Tag Archives: Thomas Frank

If it helps, blame Greville. Warning : may contain typos.

10 Jun

Welcome back, Brentford fans. The dust has finally settled on 2018/19 and we’re now into that long wait for proceedings to begin in anger once more. The Bees finished 11th in the Championship, despite flirting with both ends of the table. Aston Villa ‘deserved to win’ in the play-off final as Griffin Park head coach Dean Smith swapped TW8 for his boyhood club back in October. Leeds United fell apart in quite spectacular style although will no doubt be amongst the favourites when the fixtures are announced this month. And Thomas Frank won over the doubters in some style as his free flowing team, spear-headed by Neal Maupay and Said Benrahma, started scoring goals for fun.

It was some season, that’s for sure. Season tickets are already flying off the shelves for 2019/20 as realisation dawns that we have just over 20 games left to play at Griffin Park. It’s going to be an emotional campaign and I for one cannot wait to get going once more. No matter how tedious the wait for early August already seems. Cripes, we don’t even know what we’re going to be wearing yet. Come on Bob – give us another kit clue. That said,  Umbro have at least had their name revealed and Lionel Road stadium building firm Ecoworld have been named as our new sponsor. 

For yours truly, it’s ‘that’ time of year aswell. I wasn’t going to bother and was then caught unawares by Bob Booker biographer Greville Waterman. I say unawares, more under the influence. A few pints had been consumed when he caught up with me and asked if I’d be doing it this time around, “Sure. Why not” was the answer. Curse you, Guinness. And so it began.

And as a result we’re live as of…. now. It’s annual e-book time. As ever, any and all funds raised from this (or previous titles) are going to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. This season’s effort is entitled ‘The Jaffa cake Shirt’ because we all know how amazing this was(n’t) – delete as applicable. It contains the least bad of the Blogs from this site swell as all the articles submitted for The Park Life feature in the Griffin Park match day programme – league and cup. 

Starting with the summer and the World Cup (when it got mentioned once or twice that we had a player involved – Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford) it goes on through all the fun and games.  Remind yourself how we out played Aston Villa. Again. Even if Dean did think they deserved to win. Re-live the goals from Neal Maupay – and the quite magnificent mentality! Watch Fulham and QPR self destruct, Birmingham City prove that overspending is anything but a ten times better strategy. Remember how Leeds United fell apart. Curse as Mrs. Brown’s Boys still exists.

Regular readers of these pages know the drill. The  quality may not be great. There WILL be typos. I probably use the phrases ‘That said’, ‘Then again’ and ‘However’ far too often. Much of it you will already be familiar with.

On the plus side, what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time of the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here. That’s here !

Many thanks in advance for your time. At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99  – which then goes to a great cause anyway.  I’ll apologise in advance for mentioning this again over the next few weeks but it will all benefit our quite fantastic Community Sports Trust. 

And if it helps, blame Greville. I have !

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Nick Bruzon

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Well that makes #BeeTheDJ nice and easy. The four ‘other’ things you have to know about our new signing

29 May

So the news is now, officially, official. Brentford ‘Official’ confirmed one of the most heavily touted rumours of the week when the signing of midfielder Christian Nørgaard from Italian giants ACF Fiorentina (their words) was confirmed on Tuesday morning. But what do we know about the latest addition to the squad with the signing of a player who was, of course, one of Thomas Frank’s first signings at Brøndby  – what were the odds of the stats computer coming up with his name 😉 ?  As for Leeds United, with the pain of the play-offs still fresh in the mind they’ve given supporters a boost. Even if it does involve that most awful of football phrases….  

We can only begin with the arrival of Christian Nørgaard at Griffin Park. The club website has their own ‘getting to know…’ piece and you can read that one here. Personally though, I prefer to read between the lines at the less obvious facts to see what we can come up with.

Firstly, that all important question of which ‘signing pose’ would Christian opt for has been answered. There was to be no ‘shirt with name on the back’ (new or old) and no ‘pen hovering over contract’. Instead, we were given ‘club scarf’ – worn in the traditional style rather than held aloft.

It’s always a safe option. Moreso given the unfortunate incident of Marcel Eger and the shirt that looked suspiciously too tight. ‘Noooo’ screamed anyone at a time the player should have absolutely opted to hold rather than wear.

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Christian plays it safe with a scarf around the neck

The article in which his signing is announced refers to Christian as “The tall 25-year-old”. As one Braemar Road observer pointed out, this is a nice throwback to the club’s oft repeated description of “Long-legged midfielder Toumani Diagouraga”. One fan’s long-legged is another’s tall, I suppose.

According to the aforementioned ‘ten things’ piece, whilst at Brøndby Christian was described by Sporting Director Troels Bech as the “liaison between the team and this club’s wonderful fans.” This is great news, given the already strong bond between players and fans that we bore witness to under Thomas Frank. Those post-match laps of honour at the latter end of the season really helping crank up the emotion after another three points had been earned. If he does half as good a job as the likes of Yoann, Said, Neal or our official player liaison, the legend that is Peter Gilham, then we’re in for a treat.

As for songs, popular music’s The Vaccines give us an absolute shoe-in for #BeeTheDJ. And should Emiliano Marcondes cede his number 17 squad shirt then I can’t see it beyond the wit of mortal man or woman to come up with an alternate terrace chant, either.

An obvious selection

Moving on, Leeds United. I’m still amazed at quite how they managed to miss out on promotion to the Premier League this time around. Automatic was in their grasp for so long whilst even in the play-offs, they were all set in the second leg after that early goal from Stuart Dallas before hitting self-destruct just before half time against rank Lampard’s Derby County ™. Still, that’s all been and gone. Crying over it won’t change anything. Another campaign in the Championship awaits at Elland Road.

As such, one can imagine the joy after the club confirmed that head coach Marcelo Bielsa will be at the helm for another season. Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani has exercised their option to extend Bielsa’s contract for a second season whilst the man himself has confirmed his intention to continue.

I think Bielsa is great. We’ve written about him many times on these pages and even in the matchday programme. Even though his team would ultimately miss out, one can’t deny the passion he displayed and the enjoyment he gave us over 2018/19. And not just Spygate.

So it was news which I read with genuine pleasure. Until the formal announcement was pointed out. Urghh. They’ve used ‘that phrase’. We go again. I can’t help but associate this with Harlee Dean and his Twitter account – usually used in conjunction with the phrases “Can’t apologise enough” or “The supporters deserve better”.

It’s a phrase that is high up there on the post-match defeat bingo card, nestling alongside Dean Smith telling journalists that “we deserved to win”. I have a(possibly) irrational loathing of this bland platitude, used to describe the fact that your team has been rubbish. Move along, nothing to see here.  File alongside the England Supporters ‘band’, Mrs. Browns Boys, Team GB, goal music, eXpresso, Star Wars day etc etc in the list of things that really get under the skin

On the plus side, at least there was no crowbarred hashtag to accompany the news whilst the picture used put me in mind of Alan Partridge – which can only ever be a good thing. Unlike the Norwich based superstar, Bielsa has been given that much required second season. Here’s to seeing if he can produce more of that liquid football. although perhaps not at Griffin Park. (Yet) another three points from Leeds will do me just fine.

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Nick Bruzon  

That was some weekend. But what’s happening today?

28 May

What a weekend! Brentford now know every team we’ll be playing in the Championship next season after Charlton Athletic triumphed in the League One play-off whilst Frank Lampard’s Derby County missed out to Aston Villa in the battle for a Premier League place. There were nothing but good wishes coming out of TW8 for Dean Smith as saw his dream come true in a game that could have gone either way in a frenzied final ten minutes. Back at Griffin Park, we have incoming news following a cryptic late night tweet from Brentford official on Sunday.

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Villa celebrate at Wembley

Love or hate the play-offs, nobody could deny that was the weekend that had it all. From what we could politely call a ‘defensive mix up’ that put Charlton on the back foot within minutes of kick-off to Derby County suffering their own goalkeeping malfunction that allowed the Villans to double the lead. Despite a late surge and the arrival of Flo Jo from the bench, Dean Smith and his team were able to hang on. The smiles at full time said it all. Smiles that we’ve never experienced as the tears on the faces of the Derby and Sunderland fans were a pain that we know all to well.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 06.11.57The bonus of Aston Villa going up means that the Bees already climb a place in the fledgling league table. We’re currently fourth, clear of Leeds United, Fulham and QPR. Newly promoted Charlton are sniffing around the play-offs (not bad for a team that have just gone up) although there’s a shock at the top with both Barnsley and Birmingham City in ‘automatic’. I can’t imagine that will last for too long. Had Derby made it then we’d be sitting in fifth, albeit I can’t imagine Dean Smith would have settled on taking top spot as a palatable alternative.

The other big question from the play-offs was how much Brentford stand to make from Villa going up. What ‘clauses’ (if any) were written into the deal to let Dean go? More importantly, there’s a certain Scott Hogan. Somehow, he has got himself promoted to the Premier League twice in the same season. Officially with Villa and as an on-loan player at Sheffield United. Does this mean we get paid twice? Stranger things have happened.

Waking up this morning, Brentford official have started to prepare the way for some form of news. I say, some. In part this is obvious – we have incoming. The tweet that went up late last night noted : ✍ Announce 9am.

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The pen emoji presumably for a contract being signed rather than to highlight our new rnage of autograph books in the club shop. And if so, every bit of transfer gossip suggest this will be Danish midfielder Christian Nørgaard from Fiorentina. Whilst that bit may be fairly nailed on – if you believe what you read – what still remains uncertain at this moment in time is what form of ‘signing photo’ we are going to get.

The classic ‘pen poised over contract’? How about, ‘Holding a Brentford scarf’ – either aloft or at waist height? Yet perhaps this could a double whammy to link in with the kit launch. Imagine if the new player were to appear with our first look at the Umbro 2019/20 kit? Home or away? Don’t forget that last season, supporter Lucy Draper was given permission to drop the images on to Twitter to formerly launch the kit whilst the arrival of Said Benrahma was first revealed in a video clip to supporter Ryan.

The point being that we like to do things in an unorthodox style. Whilst unlikely (and it may not even be Christian who is joining), until such time as we see the images I won’t rule out the possibility of a new shirt being included.

Just as long as there isn’t a comedy hashtag……

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Is Christian now a Bee?

Nick Bruzon

Neal’s going nowhere (fact) as Thomas unleashes his Action Forss. What a finish!

6 May

The morning after the night before. For you, Bees fans, the season is over. The wait until August 3rd already seems an interminable one yet, at the same time, what a way to end the campaign. What a high to finish up on. As comfortable a 3-0 won for Brentford as one could hope to see, with Preston swept aside and barely a glimmer off resistance offered. An incredible 13 minutes of first half injury time added on as fans feared the worst for Julian Jeanvier, knocked cold within the first 30 seconds but thankfully back on pitch by full time for the customary lap of honour. Another goal for Neal Maupay. Peter Gilham on fire. A top 11 finish for The Bees whilst that ever useful yardstick, the difference between us and ten times better Birmingham City, was this time around recorded as 12 points. In our favour. And Leeds United fell apart. Again. This is all before you even get to the sad farewells and the player of the year do.

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An anxious wait

The other key point, of course, being that this time next season there’ll be no more Griffin Park. No more waking up and imagining our return in a few months time. That’s not to be fearful of Lionel Road but merely to note how much we should appreciate our current home whilst we still can. Taking the kids for a pre-match stroll around TW8 and up to the club shop for the magnificent scarves c/o Audrey (thank you again, so much) it really began to hit home. We’ve all known this is coming but suddenly things seem very, very close. And I’m one of the lucky ones fortunate to have the stadium as a near neighbour. For others, I can only imagine those moments are disappearing quicker than Keith Stroud waving a yellow card.

Still, that’s for the future. For now, let’s savour another incredible afternoon. The pre-match vibe was killed stone-dead within moments of kick-off following the horrific looking injury suffered by Jeanvier. The haste with which referee Mr. Linnington and the players in his vicinity summoned the medical staff told you all you needed to know. Over ten minutes of treatment later the neck brace, oxygen and some very delicate stretcher work had us all fearing the worst. Sickening. Absolutely sickening. Sergi Canos in particular, seemed particularly shaken with his emotions going through the roof. Something seen moments after play resumed where he was quite direct in his asking the linesman what game he was watching.

With no further news as to the injury forthcoming and fans fearing the worst, it’s no surprise things took a while to get going once more but when they did, wow!! It was another master class in the Thomas Frank brand of free flowing football that we’ve all come to know and love. This, without Romaine Sawyers or Saïd Benrahama on the pitch but inspired once more by Sergi and Neal. Rico Henry ripping it up down the left flank. Moses Odubajo on the other side, winning balls he had no right to even come second to after a few ‘bambi on ice’ moments.

Ezri Konsa got the first. On what the clock says was 45 although there were close to another ten minutes played after that. One can only imagine the havoc this would have caused had there been a Big Bob Giveaway happening. The centre back swept it past ‘keeper Connor Riley to break his Brentford duck and effectively kill the game stone dead going in to half time. Preston had offered nothing to this point and were now left a mountain to climb.

It got worse for them in the second half. Brentford picked up where they left off and the second goal was only a matter of time. Sergi was inspired as he pushed and pushed before eventually setting up who else but Neal Maupay for his 25th league goal of the campaign. Yet such was his contribution and celebration that Peter Gilham, quite rightly, name checked the Spaniard for the assist as part of his goalscorer announcement. But it was that sort of day. Our man with the mic feeling the moment as much of anybody in the stands.

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Neal has been wonderful this season

As for the third, it was something anybody in Griffin Park will never forget. A side that was already seeing some heavy B-team presence with Marcondes, Racic and Dasilva all starting the game, ended it with more than a passing nod to Kevin O’Connor’s side. Ollie and Sergi were subbed late on for Jaakko Oksanen and Marcus Forss. And four minutes later it was 3-0. Marcus Forss with a quite wonderful run through the Preston midfield before firing home low and hard from distance.

Riley was left once more with no chance yet if Sergi had enjoyed his own moment, this was next level celebration. The young Finn running full tilt towards the home fans on the Ealing Toad. Arms aloft and loving it. Absolutely loving it. Fist pumps, Cheers. Acknowledgements. Big grins. He just kept going and going. It had the works. Yet understandably so.

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What a finish

And there it ended. 3-0 and up to 11th. Whilst we couldn’t, quite, make it five Championship top ten finishes in a row it was near as it gets. To come top half, yet again, still a quite magnificent from a squad that is founded upon discovering untapped potential and selling at profit when the time is right. Contrast this to your Leeds United and Birmingham City type teams. I cite these two in particular given the ongoing glut of tinpot accusations and ridiculous levels of overspending that have already led to some terrible acquisitions and points deductions.

Leeds have, once more, thrown away a seemingly impregnable position (although at least they are in the play offs. This season). Yesterday’s capitulation to Ipswich Town telling you all you need to know about theur current mental fragility. I still think they can do it but my word, Marcelo Bielsa will need to deliver the mother of all pep talks in the coming days.

As for ten times better Birmingham, there’s no team I enjoy trouncing more. And boy are Blues the gift that keeps on giving. Looking at our relative form over the last five seasons in the Championship, I’m spotting a trend here…..

2014/15: Brentford 5th   (78 points) Birmingham City 10th (63 points)

2015/16: Brentford 9th   (65 points) Birmingham City 10th (63 points)   

2016/17: Brentford 10th (64 points) Birmingham City 19th (63 points)

2017/18: Brentford 9th   (69 points) Birmingham City 19th (46 points)  

2018/19: Brentford 11th (64 points) Birmingham City 17th (52 points)   

You can’t make up that form of consistency and I cannot wait to see what next season brings. One thing we can be sure of is that we have now seen Yoann Barbet play his last Brentford game. Both the player and Thomas Frank have confirmed that it will be very much a case of ‘Au revoir’ for this fan favourite.

 I’m genuinely saddened. The passion and versatility alone are going to be a huge job to replicate. His popularity second to none as he went out of his way to show the love for all things, and fans, red and white. Yet fan love alone does not make a football team and, as we have now seen many times, our Directors of Football would seem to very much know what they are doing. I shot my emotional bolt after the loss of Jota and Maxime Colin to Birmingham yet look how that all played out. I’m gutted to see Yoann go, from a personal level as much as anything else, but trust implicitly what we are doing.

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What a man

The flip side to all of this is Neal Maupay. Last night he scooped supporters’ player of the year aswell as the same accolade from his team mates. He is one of the most hotly sought after talents in this squad and there’s no doubt his name will be linked with all manner of clubs over the summer.

The goals alone only tell half the story. There’s the pace, the approach play and, like Yoann and Sergi, that raw passion. He absolutely loves it and the fans love him like no other player I’ve seen in a while. Even better, everything he says suggests there is no intention whatsoever to leave. He’s already said as much to BBC Radio London and then yesterday afternoon did one of those things that you only get at Griffin Park –  he took a post-match stroll down Braemar Road and past The Griffin pub.

Seizing the opportunity to do my own one man Ian Moose impersonation although without the pies, corpulence or slagging off Maupay’s goal scoring ability (how IS that working out for you Ian?) – why not take the chance of a picture and to ask about next season’s plans? The answer was as categoric as they come. Definitely staying. Not moving. Absolutely loves it here. He even shook hands on it and promised. Fact.

Neal, just for the record we all know that a promise to a fan is as legally binding as any contract. Don’t let any agents tell you otherwise!

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Happy birthday to my good friend – to coin an (incorrect) phrase

Next season is going to be special. Very special. The emotion of leaving Griffin Park something that you can’t buy. The enthusiasm from Thomas Frank infectious. That he has won over the fans so incredibly well tells you all you need to know about his character, his mindset and his own popularity levels. With players like Ollie, Sergi, Neal and Saïd in the team, you know there are goals to come. Josh Dasilva has impressed in his late season cameos. Marcus Forss has hit the ground running. The difference that the return of Kamo made was quite apparent whilst some of Romaine Sawyers ball control has been nothing short of sizzling.

Of course players will go over the summer. They will also come. That’s how things work at Brentford. Yet if we keep the key components in the squad then this could be as exciting a close (closed?) season as it will be when things kick off once more in August.

For now, thank you Mr. Benham. Thank you Thomas Frank. Thank you Neal, Saïd, Sergi et al. Thank you Yoann. Most of all, thanks to all my fellow supporters for making 2018/19 special in so many ways. I’ve got a felling 2019/20 is when this pahse of life at Brentford is all going to come together. And I cannot wait.

See you there….

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Nick Bruzon

Dear EFL…..For once, put the supporters first and sort this mess out. I dare you.

30 Apr

Come on EFL, sort this nonsense out. Now. The failure to rearrange the Bolton – Brentford game that you cancelled on Friday, with the season due to formally end this Sunday lunchtime, is nothing short of farcical. With Preston due to visit Griffin Park then, it is clear that it cannot take place prior. Instead, we are left in a situation where should a game occur it will be played in the dead zone between the campaign ending and the play-offs starting. A game that nobody wants at this juncture and which nobody will attend. Except, of course, it won’t happen. It is a complete slap in the face (and wallets) of the fans from both clubs aswell as the players – who are left in limbo rather than starting a well-earned holiday. It is a complete demonstration, once again, of the impotence of the footballing authorities when it comes to any sort of decision making process.

Waiting for the EFL to swing into action feels like that episode of The Simpsons when Bart and Skinner are repeatedly searching the night sky in a punishment related amateur astronomy lesson (as you do):

“Six hours nineteen minutes right ascension, fourteen degrees fifty-eight minutes declination……No sighting.

No Sighting.

No Sighting.”

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The EFL look for an answer with no success

There has been nothing. Nothing. No decision just to cancel the game and award us the three points by default. Not that we particular want that with Neal Maupay then denied a final chance to top the Championship goal scoring charts or The Bees missing out on trying to improve our patchy away record. As for Bolton, with the debacle going on there at a senior level, playing a pointless game (no pun intended) is probably the last thing on their minds. Yet, instead, we are all being taken for a ride on the EFL bullshit express. Supporters already out of pocket and likely to be even further so should the game somehow be arranged at a moment’s notice.

But no, I stand corrected. The EFL have done something in public. They have made… a statement. You can read this below

Discussions have continued with Bolton Wanderers, Brentford and other relevant parties throughout the course of the past 48 hours in regards to the rescheduling of last weekend’s Sky Bet Championship fixture. 

 There has been suggestions in the public domain that that the game could potentially take place on Wednesday 1 May 2019. However, Bolton Wanderers has not yet confirmed this will be the case and the EFL will advise via the appropriate channels as soon as a definitive decision is reached. 

 EFL Regulations do provide for any match to be played within four days of the end the normal playing season.

It is one of those which tells you precisely nothing. There is nothing here beyond hot air and waffle. No substance. No answers. No solution. No help. Instead, Thomas Frank doesn’t even know if he should be preparing Brentford for a game with Bolton or a game with Preston. Except he does, because there is no way on this earth that the Bolton game can or will happen. Sadly. And even if it did, what would the EFL do to help supporters? Why has it been left to Brentford to be the ones looking at means of compensating fans who had bought travel tickets and accommodation for Saturday’s no show?

Let’s be clear. Everybody sympathises with the Bolton players. There’s no gripe there. The lack of solution and the lack of help from anybody with the ability to make that call is what is proving to be the ‘challenge’. And that’s the polite word.

I don’t want the game called off for reasons as noted before. Yet given the calendar and the circumstances around this, with little time for either club to prepare an ‘after the lord mayor’s show’ team of players who would rather be on holiday. Of supporters having to find and fund travel to a game that would, surely, end up being played behind closed doors or in the face of a public protest at short notice. Of the complete farce that it would be should this somehow go ahead.

Just put everyone out of their misery now. Please.

Then use the summer to make an informed and considered decision about what, if any, action should be taken. Playing the game won’t keep Bolton up. It won’t propel Brentford to the play-offs. But it will draw a line under this whole sorry mess and put the clubs ,the players and most importantly  the fans out of their misery.

For once, put the supporters first. I dare you.

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It’s just a load of big balls at the EFL and Bolton

 

Nick Bruzon  

Plenty of great news and action despite the P-P. Have they fallen apart yet…?

28 Apr

I love the business end of the season. Saturday afternoon saw all sorts of promotion and relegation issues coming to conclusion with more to follow today. Despite Brentford and Bolton seeing their game called off by the EFL for those well documented reasons, there was still plenty for Bees’ fans to keep an eye on. Norwich City are promoted from the Championship. Sheffield United all but there. Leeds United now in need of beating Aston Villa by, at least, brackets today in an attempt to keep their mathematical ‘automatic’ hopes alive. Further down the league pyramid there was joy for Leyton Orient and tears for Yeovil Town. And what of Doncaster Rovers, whom we mentioned yesterday…..?

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It’s all over barring goal difference

First up, the fall out from the Bolton – Brentford P-P. The EFL have ordered that the game still be played, regardless of who the home side put in the line up. It’s a farcical scenario for all concerned with the real prospect of a men against boys match taking place, should it actually happen. Which I still can’t see being the case. Although if it did come down to the home side fielding youths / reserves then what an opportunity to give our B-team some genuine league experience. If nothing else, a sporting gesture that would see, at least, the game played on a level playing field.

With the whole footballing community firmly behind Bolton, there’s no real resentment here. More, frustration. Especially for the Bees’ fans who have shelled out on weekend travel. The plus side here being chief executive Jon Varney’s message that the club are now investigating ways of helping those supporters who had travelled.

He told Brentford ‘Official’ that, “I will be working over the coming days to find ways to compensate those who have had their day spoilt by the game being called off, particularly as it will, I’m sure, be difficult for some to get back up to a rearranged fixture at short notice.

At the top end of the Championship, Norwich City were promoted after a 2-1 home win over Blackburn Rovers. Sheffield United are as good as there following their own defeat of Ipswich Town.

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Congratulations (and happy birthday??) to my good friend Delia

The only team who can catch up are Leeds United, whose only chance of taking second place is to win both games, hope the Blades lose their final match but also overturn a goal difference that currently favours the Bramall Lane outfit by 13. Effectively, a double bracketing in each game will be needed. Whilst a 7(seven) goal margin at Ipswich Town next week is vaguely feasible, to do it against Aston Villa is a nigh on impossible task. You’ve more chance of Keith Stroud keeping his cards in his pockets for 90 minutes.

It is an incredible situation that United find themselves in, after such a strong start to the campaign. They were looking an absolute shoe in for promotion to the Premier League and, you know what, they still might do it via the medium of the play-offs. Yet as in seasons gone by, and to coin a phrase, “Leeds. Leeds are falling apart. Again.”.

The Easter weekend, especially the game at Griffin Park, was proof of this. Brentford were magnificent against a team who were second to everything. Yes. There may have been a penalty. To us aswell, after Ollie Watkins was impeded. Regardless of Mr. Stroud’s decision making, the net result was Thomas Frank playing Leeds like a cheap fiddle. I fully expect Dean Smith to do the same today as he looks to get a psychological advantage over his opponents going into that end of season promotion shoot out.

There’s simply no way Sheffield United can miss out from here. Indeed, there was a keen Brentford interest in yesterday’s game where the goals came from Scott Hogan and Jack O’Connell. More proof, if any were needed, of our consistent ability to find players who can then go on and do it elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare when plying their trade in the top flight next season. 

In League Two, Yeovil Town saw their run come to an end with relegation to the National League (conference). There were few tears shed by the Griffin Park fans as the results came through. Six years ago, after Doncaster did that thing, Brentford faced Yeovil in the League One play off final at the W place. Whilst we did what we always do there, Gary Johnson made himself public enemy number one in TW8 doing what he did as his side edged past us and into the Championship. 

Coming up to League Two are National League champions Leyton Orient. No doubt they’ll have spent the night celebrating like they’ve won the FA Cup. And rightly so. If Bolton are suffering from shonky ownership at present, nobody needs any reminder of how things have played out in East London over the last few seasons. 

But for Marcello Trotta in that magnificent 0-1 (possibly one of the greatest Brentford performances ever) as we went up to the Championship, it could have been The O’s who took our place. Who knows how things may have turned out for both teams had it been then rather than us who claimed second place. For that, I am eternally grateful and moreso seeing the respective fates of Orient, Yeovil and Doncaster in the years since.

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What a game. What consequences

And talking of Doncaster Rovers….. Their draw and defeat for Peterborough saw them secure a League One play-off place. It’s going to happen. I’m calling it now. Final game at Griffin Park next season…….

Nick Bruzon

Leeeeeeds. Leeds are falling apart. Again.

23 Apr

Not just my words but those of the Brentford fans ringing around Griffin Park through most of the second half and well after full time last night. This, after the Bees beat Leeds United at home (yet again) by two goals to nil and, in the process, dealt a massive blow to the visitors hopes of automatic promotion whilst offering a huge boost to both Norwich City and Sheffield United in the top two slots.

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Sergi and Ezri celebrate

Whilst, naturally, anybody looking in will focus on Leeds United hitting the skids so close to the line (let’s not forget their incredible home reverse against 10 man Wigan on Friday) take nothing away from a Brentford team who were up for this from the off. One penalty shout aside, Leeds offered nothing. Even then, referee Keith Stroud called ‘no foul’ as Julian Jeanvier and Patrick Bamford came together in the box. Whilst it looked an iffy one for The Bees from where I was, on the half way line, the man in black was perfectly placed. Move along, nothing to see here.

But that’s football. They’re the breaks. We’ve had copious stonewall shouts denied this season. Duffers given against us. Ultimately, as was the case at Elland Road, a spot kick decision went our way. Leeds heads dropped. The Bees kept going and who else but that man, Neal Maupay, to give us the lead just before half time.

Sergi Canos (a deserving man of the match) played it through the middle to the talismanic Frenchman. He made no mistake as he got on the end and, running through on goal, steered it past Casilla for 1-0 Brentford. The crowd erupted as Neal made it deja-vu in front of the Leeds fans with a mirror of his celebration after putting us ahead in the reverse fixture. It was also a mirror of their reaction with several making hand gestures that, presumably, were to recognise how many times he had found the net against them.

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Pick that one out ! (thanks, Matt Davis

It was a strike that takes him to 24 league goals for the season, a figure which is the best from a Bees’ player since Nicky Forster reached the same total back in 1994-95. Only Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa) and Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) lie ahead of him on a Championship top scorer’s race that is sure to run until the very last kick of this season.

If the Brentford fans went in for their HT cuppas in ebullient mood, things were to get even better soon after. Sergi Canos doubled the advantage as he finished off a wonderful move involving Watkins and Maupay to dink it past Casilla for 2-0.

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Yessssss. 2-0 !!

The celebration from crowd and players alike said it all and was the perfect reward for a top class performance from Sergi. This was him at his very best although – to be fair – you could say that in regards to just about every player in the team yesterday. 

From that point there really was no way back. It was a two horse race where Leeds couldn’t even come second. Brentford played with confidence and calmness whilst Bielsa’s boys visibly wilted under pressure. When they did get through, Luke Daniels was authoritative. The defence an impenetrable wall of red and white. Mads Bech having his best game in a Brentford shirt by some distance. Jeanvier and Konsa were rock solid throughout. Moses and Rico pushing up the flanks with abandon. 

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View from the Braemar – Josh also impressed when he came off the bench

As for Romaine Sawyers in the middle. My word, it was one of THOSE games. Filthy flicks and silky tricks had the fans drooling. On this sort of performance I’ve no doubt that Dean Smith will be itching to get his hands on the player once more when the summer transfer window opens. It really was sublime performance and one of utter confidence.

There’s not much more to say here, really. Brentford were magnificent. We’ve beaten Leeds United more times than I care to remember in recent times. Last night was probably the best of these. Not only the way we played but a wonderful riposte to all this ‘tinpot’ jibes and conspiracy talk after the game back in October.  Don’t let one potential penalty call take anything away from how we played yesterday. The crowd were up for it from the off and kept going all game. Even Mr. Benham made his way on to the pitch at full time, heading down the touchline towards the dressing rooms.

The Championship promotion race may have a few more twists in it but I’m not sure where these will come from. Sheffield United play bottom club Ipswich Town next whilst Norwich City only need one more point to absolutely guarantee it. Goal difference for both teams is already significant as to make that three point gap from Leeds in third to  the Blades in second, effectively four. 

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, there are two games left to get the four points needed for another top ten finish. We’ll need results to go our way, too, but put in any sort of shift like we did yesterday and I wouldn’t bet against even that happening.

Bring on Bolton and then Preston for our last hurrah of 2018/19. If they’re even half as much fun as yesterday then it’s going to be a cracking finale. See you there.

 

Nick Bruzon

Can Brentford scupper promotion race as Championship chokepoint approaches?

22 Apr

Here we go again. The Easter Bank Holiday began with the 1-1 at Millwall (take a bow, Josh Dasilva – what a strike !) and now it ends with Brentford facing the prospect of a visit from Leeds United. With the Sky TV cameras pushing this one back to a 5.15 kick-off, one of the two automatic promotion could already have gone by the time Mr. Stroud waves his first card. Norwich City, already five points clear of Leeds in third, travel to Stoke earlier in the afternoon where a win will see them promoted and a draw as good as there (barring a monumental goal difference swing). Indeed, the Canaries could even finish the day as Champions should results – including a favour from the Bees and a slip by Sheffield United – fall their way.

So no pressure on Leeds United then. Although it is a situation that is as much of their own making after the quite incredible 2-1 home defeat administered by 10 man Wigan Athletic on what was a very Good Friday for Norwich and Sheffield United. That game saw the hosts miss a penalty before taking the lead but then conspiring to press the self-destruct button. It was the ultimate ‘deserved to win’ performance where the only reward available was ‘nil points’. 77% possession and 36 shots count for naff all if you can’t put the ball in the back of the net as, somehow, Paul Cook’s team did. Twice.   

The situation at the top of the Championship is now a quite intriguing one. Being realistic, Norwich City are home and clear. However, with Sheffield United and Leeds both locked on 82 points, it really will come down to two factors. Firstly, who can hold their nerve and pick up all 9 points? Second up, who can increase their goal difference over the course of those three games? With the Blades +6 ahead, as long as they win their final three then Leeds are consigned to the play-offs. Unless, of course, they have the ability to administer a 7(seven) goal bracketing at some point in the final few games.

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Things are tight a the top this morning

Football’s never that simple, of course. Look at our first season in the Championship where quite phenomenal results at Derby County (I’m still not quite sure who hapless Reading so comprehensively outplayed them) or Blackburn Rovers (where Ipswich slipped up) allowed Brentford to overtake both teams, and edge back into the  play-off zone on the final game of the season. I’m sure this race still has more twists to come. Pressure and expectation can do incredible things and it won’t be anywhere near as simple as either United just turning up to get their three wins.

If nothing else, there’s the small matter of Brentford. Naturally, the focus is on the visitors today yet we’ve more than enough points to try and prove. The fixture at Elland Road in October was one which had it all. THAT Neal Maupay celebration, a wonderful performance from Luke Daniels in goal and then the pain of an 88th minute equaliser from Pontus Jansson. His own post match reaction was one which then saw the player charged by the FA  (as were the club for fans throwing objects at Neal Maupay) after accusing the referee of ‘robbery’ and saying on live TV that the result felt a bit ‘shit’.  There was talk of conspiracy, too, as United’s seemingly unstoppable start to the season had begun to hit the buffers.

I saw an intriguing tweet from Beesotted yesterday, which is repeated below.

Draw your own conclusions from this and know that if weren’t already up for it, we’ll be even more so now. This one is already a game that is sure to be played out in a powder keg atmosphere. Leeds know they HAVE to win. We’d absolutely love nothing more than to see them scuppered by our ‘tinpot’ pub side. They’ve not beaten us at Griffin Park since 1950 whilst the last few seasons have seen United comprehensively played off the field.

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of current form. If anybody has the ability to motivate it’ll be Marcelo Bielsa. What a man Leeds have in the managerial hot seat and, realistically, the main reason they haven’t choked it from a promising position as has been seen so many times before. Instead, they’re up there on merit and will be gunning for goals against a Brentford side who, let’s be honest, are looking a tad ‘patched up’ at present.

Yet the inspiration of history, our own desire to still end the season ‘top ten’ aswell as the chance to get one over Leeds should be all the motivation we need. Will it be enough? Could Leeds wilt under the pressure? Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out

Quite frankly, in a game where Keith Stroud is in charge for the ref to barely warrant a mention then you know that the on [itch action is promising to be something special. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

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More of the same would be very nice

Nick Bruzon

Dream Team. Final Score. And the small matter of a London derby

19 Apr

Brentford travel to Millwall this lunchtime for a fixture that has everything to give. For the Lions, a mere two points separate them from the relegation places whilst the Bees will be looking to close in on another top ten finish. With Promotion chasing Leeds United due to visit on Monday, if that is an aspiration that Thomas Frank is serious about then three points today will be a must for the red and white (hopefully) machine. It will be a task made all the trickier with the news that Said Benrahama is out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury.  Devastating stuff for Bees’ fans but presumably (please….) nothing more than a precaution ahead of his, and our, final campaign at Griffin Park. Yet there’s as much to take out of today ‘off-pitch’ as well as on it, thanks to a surpise contender – West Ham United.

There’s not much can be said about Millwall that hasn’t been said before. Jellied eels. Cockles. The Den. ‘That’ walkout song which also doubles up as goal music – something which is already the most heinous of supporter inflicted tortures then made worse by that banjo filled gumph  . Violence. Racism. No-one likes us  etc etc etc . It’s fair to say that the club don’t have a great reputation, something made all the worse by playing in a breeze block stadium that visiting supporters are then kettled out of once the home fans have dissipated.

As such, you could perhaps be forgiven for giving this one a swerve today. Catching up via I-follow in the sunshine with a few cold ones and the barbecue cooking could be well up there on the list of more pleasurable options. Even better, catching up via BBC Radio London digital in the sunshine with a few cold ones and the barbecue cooking. There we have the pleasure of the dream-team of commentary – Phil Parry and Billy Reeves doing their thing from the seats above the Meridian Line. The programme starts at 12.30 ahead of the 13.00 kick off.

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Yet, as always, whatever the reasons not to go you can bet that we’ll be there en-masse. Easter bank holiday has that beautiful footballing double–header of the Lions and Leeds aswell as being one of the last chances to gorge on the beautiful game before the barren summer months. Besides, for yours truly Millwall has an additional reason for the annual pilgrimage. Dream Team. Not so much Billy and Phil but that much lamented Sky One thing.

I’ve spoken about it before on these pages and will no doubt do so many times again. But why wouldn’t you? It was magnificent. For all the wrong reasons. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia  – Millwall’s ‘New’ Den played host to the exterior shots in later series – and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee (and member of our ‘top ten moustaches‘ club), Andy Ansah. Forget his later work on ‘Street Striker’ or numerous films and adverts though. For me his crowning glory was six series reciting variants of: ‘Get warmed up lads’ and ‘Alright, Gaffer?’ whilst playing himself, as the club’s first team coach.

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Dream Team – Fletch is sorely missed

The plots were riddled with more holes than our defence. Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Goalkeeper Jamie Parker holding his team mates at gun point in the changing room. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

It was truly awful yet compellingly addictive. Sadly, the show was axed in 2007 yet many loyal fans still campaign for a return . Indeed, with Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harchester? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ? If any show deserves a reboot, then Dream Team must be top of the list. If it worked for Doctor Who and Dallas then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

If nothing else, the 2018 film ‘Final Score’ shows the appetite for terrible football drama combined with stadium movies remains alive and kicking.  If you haven’t seen it as yet then please do. The Independent described it as “The most preposterous film of the year”. Things are bad when a movie doesn’t even go ‘straight to video’ but instead, ‘straight to sky movies’. Albeit, with a supposedly simultaneous big-screen release.

For those who may not be aware, season 2015/16 saw West Ham leave The Boleyn Ground (as the media insisted on calling a stadium they had only ever previously referred to as Upton Park) in a departure that was very much ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. I think it got the odd mention on Sky Sports over the campaign but don’t quote me on that. The denouement of their protracted exit saw supporters thinking demolition work had started early as a series of explosions ripped through the old ground back in June 2016. Infact, this turned out to be the filming of something I had promptly forgotten about until the aforementioned tweet crossed my social media stream.

Oh, my. Preposterous doesn’t even begin to touch the sides on this one. When it was released, Mrs. Bruzon and myself took the first opportunity to watch this shocker about a terrorist hostage-taking at The Boleyn Ground. A name they must have mentioned about a dozen times in the first half hour, in case anybody was in any doubt. All this happens in secret (don’t ask) and whilst West Ham are taking part in a European Cup semi-final against Russian outfit Dynamo FC. Count the number of things wrong in that last sentence alone. All the while, the hostage takers are searching out Pierce Brosnan, whose East European accent was even dodgier than his beard, whilst Drax from Guardians Of The Galaxy attempts to save both the day and the annoying daughter of a former army comrade whose death he feels responsible for.

This REALLY happened.

It was incredible. So truly bad it crossed to the other side and became unintentional comedy gold. Equal parts Nicolas Cage (if only he’d been available) and Sean Bean’s ‘When Saturday Comes’ with a decent dollop of Dream Team on top.

If it worked for West Ham and Pierce than how about resuscitating the corpse of Dream Team. Come on Sky. Come on TV Producers. Come on Andy. Oh, and come on Brentford. Great though it is to visit the home of Harchester united, six points from Millwall and Leeds United would make this a quite wonderful Easter weekend.

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Final Score – if Dream Team ever reached the big screen

Nick Bruzon

Don’t let patchy away form mask longer term potential. Are we preparing for take off?

14 Apr

There’s not much to say about the result, really. Let’s look at the positives. Another goal for Neal Maupay. Another chance for Brentford to make the short trip to Reading next season. Who knows how important it may be to have the 2000+ fans we’ll take to the Madjeski rather than the 500+ we’d likely take to a Wigan Athletic or Rotherham United, for example. That is, assuming of course, that there are no further twists in a Championship race that is reaching an intriguing denouement. Likewise, and we spoke about this yesterday, the position of Charlton Athletic was further strengthened on a Saturday that saw them record a handsome victory over all but promoted Luton Town in League One. With even Millwall hanging in there via a last gasp equaliser at Bramall Lane, our final season at Griffin Park looks like it could have all the makings of a campaign that is played out very close to home.

Ruddy hell, even QPR won yesterday (not a typo) as did Fulham (not a typo). For the former, Championship football is all but a mathematical formality whilst the Cottagers have already been plugging the likes of Stoke, Swansea and Preston into the sat-nav following their rapid demotion from the top flight. And, of course, Brentford. See you next season, chaps. Whilst it would be trite to ignore our own blip in form that has seen the campaign very much decelerating to a gentle halt after briefly teasing a stab at the top six, the focus surely has to be about looking forward.

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See you next season…..

Thomas Frank alluded to this in his own post match press conference. Trying to pluck positives from a 2-1 defeat at Reading, he praised our second half improvement whilst making his intentions clear. “We now have four games left and we need to do everything we can to get 12 points. That’s the aim.” With trips to Millwall and Bolton aswell as visits from Leeds and Preston to come, it’s still possible. With the exception of the Leeds match, you’d bet on victory for the Bees in each of those. Theoretically. Of course Marcelo Bielsa is going to be about as formidable an opponent as they come but we’ve had home advantage over Leeds United in recent seasons and with our visitors having the added pressure of a promotion shoot out (3 into 2 just won’t go) to contend with, who knows what could happen in that one.

Ultimately, it counts for nothing in the short term beyond the mathematical nicety of ending the season as high as we can and increased prize money.  Of course finishing in the top ten once more will be a tremendous notch on the progress chart of Matthew Benham and his directors of football. We’ve done it in the previous four seasons and that must be the final objective for this campaign.  Whether we make it it or not won’t really change what comes next though. Whatever that is. And therein lie the biggest questions as to life at Brentford. With Season Ticket sales racing ahead of previous levels, the fans are already well up for 2019/20. Whatever that brings. 

Will there be more sales? More accumulation of untapped talent that has served us so very well in recent years? For all the derision and scorn poured at Brentford over the years as we moved away from traditional management and scouting techniques, the acquisitions and subsequent sales have more than proven we are on to something. Now, with Lionel Road on the horizon, might the top brass be tempted to ‘stick’ for a season rather than twist? The likes of Daniel Bentley and Yoann Barbet are already amongst those presumed to be on their last knockings. Sadly. Josh McEachran is who knows where (mini golf course?) whilst Ollie, Neal and Said are a holy trinity of players very much coveting some admiring glances from the wider footballing wolrd. That’s before you even factor in Dean Smith. With Aston Villa well set for a play-off push this time around, could he be thinking about using the Villa Park cheque book? Regardless of how that attempt turns out? 

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Whatever else happens, we’ll always have this

For all the paper talk, gossip and click bait nobody actually has a clue what is going to happen. Beyond Mr. Benham and his inner circle. One thing he has done consistently is surprise us all. Flip, we don’t even know what next season’s kit is going to look like or who will be replacing Adidas? How on earth are we meant to be able to figure out a recruitment strategy that has always been played very close to the chest when we don’t even know the colour of the shirt.

Just because we have sold when the price is right in the past, doesn’t mean we’ll do so again when there’s a new stadium on the horizon. How incredible would it be to start life at Lionel Road in the top flight. To make those “Bees up, Fulham down” chants a reality once more.

The fact we’re even having this conversation is ridiculous enough. In the nicest sense possible. That some fans were losing their heads as Autumn turned to Winter because we’d embarked on a bad run of Championship form. Three months later we were talking about play-off potential. That’s life at Griffin Park though. After years of underwhelming performance on the field of play (albeit a whole load of fun off it) we’re now well established. The kids don’t know they’re born.

I apologise for going all ‘during the war’ but some of those league one / two (or equivalent) campaigns over the years have been hard work from a footballing perspective. Some of the players we’ve had plying their trade, whilst full of commitment, did make you wonder just ‘how’ in retrospect. But that’s the level we had to operate at then. This is the quite wonderful scenario we are in now. Where success and victory is the expectation. Multi-million pound players , and sales, are the norm. Even if carried out within a very controlled environment. Nobody wants another Birmingham City or QPR…. 

So we lost to Reading yesterday. Bugger. Away form has been a challenge this time around, certainly compared to previous seasons at this level. There almost seems to be an acceptance amongst fans that we’re weak away from home. Which is not to have a pop at our supporters who have been consistently magnificent on the road . More, that the inability to consistently channel home performances into similar on our travels is perhaps the biggest frustration of all.

Then again, we won at Middlesbrough this season. If we can do that, and if we can hold on to this squad, then who knows what could happen next time around? Either way, I can’t wait. Once we’ve got the small matter of those final four games out of the way. How wonderful will it be to head into the summer holidays smiling, with the prospect of more to come…..

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Despite all the unknowns about next season, it’s a safe bet the Jaffa cake will be retired. Sadly.

Nick Bruzon