Tag Archives: Swansea

Will Wigan be banging the same drum when Bees visit?

9 Nov

Wigan Athletic, here we come. Brentford have the chance to get things back on track this Saturday following the bloody nose administered by Huddersfield Town. Hats off to the brave five hundred or so making the trip through the fog for this one. Last season’s tedium (including the unspeakable horror of a drum) combined with last night’s trip to the good bit of Shepherds Bush, where popular music’s The Bluetones were playing, make this one a journey too far for yours truly. Those green cards aren’t going to earn themselves. But is it the right decision to swerve this?

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The Bluetones – more fun than a trip to Wigan in the fog

From a musical perspective then, yes. The Bluetones were magnificent. It was the second trip to the end of the 237 in as many weeks and the result was just as satisfying. Moreso, given the number of Bees both in attendance and on stage.

At the other end of the spectrum, the previous game and drum at Wigan were simply awful.  It was one described on these pages at the time as insipid a 0-0 draw as one could imagine ; as turgid as it comes. Wigan were determined to strangle any life out of the game. Brentford, unable to find a way through as any attacking intent was choked out of the game.

Well, for those going up today it can’t be as bad as that. Can it? Brentford had their own challenge with stubborn opponents against Huddersfield Town last weekend. One would hope that Thomas Frank., himself speaking very openly in the Beesotted podcast this week, won’t fall into the same trap again. A repeat of our previous away trip and the Brentford that went to Swansea City would do very finely, thank you. 

Yet if Huddersfield were the division’s form team when our paths crossed, Wigan very much aren’t. One point out of a possible nine was rounded off with injury time defeat at home to Swansea last time out. Paul Cook, architect of the aforementioned snoozefest, is still at the helm for our hosts. Hopefully his team’s precarious position, just two places above the relegation spots, will encourage them to play a more open game in the search for success. The Bees are always at their best when playing that wonderful brand of free-flowing football which had seen 9 points and 9 goals prior to the visit from the Terriers.

Injurywise, there aren’t expected to be any changes from the side that has featured in recent weeks. I can only assume it will be more of the same when our starting XI is announced at 2pm. In part due to available players but as much to right the wrongs from the Huddersfield game. It was one which saw Saïd Benrahma stifled. Strangled into submission and, when he did get the ball, perhaps guilty of trying too hard to do it on his own. Perhaps that was down to the frustration of our scrap or maybe it was just his mindset.

He is singled out because he is, by a country mile, our most creative player. When Saïd is on song there’s no sweeter sound. One man can’t do it all but one man can inspire others around them. Sometimes it’s hard to remember he is just 24 years old (see also: Sergi Canos – 22) such is the vision and ability he has. This is a player who is only going to get better and better. One we really need to savour whilst we can. One who could be the catalyst in pushing this team forward.

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We all love Said

Whilst Brentford are mid-table at present, the play-off zone is a mere four points away. Had we picked up the win at Griffin Park the Bees would now been in eighth. It is something noted not to berate anybody for missing the opportunity but more to show how tight things remain in The Championship. Just four points separate Frank Lampard’s former club Derby County in 15th to Nottingham Forest in fifth. This is wide open for whoever wants it. At present, Hull City are the only side in the division to have won three games on the bounce. The form book is out of the window at the moment.

Checking with the bookies – purely for research purposes – not even they can call it. Brentford are very narrow favourites but the odds on offer suggest more than ever that any result is possible . Good luck with your accumulators. Personally, I wouldn’t go near this one with a barge pole. If nothing else, drums can be a largely unsettling factor.

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The Bees are favourites. On paper

All of which is summed up to say that yours truly hasn’t a clue. Although anybody still reading will surely have established that already from a column that very much feels like ‘contractual obligation’ today. The mind is still very much focussed on the fun and games had last night. Can Brentford get things heading back in the right direction? Will Paul Cook conspire to frustrate us one more?  There’s only one place to find out – and it ’s not here this morning.

Roll on 3pm when, all being well, the normal course of events can resume.

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Last time out – A drum is no substitute atmosphere

Nick Bruzon 

Calling all agents. Let’s do this.

28 Oct

There’s not too much to say, today. Brentford travel to Queens Park Rangers with morale high after those epic victories over Millwall and then up at Swansea City. Thanks again, agent Bidwell. This time we’ve none other than Mark Warburton and Yoann Barnet filling the roles of Griffin Park legends who have taken the short journey by 237 to Shepherds Bush. With the hosts flying high, it promises to be tasty. The big question being which team continues with their recent form and which has their head coach searching through the kitbag for that envelope labelled ‘Plan B’ ?

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All of this is, of course, before you factor in the small matter of a local derby. The history between our two clubs has been well documented and, if nothing else, Peter Gilham seems on a one man mission to ensure that neither fans nor players every forget the failed takeover. Whatever your thoughts on his refusal to even mention them by name, a crash course in local history seems as much a part of new players joining as the pre-season karaoke,  half-chewed biro and obligatory signing photo pose with choice of contract, scarf or new shirt.

We all know what happened. Almost. We all know that our recent record against our near neighbours is a good one. A very good one. Brentford have won 5 and drawn 1 of our last 7(seven) competitive fixtures. We’ll draw a discreet veil over the incident of the 4-6-0 formation which culminated in something called a ‘false 9’. Very much a Plan C that will hopefully never be repeated.

The not so good news for Brentford fans is that the injury glut that has already spannered Sergi Canos has now done for Nikos Karelis. ‘Official’ describe him as having suffered a serious knee injury against Millwall which will see him out for a significant period of time. The flip side of this being that both players were missing for the Swansea game and look how we went there. Benrahma and Mbuemo are on fire whilst Josh Dasilva must be one of the first names on the team sheet in the middle.

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Swansea, last time out.

Chuck in a bit of revenge required for ‘that’ 2-2 capitulation (0-2 on 90+2 becoming 2-2 on 90+4 having an almost Millwallesque feel about it) and the hosts won’t have it easy. Then there’s the pressure of knowing that a point will be enough to take them into the play-off positions by virtue of goal difference.

Will Yoann Barnet add to his collection of penalties conceded this season? At least three at the last count. Will Ollie Watkins be able to keep himself at the business end of the Championship goal scorer chart? Can Brentford make it three wins on the bounce?

I can’t wait for the chance to find out. For those who can’t make it, there’s Sky and The Griffin are also showing the game.

Or how about ‘Our friends at radio’? How it’s going to work tonight is that BBC Radio London on DAB/Digital have comms with
Phil Parry, Paul Parker and the mellifluous Billy Reeves. Enjoy.

However, you choose to follow let’s bring it on. See you there!!!

QPR Loftus Road

Off we go, again….

If Saturday was crazy, that was just unbelievable…

23 Oct

I can’t call this tonight. The heart says Brentford. The table says Swansea. The Championship says anything can happen. All I’ll say for sure is that it can’t be as awful as last season. It can’t be exciting as Millwall. Can it…..? 

Those, the last words written on these pages yesterday as Brentford prepared for their trip to the Liberty stadium. They were words written on the back of last season’s record against Swansea which had read:  P3 L3 Goals scored 3 Goals against 10.

Yet they were also words written in the aftermath of that scintillating comeback and eventual victory over Millwall on Saturday. A game that will live long in the memory for those fortunate enough to have been present. One that social media, amongst other sources, has helped draw those who missed out into the communal outpouring of excitement that continued long after the final whistle had blown.

And boy, what a way to kick on from there. What a way to pick up that ball and run with the momentum of confidence. A 3-0 win on the road for The Bees lifting us up into the top half of the table and a mere four points from the play-off zone. And we’ve not even had the chance to become #Novemberkings yet. Urghh, feel so dirty. Should have just said it’s still October. 

The scoreline was emphatic. The preference and quality of the goals equally so. The first coming from Saïd Benrahma, curling home from the edge of the box. It was a finish to match any of his ten from last season as he opened his account this time around. His return to fill fitness very much being rewarded with a continuation of where he left off last time out.

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The moment, captured on film

It was two before half time. Special agent Jake Bidwell firing home from the penalty spot, under pressure from Ollie Watkins.  The own goal from our former skipper something that even the YouTube highlights describe as almost being as though he meant it. I’m sure he didn’t. I’d have been amazed if he could. Who cares though. As we’ve said many, many times before – balls in the back of the net are the only thing that count. No matter how they get there.

Thanks, Jake. Thanks everyone.

The best was yet to come. Bryan Mbuemo with a quite ridiculous third. Running through the Swansea midfield before firing home with a sublime finish on the diagonal. If we’re going to quote yesterday’s column, and frankly why not, then I’l crave forgiveness for a little more self-indulgence with the observation that “Bryan Mbuemo is looking as though he could be our latest hidden gem, unearthed.   To put it mildly, the French U-21 would seem to have found his feet in the Championship. What perfect timing with the trip to Shepherds Bush next up.

If Millwall was an ‘I was there’ moment then, being honest, this was probably more the case of ‘I wasn’t there’. Not surprisingly, the number of visiting fans seemed thin on the ground judging by the shots afforded us in the highlights reel. The final report on ‘official’ counts it at 215. Hats off to each and every one of them.  Their reward, a fine victory and having the pleasure of seeing Mbuemo fire home that splendid final goal at the away end.

It could have been better. Sleight of foot and almost interplay between Benrahma and Watkins that seemed almost choreographed ended up with the Algerian curling one just wide of the far post. It was a moment of magic to rival a drunken Paul Daniels and Hans Moretti firing crossbow bolts at the lovely Debbie McGee. The finish was almost as deadly.  Metaphorically speaking. That one’s on the highlight reel too. Benrahma rather than Daniels. Paul rather than Luke. Do check it out.

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Debbie – lovely

There’s not much more to say. On a game where Swansea City dominated the possession and the shots on target, it was Brentford who came away with all three goals and all three points. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere but it’ll take greater intellect than this numpty on the terrace to work it out.

It was a stunning result. It’s been a magnificent few days. Here’s to Monday evening. Here’s hoping another former Bee or two can pick up where Jake left off. Better still that Bryan, Saïd, Ollie and the rest of the gang do the same. 

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More of the same would do nicely on Monday

Nick Bruzon

How do you top Saturday? Simple. Don’t repeat last season.

22 Oct

It’s an obvious question. The turnaround that saw Brentford go from 0-2 down with 84 minutes on the clock to end the game as 3-2 winners over Millwall was one of those ‘I was there moments’. See also: Burton away, Fulham away or the time somebody laughed at Mrs. Browns Boys. Oh well, as Meatloaf once sang… And the simple answer is that we go again. This time to Swansea City where an intense period of Championship action resumes this evening with the hope that we forget about 2018/19….

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What a finish on Saturday

It would be fair to say that whilst it probably can’t get any better than Saturday for The Bees, it certainly can’t get any worse than last season. Swansea were the Mrs. Brown to our sanity. An undefeatable nemesis whose performance against us in the FA Cup fifth round at The Liberty stadium was a humbling experience only made worse by their performance against in the League  at The Liberty Stadium. 

The 4-1 trashing administered in the cup, one which was earned from an Ollie Watkins inspired 0-1 HT lead. The turnaround in the second period was immense. Swansea scoring four times as they earned a quarter final at home to Manchester City, Daniel James earned a transfer to Manchester United and Neal Maupay earned the wrath of the BBC and (probably) Ian Moose. That after firing over late in the game .

The league game in April saw Brentford on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline in an encounter that had it been the proverbial boxing match, would have been stopped within the first minute after Nathan Dyer gave Swansea the lead with what even the BBC described at the time as “One of the fastest goals scored at the Liberty stadium”. Don’t forget, either, how we’d also lost the early season league game 3-2 after shipping three goals in an opening half hour that had already included a close to ten minute delay for an injury break. It would be fair to say that we were all well glad to see the back of Swansea City last season.

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Swansea in the FA Cup wasn’t good.

That was then. This is now. Swansea are riding high in the table. Currently sitting in third position and surely favourites for this one tonight. Surely? Well, having already buried last season’s away shirt ‘hoodoo’ (there wasn’t one, but if it makes the brown/orange haters, of which there were apparently a few, then all the better) with our form on the road this time out, Brentford had THAT morale boosting win at the weekend. Ollie Watkins is at the business end of the Championship leading goalscorer charts whilst Bryan Mbuemo is looking as though he could be our latest hidden gem, unearthed. Sergi may be injured but the likes of Pontus and Said lead the the charge of players with their hearts on the sleeve. Josh Dasilva has discovered his appetite for goalscoring and seems to enjoy the taste.

Hats off to those travelling. Long midweek journeys provide a very easy option these days via the medium of the Sky ‘red’ button. There’s also the lure of iFollow for those of you who like your coverage ‘old school’. The excitement of the team as Ollie did his thing on Saturday very much akin to the moment Mark Burridge exploded up at Blackburn after Jota went on that little sortie forward.

 I can’t call this tonight. The heart says Brentford. The table says Swansea. The Championship says anything can happen. All I’ll say for sure is that it can’t be as awful as last season. It can’t be exciting as Millwall. Can it…..?

Nick Bruzon

Cambridge follow Oxford in giving Bees the third degree.

14 Aug

Well that wasn’t great. Cambridge United reached the second round of the League Cup at the expense of a Brentford team chock full of new signings yet tinkered with to such an extent that it was almost at the level of  Marinus and the car keys in a bowl team selection of Oxford United from the same stage a few season back. Almost. At least this time we held on for a 1-1 draw before succumbing to fatal spot kicks taken in front of an ecstatic away support. On the plus side, the arrival of alleged Celtic target Rico Henry and long term signing Ollie Watkins put some much needed spring in the step to a game we almost won but, obviously, didn’t. 

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Griffin Park looked great under lights. Despite the result.

Upset? In a cup sense then of course but personally I slept well upon returning home. Dru Yearwood’s mistake early on presented Cambridge a chance from which they made no mistake but then they barely had a look in. Dru himself looked composed after that and grew into the game but the challenge of throwing so many new faces together was one that Brentford struggled with. Thomas Frank would later describe it as a disjointed performance and few present in the 5000+ crowd could argue with that.

Trying to look on the bright side this morning, there are still plenty of positives. Thomas was always going to play the new boys  – even this self-confessed numpty on the terrace called that one out yesterday – so it was a self-imposed challenge. The visitors came at us from the off and got the early goal as we struggled to settle in. Fair play to them in doing what they needed to but after that there was no more. Rather than turn into an Oxford style car crash (3-0 down after 12 minutes with Kemar Roofe’s 40 yard lob of Jack Bonham the ultimate slap in the face for the hapless head coach back in 2015) Brentford put the brakes on. Even though we struggled to get through our opponents, looking to walk it in rather than shoot, at least it stopped the goals going in.

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Marinus and the Oxford fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never, ever forget

Thompson, Mbuemo, Valencia and Yearwood in particular all grew into the game and now have vital minutes under the belt. Zamburek and Racic stepped in and stepped up to a line up which was very much one for this evening only. Rico Henry and Ollie Watkins made a huge difference when they came on and showed what might have been had Thomas not used the game to try out new faces and give his starting XI a break after their exertions in the weekend win at Middlesbrough. Hull City on Saturday is going to be a tough one so you can understand why he has done this.

Outside of the rested faces, we’ve still got the likes of Said and Kamo to come back in to the team. And Marcus Forss scored another goal for the Bees. Huge news there with a starting berth possibly up for grabs in Thomas Frank’s all attack front line for Hull.

The subsequent second round draw saw Cambridge United drawn away to Swansea City. That in itself a reason to be grateful for crashing out. After last season’s horror shows against the Swans (home, away and FA Cup trip) the less we see of them in the short term the better. Besides, it also means we are now free to concentrate on the league.

And, of course, Celtic lost. Knocked out of the Champions League at home by CFR Cluj of Romania. Their own collapse at the death seeing them fail to make the group stages once more. This in itself of huge importance to Brentford, given the apparent interest in Rico Henry and the fact that their window remains open for a few more weeks so anyone could still leave for the Scottish top flight. Should they desire.

With the lure of Europe’s top table no longer available (as ever at this time of year), might a move to Glasgow be quite so appealing for Rico?  If, indeed, it was? The way he played last night, he is somebody who will surely be part of Thomas Frank’s plans this season so hanging on to him will be another boost.

Also, the cover of the programme looked great. Clutching at straws now, granted, but it was that sort of night. Some would say ‘couldn’t be bothered’ . Personally, I’ll go for slight over-tinkering in a bid to get new blood circulating. Another time we may have got away with it but not this time and there’s not much else to say, really.

Well done to our visitors. No gripes for me there. Bad luck Bees. We tried but much like Oxford, Cambridge gave us an education in how to play cup football and it was Brentford left with the blues. Nobody needs any further lecture from me on the subject.

Roll on Saturday and Hull City. See you there.

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Nice artwork

Nick Bruzon

Off-field matters for Brentford (and Liverpool) provide main talking points ahead of Derby County visit.

6 Apr

There’s not too much to say about on-pitch matters today. With Brentford set to welcome Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™, the hope is a simple one. Please, please, please , pleeeease just be better than the last week’s games at Wigan and Swansea. Even slightly. It’s not that much to ask, is it? Elsewhere, Liverpool got the weekend’s proceedings under way at Southampton last night where they duly returned to the top of the Premier league. Their battle with Manchester City proving as intriguing as the one at the top of the Championship – just who is going to blink first? And once more, Matthew Benham proved why he is the club owner like no other.

Hulk_(comics_character)First up, matters at Griffin Park. Brentford have been like the Incredible Hulk this season. At home, a side that seem permanently set to ‘rampage’ mode. An irrepressible, destructive force beating back all comers as easily as a cat toying with a spider. Yet away from home, we’ve been that other side of his alter-ego, Doctor Bruce Banner. All the right ideas but none of the physical prowess.

Last week was the consummate demonstration of our split personality this campaign (I would also accept: Jekyll and Hyde team). I’m sure there may even be a few supporters wishing we were still bedecked in 2017/2018’s gamma ray green rather than the current brown & orange (best. away kit. ever).

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We did ok in green….

Thankfully, we are back home today. This time around Frank Lampard’s etc etc are the visitors. Even allowing for the traditional Leeds United ‘choke’, automatic promotion is probably an aspiration too far. However, sitting 7th(seventh) in the Championship, Derby still have a quite magnificent chance of making the play-offs. It is no doubt a position they will look to strengthen this afternoon although, as ever, might the pressure of a ‘must win’ game play into our hands?

For Brentford, the season is all but mathematically over. The ten points to sixth place just too big a gap to reel n with just 7(seven) games to go. It’s a massive shame that we hit the skids after having hauled ourselves back into contention but that’s how football works. Consistency is rewarded with league position. The table doesn’t lie (obvious, but….) and unfortunately we’ve not been able to do it on the road this time around.

I saw a stat on the BBC which was a damming indictment of what happened on Tuesday evening at Swansea – namely that the Bees attempted just six shots as we went down 3-0. Our lowest in a league match since performing the same feat  having six against Middlesbrough. That’s one attempt every 15 minutes – not great. To put it mildly.

The plus point from that game is that a reaction must surely be imminent. Thomas Frank pulled no punches after the game and has since used his press-conference to note : “We need to bounce back, everyone can see that.  . Add to that our own form at home combined with the aforementioned knowledge that Derby really have to win and I think we’re going to be going home very happy at 5pm. 

It has been a long, long season but a thrilling one. Mostly. If only we’d been able to pick up few more wins away from home then who knows what might have been? Yet with the nucleus of a wonderful squad at his disposal (for now), should Thomas be allowed / able to keep them together, our final season at Griffin Park could be a most incredible one. Here’s hoping that push starts today.

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View from the Braemar – I’m expecting a happy Thomas at full time.

Moving on. I watched the Southampton – Liverpool game last night. Jürgen Klopp’s team showed a relentlessness that money can’t buy. Despite conceding an early goal from Shane Long (not a typo) they just kept going and going until the points were secured. It was a performance that showed them as Hulk like on their travels as they are at home. Anyway, I’m not here to specifically bang about Liverpool – beyond admiring their travelling form. Such chat usually leads into a rant about the media love in and we end up playing Anfield bingo – tick one of your cards for every reference to the Kop being like a twelfth man, “Glory, glory European nights”, the miracle of Istanbul, Shankley, Paisley, Klopp getting over-excited etc 

Instead, it was more just a chance to tear the hair out in regards Jamie Carragher. Back in the early 2000’s Sky TV had a brief flirtation with the red button option for ‘fan commentary’. Should you have been crazy enough to select this, the reward was a supporter from each club pouring forth on their team and the game in question. It was horrific although, to be fair, still better than Richard Keys and Andy Gray. This ‘service’ was quietly pensioned off but now seems to have returned – specifically in the guise of the former Liverpool defender. 

Oh. My. Word. Could he have been anymore biased? Could he have been any more fanboy? We all know he used to play for Liverpool but plenty of ex-players have made that transition from pitch to commentary box. None have quite matched his level of reminding us all how amazing his former are. How excited he is is that they are winning. Even full time saw him running on to the pitch to interrupt Kelly Cates and Gary Neville in the middle of their own post-match interviews as he attempted to take centre stage.

Contrast this to the erudite views, opinions and questioning of Neville (even when Manchester United are on). I’m sure Gary would like to remind us he used to play for a successful team and still follows them, but that’s not the job of being a commentator or a pundit. Likewise  quite wonderful Kelly, as the daughter of Kenny Dalglish, comes form a footballing pedigree that would more than entitle her to rave about Liverpool. Whilst you could understand her wanting to enjoy the moment, there was but nothing beyond consummate professionalism here. 

Look, I’m all for a bit of excitement and enthusiasm but have some class. Have some decorum. Know your audience. If nothing else, Jamie has played the game at the highest level and won some major honours. He’s been there and done it so knows what he is talking about.

Yet instead of this, it was almost like the early days of Beesplayer when from time to time they had to draft in the more excitable elements from the media team. Being able to write about a game isn’t the same as being able to talk about. Before Sky made the quite ridiculous decision to let Natalie Sawyer go, you could see her almost itching to reference the benefit to Brentford every time she was  involved in a game where one of our rivals was shooting themselves in the foot. Instead, she kept it classy. 

I’m sure Carragher has his fans. Good luck to them. And him. You can’t deny his passion but when it comes at the expense of proper analysis then doesn’t it kind of defeat the point? At least, for those of us who just want to enjoy a game of football. Perhaps it’s just me.

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The king and queen of Griffin Park commentary. Jamie could learn a thing or two

And finally, Matthew Benham. We all know our owner has a quite special means of using social media. He doesn’t say too much on Twitter these days but when he does, it’s always worth a look. As happened yesterday evening.

I’m not sure what else I can say, beyond this is quite magnificent. Only at Brentford……

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Nick Bruzon

Could it have been any worse? Well, I’m smiling this morning.

3 Apr

What a night for Brentford fans. Simply magnificent. Twitter was awash with celebrations well into the small hours. Nothing to do with the performance at Swansea City, if one can even call it that, but more the fact that Fulham are down. Officially. They will now have to spend the last five games of the season being described as Fulham (R),  after their inevitable return to the Championship was confirmed at Watford. With Huddersfield Town already doomed, we now know two of the teams that we’ll be lining up against next time around. It’s just a shame that we’ve not been able to fulfil the opening part of the “Bees Up Fulham down” refrain, this time around. Woeful away form will do that to you though.

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Watford administer the fatal blow

The magnificent post-Christmas run that saw us within sniffing distance of the top six has well and truly come to a halt. We’ve not scored in four games whilst away from Griffin Park have been on the wrong end of some pretty turgid performances. Last night’s obliteration by Swansea City had been preceded by the stinkfest at Wigan (0-0), a 1-0 home defeat to West Brom and the post Middlesbrough 2-0 loss at Sheffield United. That’s one point earned in four games where we’ve failed to trouble the scorers. To this we can now add the latest, a 3-0 battering at Swansea City that saw us a goal down within a minute and that lead then doubled in a first half which also saw the hosts hit the crossbar twice.

The ‘highlights’ are here if you can do it to yourself. Oh, those first two goals are awful. One has to feel for the fans who travelled for this.  And the players, although at least Thomas Frank recognised that they knew the level of under. His post-match interview was pulling no punches as he noted,  We can lose. Ok, that’s football but I think the performance we put into the first half was under our normal standards. It was slightly better second half but first half is not good enough, no matter if you concede an early goal or not…we are definitely not satisfied with that and we need to sort it out as soon as possible”.

His interview, which you can see below went on to describe how we had played without intensity or belief. All well and good but why? Is it simply exhaustion as the squad, which has also seen Ryan Woods & Chris Mepham sold for many, many millions, is stretched to the very limits after a long season? Why have we had such a devastating contrast between home and away form? 

Thomas tells it like it is.

Let’s not forget how this season Griffin Park has borne witness to us scoring goals for fun and taking teams apart as easily as a kitten toying with a spider. Rotherham, Hull City and Blackburn Rovers (the latter two as recently as February) were all on the wrong end of five goal hauls. QPR were obliterated last month in a game where the most confusing factor was how we only managed three. The combination of Neal Maupay and Said Benrahma has fans purring like the aforementioned kitten, such has been the prolific nature of their form in recent months. 

So how does wonderful home form (mostly, let’s not linger on the visit from Swansea City where we were three down in about twenty minutes) translate to death on the road? I wish I knew. The second half at the Liberty Stadium in the FA Cup being about as horrific and shambolic as it has been.

That had seen us 1-0 up at HT and heading into the quarter-finals before the self-destruct button was hit and Luke Daniels was left scooping the ball out of his net four times. Five if you count the offside.

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Swansea in the FA Cup wasn’t good.

That’s not to get on the back of the players or the management. The former are amongst the most exciting we’ve had in years. A team packed full of young internationals and goals, goals, goals. Mostly. Thomas, a wonderful orator and that rare quality of being a head-coach who tells it like it is rather than how he would like it to be (#deservedtowin) . How the fans see it. A man who exudes confidence and faith in his squad. We’ve a new stadium being built at Lionel Road, for which surely next season will see a big push in order to open preceding in the top flight. That, in itself, a quite outrageous thing for those of us a bit longer in the tooth it even be considering !

Ultimately, we’ve not blown £100m on players. Oh dear. We’ve not been divisional whipping boys. We’ve not had an owner who has felt compelled to argue with supporters on social media as to whether he attends games or performs unspeakable with dogs. 

For all that Fulham slipped into the Premiership last time around, they’ve dropped out as quickly as they entered. Noses very much bloodied, foam fingers wilting and clappers crushed. The coffers emptied and a third manager now in charge. Scott Parker unable to arrest the dreadful form seen under Claudio Ranieri who himself had been unable to arrest the dreadful form seen under Slaviša Jokanović. 

Swansea City may have ensured that it won’t be Bees up but Watford definitely pressed the button to make it Fulham down. The season has had plenty of smiles and despite our own performance last night, I’ve woken up with another one across my face.

Here’s to a few more against Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ on Saturday. 

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The season has still had plenty of smiles

Nick Bruzon

Uncanny parallels on a day of Gayle v gale as the run comes to an end.

17 Mar

And with that, the home streak was over. After 7 (seven) straight wins at Griffin Park, Brentford went down to West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in a game dominated by two goalkeepers and awful conditions. On a day windier than a naughty puppy at Christmas after snafflling an entire family size tub of Roses, it was West Brom who played both the conditions and the ref to win the game with their one moment of true quality – Kyle Edwards embarking on mazy run through the midfield and the Brentford defence to steer it past Luke Daniels six minutes into the second half. Elsewhere, there was more than a passing interest in how our own FA Cup conquerors, Swansea City, would fare in the next round at home to Manchester City. It would be fair to say there was no irony lost in how that one turned out. But we can only start with matters at Griffin Park.

The writing was on the wall before the game even kicked off in anger, if we’re being honest. And not just the appointment of Andy Madley as our ‘referee’. There was that lowest of low tricks at the toss – changing ends. I’m not a fan of having to kick ‘the wrong way’ in the first half. It doesn’t feel right and gets everybody’s back up. Especially given it meant we’d spend the second period kicking into the wind. And it was strong, very strong. The trees behind the away end were bending double whilst three balls were lost over the stadium roof after being hoofed high into the gusty stratosphere.

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View from the Braemar – West Brom had it when to counted. Sadly.

It was a bad start to the game but entirely understandable given the circumstances. Despite pressure and chances, the Bees were unable to find a way past Sam Johnstone in goal for the opposition in that opening period. It was another game where we went for it from the off.

Yet where previously we’ve had the ability to step it up in the second period, this time there was no way through. The elements providing a massive help to a team who defended with strength whilst cynically running down the clock at every opportunity. The ball was kicked away whenever possible, the ref allowed The Baggies to get in his ear and under his skin, throw ins were delayed and dives that would have had Tom Daley smiling were common place.

Much as against Sheffield United midweek, Brentford were locked out by well drilled opponents. When the chances came, the ball didn’t quite fall right or Johnstone was on hand to pull off top drawer saves. One in particular, from a Yoann Barbet free kick, had the fans out of their seats for 1-0 Brentford before the diving’ keeper’s outstretched palm managed to guide it to safety at the explosion of the ‘goal’ celebration. Canos and Maupay also came close but it wasn’t to be. 

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View from the Braemar – Yoann comes close. So close.

When West Brom had their own opportunity, Edwards took it with style. There can be no complaints about the way he started and finished the move. Even if there were plenty afterwards as the clock headed towards it’s inexorable denouement with all the pressure and tension of a losing Countdown contestant trying to make a last round word out of JKXDZBEIO.

More so, when referee Madley followed a strong first hour with a final thirty minutes which suggested his focus was anywhere but on ensuring the game could flow. His own performance very much going to the dogs as Brentford battled against Dwight Gayle, a roaring gale and a rogue ref.

So after the play-off dream had briefly raised its head in recent weeks, we’re now nine points off the top six with nine games to go. Given the way this team can play, I’m not going to say it’s over until it’s over. But being realistic, things are going to need a remarkable swing.

On the plus side, we’ve got international break to all catch our breath and recuperate before that final push begins at the end of the month with two away games – Wigan Athletic and then a midweek trip to Swansea City. At the very least, another top ten finish is more than attainable. Another finish over the likes of Birmingham City and QPR well within our grasp.

Yesterday was frustrating and notably so, given the conditions we had to watch the game in. Whilst I’d never trade being at Griffin Park for TV, there was a pang of jealousy about the comfort of those watching ‘on screen’ from sunnier climes.

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Not exactly TW8….

Still, if it was all about the comfort then you may aswell stay at home. Something a group of West Brom fans must have been wishing after putting on the worst pre-match display for TV’s Soccer AM since, well, that day we don’t talk about against Doncaster Rovers.

With football done, it was back home to catch up on the FA Cup action. In particular, the game between Swansea City and Manchester City. That one being of particular interest to Bees fans after we’d seen a 1-0 half time lead at the Liberty Stadium in the previous round turn into a 4-1 fifth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where a free kick had beaten Luke Daniels, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 1-1.

So there was no irony lost as Swansea saw a 2-1 second half lead at the Liberty Stadium turn into a 3-2 sixth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where Sergio Aguero’s penalty had beaten Kristoffer Nordfeldt, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 2-2.

That the penalty decision, like Aguero’s late winner, had probably been made the wrong way can only have added to the sense of frustration felt by the home fans. Tell me about it. Yet another two fingers up delivered from VAR or, more the case, the lack of VAR. The FA Cup only allowing the system to be used in games players at Premier league grounds. Nothing like keeping the competition consistent, eh? 

For Manchester City, an incredible opportunity to scoop a quadruple still awaits. For Brentford and Swansea City, we’re back to the drawing board. The Championship play-offs remain a mathematical possibility but are going to take an incredible combination of wins and favours from other teams.

 With Leeds United and Frank Lampard’s Derby county still to visit, who knows what might sill happen…..

Nick Bruzon

Bees hoping for more, more, more as West Brom visit this afternoon

16 Mar

What a run it has been for Brentford. 7(seven) wins in succession at Griffin Park. The crowd behind the team. The team playing for fun. Those full time celebrations and walks around the paddock now becoming a very welcome, and regular, feature. Most of all, it’s fun. The smiles are broad and the goals are flying in. I love it and can’t wait for the next game to come around. However, promotion chasing West Bromwich Albion are in town today and will be the latest team looking to put a spoke in the wheel of Thomas Frank’s runaway home form. Everybody needs to be on red alert for this one. Despite relieving manager Darren Moore of his duties last week, they got back to winning ways on Wednesday night against Swansea City. It was a game which featured what must surely be a contender for worst. penalty. ever as the Swans missed out on the opportunity to equalise in quite spectacular style. When you have that level of fortune smiling on you, it’ll be no surprise if The Baggies come in to this one with their tails up. Yet with the table still tight and The Bees 7(seven) points off 6th with a game in hand, despite our own midweek slip up at Sheffield United, there’ll be no excuses for not going at this one full tilt.

And full tilt is what Thomas Frank specialises in. Our home record speaks for itself whilst last month saw Brentford hit five goals at Griffin Park on two separate occassions. Hull City and Blackburn Rovers being the teams to take that pummelling at the back. QPR were put to the sword with what looked like consummate ease last time we were all here. Then, of course, there was the win on the road at Middlesbrough. Finally, it happened. What a reward for all the hard work, effort and self-belief.

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Thomas celebrates at home. Again

Even our substitutions are positive. There’s no looking to run down the clock or grind it out in the last few minutes with additional defenders or holding midfielders. Instead, Thomas is swapping one attacking player for another. It worked a treat in that QPR game whilst was a tactic deployed very early up at Sheffield United. It was a tactic that almost paid off against a side whose own defence is tighter than a pair of 80’s football shorts.   

As for the team, Saïd Benrahma has been on fire and this week captured the Championship goal of the month award for February aswell as also being earlier nominated in the ‘player’ category. Neal Maupay is becoming a cult hero to rival the best of those we’ve seen over the years as he mixes fighting spirit with goals. His 20 in the league, to date, is a figure beaten only by a small clutch of players and the crowd love him. Sergi is once more playing like the Sergi of old. Romaine is the absolute unsung hero of the side. The choice of wing backs and three centre backs is giving both added protection in along with another option of being able to turn defence into attack. 

The squad is about as full strength as one could hope for at this point in the season. Rico Henry remains absent whilst, of course, Daniel Bentley is a casualty of that game at Middlesbrough. Luke Daniels came in for the Sheffield United game and Thomas has already confirmed he’ll be starting again today. We’ve all see what Luke can do over the last couple of seasons and he can, perhaps, count himself unlucky not to have been given a chance earlier on this tie around. The life of a goalkeeper must be a frustrating one at times.

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Saïd, Neal and the team are providing goals and smiles

So it all sounds very promising for The Bees but let’s not forget the small matter of our visitors. West Brom almost pulled off an 11th hour stay of execution from Premier League relegation last time out and they’ve picked up where they left off. At least, in terms of position. The play off zone has been an almost constant feature this time out, something that their illustrious neighbours (please note, your definition of illustrious may vary) have really struggled with in recent seasons following their own demotions from the top flight. Aston Villa and Birmingham City, I’m looking at you. 

Dwight Gayle is still banging them in, sitting just behind Neal in the Championship goal scorers table. He has managed 3 from his last 2 games against The Bees and will no doubt be looking to improve on that today. The run of results that saw Darren Moore pushed out was immediately reversed with that 3-0 defeat of Swansea City. If nothing else, could the change of manager (given what many fans were describing as confusing tactics) and the huge slice of luck in ‘that penalty’ prove pivotal in lifting them back to a position of being promotion favourites ?

All is forgiven, Marcello…

My heart says ‘home win’ today. Brentford have been on fire, especially at Griffin Park, whilst West Bromwich Albion are still dusting themselves down after the upheaval and wayward performances of the last few weeks. Yet with the visitors looking to lock down their play-off position and the Bees still with hopes of ghosting up the table to sixth, could pressure and expectation be the biggest factors here? Will the winning team be the one the handles this the best? Or will Thomas Frank have more of those wonderful motivational cards up his sleeve to inspire the team and the fans to another home win?

I’m just the numpty on the terrace and have no means of being able to answer that with any form of accuracy. But I tell you what, I can’t wait for kick off to find out how this one is going to go. It promises to be as exciting a game as any we’ve had to date.

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Club and fans help take the edge off cup disappointment.

20 Feb

Who wanted to play Manchester City, anyway? Swansea City were rewarded with an FA Cup quarter final at home to Pep Guardiola’s all conquering Premier League outfit after beating the Bees on Sunday. Brentford, denied a 30 year (wow!) anniversary rematch with the club supported since a child by goal scoring legend Gary Blissett.  

Bliss Manchester City

The iconic Bees cup image was so close to getting a modern day revamp

We’ve all seen it by now. We all know the performance was as devastating in the second half as it was exhilarating in the first. Swansea City were worthy winners. A combination of spurious defending, blistering pace and just plain old bad luck proving to be our undoing. The coach journey home was about as tough as it gets – the feelings far to raw to try and process just what had happened at The Liberty stadium. Yet having now given it a few days to reflect, are there any positives we can take from what happened? And, for the record, being able to concentrate on the league does not count !

On the field, I’m struggling. Ollie Watkins’ goal was a work of art. Magnificent build up play that showed rampant Brentford at their free-flowing best. Yet, if anything, in retrospect it only made what came next even harder take as the Bees not so much waved the white flag as rolled out the red carpet to our hosts. 

IMG_1783Special mention to Kitman Bob, though. The previously unseen red number worn by Luke Daniels being another tick in the box marked sartorial bliss. In the interests of avoiding a revolution, we’ll spare any further comment on the brown/orange being sported by the rest of the team. What’s the point of pouring petrol on a chip fire by eulogising further about something that others deem to be anything from vile to the sole reason for our struggling on the road this term.

For all that this season’s FA cup was looking like it might turn into one of the most open tournaments in its illustrious history, all off a sudden we are in a situation where 6 of the final 8 are all from the Premier League. The sole representation from outside the top flight coming from Millwall and, of course, Swansea City. No doubt the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United will fancy themselves to add another notch on the bed post of tournament success. The chance of an unfancied team winning it now disappearing faster than Sunday’s half-time lead. In the end, top flight form once more took hold and the potato skins can now stay in the recycling box.

We can’t talk about Sunday without recognising the effort made by Brentford to help our fans get to Swansea and get into the ground. The second the game was moved it became a logistical nightmare. We all know that Sunday engineering works were due to take place meaning any attempt to travel by rail (and replacement bus) . So for that fleet of coaches to be provided with little to no not, and laid on for free, was nothing short of amazing. Add an £11 price for 2 tickets( one adult and on child) into the mix to realise what an effort was made by our club to help the fans. Nobody can doubt what we do off the pitch.

Nowhere moreso was this proven by the team in the ticket office. Much as I love being part of any ‘singing’ section towards the back of the stand, travelling with a five year old presents it’s own challenge. Namely because the second anybody might chose to stand up (apparently, it does happen) his own view is obscured. Even when on foot himself ! So imagine the huge grin on his face when our request for tickets towards the front of the stand was met with front row, middle. Right behind the goal. Whilst we all know what a fantastic job the ticketing team do, that they continue to care so much is nothing short of incredible. What a way to represent our club.

Let’s look at the fans themselves. The coming together on the coaches rather than the usual train service meant previously unheard conversations began as groups of unconnected supporters were thrown into the powder keg of an 8 hour round trip with no means of escape. I saw one tweet from Oh Fuffuxake! / @TheChauffeur! on Twitter noting that, “Weird old day yesterday. Spoilt only by a 45 minute debacle that was out of my hands. However, can I thank the lads on the coach home. New pals, new drinking buddies and BIG laughs…

On a personal note, I finally got to meet regular correspondent Bernard Quackenbush  / @BernardQuack after a chance encounter in the stand. Like ‘Push up Brentford’ man, Jumper man and Brentford Bot, BQ is an essential part of the club’s rich tapestry of ‘fans to follow’. Whilst our paths have never crossed previously, outside of cyber space, like ‘The Chauffeur’ it felt like the sort of day to make new friends. Thank to the vagaries of pre-allocated ticket distribution, that’s another ‘face put to name’.

Indeed, the random meet ups continued even last night. Sitting in a Kentish Town pub awaiting the arrival of an Aston Villa supporting friend (unlike his club, he did eventually show up) prior to watching popular music’s The Lemonheads, my own attention was grabbed by one of the people I was sharing a table with. The ears couldn’t help but prick up on hearing him say, “I couldn’t believe it. We were 1-0 up and cruising at half-time. They did us 4-1 in the end”. That could only be Brentford and sure enough, it was. Even from the most abject of football finishes, our club found a way of uniting supporters.   

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The Lemonheads do their thing in Kentish Town

Yet for me, one of the abiding moments was on the way home. It was provided by Simon. Harry Potter. On another coach. His enthusiasm for all things Brentford unable to be crushed by something as trivial as a trashing in the cup. Reports across social media suggesting that his coach was very much the life and soul of an otherwise potentially sombre return journey to West London. I won’t deny the smile on my face at the thought of the fun being had on his bus (please note: your definition of fun may vary)  as ours was punctuated by nothing more than the faint tapping of iPod headphones and a chorus of snores drifting up and down the aisle (not me, for the record). 

Let’s nor pretend that Sunday ended well in a footballing sense. Let’s not pretend we weren’t secretly jealous when Manchester City came out of the hat. Imagining what might have been. Mostly a 0-7(seven) beating, I’d guess. But there was enough happening elsewhere to help maintain my faith in a club that really cares. In a group of supporters whom, whilst obviously hurting, still found a way to come together. Who still look out for each other.

Even just the nods of recognition and messages saying “Did you see….” in regards to mine and HB’s ‘crowd moment’ from the TV coverage showed us looking out for each other.  His own world being slowly shattered as the enormity of our situation took hold being one that was, unwittingly, shared with the wider Bees’ community. People’s kind words afterwards have been nothing but appreciated more than anyone can imagine.

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The bottom lip is beginning to quiver.

Sure, we got dumped out of the cup. I’d love to have gone through. Instead, it wasn’t even close. Yet by the same virtue, everything else that happened around Sunday afternoon already has me desperate to get back to Griffin Park on Saturday. 

See you there.

Nick Bruzon