Tag Archives: St. Andrews

Storm in a B cup.

16 Feb

What an afternoon. Another point for Brentford, earned in horrific conditions at Birmingham City on the day Fulham were humped at home by basement club Barnsley and Nottingham Forest shared the spoils with West Bromwich Albion. The only fly in the ointment being a win for Leeds United (not a typo) at home to Bristol City but things at the business end of the Championship remain as tight as ever. And if you haven’t seen it, the club have announced news about our final * ever game at Griffin Park.   

We can only start at rain soaked and wind swept St. Andrews where Thomas Frank had to give his BMW a refit. Marcondes coming in for Mbeumo to join our much touted front three. With Shandon Baptiste making an impressive full debut in place of Josh Dasilva it was a new look Brentford side that began this one. The team taking on an even less familiar look after just a few minutes when Mathias Jensen had to go off, replaced by Dru Yearwood. Birmingham scented blood and went for the jugular.

Attack followed attack until the inevitable happened. Jude Bellingham (16, apparently) had already hit the inside of the post before Lukas Jutkiewicz popped up with the inevitable. A ball played in across the goal line eluded everyone until it reached the striker who made no mistake. Urghh. The Birmingham storm unable to be weathered. The start, dreadful.

And then it all changed. Brentford woke up. The desire to participate kicked in. Within minutes, we were level. Ethan Pinnock heading home from a corner to send the Bees wild. Get in – that’s more like it!! City not even able to blame the bench warming Harlee Dean for failing to keep that out.

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Goooaaaalllll !!

On we pressed. The ascendency very much swinging towards Brentford, despite the weather in our faces. A blatant penalty denied. Lee Camp in goal for Blues pulling off save after save. A second half shot somehow scrambled off the line by Fosu (on for sub, subbed Yearwood)  as Camp kept the Bees at bay. His one man defence saving a point for a City side who could perhaps consider themselves unfortunate to have their own penalty appeal turned down late on.

Frustration from the pitch had already been boiling over in the stands, where one green jacket clad supporter – giving it the billy big balls to the 1500+ Brentford supporters – went arse over tit on the  security awning draped over the seats intended to keep us apart. Magnificent comic timing if nothing else. The price for his bravery – a chorus of jeers, heckles, laughter and the attentions of the stewards. Followed up by the police, who asked him help with their inquiries. Outside the stadium.

And so it finished. One each and a point we can be pleased with. Birmingham should probably have stormed out of sight. Likewise, justifiably upset by decisions towards the end where Norgaard was also lucky to escape with just a yellow. With other results mostly going our way, especially at Fulham where Barnsley pulled off a magnificent 3-0 win, only Leeds United have taken true advantage. Fair enough. They’ve a good team and despite their own well documented fragility are still managing to hang in there. There’s a lot to be said for that.

We’re unbeaten. We’ve played really well in testing circumstances. The referee didn’t help either team and, being honest. I’m happy with another point on the board. Three would have been nice. On another day we’d have got them. Birmingham City no doubt thinking and feeling the same. They’ve been on form and I’m happy to get away with safely.

Elsewhere, Tuesday is THE big day. Tickets for the game against Barnsley, our last ever at Griffin Park *, go on sale then. The announcements of how this is happening will be made on Monday, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Twitter has the first notes up already – below.

For now, it’s the calm after the storm. Next up is Blackburn at home on Saturday. With who knows what in between…

* subject to play-off fixtures

Nick Bruzon

 

There wouldn’t be a more beautiful set of brackets in football this season.

15 Feb

Saturday morning. 6.30am. It already has the feel of one of those days. No District line. No Piccadilly line. No South West Trains service. Even leaving Brentford to get as far as a station feels as though it is going to be epic. That’s nothing to do with Storm Dennis but simply the most ill thought out combination of track upgrades since – urghh, it’s too early for an analogy. Then again, time to grit those teeth, put head down and find a Plan C. Preferably one that doesn’t involve the four most horrific words in the English language – rail replacement bus service. The trip to Birmingham City awaits and it promises to be epic. With the added incentive of Nottingham Forest v West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United hosting Bristol City, today definitely has the feel of, erm, one of those days. One to focus on the positive and what may be. Subject to the weather.

Cheer up Harlee Dean. etc etc etc. Been there, done that. Whilst I’ll be amazed if we don’t hear at least one refrain of that song following his infamous comments on that ill-fated ‘Blues Cruise’, there are bigger things to focus on today. The promotion race remains wide open and the primary concern for Brentford has to be in looking to pick up those three points. Other results going our way could, theoretically, see us finish the day in that second place we occupied briefly during the midweek fixture against Leeds United.

Harlee

Don’t shoot the messenger. He said it. Not me.

Then again, other results could, theoretically, see Leeds United end the day outside the top six. Victories for the Bees, Forest, Fulham (a home banker against Barnsley) combined with Bristol City winning by 7(seven) goals at Elland Road will achieve that feat. There wouldn’t be a more beautiful set of brackets in football this season should that set of results play out. And whilst, of course, it won’t this serves more to show just how tight things remain. Just how how crucial those ‘other’ results could be as the top sides, and also Birmingham City, play each other.

Let’s not write off Blues though. My word, anything but. They are on a nine game unbeaten run and have picked up three Championship wins on the bounce. Despite the loss of Josh McEachran, they still find themselves chock full of ex-Bees. Maxime Colin, the aforementioned Captain Pugwash and of course Scott Hogan. He’s banging them in for fun once more and so we’ll have to be extra wary of that ball slotted through the middle. Christian Norgaard and, potentially, a returning Pontus Jansson will have key roles to play this afternoon. 

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I used to love a Scott Hogan goal celebration. Not today.

The game against Leeds on Tuesday was one where, being fair, just about everyone has acknowledged we were second best. The visitors will be disappointed not to have picked up all three points but, as we’ve said many times, possession and chances count for naff all if you can’t convert. They may have outplayed us but they couldn’t beat us. Brentford had an off day and still could have won. Perhaps we might have had things stayed at 1-0 rather than being pegged back just before half-time.

Ahh. Ifs, buts and maybes. The things that make football so intriguing. The things that provide for hours of conversation and conjecture despite having absolutely no impact on past results. The things that perhaps give us the inspiration to really go for it next time out and right any wrongs we may feel have been done to us.

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A rare second half  sortie on Tuesday.

For me, Clive, Birmingham City are an irrelevance today. I don’t mean that with any form of specific disrespect. Feelings for the team have been well documented before and I’d absolutely love to get a win at St. Andrews.

It’s more that currently they just feel like the opposition in the way and nothing more than that. A challenge to be overcome and points to be won rather than scored. There are no thoughts about relegation in 92/93, lack of promotion in 94/95 or ‘ten times better’ but simply whether we can keep heading towards the top flight. And the latest obstacle in the way is a Blue one rather than, all being well, a traffic jam or a tree on the track.

I can’t call it. Never can. I was 100% confident that we’d beat Leeds United on Tuesday and that didn’t work out. But we didn’t lose and we have the biggest incentive possible to go for it. Moreso with the Nottingham Forest – West Bromwich Albion game due to take place at lunchtime. By the time of our kick off we’ll have a little bit more of an idea how the table is looking and just what three points might do to our position at close of play. If we can pick them up.

Oh, I can’t wait for this one. Travel safe. See you there…..

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Here’s to more of this

Nick Bruzon

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But who will blink first?

13 Feb

With the midweek fixtures all played out, Brentford find themselves two points off ‘automatic’ and Leeds United still in second place. Just. For a while, it looked as though things may get even better with West Bromwich Albion behind and Fulham crying out for VAR (looked onside to me !) at Millwall. In the end, the Baggies got their win although the Cottagers ended things level. With Preston taking sixth and Bristol City warming up for Saturday’s trip to Elland Road after edging past Wayne Rooney by the odd goal in five, things remain as unclear and open as ever. Only West Brom starting to make a bit of clear air but, as we’ve seen all season, that can change in a heartbeat. Our own game at Birmingham City this weekend couldn’t be any bigger.

Before we go any further, I’ll likely mention Birmingham City a few times in the next couple of days. We’re due to play them  – why wouldn’t anyone do so in that situation? So to try, but no doubt fail, and avoid the usual nonsense about this tinpot team’s apparent obsession with their enormous club, the Griffin Park perspective on why I’ve absolutely relished our teams crossing paths in the Championship is noted further below. Why such pleasure is taken every time Brentford finish above Blues – which has been every season since our return to this level.

Sure… the financial misconduct, the managerial mayhem, that ten times better nonsense or the triple transfer swoop were factors – the sort of nonsense that makes football great in retrospect –  but nothing compared to what had gone before.

Anyway, getting back to the present, one almost had to feel sorry for Fulham last night. Almost. The brief window of opportunity I was afforded to watch that game before Kirsty and Phil started doing battle over Woodford Green property renovation (ah, the Wednesday night price of a green card for the trip to St. Andrews on Saturday is a huge one) saw two early goals and a huge controversy. Aleksander Miitrovic continuing to trade metaphorical punches with Ollie Watkins at the top of the Championship leading goalscorer charts before the Lions equalised with a goal so far offside even I spotted it first time out. Fulham were rightly incensed but, as we struggled to contain the laughs on our couch, the officials allowed it stand. 

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But there was no VAR. No second chance. No reprieve and things were level. Millwall even had the temerity to miss a penalty and that’s how things stayed. Apparently. What would I know? The things you do for the long term footballing pleasure.  With that result, Fulham go level on points with Leeds United whilst Brentford remain two points off the pair of them. The Cottagers may aswell chalk up the three points now with a home game against Barnsley this weekend but Leeds – Bristol City promises to be another massive one. 

The Robins are just outside the play off zone. Only goal difference keeping them away from a top six that once again plays host to Preston. It really is a case of seeing who can hold their nerve. Who blinks first. Whatever else, something has to give with West Brom hosting Nottingham Forest. I’m beyond trying to figure out who I want to win in these games though. Let’s concentrate on ourselves and hope those favours continue to come.

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As it stands…

That said, we are now at the point of experiencing that additional factor of a promotion shootout. That moment where the run-in starts and every result of every club around us seems critical. Phones are refreshed mid-game as goals conceded and points dropped here, there and everywhere are celebrated with abandon. Where even a win for the Loftus Road team is to be celebrated if it comes against one of the teams in close proximity. Where shifts in the table are tracked, even ‘as it stands’, and all favours are grateful accepted. We’ve had it by the bucketload during this week’s fixtures with Brentford even sitting in second place until Leeds equalised. Walking past Griffin Park on the school run with Harry, we’ve been going through permutations of results and possibilities – it’s amazing how much that can help with arithmetic. So, If Leeds lose, how many points will they have? Where will Fulham be if they beat Millwall?

There are, of course, a lot of games to go. Almost a third of the season still. But with nobody really striking out on their own, albeit West Bromwich Albion have a few points’ breathing space (at present) one can’t help but get drawn in by the situation unfolding around us. Which, as much as anything else, is why Birmingham City is a massive one for us Brentford fans. Regardless of the history. The obsession. 

I’ll absolutely love it if we pick up the points. Might even sing a song at full time. Roll on Saturday – see you there.   

 

Until then, here’s my take on it. Birmingham City – the ‘obsession’

For me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things feel as though they bear repeating. No matter how forlorn it may be. Yet it is as crucial now as a means of seeing how far we’ve come compared to how things were before. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day. 

1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning ,  there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a  3-1 aggregate win.

The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.

Deano and Bliss

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as  Birmingham edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.

However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the campaign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.

Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).

Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..

So, yes. Whilst I DO focus on Birmingham City (a lot) it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. Can we take it to the next level? Perhaps Saturday will give a bit more of a clue, but I wouldn’t bet against this race going to the very last weekend of the season. 

Nick Bruzon

Fans guess who got the yellow and ‘Official’ look for a bigger boat. Twitter tears end the day nicely.

30 Dec

Birmingham City 0 Brentford 0. A draw on paper but a victory if social media were anything to go by. Which of course it isn’t in terms of points but is in terms of the moral high ground. As the Bees made it 3 unbeaten with a second successive draw on the road, it set up an intriguing New Years day visit from Norwich City on Tuesday. The Canaries themselves going down 4-3 to Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) as the Rams edged four points clear of the play-off chasing rivals and Norwich had to be content with ending the year in second place. It was a combination of results that set the Blues fans off the deep end in terms of post match reaction – whether the bottles that were allegedly thrown or a Twitter meltdown that very much belied their own belief that we’re ‘obsessed’ with them ! Please. No. I’m still laughing.

And laughter is the only reaction you can have. For a team that haven’t beaten Brentford since November 2016 and have failed twice more, again, this season you’d think they may learn to keep it zipped. But no. Instead it was the usual bitterness, tears, hissy fits, tantrums and belief that having a large stadium capacity is somehow akin to being deemed success. For a team that have finished below Brentford for the last four seasons perhaps by now they may have realised that size isn’t a guarantee of quality and matters infinitely less than what you do with it. But no.

There’s plenty out there. A quick search of #KRO or Birmingham amongst those terms to reveal the unintentional comedy gold that lets you know we’ve done a job on them. The marks down Neal Maupay’s back completely at odds with the claims of him being a ‘cheat’. I’m not going to give it the oxygen of publicity. If nothing else, they’re still rank amateurs compared to our good friend Simon C. Hateley of Aston Villa. If you need to rant, at least do it properly. They don’t even touch the sides compared to the Villa Park legend and it won’t take Sherlock Holmes to find the usual suspects out there. Moreso, given the responses from some of our own fans. And Brentford Official. Twitter was awash with feedback: 

‘The Chauffeur’ would note: I’m seeing Villa fans in a different light. Villa fans didn’t cry this much and Maupay  was actually bang out of order in that game. Generally proper fans of a genuinely big club who happen to share a city with w@nkers like Blues and Baggies.

Tony Cross was quick to chime in: I do love it when we annoy other clubs by not rolling over & letting them win ‘because that’s what history says should happen…’

Justin(LionsAndBees): But why are we so obsessed with them? Apparently.

Katie Bennett nails it this morning: Who wants to explain that leagues are point based and not attendance?

David Owen: The energy they put into telling us we’re irrelevant to them.

(That one had a ‘gif’ too).

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Yet, incredibly, if was Brentford ‘official’ who hit the jackpot. We’ve been quick to criticise the club’s use of Twitter in the past and you can never be reminded enough times about the horrors of #trophyfriends or #Novemberkings (amongst others). So imagine the surprise and pleasure at their reaction to a critique of the match report, which went :  

I haven’t read it but I imagine it just says – CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT.

All of which serves as a neat medium for bypassing the match itself. That Sky only have 58 seconds of highlights (here if you want them) probably tell you all you need to know. The Bees had the lion’s share of possessions and shots but, of course, that counts for naff all if you can’t put one away. Whilst we were never seriously troubled, Blues manager Garry Monk would claim afterwards that: “If anyone was going to look likely to get the win it was going to be us” .

There’s no surprise there. Birmingham City have dropped further ground in the promotion race at a time the fixtures are coming thick and fast. Derby County stretched the gap over the play-off wannabees as very late goals from Flo Jo (87) and Jack Marriott (90+inj) saw Norwich City undone at Carrow Road. 

As for Brentford, it’s three unbeaten and only one goal conceded in that period. Thomas Frank used his own press conference to comment how: “Defensively we were very solid and gave away zero chances. They created nothing and that is well done to the boys who have conceded far too many away goals in the past….I would say in general I think the match official needed to protect the key players in the game. You should see Neal’s (Maupay’s) back. There are scratches all the way down on his back.”

The BBC have more extracts from that one here.

The photograph that Neal posted Instantgram afterwards supported these claims. It made a mockery of the language being directed towards the ‘cheat’ (please, I’m STILL laughing) at full time. Yet whatever has gone before, all this has done is further embolden the fans with a positive frame of mind. If nothing else, the sour grapes from our opponents serving no better use than to act as a bonding catalyst for supporters who have heard it all before. Little Old Brentford. Punching above their weight. Tinpot. Tiny ground. Don’t deserve to be here.

You can keep it coming all day long. We love it. There’s no finer means of galvanising supporters than by making us laugh. Giving us the belief in our team. Genuinely, I LOVE playing the likes of Leeds United, Aston Villa and Birmingham City. Not because, “Ooohh – they’re ‘famous’ ” (please note: your definition of famous may vary) but because of the oh-so predictable reaction and under-estimating that we still get, even now, in our fifth season of Championship football.  Long may it continue – hopefully in the Premier League. Assuming, of course, Birmingham et al can get there too.

Bring on Norwich City. I can’t wait for this one.  

Dvm2aLDWkAIPGGC

Neal Maupay – ‘cheat’

Nick Bruzon

Who will lose it at the bottom? Can the Bees make it another top ten success?

6 May

Well here we are. One final round of games awaits in the Championship. Brentford entertain Hull City AFC, knowing a win could take us as high as 7(seven)th in the final table. We already know we’ve a trip to Stoke City next season and a possible return to The Valley, if Charlton can do the needful in the League One play-offs. Yet it is at the bottom of the table where the longer term situation is perhaps more interesting. Birmingham City v Fulham is THE big one in the division today and is sure to have Bees’ fans split as to who they’d like to come away with the win. Along with the Blues, the final two relegation spots are predominantly in the hands of Burton, Bolton and Barnsley. And all this is before we get to the end of season ‘player of the year’ dinner and awards. Plus some nonsense on pitch at half time – I really wouldn’t be looking there. Move along; nothing to see.

First up, the visit of Hull. A club, like Wolves, I’ve developed a long standing and unexpected admiration for over the years. Standing up to crackpot owner? Tick. Some of the best kits ever? Tick. Correct use of AFC in their name? Tick. That said, not sure if I can forgive them for Nick Proschwitz but, hey, you can’t have everything.

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Great kits. Great principals

With the sun (and shorts) out, it promises to be a great day. At the time of writing (6.59am) the sky in TW8 is a wonderful clear blue and things are already warming up. The bank holiday awaits and it’s our last time all together for a couple of months. This really promises to be special. Even if we are left wondering whether this is the last time we see some of our heroes in action. Listening to the Beesotted podcast the other day I am curious as to whether it will be a case of farewell Ryan Woods, Andreas Bjelland and Josh McEachran – amongst other potential departures.

Whilst that is a column for another day, it’s mentioned more as a chance to really appreciate these great players. I’m desperate to see the likes of Woodsy and the World Cup’s Andreas back next season of course. Who wouldn’t? By the same virtue I’m also a realist as to how we operate. The last few seasons have taught us that. With the likes of Chris Mepham fast tracking up the football ladder at a rate of knots, the future is still looking good.

We digress. Plus ça change. The club have surprised us at just about every step of the way over the last few seasons. I can’t call what’s going to happen today, let alone further down the track. Let’s just focus on the here and now. Dean Smith wants to finish on a high. As do the fans. I can’t see much change from the side which went down at Barnsley last weekend. If only because it was so out of sorts relative to the last few months that the players themselves will be desperate to prove a point and end with three. Hull City AFC are clear of the relegation pack so can also play pressure free. This could, and should, be a good one. Get those calculators out and prepare to start tracking the goals.

At the bottom, I’m calling Burton and Birmingham City to go down. Blues fans, if you somehow see this then don’t cry. Don’t take it as some personal dig. Whatever some commentators to these pages think, I don’t ‘hate’ your club. Likewise, any perceived negativity is not down to the triple transfer swoop over the summer although, undoubtedly, it has added to a rich tapestry that has been woven over the last 26 years.

That said, Harlee Dean’s ‘ten times better’ comments are most definitely a long term dish that I would take great pleasure in serving up cold at 3pm. If you want to know why there’s such an interest in goings on at St.Andrews, then click here. You probably won’t care. That’s football and I’m not looking for any sympathy after a season spent doing battle with brave keyboard warriors, frustated by their own team’s inadequacy and looking to lash out.

Harlee

He said it….. Not me.

Yet given the hand that the fixture list has dealt today, I can’t look beyond League One for The Blues next season. If I’m wrong then will happily hold up my hands tomorrow. Likewise, I’d be genuinely happy if Birmingham do stay up – if only for another chance at six points next season. Ba-doom, Tish !

But I can’t see anything beyond a Fulham win at St. Andrew today. Words which are as distasteful to me as saying Happy Star Wars Day – May the fourth be with you.

With Preston chasing the play-offs, surely that one is a step too far for visitors Burton Albion despite their own impressive run of form in recent weeks. Sadly for Nigel Clough and his team their current streak of WWW is looking like it will be too little, too late. Even though pressure can do funny things, surely that one has to go down as ‘home win’ in the race for the final play-off spot? Doesn’t it…?

Barnsley travel to Derby County today. Derby County, a team who have mastered the art of ‘the choke’ . Who could forget that infamous play-off final against the Loftus road mob? What about the time we reached the Championship play-offs under Mark Warburton. All they needed was a point at home to an impotent Reading side yet somehow self-destructed and went down 3-0. With Barnsley fighting for their lives, that’s where I’m calling the shock (now watch it happen at Preston).

Which takes us to Bolton. Home to Nottingham Forest. Should they win, that takes them level on points with Birmingham. But they need to win well and that’s a BIG ask. The goal difference gap still sees them four behind the Blues yet they are the division’s second lowest scorers having managed just 36 all campaign. The only side having fared worse with the worse in the ‘F’ column being Birmingham who currently have a paltry 35. Compared to our own 61 or the 82 of Champions Wolves, it’s no surprise they both find themselves in such big trouble.

So the heart is ruling the head, here, but with Fulham having to win to have any chance of ‘automatic’ I’m calling four goals as a gap that can be reeled in for Bolton. Even if they need another club to do most of the legwork.

But before you go putting the mortgage on any of this then please bear in mind two things….

Firstly, I’ve not even mentioned Reading. They aren’t safe yet and travel to a Cardiff side that, like Fulham, are also chasing the other promotion slot. Secondly, my predictive skills are notoriously woeful. I’ve called Birmingham and Burton to go down but there’s as much chance of it being Bolton and Reading. Pressure can do strange things.

Instead, I’ll be at Griffin Park cheering on the Bees. Albeit with half a near on the terrace trannie. Purely out of curiosity….

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The BBC table shows just how tight things remain at the bottom

Nick Bruzon

Bring it on. West London’s biggest game in years has more than just a result to play for.

19 Feb

Tuesday night in West London and there’s one of the biggest football showdowns to have been seen in years. Whilst the casual observer might think its all about Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League, they’d be wrong. Of Course. Instead, we’ve the quite delicious treat of Brentford v Birmingham City. More importantly, the return of not just Maxime Colin, not just Jota (the real one rather than the Wolves version) but also former skipper Harlee Dean. Forget Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi visiting Stamford Bridge. The emotional significance of this trio returning, along with the circumstances of their deadline day departure, have been lost on nobody.

Jota team Rotherham

We felt the same way too

“The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” Not my words but those of Jota upon his £6.8million (allegedly) sale to the St. Andrews outfit.

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.” Not my words but those of Harlee Dean after a Birmingham supporter’s ‘Blues Cruise’ back in late October.

We all know the scoop. On the one hand, a Brentford squad containing the likes of: David Button, Jake Bidwell, Number 26, Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jon Toral, Jota, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan. That’s before you add the experience provided by the likes of Dougie, Macca, King Kev and Toumani.

On the other, a Birmingham City squad who are now just 2 points outside the relegation zone and 17 (seventeen, why not) behind Brentford. A win for the Bees will put us 20 clear. That’s twice ten times better. What better incentive could there be for us to really go for it?

Whatever happened back in the summer has happened. I can’t deny any less how I felt back then although how great to see how the Bees have gone on to bigger and better things. The squad has come together in the most wonderful way to stick a metaphorical two fingers up to the Midlanders. Yet at the same time, I can’t forget the wonder of Jota at his very best.

Those goals against Derby. Against QPR. Leaving Jake Bidwell flat on his backside. The infamous Burridgegasm at Blackburn. Even if those memories do still feel slightly tarnished for now, you can’t deny how, on his day, Jota was just about the most skillful and exciting player many of us ever had the privilege of watching.  Name me somebody who wouldn’t want him or Maxime in the squad and I’ll show you a liar.

Mark Burridge and Jota’s infamous moment

As for Harlee, I feel for him. Genuinely. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot with that ill-fated quote. What a way to make Dean Smith’s team talk the simplest he’ll ever need to give. What a way to wind up the crowd.

Despite the red cards, ad-hoc positional awareness and own goals, you can’t deny Harlee was Brentford through and through. He gave his all. Not just on the pitch but off it, too, where he was so famously an unsung hero after a car accident outside Griffin Park. Where he was a total hero to my son and always made time to chat with the young fans. Try explaining to a four year old why his idol has left to join ‘the naughty team’.

HB Harlee and Dan

The smile says its all (apologies again for the sticky fingers)

He was there as we held the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, in the FA Cup. It was Harlee who scored at Wembley in the play-off final against Yeovil following ‘that penalty’. He was the man to help shore up the ten man Bees at Leyton Orient the day we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. He was a Championship regular – almost pulling off an unlikely ascension to the Premier League and eventually showed his true potential ending last season as our Player of the Year.

Then he opened his mouth and, with it, undid all the positivity with a moment as significant in our history as Martin Rowlands ‘kissing the badge’.

No doubt, he’ll have a point to prove. No doubt, so will we. Expect it to be lively. Very. Expect the songs to be loud. Expect the Terrace wags to have their fill on #BeeTheDJ before kick off. And not just for Harlee.  From my perspective, any of the following would be good :

Pink Floyd – Money

The Doors  – Love Me Two Times (although that may need five plays)

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

Aerosmith – Big Ten Inch Record

Dusty Springfield – I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten

Herb Alpert  – Spanish Flea

Blake Shelton – Ten Times Crazier

The flipside is that Birmingham City will be as up for it as we are. Their season has reached a place where, with two thirds gone, they are in very real danger of slithering into League One. Of demonstrating that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

Every point will be vital and they’ll be doing everything possible to get at least one. Picking up all three will necessitate being able to shoot at goal, something they’ve struggled with this campaign. Saturday’s home defeat to Millwall saw them manage just one shot on target whilst, with a mere 22 netbusters, they are the division’s most goal shy team.

So if you haven’t got a ticket yet, what are you waiting for? Sure, Chelsea – Barcelona , in the armchair, might be the comfortable option. It might have some of the World’s biggest names.It might have huge global viewing figures. But it won’t have the passion that this one does and it certainly hasn’t got the sub-plot.

I’ve had this date in the diary for a long, long time. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

Black Cats roll over to have their tummies tickled. Birmingham City are on the way down (to Brentford). Plus FA Cup oddity.

18 Feb

Is everybody back from Sunderland yet? A 2-0 win for Brentford at the Stadium of Light on Saturday was the perfect way to bounce back from a mini blip that had seen The Bees pick up 1 point from the previous three games (although fully deserving of all 9, if Dean Smith’s post-match press conferences were to be believed). Yet this time it was Chris Coleman using his time with the media to put the black cat amongst the pigeons. The former Fulham man opining about the Bees that: “I don’t think they’ll ever get promoted, I could be wrong, because they don’t have the finances but, if they keep doing what they do, they won’t be relegated either. Elsewhere, I woke to news of Manchester United drawing Brighton in the FA Cup. Somehow….

First up, the Sunderland manager. West London’s Premier Journalist Tom Moore ran a story last night that included Coleman’s claim – a statement worthy of Steve Evans at his finest. We’ve all been here and done this so many times yet it never fails to amuse. The suggestion that playing your way to the top isn’t possible without gargantuan levels of spending. Little Brentford. Teams like Brentford. Even Sky Sports haven’t bothered to update our crest on their graphics package – and we’re two thirds of the way through the campaign. The awful ‘cluttered clipart’ crest still hanging around like a bad smell. Every time you think it’s gone, it comes back. Had it been around 65 million years ago, one can only suspect it would have survived the asteroid .

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Curse that clipart graphic.

But enough of dinosaurs. Instead, Chris Coleman. Whatever his thoughts, we are seeing more and more that you can’t put a price on shrewd and innovative acquisition. On bringing the right people into the right set up. Look at how the Bees have continued to flourish season on season. Look at Birmingham City for the closest possible parallel to what happens when you just lump cash at it.

We’ve all had our doubts about the Brentford model over the years. Myself included. This summer in particular felt like a particular low point. Yet we’ve picked ourselves up and gone again.

Neal Maupay, now pretty much guaranteed a long run with the departure of Lasse Vibe, scored his eighth goal of the season with the cheekiest of back heeled efforts to go top of our scoring charts. This, after Kamo had opened the scoring with less than a quarter hour gone. Firing home hard and low from outside the box, he broke his Brentford duck and has given Dean Smith a real selection poser from the visit of Birmingham on Tuesday.  Brentford sit 10th in the Championship for the fourth successive season and with 42 points still available, there’s still a chance at the play-offs.

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Neal celebrates another goal.

Tom’s story also sparked the clickbait-gate debate on Social media once more. You can read that one here – the story rather than the clickbait chat. Personally, I’ve said my piece on that in these pages previously. The likes of Here Is The City and Football League World don’t even warrant a read these days, such is the eventual anti-climax that follows upon selecting one of their ‘stories’.

These publications so often tempt the reader with what transpires to be worse transfer news than the demise of the Letraset ‘action’ range.  News Now is littered with headlines which lead to nothing more than the regurgitation of the same footballer’s twitter feed we all have access to. Is the need for ‘hits’ and internet traffic THAT desperate?

On a totally unrelated note, I did enjoy Alan Judge’s retort to Coleman on the Social media platform last night. A simple but deliciously sweet: Yeah but we won’t be goin down. Certainly it makes a wonderful difference to the usual ‘we go again’.

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Letraset Action Transfers – a sadly missed treat from the 70s

That said, even Brentford official have been guilty of it in the past. I’ll never forget the moment back in November 1991 when the club proudly announced that we’d be signing a Division One (now Premier League) player. The excitement. The calls to 0898 121108 (at 33p a minute). The tension. Who would it be? Gary Lineker? Lee Chapman? Gazza? Gary McAllister? With the greatest respect to the legend that he is, the return of Bob Booker was hardly one to have supporters dancing in the streets of Raith when he was revealed.

Getting back to events at Sunderland, you have to feel for a team who were in the Premier League last season and are now on a fast track to League One along with Burton and Birmingham City. Talking this morning to one Bees insider (a man with his finger very much on the pulse of relevance) his considered opinion was that Black Cats are doomed, describing them as a shadow of the team that played at Griffin Park for the 3-3 back in October. Something that is desperate to see, especially given they’ve such great fans too.

Yet as we’ve seen with the likes of Wolves and Southampton (who played alongside us in League One) or Newcastle and Leeds United, former glories count for nothing. Having a huge stadium and great fans mean naff all if you can’t get the spending right, keep the team motivated or perform on the pitch.

With the greatest respect, that’s their issue. Not ours. Brentford are safe and looking upwards. Barring a remarkable reversal of fortune, Sunderland can start programming Birmingham, Accrington Stanley and Luton into the Satnav for 2018/19.

Who are they? Sunderland might be about to find out.

This weekend has also seen the FA Cup fifth round ties taking place. It really has been a TV overload with Sheffield Wednesday – Swansea providing a low key start before things kicked off on Saturday. Manchester United got past Huddersfield despite some dubious use of VAR. One does have to wonder how hard it is to get watching a TV replay wrong. Yet here we went. Again.

If VAR was confusing, it was nothing compared to waking up on Sunday to news that the draw for the sixth round had already taken place. This, despite a quarter of the ties yet to have taken place. Is nothing sacred anymore? Like semi-finals at Wembley and virtual reserve teams taking the field of play (although that didn’t work out too well for Tottenham at Rochdale on Sunday evening), it’s yet another subtle erosion of the gilt from this famous old trophy. We still love it, of course, yet I can’t help feel the FA are allowing their tournament to become tarnished. Even if squad selection isn’t in their hands, other factors most certainly are.

Still, for me its all about looking forward. About getting ready for that Birmingham City game. This is one we’ve all had in the diary since the transfer window slammed shut. If ever there was time to avoid the whiff of slippage then it is now.  #BeeTheDJ selections are being lined up and the vocal chords loosened. Victory for Brentford will take us to the 50 point mark, 20 better than our old boys at St. Andrews. That’ll be twice ten times better.

See you on Tuesday, Harlee. Forget Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League. Griffin Park is very much going to be the place for a blood and thunder encounter. It’s going to be a lively one, that’s for sure, and I can’t wait. Bring it on.

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Nick Bruzon

What happens on the Blues cruise, stays on the Blues cruise. At least, until full time.

1 Nov

Birmingham City 0 Brentford 2 . Let’s repeat that, for clarity, just in case anyone was distracted by the likes of Tottenham v Real Madrid or Liverpool v somebody tonight.

That’s  : Birmingham City 0 Brentford 2 . And to summarise the game , here you go…….

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

 

Time for a Halloween horror show? Will ten times better Harlee be left to eat his words?

1 Nov

There’s not much more we can really say going into this one. Brentford travel to Birmingham City this evening for a game where our ex-captain Harlee Dean has ensured that the Bees have nothing to lose and everything to gain with his words prior to the weekend’s 0-0 draw against Aston Villa. And closer to home, Yoann Barbet and John Egan have been getting into the Halloween vibe as they’ve been out and about meeting some very excited young fans.

But first, St. Andrews. Tonight’s game had already been one heavily laden with anticipation following our recent transfer activity. If Wycombe Wanderers are sometimes referred to as Brentford B (such has been the procession of players from TW8 to Adams Park) should Birmingham share twin town status with Brentford ? Scott Hogan moved to the city, c/o Aston Villa, in January. A move which, sadly, hasn’t fared that well and sees him already touted for a ‘cut price’ sale.  Then of course we had that gut busting triple whammy over the summer. Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin all sold to Birmingham City on deadline day for a cool £12million.

It would be fair to say that the immediacy and surprise of selling three fan favourites to a divisional rival left many frustrated. Myself included. Yet now the dust has settled it is Brentford who find themselves four points (effectively five when you factor in our goal difference being 13 better) clear of the Blues. The chance to really prove a point was something that already had fans keen to get to this one.

And then Harlee opened his mouth to make ‘that comment’ about his current team mates relative to his former ones:

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.

Ten. Times. Better. I’m still laughing. We were awesome that season. City have been bang average this time around. Understandably he’s come in for all amount of scorn in regards to this claim. A claim which was followed up by his side’s lethargic draw with Aston Villa on Sunday. Hey, at least they kept a clean sheet although Jota will still be kicking himself about the chance he missed when clean through.

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Say what you want. Nobody can doubt the size or history of Birmingham City. Yet reputation and former glories count for nothing when you are slugging it out in the Championship. Something Leeds United, Aston Villa et al have found out when they take on…..teams like Brentford. Whilst Dean Smith may not be viewing this as any form of grudge match, you can be sure our fans are well up for this and are going to be out to make themselves heard. Bring it on…

Off field, the club celebrated Halloween by playing trick or treat on some of our locally based Junior Bees. John Egan and Yoann Barbet donned the fancy dress to knock on the doors of some very excited young fans.

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A familiar face welcomed visitors

If you haven’t seen the film already, you can catch this below (and the full story is on official). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This club is second to none for embracing the local community and our fanbase. Whether it be the family fun day, open day at the training ground or the Christmas party the players are never anything but 100% genuine; the club are only ever 100% into it. I can’t imagine a Manchester United or an Arsenal doing all of this, for free, on such a regular basis. Getting out into the community or giving the fans a chance to meet their idols. The reaction from the kids says it all and there’s a huge THANK YOU from me given Harry’s chance to participate.

Although in retrospect, and given what is coming this evening, perhaps best that his comments at the end were more to do with the Buzz Bee pumpkin lantern and less with what he said off camera about a former captain. To the current one….

John. Yoann. Thank you. And if you could go and lay on another Halloween horror show, at St. Andrews, that would be fantastic.

The players do their thing. HB is really into satsumas…

Nick Bruzon

As Bees beat Preston, brilliant Billy cuts to the chase about Birmingham.

29 Oct

Bring on Birmingham City. Brentford keep marching right on! Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Preston North End saw it 7(seven) games unbeaten in the Championship and 13 points out of the last 21. Our third win over this period saw the Bees move to within six points of the play off zone. Although with the bottom three the same distance behind us, things are still far too tight to be getting too excited. In either direction.

Preston away was always going to be a tough one. With Dean Smith changing his team once more, as he has done every game this season, Romaine Sawyers was dropped to the bench in favour of Kamohelo Mokotjo. But whilst the team was different, the outcome was the same. More goals and more points for Brentford.

As ever, the BBC, Beesotted, ‘official’ etc are your places for the full match report. Or you could catch the highlights on the internet c/o Sky – at least until the league allow the club to do their thing at mid-day. Yet what you get are another goal for Nico Yennaris (that’s four now) and Romaine Sawyers hitting a beauty from the edge of the box to restore our lead in the second half.

The sun is now past the yard arm

There was no irony lost in it being a year to the day since Brentford had beaten QPR at Loftus Road and he’d scored an absolute wonder goal that night. Twelve months later and another netbuster. Whilst it wasn’t quite in the same ball park, it was still a delicious strike. How nice to see Romaine continue to prove all the doubters wrong. He took an inordinate and unfair amount of flak last season. Some fans should now be eating humble pie.

Equally pleasing is being able to see our goals/shots ratio creeping up. A lot had been made in the opening phase of the season about how we’d had the most attempts of any Championship club despite failing to find the back of the net as frequently. 13 goals over the current unbeaten run certainly suggests this stat is changing for the better.

Yet the pick of the goals was, in my opinion, the third. “An absolute peach from a coaching point of view .” Not my words but those of BBC Billy Reeves as he probed head coach Dean Smith after the game. A beautiful exchange of passes at speed between Kamo and Flo Jo saw Preston carved open as easily as a Halloween pumpkin. The move culminated in the Dutch master delivering a ball across the face of the box which Ollie Watkins slid home.

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Ollie, Flo Jo and Lasse celebrate a wonderful winner for the Bees

Three more points and Brentford continuing to impress. The only sour note being the foul on Nico Yennaris that saw the player poleaxed by Jordan Hugill before going off after a lengthy period of treatment. Dean Smith would tell Billy in the aforementioned interview that : “For me its a possible red card because he could easily have got out the way, He’s dipped his shoulder into Nico’s head.”

More importantly, confirming that Nico is ok. Although with a similar injury being suffered by Henrik Dalsgaard recently he also added somewhat tongue-in-cheek that : “I spoke to the players earlier. A few of them have got be able to take one on the chin and not go down.”

Yet it wouldn’t be a Billy Reeves interview without him asking what the fans wanted to hear. There’s no sycophancy when the BBC man has the mic in his hand. And its why we love him so much. Master of the gentle probe, he gets the answers to the questions we all want to know. And there’s only been one subject on everyone’s lips this week. “10 times better” Birmingham City. Not my words but those of Harlee Dean etc etc etc

Billy cut to the chase. As he does. “For the fans, and maybe yourself, Wednesday’s a grudge match, isn’t it?”

Deans’ answer was as expected. “No, It’s just another game” and was meet with an immediate retort. “No, it isn’t”, pushed back Billy . At the same time echoing exactly what every Brentford supporter is thinking at the moment.

The man is a national treasure. A cat playing with a mouse. And whilst Dean’s answer was ever professional, we all know full well what is at stake this Wednesday. Not just three points but consummate bragging rights. The chance to really try and prove something. Not just following that deadline day triple transfer swoop but, probably of greater ire to supporters, Harlee Dean’s nonsensical claim this week about the current Birmingham City squad compared to our own from 2014/15.

DO listen to Billy’s interview. Not just for the probing but for Dean’s responses. Our Head Coach really is in good form at present. Not surprising, given the results. And with games against Birmingham and then Leeds United to come, things could get even more exciting.

But so is Billy. We are undeniably fortunate to have a local journalist who is a true fan. Somebody who asks the same questions that suporters would if we were lucky enough to be in his position. There’s no clickbait grabbing gumph lifted from twitter and padded out into a ‘story’ . Just a steel fist wrapped up in the most delicate of sik gloves, using the microphone like some form of journalistic broadsword to cut straight to the heart of the matter.

Here’s to Wednesday night. Whilst the players will, no doubt, be as level headed as ever, expect our fans to have an extra level of bite to them. And, perhaps, more of Billy’s oh so gentle probing.

It’s going to be fun.

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Billy – the Bard of Brentford did his thing quite superbly. Again

Nick Bruzon