much so that normal service was soon resumed.

Sheffield Wednesday coming in for Harlee may be true, it may not. Yet we’ve shown every season that something has to give in order to help balance those FFP books. Hogan to Villa; Odubajo to Hull; Gray and number 26 to Burnley.

This time around, rather than Jota might it be elsewhere on the pitch? The defence? Certainly, this move was just one of those talked up in the recent Beesotted transfer activity piece. Could Billy have got his hands on the crystal ball once more?

The other story we then saw yesterday was a laughable column about Hull City looking at Rico Henry . With Andy Robertson joining Liverpool for £10milion last week, the Tigers are supposedly coming in with a £3.5 million bid.

Ted Knutson put that one immediately into context on Twitter.

We’re all about maximising player potential but, equally, we’re not in the business of giving anyone away. Rico’s emergence last season well and truly put Jake Bidwell in the shade and showed just why we were prepared to let our former skipper join the Loftus Road mob. Here is a player with the potential to go all the way and somebody who absolutely hit the ground running at Championship level after signing from League One Walsall.

Whichever story, if any, is true it all goes to show once more that we are a team in demand. That we aren’t just one goal scorer or one luxuriantly coiffured Spaniard. Brentford’s stock is high. The 2-2 with Southampton at the weekend proved that.

Yet let me ask you a question. If it kept Jota safe in the short term, would you sell Harlee? Would you let Rico go? Who’d want to be on the board with those sorts of decisions to make?

Ultimately of course, we may not have any choice in affairs. Money and agents talk. Likewise, we’ve acquired very well in the close(d) season. For both the first XI and B-team. Does the strongest looking all round squad we’ve had in years – boosted by five new signing – mean some form of departure is inevitable? Or is this going to be the season where the Brentford players and board all say – up yours West Ham. So long Hull City. Sorry Newcastle. These players aren’t for sale. We’re going places.

Whatever happens, all will become much clearer over the coming weeks. I can’t wait for the season to start but it might be stressful getting there.

As one final thought, what are you going to be wearing on the terraces this season? The new kit is stunning, with the goalkeeper and away variants already available in the club shop. Yet for anybody wanting a retro touch then eBay is the place to go at present.

This isn’t me (the chances of anything slipping my collection are slim to zero) but I have seen one fan looking to clear out their own wardrobe this week. Seller aamy_r_reetqr26 has listed 11 shirts that run from 1988 up to 2002, many of which are rarely seen on the terraces these days. You can find them here if this is of interest.

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Just some of the retro shirts on offer this week

Nick Bruzon

Jota : There has been no bid. Bees win as Oxford go down by the odd goal in 7 (seven)

20 Jul

Despite a brief second half scare when a 2-0 lead turned into a 3-2 deficit, Brentford had sufficient in them to leave Oxford United with a 4-3 win under the belts. Yet, as ever these last few weeks, the talking point was that man Jota. With the trip to Sheffield United just over two weeks away, could he still be our player when the season begins?

For all the info on the game itself, then ‘official’ has the match report. Early goals from Flo Jo and Lasse Vibe were book ended by the late equaliser and subsequent winner from Reece Cole and Sergi Canós respectively. But for many the key stat was in the starting XI where Jota was not only named but lasted until the 66th minute, at which point Dean Smith took advantage of the rarely available opportunity to make a 7(seven) man substitution.

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View from the stand – Jota gets a 66 minute run out

Talking ‘human resources’ to Dean Smith after the game, that virtuoso of gentle probing Billy Reeves went straight to work to ascertain the status of Spanish wing wizard (Jota. Not Sergi).

Unless somebody makes a substantial bid he’s staying at Brentford and he’s happy to do so – I think you could see he was happy to be out there.

Not my words but those of our head coach. Seems clear (for now) but for complete certainty, Billy probed further. “Just to be absolutely clear then, there has been no bid?”. the answer was as definitive as one could hope at present, short of revealing that the player had actually signed a contract extension. “There has been no bid. No.

You can hear the full interview below. Aswell as talk of Neal Maupay, of whom Dean enthused, and the versatile Ollie Watkins our head coach also discussed the wider midfield situation. Great work Billy, as ever.

 

But with inward transfer activity seemingly completed (you did listen to the interview) what of outward? Your guess is as good as mine at this juncture. All I can say is that the footballing romantic in me is crossing his fingers that Matthew Benham can work some more magic. That we can both afford to hang on to the player and, likewise, he’s prepared to give it a shot with us – should this oft mentioned ‘substantial’ bid ever materialise.

As for Oxford United, I wasn’t there. Kudos to the 376 of you who did make it. Having never been to the Kassam before, it was an opportunity missed. Moreso as , in my own mind’s eye, the club are synonymous with their compact Manor Ground. Now, in the name of progress, they have three fine looking new stands and a car park.

Yet talking to one fan after the game he enthused about it, describing the new stadium as “Open spaces, interrupted by some surrounding outbuildings. Somehow and I’m not sure how it’s possible, the stadium architects have perfectly captured the spirit of the manor ground”.

Here’s hoping that when Lionel Road is eventually built, we can somehow capture some of the charm of our own Griffin Park. Here’s hoping….

Nick Bruzon