Tag Archives: Thomas Frank

Different day. Same hope. All to play for with just five games left.

7 Jul

Tuesday, I think. If the days had been merging in to one when lockdown started, football is now following suit with the games coming thick and fast. Brentford host Charlton Athletic this evening with another chance to further close the gap on West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United at the top. Behind us, something has to give as Fulham visit Nottingham Forest in the 5pm kick off. Strap yourselves in – we go again. Again.

Anybody who has been watching this team know just how well Brentford are playing at present. Five successive wins have been earned alongside an equal number of clean sheets. It was three against Wigan and could have been double that. See also : Reading away. We’ve beaten the teams at the top and played with a spring in the step. Peter Gilham mounting a furious one-man campaign to simulate the entire crowd.

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Peter does his thing against Wigan

We know all this, of course, but it doesn’t make it any less impressive. At the same time, it is a run that needs to be kept going if there is any genuine aspiration of catching up with the top two. The gap is five points with five to play. That’s on West Bromwich Albion. Perennial chokers Leeds United are six ahead – surely not even they can throw it this time. Can they….?

With the Baggies next two home games against play-off chasing Wayne Rooney’s Derby County and Fulham, sandwiching a trip to Blackburn, there are no immediate ‘gimmes’ on their fixture card. Just look at what the Rams did to Nottingham Forest on Saturday in their own pursuit of the top six. Thanks, Wayne.

Then again, look what the Kaiser Chiefs did to the NHS in between that game and ours –  Ricky Wilson and co popping up on I-follow for a quite unexpected rendition of ‘Happy birthday’. Sometimes, even the best intentions (and you can’t end the wonderful work the NHS do or any of the praise they receive) can turn into the bizarre.

On the plus side, at least it provided a break from Snoop Dogg promoting a food delivery service. Does he really need the money?

INSERT - NHS KC

Unexpected

West Brom play the day after us once more and so we all know the price of victory and the potential state of the table at 8.15pm this evening. But nobody is taking anything for granted, that’s for sure.

Charlton Athletic may have released top scorer Lyle Taylor (who had refused to play for fear of putting a ‘life-changing’ move at risk) but they are still very dangerous opponents. Relegation had been beckoning for a team who, prior to last minute defeat against Millwall, picked up 7(seven) points out of a possible 9 from their own restart. They are now clear of the bottom three but will be looking to make that secure. Moreso given as Wigan are not guaranteed to go down, despite the 12 point fine waiting in the wings should they survive naturally. 

You can absolutely bet they will be caged tigers rather than tame pussycats rolling over to have their tummies tickled. We have the quality, of course, but going in to this one with anything less than sheer belief and realisation that there is a huge job to do will be fatal.

Thankfully, we have Thomas Frank at the helm. A man full of confidence but with his feet firmly on the ground. An absolute awareness of what needs to be done on our side combined with a realisation of just how futile it is to stare at the table. Permutations count for nothing. Other results are out of our hands. He’ll focus on nothing more than the immediate. Leave the analysis to the supporters. That’s how it should be.

At the same time, Thomas knows the wealth of talent at his disposal. Just how well his side are playing. That the goals can come from anywhere. The last few games have seen Marcondes, Mbeumo, DaSilva and Valencia get on the list along with Championship top scorer Ollie Watkins and the mercurial Saïd Benrahma. The Algerian’s own hat-trick against Wigan saw his quite magnificent second goal astound even his most ardent admirers. Did he mean it? Was it a misdirected cross? Frankly, who cares ? It was a goal we’ll never forget and will no doubt see him with even more of a spring in his step when things start in earnest once more this evening.

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Saïd (in pre-lockdown mode)

There’s not much else to say beyond enjoy the game. It will be about as exciting as they come. A top v bottom clash where empty stadia are, normally, a great leveller. Where form goes out the window. Where every point is vital. Form may lean towards a home banker but I’ve got a feeling Charlton are going to make this much harder than the table suggests. At the same time, I can’t wait to see how we go.

Roll on 6pm. With the spirit in the camp sky high, this one could be an absolute cracker !

Nick Bruzon

Ifs. Buts. Maybes. Possibilities. Permutations.

4 Jul

Brentford v Wigan Athletic. Blackburn v Leeds United. West Bromwich Albion v Hull City. Those are the big three games, on paper, as we head into the latest round of Championship fixtures. With just six to play, victory at Griffin Park this afternoon will take us within just a couple of points of West Brom (who don’t play until tomorrow). Their own return to winning ways at Hillsborough during the week keeping them safe in ‘automatic’. For now. Yet although the Bees are the ones in form, let’s not forget about the team directly behind us. There’s also the small matter of Nottingham Forest who travel to Frank Lampard’s former club, Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, at lunchtime for a game where their own victory would see the Tricky Trees leapfrog the Bees. Even if just for a few hours.

Rooney caravan

Wayne Rooney – Lockdown has been tough on all of us

It would be fair to say that phase II of the Championship has been quite bizarre. A behind closed doors campaign played out in front of flags, banners and cardboard cutouts rather than fans. Games streamed back to back on TV and I-follow as everybody rushes to complete the season in as ‘normal’ as possible a style. That’s before we even get to the quite depressing situation playing out at Wigan where, if the current stories on social media about their ownership, betting irregularities and the subsequent administration are true (the thread is here), could and should lead to some extremely tough questions for Rick Parry and the EFL. Most of which will, no doubt, be swerved. One has to feel for their supporters for whom missing out on a trip to Griffin Park is probably the least of their worries.

Yet other things have remained the same. Leeds United falling apart. Again. Fulham playing in an empty and soulless stadium. Brentford on fire as our record reads: Played three. Won three. Goals for: six. Goals Against: NONE. We’ve beaten the (then) third placed team and table toppers in our opening fixtures, with the team looking stronger than ever. 

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Ollie leaves the scoreboard hanging as he silences the away ‘fans’ last week

That’s not to rest on any laurels, of course. Cliché alert. Cliché alert. Cliché aler…. You’re only as good as your last result whilst Thomas Frank has been very much advocating a policy of taking each game as it comes. Making it very public that he is only concentrating on the next training session or the next game. Which is exactly the right thing to say and do. Even if for us supporters it is very much different….

Our own fixture list and those of our rivals have been sliced, diced and analysed. Where might Leeds United drop points? (everywhere, presumably). Might we be grateful to Fulham taking points at Nottingham Forest or West Bromwich Albion in the coming weeks? What would Peter Gilham say or do if a win for the Loftus Road team at The Hawthorns in the final game of the season were to do us the ultimate favour?

Ifs. Buts. Maybes. Possibilities. Permutations. These are all part of football’s rich tapestry. The pre and post match debate that simply adds even more to it’s allure. That makes it so compelling. Of which going to the game is only one, albeit significant, part.

I love the live action. Of being part of the sellout crowds we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy. But I love as much the interaction with my fellow fans in the build up to the games. The travel together. The drowning our sorrows or celebrations afterwards. The point we start to look ahead or when, as I believe Harlee Dean calls it,  We go again.” Although, to be fair, that phrase is usually preceded by some combination of: “Supporters deserved more. Apologies to the fans. Not good enough today.”

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Come on. He did say it a lot.

So whilst we may all indulge in fantasy or thoughts of what may come, Thomas Frank has his troops grounded. And that’s just the way to be at present. Don’t get distracted by the noise, the furore or the stress. Leave that to supporters to enjoy/endure (delete as applicable) all of that. Which given the sad state of affairs at Wigan Athletic is the perfect approach. 

If football was tough enough to predict at the best of times, their going into administration – something being linked to stories of bets on them being relegated placed by sources close to the current owners – is about as wild a psychological card as one could ever play. Will their players be demoralised? Devastated? Dead in the water? 

Or will they come out all guns blazing? Points to prove? Supporter morale to uphold? Relegation now staring them down the barrel with the 12 point deduction only to be applied once their final place in the table has been declared. Go down and it takes hold next season. Stay up and it comes into effect now, to see what then happens to the table.

I take no pleasure from any of this. I’m certainly not close enough to comment on any more than I read but, at face value, it all sounds about as shonky as things come. Moreso, with ‘that’ Rick Parry video now doing the rounds. Their fans are furious and it’s easy to understand why. What effect this has on their players remains to be seen but we find out at 3pm today.

Stay safe and crank up the I-Follow. All being well, Mark Burridge has been able to get his hands on some new tech after the mid-week meltdown at Reading. I’m still not sure how he held it together but top marks for effort and reaction to impending disaster just twenty minutes before kick-off. Here’s hoping he has a quieter afternoon, off pitch. Here’s hoping he has an even noisier one on it !

ENJOY.. LET’S DO THIS !!! 

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Goal sweets at the ready….

Nick Bruzon

When you phone in a performance, look what happens…

1 Jul

Brutal. Brilliant. Together. Brentford blitzed Reading 3-0 where, but for the last line of defence, it could easily have been more. The hosts not getting a look in as the gap to ‘automatic’ closed further. West Bromwich Albion sit a mere two points ahead of us heading into their own game at Sheffield Wednesday tonight whilst Leeds United limped to a 1-1 draw with Luton Town. Most generous hosts. 

With the stress over getting the I-Follow on the TV dissipating ten minutes in (it worked, far too easily, when I’d tried previously so was obviously going to fail when it came to a ‘live’ game) there was nothing more to do than sit back, pop a beer and ready the ‘goal sweets’. It wasn’t long before that bag of Haribo ‘Starmix’ saw a Tuesday evening debut. The Reading defence breached by Bryan Mbeumo after the Bees had been banging on the door all game.

With the BMW finally starting a game together for the first time since lockdown, it was Ethan Pinnock who provided the assist. A corner being headed back for the wide man to steer home. Get in. It felt as though it had been coming but pressure, possession and stats count for naff all if you can’t take the chances when you create them. All the shots on goal are deemed meaningless if you can’t keep it tight at the other end. A lesson so ably demonstrated by Leeds United later in the evening as their 75% ball retention and 23 shots to their opponents’ 3 could only result in a 1-1 with bottom club Luton Town.

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Football on the big screen. Goal sweets in hand

Half time came and went. A first foray into I-Follow deemed what could well be described as a successful one after those initial teething troubles. Whether we could say the same for Mark Burridge and Mick Cabbie in the commentary box is a matter of debate. And that’s not meant as a critique of their skills.

Rather, that they did quite wonderfully holding it all together after a tech failure just prior to kick off meant the dynamic duo were obliged to commentate via mobile phone. It was like taking a step back in time an early 80s UEFA Cup match coming at you from close to the Iron Curtain, with commentary being delivered ‘down the line’.  

Bonus points to Mark for his use of the early evening ‘For those of you just coming in late or from work’. With the unique sound that can only come from phone commentary, shut your eyes and it could have been World Cup Argentina ’78. As @the_mattfinish on Twitter would also compare : Motson’s commentary of the Platini goal had this same crackly greatness.

But whilst Thomas Frank’s boys may be playing with the same confidence as World Champions, 1-0 at half time was still only 1-0. As we saw against West Bromwich Albion on Friday night, we rarely have things our own way all game and, sure enough, Reading matched the Baggies by coming for us in the second period.

However, the Bees were also able to ensure a repeat with another clean sheet being earned. Pontus Jansson with the one notable clearance to keep on lockdown at the back whilst the attackers did their thing at the other end.

First, Josh Dasilva. The midfielder following up his own shot to beat the home defence to the ball and double our lead just after the hour. What a man and what a performance. With Christian Norgaard equally strong, and named man of the match at full time, the Bees looked solid throughout. More importantly, 2-0 and any pressure off. For the supporters if nothing else. Brentford back in in the driving seat. Reading nothing more than passengers. Shares in Haribo going through the roof. 

With Thomas Frank taking full advantage of his expanded substitution allowance, changes were made. They allowed the team to push up (Brentford) and yet another late goal for the Bees rounded things off in style. This time, Joel Valencia the man as he lashed home an absolute beauty from distance with the clock entering Jota time. 3-0. Game over, man. Game over. Brentford clear in third. West Brom within touching distance. 

A further bonus then delivered later in the evening as the scoreline from Elland Road came in. It was a result that barely anyone saw coming. Yours truly especially. All gifts gratefully accepted though and whilst one would suspect that Leeds United are all but up (not even they’ll choke this) there’s always the morale boost of watching them wobble. Of being able to sing that Joy Division song.

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Fail to take the chance ; pay the price… The BBC stats tell a sorry tale for Leeds

Fulham finally got back to winning ways but still sit behind us. Nottingham Forest play tonight so have the chance to overtake them with a win at home to Bristol City. Things really are that tight now. Every win counts. Every notch on the goal difference chart could prove vital. Brentford have the momentum but we have to keep it going. Of course the supporters are going to look ahead to what ifs and those permutations when ‘x’ beats ‘y’.

That’s part of being a football fan. Thomas Frank seems to be taking a much more grounded approach and is focussing on nothing more than the next training session and the next game. Acknowledging at full time that whatever is coming next is always the biggest one. It is not about yesterday or tomorrow but ‘now’.

And that is home to Wigan Athletic. Like the Royals, they are currently languishing mid-table. Does the fact they have nothing to play for beyond pride bode well or is a side under no pressure perhaps the most dangerous of all? Roll on Saturday when we can find out. 

That’s for then. For now, we can reflect on a job very well done. It wasn’t so much that Reading were awful but Brentford were, quite simply, awesome.  We’ve put ourselves into a position where defeat or a draw for the Baggies tonight will see the Bees go second should we manage to pick up maximum points against Wigan.  

Perhaps even Thomas Frank may have half an ear on proceedings at Hillsborough this evening. I know I will…

 

Nick Bruzon

Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal

27 Jun

No pressure Fulham and Leeds United. Brilliant Brentford battered Bilic’s Baggies – (c) The Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s aliteration – at a packed (sounding) Griffin Park last night to move within five points of table topping West Bromwich Albion. With the second and fourth placed teams due to play this lunchtime, something has to give in our way as the Bees continue this dogged pursuit of promotion. At a time that others are starting to fall apart around us, Thomas Frank saw his team make it three wins on the spin, unbeaten since March and 8 goals for whilst none conceded over that period. Ethan Pinnock was a colossus at the back. Ollie Watkins proving he still has the golden touch up front. Peter Gilham giving it his all on the tannoy – his dulcet tones reverberating all around TW8. Screams of Brreeennttfffoooorrdddddd drifting over the neighbourhood. His one man mission to make Griffin Park sound as loud as ever leaving our man-with-the-mic hoarse at full-time.

If it wasn’t the same match day experience for those of us mere mortals usually allowed inside the stadium, the club did the very best to make it feel as normal as possible in the circumstances. The compact nature of our home allowing us to fill the ground with supporter banners and flags to quite wonderful effect. A sea of faces filling the paddock as the 3D effect of the banners gave the look of a large crowd to those of us watching on TV i.e. everybody except those few whose names had appeared on a guest list of journalistic credentials that was nigh on impossible to gain access to. And I did try. Ian Moose would have had more luck walking in to a McDonalds to buy a Big Mac at the moment than Joe Public did of busting in to Griffin Park.   

But with Sky getting better and better at the ‘fake crowd’ noise, to the point of club specific chants, appropriate cheers and the usual boos for Keith Stroud  ( perhaps I made that last one up  – our man in the middle once again belying his reputation) it wasn’t as odd watching it on TV as it should have been. Moreso when we were lucky enough to spend the evening camped out with friends in their back garden that nestles in the shadow of the ‘away end’. Whilst the West Brom supporters may have been so loud they sounded like Aldershot, PG more than made up for it on the home side.

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You’re so loud you sound like Aldershot…

If anything, his bellowing was even more ferocious than usual. There was no breaking his stride. No deviation from the norm. He gave it everything with all the regular stylings. The prematch music remained the same. Likewise at full time with another three points in the bag, thanks to our 1-0 win. Even down to his “Have a safe journey home tonight”. There’s no one there and he don’t care. He could have been the last man on earth and I get the feeling he’d have carried on as though there was nothing untoward.

Honestly, it was life affirming. If ever you wanted to describe to somebody what it feels like to support Brentford. To show them true passion and utter devotion to a team.  If ever there was a living embodiment of a club, our club, then it is Peter. And last night it was demonstrated more than ever. 

As it happens, H and I popped out for some fresh air some time after the game had finished. Who should we bump in to but PG himself. From a safe distance, of course. My word the grin and the croakiness said it all. The enjoyment in what had played out before clear. We’d heard every scream from the garden – including the goal announcement 30 seconds before seeing Ollie guide the winner home on TV with little more than a quarter hour gone. We’d felt every moment. Now we had the quite perfect denouement to a quite wonderful evening. 

Honestly, being trapped outside a locked stadium is not the way to watch a game. We were lucky enough to be sitting within a few yards of the goal. Just the slight problem of a twenty foot fence separating us from seeing the action. The TV coverage is definitely improving and, all being well, it won’t be long until we are allowed back in to the ground. The players are, I am sure, as keen as the fans to have full houses. The full time celebrations showed what it meant to them. Imagine doing that with our usual sell out crowd roaring them on? 

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Close but no cigar. Never has a few yards felt more like a few miles

For now, it remains a case of locked doors. Of wall to wall TV coverage. Of having crept to within touching distance of Leeds Untied and West Brom.

Dare I say it, but could a win for Fulham be the best outcome today? Or a draw? Leeds are five points ahead. We’d need two wins to overtake them, obv. Should the gap become six then it would still be the same, given the huge goal difference in our favour over everybody else in the division. Perhaps it is best just to focus on ourselves. We can’t influence that game and have our own trip to mid-table Reading on Tuesday night. With the games coming thick and fast, perhaps we’ll see a few changes coming on that front. Could Bryan Mbeumo start? His own recovery from the positive Corona virus test confirmed by his place on the bench last night.

Still, all that’s to come. We were immense last night. It was weird to watch but magnificent at the same time. Our club is incredible. Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal. We’re beating our rivals on the pitch. Looks like we’re doing the same off it. Just 7(seven) games to go. Can we close the gap? Roll on Tuesday when we find out ….

And if Leeds could fall apart, again, that would also be appreciated.

Nick Bruzon

Could this player be a free transfer signing to complete the promotion push?

23 Jun

Saturday was immense. Brentford thumped Fulham (plus ça change) before West Bromwich Albion dropped points. Then it got to Sunday and Leeds United fell apart, again. This time at a Cardiff City side who now find themselves right on the verge of the play-off pack. The only way the last few days could have gone any better would have been an air traffic control strike in the immediate vicinity of Manchester City during the Burnley game. What a bunch of pricks. Something we’re not totally immune to either, going by some of the weekend social media commentary – kudos to Ollie Watkins for saying what he did in such eloquent and restrained style.

On pitch, it really was a chance to see who was going to hit the ground running and who wanted it more. To discover how this mini-season will play out as the run towards promotion concludes in a concentrated burst of non-stop action. Brentford, of course, started at 100mph as Fulham were put to the sword once more. We’ve talked about that one already and whilst it was quite the finish, the points are on the board and we move on. Let’s not dwell in the past anymore. There’s the small matter of West Bromwich Albion coming to Griffin Park on Friday night.

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Fulham – put to the sword

It is a visit made all the more tantalising by not only the Baggies dropping points but the ‘L’ awarded to Leeds United after they went down in Cardiff. Should the Bees make it three in a row on Friday (and a game against the table toppers is no foregone conclusion) then it will see us overtake the Cottagers to start breathing down the neck of the Elland Road outfit. Not that they have any tradition of choking when the pressure is on.

There is the added incentive of those two teams then playing each other on Saturday afternoon in a game which, if ‘automatic’ is a genuine aspiration for Brentford, will see a win for the Michael Jackson fan club as the least bad outcome.

That’s all ifs, buts and maybes of course. Football rarely goes to plan and even moreso at present. The club are doing all they can to make the fans feel as involved as possible. The I-follow is ‘up and running’, supporter banners and flags are being put into position whilst they are even producing a match day programme for the remaining home games. The article for that one was submitted on Saturday evening. All being well the celebratory mood not impacting the quality too much. Hic. Please note: your definition of quality may vary.

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Yet despite our engagement, watching on TV is no substitute for being there. Missing out on this most exciting of run ins is desperately sad. We all know and understand why, of course, but it doesn’t make things any easier. I’d love to be there. We’d all love to be there. Never have I appreciated just how much we’ve taken for granted. Those mid-week Autowindscreen games where it was a case of ‘M’eh – can’t be bothered’. Makes you think in retrospect. Now I’d sell the (metaphorical) family silver or the last existing pack of ‘Griffin Park favourites’ Top Trumps for the chance to see us host West Brom or Wigan Athletic.  

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If Matthew Benham is reading, I’ll swap them for a ticket

Last night I took a walk around Griffin Park. I’d been talking to a fellow supporter about Friday’s game and feeling glum at the thought of missing out, decided a stroll around the stadium would help. We only live a few minutes away so why not? People go to church to reflect. A visit to the Bees is much the same  It’s something I’ve done many times before but feels even more poignant now. Our time here is fast running out and every sight of Griffin Park is cause to drink it all in. Perhaps this would help lift the gloom. 

When we lived on Braemar Road you could see straight through the gap in the stand to the penalty box and home end goal from our bedroom window. Whilst that has since been sealed off, perhaps some hitherto unseen peep hole onto the pitch might be discovered? The network of houses and alleyways around our compact stadium might afford a new glimpse onto the pitch for those truly desperate. 

No chance. Sadly. It was all locked up tighter than the Arsenal wallet. Whilst the pitch was still (kind of visible) from the one obvious spot in the car park, expect that to be sealed off on matchday. TV trucks and security guards, quite possibly with Alsatians named Tintin and Pickles, will be the order of the day. There’s no hope of anyone beyond players, officials and journalists seeing anything in the flesh. Don’t waste your time. 

That said, if Thomas Frank is (somehow) reading then perhaps a suggestion. Whilst the squad is looking formidable, perhaps the one area where we are lacking consistent depth is in the category of slightly over-weight 49 year old goalkeepers. As luck would have it, I tick both those demographics, have my own boots and no plans for Friday night beyond watching TV. If he were to make the call I’d reluctantly ditch my family and Sky to join the squad on a game by game basis. If it helped out, of course.  

Failing that, I take a mean photo of pre-match kits hanging up. Kitman Bob, if you need a hand……

Shirt pictures available. Get your free shirt pictures

Nick Bruzon  

The Brentford BMW has a new M as Fulham are flayed. Again.

21 Jun

Well that was just magnificent. It wasn’t the same as being there, let’s not pretend otherwise, but Brentford were nothing short of incredible as they destroyed Fulham at a more atmospheric than usual Craven Cottage on Saturday lunchtime. Benrahma and Marcondes doing their thing in Jota time to send the TV audience wild and silence the home team’s tannoy. Scott Parker was left looking as though he’d caught Alexsander Mitrovic red-handed going through his fridge whilst one can only imagine the scenes that would have played out had we been in the away end for this most incredible of denouements. I believe what the kids would call ‘limbs’. Even Pontus was smiling at full time. Not a typo. His former club, Leeds United, have already been displaced at the top of the table and the gap to our next opponents, West Bromwich Albion, reeled in by two points.

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The smile says it all

Imagine choosing not to watch that. What else were you going to do on a Coronavirus Saturday lunchtime? Online shopping? Cleaning the house? Or sit in your social bubbles with a few drinks to see if the impossible might become possible. Could Brentford pick up where we left off in March and keep up the push for ‘automatic’?

Well, a 2-0 win for the Bees means we are now eight points off West Brom and Leeds (albeit Bielsa’s boys have a a game in hand at Cardiff today) with the Baggies due to visit Griffin Park on Friday night under the lights. That one’s going to be huge but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s the small matter of destroying Fulham to talk about first.

Brentford took the game to our hosts from the off. This, despite Thomas Frank confirming that Bryan Mbeumo would be missing out as the individual who had tested positive for Coronavirus. The player has shown no symptoms but is self-isolating at present whilst the rest of the squad had all come back negative on their subsequent tests. Take care Bryan and see you soon. But if his absence might have felt like a blow, it wasn’t impacting the team. Tarique Fosu stepped in and the hairy Bees (Benrahma’s bouff, Dasilva’s beard and Jensen’s top knot – oh dear) went for it.

Both keepers were in good form as the hosts, in the unusual situation of being  roared on…by their p.a. system…. found a way back in to the game. Being honest, David Raya kept us well in it at times whilst they probably had the better of the first half chances. Despite our possession, drive and one close effort from Josh, it was Decordova-Reid who hit the bar whilst Knockaert and Mitrovic both came close. The later even found the back of the net in the second half although was correctly adjudged to have been well offside. The linesman’s flag being lowered with almost slow-motion accuracy to chalk off the rotund striker’s effort.  

And with it, their chance was gone. The arrival of Shandon Baptiste and Emiliano Marcondes breathing new life into Brentford as we kept on pushing. Break followed break until, with the game well into the clock 88th minute, Emiliano played a ball across the box which Benrahma guided home from close in. Yessssss!!! The scream from our house probably loud enough to wake the dead. It was a noise replicated across this part of West London as the Bees moved into a (surely) unassailable position.

No word of a lie, there was calm in our house. This is not the Brentford of old. The Brentford that cock it up late to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Thomas Frank’s brand of football is part Kevin Keegan (minus the meltdown), part confidence and a huge dollop of faith in his players. We kept going. If the ball is up the other end then the opposition can’t score. And sure enough, they couldn’t. Fulham left very much in second place as Marcondes wrapped up the points, and his own man-of-the-match award, late into stoppage time with a cool finish. Not bad for twenty minutes work.

Fulham were broken. Battered. Down and very much out. They retain third place, for now, although have the Bees breathing right down their neck and a trip to Leeds United next up. Either way, something has to give there. With the visit of West Bromwich Albion to Griffin Park taking place the night before, that Elland Road game could turn out to have even more significance than already. Especially if Cardiff City can pull a favour out of the bag today when Bielsa and co resume their own campaign.

I didn’t expect West Brom to drop points yesterday. I mean, Birmingham City? But it happened and that’s a dirty favour we’ll gratefully accept. These early games are going to be critical as teams rediscover there form and fitness. Accept the gifts whilst you can and enjoy our own moment. Beating a team above us in the table, whoever they are, is no small feat. Don’t let the derby nature of the game take away what we achieved. Likewise, Blues at the Hawthorns. No matter how it may feel.

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…Our squad is ten times better than yours ever was…

Yet for now it would be trite not to focus on our own performance. A never give up reminder that football is a 90 minute game. Football is a squad game and if you keep going to the very end, rewards can come.

I’d love to have been there. No question. It was a quite amazing finish to a fixture that always brings out the best in Brentford. Everybody from Jota and Stuart Dallas to Neal Maupay and even Brian Guest have written their own particular chapter in the Brentford- Fulham story. To that you can now add Emiliano Marcondes. The BMW found a new M when it mattered.

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We can’t celebrate in person but this was the next best thing

I’m desperate to attend on Friday but it’s not going to happen. Sadly. I’m not alone. Instead, it’s another shift in front of the TV and the genuine belief that the Bees will pick up where we left off. Yesterday was such a huge morale boost. Something that was quite evident in our own post-match Zoom chat aswell as from dipping in and out of social media. Wherever you went, there we were celebrating. And why not?

Roll on Friday night. Football Is back. It is very different and it is very echoy. But it also has Brentford winning and foe me, Clive, that alone is cause for celebration. Four derbies this season and four wins. Kings of West London. I’ll take that.

See you Friday. In spirit. 

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Nick Bruzon   

All rituals are reset. All clappers binned.

20 Jun

Here. We. Go. I shouldn’t be this excited about a ‘behind closed doors’ game but I am. And there are no apologies. Brentford travel to Fulham this lunchtime for the first Championship game since lockdown began. I-player passes have been issued, banner photos uploaded and we’ve had another chance to get used to the surreal sight of crowd free matches with two more fixtures last night. Norwich City v Southampton followed by Spurs – Man U. It is odd. It is so desperately lacking fans. But it IS a game of football. More than we’ve had in what feels like an eternity since the 5-0 humping of Sheffield Wednesday at Griffin Park in early March. 

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Sheffield Wednesday. 5-0. Griffin Park empty, save for the multi-coloured seats

At 12.30pm I’ll be at The Cottage, backing our boys and heckling Fulham. In spirit. In reality, this will be on the sofa. Jostling with Harry for the prime viewing seat. Mrs. Bruzon being wound up by our bickering as a 7(seven) year old – where the h*ck has that gone? – runs rings around yours truly. Beer in hand and mandatory goal sweets at the ready. Me, not H. One Starmix each time the ball hits the back of the net. All other snacks are able to be eaten with abandon but this is the only time the magic Haribo can be consumed.

It’s a silly tradition that has sprung up amongst our nearest and dearest at Griffin Park (and still beats taking a Victoria sponge to a game). The bag being passed around everyone from Angry Dad to Mr. Partridge and Ohh-nooo Brentford Panic man.

It’s this sort of silly ritual that no amount of TV viewing can replace. The fortnightly interaction with friends and those who have become part of our football family. People whose names we may not even know but whose faces are as familiar to us as those on the pitch. Where’s Jumper Man when you need him? Harry Potter? Billy (Grant)? Although I’m sure even in fan free football he’ll find a way to get his face in front of a TV camera today. The Lockdown inspired ‘Griffin Park Favourites’ Top Trumps pack was about as close as it got. 

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This was about as close as supporter interaction got

It does also make me wonder what lockdown has done to those other important factors that are responsible for Brentford’s performance? No amount of mid-week training can replace the all important power of a supporter wearing the lucky shirt and magic pants. The players can be as fit as they want but that’s nothing compared to not shaving on a winning run or meeting at the same time in the same pub for the same pre-match pint and lunch. Defeat is not rectified by bringing the players in on a Sunday but simply by drinking a Guinness in The Griffin.

All that is now out of the window. I can’t even remember what I was wearing when we were mainlining Haribo against Sheffield Wednesday. Everything is reset and we’re back off once more.

Fortunately, the Bees are in a good place and are as ready for it as possible. Thomas Frank’s press conference was full of his usual positivity. He described how the players showed unbelievable attitude, hard work and came back in a very good place. More importantly, that we are in a better place because we have all our injured players back. Everybody is fit and available for selection. Quite simply, we have the strongest line up available. Something. Something. Something. BMW.

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They’re ok I suppose

His press conference is up on YouTube now. The Zoom chats we became so familiar with in the Spring time being used again to good effect although, sadly, no camera in Greville’s house. I guess there’s only so much topless action or ‘mopping up – live’ one can be treated to. Cripes, lockdown entertainment was desperate. But we’ve got through those first three months and life is slowly starting to return to some kind of previous incarnation. Albeit in very small steps.

 

The other interesting point to come out of Thomas’ talk was his assertion that we’ll see more away wins in the championship than compared to normal. This, a phenomenon that is already playing out in the Bundesliga. Home advantage is no longer a thing with the edge gained from playing in front of your own supporters definitely missing. Here’s hoping that is proven today. Fulham’s missing foam fingers and silenced clappers could prove conspicuous by their absence.

I can’t wait for this one. It’s going to be weird. It’s not going to be the same as being there. But it will be a chance to see our beloved Brentifrd back in action. And if that comes with us stuffing Fulham then all the better.

Roll on 12.30pm. See you there. (kind of). As @TheChauffeur_ put it so succinctly on Twitter this morning…..

Nick Bruzon 

Which way are you going?

16 Jun

Here we go again. Part 2 of 2019/20 is almost upon us with Brentford gearing up for life on and off the pitch. Arsenal were put to the sword 3-2 in front of a noisier than usual crowd last week. The Bees then went down 2-0 at Watford on Saturday. Chelsea are supposedly in for Saïd Benrahma, if you believe the ’stories’. A mixed bag of pre-season results and the worry of transfer rumours – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve got the trip to Fulham on Saturday.

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The blue of Brentford rather than Chelsea is the future. I hope.

I have to be honest that there are a whole range of mixed emotions at present. That football can even take place in any format is going to be a huge morale boost after three months of lockdown. Likewise, the fact that the Championship is able to be determined on the pitch, despite the horribly artificial environments the games will be played in. Some clubs – the likes of Arsenal and Fulham – are sure to thrive in these familiar circumstances. Libraries and clappers have never made for good atmosphere. Others, like Leeds United and West Brom, may struggle rattling around inside those huge, empty arenas. So often a cauldron of noise but now empty vessels where every sound and echo is amplified further.

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Arsenal played Brentford in front of a noisy Emirates crowd.

We’ve all been granted the option to donate our remaining Season ticket balance for access to I-follow and a club brand facemask in order to watch the action. You have to feel for the clubs with revenue streams being decimated. Having to then refund supporters for cancelled tickets on top of this could be a body blow fo many. 

The email sent to Brentford fans was certainly a tough sell,  pressing all the buttons marked ‘togetherness’ and ‘challenge’. I don’t envy the clubs these decisions. I don’t envy fans then being put in the position where they have to make the choice in what are horrific financial times for many. Individual and family circumstances will, of course, vary. Money is tight and if nothing else, Lionel Road Season Tickets still need to be paid for. Some fans may want to help but simply have no option. Others may take the line of why pay for something they aren’t getting to the full?         

Personally, I’ve gone for the donate option. It may be super cheesy but Griffin Park is one place where, for me, ‘togetherness’ IS what it has always been about. Fans mix with players. The top brass talk to supporters. The Community Sports Trust is magnificent whilst let’s not forget our unique involvement – past and present – c/o Supporters Trust Bees United. Buckets have been rattled and times have been hard. Takeovers from down the road have been put off – all thanks to the fans coming together. For me, this is another defining moment in our history and it’s been refreshing to see so many coming out on social media to say that they are doing their bit to help our club.  

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Togetherness – my abiding image of the season to date

Those wanting to get the I-follow access for Fulham have until Wednesday lunchtime to push the button. After that, fans will be sent the link for the game aswell as the chance to upload their picture for the fan banner going up at Griffin Park.

It won’t make for the usual experience, obviously. But football fans and business the world over are in the same boat. We have to try and make the best of a crappy situation. Even if it is in our front rooms and social bubbles. Look positive, should things go one way (i.e where Leeds and West Brom don’t choke but our own wins keep coming), we won’t actually be allowed to go and watch the team at Wembley. We all know what plays out when that happens. Imagine it taking nobody being there to finally break the duck. 

Still, all that is a long, long way off. First up, its Fulham on Saturday. They’ve even been testing fake crowd noise. Good to see that some things don’t change.

Nick Bruzon

Thomas, frank. Bees boss gives magnificent insight on GPG webcast.

10 May

A week on from the final game that never was. Brentford v Barnsley has played out in our heads a thousand times but is yet to take place in any meaningful fashion. Griffin Park is still standing but nobody is allowed in. Players or fans. A scene that is repeated at grounds all over the country, with supporters still wondering how or when football may return. How we’ll go up – automatic or play-offs ? What form will football take? Where will it be played? Might Leeds United somehow fall apart, again? All questions for which there are no meaningful answers, at least in public, although the early morning run around TW8 yesterday saw us still in the thralls of a ghost town. Tumbleweed blowing down the street, bushes growing denser and Gary Neville’s words ( in his guise as co-owner of Salford City) that it is extremely unlikely Leagues One and Two will return this season still ringing in the ears. If true, may that even feed further upwards and what impact would that have on the way the two highest divisions in the country play out?

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Griffin Park still standing – the floodlights still there

Whatever happens, the answers won’t be good. Or, at the least, met with universal agreement. What can you do though? Stay safe. Don’t be a dick. Think of the frontline workers and stay home, no matter how tough it may be or how tempting to venture out in to the sunshine for picnics and sun tan sessions rather than the permissible exercise sessions. The quicker this is all over the quicker we may be able to get back to living our lives in some sort of normality. Without the fear of catching a horrific virus simply because some self-absorbed hipster, to whom the two metre social distancing rules don’t apply,  struts too close to you. See also: pavement cyclists.        

It’s madness. As much the fact that we have hipsters in Brentford these days. But there you go. Unprecedented times ( he says whilst reaching for the Coronavirus bingo card. I would also accept : ‘I trust this finds you well’ and ‘stay safe’ for a full house). Still, wonderful sentiments and a sign that this is the new normal.

None of which changes the fact that football remains way, way off the agenda. At least, the playing side of it. We at least had the consolation of another GPG Lockdown special on Saturday afternoon, with none other than Thomas Frank occupying the hot seat. A huge audience were tuned in to hear his thoughts on the season so far and, as importantly,  what may come next.

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Getting ready to go. Cut to Thomas in 5..4..3… 

My word. What a man. What a session. What honesty and openness. What stories and insight. There was talk of Jansson and Benrahama’s brilliance. The acceleration in Josh Dasilva’s game. Ollie Watkins. The defence. Our fitness and injury concerns – all bang on track for the ‘pre-season’ in June. If that is what happens. Thomas explained how he thought the sqard would react and be treated/ used in the final run in. How games might play out. The answer to whether Pontus would have started at Fulham – no, being the decision (albeit fit).

Likewise, talk of his own positives so far. His own approach to the squad, the fans and transfers – where it seems the policy of ‘no dickheads – personality over raw talent’ remains as key as ever. There was discussion about his fellow managers / head coaches and how we had played against certain opponents. Likewise, how we would play if we met them again – Nottingham Forest, anyone? 

Despite being in Denmark at present  – something Thomas confirmed although the obligatory Carlsberg  on his kitchen shelf was a tell tale sign – he remains in daily contact with his players and staff. The attitude sounds Uber-positive and you can tell he is chomping at the bit to get the job finished. To get Brentford into the top flight and who he will call up when that happens.

There were parts that, as he exhorted us, must “stay inside the room” .  It will be interesting to see how much of this , if any, is left on the cutting room floor when the YouTube video is released. Be there or miss out, the message of the day. Let’s hope those who were present return the faith and trust invested in them by this most remarkable of individuals.

It was another wonderful afternoon and something that, whilst we’ve said so many times, needs repeating – only at Brentford. Our approach and our size, where everyone seems to know everyone, makes this possible. The willingness of our top brass to put themselves on the line, testament to the two-way respect that exists. The early season keyboard warriors must have missed the memo for this one or couldn’t get an internet signal from under their rocks.

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The questions continued for two hours plus

Hats off to Thomas. Kudos to Trevor and his team for not only arranging this but then co-ordinating the session. Massive thanks, also, to the fans as without them there’d have been no questions. There was never going to be a danger of that though and, personally, having a list of questions as long as my arm could have listened to Thomas speak all day long. 

The only real disappointment of the session being that Greville’s webcam was in the front room rather than the usual hub of activity and excitement that his his kitchen.

Still, at least he was wearing clothes for this one 😉   

Nick Bruzon

Yes!!!! An incredible afternoon sees dreams come true (for a while).

3 May

What a quite fantastic end to the season. Brentford have only gone and done it. Promotion to the Premier League assured after tonking Barnsley in the last ever game at Griffin Park. A third bracketing of the season, after the 7(seven)-0 win at home to Luton and the same score in the obliteration of Fulham at the Cottage, saw us leave the Championship to take on the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa next season. With us come Leeds United who, despite falling apart (again), had enough in the tank to get over the line. There were tears at the Hawthorns where that unexpected favour from the Loftus Road mob denied them automatic promotion but you have to fancy their chances in the play offs.

Yes, that’s definitely what happened. Our season ending in style. Tears of joy at what we’ve achieved ; sadness at saying goodbye to our home for the last 116 years. Fans coming together as one to celebrate and commiserate. Looking forward to seeing little old Brentford in the top flight. Leeds United still unable to escape from our shadow. Fulham looking enviously towards our part of West London and hoping they may get lucky in the play-offs.

Some people are on the pitch - Juge's penalty v Preston saw a wonderful denouement

Some people are on the pitch.. etc etc

And then I stepped out of the shower. The Championship table is still stuck on: played 37. Nobody able to say they have definitely gone up to join Champions elect Liverpool. A team who have still not, mathematically, taken the crown from Manchester City despite the most blitzkrieg approach to a campaign in living memory. Brentford fans denied the chance to say goodbye to Griffin Park and now not knowing if we ever will.

Yesterday was brutal from so many respects. Our chance denied by these most cruel and devastating of global circumstances. People sitting tight on lockdown as we mostly (say in ; don’t be a dick) play our part in helping to try and stop the spread of this soul-destroying virus. I know what has to be done and of course we’ll obey Lockdown. Yet I’d be lying if I said yesterday was fun. It was awful being stuck inside when the only home I wanted to be in was Griffin Park.

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Reality was soul destroying

I wrote the piece on how that felt yesterday morning. It was a column that, being honest, I had no idea if I wanted to start or even would. The feeling upon getting up was just so awful and only got worse as the morning progressed. In the end, it was a case of downing an espresso or two, sitting at the keyboard and seeing what words fell out. The results are here and were, in retrospect, quite cathartic. 

Sure, they didn’t help me feel any better but the response from our fans was life affirming. Not just the kind words on social media but the fact that it quickly became apparent how so many of us were going through the same thing. Of course, we were all going to be missing out on ‘that’ game but to hear and read people being so open about how they felt was great. 

And I use that word in the loosest sense. Of course, one wouldn’t want fellow supporters to be feeling anything like I did – all that emotion that had been experienced and accumulated since my first game back in 1979 unable to let out in one, final, scream of Brrreeeeeeennnnntttt-fffforrrrrdddd. 

I was flat. Low. All over the shop. The early morning run to the shops, with the selected route conveniently looping around the deserted stadium, making it even worse. It should have been a hive of activity at that point. Instead, Brentford was like ghost town. My mind playing all sorts of cruel tricks, trying to imagine what it would have been like.

I swear Jota winked at me as I limped past the main gates on Braemar Road.

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Regulation exercise saw an early morning run to the shop. Oh, Jota 😦

Yet to read so many of us sharing the same experience and going through such similar emotions was, bizarrely, like some form of cyber-hug. Despite being ripped apart from each other, we’ve never felt closer together.

Griffin Park, Brentford and #FarewellGriffinPark were all trending on Twitter for most of the day as the fans united. Not just to shed a tear but also to share their special memories of a home that we’ll be doing well to see again. Instantgram a sea of glorious images.

It wasn’t easy. It was never going to be. Popular music’s Hard-Fi adding further salt to the wound later in the day by confirming they’d have played their first show together in six years as a means of saying goodbye to the ground. Frontman Richard Archer being a huge Brentford fan, of course. Here’s hoping Adam Bluetone and Rhino from The Quo were also lined up. Brentford-fest – just imagine….

I think if the club had come out and said they were wearing a special kit for that final game it would just about have finished me off. Thankfully they stayed silent on that subject. And most, to be fair.

In part I suspect this was to let the fans ‘grieve’ on their own. Equally, it would have been nice had they at least acknowledged the significance of the day. Perhaps that will come. Perhaps ignoring it was their way of saying we WILL be back.

You never know…..

The other super positive of the day was Andy Scott, who was the latest guest on the regular GPG webcast. My word it was good. Unexpectedly so. Entertaining. Honest. Reflective. Insightful. Like Martin Allen, a man who connected with the fans – not just at the time but even in the answering of every question. It really felt personal.

He was candid about things he’d got wrong. Celebratory about what had gone well. Poignant about Rob Rowan, with lavish praise being poured on a man who the more we learn about the more we realise just what an incredible individual we have lost. What an amazing part of the Brentford family he was. 

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Andy Scott was the latest guest

And he was funny. The story about Kevin Dearden, Ron Noades’ kitchen and a pogo stick one that had me laughing for what felt like the first time all day. As the GPG Twitter feed noted afterwards:

Riveting meetup with Andy Scott. Maybe the best one yet. You couldn’t ask for more from Andy than this. It’s all in there, incl answering @samsaunders7 ‘s questions from last week (at the very end Sam!).

Forget Netflix, this is well worth a 2h15m binge.

And they are right. It was fascinating stuff. Entertaining. You can find it below. Put your feet up, sit back and enjoy.    

Great work,GPG and Andy. Thank you.

Next weekend’s guest promises to be very special. With Trevor unable to name them on the yesterday’s session, given the announcement is going to be made alongside the club next week, draw whatever conclusions you must from the below tweet published this morning…..

Until then, dreams of football remain just that, dreams. Will we go up? Could it be Manchester City and Liverpool at Lionel Road? Whenever that may be.

Might we end up playing out this campaign behind closed doors in neutral stadia, as is being suggested more and more? 

I’d oppose that suggestion 100% if so – just think of the unfair advantage it would give Fulham.

Nick Bruzon