Tag Archives: Steve McClaren

Another defensive copy/paste but at least we’re getting good at kick-offs.

11 Nov

QPR 3. Brentford 2. What can you say? Not much. Try the BBC, Beesotted or ‘official’ for your match reports. Results saw The Bees end the day in 15th whilst our next opponents, Middlesbrough are up to second after their own win. Only Norwich City, our previous ‘away’ opposition, stand between them and the table top. Nobody said Championship life was easy, that’s for sure. But those goals against yesterday. Ewww. Not pretty. It felt like Preston all over again. If you want to see them once more then the defensive highlights are below.

Defensively challenged

It had all promised so much. The Bees back to winning ways and picking up the first points for Thomas Frank after steam-rollering Millwall last weekend. The team flying once more after being bundled (and rained) out of it at Norwich City. QPR with the somewhat dubious lure of having just seen Steve McClaren named as October’s ‘manager-of-the-month’. We all know what ‘should’ happen after that.  Everything was in place for another win. And then disaster struck as the defence went walk about for a ten-minute spell in the second half.

You were there. You don’t need me to repeat the obvious or dissect this further. It was something that Thomas had no choice but to acknowledge in his own post-match interview –  which you can see in full further below. That chat, one which looked like it was taking place in front of a room previously occupied by the Loftus Road firing squad.  

Yet more agonising was the fact that this was the second time in the last three away games that we’ve gone awol for a short period, during which time three goals have been conceded and the game effectively lost. Don’t forget there was also the trip to Preston last month where the score reached 3-0 to the home team before we’d even left the changing room.

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Thomas  updates us. (But has anyone seen Ian Holloway or Chris Ramsey, recently?)

That we almost turned that one around and gave ourselves hope yesterday when the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford made it 3-2 with 82 on the clock makes it all the more frustrating. All the more confusing. Similar happened at Deepdale. We can score goals. We play beautiful attacking football at times. Our young centre backs are quite magnificent whilst it’s wonderful having Moses Odubajo back aswell. We all know how strong Daniel Bentley has been for us. Just why do we have these blips?  

Well, as Thomas noted in that video, “The most important thing for me at the moment is the desire to get better”. Likewise, his comments on the BBC after both yesterday’s game and the one at Preston have a very similar feel.

Preston: Three goals away from home should be more than enough to win three points but we need to defend better in general. In this league you need to be on it.

QPR: In the second half we had a blackout more or less for 10 minutes, where we defended way too soft for all three goals. We need to do that better in general.

Doom and gloom from me? No. Frustration and confusion. That’s for sure. As much due to the injuries. Ollie Watkins, who had a blinder after he came on against Millwall, was missing due to what Thomas described as, “A toe issue where the joint in the toe is twisted“. So nothing to do with any rumoured transfer interest, which is good….

Yet it was those injuries that occurred once the game had started that caused as much concern. With Brentford heading towards half time one up c/o Neal Maupay (now up to 12 Championship goals already) things were looking good. Then, with the tea brewing, he collapsed to the floor unchallenged and ended up being stretched off. The concern was palpable and was later confirmed as the result of a concussion.

Sadly there was worse to come with Said Benrahma taking his place on the stretcher after rolling his ankle in the build-up to Henrik’s goal. Thomas would later confirm that the Algerian had rolled his ankle although, as yet, there’s no prognosis as to severity or recovery time. Here’s hoping it’s not as severe as first thought. The only saving grace here being that we’ve two weeks off thanks to International break for that recuperation process to begin in earnest. And to practice defending…..

From 1-0 up on fifty minutes, Brentford were then given three further attempts to perfect our kick off routine as the clock reached the hour mark. Whilst we’d lost Neal Maupay, that shouldn’t stop goals going in. Should it?  

Well, with no viable alternative then taking the option to push Sergi (or anyone) up top would only ever have an impact on the shape. But who else was there to fill that void? With absolute respect to Alan Judge, we’ve tried him there at Loftus Road and things didn’t exactly work out well for the team. The lack of alternate striking option has long been flagged on the terraces as a concern. Moreso, with Ollie also sitting this one out. In this instance, the percentages backfired.  

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Recent periods of the defence going awol have been a gift for our opponents

But I still maintain we have absolute quality in this squad. On its day, our first team is about as strong as we’ve seen. Talking to a fellow dad (and former Bee) at Harry’s football training in the morning, he was enthusing about the quality of football he’s having the pleasure of watching at present. On the way home from that, we happened to spot Neal Maupay whose enthusiastic hello to HB and chat about what was coming up that afternoon suggested everything was set for a fairytale ending.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. A frustrating finish to a day that had promised so much but, equally, one step missed in a longer journey being taken. The forthcoming Middlesbrough game is about as tough as they come. Moreso, given our own recent form against them. It would be great if for that one the defensive blips could be cured on the pitch rather than afterwards in the post-match analysis.

We’ve two weeks to really figure them out and get our players fit again. There’s been a hell of a lot of football played in the space of a few weeks. Perhaps all of us recharging would be for the best.

In the meantime, here’s that interview with Thomas…

Thomas talks

Nick Bruzon

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The many reasons we must win. The one reason we will.

10 Nov

Saturday morning and the 237 derby awaits. West London’s finest, and also QPR, prepare to do battle. With tier-gate resolved and the away-end sold out (barring a few £37 ‘restricted view’ seats), Brentford can prepare for the trip to Loftus Road in high spirits. Last weekend’s dominant performance saw The Bees back to winning ways and assuredly looking to pick up where we left off against Millwall. That one finished 2-0 and could easily have been double, but for the woodwork. Yet in a build-up that has been dominated by Friday’s news of Chief Executive Mark Devlin announcing his own departure from Griffin Park after 7 (seven) years, are we all missing out on the key factor that may decide this one?

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Off to Loftus Road again

First up, Mark Devlin. We’ve by now all heard the news of his own forthcoming departure which was shared yesterday morning. We’ve all read the praise being lavished upon Mark by everyone from Bees United to Matthew Benham and beyond. Understandably. The strides that Brentford have made in the last 7 (seven) years have been quite incredible. In no small part helped by his enthusiasm and dedication. His time taken to talk to anyone about everything – a spirit which continues to run through the club.

I’ve often maintained that if you want to know something at Brentford, just ask. Mark typifies this approach – where confidentiality allows, of course – whilst few could deny his openness with the fans at the forums, responding to email, on social media or in person. He’s a regular on the forecourt when there’s a game and will always stop for a chat. How many other clubs are fortunate enough to have this level of approachability from one of the men at the very top? There’s nobody doubting how much he’ll be missed whilst, personally, I’ll now need to find somebody else to harangue about the new kit. Good luck Mark. And thank you. Our loss is very much somebody else’s gain – even if it is Twitter spambots…

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Open comms. On any subject !!

Before he goes, Mark has one last QPR match to sit through. Which of his teams (wink emoji) will emerge with the points today? Brentford, obviously. Aside from our own strength and goal scoring potential, Nico Yennaris used his own appearance at the press conference to reveal how the team were fully aware of what this one means to the fans.

He explained how, “We know the importance of the game. Peter Gilham reiterates that every time we play QPR ; how important it is …the likes of myself, we’ve heard it enough from Pete but it’s the new guys coming in. The one’s that haven’t really been involved in a QPR – Brentford game. He lets them know aswell…”   

If anyone knows the history between the two clubs then it’s Peter. The story of the failed takeover can’t be told enough. It’s over fifty years on from that now yet still things remain fresh. In part helped by QPR’s own ‘accidental’ celebration of this event on their own programme cover last year. Something that their own head of media would subsequently explain, “Isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order”. This, before going on share how the dog had just eaten his homework and he’d left his P.E. kit on the bus. Probably.

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Old news on the programme cover. And the failed takeover

But then its all about the excuses with them. Who could forget the time they accidentally breached FFP rules after running up a deficit of £9.8 m aswell as owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders writing off a £60m loan? October 2017 saw the £58m fine deemed not disproportionate and upheld. This, despite Fernandes’ earlier assertion that “My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

 “If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.”

Ahhh. Poor QPR. If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em. In the end, the club and football league settled on a ‘mere’ £42m which included a £17m fine, amongst other measures. Perhaps a somewhat fortunate escape for a club who employed Harry Redknapp.

Whilst we all know this of course, there’s no harm reminding ourselves of the context. Moreso given our own efforts to comply with the financial regulations imposed on EFL clubs have often resulted in our own stars being sold to ensure compliance and fair play.

Recent form is very much with Brentford going in to today’s big game. Of the last 8 league and cup encounters, the record read W5 D2 L1 in favour of Brentford. The solitary blip in that run being Dean’s Smiths attempt to play Alan Judge as a false 9 in a 4-6-0 formation whilst the highlight being our April 2017 destruction of Rangers at Griffin Park. With Jota in inspired form that day, a 3-1 win was about as generous a scoreline to the visitors as they come.

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I wouldn’t disagree

I predict more of the same this afternoon. Forget form. Forget rivalry. Forget everything. There’s one fact more telling than any motivational speech Peter Gilham may give. More important than whether Thomas Frank starts with Yoann or Moses, Luke or Dan, Sergi or Said.

Put simply, Steve McClaren has just been named manager of the month for October.

What magnificent timing for yesterday’s announcement! Could it have been any better? We all know how this one works. Scoop the prize, fail to lose your next game. It’s a jjnx as long established as not shaving on a winning run, wearing the magic shirt, pulling on the lucky pants or whatever your own particular match day-ritual is. Yet none come bigger than having to make the awkward pose with the trophy, safe in the knowledge that the next points are sliding down the drain.

I’m pretty sure it’s a scientific fact. But don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on is that this will be another three points for Brentford. I don’t want to rain on Steve McClaren’s parade but back-to-back wins are heading our way. Roll on 3pm when it all starts again.

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Incredible but true. It really has happened

Nick Bruzon 

Bees march on after cracking game at Villa Park.

23 Aug

The morning after the night before. Brentford took a point from a 2-2 draw at Aston Villa that sees the Bees move up to fourth place in an evolving Championship table which is now almost half-way towards attaining ‘fully taken shape’ status. It was a point that we would all have taken before kick–off and yet, with Villa’s equaliser coming deep into the final minute of five added on by referee Jon Moss, still felt as though we’d had the win cruelly taken away from us. That the Bees had snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. A scenario, at least result wise, akin to QPR away last season.    

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The stats tell it all

Yet at the same time, the common consensus on social media was that it had been a quite wonderful advert for Championship football. That Brentford had put in their (relatively) weakest performance of the campaign to date and Aston Villa should perhaps be kicking themselves for not having wrapped it up early on themselves.

It was almost the opposite of the Stoke (away) game. Whereas as the Bees started that, like every other time the season, on the front foot, this time around the hosts didn’t allow us a chance to settle. Villa pressed and pressed whilst the Bees couldn’t get out of their own half. Chance followed chance and surely it as only a matter of time before the goal came. And on 23 minutes it did. But to Brentford. A quite delightful run and cross from Sergi was headed cleverly into space by Ollie Watkins to Neil Maupay. The Frenchman made no mistake as he buried it with a clean strike high into the back of the net.

Get in!! Our sofa erupted. Not literally. Although the pizza did fly and Mrs. Bruzon does now have a very awkward stain to get out of the upholstery. Glad that one wasn’t me. Yet the joy didn’t last long. With half time approaching Jonathan Kodjia levelled things up for Villa, evading Ezri to fire in hard past Daniel Bentley from close range. It was a goal that Villa’s pressure had suggested would come and so take nothing away from our hosts. It was pressure they continued into the second half as we struggled with our shape. The full backs both looked ragged whilst central midfield was given a much needed backbone with the additions of Kamo and Nico for Lewis and Captain for the night, Josh McEachran.

The two changes made all the difference and with the inevitable sub-by-numbers of Said Benrahma for Sergi Canos, the screw started to turn. Nico almost gave us the lead with one impressively hit shot from distance as the game turned into an end-to-end classic. Maupay then went one better with Ollie Watkins again turning provider. His shot was only parried down and Neal’s reactions were quick enough to again bury it first time. Whether he should have been on the pitch after a stamping incident in the first half was caught by the cameras, albeit missed by the ref, is another question. There will no doubt be a few squeaky bums at Griffin park today as we wait to see if that was deemed accidental or deliberate foul play.

It didn’t look pretty but I’m just the numpty on the terrace and that’s a question for Mr. Moss to consider. There’s nothing we can do and Dean Smith has already come out and said that should any charges be pressed, he’ll be doing similar. He used his post-match conference to tell the BBC that, “If you remember the incident, Mile Jedinak fell over, got up and then smashed Neal in the back of the head so, if they are looking at retrospective for Neal, then we’ll do so for Jedinak.

Let’s move on though. Back to the game. 2-1 up. Less than ten minutes to go yet still Brentford pressed. Said Benrahma had a glorious chance to extend the lead further. His close range head, flying like a tracer bullet to the goal was again only parried by Orjan Nyland in the Villa goal. It bounced on the line and seemed over, but television replays confirmed the ball hadn’t fully crossed.

I say ‘only’. Nyland had minimal time to react and credit to him for a cracking performance when it counted. Likewise Daniel Bentley who, one stutter aside early on, looked as commanding as ever. Sadly, he could do nothing about the late, late equaliser that had an almost inevitable feel to it the moment five additional minutes of time were indicated. It gave Villa the exact period for which they knew they could throw the kitchen sink at things and sure enough, with what must have been the final move of the game, that man Kodjia was on hand to break Brentford hearts.

I was gutted. I think we all were. But at the same time, some perspective. We are unbeaten. We are fourth. We haven’t lost to Aston Villa in five games at this level. That we are all disappointed about picking up an away point tells you all you know about how far this team have come. This isn’t fans being greedy. About having some sort of divine right to just turn up and win. This is about knowing how well we have played all campaign and so being genuinely hopeful of pushing on to take all three points once that second half fight-back had taken hold.

I’m also glad that with one, potentially two, new signings in the stands for the home team, we’ve got this one out of the way early. Like the Bees, Villa sit in the play-off zone on 8 points and I think they’ll only go on to get even stronger. The top two a genuine aspiration for the players. An expectation, perhaps, for the fans. Certainly on this showing.

It could have been more. Given the clock, it probably should have. But take nothing away from Villa in a game where I’d have taken a point up front. Having slept on it, the proverbial ‘fair result’.

With Dean Smith’s interview not appearing on Brentford ‘official’ as yet, I’ll be keen to hear his thoughts in full. Was it another game we ‘deserved’ to win or does he feel a draw was the just result? Funnily enough, we joked about his having a ‘deserved to win’ table on these pages after the Stoke game. Then sure enough, the Sky team would talk after the game about how the club “build an alternative table; the justice table”.

Hmm. I’m all for motivation and telling the players how good they are. Yet results don’t lie and the league table certainly doesn’t. If it works for the club whilst the Championship is still forming then fair enough.  Personally, I’m not a fan of the Justice league. If nothing else, Batman and Superman aren’t a patch on the Hulk and Thor….. 

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I’ll get my coat

Final observations about the game – the viewing experience via Sky Sports. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to travel for this one but there was a convenient alternative. TV.

Great coverage, in general, although even as the most ardent admirer of our quite stunning brown and orange kit, I don’t think I was alone in struggling to make out the respective teams. Perhaps it was easier at the ground, and certainly seeing it in the flesh at Stoke presented no issues.  Yet back home on TV, under floodlights, there did seem to be somewhat of a clash. Perhaps a case for orange shorts? Or a third shirt? There’d be no complaints from yours truly with either option.

As for Sky themselves, what is their obsession with our old badge? Still they get it wrong. Come on chaps, it’s not that hard. Surely? How can their graphics department be so out of touch? Let’s all move on from the clipart montage. If you have to get it wrong then at least give us a castle.

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Dear Sky. Please. Stop. Getting our badge. Wrong.

The only other point of note from the night was Reading who drew 2-2 with our next opponents, Blackburn Rovers. Whilst ordinarily as insignificant as result as they come, a point takes their total to 1. Meaning there is now only one team in the Championship who have P4 L4 Pts 0.  

And that, of course, is QPR. After suffering the indignity of a 7(seven) goal bracketing at the weekend, their own woeful form continued with a 3-0 home defeat to Bristol City on Tuesday. They’ve only scored twice all season and have GD of -11 already.

With Birmingham City also failing to win, again, anyone still feeling despondent about last night’s 95thminute (and surely there won’t be anyone now), just take a look at that table today. Top and bottom.

With Brentford not playing QPR until November, one can’t imagine Steve McClaren will still be in the hot seat by that juncture if they keep up this run of form.  Here’s hoping though.

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The fledgling table makes for great reading. At both ends

Nick Bruzon

3,999 down. 1 to go. Who would you start on Saturday?

19 Oct

Brentford bounced back from Saturday’s loss to Newcastle with what sounds like a hard fought 0-0 draw at Derby County. And that was just for the spectators.

Official would later describe it on Twitter as “A resolute defensive performance” ; Dean Smith told the BBC that,” I thought our performance was very good, very disciplined and the intensity of pressing in our half was very good”.

Three shots on target each tells its own story but all of this is no bad thing. Would you have taken a point prior to kickoff?

Absolutely I would have. If 0-0 was the price then fair enough. Football is as much about defending as it is attacking. Indeed, the Bees remain just outside the play-off zone going into our 4,000th league game on Saturday against Barnsley.

I wasn’t there for this one. I didn’t even have the luxury of Beesplayer or even Sky Sports news this time around.  So don’t expect any form of match report . As ever, Beesotted, the BBC or official are your places. The latter using their first paragraph (yes, we have them this season) to set the tone in describing the game as “a fine defensive display”.

I’m not complaining. Newly revitalised Derby was always going to be a tough place to visit. Moreso, coming off the back of the weekend’s exertions. And it was nice to see things mixed up in midfield – Sam Saunders and Sullay Kaikai both starting this one in an attempt to break down an opposition defence that had only conceded once in the previous three games. Make that four now.

Yet the same goes for us despite enforced changes. With skipper Harlee Dean suspended, the combination of left back Yoann Barbet, John Egan, Andreas Bjelland and Maxime Colin shut out the Rams. Daniel Bentley reads as though he was up to his usual high standards as Brentford made it a second clean sheet (and 0-0) in three games

All of which presents Dean with a selection poser going in to the Derby game. Does Harlee walk straight back into the side? Does he give the pairing of Bjelland and Egan another run out together? Personally, I’m all for rewarding form and if the new partnership coped as well as we are reading, then why not give it another go?

Certainly that was the attitude Dean showed after the 4-1 tonking of Reading. Ryan Woods missed that one following his yellow card at Aston Villa yet so well did the team play despite his absence that the Ginger Pirlo then had to sit out his next available game, Wigan, on the bench.

Then again I’m not the manager, head coach, whatever. I’m just the numpty on the terrace. What goes in midfield may not translate to the defence. Could we deny the skipper the opportunity to start on such an auspicious occasion? Indeed, should we given the performance against Derby?

What would you do?

HB Harlee and Dan

Will Harlee be leading the team out on Saturday?

Nick Bruzon

As suspension bites, who plays in defence for Derby? Can Bees ‘go again’?

18 Oct

It only seems like five minutes ago we were making that huge trek up to Newcastle United (and that was just the staircase in the away stand). Now Brentford find themselves on the road once again – this time Derby County is the destination. An immediate chance to bounce back or too much, too soon? Either way, such are the rigours of this double header that Dean Smith has elected to keep his team on their travels rather than returning to Griffin Park between games.

Newcastle was always going to be tough but they were half way down the track with the Bees still crouched in the blocks, the sound of the starting gun still ringing in our ears. It was 2-0 to the home side within what felt like ten seconds and Dean has publicly acknowledged our own defensive failings in that one. For the record, something most uncharacteristic this season. Changes are coming for the Derby game, although enforced.

Harlee Dean is suspended whilst Andreas Bjelland, covering at left back, “Has been nursing an ankle for two weeks”.That was the update fro Dean Smith on ‘official’ yesterday.  Will he be fit enough for tonight? Will Yoann start? At left back or centre back? Could Tom Field appear once more? Do we need to defrost Kevin O’Connor?

Only Dean knows for sure but his selection will be carefully scrutinised when it is announced at 7pm. Likewise in midfield where, if we’re being honest, the team were stretched and a few of the players were definitely second best.

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Newcastle United – did the experience get to us?

There are plenty of positives. We’ve got to where we are on merit and there won’t be any tougher trip this season than that to Newcastle. Both in terms of atmosphere and opposition. Jon Shelvey and Dwight Gayle were amongst those showing their Premier League class. Let’s not pretend that they are anything but top flight players.

Scott Hogan scored, again, whilst the Brentford fans kept going until the end. Much closer to the pitch at Derby than at the weekend, we’re sure to make our voices heard.

As for the Rams, they have their own injury worries. Likewise the weight of expectation can only, one hopes, be growing following Steve McClaren’s winning start. Is this the second coming of the Messiah or will he choke it tonight? Here’s hoping for the latter.

One thing I can say for sure is that Saturday has left me wanting so much more. Despite the years kicking around the lower divisions, I’m now getting used to the Championship. Visiting new grounds, playing new teams and testing ourselves at a much higher level. Newcastle was a step up from even that, as was Aston Villa (at least, in terms of stadium).

Call me greedy. Call me unrealistic. Bournemouth did it (although at what price). Could Brentford also achieve an unlikely promotion to the Premier League? A win tonight would plunge us into the heart of the play-off zone , subject to other results. Just how much do the players want it ?

At 7.45pm, we find out.

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Villa Park – another ground I want more of

Nick Bruzon

The good, the bad and the ugly. Bees reach new heights at Newcastle, Villa do their thing whilst pigs can fly. A week in football.

17 Oct

Brentford went down 3-1 at Newcastle United, who were overtaken in the race to the top of the table by Norwich City. Tuesday night’s opponents Derby County got off to a winning start under new manager Steve McClaren whilst the other team to replace their boss, Aston Villa, churned out yet another draw. That’s 8 out of 12 now for the Villains who sit just one point above the relegation zone. Making up the bottom three are Wigan, Blackburn and Rotherham

That’s the latest Championship action in nutshell. Yet there has been so much more going on in the division and beyond. In the latest of our regular, weekly feature we look back at those things you might have missed from the world of social media.

Whilst it was a week which began with the next round of World Cup qualifiers we’ll start, as ever, with Brentford. Our trip to Newcastle was one which ended in disappointment. Fan opinion seemed to be largely that the moment got the better of us.

But whatever happened on the pitch, nobody could doubt the fans had fun. And what a sight.

Looking down on the action at Newcastle was a unique experience. A wonderful opportunity to watch play unfold or the last of us just making it down from the 14 flights of stairs now?

Brentford aren’t  the only ones travelling well. For all that nobody is sniggering at the plight Aston Villa find themselves in , you can’t deny their fans are fiercely loyal.

That’s great work. Seriously. Getting home from that one isn’t going to be fun. At least Villa will have a point to celebrate with (the draw currently at a very generous 23/10).

Aston Villa weren’t the only ones to pick up a point. As Norwich City went top, Ipswich Town laboured to a 0-0 with Blackburn. Bad enough, without your neighbours then putting the boot in .

Charlton Athletic also had trouble on the pitch before eventually putting Coventry City to the sword. Given their high profile relations (or lack of) with their supporters it was nice to see them doing all possible to maintain a sense of perspective.

It wasn’t just pigs invading football pitches at the weekend. There were dogs joining in the action, too

Next up, kit news. And there’s lots of it. With Brentford celebrating their 4,000th league game on Saturday there had been a hope we might have worn some form of celebratory shirt. Whilst this doesn’t seem to be the case (as it stands), over in the Netherlands Sparta have taken that idea forward.

What a beauty. That said, whilst I’m all for a retro style shirt, let’s hope Derby County don’t go down that route on Tuesday night . This one flashed across my timeline on Friday.

Bolton Wanderers are also making the headlines. Their kitman not a patch on our own Bob Oteng. Certainly, if this is the best he can come up with.

Whilst the club may not be giving us a special kit for Saturday, let’s hope the marketing team aren’t casting their eyes towards Portugal. Just when you thought there was nothing left for a club to stick their name on, think again.

There were international games at the start of the week, too. Nobody needs any reminder of that so we’ll keep it to two that seem to sum things up nicely.

But we’ll finish with clowns. Not the crazy killer variety but over at Loftus Road where, it seems, they are struggling with the atmosphere.

Oh dear.

Nick Bruzon 

With Derby next up, what can we learn from the Newcastle juggernaut?

16 Oct

Brentford travelled en-masse to Newcastle United full of expectation. We left on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat. It is a  scoreline that doesn’t even come close to showing the gap between our two sides. I’ve no problem with being well beaten but let’s not pretend that, on this occasion, we weren’t anything but second best to deserved winners. Dean Smith’s post match assertion that “We competed well enough”  something which, I’m sorry to say, I disagree with. With the next game, at Derby County, only on Tuesday let’s hope he reviews this one carefully.

Hey, I love our Bees. I love going away and this was a corker of a trip.  Close to 3,000 visiting fans helping to make it the biggest crowd we’ve played in front of since 1946. And there, perhaps, was part of the issue. Whilst Newcastle are used to this on a weekly basis, we aren’t.

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A huge crowd to watch the Bees and Magpies

I’ll big us up when we do well or ‘fess up when we get away with proverbial murder, but I won’t stick my head in the sand. It was like watching 11 rabbits caught in the headlights of on onrushing Geordie juggernaut for the first twenty minutes . And it rolled straight over us.

How much room for the first goal as Jonjo Shelvey directed it on to the head of an unpressured Ciaran Clarke just 11 minutes in ? Dwight Gayle was given all the space he needed for the second (16) as Shelvey’s long ball over top set up the striker for the first of his pair.

Two down and rocking on the backfoot,  Newcastle really should have administered a knockout blow on 20 minutes. Had Ayoze Perez opted for head rather than hand his goal would have stood and, surely, opened the floodgates for a potential 7(seven) goal bracketing.

Instead, despite Brentford having been carved open time and again like a prize turkey with little resistance offered in return, the Bees hung on to a 2-0 half time deficit. Yet with the gap manageable and the potential there to, erm, go again in the second period we crumbled just four minutes into the half. Gayle grabbing his second of the afternoon as Shelvey turned provider once more.

To their credit, Brentford weren’t overwhelmed and even had the last word….“. Those aren’t my words but those of Channel 5 commentator Nick Halling to describe the moment Scott Hogan swopped in to give us hope. The already vocal Bees erupted further; passion flared in the stands. With most of us cheering on our our boys (although a few choosing a somewhat insalubrious selection of exhortations and admonishments) a brief period of hope turned to a case of ‘if only’.

Had we got that goal at 2 down rather than just a few moments after falling 3 behind then things might have been different. 2-1 and 40 minutes to play make it anybody’s game. But, instead, it proved to be little more than consolation.

Mark Burridge talks through the action, as ever, c/o Brentford official

Newcastle United were worthy winners. Absolutely. You can only beat who you are up against and they did that. Yet, being equally honest, were they that good? At least, yesterday.

I’d agree with Dean that we gave them a helping hand and that defensively we’re normally very good. Equally though, we offered little and had we challenged more then who knows what we’d have got out of this one?

Instead our selected team were stretched in midfield and couldn’t get the ball forward. Substitutions, made once we were 3-1 down, seemed more around containing the damage than offering any hope of pulling something unlikely out of the bag. Surely that should have been more the team he started with than reverted to?

Newcastle United played us. We played them, the history, the reputation, the atmosphere, the stadium, the occasion and ourselves.

Genuinely, I think things would have been a lot closer had the game been at Griffin Park. But then that’s home advantage and boy did they make it count. Let’s not take anything away from Newcastle after a game they could have won by more.

Look. This shouldn’t be taken as doom and gloom. Let’s not forget we were up against a team who had recently won 6-0 at  QPR and put 4 past current leaders Norwich City.

This is all part of a learning experience for a team that is still developing. It’s just, perhaps, disappointing given how competitive we can be at times and how far we have already come. The more we play in venues such as this the more we’ll learn how to handle the pressure. The more we’ll learn to take the game to our opponents or, at the least, shut them down.

And if nothing else, we can leave with our heads held high. Given our own history with sh*t hashtags, (see, amongst others: #trophyfriends, #bignewambitions, #novemberkings ) it was nice to see one that was possibly even worse than all of these put together.

Newcastle United inviting their fans  to #JoinTheRafalution.

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Brentford have a chance to get straight back into action on Tuesday night at Derby County. Interestingly, Steve McClaren got off to a strong start as his Rams beat Leeds United 1-0. With his team climbing to within five points of our own 8th placed Bees, don’t expect this one to be any easier.

For either side.

Nick Bruzon

A tale of two Steves as Dean stays in charge where it counts

13 Oct

With Brentford making final preparations for Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United, we can at least be safe in the knowledge that any chance of Dean Smith going to Aston Villa has now officially been snuffed out. On a day of managerial change, not only was Steve Bruce named in charge at Villa Park but Steve McClaren has, seemingly out of nowhere, been reinstalled at Derby County. The same Derby County team that we visit on Tuesday evening.

First up, Aston Villa. Despite the early talk about our own Dean Smith being linked with that one it was never anything more than a story. At least, based on outward appearances. Personally, and I said at the time, there didn’t seem any chance of this happening for multiple reasons and this has now proven to be the case.

It’s great news for Brentford and, one would hope, for Aston Villa. Some fans will be relieved they haven’t inherited the manager of a ‘pub side’. Others might have some concern about a man who was in charge of local rivals Birmingham City from 2001-07.

That latter point, aside from getting stick from the opposition fans when the two sides meet, would seem to be largely irrelevant though. As long as a team is doing well then it is an awful lot easier to look at the past through rose tinted glasses.

Then again, he walks into a hotbed of expectation.

Tim Sherwood was in charge of Aston Villa back in October 2015 (hmm, that went well). A year later they’ve been through Sherwood, Kevin MacDonald, Remi Garde, Eric Black and of course Roberto di Matteo. Twelve months on and Bruce now has what was previously described as less a hot seat and more an electric chair.

And, of course, there is the additional pressure of a hashtag. The club announced his arrival with use of this cringeworthy social media device (see also: #Jakejoins). At this rate, surely we’re only a short step away from a meme to announce a new signing?

Nobody knows how this will turn out. It’ll be fun finding out though.

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Steve joins at Villa; Dean stays with his pub side

But the really interesting news yesterday surrounded Derby County and Steve McClaren. Of course,  the one time umbrella wielding manager has been there before. He and Derby parted company in 2015 amidst much interest from a Newcastle United side he would eventually join (hmm, that went well) and hot off the back of that self-destruct as they threw away an almost nailed on place in the play-offs.

Brentford were just one of the beneficiaries as the Rams somehow lost 3-0, at home, to a very average Reading side who had literally nothing to play for. Indeed, our 2-0 win over them the weekend before had further knocked the stuffing out of the Royals in their final home game of that campaign. The Bees’ reward for that capitulation,  a two legged semi with Middlesbrough. Move along, nothing to see here.

But will it work again? McClaren’s time at Newcastle was an unmitigated disaster, I’m sorry to say. He has that emotional pressure of the way his England career panned out – a disaster on the pitch and widely ridiculed off it –  whilst he is as known for his infamous Dutch accent as his two stints in charge of Eredivise side Twente. That, a role he would also be obliged to resign from.

Frankly, he seems to have more lives than a cat yet still boards come back to him. I’m not sure what just what it is that he posesses but it’s going to be interesting finding out.

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Can Steve the cat stay out of the rain this time?

Both Bruce and McClaren will have expectation from their own fans aswell as heckling from the visiting supporters to deal with. In the case of Aston Villa, one can only assume this will be limited to a few games here and there – the Birmingham s and Wolves of this world. But for McClaren, with terrace wags knowing just how many roles (and play offs) his teams have eventually choked, he could be in for a rough ride should things not get off to anything but a flier.

Forget the weight of expectation, that umbrella is the real baggage he carries around with him. Here’s hoping it is still weighing him down when Brentford visit on Tuesday.

Before that, though, is the small matter of our visit to Newcastle on Saturday. The Bees will be there in huge numbers, with chief executive Mark Devlin giving local journalists a free story with his latest ’tweet’ on ticket sales. For a club our size, the travelling fans have always gone in impressive numbers and this is no different.Close to 3,000 for the long trek up to the North-East isn’t to be sniffed at.

Great work, one and all. Let’s hope the team, and Dean Smith – our head coach – do them justice on the pitch.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

The three favourites for Aston Villa – agree? Will Dean run away and join the circus?

4 Oct

They’ve only gone and done it. After just 123 days in charge at Aston Villa, Roberto di Matteo has been shown the door. With Brentford boss Dean Smith one of those at the top of supporters’ and bookmakers’ lists as a favourite for the role, could he have taken charge at Griffin Park for the last time? Or is somebody else destined for what is less a hot seat and more an electric chair?

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The current runners and riders

To even be discussing this now smacks of madness anyway. Nobody can deny that Aston Villa were one of the teams at the start of the 80s. Thirty-five years ago. But that was then and this is now. To put it into context, Roberto di Matteo was just starting primary school when they lifted the European cup.

Yet despite his pedigree of having already taken West Brom up from the Championship aswell as the not inconsiderable tasks of bringing the FA Cup and European cup to the Chelsea trophy cabinet, this wasn’t deemed good enough for the long term. Doctor Tony Xia, who always puts me in mind of a low budget Bond villain, has eliminated his manager and now starts the hunt for a new one. But who?

Steve Bruce is the bookies favourite. Currently without a club having taken Hull City back into the Premier League, he is both available and has form at this level. But could the Birmingham City factor play a part here. Especially if things don’t go so well?

The football on offer over the last 15 months hasn’t been great and so he’d face a huge challenge in having to make an immediate impact.

Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner is the current darling of the Championship. There is no baggage with him and nothing but positivity as The Terriers have defied the pundits to storm it to the top of the table. If there is anything negative to be said it is that the headlines about Wagner always make me think of the one decent act ever to emerge from TV’s X-Factor.

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Wagner – not to be confused with…

Yet why would Wagner leave? Unless, of course, he was voted out. Here is a chance to achieve something special with Huddersfield Town. A well settled team, playing strong football, are already knocking on the door of the top flight. They have loyal support and a great stadium. It would be a huge risk for him to jump ship so soon. One there is currently no need to take.

And so it comes back to Brentford and Dean Smith. A man whose family are Villa fans and who has seen the Bees get off to their best start since our return to the Championship. A man whose run at the end of last season saw us fall just short of the play-off zone.

Yet like Wagner, why would he want to leave a team on the up and so soon into his Griffin Park career? Dean has been here less than a year whilst also endured his own mini crisis at the start of 2016. A woeful run saw us, by his own admission, in a relegation battle. Matthew Benham kept very public faith in his man and it has been well rewarded. Would Dr. Xia have done the same?

For all the jibes that Brentford have endured on social media, our man is going nowhere. And you can quote me on that.

Instead, you have to look further down the list to the likes of Steve Clarke or even Sam Allardyce for the likely candidates. Yet the media circus that Sam would bring has surely ruled him out of any job (this month)? At a time when the club needs some stability he’s the last man to approach.

The trouble would seem to be expectation levels. With Brentford being, undeniably, a small club – albeit one on the up – we’ve seen this all before. Leeds United have been huge on the tinpot cracks since our paths have crossed whilst Wolves were hurling the abuse about their status relative to ours when that fixture returned to the calendar back in League One days. Now you can add Villa to the list.

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Yesterday’s pick of the tweets

But just as balls in the back of the net are the only stat that counts, having once lifted a cup or two in the last century doesn’t give you a divine right to ‘be any good’ now. Frankly, Dean Smith has no need to run away and join the circus. Even if he is asked.

Aston Villa have, without doubt, a wonderful heritage and a magnificent stadium. Yet with patience a commodity in short supply at Villa Park, and the twiterrati having ideas well above their recent form, good luck to whomever gets the role.

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Villa Park – A stadium we can only aspire to

Nick Bruzon

After Sunday roast, time for kebabs. Just no umbrellas

4 Sep

The middle Sunday of international weekend. There’s no Brentford result to digest (it’s another 6 days until the trip to Brighton and a week since Sheffield Wednesday salvaged an injury time draw in a game they could have actually won much earlier) whilst the national team are yet to kick things off in anger. Yes, ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce begins his tenure as England manger tonight with the trip to Slovakia after leaving Sunderland in the summer to replace Roy Hodgson.

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Can Sam bring a smile to England supporters?

Cue hand wringing about EURO 2016. Talk of a new era. Questions over Joe Hart or the selection of Wayne Rooney as captain. Sly digs about this ’rough diamond’ being a different choice to the normal selections from those suits at FA HQ. And, of course, being forced to listen to ‘that band’.

There’s bound to be mention of Sam’s win ratio at supposedly less illustrious teams  (37.57% West Ham and 29.03 at Sunderland). Although what that proves, I have no idea. Even Roy Hodgson managed 41.94% at Liverpool, for what its worth. And, of course, with that West Ham link there’s bound to be some crowbarred reference to some sort of new stadium. It wouldn’t be a televised football game in 2016/17 without one.

Yes, my ITV cliche bingo card is fully charged and ready to begin crossing off those squares although, being honest, I’m not fully engaged at the moment. The Euros were painful. Dreadfully so. It is still far too recent a bad memory.

To see England earnestly attempt to go again feels like being faced with a groaning table of all-you-can-eat kebabs having just consumed an oversized Sunday Roast. Whilst normally this would be a delicious prospect, given what came before I’m not going to enjoy it. That said, what harm would it do to take a tentative nibble and see what develops from there?

Besides, regardless of who is at the helm, a 6 team qualifying group containing the likes of Lithuania , Scotland and Malta should be about as tough a nut to crack as using a sledgehammer on some stale dry roasted. Forget Big Sam. Big Ron from Eastenders or Big Daddy could get them through the group. And they are both sadly departed.

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Even Big Daddy could get England through this group

For me, the genuine excitement is over in Group H where Gibraltar have Cyprus and Estonia amongst their opponents. Whilst, of course, you’d expect Belgium to run away with that one, could the boys from the Rock make a few waves? As ever, the bookmakers don’t think so and have them at anything from 2,000-1 to 5,000-1 to win the group.

But, whatever happens, surely this is still a more rewarding prospect than watching England cruise through the qualifiers to an inevitable first place. Just remember though, 10 wins out of 10 en-route to Euro 2016 didn’t prove a particularly auspicious omen as to long term tournament success.

I hope England do well. I hope Gibraltar can upset Greece on Tuesday night.I hope we don’t get overly carried away, however the qualifying groups turn out. As has been proven again, success at a tournament proving somewhat more difficult a prospect than getting there.

Indeed, aside from Euro 96 or West Ham’s triumph in the the 1966 World Up (both home tournaments) it is only really the wonderful efforts of Bobby Robson’s team back in 1990 where England have come even vaguely close to getting their hands on foreign soil. The Premier league may be ‘the best league in world football’ (is that line still being trotted out?) and have the most over inflated transfer market, but when it comes to keeping pace with International rivals then there is still a huge gap.

All the money and all the expectation in the world are no substitute for simply being ‘any good’ or knowing how to play as a team. Just look at what Wales achieved over the summer.

After the summer, the thought of winning a World Cup feels a million miles away. The prospect of investing the emotions in a qualifying campaign that has stopped the fledgling Championship season dead in its tracks so soon and so awkwardly is a tough one. And, being blunt, a frustrating one. Just as Brentford have got going and assembled our post-transfer window squad, the shutters have come down.

Yet come 5pm I have no doubt whatsoever the TV will be tuned to ITV to see just what life under Big Sam will look like. Say what you want about him, and many have, but I can guarantee you that if it’s raining there’ll be no umbrellas in sight.

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Whatever happens, it can’t get this bad

Nick Bruzon