Tag Archives: Swansea

Quite simply it was top, top football. What a way to say goodbye.

30 Jul

The morning after the night before. Smile broad. Head throbbing. Who cares? It was worth it. If you have to go, go out in style. Brentford said goodbye to Griffin Park by reaching the Championship play-off final in the the most incredible manner. Swansea City were swept aside 3-1 (3-2 agg) in a second leg that the Bees dominated from the off. Now, Fulham or Cardiff City await on Tuesday for the £170m shot at the Premier League. It was a far cry from the mini-run that had seen us lose three on the bounce but with Rico Henry restored to the line-up, we were back to our brilliant best and then some.

Screenshot 2020-07-30 at 07.12.45

Ollie sums up what we all felt (on Brentford official twitter)

What a night. What excitement. If there had been any stress in the build up then it wasn’t evident. Thomas and the players seemed calm on arrival at the ground. 1-0 down from the first leg, they came out of the blocks flying. It was a tactic that Thomas had suggested would be coming but nobody could have expected this fast a start. Certainly not yours truly who had nipped in to the kitchen to stick pizzas in the oven at the same time as Mathias Jensen bisected the Swansea defence and midfield with a quite incredible low pass. The timing was exquisite (not mine) as it went direct to who else but Ollie Watkins? Our leading scorer  was there to run on to it, bear down on goal and give The Bees the lead. Parity in the two-legged tie restored. The cheers in the streets around the ground evident for all. Nerves calmed. Goal sweets eaten.

Four minutes later and it was two. This time, Marcondes the man to get his name on the scoresheet. Benrahma delivering a cross into the box which Emiliano guided home from the penalty spot with a text book headed glance. He made it look so simple yet it was anything but. It was a moment that was all about keeping your cool and he more than did that. A quarter hour gone and already Keith Stroud’s moment of madness was a distant memory. Brentford had taken the lead overall and were on fire. 

This wasn’t the ‘play-off’ mode Brentford we know and love. That have seen us cruelly denied so many times in the past. But then this isn’t the Brentford of old. From top to bottom we are ten times better than anything that has gone before 

At the other end, David Raya keeping us in it with a fine low save before Said cut into the box and saw his low drive beat the ‘keeper, only to be denied by the inside of the near post. It was a blistering shot that ran agonisingly across the face of the goal after hitting the woodwork. It could have been three but no matter. The way the Bees were playing it would surely be a matter of time. Turning the screw when we had the momentum was key if there was to be any hope of reaching Wembley. 

Instead, it stayed 2-0 at half-time. Brentford dominant and with a slim lead but Swansea only a moment away from levelling things up. They would be the ones to start the second half at 100 mph, wouldn’t they? No chance. With a minute of the restart we had a third. Jensen freed Rico who delivered an inch perfect cross into the box for Bryan Mbeumo to fire home from the edge of the six yard box. It was a great finish under pressure but plaudits for the assist. What a ball and what a way to find personal peace of mind after the heartache of Sunday’s wrongful dismissal. 

Oh. My. Word. The screams. The excitement. The relief. Not even we’d cock this up, would we? The way Brentford were playing there was a danger of brackets being required. And then Swansea woke up. David Raya pulling off another fine save as the visitors began to dominate. First half roles reversed with the Swans left no choice but to go for it and with little less than a quarter hour to go, they got their goal. Rhian Brewster capitalising on what we’ll politely call an otherwise excellent Pontus losing his bearings trying to clear a ball that have been played into the middle from distance. The youngster made no mistake lobbing David Raya to bring the Swans within a goal of extra time.

Tension. Stress. Edge of the seat stuff. Perhaps in our house but not on the pitch. The Bees calm as you like as, if anything, we were the ones coming closer to the next goal. A yellow card for Thomas Frank showing how hard fought this one had become before a horrible six minutes of injury time were added on (from where?) but we held firm. Pontus using all his experience to help see it over the line. Said almost putting things out of sight with a curling effort that went just wide of the upright. One last cross into the box from Swansea cleared. Full time blown. The noise from Griffin Park ringing across St. Paul’s Park and through Brentford as it became evident fans were gathering celebrate. The mood ecstatic. The relief palpable. After going down in our eight previous attempts at the play-offs, this was about as composed and exciting as I’ve ever seen the Bees in this game of footballing roulette. Quite simply it was top, top football.

Leaving Griffin Park was always going to be an emotional experience. I wrote a piece yesterday afternoon about what saying goodbye to our lifelong home meant to me. It’s here and I would please ask you please take a look if for no other reason than to share your thoughts.  Yet if there was tear in the eye putting that piece together, this morning there’s a grin as broad as a split watermelon. Sleep has been at a minimum, such was the buzz and the post match celebrations at our friends house back on Brook Road. An extra pint or three  – not that they were really needed after the amount of, err, nerve calming that had gone on the few hours previous – were enjoyed. The fat was chewed and then waiting in the street to watch the lights go out on Griffin Park for the last time. CLUNK. That was it. Gone. It’s all over on the playing front for our home of 116 years. The next time we run out together will be at Wembley on Tuesday evening. Then it’s on to Lionel Road.

IMG_8255

The lights are on for the last time

On the pitch, the players and staff celebrated. Despite the best efforts of Mr. Benham (who pulled a post match ‘Trotta’) Bryan Mbeumo goes down as the last Bees player to score at Griffin Park. Yet it was all about the team last night. They were immense. Gutsy. Confident. Back to their brilliant best. Doing it for the fans. The fans living the dream through our heroes.

HAQK3785 2

The ball sailed over – curse that crazy player finding stats computer

It was an incredible experience. Today we can enjoy it and then the build up to the next one can begin in earnest. The small matter of the Premier League…… 

Tonight we can watch the second leg with genuine interest tonight. Will it be Fulham or Cardiff City? With the Bluebirds 2-0 down from the first leg, the smart money would be on a West London derby in the final. But if Cardiff start like we did last night then anything is possible. Whatever will be will be. We’re going to Wemb-er-lee. I’m looking forward to finding out who joins us.

IMG_8263

Loved this one from Bees United

Nick Bruzon 

Time to say goodbye to our past. On and off the pitch.

29 Jul

Let’s. Do. This. Brentford stand 90 minutes away from Wembley and a shot at the Premier League. Swansea are the visitors on an evening that sees our last, last, last ever game at Griffin Park. Despite the build up of the regular campaign, it has been typical of life at Griffin Park that it has come to this one rather than the Barnsley fixture. And now we are here. Steve Cooper’s team standing in our way but the good news being that Rico Henry will be standing in theirs. This, after Keith Stroud’s reckless decision to award our man a straight red in the first leg was over-turned yesterday.

80C7D733-0380-4EC2-ACED-94E267694311

The verdict was – great tackle

Finally. Something has gone our way. A frustrating few days for the players has ended with them being given a huge shot in the arm. Swansea have that narrow 1-0 lead but everybody around the club is talking the right way. Whilst Cooper says his team won’t be playing for the draw Thomas Frank is in no doubt how our team will approach this one, telling the press that: “We are in total combat mode. We are so ready to play and we will come out flying …There are important games and then there are little bit more important games; this is one of those defining games and moments. We are not nervous; we know we need to attack

As for Steve Cooper’s approach of going for the win, whilst offering all the necessary respect Thomas was clear that they could be split. “In the back of their minds they know they have something to protect.

And therein lies the beauty / stress of two-legged football. Do they stick or twist? Will their approach waiver? Might the pressure of holding this slim advantage do strange things to them? The prize on offer is a huge one. Namely, that £170million chance of top flight football. It feels as though we’ve had more bites at this than Jaws but now really is THE time and I’m 100% confident we’ll do this.

The beers, pizzas, goals sweets and even mid-game extra strong mints are in. If you do one thing this evening, PLEASE have a packet of these on hand – something on a par with the lucky shirt, magic pants and JJ’s bladder in the lucky omen stakes when it comes to good goal news.

What will Thomas do? Subject to any injuries, I’d imagine he may be looking to mix things up a little bit. Knowing how well we play at our very best, the team names itself but there has been one hell of a lot of football played on recent weeks. There could be some exhausted players. What price would you put on somebody who may not have started every game but does have potentially fresher legs. Might we see a start for Shandon Baptiste or even Sergi Canos?

IMG_4497

If anyone can inspire us, it is Thomas

Brentford official name the teams at 6.45pm and from there, we know what the approach will be. For me, it is one of channeling the spirit of the season. Play with confidence. With swagger. Run at our your opponents. Know the way to goal. Keep going and never , ever give up. Think Jota. Not just in playing until the final minute but remember Jake Bidwell. Our former captain has had what could politely be described as a turgid time in recent returns to Griffin Park. More of the same would do very nicely, thank you.

As for farewell Griffin Park, what can you say? Now really is the time. We’d all LOVE to be there. We are all desperate to be there. The players would love us there but for that reason alone, I truly believe they will have the extra impetus to do this tonight. Peter Gilham will say the right words. He’ll make the right noise on the microphone. Nobody will be in doubt what this means. Not only for our future but also as a means of saying goodbye to our past. On and off the pitch.

I can’t wait for this one. It promises to be one the biggest games in our long history. One can’t under estimate how much is riding on this. We’ve never been in the Premier League before – could this be the moment we leave the EFL behind? The Bees have the power – will Thomas Frank’s big guns fire?

See you at kick off when we find out.

Screenshot 2020-07-29 at 08.42.46

This really is it…..

Nick Bruzon

Rico red rescinded. What next for Keith and the Bees?

28 Jul

If pushed, I’d say that Brentford beating Swansea to reach the play-off final is what happens. Sorry Swans but the team are good to go. The injustice suffered at the incompetent hand of Keith Stroud in Sunday’s play-off first leg has now been wiped from the record. It’s a tragedy we won’t get those 25 minutes or goal back but the morale boost from todays news can’t be underestimated. I gather the boys were so incensed at full time that they wanted to go out and play the second leg there and then. Understandable emotion. All being well they’ve bottled that passion and are ready to lift the stopper at 7.45 on Wednesday evening, take a healthy swig and go for glory.

We can get excited about the game in the morning. For now, I’ve still got Stroud rage. He lost us the play-off semi against Swansea in 2005. His dubious sending off of goalkeeper Stuart Nelson, with the Bees leading in the first leg c/o Jay Tabb, saw the inevitable happen just three minutes from time. He cost us a shot at ‘automatic’ in 2013 at Sheffield United when he lost the plot – dispensing cards and penalties like a drunk wedding guest brandishing a box of confetti. I forget exactly what happened after that but there was something about Doncaster and a penalty kick. It’s not been mentioned since so the exact circumstances remain a touch unclear.    

Stroud

A Keith for all seasons

The point being, Keith messed up. Again. Credit where it’s due, his recent record against with us has been a good one. Win has followed win with generally good performances accompanied by the odd slice of good fortune (i.e. wobbly decision) in our favour. But when it comes to the pressure situation he cost us then. And has cost us now. The difference being there is a chance to put it right. And there is a team chomping at the bit to do so.

We’re 90 minutes away from that most horrific place in North London. The place where dreams go to die and living hell awaits. But enough about Ikea. One can’t even put in to words how exciting this season has been. How well our team have performed throughout the most adverse of environments. Now, we are almost at the ‘W’ place. Granted, a goal down (thanks a bunch, Keith) but with home advantage, a wrong righted,  a gut full of injustice and the single most exciting team we’ve had the pleasure of watching all at our disposal. A team who are now desperate to go out and how what they’ve got once more.

The big match preview can wait for the morning. Right now, I’m still running on frustration and fury. Keith has hurt us. The authorities have confirmed this. They have agreed that he got it wrong and have reversed his red. It’s a shame they are powerless to make any further adjustment to the result but that’s not how football works. Instead, we’ve still got the power in our hands to make his (latest) error an irrelevance.

How a man with his track record is allowed to wreck so many crunch games is a mystery to rank alongside Betinho. But he has been given that privilege and he has delivered injustice once more. 

Betinho signs BBC

Even the BBC got excited

Webster’s dictionary defines incompetent as: lacking the qualities needed for effective action; unable to function properly ; not legally qualified ; inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose.

Hmmm. Whilst I’d never wish ill on anybody and nor would I for one second want the responsibility of being ‘man in the middle’,  the question of how the same individual can get it wrong in so many pivotal moments involving the same club does need to be asked. Will anybody listen? Or care? It’s probably easier to take the moral high ground, go out to beat Swansea (no easy matter) then stick our heads in the sand. Pretend it never happened. Except, of course, we can’t. And shouldn’t.

It IS good news but it still feels tainted. We must try, of course, to focus on the matter at hand. Namely Brentford pulling back a one goal deficit. We have the players to do it and at least Rico will be available. But then that’s what happens when you know how to defend. 

I just wonder if the football authorities will ever tackle Keith?

Nick Bruzon

Let’s talk about Stroud, baby. Let’s talk about him and me. Let’s talk about all the bad things that may be.

27 Jul

And with that, the Keith Stroud we all know and fear was back. Brentford were edged out 1-0 at Swansea in a game that will be forever remembered as yet another ruined by this most terrifying of officials. Just when you thought he couldn’t surpass the ‘battle’ of Bramall Lane with Sheffield United ( three red cards, four penalties and more yellows than a rack of Coldplay CDs) , he’s gone and done it again in a crunch match. This time, sending off Rico Henry for nothing more than cleanly winning the ball from Connor Roberts whilst not even coming close to making contact with the player (until his own run took him over our man). This, with an open game poised at 0-0 and just moments after David Raya had made a quite wonderful penalty save from Andre Ayew. Then Keith did his thing.

Embed from Getty Images

Hmmmmm

Look. No complaints abut Swansea. They played well and the goal they scored was an absolute screamer. Even if it did start down the left back position now bereft of Rico. Great saves from David Raya combined with chances that both Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma may think they could have done better with in retrospect had this game hanging in the balance. It could have gone either way. And in the end it did – in favour of both Keith and the hosts.

Brentford can bemoan their position but the simple fact of the matter is that we are 90 minutes away from the final. 1-0 in either direction is crazy close. Only a fool, or Mr Stroud, would try and predict how this one is going to play out.

Thomas Frank was furious at full time. Certainly compared to his normal standards. 100% that is not a red card and that Rico will be back in the team on Wednesday. His incredulation at the lack of VAR in a game of this nature was there for all to see as he confirmed that Brentford will be appealing a decision. His view point was one shared by man on social media

Natalie Sawyer: Keith Stroud. Quelle surprise!!!

Sam Saunders: Disgraceful decision surely rescinded?

Marcus Bean: One of the worst decisions I’ve seen

Brentford Official: That is a joke! @ricohenry14 wins the ball on the touchline, it’s not even a foul but he’s been sent off

Skybet Championship official feed: @BrentfordFC’s Rico Henry is sent off. Big question marks over that one for sure! 

Getting any more upset about it than I already am won’t help any at this juncture. If anything, Keith may have given Brentford the opportunity to come out of the blocks flying to right a horrific injustice on Wednesday. Everybody associated with the club is livid. Fuming. Desperate to right the wrong. Frustrated that it was Brentford in the ascendency when the fateful card was shown. David Raya’s quite brilliant penalty save from Ayew giving us a morale boost that was snatched away as quickly as it had been given.

Yesssss. That’s put a bit of juice back in the carton”. Not my words but those of HB. A 7(seven) year old’s wisdom then replaced by a tirade at the man in black which Alex on the Braemar Road paddock would have been proud of.

Screenshot 2020-07-27 at 08.53.42

Raya playing his own mind games before a huge save

I’m not sure what else to really say at this juncture. A great game, ruined. Swansea may have gone on to win anyway. Brentford might have edged it but that chance was taken away the second Keith did what Keith does. All we can do is hold on for Wednesday and go ten to the dozen in the return leg. Ironically, Alanis, what we had to to do for the final 25 minutes last night. Albeit in different guise.

It promises to be a cracker. All being well, we can have a referee. What a shame that, once again, everyone is talking about Stroud rather than a great game of football.

Screenshot 2020-07-27 at 08.59.10

At least an old friend returned

Nick Bruzon

7(seven) year old calls Championship play-off winners….

26 Jul

Here we go, again. The play-offs await. For Brentford, the Premier League is just three games away. Blocking our path, a Swansea City team that host the first leg this evening following their quite incredible overtaking of Nottingham Forest during the week. The other side of the draw sees Fulham and Cardiff City lock horns. That’s their problem, of course. All focus here has to be on the game at the Liberty Stadium.

Screenshot 2020-07-26 at 08.11.08

Brentford lock, yesterday. Swansea 0….?

Let’s be honest. Spirits can’t have been more contrasting following the end of the regular Championship campaign. For Brentford, the chance of automatic came so close and we had to be content with third place. A quite remarkable achievement over the course of a season yet still a night which ended, for so many, washed away on a sea of ifs, buts and maybes.

That’s only natural in the immediacy of the moment. Totally understandable. This is football. A place where the glass is so often half-empty and the thought of what might have been, red-raw as the referee blew for full time. Most hurting but empathising with their heroes. The odd few choosing to..well, let’s just say that perhaps rather than wallowing in self-pity and the apparent divine right to slag off their heroes some need to take a look at themselves.   

Swansea, on the other hand, will have been absolutely buzzing. Again, only natural. To be three points and -5 GD behind Forest heading into that last round of fixtures yet to still make it in to the final four will be an emotional high like no other. Moreso, given how late that final swing happened. 

Like us, they’re here on merit based on the season’s performance as a whole. Of course game 46 is that final, final chance to alter the table. But the table has been forming since August. And now it is locked in. Emotional highs and lows have been and gone. Both teams have been back on the training ground. Neither side is now beholden on other results. Control is back with us once more. We don’t need the thought of favours at the back of our mind. 

That element bemoaning the results at Stoke City and Barnsley are playing the ultimate disrespect to both teams. Stoke were turgid, no question. The ref was horrific, true. Yet they still did for us then went out and put four goals past Forest in the next game. This was a side out to prove some points and wreck some parties. As for Barnsley, look how they played in the run in. Matching Leeds United where only an o.g. separated them. Taking Forest all the way until their late, late winner. Playing with confidence and a never say die spirit against us. 

Yes, one might have expected us to win one of these ( I did, and even predicted brackets against Barnsley  – being quite truthful) but that’s not how football works. The final game was one played out in the horrible knowledge of matters elsewhere being ultimately responsible for our fate. Whether we’d won 7(seven) – 0 or lost 1-2, had West Brom got their win then it would have been the play-offs regardless. None of us are professional footballers. It’s so easy for any numpty on the terrace to say “Just concentrate on your own game” but you wouldn’t be human not be aware of the broader situation. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like.

Anyway, that’s all been and gone. We are no longer reliant on West Brom. On Huddersfield Town. On Mark Warburton and QPR. This is now done to us. We’ve two games against Swansea to focus on. If league form teaches us anything it is that Brentford have the advantage so far. Our 3-0 win at the Liberty Stadium in October was followed by a 3-1 victory at Griffin Park on Boxing Day. Quite how that translates will only be seen at full time on Wednesday night once the second leg has concluded. One of these teams will be going to Wembley to face Fulham or Cardiff City.

Will it be a West London derby? An all Welsh affair? Or some combination of both. Well, for what it’s worth I’m taking comfort from the words of a seven year old. In the days leading up to the Barnsley game, all H would say to me was, “Daddy, QPR are going to draw 2-2 at West Brom”. He was utterly convinced it was going to play out like that. Now, he’s calling a Brentford – Cardiff City final. “Daddy, it’s going to be my team versus Iwan’s in the final. What a shame they can’t come up with us though.” 

DSC06416

H – knows his football.

Is he on to something? Or just trying to see the positive? To help out a dad who has been through every one of our previous play-off campaigns and explained them all in excruciating detail. From Tranmere to Middlesbrough via the horrors of Stoke, Huddersfield and Crewe. Martin Allen’s double stab against Sheffield Wednesday and, err, Swansea. The frustration of Yeovil Town. My word, Yeovil. How did that work out for everyone longer term? 

Ok. So our record is worse than than the The Very Best Of Simply Red . We all know how things have turned out since our 1991 trip to Prenton Park but history counts for nothing. Not when you have the season and the players that we’ve all had the privilege to enjoy over 2019/20. In a campaign which has been the most crazy on record, wouldn’t it be just like us to finally break the ultimate hoodoo. Hey, if we can win a game after a visit from Clem or receiving the Manager of the month award then anything is possible.

Bring it on !!!! 

Screenshot 2020-07-11 at 07.49.28

Thomas and Clem prove that positivity can triumph.

Nick Bruzon

What a weekend awaits. Sofa Saturday and a Super Sunday.

28 Dec

A rare Saturday without football for Brentford. Our time comes tomorrow with the trip to Millwall and the chance to see if we can build on the Boxing Day tonking of Swansea that saw the Bees end the day in third place. Instead, there’s the rare opportunity for the Premier League to take centre stage this afternoon. It is one that should be grabbed, lest we forget about the people who actually invented our beloved sport back in the early 90s. More importantly, it’s a reminder that The Last Word Fantasy Football competition is still running. Suddenly, the 3-2 kicking administer by Wolves to Manchester City last night becomes of crucial importance. There’s more than just the comedy factor of watching Manchester United hit self-destruct (again – think of them as a top flight Leeds United) in the evening game at Burnley. And who doesn’t love seeing Neal Maupay do his thing? Fingers crossed for a Brighton penalty kick today!!

Neal Maupay Leeds

Come on Neal. More of this would be lovely ( I need the points)

So what have we learned so far? Well, yours truly really is the numpty on the terrace. Ranked 52 out of 66 – and that’s by actually trying to compete. Why bother? Honestly, setting the team to random mode would have more success. I’m that tempted to go there for the second half of the season, just to try and prove a point.

On the plus side, it does mean I can’t win my own competition – as if that was ever even a possibility. For those still curious / playing, the current top ten is below. Ben Shephard is at the top (anyone? Presumably not the host of daytime TV’s  Tipping Point ?)  and then supporter Simon Burns is coming in second. This is taken post Wolves but pre Brighton, so this could all move around once the rest of the games play out.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 07.07.47

Current standings

In all seriousness though, the thought of a lazy day is something I’m quite looking forward to. Some calm before tomorrow’s storm. Harry’s football club is closed, for once, and Brentford go to Millwall on Sunday. Mrs Bruzon is out with her parents so there’s nothing more to do today than watch Neal banging them in for Brighton at lunch, fall asleep on the couch in front of Jeff Stelling in the afternoon and then pay a passing homage to events at Turf Moor.

Not that I’ve got anybody from either side in my Fantasy team. Not even number 26. Although given the aforementioned inability to pick winners, his absence from my line up is one that should be considered a de facto guarantee to lump it on. He’s 14/1 to score (for Burnley) at any time, although those odds don’t seem to factor in any potential family related absence so invest at your own risk.

And then it all goes again tomorrow. Brentford make the short trip across London to the Lion’s Den where the pressure on the team will be immense. From the top of the club to the very bottom we all know what is at stake. From Matthew Benham through Thomas Frank, the players and the fans. Everybody is fully aware what will be the consequences of anything not going to plan….

Concede and we’ll be subject to ‘that’ toe-curling song. If Mrs. Browns Boys teamed up with Dick Van Dyke to do goal music. Whilst wearing Ali-Baba slippers.

Millwall wide (1)

We’ve been there before…

Forget the ‘no-one likes us’ stuff. Good luck if it makes them happy. Besides, I can relate to this. In part. It’s as much a part of the Millwall legacy as our own being called a tinpot / little / pub / bus stop team Albeit, theirs is self-created (why is that now?) whilst we always look to answer our critics on the pitch.   

But that song. Urghh. Take a look at yourselves. And I apologies for mentioning it every season but it’s godawful shite. F*ck me, I’d be more embarrassed than Madonna on a staircase if that was my club. And we should know about cringe, given the awfulness of #trophyfriends. Never forget.  

Just about forgivable as ‘walk out’ fodder, it’s only a Pearly queen short of a full house in cliche bingo. But the true horror being that it then doubles up as goal music. Something we all know shouldn’t be allowed in football stadia – see also: ball boys waving giant flags, fans with drums, Mr. Portsmouth and his bell, Mexican Waves and the England supporters band. Basically, anything needed to try and generate an atmosphere.

For crying out loud, if you can’t get turned on by the ball hitting the back of the net then there’s something seriously wrong. If things are so flaccid that you need Roy Green singing about jellied eels to give you a boost of footballing viagra then perhaps it’s time to just give up and call it a day.

Portsmouth bell

The Millwall song. Currently residing alongside Mr. Portsmouth and Mexican waves.

We digress. The point being that Brentford have it all to do if we are to maintain third place and, maybe, further close the gap on Leeds United. That’s a big ask, of course. Much as they have that wonderful ability to hit self-destruct, and their current record reads DLD, not even they can cock up a trip to Birmingham City. Harlee Dean and his Blues are simply too poor at present. Whilst Boxing Day saw just about everybody at the business end of the table do us a favour, this time we’re on our own.  We have to win to progress. We have to keep a clean sheet to spare the supporters.

Frankly, I can’t wait for this one. I expect everybody around us to get maximum points on Sunday . Even Fulham, who are home to Stoke City. So the onus has to be on us to go for it. And we will. This team only knows one way to play. Attack. Score. Win.  Our goal difference speaks for itself. Our defensive solidity is renowned. Our fans loud. The atmosphere magnificent.

It won’t be easy. Bums might even squeak for a bit. But it has the potential to round off 2019 in quite wonderful style. If you are still thinking about going, then what’s to decide? Get off the couch and get going. It’s a Sofa Saturday followed by a Super Sunday.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Frank is sense. Christmas gifts see Bees go third.

27 Dec

What an afternoon. Brentford ended the day sitting third in the Championship after Swansea City were the latest to be on the receiving end of a Griffin Park trouncing. A brace from Ollie Watkins and another goal for Bryan Mbeumo putting this one out of sight, despite a tired second half flurry from the visitors. With Leeds United falling apart (again), the gap to ‘automatic’ is now down to single figures – 8 points being the difference. Even then, they needed an 89th minute equaliser from Stuart Dallas to rescue a point at home to Preston. With West Bromwich Albion (Barnsley) and Fulham (Luton) both drawing against the divisional whipping boys and Sheffield Wednesday going down to Stoke City, our rivals for the top spots formed an orderly queue to take their turn of delivering The Bees a Christmas gift. Specifically that of doing us a favour. The thought of our trip to Millwall on Sunday has suddenly become very appealing (not a typo).

DSC06910

Thomas enjoys the moment at Full Time

You’ve all seen the action, presumably. Either as part of a packed Griffin Park or c/o the Sky coverage that meant our game went out live to the nation yesterday. At least, the part that doesn’t want their live action left in a recycling box or sitting on the doorstep. Otherwise, the official highlights are further below. Mbeumo opened proceedings early on. Guiding home a corner that had been headed back across the face of goal by an unmarked Ethan Pinnock. The big man, who had retained his place alongside the returning Pontus Jansson, doing magnificently to make the room and plop it straight on to Bryan’s head.

Twenty minutes gone and 1-0 up. There was barely time for anybody taking a toilet break to get back to their seats before the lead was double. None other than Ollie Watkins. The striker, and that’s what he is, grabbing a true poacher’s goal as he stuck out a leg to steer a Rico Henry cross past the despairing Freddy Woodman in the away goal. 2-0 and, surely, that was it?

Well, yes. Although being Brentford we had a little moment just after the hour when David Raya was unable to smother a shot from Bersant Celina and Andre Ayew was closest to the loose ball. Urghh. With that, the Swans got their tails up. But rather than breaking Brentford’s arm with their wing men, it was the Bees who broke their spirits. The pressure was, as ever, contained and Ollie Watkins wrapped things up. Sprinting clear, he charged down on the goal to make things safe as we headed towards injury time. There was to be no sweating on the result. No clenched buttocks. No last minute stress. The final whistle a perfunctory noise greeted with ecstasy rather than relief. And that was before we checked ‘other results’.

DSC06863

The Bees were dominant

Honestly, one can’t even begin to describe the mood around the place at present. EVERYBODY has faith. Has confidence. The players are calm under pressure and exhilarating on the ball. The fans lapping it up. Peter Gilham losing his shit on the public address system. Each announcement becoming more and more enthused.

The piece about him in The Guardian yesterday described how he was offered a script but refused it. Thank goodness. We all know how incredible he is but to hear his joy transmit to the fans and the players is all a part of what is helping make our success. Even at half time, he stood there with mic in hand, not even lifting it to his lips until he had clapped everybody off and into the changing room. You may not have noticed this in the rush for the beer queue and the ablutions block but I stood and watched. What a man. The beating heart of our club.

But then, what a team. Matthew Benham’s genius and Thomas Frank’s approach have delivered up a squad that is the envy of all. A team built on a metaphorical shoe string (relatively), with a makeshift centre forward, that continue to defy expectation. At least, of those looking in. We’ve seen this coming for years. The diamonds unearthed and sold on. Their replacements being even better than before. The momentum building. The confidence high. 

DSC06882

Safe to say that this performance was well received

Yet this feels like nothing I’ve experienced before. Even under the continuing highs that we’ve been served up over the last ten seasons. Now, I expect to win every game. That’s not arrogance. It’s confidence. It’s a reflection in the ability that this team has. The perfect blend of youth and experience. Unfettered skill allowed to run riot. Wise heads at the back to give guiding advice. Pontus is our big name at the back but don’t overlook Henrik Dalsgaard either. His lungs must be be gargantuan.

Next up Millwall (away) on Sunday. What an opportunity awaits if we can carry on doing what we’ve done so far. Then it’s Bristol City on New Year’s Day. Whilst one doesn’t like to look too far ahead, that game is mentioned more as an incentive (should any, somehow, be needed) for that trip to the New Den. After we run out at Ashton Gate,  West Bromwich Albion host Leeds United. Either way, something has to give.

For now, though, it’s a period of reflection. Of enjoying what was a quite incredible end to 2019 at Griffin Park. There’s the short hop to South-East London on Sunday and with it, the opportunity to carry on this enjoying this fantastic period. I’m sorry, the words are kind of failing me this morning. I’m sitting here with a huge grin on the face at this obscene hour of the day. I’m about to head back to work but the thought of commuting is, for once, not the usual harbinger of doom and gloom that comes with rising at this time of the day. Instead, there’s a big smile and a genuine feeling of well being. That’s down to Peter. To Thomas. To Matthew. To Bryan. To Ollie. To Henrik, Pontus, Josh, Ethan and the rest of the team. 

That’s down to everyone. THANK YOU. See you on Sunday… Until then, here’s the action once more

 

Nick Bruzon

As the fixture list kicks in, there’s a wonderful opportunity to be grabbed.

26 Dec

Thank goodness for football today. However you celebrated yesterday, the pressure is now off. Gifts have been bought, meals cooked and kitchen cleaned. Kind of. Still, that’s a problem for later. This afternoon we’ve got one of several opportunities to catch Brentford in TV action over the coming weeks as we play host to Swansea City in the live Sky game. A wonderful opportunity for supporters displaced by the festive period, I suppose, but no substitute for actually being at Griffin Park. The game sees our Bees sitting in the play-off zone and the Swans just outside by virtue of goal difference. Both teams knowing that a mere two points separate them from third placed Sheffield Wednesday. With Brentford flying, the mood is one of excitement. We annihilated Fulham last time out at home and can probably feel justified in thinking we may have come away from West Bromwich Albion with more. It promises to be a Christmas cracker (urghh, went there). But can we land a knockout blow on Boxing Day? (sorry).

DSC06847

Full time celebrations last time out at home

The performance at West Bromwich Albion sounded immense. Talking to one fan in The Griffin yesterday lunchtime, he told me that if anything the highlights underplayed how dominant we were in that opening period. Of course, the score is what counts and both teams managed a goal apiece. However, things might have been very interesting had we gone in leading and a penalty been awarded for the wonderful diving save pulled off by defender Kyle Bartley immediately after we’d taken the lead. Instead, the officials waved play on rather than handball and the hosts did what they do – ruthless counter and subsequent equaliser. Credit to them – you can only play what the officials give. 

The Baggies are looking so, so strong and sit where they are on merit. Top of the table. Yet so do Brentford, just a few places below them. Whilst those around us have started to wobble – Swansea City being the prime example, only just recently pulling themselves out of a dreadful slump after starting at 100mph –  we’ve only got stronger. No better is this illustrated than at centre back. Despite the absence of both Julian Jeanvier and Pontus Jansson at various points recently, the addition of Ethan Pinnock to that holy trinity of defensive solidity has meant that whichever pairing Thomas Frank has started with have looked as comfortable as it comes.

Screenshot 2019-08-20 at 06.16.59

Could Pontus be back today?

The midfield trio have done the unthinkable of both replacing Romaine Sawyers and ousting Kamo to the bench. Faith in the system, the manager and his players now being well rewarded as Nørgaard, Jensen and Dasilva  pull the strings. Locking out the opposition and feeding Mbeumo and Benrahma . Those two ably supported down the flanks by flying full backs Rico and Henrik, with Ollie leading his chase for the golden boot up top. Yet it is in goal where we have perhaps our most unsung of all the current 11 heroes. The arrival of David Raya has seen the decision to sell Daniel Bentley to Bristol City more than justified. 

I was a huge fan of Bentley’s, and it’s good to see him doing well at Ashton Gate, but for Brentford things have stepped up a level. David is big, strong, quick off his line and has great distribution. He exudes confidence and there’s no fear of those random moments, flappy fingers or miscommunications with the back four that we’ve all seen so many times in the past. Our Championship goals against figure is only bettered by Leeds United (we’re 18 to their 15) and whilst this stats has been quoted on these pages before, it bears repeating. Everything starts from the back. Keep the goals out and that’s half the job done. Especially when you have the attacking options that Thomas then has available to him in his starting XI.

That’s the back slapping stuff. Now, we‘ve got another match to focus on. Yes, we have the ability to do it but congestion at the top of the table really means you need to keep winning to keep your place. Slip up on the pitch and you’ll fall down off it. Blink and you miss. I love this division so much. Anybody can beat anybody. This is not the case of  the Premier League where the wining team is usually telegraphed well in advance. Here, we’ve got to go for it and keep on going. The relentless holiday period sees trips to Bristol City and Millwall before the visit from QPR in early January. That’s before you even look at the FA Cup options.

Like today’s game with Swansea, you’ll be able to follow most of those on Sky. Certainly the Bristol game (red button) and QPR ( full fat coverage at lunchtime) but why would you? Given the choice, I mean.

Money, travel and time are the obvious factors against but if you’ve got any ability to go then let’s make it happen. These are all games that are going to be absolutely critical to our season. A glut of matches where the 12 points on offer over the next 17 (I think) days could have real bearing on our promotion campaign. Somebody has to slip up at some point. The big question being if Brentford can take advantage.

Roll on 3pm when we find out. See you there.

DSC06684

Here’s to more of this today….

Nick Bruzon

So close to another mulled win on a day of celebration.

22 Dec

The morning after the night before. Head foggy. Eyes sore. Mouth tasting like Fullers has curled up, fallen asleep in there and then passed away at about 3am. Espresso now on rewind. Yesterday was fun. A lot of fun. We had a kids / grown ups party at ours, meaning a trip to The Hawthorns was out of the running. Yet the seasonal celebrations continued long after the final guests had left with the knowledge that Brentford will be in the play-off zone at Christmas. This, following a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion where, if we’re being honest, perhaps some are feeling miffed about not taking all three points from the league leaders. Certainly, going by the reports of one way traffic and chances created in the first half. There was a further present as second placed Leeds United dropped more points – albeit at the Cottage as they lost 2-1 to Fulham. Despite their losing a 3-0 lead at home to Cardiff last time out, surely not even the Elland Road outfit can throw away what is now a ten point lead from their second place to third. Surely? It’s not as though they have any form of reputation for falling apart or stuff like that.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 08.16.29

Loved this from ‘official’

Still, the tribulations of Leeds United and Fulham (recording a first win since I don’t know when – it wasn’t last weekend, that’s for sure) a mere dollop of cream on top of the Festive treat served up at West Brom. With my usual group displaced by holiday prep, the aforementioned party, transatlantic travel and shopping it was a case of communication via Whatsapp. The screen shot showing that Brentford were dominating our hosts with 57% possession, 7(seven) shots with 2 on target – compared to nil from The Baggies – was followed with the not unusual comment that “We all know what happens next” becasue, of course, stats don’t win matches. Goals do.

Sure enough, thirty seconds later it did. But not as expected….

A scream from the front room was followed by Harry running through to the kitchen where the dads were hiding out by the vat of mulled wine, talking sh..op and steering clear of the mayhem. He was closely followed by his friends Felix and Darius who stand on the Ealing Road with their dad JJ (he of the goal inducing pea-sized bladder with which regular readers may be familiar – not literally). It was less a run and more a charge. Guests scattering and voices raised. “Daaaad. Daaaaad. We’ve scored!! We’re beating West Bromwich Albion.” Oh. Wow. Sure enough we had. Just before half-time and confirmation followed from Felix that it was the World Cup’s Denmark international Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford who got the all important strike. Oh my. Get in !! Another mulled wine? Don’t mind if I do.

This was weird. Really weird. And if for no more reason than JJ had been with us when the goal went in rather than taking a comfort break.

Sadly though, the request for Harry to retrieve the deeds to the house and lump them on the Bees going up was retracted as quickly as it had been issued. Despite a penalty being denied us in between (“a clear, clear handball”, per Thomas Frank), Dalsgaard’s 43rd minute flick on from a corner was followed up by an almost identikit goal from the hosts. Fellow full back Darnell Furlong levelling things up deep into first half stoppage time. Oh well. Parity restored. A kick to the psychological nuts but a scoreline we’d all have taken prior to kick off, I’m sure. The important thing now was to not ‘do a Leeds United’ and, erm, fall apart. Keep that concentration going. Keep on pushing in what was sounding and reading like one way traffic (something the subsequent video highlights bear out altough our little group didn’t know this at the time).

The kids were sent back to the front room to ignore the rest of their guests and watch Jeff Stelling on mute, then keep us appraised of any second-half goal update. Nooooo. 2-1 Brom. Disaster. Charlie Austin.

Yessssssss 1-1. The lino had his flag up. Offside. “It was definitely offside, dad”, confirmed Harry. Not quite sure how he knew but his word was good enough for me. It was, on later review, the correct call and was the last action of any meaning in the afternoon. The game finishing 1-1 and the gap to Leeds in second being cut by another point. The Bees in the play-off zone and set for the visit of Swansea City on Boxing Day. Relentless West Bromwich Albion striding clear at the summit.

I’d love to have been there. The visiting contingent looked huge. The Hawthorns a magnificent stadium. Instead, yesterday’s ‘live action’ was confined to standing in a deluge and watching Harry at his Spartans FC training. Any excuse for a shot of that blue shirt in action.

IMG_0738

Watching one ‘Bee’ in the rain

Instead, it’ll be a case of the trip to Millwall next Sunday for that next ‘away’ hit. But that’s one for the future. For now it’s a case of enjoying the moment. Of seeing how far we have come . We’ve only been in the Championship play off-zone at Christmas once before – the season Mark Warburton had the reins, dear (reader). Back then we hung on and scraped into the top six on that incredible final day after Derby did a Leeds at home to Reading. It was a position we’d got into of our own making through an over reliance on out of form Harlee Dean (Tony Craig being confined to the bench a tactical decision I still cannot align myself with) . 

Yet Thomas Frank shows none of that ‘loyalty to favourites’. Form is recognised and Ethan Pinnock has retained his place on merit following Julian Jeanvier’s suspension. It was a decision that has now been rewarded. The absence of Pontus Jansson with a ‘minor injury’ one which might have caused trepidation prior to kick off. Yet any worries proved futile and now I’d be intrigued to see who the choice centre-back pairing will be when Swansea visit on Thursday. What a lovely problem to have !

Perhaps if anyone can sum things up it is none other than Romaine Sawyers. How nice to read his words on Twitter at full time, where he opined: “Everyone knows I’ll always hold @BrentfordFC in high regard! You guys should be proud of the team this season and keep pushing them on to the finish line! Thank you for the reception at the end of the game appreciate it!! So glad to see all my brothers today and you fans”

Thank you Romaine. Here’s to playing you next season. In the top flight….

 

Nick Bruzon

The huge prize awaiting if……

27 Nov

Oh my. What an incentive going in to this evening’s game at Blackburn Rovers. If Brentford win and West Bromwich Albion avoid defeat at home to Bristol City, The Bees will end the night in the play-off places. The maths are that simple even if the application of these facts may not be. Football has a funny habit of kicking you in the nuts when you least expect it. When your hope is highest. Yet, at the same time, it would be churlish to ignore the position we now find ourselves in after Swansea City were held at Huddersfield last night.

Screenshot 2019-11-27 at 06.14.16

The top of the table via the BBC – basic maths.

For Thomas Frank, naming the team would seem an easy decision. Ethan Pinnock more than impressed against Reading on Saturday and so, with Julian Jeanvier still suspended, his retaining his place is an absolute no-brainer. Thankfully, a decision that can be justified on merit rather than card induced necessity. In the midfield, Christian Nørgaard is available once more and could be in with more of a chance at getting his place back. However, Mathias Jensen won’t give up his place without a fight and the cross he supplied to set up Ollie Watkins’ winner last time out was sublime. Inch perfect delivery that was begging to be put away. Watkins duly obliged.

Could Josh Dasilva be moved to accommodate Nørgaard or is, as is more likely, it simply a case of having to bide his time on the bench with Thomas selecting an unchanged starting XI? I can’t see beyond the same team as started against Reading beginning this one tonight. Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace and would have more chance of calling the lottery numbers than getting something as vital as a team selection correct.

DSC06684

Jensen supplied a delicious cross for the goal on Saturday.

Blackburn Rovers are no pushover, that’s for sure. A Bradley Dack brace and a shot from Stewart Downing earned them all the points in a 3-2 fight back against basement boys Barnsley on Saturday. No doubt they will be looking to build on this and climb further up the table from their current 17th. But Brentford are going to be confident. We have every right to be so, too. The last three away games have seen us pick up 9 points and scoring 3 goals each time out with fine wins at Loftus Road, Swansea and then Wigan. We haven’t won four successive games on the road since back in 2011 and so there is yet another incentive to really go for it tonight. That is, if getting Ollie Watkins to the the top of the Championship goal scorer charts or ourselves into the top six wasn’t enough already.

This one is going to be tough. Win, lose or draw it makes no real difference in the long term. At least, at this juncture. It would be quite magnificent to get the points and hope West Bromwich Albion can do us the proverbial favour. With Leeds United grabbing a late winner at Reading last night, the Baggies currently find themselves in second place. One place off the top of the table. If The Bees have the motivation to go for it then surely Slavan Bilic’s team have just as much themselves? The battle of Romaine Sawyers v Daniel Bentley could be a fascinating one although, for obvious reasons, not one I’ll be following.

Instead, it’ll be the red-button and Sky Sports smudge vision in our house. A mid-week trip to Lancashire is one that is diametrically opposed to the budget, holiday allocation at work and domestic green cards. The efforts and ability of our travelling fans to get to games like this one never ceases to amaze me. Would that being there was an option. Tonight will be very much a case of mind over body and true faith in our boys.

Brentford have been superb in the last two months. The victory over Reading very much a case of grinding one out against stubborn opposition who had set out to strangle us. Something we have often struggled with yet this time around kept going for the entire 90 minutes. However we play and whatever Blackburn do, the opportunity and ability are there. 

I can’t wait for this one. Enioy.

Screenshot 2019-10-29 at 05.41.46

We’ve had some fine away performances this season.

Nick Bruzon