Tag Archives: Stoke

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 

It’s all happening at the top of the table this weekend.

27 Feb

Another huge weekend in the Championship. It’s relentless. Exhausting. Captivating. Utterly, utterly compelling. For Brentford, a patched up team returned to winning ways against Sheffield, Wednesday, and now welcome a visit from Stoke City. Elsewhere, we’ll all be hoping that Bristol City and Bournemouth can reignite their spluttering play-off campaigns as they face off against Swansea City and Watford respectively. The Cherries getting things under way today with a lunchtime kick-off on Sky before we all wait for Norwich City to wrap things up at Wycombe on Sunday.

We all know the shape of the table. We can all see Norwich 7(seven) points clear with Brentford next up. Albeit hanging in there by virtue of our goal difference. What price the free-scoring heroics of Ivan Toney, ably assisted by Sergi Canos, now? Cripes, the top of the table is tight. There are going to be plenty of twists still to come in the final 13 games and the midweek result couldn’t have come at a better time. The horror show of Coventry City expunged and those thrown together to plug the gaps more than pulling it together in style. I thought Winston Reid was immense whilst Mads Bech Sørensen slotted in for Rico Henry quite wonderfully. Good thing too as he’s going to have to do it for most of the remaining season. Replacing the division’s best left back, and a player who one way or another will be in the top flight next season, no small ask. Kudos, Mads.

We all ended Wednesday happy

But it was a determined, feisty performance all round. Not our super slick best but still a million miles away from Coventry. The new look line up finding their feet and then stepping it up as the big guns eased their way back into action from the bench. There was Emiliano Marcondes. Josh Dasilva. Ivan Toney. All making late appearances that coincided with Brentford turning the screw. Samman Ghoddos and Bryan Mbeumo both starting and scoring. Both assisting. Both, being honest, afforded chances that had they been taken would have stretched the scoreline even further. But you can’t be disappointed to end the day with three goals, three points and a clean sheet. The stats, and table, don’t lie. 3-0 is 3-0 is 3-0. I’d have bitten my own hand off for that prior to kick off. Who know how much of a psychological boost Huddersfield Town’s thrashing of Swansea immediately after the debacle at St. Andrew’s proved to be? Either way, we go into the games today infinitely happier than when we turned off the TV last week. Cries of “What the actual just happened…” (or similar) ringing around our house following the most excruciating of displays. 

That was then. This is now. 7(seven) days is a hell of along time in football. Positivity restored and it will go through the roof should we come out of the game with Stoke smiling. Not that we’re going to find that an easy task. Four points outside the play-offs themselves, we join Swansea and Bournemouth in facing teams desperate to make that surge into the promotion pack. Teams who would jump at the chance for a cliffhanger at the W place in North London. The Potters, a dogged side that could almost be argued to have inherited the mantle of being our bogey team form Middlesbrough. 

Nothing needs to be said about our last two encounters – firstly the end of season implosion at their Bet 365 stadium when the promotion opportunity was finally in our hands. Following that was the disaster in this season’s visit when we didn’t so much fall apart as not even show up in that first half. Both deeply frustrating results but, in part, down to the pressure and then the team being re-jigged this time around. Both games we’ll learn from and what better time than now to avoid an unwelcome statistical hat-trick.

One can only assume that the starting line up today will be slightly more recognisable when ‘official’ announce it at 2.02pm. Might we even get a look at the lesser spotted Nørgaard? If Ivan Toney coming off the bench was a bonus, the return of someone who is probably our most influential player cannot come soon enough. The rock at the base of the midfield. We thought it was happening in December but then there was that late setback. Christian not celebrating at Christmas. Now, the talk from Thomas Frank has been super positive and with him, perhaps, underplaying the positions of Ivan and Josh prior to Wednesday, could this great Dane be closer than we think to an appearance? Optimistic to the last. That’s me. I’d love to see him back although can only presume it will be from the bench.

Today won’t be decisive in the promotion stakes whatever happens. Regardless of the 39 points still to play for, we’ve then got Norwich midweek and finish the campaign with games against Watford and Bristol City. Plenty of opportunity to shoot down our rivals (or them, us…) en route to the campaign’s denouement. Yet let’s not pretend that their isn’t a fan amongst us not hoping that Wycombe, Bournemouth and the Robins can pull off the results that their own supporters are so desperate to see this weekend. And if we complete our side of that equation, then all the better. If….

That’s where my focus is today. Anything else a bonus. A boost. All attention on Mark, Marcus and Natalie or whomever we have guiding us through the action from in the I-player commentary box. Edge of the sofa time as it is every Saturday. Lucky shirts back in play (last season’s Ecoworld ‘away’ being worn by me and H the true reason for our win) and waiting for the interminable adverts for FIFA 21 and Carabao that preceded every game.

It’s never easy watching it being played out in an empty stadium on TV. We’d all love to be there. Today probably more then ever where the atmosphere would be a huge factor agasint a team that always make me feel angsty. What play-off final? What disaster on the way home……….? Err. We all now know that won’t be possible this season following the latest roadmap to recovery (or whatever the buzzwords are) announced by Boris. Instead, I’ll see you on the sofa. Metaphorically speaking. Bring it on. Twitter is open. The beers are cold. The football snacks ready. Let’s do this !!!!!!

Nick Bruzon

Let’s just call this a bad day at the office and move on.

15 Feb

Well that was all kinds of awful. Brentford said farewell to the marathon unbeaten league run after going down 2-0 at home to Barnsley on Sunday. It was an absolutely deserved win for the visitors who pressed high, pressed hard and were first to everything. No sour grapes here and with the Bees not even close to being the second best team in this one, with too many players going inexplicably awol, the outcome seemed apparent from the off. A veritable … don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it….Valentine’s Day massacre. Urghh, did it. With it went the chance to retake top spot from Norwich City after the Canaries had swept aside Stoke City on Saturday. Instead, we start the week two points behind on level games played and looking forward to visiting Loftus Road on Wednesday evening. Norwich host Coventry and third placed Swansea entertain Nottingham Forest.

Let’s rephrase that a tad. It WAS awful but it is was as much frustrating. It is only one game. Nobody can keep going for ever and all teams slip up from time to time. Have the odd off day. Unlike last season, the Stoke City and Barnsley results haven’t fatally holed the good ship Brentford. Instead, they have provided some choppy waters and how navigate through the will be the real mark of this team. We all know just what they can do. How good the Bees are on the day. The inability to react to Barnsley and their approach was inexplicable but it happens. Certainly no indication that we are doing a Leeds United. Even they wobbled more than once last time out – see also West Bromwich Albion – and whilst this is the oldest cliché in the book, the league is a marathon not a sprint. 

The game had that feeling from the off with Barnsley coming at us and dominating. Yet again, Brentford conceded the opening goal but this time there was no  coming back at our opponents. No blitzkrieg assault with that free scoring form that has typified our performances this season. Instead, we looked lethargic. Sloppy. Out of sorts. Conor Chaplin making a Charlie of the Bees defence on 13 minutes to find himself totally unmarked and steer it home for 1-0. There was no answer. No reply. No nothing. A bit of huff and puff but Bryan Mbeumo’s inability to pick out Sergi Canos in acres of space summed it up. The screaming at the TV to play it out to the electric Spaniard could probably have been heard at Lionel Road, so open was the position. Alas, it fell on deaf ears. 

Bryan wasn’t alone in being off his game though. The normally magnificent Ethan had a stinker. The second goal, straight after the restart, also had the opportunity to to be snuffed out but instead Dike’s low cross bypassed the defender leaving Carlton Morris the easiest of finishes. Tariqe Fosu did nothing off the bench. Samman Ghoddos got into space but failed to capitalise. Josh and Vitaly invisible in the midfield compared to their normally dominant selves. Rico and Henrik off the pace. Ivan Toney had the first touch of a JCB. When he was fouled in the box, referee David Coote choose to perform his Arsene Wenger tribute act and instead elected not to see the incident. Barnsley were on it and got everything their performance warranted. This was not a stolen win but one which they fought hard for with the points going to the right team. For Brentford, nothing to do except wipe this from the memory and pretend it never happened.

Thomas Frank got it spot on at full time. “We know in this league you can lose to every team in this division if you don’t hit your highest level. We lost to a better team today. They won fair and square. We need to move on. It’s all about how we react on Wednesday.

He’s bang on the money here. We know only too well that there are no ‘teams like…’ in this division. That the Championship is the most exciting, toughest league in Europe with no foregone conclusions in any game. Just look at how Wycombe turned things around to win 3-2 at Huddersfield this weekend. What is more important is how we react at Loftus Road on Wednesday, at Coventry this Saturday lunchtime and further down the track. We may win or lose both of those. They won’t be season defining. What is more important is how we react. How we play. That we put this one behind us.

I’d much rather be where we are now (second on 57 points) than where we were last season after 29 games (fifth on 47 points having just gone down to Nottingham Forest). Even then, it felt good to be that high up. Knowing there were a whole stack of games and points  – 51 – still to go for. That destiny was still very much in our hands.

The same is true now. No side has everything their own way. Even the Premier League showed that this weekend with Manchester United being held by West Brom, Liverpool seeing their own title defence obliterated and Everton being undone by Fulham. Not a typo. If anything, the tech malfunction that saw us missing comms as the game started and the sight of Ian Moose pontificating before kick-off made me feel ill at ease and in mind that this was not going to be our afternoon. Presumably, the talk sh*te buffet burglar would have buried any of our half chances before posing for a selfie with one of his faux friends. How does that work in lockdown?

Look, we’re second in the table. Automatic promotion in our sights. We’ve ‘lost’ a game for the first time since October 24th last year rather than drowned a kitten. Still with a trip to Norwich City to come at the start of next month. The Championship still has plenty more twists to come. For what its worth, I’m absolutely convinced we’ll smash our hosts onWednesday evening. An empty Loftus Road and the opportunity to get straight back on the horse awaits. I cannot wait for that one – if only to get the stinky taste of Barnsley out of my mouth. 

I wouldn’t want to be in Mark Warburton’s shoes now. If Brentford do what we know they can it’ll be raining goals in West London. IF…..

The only possible explanation for Sunday – our visitors’ performance aside

Nick Bruzon

A Krul blow for the Bees.

28 Oct

Ouch. So close yet stung at the death as Brentford were denied a place in the top six. A late equaliser from Norwich City saw a game in which we could have been well out of sight end in agony. A wicked deflection off Mads Bech Sorensen left David Raya with no hope as Kenny Mclean’s 87th minute effort down the corridor of saveability was given new direction and hit the back of the net. Yet being completely honest with ourselves, it was the quintessential example of the old adage that goals, rather than possession and shots, are what win games. A second would have out it out of sight – and there were the chances – but instead it was a case of leaving the game on levels terms. Of knowing that after Saturday’s trip to Luton Town and the  visit of Swansea City next week we’ll be at the ‘played 10’ marker . That, of course, where the table will have officially been deemed to have ‘taken shape’.  

It had all looked so, so promising after the frustration of Saturday. The formation had a much more recognisable look to it as whatever had happened in the Potteries stayed there. Brentford pushed and whilst Norwich City had their own threats, it was that man Ivan Toney who did it again. With Marcus Forss answering the 4-4-2 question by starting on the bench, the Championship’s top scorer going in to this one made it 8 with little less than half an hour gone.

Bryan Mbeumo cutting down the right played a low ball in to the box which entirely bisected the Norwich defence. Toney worked his own position magnificently and was left unmarked to steer it home for the opener. 1-0 and Brentford in front.

Official capture the moment on Twitter last night

We pushed on. Emiliano came close. Toney himself must be wondering, even now, how he was denied a second. His perfectly placed header curling away from Tim Krul and in to the far corner of the nest yet, somehow, the Norwich keeper almost hyper-extending his arm to claw it away. A quite magnificent save that he had no right to be even half-close to, such was the placement of Toney’s effort. Yet credit to Krul – he got there.

Half time came and went. With it, Brentford kept going. Henrik Dalsgaard with the golden moment in a flurry of chances in the second period. Unmarked six yards out, the ball fell perfectly yet rather than sending Peter Gilham into another bout of vocal gymnastics his low shot found Krul. If Toney’s chance had been the better save, this was another that we’ll feel should really have seen the lead doubled.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Whilst recent seasons have seen the Bees get better at hanging on to leads, October has seen Norwich City do their thing late on. They’ve picked up 3 points at the death in their last three league games – Wycombe (91st minute winner), Birmingham (87th minute winner) Rotherham (95th minute winner) and whilst this wasn’t victory, it was another late, late hammer blow from the Canaries. The only consolation being they couldn’t push on for the win but, by that point, Mclean’s tiddler from outside the box had already done the damage.

To compound the frustration, over in the Blackburn – Reading game Adam Armstrong scored two goals for Rovers to take him one past Toney at the top of the Championship scorers chart. Whilst, like league placings, that’s still too early to get overly excited about, it looks like we may have the makings of another Mitrovic – Watkins battle on our hands again this season. That could be fun.

This hurts but like the  Stoke City game it all depends what we take out of it. No player misses on purpose. Nor can you legislate for freak deflections. Credit to Krul, too. That save from Ivan. Wow. Yet if ever we needed a reminder of those moments on which a game can turn, this one had them in spades. A draw was the fair result.Mainly because both teams scored a goal each. Albeit the frustrating one. We’ve a day more than Luton Town to recover with the Hatters entertaining Nottingham Forest tonight before our own trip to Kennilworth Road on Saturday.

The games don’t stop coming. The catch up from the Covid outtage is relentless. Incessant. It’s no wonder squads need to be rotated and players pulled off early. That injuries are occurring. Managing that, as much as our opponents, will be key to how we perform. I’d love to see Josh Dasilva play every minute but its just not going to happen. Christian and Pontus are amongst those already out of action. The sale of Said would have hit any team. The point being that this season is going to be very different from last. Not just for Brentford although the obvious thing is to focus on ourselves. Who amongst us would honestly have called Reading as early pacesetters? Their 7(seven) wins out of eight propelling them to the top of the league. Perhaps for now but maybe longer term.

The point being that last night we had the opportunities, couldn’t take them and in the end looked to consolidate, for understandable reasons. It didn’t quite play off. However much of a freak the goal was, they all count.  We can cry about it and rue those missed chances. I won’t deny the groan that went up from where we were watching as the ball deviated towards goal. We’ve just done a Brentford, the immediate thought that came to mind. 

All that counts now is to try and be philosophical in the broader context of what is going to be a physically demanding season. Stoke was self-inflicted. Yesterday was a night where the footballing gods decided not to smile on us. Where destiny was in our hands but opportunity refused to knock. We can’t change it but we can try to restore some satisfaction on Saturday. See you there. In spirit.

View from the laptop – Krul somehow breaks Brentford hearts

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

What will happen on Wednesday?

21 Jul

Tomorrow it all happens. Brentford face Barnsley. Mark Warburton takes his team to West Bromwich Albion. We all know the maths. We all know what almost happened, but didn’t quite, at Stoke City. That’s football. Our fans seem to have fallen in to two camps since then – the vast majority who appreciate what might have been, how far we have come, how incredibly well we have performed this season and who are gutted beyond belief that we were unable to make it 9 wins in a row at Stoke. Then there are the self-indulgent few. Still bleating about how they are justified in preaching negativity at, and about, their heroes. No doubt the same faces who were calling for Thomas Frank’s head earlier in the season. The same ‘fans’ who will be first in line to say how amazing it all is when we go up. Whether that be Wednesday night or a few weeks later at an empty Wembley.

Ah, you know what? I’m done with it. It’s a simple equation. We were all hurt to miss out on the all important win, but that’s different to bitching. If you felt that strongly then, let alone now,  say it to an individual’s face. And if you still feel that way then just leave the rest of us to support the team and you go wallow in a bottle of Strongbow Dark Fruits. There are more important things to focus on. For clarity, the game with Barnsley rather than a re-run of the infamous mascot race that saw Buzz robbed by Toby Tyke back in 2016. Sadly, Covid-19 means our furry friends are nothing but a beautiful memory for the moment.

mascot-race

But what happened next….?

Of course, the only matter of consequence at Griffin Park will be the three points (technically one) needed to for a final tilt at second place. Albeit acknowledging the ‘deal with the devil’ which that would involve – namely, wishing well on the team from Shepherds Bush. Aside for the small matter of our own beating Barnsley, the Loftus Road outfit avoiding defeat is key to us securing automatic on Wednesday night. 

For what it’s worth, my personal take is that we’ll complete our own side. With Barnsley still hanging in there, any chance they have of Championship survival is dependent on their also winning the game. On scoring at least one goal. Which means we’ll likely be afforded more freedom to attack as they drive forward themselves, looking for the the back of the Brentford net and, as a consequence, leaving gaps. It’s the sort of thing this team exploit for fun.

The visitors won’t make it easy, though. Their game with Nottingham Forest on Sunday saw the Tykes dominant, peppering the visitor’s goal before finally taking the lead late in to Jota time. They’ve done it once and will no doubt be full of belief that they can do it again.

Yet on the assumption we can do our job, what next? What happens at the Hawthorns? Ahh, it doesn’t bear thinking about. It can’t be fathomed or quantified. I’ve a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach – not so much at them stitching us up but more the fact that this is totally out of our hands. Just as it was on Friday night when the Baggies went to Huddersfield Town. 

One has to adopt the approach of trying to ignore it (purely on health grounds) and looking just at our own result which, of course, will be nigh on impossible. Any change in score will be brought to us immediately – Sky do love a final day in-flight ‘As it stands’ table. And with Griffin Park off limits it means that the TV, I-Follow or local radio will be the only way for all barring the directors to follow this one.

Should West Brom slip up then we’ll be waiting to pounce. Pressure does strange things and a game their fans are likely considering a foregone conclusion against mid-table opposition could still have a twist in the tail. Slaven Bilic is a huge character and he’ll no doubt have his players set for this one – dreaming of the top flight , just as we are. Crucially aware of how close they’ve already come to relinquishing control. Something they’ll obviously want to avoid as we enter the final round of games in the regular Championship campaign. Will all of this start affecting the psyche and the approach? Causing a few jitters and a lot of mind games. Or is this just what it appears to be on paper  – a home banker ?

The QPR factor will be just awful. What will Warbs do? Will he even give us a moment’s thought? Will he have a point to prove? Is it one of those where he tries out a few of the kids for next season?

Don’t go checking the bookmakers’ websites if you are looking for any comfort. Only one team is coming out of that smiling. And they don’t go shopping at Westfield. Then again, even Stoke City were 5-1 to win on Saturday and look how that ended. Strange things can happen. 

We’ve been incredible this season. Magnificent. A style of attacking football and rock solid defence that has thrilled us all. A team that have had the fortitude and determination to reel in all those above us after a shaky start to the season. A 0-1 home defeat despite battering one shot Birmingham City in the season opener now the stuff of distant memory.

It took us a while to find our feet but once we did , wow ! Guts. Courage. Never say die – oh, that Millwall game. Goals. The brackets earned in the 7(seven) – 0 destruction of Luton Town. Humping Sheffield Wednesday in our last game at Griffin Park (in front of fans). That relentless never-say-die run of 8 games in a row as we have come within sniffing distance of ‘automatic’.

This team can do it. Whether it takes one game or four we WILL be in the Premier League next season. 

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What a finish to the game with Millwall

Nick Bruzon

Thank you Huddersfield. What happens now after a fantastic Friday?

18 Jul

Oh my word. Feeling ok this morning Brentford fans? Did you sleep? How are the heads? Today could be immense. The door IS now open. The game at Stoke City no longer one about keeping pace with West Bromwich Albion but, all of a sudden, we’ve been handed the chance to overtake them. Their defeat at Huddersfield Town last night offering up the chance for us to join Leeds United in the Premier league. Excitement doesn’t even begin to describe the post match celebrations last night. Caution and potential the feeling this morning.

Huddersfield Town were immense. Their 2-1 victory earned in the most high pressure of situations. An early lead only adding to the pressure being felt in TW8 as it looked like 86 minutes of backs to the wall defence would follow. The stress levels already through the roof bwhen the Baggies equalised just before half time. Their goal looked a mile offside but all protests were in vain. The dream of an unlikely loss nice whilst it had lasted but surely there was only one winner from here? The Teriers hung on. Half time came and went. The second period being chipped away in five minute increments. The drive from West Brom relentless. It was only a matter of time before they broke through the last line of defence. 

I’ve never enjoyed a game less. At least, with Brentford, you know the players. You know who is who and what could come from a situation. Relief can be taken from confidence in whomever is on the ball. Watching a team of what, to us, were relative strangers there was no idea whether it had just been passed to a Bryan Mbeumo or a Nick Proschwitz. Was that the Huddersfield Town equivalent of Ollie Watkins looking for the ball or Murray Jones ? It was horrible. Angst unlike any I’ve ever known. The clock moving slower than Neil Shipperly. The goal for the visitors only a matter of time.

Drinks break was reached. The score still level. The inhaler clasped close to my chest. It was awful. Awful. And probably more because we could see Huddersfield getting closer to earning us the unlikely draw that would finally offer Brentford the opportunity to overtake West Bromwich Albion. Football can be cruel at times. Teasing us like this before the inevitable goal that broke our hearts. Then it came. Nature called.

I had to go. 86 minutes gone and the push from the bladder could be contained no longer. The relative safety of my lucky seat had to be abandoned before it became a commode. And on return, the most impossible thing had happened. Huddersfield Town were ahead. Oh. My. Word? How? Who got it? Frankly, who cares? The only thing that mattered was the ball in the back of the net. Amazing.

Six minutes of time added on dragged even slower than the previous 90 but the Terriers held firm. They got the points that have ensured survival and offered Brentford a most incredible lifeline. For that, we can only say a huge THANK YOU. Now it is West Brom who have matters outside their control. Destiny is in our hands. Put simply, four points from the next two games will see Brentford in the Premier League.

That’s the exciting part.The theoretical part. The incredible opportunity that we have absolutely earned following win after win after win. The moment one which was very much enjoyed last night. Putting ourselves in the box seat is the first part. Now, there’s the small matter of doing it all again. Of looking to make this 9 wins in a row. And Stoke City aren’t going to make this any easier than Town did last night. We have the chance to turn the screw but can we do it?

Right. Cards on the table time. Unquestionably yes, we can and I truly believe we will. The Bees have been relentless in recent weeks and I expect this to continue. The experience of Pontus will, of course, be invaluable. His will to win evident. His desire infectious. But around him are young charges who are chock full of confidence. Of talent. We win from the front. We come from behind. Without being arrogant, we know how good we can be when we put our minds to it. Recent results have shown that. This is a cup final but, fortunately, one not being played out at Wembley. that said, don’t even begin to imagine the stress levels on Wednesday if Stoke do end the game with something…

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Captain Pontus – key to the spine of the team

We won’t win just by turning up. We won’t get anything by assuming we’ve a divine right to the points. This is about as high pressure a situation as they come. Yet, at the same time, the most incredible chance has been afforded us. West Bromwich Albion have been in the top two since October. The second the game kicks off today, Brentford will overtake them in the ‘As it stands’ table by virtue of a goal difference that is 12 better than the Baggies. Whether we are still there 90 minutes later is the big ask.

It won’t be easy. It probably won’t be fun. But if anyone can motivate his team to do it then Thomas Frank is that man. Roll on 12.30pm. I can’t wait for this.

 Of course, before we conclude it is only right and proper to offer congratulations to Leeds and their quite wonderful fanbase after attaining promotion to the Premier League. The top flight will be all the better for having a club of their stature back amongst the elite of British football. They’ve had a bit of a wobble but, for once, there was no falling apart. Again. Now, they are free from playing tinpot pub teams and will line up against the best in the land. Visiting the likes of Old Trafford rather than Bus Stops in London.

Before all that starts they’ve got two games left to put their feet up, give the kids a run out and even let Bielsa take a turn between the sticks. With only one other team, Brentford, able to stop them lifting the title there’s no way that six point gap can be reeled in. Is there? 

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Looking at the BBC table this morning….

Nick Bruzon

It’s………….Wayne Rooney’s Account

3 Jan

Brentford host Stoke City in the FA Cup tomorrow. Liverpool moved 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League, having gone unbeaten in a year after yesterday’s 20 win over Sheffield United. However, none of that matters compared to the 2-1 victory for Wayne Rooney’s Derby County over Barnsley, played out live on Sky Sports last night to the entire planet. A dominant Wayne Rooney destroyed the Tykes, as the newly appointed Wayne Rooney’s Derby County captain provided both assists and scored a brace on his long awaited debut.

You’ll forgive me for feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the Derby County love in that took place on Thursday evening. Or, specifically, that surrounding the all time England goal scoring record holder. I hadn’t realised. If only somebody had said. About a dozen times. Every touch from the stocky looking midfielder was greeted as though it had been played by Pele. Every pass seemingly as sublime as a Cristiano Ronaldo through ball. 

Only an idiot would fail to realise that Wayne’s arrival was going to attract attention. That was guaranteed from the announcement of his signing, the gifting of his traditional ’32’ shirt and the protected lead up to this one. By the time the 34 year old finally made his debut it was beyond all previously seen hype levels. The records set by Frank Lampard’s Derby County being obliterated within moments of coverage starting. You’d be forgiven for thinking the family Rooney had somehow hacked Sky’s account to influence the coverage, such was the fascination. Except, of course, that sort of stuff could never happen. Carry on like this and they’re going to shit themselves next Saturday when the cameras are back at Griffin Park for Brentford – QPR.

Except, of course, they won’t. We aren’t global. We don’t have his former glories. His baggage. His wife, who was there looking on from the stands and even got her own graphic. His wage bill.

Good luck to Derby County. Limping past rapidly improving Barnsley, to stay in 17th place in the Championship, is only the first step in what will need to become a very much long term project. Who knows? Wayne could be the man to inspire them. Filling the Championship void left by the departure of Aston Villa’s John Terry.  Inspiring his younger team mates to retain their former glories. It’s going to be a lot easier – for them and for us – without the eyes of the world watching.

Two tweets summed it up for me last night. This is what it felt like for anyone outside the Pride Park love in.

There we go. The high bar has been set. No doubt the media will now be tripping over themselves to shoot him down the second anything, no matter how small, fails to go to plan. Derby and Bet 32 have take an a massive gamble. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Getting back to TW8, Brentford and Stoke meet in the FA Cup third round on Saturday. With promotion to the Premier League very much a genuine aspiration at present, what would you do if you were Thomas Frank? Give the B team and substitutes a run out or stick with the team that has done so well over these last few months?

For me, Clive, it’s an odd one. I absolutely love the FA Cup and have advocated full strength for year after year,. The chance to progress in this famous old competition too big an opportunity to cast aside with abandon. The potential of entertaining a Liverpool or Manchester City a delicious incentive for reaching the fourth round. Moreso in what is our final season in Griffin Park.

Yet, yet, yet….. Bloody hell. We’re third in the Championship. The gap to seventh place is starting to grow. The two teams above us – Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, whilst still well, well clear are both starting to wobble. Relatively. Each team having a current league record of only one win in five. If ever there was a time to give the first team a chance to catch their breath then now is the moment that Thomas Frank could be forgiven. For letting the broader squad stay match fit.

I’m absolutely with him on this one. I’m fully expecting the BMW to stay in the garage. For Luke Daniels to be named captain. For Julian Jeanvier to start this one after Ethan Pinnock as come in and performed heroics alongside Pontus. For the long awaited debut of Halil Dervisoglu – should clearance come through 🙂 .

And, it would seem, I’m not alone. As ever, the medium of Twitter summarising in one comment more than all this gubbins could ever do….

Whomever Thomas picks, it’s still a special occasion. Still a game we’ll be going out 100% to win. Whilst I’m absolutely with Luis on the team selection strategy, it doesn’t mean the occasion will be enjoyed any less. The desperation to win as enormous as ever. Peter Gilham busting a gut to big up the crowd. Tin foil trophies being hoisted high in the sky. The lure of Wembley still as strong as ever.

I can’t wait for this one. Bring it on!! Whatever the team.

FA Cup tin foil

Nothing says FA Cup tradition like a home made trophy

Nick Bruzon

Will Sunday Service resume? Have faith in our boys. Whoever they are.

29 Sep

Here we go. 7am Sunday morning and Brentford fans are beginning the trip to Barnsley. Personally, it’s a journey too far for yours truly. This one was covered off yesterday but, in summary, was a decision ratified the exact same second the people at Sky Sports Leeds decided to move us to a lunchtime kick off. That’s football these days and things could be worse. We might be suffering the vagaries of VAR being experienced by those teams a division up. With a rare period of Saturday sofa time able to be enjoyed yesterday, it was an excruciating afternoon of stop-start football as game after game was delayed (Aston Villa and Bournemouth providing the prime examples)  for this much maligned analysis of wafer thin decisions that would have been otherwise imperceptible to the human eye.

Choose your own VAR graphic

Still, at the moment any hope of being caught up in VAR frustration is a nice dream to have. First priority has to be getting back to winning ways. Brentford haven’t had as strong a start as hoped for, certainly given the way we finished last season, and two wins from our opening eight games isn’t form to set the world on fire. We’ve looked wonderful in places. Abject in others.

The decision to sell Neal Maupay was a huge one, no matter how much this was out of our hands (ahh, the joy of agents), which we’ve been slowly adjusting to. Said Benrahma missed a significant period out recovering from injury although is now back and itching to prove his invaluable role in this team. We’ve also been short of two midfield giants. Romaine Sawyers is currently top of the league at West Brom whilst Kamo has had to be content with a place on the bench following his own return and recovery time from an extended African Cup of Nations over the summer. 

Players need to recharge, of course, but I cannot wait to see him back in regular action. He was immense last season and surely, today, is the perfect opportunity for Thomas to shuffle his pack? If there is to be a switch in line up after three games unchanged then his is the obvious name. I’d love to see him start this one, although would be intrigued as to who makes place?

Likewise, it’s probably a bit too soon for Nikos Karelis to be starting a game although I’d expect him to put in an appearance from the bench at some point. We all know how well Ollie Watkins has done in adjusting to his new role but one can’t help felling it is only a short term positional change until we have a more traditional centre forward available. Then again, this is Brentford so who knows.

I had a message from an observer on the New Road last night that simply read ‘4-4-2’.

For a moment I thought he was live-scoring with the Strictly Come Dancing judges but after a moments reflection I questioned two things. 1) How did he know I was watching Strictly? I wasn’t, for the record. Just happened to be in the room at the same time as Mrs. Bruzon had it on TV. 2) It was actually his own suggestion of formation at Barnsley but would we ever go this far? 

Not a hope. There’s more chance of me watching ‘Strictly’. Something that hasn’t happened since the exact same second their best, ever, competitor in Judy Murray was voted off. The show has been dead to me since that moment. Nobody could reach the level she attained, although David James gave it a mighty fine stab last night and deserves to be booted out just for the gratuitous amount of chest hair on display. Not that I was watching. 

TX8 RESULTS SHOW

Safer with Anton than David. Don’t drop….

See also: Wagner being kicked out of the X-Factor. Not one of all those to follow in the illustrious footsteps of the (apparent) singer or dancer has come even half way close to emulating their efforts. If you are going to take part in these trials by TV then at least do it in style. As these two did.

You’ll be doing well to find a better moment than Anton du Beke precariously slinging Judy around a ballroom or Wagner making the effortless segue from ‘She Bangs’ to ‘Love Shack’ whilst positioning himself behind a giant pair of bongo drums.

Wagner bongos

Love shack, baby…. Better than a 0-0 v Stoke City

But we digress. Radically. The point being that Brentford won’t play anything as traditional as a 4-4-2 line up. No matter what prediction has been made by my fellow fan. So it’s Ollie or Nikos to start and, of course, it will be Watkins out of those two. Instead, any line up change will likely be in midfield with the rest of the team pretty much picking itself. Is there room for Nørgaard, Jensen and Mokotjo in the centre? Could any change to accommodate the South African come elsewhere? Or does Thomas keep faith with the team that destroyed Derby County but then struggled to break through against Preston and Stoke City?

One thing’s for sure, don’t take the advice of the numpty if you are looking for tactical insight. As we know full well, Brentford make a habit of constantly surprising us. On and off the pitch. Three games with a settled team is lovely but with a squad chock full of new and familiar faces, could something give when the referee gets proceedings underway at Oakwell? Roll on the 12.30pm team announcement (or 12.32pm on ‘official’) when we find out.

For those travelling to Barnsley, hats off and well done. It is a supreme effort when the game is, of course, available on BBC Radio London DAB or Sky Sports. The later of which is also being shown in the shadow of our own stadium at The Griffin pub.

Billy Reeves, Claire & Gerhard or Simon & Billy (Grant). Whoever you spend your afternoon with, enjoy the game. Win, lose or draw the season remains young and the table is still forming. There’s a LONG way to go in this campaign. Leeds United started at 100mph but things have started falling apart and the Elland Road outfit have dropped from 1st to 4th after picking up 4 points from the last possible 12 available. Beat Barnsley today and we’ll be on better form than Bielsa’s boys following our own 4 from the last 9.

Leeds will come good again. As will we. Starting today. I’m hugely confident about this one and am calling it now……. Away win.

The online bookmaker I use for research purposes also agrees and has us as ‘odds on’ favourites (marginally) at 19/20. Whilst not a game to bet the mortgage on, I take confidence in their faith. Let’s hope Sunday service is resumed at Oakwell.

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Let’s hope Brentford are more competitive today

Nick Bruzon