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Do Brentford have the scent of Royal blood at Reading? Could ‘other results’ actually happen?

20 Jan

Here we, erm, go again. Brentford travel to Reading on Saturday afternoon knowing a win, along with defeats (and definitely not victories as was originally noted)  for the five teams above us, will see the Bees end the day level on points with the play-off teams. Goal difference could even put us into that top six pack. True, this relies on things as improbable and distasteful as QPR and Birmingham City (amongst others) doing the needful but stranger things have happened before. Who could forget that wonderful denouement to 2014/15 when wins for Reading at all-but-there Derby County and Blackburn at home to Ipswich, combined with our own defeat of Wigan, saw the Bees slip through into fifth place?

Indeed it was the penultimate week of that season which saw a Brentford win on the road, at the Madjeski, to keep our hopes alive. Alan Judge and number 26 getting the goals as the Bees ended the day in seventh, two points and vastly inferior goal difference behind Derby.

Andre Gray for 3-0

Andre Gray for 3-0 v Wigan (and other results) secure a 2015 play-off spot

We all know how that play-off campaign ended. It was the play-offs, after all. Although at least we got there, unlike Derby.  Instead the point is made to illustrate what can happen when you least expect it. Sometimes, other results can go our way despite form. Thankfully the end of the season is a lot further away this time and so to desperation for the not so super hoops or Birmingham to win doesn’t have the same frisson, that’s for sure.

Whilst that unholy alliance is not one Brentford need to make today, it is still a nice position to be in. For now, though, let’s just focus on ourselves. Other results will do whatever they do. With games to come against all the chasing pack we still have matters well in our hands. Besides, it seems a bit premature to be talking play-offs and potential promotion at this juncture.

Yet, the table doesn’t lie. The gap to Sheffield United in sixth place IS three points. I’d be a liar if I was to say to you that I wasn’t absolutely excited by this prospect, no matter how slim and tenuous it is. Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Can we do it though? Well, there’s no doubting Dean Smith’s team are on form at present. Last weekend’s defeat of Bolton followed a wonderful Christmas period in the league. Perhaps its best we forget about the hiccup in the FA Cup now. Move along, nothing to see there. Indeed, the Bolton game didn’t even require the mercurial Sergi Canos to start that one, although his presence at the end of the game was a most welcome one as the wide man set up Neal Maupay for 2-0 late on.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

I’m still not convinced we know Dean’s best / preferred starting XI. When this squad is on form and the players are at the top of their game, it really is a case of Buridan’s Ass. Which of the available options does he pick? 14 into 11 just won’t go. It’s one of those lovely problems to have, that’s for sure, with Chris Mepham’s form and the return of Alan Judge adding to his quandaries.

Reading, on the other hand, are missing John Swift whilst centre back Paul McShane is also reported as out. The Royals are very much off their A-game, form wise, although at least they have made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. In another battle of Championship v League 2, they made it through (unlike the Bees) and their reward is a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.

With that to come and their own progress requiring Tuesday evening’s replay against Stevenage, could players be rested? Might if be a case of that old cliche being turned on its head and the Royals concentrating on the cup, now they are effectively out of the league?

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John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

One can dream. I’m still expecting a tough one today. The trapdoor to League One isn’t actually that far off for Reading. They’ll be as keen to secure those points as we are. Yet along with form, Brentford will have massive support on our side. Close to 3,000 tickets have been sold to the visiting support . With less than 15,000 turning up for their last league game at the Madjeski, a defeat at the hands of Birmingham City (clearly ten times better than the Royals), the 24,000+ capacity ground could feel a very empty place for the home team.

Certainly, it’s a stadium that has been a happy hunting ground for the Bees. Along with the aforementioned 2-0 win, let’s not forget the following season. Dean Smith’s first in charge saw that wonderful 2-1 victory. It was a win that was lit up by Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos. Goals that fall very much into the category of ‘best we’ve seen in recent years’ (see also: Stuart Dallas at Fulham and Nico Yennaris at Birmingham).

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Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair (then)

That’s all in the past though. If it meant more points, I’d happily settle for 1-0 and a deflection off Josh McEachran’s backside. Scrappy finish or 25 yard piledriver, they all count the same.

Roll on 3pm when we find out which it will be. Roll on 5pm when we see just how those ‘other results’ have gone. Could Brentford continue to climb up the table? Might we be saying a small word of thanks to our rivals?

I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Nick Bruzon

Ryan’s wonder goal set a very high bar. That Sergi then cleared.

 

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Vibe has Bees buzzing at Norwich as QPR plumb new depths.

22 Dec

Well this has been a somewhat bizarre evening. Onfield, it was spent listening to Brentford dismantle Norwich City. If ever there was a polar opposite to last season’s 5-0 humbling at Carrow Road it was this as a brace from Lasse Vibe gave the Bees a first half lead that never sounded in doubt. Not even late on when Nelson Oliveira pulled one back with four minutes of injury time to go. Off field, Queens Park Rangers were doing their very best in the ‘how to make friends and influence people’ stakes after a quite blatant dig at the Bees on the programme cover for Saturday’s impending defeat by Bristol City.

Who’d be a programme editor or work in a club comms role? Thankfully, poor form in that field not something Brentford have to worry about at the moment. Sadly, the same can’t be said at the other end of the 237 bus route following the release of QPR’s matchday magazine ahead of the weekend visit from Bristol City. Clearly visible alongside a gaudy picture of Ian Holloway is an extract from a historic newspaper. Specifically one recognising the Loftus Road mob’s attempt to put us out of business in their ultimately doomed takeover attempt.

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Ian Holloway and old news on the programme cover

Why would QPR do this, if not a thinly veiled attempt to stick two fingers up at their local rivals? I have to be honest, the gut reaction was to laugh. Genuinely. From a fanbase that claim to have no interest in us, this certainly suggests otherwise. Was it small penis syndrome? Jealousy of recent form? Inferiority? Insecurity? Ineptitude? Whatever the explanation, it immediately parachuted us into moral high ground. It immediately made the hoops look pathetic.

Memories of this period in our history are still very raw. Just look at the stories that were told at the recent 50 year commemoration of these events. Of how supporters came together in the face of adversity. Of how we stood our ground. Raised funds. Came together and saved our club.

So for our failed aggressors to highlight this, just weeks after once more failing to beat us in their own back yard, was at best odd and worst a cheap publicity stunt. There was just no need. Has the recent run of poor results against Brentford got to them that much?

50 years on, who now has the upper hand?

But then Ian Taylor, their head of Media & Communications, took to Twitter with an explanation and an apology. Albeit one that was about as sincere an act of contrition as South West Rail attempting to placate passengers via one of those tedious, automated announcements. Apparently, and I quote, ”We certainly didn’t set out to incite with tomorrow’s ‪#QPR programme cover – I’m sure the likes of ‪@markdevlin7 & ‪@chriswickham1 would vouch that this is not our style. Thanks and apologies for any offence caused

He goes on to add how, “We are picking out the key moments from out time at LR. This isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order. We apologise if this has caused offence, but this really wasn’t our intention. Earlier in the season, for our EFL Cup game, we paid tribute to Peter Gilham and Ryan Woods in the programme, wishing them our very best.”

Bulsh*t. Was that seriously the BEST justification they could come up with? If recognising a centenary in their stadium was the intention, they could have picked anything . A promotion or cup final. Perhaps even a game in the Premier League. Incredibly, they’ve done all these things – although helped massively by breaching FFP rules (hmm – when WILL that fine be paid?). Instead, they went for the most inflammatory ‘key moment’ in the last 100 years to grace the front cover.

We’re expected to believe this was nothing more than coincidence? The words Jimmy and Hill spring to mind. What next Ian, did the dog eat your homework? The lightweight explanation being given apparent justification by the fact that they were nice about us when two of our most important people were in as low a personal place as one could ever imagine being.

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Jimmy. Hill.

No doubt this is all a publicity stunt to get people talking about their publication. From that respect, well done. But if those are the lengths you need to stoop to in order to get attention then it’s a desperately sad way of doing so.

Instead, let’s focus on a wonderful 2-1 win for the Bees. Norwich City away was never going to be an easy game. Moreso on a Friday night with Christmas at the forefront of many supporters’ attention. Now, we move up to 11th and clear of both our West London rivals. Highlight of the night being the pass form Romaine Sawyers to set up Lasse Vibe for the second. It was ridiculous; sublime; filthy; outrageous. Take your pick. Words can’t do it justice. Even on smudgy twitter vision it looked magnificent.

Roll on Saturday morning and the full fat Burridge version of the highlights. I can’t wait.

Nick Bruzon

From bore draws to Star Wars. Buckets of rain, if not buckets of goals.

17 Dec

Brentford 0 Barnsley 0. On paper, not the best result. In practice, equally unsatisfying. Another game where The Bees huffed, puffed but failed to find either a Plan B or a way through a team set up to do a job on us. It started brightly and it ended with the home crowd roaring our boys on in a protracted five additional minutes. It was the 88 minutes in between that felt dreadfully flat.

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View from the Braemar. High Flyers? Not yesterday

Brentford ‘official’ would later describe the visitors as both “Well drilled“ and “resolute“. The BBC use their match report to call this one “Hard Fought”. That’s diplomatic of them. Personally, I’d have used unimaginative or frustrating. The proverbial bad day at the office with little spark from the midfield, few chances created and Neal Maupay just not getting the run of the ball up front on his own.

Dean Smith commented at full time that, “We had a very good first half, made chances and created opportunities but didn’t take them because of poor decision making.”

Funnily enough, last season’s game at home to the same opposition ended with him noting that, ”Our decision-making was poor on the ball”. That one, the occasion of our 4000th league game, saw the Bees go down 0-2 whilst we were also robbed in the half time mascot race. So at least it was an improvement, even if poor decision making remained a consistent theme.

If you were there on Saturday then you’ll know that we were off our ‘A’ game. The recent demolition of Fulham nothing more than a wonderful memory. That Barnsley did their homework and that we lacked the wherewithal to bypass their bus.

That’s the downside. What one also needs to consider is that it was a game played out in atrocious conditions with biblical torrents of sheet rain falling in the second half. Likewise, this is still another point in the bag. A point acquired over what is sure to be a busy period of games.

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If not buckets of goals, certainly buckets of rain

Norwich City are next up on Friday night and then it’s Aston Villa on Boxing Day. With Josh Clarke going off injured and straight down the tunnel, here’s hoping that was only a precaution. On the flip side, another appearance for Lewis Macleod can only be celebrated. Moreso given the treacherous and slippery conditions underfoot when he entered the field of play.

Ultimately, we didn’t lose. Besides, the bigger picture scenario in the Championship is intriguing. The post-match escape to the warming bosom of the pub was greeted with the sight of Birmingham City now sitting bottom of the pile. Forget ten times better, we’re now twelve points better off than our big spending divisional rivals. Even if the architects of their latest demise are a team we should probably gloss over.

To be honest, I’m just all a bit ‘meh’ about football today. With the long awaited trip to see the new Star Wars movie finally being enjoyed this morning, that really has been the big draw for yours truly. Unlike yesterday which was somewhat of a bland draw.

Still, as somebody bigger and cleverer than me said, “We go again”. Besides, to moan about not losing, in the Championship, seems somewhat trite. It wasn’t a good game. It wasn’t one that we’ll be rushing out to buy the video of. But with the Bees sitting 13th in the table and soon to start an FA Cup campaign with a third round tie at home to league 2 Notts County, the season still has plenty of potential.

And that’s before we even mention a certain Emiliano Marcondes…..

 

Nick Bruzon

“Thrilled for Woods” as Brentford beat Leeds United whilst Birmingham City learn their 10 times table.

5 Nov

Thrilled for Woods”. Not my words but those used by one New Road observer outside The Griffin last night to summarise a wonderful 3-1 win for Brentford over Leeds United. And with a Birmingham City side featuring Harlee Dean going down 2-0 at Barnsley, it means the Bees are now ten points and ten places better than the Blues in the current Championship table.

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View from the Braemar – Ryan Woods and team mates also thrilled

But enough about Birmingham City. For now. Brentford deserve all the attention as the unbeaten run moves to 9 games – a period which saw us notch up a fifth win with Leeds United put to the sword in as one sided an encounter as you could hope to see. But for a brief period in the second half when the scores were levelled up, our illustrious opponents barely got a look in.

By that point the game should have been out of sight. Neal Maupay had given us an early lead, heading home after twenty minutes following a complete howler from goalkeeper Andy Lonergan. Going to gather a Barbet cross, he got his hands to the ball before spilling it straight in front of the lurking Frenchman. There was no be no (second) mistake. 1-0 and cruising.

So comfortable was it that the Bees could even afford to miss a penalty (plus ça change) on the stroke of half time. Ollie Watkins firing high into the away support after Maupay was adjudged to have been felled in the box. No matter, going in a goal up and dominant, surely we’d learn the lessons from early season and continue to turn the screw?

Alas not. With Leeds clearly coming back into it, Dan Bentley made an almost like for like repeat of Lonergan’s earlier faux pas. The only difference being our man didn’t even get his hands to the ball and that was it. 1-1 and game on Leeds United. Yet unlike earlier in the season there was to be no capitulation. Quite the opposite.

Rather than struggle though the rest of the game, the Bees kept going and going. The magnificent Yoann Barbet, as unlikely a successor to Sam Saunders as one could expect, eventually restored the lead with five minutes to go. His free kick going low into the corner from the toughest of angles outside the box. And with Brentford fans still celebrating , the best was yet to come.

Ryan Woods, who had been pulling strings all evening, fired home a quite exquisite shot from outside the box for our third. Mokotjo picking out the midfielder perfectly and the Ginger Pirlo stroked it home with one touch. A laser guided rocket of a shot and all the more impressive for striking a ball coming straight to him without even needing to take an initial touch . Just beautiful.

In truth it could, and should, have been more. The penalty aside, Leeds were twice saved by the woodwork in the second half. First Watkins and then Nico Yennaris rattling the crossbar from distance. Does Nico shoot from anywhere else? Do check out the internet highlights – whether on Sky now  or later in the day when Mark Burridge’s version is released.

Official highlights are now up

The only downside was an injury to Andreas Bjelland who failed to appear for the second half. Like the absent Henrik Dalsgaard, his appearance for Denmark over International break in that World Cup qualifier potentially now in question. On the plus side, another chance for Chris Mepham to come on and impress. Again.

What else can you say about this one?  Well, the spirit in the Bees camp seems as positive as ever. Certainly judging by the post match banter on Twitter. What a delightful change from those accursed promises that “We go again“.

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Likewise, the onetime ‘curse of the cameras’ now seemingly something that been confined to the wastebin of history. The Bees can’t seem to lose when we are on TV these days. No bad thing with a televised trip to QPR coming up later this month and then ‘that’ game with Aston Villa in December. Hmmmm.

But that’s for then. For now, lets enjoy the moment. What an evening and what a finish – both to the game and for Ryan.

It wasn’t just that aforementioned observer who was thrilled for Woods but all of us. You could see what that goal meant to him and the fans. What a wonderful moment of celebration at Griffin Park and what a privilege to be part of it.

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Ryan and fans enjoy the moment

As for Birmingham City……

Harlee Dean can’t imagine how his nonsensical claim about them being ten times better than his former team mates has further galvanised Brentford and added to our momentum. Like Russell Slade’s moan that “They celebrated like they’d won the FA Cup”, it is something that will go down in Brentford legend.

Like Slade’s moan, could it inspire us to make further history? The table certainly suggests that the Bees are on the up.

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The table doesn’t lie

Nick Bruzon

Here we go again…..

12 Sep

No sooner has the weekend gone than Brentford hit the road for a second away game in three days. Following the 0-0 with Aston Villa on Saturday, next up is tonight’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday. Can Dean Smith’s team make it 7th(seventh) time lucky and record a first league victory that, whilst our play has more than suggested should have come by now, currently remains tantalisingly out of reach?

I missed Aston Villa. Even in as much as being able to listen to Mark Burridge and team. Whatever the opposite of a footballing green card is, it was played by Mrs Bruzon as a long planned family weekend away took precedence over any lingering thoughts of a trip to Villa Park. Let alone keeping a crafty ear pinned to goings on in the Midlands. Instead, it was country walks through muddy fields as Brentford had, by all accounts, the lion’s share of the game against opponents who believed their own pre-season hype.

Mark talks us through the highlights

Twitter, as ever, a joy to behold from supporters (theirs) who had failed to recognise the Brentford potential and, instead, assumed us to be the pub team that our relative size (and wage bills) suggested. Even Dr. Tony Xia getting in on the act as Brentford’s Championship record against Aston Villa now reads : P3 W1 D2 L0 F4 A1.

We’ve said it countless times before and will no doubt say it again. Having a big stadium, a huge fanbase, a proud history and a ginormous wage bill doesn’t give you a divine right to be any good now. History counts for naff all when it’s 11 v11 trying to play your way out of what is, arguably, football’s toughest division. Just look at how Leeds United have fared since they dropped out of the Premier League in 2004.

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Arrogance and over confidence. How many times will we see it?

All of which brings with sledgehammer like unsubtly to Sheffield Wednesday this evening. A former top flight team with a huge stadium and more than the odd bit of silverware to their name. They’re unbeaten in five league games with 2 wins and 3 draws seeing them sitting 10th in the fledgling Championship table. A midweek trip immediately after Villa, with less away fans than would normally have been expected (give the distance and Saturday’s exertions) would probably not have been on Dean Smith’s ‘wishlist’ . But can Brentford come away with anything?

Out recent form has been relatively positive. In the last five games we’ve only lost once, that being the trip to Ipswich Town where the Bees dominated for the first half hour before being caught by the consummate sucker punch. It is a run that has included three more draws in the league as well as the 4-1 thrashing administered to QPR in the league cup.

If ever anyone was going to suggest that the league table lies (it doesn’t) it would be now. Our play has been quite wonderful at times and, but for some inspired opposition ‘keepers / our own defence having the odd ‘walkabout’ moment then surely the W column would be registering at least 2 ? Nottingham Forest and Bristol City, I’m looking at you.

So can we go one better against Sheffield Wednesday tonight? Well, in short: Yes. Rico Henry is fit again which means we have a recognised left back once more. Harlee Dean is amongst those to have gone and, whatever your thoughts on that move, it does mean that at least we are closer to a settled centre back pairing. Ryan Woods was, by all accounts, at his best against Aston Villa whilst with Sergi Canos suffering that ankle blow there’ll be hopes that Flo Jo has recovered from the fever that caused him to miss Saturday’s game.

Club sponsor LeoVegas have us as long as 13/5 to win this one. That’s very generous in my eyes. Whilst the deeds to the house won’t be going on it, perhaps a little investment – purely for research purposes – is the order of the day.

Take my advice at your peril. Yet, at the same time, I’ve got a feeling something is going to give tonight. In a good way.

Here’s to 7.45pm when we find out.

Nick Bruzon

 

Dear Phil, Cliff, Rasmus, Mark, Dean and BIAS…..

6 Sep

Wednesday morning. The internationals are done. The dust has settled on a transfer window that saw Brentford lose several B team players aswell as selling three of our crown jewels to Birmingham City. Likewise, picking up the likes of Neal Maupay, Kamo, Ollie Watkins and Henrik Dalsgaard (amongst others) earlier in the summer. We are all now well acclimatised to the fact that Lionel Road plans have been changed. Having had time to consider it all, are you happy with it all? Are Brentford well placed for the future? Is there anything you’d like to know ?

Well, as is now traditional, the club have announced a fan forum will take place this Thursday in The Hive from 7.00pm – 8.30pm. This is your chance to put any questions to a panel consisting of : Chairman Cliff Crown, Co-Directors of Football Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen, Chief Executive Mark Devlin and Head Coach Dean Smith.

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The forum has always had a strong panel

However much one can question some of the short term communication methods of the club (and I have previously), there’s no denial that the willingness to subsequently talk to supporters is something that the club embrace. This event has been called at fairly short notice but given the recent flurry of news then no bad thing. As anybody who attended the recent Lionel Road meeting would testify, you may not like everything you hear but you will be given a frank and open assessment of where we are. More importantly to many (myself included), some rationale as to why the club is making the decisions it does.

Personally, I’ve written two quite emotional columns in the last week. The first, in the direct aftermath of the transfer window closing. The second, a few days later once the video from Phil Giles had been released. Between them, they generated over 80 responses on the Last Word blog site alone. There were many more on Twitter and Facebook. That’s probably more in the last five days than the total received in the last five months.

This isn’t me blowing my own trumpet. Far from it. At the end of the day (Clive) I’m just the numpty on the terrace who shouts my mouth off every now and then. Many could relate to what I was saying. Some were scornful. Others read what they wanted to see rather than what had actually been written. All that is fine and fair. Opinion is a wonderful thing.

However, what it does show is how much Brentford fans care when something does happen that impacts us. That we all love this club – whether we feel it is being unjustly criticised or making decisions that, on the surface, seem contrary to what we have been told before or our own footballing progression.

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Jota. It really happened – and fans have been quick to debate

I’ll stick in the usual caveats at this point. That we should never, ever forget rattling buckets. That Matthew Benham has made huge and unprecedented investment in this club. That we all chose to surrender our BU shares in the face of financial oblivion and without that we’d likely have folded.  That we can’t compete financially with the vast majority of our Championship rivals. That it has been made clear Brentford are a selling club and this is our model.

Yet that doesn’t deny anybody the right to ask questions. To look at understanding things which, on the surface, seem at odds with how we see other clubs operate. To seek clarification from our club hierarchy as to things they may have previously said.

And the fact the people closest to Matthew are prepared to put themselves in the firing line is something we should only applaud. The forum has always been a great event although, sadly, one I’m unable to attend this time around due to a longstanding prior commitment that I’ve been unable to weasel out of at this late stage.

Fortunately, the option to position questions in advance is there. If not through official channels (currently, although they do always open this up on the night)  then BIAS are certainly collating these in advance on behalf of fans. As such, if anyone from the club or BIAS is reading then here are a few from myself. If any could be answered that would be hugely appreciated.

1:Norwich City are 4/5 on to beat Birmingham City this weekend (price supplied by club sponsor LeoVegas). Will any of the panel be placing a bet?

2: It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. We’ll be in the Premier League in three years.

Not my words but those of Rasmus Ankersen at the September 2015 forum. That time comes to an end this season. Is it a position the panel stand by or one that perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, we may wish to reconsider?

3: Is there now a Plan B ?

4: “The goal is to get stronger after each transfer window.

Not my words but those of Rasmus Ankersen at the September 2015 forum. Whilst we have undoubtedly invested in potential the new signings are all that – new.  To lose three such influential and settled players would be a huge blow . Do we honestly feel that the squad is currently stronger ?

5: How is the money spent? The fees for Jota, Hogan, Andre, Maxime and Harlee are believed to be well over £33m. How is this split between the future of the club, paying back Matthew the vast amounts he has invested and ongoing costs?

6: Why don’t the club disclose fees? Instead fans are left (in Phil’s words) ‘deflated’ whilst we have to rely on rumour, gossip and potentially incorrect data. If nothing else, it might give fans a clearer idea of how well we are doing in terms of transfer activity

7: ”Strategically it’s the ideal way to do it. Sell them late and buy them early.”  Not my words but those of Phil Giles. That’s a massive gamble if the appropriate offers don’t come in at the 11th hour. Are we only selling at the end of the window on purpose? Did realistic offers for Max, Harlee, Jota and Scott Hogan come in earlier?

8: Are the panel fans of the current transfer window system?

9: Selling three of our best players to one Championship rival. Was that a strategic decision? Or did leaving things late leave us no choice?

10: Back in September 2015 you sat here and poured forth about how wonderful Marinus was. A head coach who had picked up five points from his first five games. Just a few days later he was gone. Dean’s team currently have two points from our first five games. How do you compare the respective starts and is there any danger of another change ? (for the record, I hope not).

Here’s to this Thursday. For those of you who can make it then enjoy. And for those who can’t, please don’t forget to tweet BIAS should there be anything you wish to ask.

Cliff, Mark, Rasmus, Phil and Dean. Thank you.

Nick Bruzon

Bees get off the mark with plenty of positives on show.

16 Aug

Well, that was some day. We had contrasting announcements made about Lionel Road whilst on pitch Brentford hosted Bristol City and ended the game having taken a point but feeling, quite honestly, as though we’d lost. This after Bobby Reid delivered the ultimate kick to the knackers with his 98th minute equaliser. Yet it all seemed inconsequential given the desperately sad news announced by Ryan Woods just before kick off.

First up, Bristol City . What can you say? Well, Dean Smith has come out fighting with the observation that, “If we play like that, week in week out, then we will be a top six team“. Adding , “It was the most one-sided game in the Championship I have been involved in. How we didn’t get three points is beyond me .”

All true Dean. All true. You can read his full piece on Brentford ‘official’ but there was an almost inevitable familiarity about the way this one ended. Inability to clear the ball led to Brentford conceding an early goal courtesy of right winger Josh Brownhill but from that moment on it was the proverbial one way traffic.

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Josh Brownhill’s opener is celebrated on twitter

Brentford were quite delicious going forward. Jota and Romaine amongst those really testing Frank Fielding (whose name conjured up images of some Victorian musical performer) in the City goal. Both the keeper and the framework denying the marauding Bees who ended the half a goal down but with 69% possession and 13 attempts to City’s 1. Surely our luck would change as the game wore on?

Sure enough, it did.

With the quite wonderful Romaine Sawyers and Ollie Watkins pulling the strings – both of whom were among five changes for a Dean Smith team that also saw the return of Harlee Dean (although Nico retained the armband) – it took just ten minutes into the second period before parity was restored.

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Harlee was back in the starting XI

Jota, whose game plan seemed to consist of either shoot on sight, cut inside or ping it to the back stick opting for the last of these tricks as the modern day Paul Daniels dropped a ball onto the head of Ollie Watkins to power home. Griffin Park erupted. Better delivery than Postman Pat. Better execution than John Wilkes Booth. They were my words on Twitter at the time and I stand by them.

But the Bees pushed on. Chance followed chance before Neal Maupay, barely on the pitch for five minutes after replacing Lasse Vibe, fired home from the edge of the box. Back of the net. Pick that out. 2-1 Brentford. Perhaps, finally, our possession, domination and chances would be rewarded.

Alas, no. A lengthy injury to Josh McEachran (ankle) saw a butt clenching 8 minutes of added time shown on the board. Even Fielding joined the attack as the Bees held on. And on. Until virtually the last kick of the game when Bobby Reid did that thing. Urghh.

A combination of ricochets and inability to hoof clear a ball bouncing around the box after a fine save from Daniel Bentley saw silence decend on Griffin Park. Except from the away fans who were understandably ecstatic. What fighting spirit from the visitors.

It was oh so reminiscent of the 3-3 with Brighton last season where we were left feeling as thought we’d snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. As ever, the goals are up on the internet c/o Sky .

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Brentford had most of the control but ended with a share of the points

87 minutes on the back foot and one spawny goal. Their ‘keeper had nothing to do all second half.” Not my words but those of one Bristol City fan in The Griffin at full time. Even this morning I feel as though I’ve taken a massive punch to the gut, such is the feeling of numbness about the result although that could just be the five slices of cold pizza that Mrs B left for me to hoover up upon the return home.

Yet whilst I expected Dean to come out with the lines he did – he’s head coach – hearing this view from the other side gives some comfort today. Somebody is going to get a proper spanking soon. The preferred starting XI is beginning to take shape with Sawyers and Watkins surely nailed on. We’ve Sergi to come back and, likewise, Ryan whenever he is ready. This is still very much a squad and a force to be reckoned with.

Next up, a trip to Ipswich Town. They’re one of three teams with a 100% record – along with Cardiff City and a Wolves side who come to Griffin Park on Saturday week .

The Championship doesn’t get any easier. But it certainly keeps us on our toes.

Off field, there was the stadium news. Two very differing announcements were made by the club and BIAS in regards to the proposed changes in plans for Lionel Road (including capacity reduction from 20,000 to 17,500) and the details around this. Our fans’ group very much delving into the logistics which made for some confused reading. Surely they’ve got this wrong? And if not, why would the club only share part of the announcement ?

At the end of the day (Clive) I’m just the numpty on the terrace. The likes of Beesotted and BIAS do a great job supporting the fans and promoting the club. It’s great they’ve been involved in getting the news out although presumably there’s more to come clarifying the detail?

Putting this nonsense together the morning after the night before is fun, but its not a job. I’m not a journo. I’m not Billy Grant who never seems to sleep, such is his prodigious output. Something as emotive and important as this needs to be digested. Properly. More to follow on this one tomorrow.

As for Ryan Woods, there are no words. All we can do is respect his privacy and know that the entire Brentford family is thinking of him. Know that there is copious amounts of love heading the way of him and his family.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Bruzon

Nottingham Forest 4: The invisible defence. And is this the Lionel Road news?

13 Aug

1-0 up on 40 minutes. 3-1 down after 47 minutes. Brentford not so much threw this one away as gift wrapped it, wrote ‘SWALK’ on the label and hand delivered the points to Mark Warburton in the Nottingham Forest dugout. One of only three teams in the Championship without a point, the Bees will be looking to get off the mark against Bristol City on Tuesday night. Moreso, given so much of our attacking play in the opening two league games has suggested we deserve an awful lot more.

But regular readers know the drill here. Deserving counts for nothing. Balls in the back of the net are all we look to when the points are being counted up. Likewise, the table only starts to take on a real shape when we are ten games into the campaign.

Put it this way, at this stage two seasons ago we were four points better off and with Marinus at the helm. And look how that opening period to a season would eventually play out…

We will look back the goals that we conceded and see if we can improve from there”, Dean Smith told ‘official’ after the game. Dean, if we can’t then there is something seriously wrong. If Billy Sharp’s winner for Sheffield United saw us go walkabout, then this was the stuff of the worst horror sequels. Nottingham Forest 4 : The invisible defence.

The 1st team defence – static

The fourth goal in particular was one which would see the word ‘shambolic’ trending on Twitter. At least, in TW8. Sky have the video highlights up already. Do take a look. If you want a lesson in how to coned a goal then here it was. More frustrating was the fact that it came after Brentford had hauled themselves back into things at 2-3 down. Andreas Bjelland’s effort correctly adjudged to have crossed the line, even though it looked a close call from the Bramear Road and those Ealing Road wags situated directly behind the goal. It was no more than the build up of pressure had suggested would be coming until it then all went South. Again.

Positives? Well, first up let’s give due praise to Forest and, in particular, Andreas Bouchalakis. His brace helped secure the points but the second, just after half time, was a beautiful strike from distance that even had some of the home fans clapping. Credit where it’s due – it was a wonderful finish.

For Brentford, there was no shortage of effort going forward. Ollie Watkins impressed, along with Flo Jo and Kamo. There was a first league goal for Neal Maupay and it wouldn’t surprise me to see all four start against Bristol City. Along with Romaine Sawyers who gave his all and got stuck in, coming on from the bench.

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View from the Braemar – Rico Henry helps Brentford ‘push up’ in the first half

Yet these are all nice problems to have. It is the back four where Dean has real decisions to make. He stuck to his guns in benching Harlee but would also note afterwards that, “You have to play to the best of your ability to keep the shirt. It is too early to say for Tuesday but maybe conceding four goals we need to change things.”

Is this his way of welcoming the former captain back into the fold? Have Harlee’s contract negotiations now moved further in the player’s favour?  Could Maxime Colin win back his place in the starting XI ? Is it simply a case of ‘a bad day at the office’ in a season that is only 180 minutes old?

Certainly, I’m not overly stressed although would much rather be winning than losing.  We’ve a lot of new players come in over the summer. The attacking intent is clear for all to see and this is, as much, all about the team gelling. First things first though, let’s get the basics right. And that starts with not conceeding silly, soft goals.

The other two big talking points were Mark Warburton and Lionel Road. The former making his return to Griffin Park after leaving us at the end of 2014/15. Yet despite all the talk prior to kick off, in the end his presence seemed to be largely treated with the ambivolence reserved for a.n.other manager.

Indeed, the main subject for discussion was his attire – which consisted of a green polo shirt tucked deep in to his sports shorts. If anything, he looked less table topping manager and more ’extra from TV’s The Brittas Empire’ (one for the over 30s amongst us).

Brittas Warbs

Mark Warburton – always one to pursue new options

As for Lionel Road, everybody seems resigned to Tuesday’s stadium announcement being a capacity reduction. Although in what specific context? Could this be to accommodate any form of ‘safe standing’ zone?  Could Get West London journalist Tom Moore have been miles off the mark from his scoop during the week? And if not, how has he got hold of this news, let alone been allowed to leak it (unless this was to ‘soften the blow’)? Or could it be something else?

Something like a monorail?

Being a long standing fan of the club, Matthew Benham will be more than familiar with that story which was originally proposed as part of a new ground as far back as 2002. But that’s a scheme which has long since died a death – if for no other reason than the emergence of Cross Rail. And the chances of this one resurfacing are likely to be slim to none.

Certainly, the tweet from Independent fans group BIAS during the week suggested they weren’t happy about what is to come: We’ve been told of stadium changes & concerned at lack of consultation. We’ll work with ‪@beesotted & others to get info to fans + fan views.

Which blows my theory out of the water. Tuesday could be interesting. Of pitch, a potential announcement and on field the visit of Bristol City.

Here’s to getting everything back on the rails. Although perhaps not of the mono variety.

Lionel Road monorail

Could THIS be the Lionel Road news?

Nick Bruzon

Who will win the Championship? Who will go down? What about the Bees? Who has the best new kit?

3 Aug

Almost there, Brentford fans. It’s Thursday morning. The Championship kicks off tomorrow evening before The Bees travel to Sheffield United on Saturday afternoon. But with three top ten finishes under our belts, is it now the time to look at stepping up? Or should we remain content just to swim in the same waters as Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and all those other famous names? To stay safe. To look at holding station until such time as Lionel Road is ready for us to move in to?

Yesterday’s column on Jota and not ‘Jota’ ended with several questions of this nature. The predominant one being, what are your hopes for the forthcoming season? Well for what it’s worth, here’s my take on how the Championship is going to pan out.

Starting with Brentford, the summer has been an exciting one. On the transfer front it has been one way traffic inward with, to date, nobody leaving bar The Hoff. Even KK and Jack Bonham have only gone out on loan. There has been no Jota to West Ham. No Ryan Woods to Sunderland. No Harlee Dean to Sheffield Wednesday. No Rico Henry to Hull City. No Romanine Sawyers to Southend United (and apologies – but that one really did appear) . So far…

Instead we have bought what would seem to be incredibly astutely. The EFL young player of the year in Ollie Watkins and South African international Kamo Mokotjo are the two names immediately grabbing our attention. The former because of the potential and our beating off a host of other clubs to his signature. These include a Nottingham Forest side who let Britt Assombalonga go to Middlesbrough and are now relying on veteran striker Daryl Murphy. Prolific in his day although never forget ‘that’ miss.

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And Murphy must score. Erm….

Kamo is getting Bees fans excited simply due to the fact of how skillful and how comfortable he already looks. Translating pre-season into real life form will be another thing, but the early signs are wonderfully positive. We seem to have genuine competition in pretty much every position. Just the amount of different stories that have appeared about our players over the summer show how strong our squad has become.

Of course, let’s not rest on our laurels here. The season may begin this weekend but that godforsaken transfer window still remains open until August 31. As we’ve seen in the past, players can come and go well after the campaign has begun. Andre Gray being a most recent example where, despite his two goals in two games at the beginning of the Marinus era, the inevitable sale to Burnley went through straight after.

Yet, at the same time, the current signs are positive. Fingers crossed it can stay that way. If Matthew Benham can juggle the finances to keep this squad together then we have the potential to be amongst the best in the league.

Little Brentford punching above their weight”. Not my words but those of just about every pundit outside of TW8 in recent times.

B*llocks” . They’re my words.

The last three years we’ve done what we have on merit. Reaching the play-offs for the Premier League in our first Championship season may have caught a few people unawares but it was fully deserved on our play. Coming out the other side of the Marinus experiment to end ninth, equally justified – despite that post Christmas wobble.

But for a ropey patch in the autumn last time around we could well have pushed on then. The football in the second half of the season, freed from the understandable obligation to play everything through Scott Hogan and reinvigorated by the returning Spanish duo of Jota and Sergi, was simply breathtaking.

We destroyed Aston Villa at Griffin Park. Absolutely destroyed them. You could say the same for the home games with Derby County. With Leeds United. With QPR, for whom Jake Bidwell probably has ongoing nightmares. Police still involved in that one (not literally), after reports of Jota picking his pocket more than once.

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‘Official’ love him, too

I don’t buy any of this small club nonsense. I fully know our history and have been coming to Griffin Park since 1979. Absolutely, it is a privilege to play at the level given some of the low points we’ve been through. But that doesn’t mean we should be showing any defference, any OTT respect, any form of “we’re just happy to be here’ humility. Just as nobody has a divine right to ‘be any good’ (see: Arsenal), equally just because you have humble origins you shouldn’t go into it expecting bad things to happen. Have some confidence in our ability. Our perceived size is an advantage. It is an advantage we should play up to.

We’ve taken so many teams and pundits by surprise already. I’m convinced it will happen again. My call for the Bees was initially 6th at the start of the summer. In recent weeks I’ve revised that to fifth. I’m sticking to that and nailing my colours to the mast here. Brentford to finish fifth.

Optimistic? Stupid? Naive? Whichever – I’m here to have fun this season and am only looking upwards.

Casting the net further afield, it is not a view shared by other sources. Middlesbrough and Aston Villa remain favourites to win the league. The former, I can fully understand. They’ve only ever been a force at this level (move along, nothing to see here….) whilst boosted by both the goals of Assombalonga and the parachute payments from the Premier League will be exceptionally strong . I’m agreeing with the experts on this one.

Villa though? No. No. No. I can’t see them finishing in the top six. The were horrific last season. Only good for betting on 1-1 scorelines, <2.5 goals and away L. The hype around John Terry surely more distraction than yardstick of genuine aspiration. I find it inconceivable that Steve Bruce will have turned things around this much over the summer. Stranger things have happened, of course, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Instead, Sheffield Wednesday are the team that will finally come good and take the second spot. Celebrating their 150th year with some cracking new kits, to boot (in my opinion, and not including our own, the best shirts in the Championship ) they’ll go up after knocking on the door for so long. Joining Brentford in the play-offs will be Norwich City, Fulham and Leeds United. Pick your order for these three. Much as I’m loathe to admit it, the Cottagers played some wonderful football last season. Their stadium may well be a hotbed of neutrality but, on the field, they showed they can more than do their stuff these days.

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Sheffield Wednesday to play as good as they’ll look?

Bottom three. Millwall, Ipswich Town and QPR for me. The former just too out of their depth whilst the Tractor Boys and not so super hoops have only gone backwards. With no real inward investment and a team that has only stagnated, those days of top flight football are a long, long way away.

Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. What do I know? Not much. I’ll happily hold up my hands when this all gets proven wrong, One man’s opinion is another’s comedy.

Club sponsor LeoVegas has us ranked joint 11th to win the league at 25/1. Do they know something we don’t?

Likewise FourFourTwo magazine have just published their season preview. Available now from all good newsagents, they call Brentford to finish 10th. Don’t let that or the fact that yours truly wrote the piece on The Bees (Klanggggggg; the sound of a name being dropped) put you off, though. It’s actually a great read.

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Season preview edition now available

The other follow up we need to do from yesterday is in regards to Jota. Or, specifically ‘Jota’. Of Wolves. You may recall that the EFL have told Wolves that he needs to have his real surname, Silva, on his shirt rather than what they deem to be his nickname.

All well and good, although my own subsequent thought was what this might mean for us? Should we even be able to hang on to him, of course. An awkward look in the other direction being the immediate reaction.

However,Twitter user Ben (@BenPlumb97) has put the question out there in cyberspace. Thankfully, the legend that is Kitman Bob has stepped up to answer.

And relax 🙂

Bob Tweet re Jota

Nick Bruzon

KK bids farewell (for now). But is it the right decision?

29 Jun

This is the moment for the Austrian. And what a moment it is.” Not my words but those enthused by Beesplayer commentator par excellence Mark Burridge to describe the goal scored by Konstantin Kerschbaumer as Brentford retook the lead deep into injury time against Brighton back in February. It was a strike worthy of the shortlist for goal of the season yet it was announced yesterday that the Austrian is off on loan to Germany where he will spend 2017/18 with DSC Arminia Bielefeld.

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KK is in there, somewhere, celebrating a ‘winner ‘ against Brighton

The immediate question is why? Specifically, why has this happened and why wasn’t he ever given a decent run in the side? That Brighton goal was the obvious cherry on the cake of two years at Griffin Park and it’s been no secret on these pages that he’s been a player yours truly would have given much more game time. The interplay between himself and Scott Hogan at the end of Dean Smith’s first season suggested such huge potential yet despite plenty of patchy performances from his team mates, he’s never been given a proper crack of the whip.

Then again, Dean Smith is head coach for a reason and I’m just the numpty on the terrace. He was quoted on ‘official’ yesterday as saying, “With the quality we have in the squad, we cannot guarantee game time for anyone”. Presumably, unless your name is Nico? Or Ryan? Or Romaine? Or Josh (subject to injury)? That’s meant as no disrespect to any of these players but more to make the point that a settled and pretty much guaranteed midfield is something Dean has set out to build. As such, it seemed a somewhat contradictory statement.

KK rightly deserving of a place in this pantheon of net busting brilliance

 

Stats. Is there a scarier, more mis-construed word in the Griffin Park vocabulary? The journalistic zombie that Matthew Benham just can’t kill? Well, I’m going to play the stats game here with a few.

First up – this from our own Luis Melville back in April. If anybody can nail a killer stat it’s Luis. This one is very simple but very to the point.

It’s interesting to see Luis responding to Ted Knutson (who was of course hugely involved in Player Analytics at Smartodds). For our second piece of statistical reference, a piece written by Ted in May 2017 says more about the player then these pages could ever hope to do. For me, his key statistical point being:

2320 minutes, 1 goal, 12 assists.

That’s an assist rate of about .47 per 90, which is in the top 3% of footballers. Kersch also doesn’t take set pieces, meaning nearly all of his assists come from open play. To give you an idea of how unusual this is, in the last four seasons in the Championship nine players have posted 12 assists or more, all with more minutes and nearly all of them taking set pieces.”

There’s so much more to Ted’s column than just that stat. For those doubting what Konstantin added, please do have a read. If nothing else, it gives a fascinating insight into the Brentford recruitment process. At the same time, take a positive from the fact that, officially, the player is going out to Germany to get game time under his belt. With a Jota style additional year added to his contract (see also: Jack Bonham and Carlisle), could he return even bigger and better than ever before? Here’s hoping.

Whether you would pick KK or not (and one thing I’d agree with Dean on is that the squad has midfield quality) the simple fact is that the head coach has never seen fit to give a player he inherited an extended run. Personally, I disagree but that’s football. Dean and his team must have known the statistical evidence so perhaps there is something more to it than that.

Who knows why and who knows where we’ll all be in 12 months time? I, for one, could quite honestly never ever see Jota coming back after heading out to Eibar on loan. Nobody needs any reminder of just how wonderfully that played out.

Could the same thing happen again? Just imagine….

And if you’d like to read more about KK, that goal and last season then please don’t forget (how could you?) that the regular season review e-book is now available for download. This one is titled ‘Welcome home, King Jota’  and this time around it is for a great cause. All funds raised are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Likewise, any subsequent sales from the previous versions.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 2016 to May 2017 and a bit of new material too, you can pick it up, here. It’s just £1.99.

So why not do something great to help our club. What else will £1.99 get you? What better way to spend some time on the commute to work, the beach, by the pool or even hiding out in the toilet at work? You might even enjoy it !

For less than the cost of half a pint on match day, it’s the season review that has been designed to fit in your pocket (if you are using an i-phone).

Nick Bruzon