Tag Archives: Stoke City

A picture that’s unappealing yet packed with morbid curiosity.

23 Sep

Stoke City v Brentford. Thus came our fourth round fate following last night’s League Cup draw – (c) Middlesex Chronicle Big Book of 80’s alliteration. Hopefully Thomas Frank won’t be left feeling a Beleagured Bees Boss after that one. Blinkin’ Stoke City. No offence but the last draw anybody would have wanted. Including them. For Brentford, a lot of bad history and a Wednesday evening half-term shlep to the Potteries. For Stoke, still a glamour tie against Premier League opposition but opponents they have played, a lot, since dropping back to the Championship in 2018. I’m sure they would have relished a visit from a Liverpool or Manchester City although at least swerved Mark Warburton and his Loftus Road outfit after they beat Everton (more to follow on The Toffees).

The draw in full

Positives. We’re in the last 16. We’re yet to face a top flight rival. The game comes between a visit from Leicester City and a trip to Burnley but, otherwise, we’ve nothing midweek on either side. Cripes, the Tuesday/Saturday back to back fixtures destroyed so many Championship clubs last season. Absolutely knackering, It’s a run that shows no sign of abating this time around and with Stoke still on that sort of relentless fixture overload, might they use this one as a tactical hit to rest tired limbs? Test the squad to its full extent? Who knows? Whomever the respective managers pick, this one is going to be as tough and gruelling as it comes. A tie with all the allure of Mrs Browns Boys squaring up to The England Supporter’s Band in a pub car park. Nobody wants to watch it yet we’ll still take a look. Just in case.

Unappealing yet packed with morbid curiosity

Until then, there’s only one word on everyone’s lips: The Liverpool game. Ok, that’s three but you get the drift. We’ve already talked about this a fair bit on these pages and no doubt will do a bit more come Friday / Saturday. There’s only so much clickbait one can follow on other sites and so many times we can regurgitate Tony Gubba’s immortal line or one of the few photos in the personal collection from the last time our paths crossed. It’ll be huge. For them.

For us, one more game and that’s the only way to treat it. Play the team in front of us rather than the history. It worked for Arsenal (albeit they were inept) and it may work again. Who knows ?

One more time…The Bees haven’t played Livepool since the FA Cup in 1989

Elsewhere, the home game with Everton has been pushed back a day for TV coverage. That’ll now take place at 2pm on Sunday 28th November. The price of playing at a higher level. On the plus side, it means the trips to Burnely and Newcastle United remain unscathed – not surprisingly – so at least train tickets can be booked with relative impunity.

All that’s to come though. For now, with too much time wasted trying to get Mrs. Brown to hold a broken bottle, better wrap things up and start the school run. Perhaps the prospect of Saturday’s visit from Liverpool might get H moving.

He’s all good when Buzz is around but try getting an 8 year old ready for school on a Thursday

Nick Bruzon 

Time to make some history.

15 May

Welcome back / Crud, him again. Delete as applicable. We’ve needed a few weeks of ‘downtime’ on these pages for a multitude of reasons but that’s all finished. Been there, done it, bought the t-shirt. There’s been no room to talk about Brentford making a winning run to the end of the season. On Ivan Toney scooping the golden boot and breaking Glenn Murray’s Championship record with his 31st of the season at Ashton Gate. Indeed, no room to talk about the near coronary induced by the decision to keep him on the pitch when he picked up the yellow card in that final ‘regular’ game of the campaign prior to scoring. No place to talk about how the final four have played out for the play-offs. As we all know, Monday evening sees Bournemouth host Brentford followed by Swansea City visiting Barnsley. Perhaps most importantly, no real time to talk about the buzz of being allowed back into games from next week. The lucky supporters over the 3000 TAP point limit know they will be at Lionel Road next Saturday. Those entered into the ballot no doubt sweating on the results of that as much as the first leg.

Yet for everything that has gone on, the only real subject on anybody’s lips has to be the play-offs.  Positive though I have been about our promotion chances this season (spoiler alert: it’ll continue), there was perhaps a resigned inevitability about our chances of reeling in a Watford team recording win after win after win in the final few furlongs. Their own victory at Norwich City the point where deep down even the maths was too outlandish a leap of faith to make. Their 1-0 defeat of Millwall confirming a return to the Premier league. Now, Brentford are looking to join them with a tenth bite at the play-off cherry. A monkey on the back the size of King Kong. We all know the stats. We all know our record. Nine attempts. Four finals. Nine defeats. The whole process starting with Tranmere Rovers back in the early 90s and coming all the way up to Fulham last time out. An extra time defeat as much a triumph for brutality as it was football. In between we’ve had Huddersfield Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Swansea City and Middlesbrough in the semis along with final game slip ups against Crewe, Yeovil Town and Stoke City in Cardiff. That one followed up by the worst train journey ever. Apologies again to all impacted. Only Preston North End had experienced more attempts than us without success, albeit even they have finally done it. Ten play-offs ; one win. Can we do the same?

The play-offs. We all know what happened the previous nine times…..

The short answers is a categoric YES. For me, Clive, I’m convinced this is finally our turn. Dark horse for second place in ‘player of the season’ Sergi Canos popping up to get the winner at Wembley. Hey, one can dream. The simple fact of the matter is that despite the plethora of injuries we’ve readjusted our formation and hit our groove once more. Brentford are keeping clean sheets at one end and scoring goals at the other. Of course, we’d love Rico, Josh and Henrik back (and who knows what unlikely cameos may be made at some point? ) but the team have rediscovered themselves. Sergi at wing back, Tariqe in flames and Christian Norgaard alongside the centre backs a formation rejig that has seen the Bees back to winning ways. The other three teams doing their level best to trip over themselves in a bid to discover the most anti-form in the final lengths. 

Of course, football isn’t that simple. No matter how well one team is playing versus the other three, everyone has had a chance to reset and pick themselves up once more. All four teams go into this fresh and it comes down to one thing only – who holds their nerve? Swansea, Barnsley , Bournemouth or Brentford? Obviously we’re going to talk up the Bees where, perhaps, we can draw some historical parallels. Blow the dust off the previous column (during the war, Grandad) and it spoke about how we fell into the play-offs after being presented with a golden chance after Huddersfield beat West Brom in game 45. Oh, the pain of tripping up against Stoke and then home to Barnsley was indescribable. Of watching our ‘automatic’ chances slide away. An inexorable torture session viewed from behind the sofa with fingers over eyes. Played out in empty stadia as our hopes of hitting the Premier League were replaced with a ninth attempt at the play-offs. We all know what happened.

Yet, longer term, might this have done us a favour? Perhaps. Like ‘that penalty’ against Doncaster  (a pain only matched by the play-off penalty defeat to Huddersfield the season we came second when there was only one automatic slot), we bounced back in a style that had to be seen to be believed. Marcello Trotta and the team taking that pain, scrunching it up into a little ball and booting it into the net. The victory at Leyton Orient perhaps the most ballsy thing I have witnessed a football team ever do. Too right we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. Partridgesque levels of bouncing back following the most indescribable anguish.

This time around, rather than watching our team play in the Premier league with out us present, we’ve had to hit pause. We’ve reached the semi-finals of the League Cup. We’ve had that huge unbeaten run mid-season. We’ve discovered the most coveted goal-scorer in English football in Ivan Toney. If ever there was a shoe in for ‘player of the season’ it is him. The only real battle there as to who comes second? The fairytale ending is all lined up. A first season in the Premier League, to be played out in front of supporters, the prize at stake. Not to mention a few quid. If nothing else, a chance to avoid the most undesirable play-off record.

Who do you want in the play-offs?”. That, the most common question that has come in this direction in recent weeks. Honesty, I don’t care. Four tough teams. Four teams after the same thing. Only one can make it through. This comes down to nothing more than bottle. The fans will, of course, bring an additional aspect that wasn’t there last time out. And a good thing too. We all know how awful football in empty stadia has been. The echoy thud of the ball and the shouts from the touchline the only sounds to punctuate the players calling out to each other. Urghh, it has been grim. All being well, it is now over. Being part of the crowd against Blackburn  earlier in the season, the clamour of 2,000 fans was the most incredible noise. The sweetest of sounds. We’ll have double the amount in this time around. All four stands populated. If not heaving, certainly more present to lift the players further. Peter Gilham finally having a crowd to play up to. The players being roared on. 

Oh, I can’t wait for the play-offs. Not a typo. As much as anything else the chance to see a game of football. To enter this game of Russian roulette feeling positive is the most alien of feelings. Yet, perhaps, the depressing familiarity of what we do at this stage will finally work in our favour. There is no pressure. At least, not in our house. I’ve had the somewhat dubious pleasure of experiencing all nine of our previous attempts and have been finally numbed against the feeling of what comes next. We’ve nothing to lose because we only lose. The team can play with freedom. Without the albatross around the neck. The script is written. All we need to do is turn up and deliver.

All we need to do…… If only football were that simple.

Bring it on. Seen you next Saturday. In person.

Nick Bruzon   

Points are closing in.

28 Feb

I woke up this morning to H bouncing all over the house. Ecstatic about the Brentford result against Stoke City but, as much, events at Bournemouth and Swansea. That’ll be what watching the highlights on Quest does to a a 7(seven) year old – and dad, to be fair. So as much in an attempt to continue my own shoddy home schooling as in his own desire to get involved, he’s shared a few more thoughts. Here’s Harry’s take on events at Lionel Road yesterday….

POINTS ARE CLOSING IN

It was great afternoon for Brentford because I always have a bad feeling about Stoke. 

It was lucky that my lucky shirt was soaking wet from the washing machine because Stoke were wearing the same colours of black and yellow. My dad was still wearing the same lucky shirt though but we told him to take it off after Stoke scored.  It was quite soft after Raya kicked it out towards them rather than Sorensen. Where’s the Raya of the fuzzy hair and the great saves? I want him. Not the Raya of the short hair and the slippery boots.

The first half was quite stressful because it looked like we were never going to get a goal. Mostly because we trying to play a killer ball down the core instead of going to the wide areas and stretching out the defence. Stoke played well.

In the second half Stoke had pressed so hard earlier they couldn’t keep up with Brentford. Vitaly Janelt stood round the edge of the penalty box saying “Give it to me. Give it to me.”

So Fosu was like, “Here you are. Here it is. What are you going to do with it?

Well I’ll show you what I’m going to do” and then he boots it into the top corner.

Then the goalkeeper say, “Where’s the ball gone? I thought it was at Vitaly’s feet a second ago…… Oh, its in the back of the net.” 

I’ve only seen a better goal when Sergi booted it over the head of Smithies against Cardiff. It was one of those goals where I always try in FIFA but never get it right. Apart from that Vitaly gets it right.Vitaly’s goal was as funny as Bristol City’s last goal against Swansea. One on one, who wins? The striker does !

Later in the game Ivan Toney scored his goal. He put it in like the keeper was sitting down on the pitch. Toney had two options. He could go for placement or power. Well, he’s a striker and he’s that close. Me, myself, would have gone for power anyway. Just in case but Ivan just goes for placement. It was a crucial goal for Brentford. The goal also lucked out on us big time because Watford and Bournemouth both got red cards but also Watford lost and it was only one goal for Bournemouth. 

Harry Bruzon

What a difference 7(seven) days can make. Was this goal of the season?

28 Feb

Well, well, well. Wasn’t that the day? Brentford pulled the quintessential game of two halves out the bag to further tighten the screw on second place after a 2-1 win at home to Stoke City. It was a game with numerous highlights, and a few lowlights, but the standout moment being an absolute blockbuster of a goal from Vitaly Janelt. The midfielder leathering it from 25 yards out on the diagonal, hard and high into the top corner. It was a strike which reignited our fire in a game containing so many elements of classic 2020/21 Brentford. Yet with every other result going our way, it really was a quite wonderful Saturday. Watford losing to Bournemouth in a fixture which ended with more handbags than Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe was followed by Swansea City getting tonked at home by Bristol City, leaving the Bees three and four points clear of the Hornets and the Swans respectively. Plus, of course, infinitely superior goal difference. Granted the Welsh outfit still have two games in hand but compared to full time at St.Andrew, when they were one point behind with three games over us, things feel a touch less angsty.What a difference 7(seven) days can make! With Norwich City travelling to Wycombe Wanderers this lunchtime before hosting us midweek, the battle at the top of the Championship table is more alive than ever.

We can only start with Brentford, though. My word, even by our standards it was a horror show of a start. There was the classic ‘early goal’ conceded after an attempted pass out by David Raya went the same was as it did to gift Coventry their second goal last weekend. With less than thirty seconds on the clock and seemingly under no pressure, he rolled a clearance straight to Stoke City player  Tommy Smith who took the unselfish option and squared to Jacob Brown. There was no mistake with the simplest of finishes and that was it. 1-0 down. 

You do it to yourself, you do. And that’s what really hurts,” as popular music’s Radiohead once sang. It was almost a mirror image of last weekend and totally inexplicable. For what its worth, I think Raya is hands down, if not feet, the best in the division although one can only imagine some specific practice in training this week ! Let’s put this down to bad luck and get it behind us. Fast.

So there we were again. A goal down. A goal that, being honest, was as gifted as they come. Opponents who we then struggled to make any headway agasint. They bossed the midfield and pressed us hard. So hard. Brentford forced to go backwards and sideways with such regularity it was almost as though Thomas Frank had been possessed by the spirit of Marinus Dijkhuizen. Oh, this was tough. The Bees unable to make any headway, time and again attempting to play it through the eye of a needle in midfield before getting snuffed out. Stoke City physical, solid, determined. Expending so much energy that as the quite excellent Charlie MacDonald in the I-follow commentary box noted,’There’s no way they’ll be able to keep this up in the second half.’ My word, he was right.

Once again, Brentford came out flying. The change in approach, coupled with some tactical substitutions for the Stoke players who had already picked up bookings, was palpable. If ever the notion that football is a game of 90 minutes could be demonstrated then then here it was. With Stoke seemingly burnt out, the Bees were flying. Pressure built. The flanks were finally used. Mbeumo finding his feet. Within ten minutes, the scores levelled after that absolute blockbuster from Vitaly. Sh*t. Did you see that? He must have a foot like a traction engine. To coin a phrase. Goal of the season contender and then some. It was a moment to make us scream the house down. The neighbours thinking, well I don’t know what but, frankly, for a moment like this then who cares? It was incredible. A strike that warrants viewing after viewing after viewing. How do we find them? Hats off to our DOFS once more.

Stoke left dead on their feet – loved this one from ‘official’

Magnificent though the goal was, and it was, there was still a hell of a lot more to do. Swansea City were winning. We weren’t. Then the bench kicked in. Jensen and Canos both on. The tempo increasing. The Bees coming ever closer to what felt like it must be inevitable. On 77 minutes a very welcome return fro Christian Norgaard. The Dane replacing Janelt who left with his head held high. A first league start in an eternity and what a time for him to re-enter the fray. Within two minutes we were ahead. Yet another Brentford trend of the season, a goal for Ivan Toney. He got on the end of a ball from Mbeumo to guide it home for 2-1. A 25th of the league campaign and now six clear of Adam Armstrong in the race for the golden boot. Incredible. Just incredible. With 13 games left, what could he finish on? What records could he break?

Even better though. As we took the lead, so did Bristol City. And then they did it again. With our own game  steered safely home, the Robins delivered the ultimate of favours. Three points denied Swansea and a further goal difference shift in our favour. There’s still a hell of a long way to go on that front but compared to last Saturday lunchtime, things certainly heading in a much better direction. If nothing else, it was quite wonderful seeing our more excitable element discover that the Championship is decided on a season’s worth of results rather than a car crash at Coventry or a 7(seven) day blip. Not that I’m counting chickens here because I’m not. I’m as confident as I have been all season but, also, acutely aware that  football is football and Brentford is Brentford. Get complacent or arrogant and you get bitten on the arse. At the same time, the table doesn’t lie and I’d rather be sitting in our shoes than anybody else. Perhaps Norwich City aside. The trick now is to keep on turning that screw. Starting Wednesday at Carrow Road. Cripes, that’s going to be immense.

For now, though, its all about another wonderful team performance. At least, in the second half. I’m still not sure what caused the no-show in the first half but kudos to the Bees for hanging in there. Likewise to Stoke City for really making us work for it. In the end though, it was a game we grew in to. It was a game that never felt it would slip away the more it went on. The return of Norgaard about as big a boost as one could hope for. Likewise, the signing of Winston Reid looking as shrewd an acquisition as they come.

I don’t want to get overly carried away here. The Championship still has a huge distance to run and will have more shocks, twists and surprises for sure. Yesterday was a huge psychological boost for Brentford – and perhaps even some of our Twitter crew – on and off the pitch What a way to set up the Norwich City game. See you there. On the sofa. Until then, I might just go and watch that Janelt goal one more time.

Things I’d forgotten about. Could Norwich’s loss be our gain on Wednesday?

Nick Bruzon 

Time to exorcise some demons?

12 Feb

Say. We are top of th.., err. How about, quite well placed at present? Nahhh. Screw it. We ARE top of the league so why not enjoy the moment? The table doesn’t lie and our run of form is quite incredible. Brentford now 21 league games unbeaten. Only Spurs and Leicester City have overturned us since late October. Ivan Toney is leading the Championship goal scoring charts and the team are on fire. We’ve just overtaken Norwich City after that fine, fine win at Reading on Wednesday night. Frank out??? Where are you? Where ARE YOU? . Let’s be havin’ you! Come on. How far away is all that nonsense now? How quiet have the keyboard warriors gone? Even Sergi Canos is getting praise from the most ferocious armchair managers. Hmm – about five months too late and how magnanimous but there you go. Things are indeed good at present so why not enjoy the moment? Next up, Barnsley on Sunday and a chance to not only maintain the pace but, perhaps, exorcise one of THE demons of last season.

Cripes, we all know what happened. After that wonderful run towards the end of the campaign, Huddersfield Town did us that quite unexpected favour of beating West Brom on the Friday night. Thank you very much, Mark Devlin. All we had to do was beat Stoke City in game 45 and we were up into automatic. Instead, we did a Leeds. No matter, game 46 saw the ultimate in unexpected shocks – the Loftus Road mob got a result at West Brom. The door to the Premier League was still open. All we had to do was beat Barnsley at Griffin Park. The same Barnsley team facing their own unlikely battle to avoid relegation. Instead, they played their hearts out and we did a Leeds. Congratulations to the Tykes – a much more deserved victory than the time Toby was adjudged to have beaten Buzz in the half-time mascot race. For Brentford, there were still the play-offs……

Never forget the time the Toby and Barnsley ‘won’ at Griffin Park.

Which of course is why we meet again on Sunday. This time around Barnsley are looking super safe and, perhaps, may even have a surge towards the play-offs on their mind. The gap to Bournemouth in sixth is only 9 points. The relegation slots are way off and currently being occupied by Wycombe, Birmingham City and Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. Valérien Ismaël’s side may not have won in five league games but they are a different proposition the time around. Even Chelsea were made to work hard in last night’s FA Cup game (eventually running out 1-0 winnners) and their biggest problem at present would seem to be on social media where the club were forced to announce yesterday that…” Due to a copyright claim dated 2018, the official Barnsley Football Club Twitter account (@BarnsleyFC) has been temporarily suspended”. 

As one North Stand observer would comment on our WhatsApp Group – “It’s the sort of thing that would have happened to us a few years ago.” One can only imagine the admin oversight / other that lead to that one although the good news being they are now back in action. And good news it is too. The club being one of my favourites in the league with good times having been had on our travels, regardless of the result. Now they are the ones on the road in a game about as big as it comes.

Hoping for a better result than the previous rematch

The longer this unbeaten run continues the more incredible it seems. A metaphorical skyscraper of a performance but one which, equally, could feel like a Jenga tower. The more it continues the wobblier it feels. The pressure, perhaps, building although certainly not apparent from Thomas and the players IF that is indeed the case. Perhaps its just the glass half-empty approach of football fans. Natural pessimists, normally, although this time around loving the moment. Last season I wanted every game to come but there was that huge feeling of extra stress because we knew we were playing catch up and so, so reliant on others around us.

This time, there’s still that feeling of desperation to play again but it is with uber confidence. It is with wanting to see just how far we can go. It is with having supreme and unadulterated confidence in whomever is picked to start. Of knowing that despite conceding first (as we have done in the last four games) we have the firepower to blitz just about anyone. 17 (seventeen) goals scored in those same four games speaks for itself.

That’s not to be over-confident or arrogant. Likewise, we can’t go into Sunday’s game thinking it will be anything but the toughest of challenges. Once the whistle goes then forget the form, forget the other results and forget the league placings. Focus on Barnsley and just keep on doing what we’ve been doing. We can’t ask for more than that. Everything else comes off the back of it. 

Oh, I love football at the best of times but this is next level fun. Like all of us, I’m desperate to be there in person. I hate watching it on TV, knowing how close we live to the stadium and remembering just how incredible following the Bees is in person. At least we have Mark Burridge and team to keep us company. Temporary custodians of our massed physical presence at Lionel Road. The weight of the home supporters on the shoulders of our comms team and our board of directors. Oh, and Pontus Jansson who seems the one person on the planet even louder than Harry Potter / Simon. His shouting and encouragement clearly audible over the top of the audio and a joy to behold. Kicking and screaming his way to the top alongside the players out on pitch.

No doubt he’ll be back there on Sunday doing more of the same. We’ll all be alongside him, in spirit. I can’t wait for this one. Here’s to an extra special Valentines’ Day. Just hopefully without the cards. Oh, and if Stoke want to upset another promotion push, then there’s no better time than their trip to Norwich on Saturday afternoon to play that card. Come on. Lets be havin’ you…

21 and counting. Barnsley very much our ‘Karleigh Osborne’ game…

Nick Bruzon 

Eyes down for a full house. Of sorts….

22 Dec

Here we go. Time for some festive cheer. A Christmas cracker etc etc etc. With London plunged in to Tier 4 and the next few weeks looking like the equivalent of being tied to a chair and force fed Mrs Brown’s Boys on repeat, could Brentford provide a much needed boost to morale? Tuesday evening sees our league cup quarter final with Newcastle United and I for one can’t wait. With doom and gloom all around us (but enough about Mrs Brown’s Boys) the chance of making the semis is a huge opportunity waiting to be taken. The chance to get closer to another appearance at the W place in North London. The chance to increase our lead over Fulham L of Premier league clubs beaten this season. The chance to actually qualify for Europe – via the medium of the Uefa Europa Conference League (UECL) place that goes to the winner. The chance to actually lift a trophy.

There are only eight teams left in this. The Bees and Stoke City sole representatives from outside the top flight. Flying the Championship flag but, equally, there in our own right. Tough opposition in Southampton, West Bromwich Albion and Wycombe Wanderers have already been despatched. And also Fulham L. Thomas Frank’s red and white army unstoppable. Now, 13 games unbeaten as the goals fly in. Ivan Toney doing his thing. Vitaly Janelt our latest unsung hero. Sergi Canos back to his best. Bryan Mbeumo lashing in two top, top goals during the weekend’s destruction of Reading. Rico Henry, surely knocking on the England manager’s door from his left-back berth. The rest of the defence being picked with all the consistency of car keys being plucked from a bowl yet whomever gets selected, locking out those coming at us. 

Bryan did his thing in some style on Saturday

Expect more changes tonight. Ethan Pinnock has served Mads Bech Sorensen’s suspension for the red card at Watford (hmmm) and will surely be catapaulted straight back in to the team. Likewise, Christian Norgaard is fit once more. Could he and Vitaly start alongside each other? Will it be a straight swap? Or is the bench the best he can hope for at present? 

Up top, with coverage beginning at 5.00pm you can set your Sky bingo cards to 5.01pm for mention of ‘Ivan Toney proving a point against former club Newcastle United’. Personally speaking, one can only imagine his primary goals being to see Brentford make it through whilst adding to his own tally for the season.Not sure I could sit through another of his penalty kicks, though. The technique incredible although one that gives me kittens in the run up. Doing it in normal time would be just fine, please.

Positivity is great but let’s not forget who we’re up against. Newcastle United (are they still everyone’s ‘favourite second team’?  – thanks, Sky) remain a top flight club and pushing to win a first trophy since 1969. With the 5-2 tonking handed out by Leeds United still fresh in the mind and then, even worse, failing to beat Fulham L, Steve Bruce will be desperate to inject his own brand of good cheer into the North-East. He’ll have to do it without Allan Saint-Maximin and captain Jamaal Lascelles, both of whom are suffering from the fallout out of Corona Virus. Urghh, there we go. The C word. Just add  – Brentford’s longest run in the competition for a ‘full house’.

The one could go either way. For me, Clive, there’s no sense in trying to predict it. It’s hard enough knowing who is even going to start let alone who will emerge on top. Instead, let’s sit back with some snacks, with a beer and watch the action unfold. The kick off is at 5.30pm and its live on Sky. Grab your bingo card and let’s do this…..

Nick Bruzon 

Time for a bit of Frank talking with each other.

25 Oct

How are we all doing in Brentford this morning? Presumably still smarting over yesterday’s defeat at Stoke City or looking onwards and upwards? To the visit of Norwich City and then a trip to Luton Town. For what it’s worth (not much, apparently), I’m past it already. All the pontification about the formation won’t change anything. It’s how we react to it collectively that matters now. This was one game and there was enough there in the second half to suggest that, actually, change can be a good thing. I’ve also now seen the interview with Thomas Frank – at least, the 2 minutes 53 seconds put out by the club. That’s below… 

Say what you want about Thomas’s answers but he can only react to the softball questions casually tossed to him. These are the times when the fans are desperate to hear his thoughts on what went wrong but it felt as vanilla a Q&A as could be delivered. Of course,’official’ aren’t going to spill the tactical beans, overly show our hand or hang the coach out to dry but a bit of pressure would have been nice.

Oh, for BBC Billy Reeves and some of his characteristic gentle probing. The killer question delivered with all the charm of Leslie Phillips apologetically wielding a sledgehammer.  

Billy Reeves (kind of) – a portrait of charm and that sledgehammer blow

For me, Clive, the key point to take from this one was in regards to our formation. Was it tactical? Done due to personnel reasons? Or a bit of both?  Thomas’ answer confirming the combination approach but giving some reasoning and future notice that things are likely to be similar when Norwich City are in town. 

We are struggling a little bit with injuries, especially in the middle of the park with midfielders. For the second game in a row we only had three midfielders available from the squad and we know its most likely to be the same on Tuesday.” Going on to add that, “It’s a long season. We’re playing a lot of games. We are fit, we are strong but its also about keeping that freshness.”

Read in to that what you will. More of the same to follow, presumably, but which same? Five at the back or Ivan and Marcus back together again? The difference between the two formations was obvious to all. Going for broke and opting for the later one which puts all our attacking eggs in one basket from the off but I’m sure something which would shut the moaners up. And I don’t mean about yesterday’s performance – which was rancid – but in general.

That, and dropping Sergi who seems to have become the social media target of choice. He didn’t have a good one yesterday but you could say that about the vast majority. Henrik had a stinker. All three centre backs were stretched and caught out of line time and again. There was no service at all to Ivan. Yet the enthusiastic Spaniard is one kopping it from all angles and seemingly the reason we don’t have a record of WWWWWWW. Hmmm. 

Nobody came out of the opening hour with any credit. But if we learn form it then perhaps no bad thing in the longer scheme. Stoke City absolutely deserved their win, regardless of our own shortcomings. The season is a long one and there are going to be more decisions made which we don’t agree with. Decisions made based on fitness, tactics and a myriad of injury related factors we’re just not privy to. Sometimes it will work. At others, like yesterday, it won’t.

As Thomas himself acknowledged, “In the end it wasn’t good enough ……It was not spot on in the first half for various reasons but to be fair we could have played 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 7-9-13 and I don’t think that would have helped first half.

The one obvious positive has to be the role played by Marcus Forss. He can hit a ball but he can also read the game. Ice running through his veins, judging by the finish for his second. What composure. What calmness. It gave brief hope we could still pull something out of the fire and whilst it wasn’t to be, talk about impressive. Another one storming up the blindside to emerge into the light, a fully fledged Championship and international player. 

One from the official Twitter feed – the real shining light on an otherwise dark day

For all that Thomas has injury problems to contend with, what a nice challenge at the other end of the spectrum with both Marcus and Ivan banging them in for fun. Get the supply lines and formation right ongoing and the Stoke game could well be seen as a turning point in our fortunes, much like Stevenage away all those years ago.

Not that we’re in any form of crisis, btw. One shit hour doesn’t define a season. The key point to come is what we learn from it. In how we react over the next few games. I’m not joining those getting on Thomas’ back. Quite the opposite.  Of course people have opinions and every right to express them. Context is always nice. And justification , of course. 

For me, he knows this squad. He has a wonderful way of motivating players. Look at how last season went as we hit that wonderful run after the clocks went back. The players, head coach and fans in unison.

We’ve lost that, now. There is no physical support. No closeness. The bond broken thanks to Corona. Of course, every team has the same to contend with yet for for us at Brentford it was always a huge factor. That tight stadium and proximity of fans to the action was massive. Those post-match walkabouts seeing the symbiotic relationship between those on pitch and those in the stands growing ever closer. Geeing each other up to the point where we hadn’t even left Griffin Park and already couldn’t wait for the next game.

It is a massive advantage that has been removed from our armoury and with game following game following game, needs to be considered by those wondering why we’re not winning everything 5-0. Support and motivation from the stands are a massive thing for players. Everybody acknowledges that football without fans isn’t the same. Injuries bite and necessitate change. Tired legs are already obvious to see.

Thomas and the crowd have always fed off each other’s energy

It’s how we react to these factors that is going to be so crucial to our fortunes over the next month or so. Look at he bigger picture and we’re well, well set. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have a fantastic squad and a passionate head Coach who, for the record, better not be going anywhere. That’s my opinion and you may feel it is wrong. Fair enough but as one fan to another, explain why. Explain what you would do. How you would cope with a relentless series of games that would test the fittest of players. How you would motivate players rattling around empty stadia.

Those, for me, are the challenges faced by not just Brentford but every club in this division. This Championship campaign is going to be one of the most open on record. Careful management of the squad will be key to success. This is what we are trying.

Life’s too short and too hard at present to lose it on negativity. That’s not me wearing a club hat (they don’t employ me and I have no obligation to kiss anybody’s butt). It’s me fed up with the constant moaning about a team who have a progressive set up, a passionate head coach and are only four points off second place.

That said, please let’s never play three centre backs again.

Nick Bruzon  

What happened ? A real rogue one despite late strikes back.

24 Oct

That was quite the experience. And not in a good way. Brentford went down 3-2 to Stoke City on an afternoon that was nowhere near as close as the scoreline suggests. A tactical reshuffle that saw three centre backs selected in lieu of the injured Pontus Jansson ended up with the Bees rushing to a 3-0 deficit. This, before Marcus Forss pulled back two late goals which suggested that if we are to tinker with the formation then going heavy up top rather than at the back may be the way to go. With Norwich City next up, could we start that one the way we ended this?

Close but no cigar

It was awful. The back five pulled out of position time and again. The left flank eventually exposed for the first goal after being torn apart on the other side. The right for the second. Brentford not even close. A (legitimate) shout for a first half penalty aside, we weren’t even second best in the opening period. The chance to level things up at 0-1 down was denied with both Dalsgaard and Toney seeming to be rugby tackled. As one North Stand observer would note, “Apparently not a penalty in the eyes of the man who blows his whistle like he’s on an Ibiza club night”.

Two down at half time ( Steven Fletcher and James McClean) saw Thomas Frank left with little choice but to revert to a more familiar strategy. I’ll defend Thomas to the hilt against the social media hate mob – coaching staff pick teams, not keyboard warriors – but today’s decisions seemed bizarre. Talk about throwing Charlie Goode in at the deep end. A new formation. New faces. And at Stoke City of all places. They were only going to play one way and, sure enough, they did.

But when we took things to the other extreme, kerchingg!! By then it was too late. We’d somehow conspired to go 3-0 down despite taking the game to our hosts as soon as the second half had begun. The more familiar positioning getting caught short and, instead, a push the other way seeing Marcus Forss and Ivan Toney playing together. Wow !! 

Let’s not pretend I would have had the cognisance to start this way. I wouldn’t have. Would you? Honestly?  Five at the back stunk from the off. And that was prior to kick off. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but going in the other direction was past the cusp of even this numpty’s expectation threshold. Yet, say what you want, it worked.

The first blasted home by the young Finn and the second, as we entered five minutes of storage time, converted from the tightest of angles. It was almost horizontal yet the finish was calmness personified. A Forss awakening to give us a new hope in front of the Obi stand. Despite two almost identical finishes, there was to be no further attack of the clones (ok, getting tenuous now). Instead, it finished 3-2 to Stoke with big questions to be asked before the visit of Norwich City on Tuesday.

Questions in a good way, I hasten to add. We lost. The reasons for this are quite apparent and, to be fair, easily fixable. The process that took us there one which I am sure will be ironed out behind closed doors. How many times in recent seasons have Brentford tried moving to a three CB formation before soon reverting back to the tried and tested?

That’s not to say there isn’t room to change things at the other end of the pitch. The Toney-Forss pairing one which offered a genuine Plan B. Unlike the defensive shambles and midfield holes that allowed Stoke to press up higher than Simon Cowell’s waistband.

We all saw it. It wasn’t great. Keith Stroud as random as ever. Every decision against / missed adding a further slap to the face when any help would have been gratefully accepted. Instead, we were left reliant on the man who will never be able to escape the mantle of that night at Bramall Lane. But we shouldn’t need the ref to turn the game. Not this much. Stoke City played us like a cheap fiddle and good luck to them. No sour grapes at their own approach. They were hardly going to sit back when we invited them on to us.

That’s me done on this one. It happened. We move on and go again. I’ve not even heard Thomas’s post match conference but will be keen to catch up on that one later. To this short-sighted fool, the reasons seemed apparent. Too many players going awol in an unfamiliar formation. Equally, it’s one game in a long season to come. Everybody is up agasint this relentless fixture list. I get the logic behind resting players. I don’t follow the mentality in switching things up to his extent. 

Perhaps that’s why I’m the numpty on the terrace rather than the Brentford head coach. Chin up Thomas. Chin up Bees. We can’t change what happened but we can look to the next games. And they start with Norwich City on Tuesday night.

Nick Bruzon

Move over, Marcus. There’s a new ambassador in town.

24 Oct

Brentford are at Stoke City today. Move along ; nothing retrospective to discuss. We’re 7th in the division and have two wins from two since picking up again after the International break. Ivan Toney is on fire – braces against Coventry City and Sheffield Wednesday have stormed him to the top of the Championship goal scorer charts – and the Bees are buzzing (groan). But off pitch, the talk was all about kit. Primarily, our new third kit. My word, it looks like it’s going to be awesome. And Kitman Bob has something special – if you are quick….

Friday evening saw the return of Marcus Gayle and Stu Wakeford in The Warm Up on Youtube. You can catch it further below. Of course it had all the build up for the Stoke game and the retrospectives on Coventry and Sheffield Wednesday.

We had Marcus paying his previously earned forfeit  – filmed singing ‘Hey Jude’ in front of La Rosetta (It’s a little Italian restaurant. At Brentford, err, high street). Whilst wearing a bumble bee costume. There was also a catch up with Tarique Fosu and some ‘old school’ FIFA action. If action is the right word as the Megadrive classic was dusted down.

But let’s not pretend there wasn’t one real highlight – the sneak peak at our new Umbro third kit.

Oh. Wow. This could be something quite wonderful. The glimpse of the white shirt with red badge and sponsor put one immediately in mind of the St. George sponsored 2005-06 away effort. And that is a thing of beauty.

Yet what really had fans salivating was the sleeve trim – a nostalgic throw back to our first ever kit from 1889-90 in salmon, claret and blue. The briefest of snatches has yours truly already hanging on next week’s formal reveal. What a nod to our inception down at the Brentford Rowing Club as the original club colours have resurfaced.

Could there be a sash? Long sleeves? Further surprises? Come on already. Reaction to what we’ve seen so far seemed universally popular. Kitman Bob has done it again.

And then some…. Did you catch this tweet last night? 

Not one but two of a super limited edition version of last season’s blue and gold special is up for grabs. And there’s no more complex a way of winning it than by liking the tweet. Incredible stuff.

Marcus may be the ambassador but with this and the new launch, it’s Bob who is really spoiling us.

Oh, Bob. With these kits you are really spoiling us..

What else is there to say today? Not much, really. Stoke City await and, personally, I’m going in to this one confident. As ever. But, hey ! Vitaly Janelt has taken to the Brentford team like a duck to water. Along with Mads Bech he really shone at Sheffield, Wednesday. What a shame, in the nicest sense, that it was Ivan who took the headlines. 

This will be a tough test, no doubt. Whilst the table is still in nascent form, Stoke are just one point behind us. They’ll be as full of optimism as we are and determined to consolidate their own position. To take another step forward in what is already looking like it could be one of the most open Championship seasons on record.

The match is, as ever, on I-Follow. £10 gets you access – for those of you not watching it at Lionel Road in the sold out club lounge event. Enjoy ! For yours truly, it’s family time and perhaps a beer. Or two. Whichever way you watch, enjoy. The only way is up. What price on Ivan Toney doing it again?

And until then, why not warm up with The Wa…

Nick Bruzon  

Making the best of a crumby situation all round.

21 Oct

Brentford travel to Sheffield Wednesday this evening in a game where, sit down, one can only wish ‘that band’ were present. Not a typo. Oh to hear their moribund trumping. Their off-key renditions: Now that’s what I can jingoistic music. For no other reason than it would mean fans were allowed inside the ground. Instead we remain firmly behind closed doors. The closest thing possible to sit inside the confined quarters of a stadium lounge, enjoying food, drink and the game on a big screen, when the real action is taking place in the fresh air on the other side of the wall. That, the scenario playing out at Bristol City v Middlesbrough last night and one which has already been reported many times. The sheer ludicrousness of this situation lost on nobody, no matter how tightly social-distancing rules were, I am sure, being applied. We’re all desperate to get back in. Instead, we’re stuck with TV games in tumbleweed swept grounds. Fans confined to barracks rather than enjoying the fresh air in yet another example of the double-standards being applied to when it is, and isn’t, deemed safe to be near other people.

If only for real rather than cruddy photoshop

So we have coverage on Sky TV and i-follow ‘VIP’ (for those who chose to freeze their season tickets) as the next best thing. And it isn’t even close. Of course, I’m grateful for the opportunity to still see the Bees in action but let’s not pretend it’s the same. We’re all chomping at the bit to attend a game in person. To get our first taste of Lionel Road. The closest we’ll get to that is our own take on the ‘big screen / club lounge’ experience. Saturday’s offer for the trip to Stoke City has, I understand, seen heavy interest. This, even with a price of £40 for adults and £30 for children including food and beer (for the adults). 

I was tempted, but aside from the £100 it would have cost me, Harry and Mrs. Bruzon to attend personally speaking I want my first taste of the new stadium to be in a real match scenario. Not some ‘close but no cigar’ situation. Bullseye for the 21st century. ‘Look at what you could have won’. 

Fair play to the club for arranging. It will be of huge appeal to many – if only for the communal coming together and the chance to get some small look at our new home. If you don’t agree then don’t pay. Simple economics and Brentford doing nothing more than trying to make the best of what is a crumby situation all round. Balancing demand v numbers. Do it for free / token costs and we’d be flooded – then you get people upset about missing out. Lose-lose all round. So it’s not for me, Clive, but the closest we can get. For now.

Still, it’s all secondary compared to the news about Brentford supporter Jamie Powell. I’d imagine most fans have seen the devastating story on social media over the last few days. This, about his awful illness and the crowd-funding effort being launched to help raise the £350,000 to support treatment for an aggressive bone cancer in the skull. The club, the fans and the players are all behind this whilst my fellow blogger Luis Adriano wrote a quite wonderful piece yesterday which yours truly couldn’t even get close to emulating. You can find that here whilst I’d urge everyone to visit the ‘Just giving page’ to read more and donate if you can.

Life certainly deals a crappy hand at times. One can’t even imagine the anguish Jamie and his family are going through at present. It puts our own problems into perspective. Whilst, of course, not everybody will be in a position to contribute, it really is one of those where if you can then every penny counts.  

Getting back to matters more mundane, this evening’s game. Experience says that Sheffield Wednesday aren’t going to make it easy. We’ve always struggled at Hillsborough and our hosts are already eating into the -12 point deficit they began the season with. As such, I can’t see this being any easier. I’d also suggest that overly dwelling on the past isn’t going to help any.

Crack open the cliches but it really is 11 v 11. Empty stadia do make a significant difference. Away games much more of a leveller. Ivan Toney is firing them in for fun and Thomas Frank used yesterday’s press conference to confirm he expects the Championships leading scorer will be available to play. Likewise Emiliano Marcondes. This, following the game with Coventry at the the weekend.

I’m not stupid enough to even try and call this one. The bookies make Brentford favourites ; our hosts are 5/2. I take that, combined with Saturday’s solidity, as a positive. We’ve got through the first game of the post-Benrahma era with a win. Tonight will be a much sterner test but one I’m intrigued to see play out. Even if it has to be from the comfort of the sofa.

Last time out. Ivan did his thing against Coventry before injury denied him a hat-trick.

Nick Bruzon