Tag Archives: Tony Pulis

Sterile Boro’ beaten by Frank’s Jaffas. Matthew beats all comers on Twitter.

10 Mar

One down, two to go. Brentford kicked off a potential season defining fortnight of games against promotion chasing sides with an emphatic 2-1 win over Middlesbrough. An own goal from Ryan Shotton (cheers) and a quite wonderful effort from man-of-the-moment Saïd Benrahma secured the points after Sergi Canos had also hit the crossbar aswell as having one chalked off by the officials. See also: Neal Maupay. All of a sudden the gap to ‘that’ zone in the table has closed to six points with an additional game on our rivals. Whilst points in the bag are better than games in hand, with the trip to Sheffield United and then the visit from now managerless West Bromwich Albion next up, destiny is very much in our control as the season builds to an intriguing denouement. 

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Sky cameras capture the winning moment

Where to even start with this one, though? It seems to be the perennial question as Thomas Frank and Brentford continue to astound the critics. And the fans. Honestly, who amongst us thought a win was on the cards yesterday? As much given the miserly defence of our hosts, the previous record against Middlesbrough or simply the fact that we were turning out in our beloved brown /orange away kit?

For the record – and I am going milk this one given the general amount of p*ss poor punditry on these pages – yours truly did note prior to kick off that: “Firstly, past form counts for nothing. Brentford may not have beaten Boro’ since our paths have crossed in this division but that was then and this is now. Players change and the squad we have now is not the one it was then. Results from seasons gone by count for nothing more than statistical niceties / horror shows (delete as applicable). Believing they are anything more is akin to suggesting that the colour of our away kit dictates performance. Jinx shirts? Never heard such nonsense.”

Those fortunate enough to be present were witness to a game where, for once, the results were born out in the stats that showed the Bees ending this one with 63% possession.

It’s not a figure I generally hold any credence with. If for no other reason one then get’s drawn into the Dean Smith ’deserved to win’ mentality when results don’t go the way you think. Balls in the back of the net are what count but at the same time, it’s always great to see domination rewarded. Moreso with Julian Jeanvier having to be replaced during the warm up ( I think that’s the third time we’ve suffered a player being subbed pre kick-off  in 2018/19  – hmm…) and then having gone a goal down within minutes of kick off. That, after Ashley Fletcher had capitalised on a defensive faux-pas to make it seem as though normal service would be resuming.

But there was to be no laying down by the Riverside. Quite the opposite. That confidence at home became more and more evident on the road as Brentford attacked with flare and continued the neat pass and move game that has become synonymous with Thomas Frank’s team. Eventually, the pressure told.

First up, the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard ™ of Brentford caught George Saville with his pants down and fired in a shot that the aforementioned Shotton could only steer home. It’s always nice to get one over the ex and with Saville caught short, it was 1-1 with 70 on the clock.

Yet things got better. That man Benrahma continued his current hot streak with a contender for the March goal of the month competition. He started the move that saw Romaine Sawyers play a  sublime ball through the hapless Saville and football Friend. The World Cup’s Henrik etc etc etc squaring it back from the touchline to find the onrushing Benrahma as the Algerian raced onto the ball to guide it home. What a strike! What a move. He’s already in the running for February’s award (and there is still time to vote) but could already have a contender for March. As my good friends at Beesotted put it so wonderfully…. 

This is Brentford though. We don’t do easy. And sure enough, the substitution of goalkeeper Daniel Bentley (shoulder) with just under a quarter hour to go saw Icelandic youth international Patrik Gunnarsson make his first team debut. What a time and place to do it. What pressure for the 18 year old. Moreso with a buttock clenching 7(seven) minutes of storage time added at the death. 

Yet this is also Brentford, where there is nothing but confidence in what we do. Where Thomas Frank brought on Marcondes for Canos late on rather than try to close out the game. It was a move akin to the one he did against QPR and helped bring about the same outcome – three more points for the Bees. It was a level of confidence shown in our entire set up that was rewarded most wonderful. For me, Lars Friis nailed it at full time, as he tweeted:

There was as much to be read in comments after the game to show you just what a job we’d done. There was a welcome return on social media for the phrase #TeamsLikeBrentford . That most magnificent of exclamations as alleged ‘big club’ come unstuck against ‘little’ Brentford. I guess it’s been a while coming from Boro’ given our singular inability to beat them since paths have crossed but, like proverbial revenge, a dish very much best served cold. 

Middlesbrough legend Bernie Slaven was full of expectation going into this one but was brought down to earth with a bump at full time. His pre kick off tweet of: “Good Luck to Boro today against Brentford, No excuses  this lot have only had 1 away victory.” had to be considered somewhat at full time. On the plus side, he was magnanimous enough to admit “Majorly disappointing display + result from the Boro this afternoon – Brentford zipped the ball around with accuracy + intent and deserved  all 3 points.”

Unlike Tony Pulis – outplayed and somewhat out of he’s depth in the post match analysis where he moaned that, “We got off to a great start, then we should have had a penalty – one of three definite penalties…..Refs have to get those decisions right and how he’s got that wrong I don’t know. He has a clear view and that’s three definite penalties in a home game and we didn’t get any.

Awww. It’s Leeds United all over again. Still, That’s Pulis’s issue to get over. Brentford showed the never say die style that has epitomised performances since Christmas. That freedom to play football without fear of defeat or making mistakes (albeit, we’ll pretend Sheffield Wednesday never happened). Of having a head coach who enthuses confidence, to the point of making attacking substitutions in the final few minutes rather than attempt to hang on to slender leads. Contrast that to Pulis who pulled off Assombalonga at 1-0 up, removed their threat and ended up paying the ultimate price.

Next up is Sheffield United away. John Egan, Jack O’Connell and Scott Hogan all started The Blades 2-0 defeat of Rotherham United yesterday. Simon Moore was on the bench. Better the devil you know or a game that will be as tough as they come? Who cares. After the Boro’ performance, I’d fancy us to beat anyone. Jaffa cake kit or otherwise.

The spirit in our camp is stunning. We’ve seen the smiles on the players faces after home games. Thomas embracing the crowd at full time. Now that has been translated to about as big an away performance as they come. The highlights are up on Sky and deserve to be enjoyed. Even Matthew Benham is in fine form, deploying the 🎣 emoji in fine style as the subject of seat colours joking with supporters about, amongst other things, the seat colours at Lionel Road….

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I can’t top that. Roll on Tuesday…

Nick Bruzon

 

Visitors inflict more pain as the record continues.

25 Nov

Brentford 1 Middlesbrough 2. What can you say? Bogey team? Curse of the cameras? That there was never any hope against a side we’ve not beaten in the league since a 2-1 win at Griffin Park back in December 1938? Or just an awkward game where, once more, a flurry of goals conceded in a short space of time (two in five, second-half, minutes) saw the result put beyond reach and the post Dean Smith era now see us with a record of P6 L5. With play-off chasing Sheffield United to visit on Tuesday, it is a record that is only going to come under further scrutiny.

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View from the Braemar – Henrik attacks

It had all started so promisingly. Even before kick-off, five-year old Harry had put possibly the biggest football-related smile on my face that’s been there in a while when he turned to Mrs. Bruzon over lunch and said, “Mummy. The best thing you can do this afternoon is watch it on TV. Because when you come to the ground, we lost”. It was a point he reiterated outside the clubshop at 5pm – both times, totally unprompted. He’s brave, I’ll give him that. Mrs. B (whose record isn’t, quite, that bad) duly stayed away. Sadly, it made no difference.

The first half was as cagey as a caged tiger watching the collected works of Nicolas Cage on video. Frankly, something that would have been infinitely more entertaining than a frustrating opening period where Moses Odubajo running for an impromptu toilet break was the highlight for many. Certainly, the subsequent song that broke out from the Ealing Road. He whatswhere he wants?  Yet aside from the relieved number 2 taking aim from distance with an effort that Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph had to push over, I don’t recall much else from the first half. It was just that low key an opening period with the visitors coming close-ish a couple of times but never, truly, leaving us with fear of the net bulging.

Instead, with the referee offering little protection, it was a case of trying to out-play the wall of muscle in front of us. With the stats all heavily weighted in our favour, it was an attempt that would prove futile in the one that truly counts – goals scored – as the teams went in for their half tea and a wee with the game goalless.

And then it began. 55 minutes gone, 0-0. 61 minutes gone, 0-2. The first goal given away down the left where despite questions about offside being asked, the Bees were sliced open with a combination of passes that allowed Jordan Hugill a tap in that even Ian Moose might have finished off. Scored rather than eaten, for the record. Five minutes later the lead was doubled when the Brentford defence allowed Marcus Tavernier all the time and space needed to direct his downward header past a diving Daniel Bentley. Game over, man. Game over.

To be fair, it was the kick up the backside we needed. The Bees pushed and pressed. Thomas Frank changed his team around. The momentum built. This was more like it. This was the Brentford we know and love. Alan Judge, who had a great game, pulled one back with a quarter of an hour remaining.  His goal a beauty as he drilled a low diagonal shot through a crowd and past goalkeeper Randolph. From a short corner. A short. Corner. This is not a drill. This is not a typo.

The words “Don’t take it short, it never blinkin’ works” hadn’t even emerged fully formed from my mouth before the usual exhortation was changed quite miraculously into a lungbusting scream of GOOOOAAALLLLL!!

Oh. My. Word. We’d seen one. It actually happened. This most maligned of set-pieces had actually worked. Moreso, the first goal Tony Pulis’s team have let in from a corner this season by all accounts.  Could it be? Was this THE sign that the Middlesbrough hoodoo was about to be lifted?

With the reinvigorated Bees chasing a point, former player George Saville put in an appearance for Middlesbrough. His presence was barely felt. Frankly, he could have dropped his trousers and he’d have made more of an impression. Instead, Brentford continued. Sergi Canos came close. Breaking through a crowded defence he perhaps snatched at it before the referee could blow his whistle. But Mr. Brooks wasn’t giving anything, to either team and perhaps, with the obvious benefit of hindsight, there was an extra touch available to be taken.  

Likewise Josh Da Silva came close. His own shot from distance forcing Randolph into a full length save. It was a moment that had the crowd gasping but was about as close as we would get. Instead, Middlesbrough had the wherewithal to close this one out and secure all three points. Points that, on the evidence of what played out, only the most churlish could have denied them. And it hurts to say it but their finishing when presented the space in that five-minute period was, ultimately, what decided the game. From that moment on Brentford were playing catch up and it was a race too far.

No sour grapes from yours truly. No whinging. We’re off the boil at present, that’s for sure, although I’m not sure I can put my finger on just why.  I have no doubt it WILL come good again whilst I’d also point to the performance of Alan Judge alongside josh and Emilian Marcondes from the bench as highlights. Chris Mepham had a bizarre rush of blood to the head just towards the end which earned him a yellow and, with a more Stroud-esque referee, could have been worse.

Sheffield United are next up. It’ll be interesting to see it Thomas restores captain Romaine Sawyers. Whether Josh Da Silva has done enough to earn himself a first start. How he toughens up the defence. Just how we fair against a side containing a pair of centre-backs and a reserve goalkeeper we know very well indeed.

No doubt Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Simon Moore will have a point to prove. Then again, I’ve no doubt Thomas Frank will aswell.

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Our visitors made themselves comfortable both before kick-off and early into the second half

Nick Bruzon

Warning. Warning. Danger, danger. The robot on wheels and Doctor Smith sting harrowed Potters.

12 Aug

Ah, the fetid stench of a crowbarred headline. Apologies, but its that sort of morning after the night before. How about Disappointed? Dominated? These, just two of the words used by Brentford head coach Dean Smith to describes his feelings after the 1-1 draw at Stoke City on Saturday. He’s not wrong. It was a wonderful performance by Brentford where only a defensive faux-pas (move along, nothing to see here) kept the hosts in the game whilst only the reactions of England squad member Jack Butland in their goal afforded the Potters even a point. We’re only two games into the Championship campaign but with another one sided performance off the back of last weekend’s 5-1 trouncing of Rotherham United (themselves winners yesterday at home to Ipswich), could those chants of “Bees Up, Fulham down” which were ringing around the ‘bet365 stadium’ already be some form of early season prescience?

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Stoke City – home of the Tile Mountain. Apparently.

Brentford were stunning. Irresistible. Enthused. a constant threat. They pushed and probed. Romaine Sawyers pulling the skills in the middle with an absolute standout performance. Ezri Konsa and Chris Mepham looking like they’ve played together for years. Ollie Watkins rampant down the left whilst first Sergi, but especially Said Benrahma, bursting down the other side, and through the middle, with aplomb. It was beautiful to watch and the visiting fans were on their feet time and again.

Stoke City, on the other hand, were second to everything. Their squad is superb. On paper. Packed full of big names and new signings yet there was none of the team spirit which Brentford possess. Only their opening goal, after being on the back foot for the opening half hour, came about as a result of the one real mishap all game. Chris Mepham heading back over Daniel Bentley amidst confusion over who was going to go for the ball. Benik Afobe grateful to pounce on the loose ball as it trickled towards the back stick and tap it home for 1-0 Stoke. It was a goal that was as against the run of play as they come but that didn’t matter. Possession counts for nothing if you can’t take your chances. Stoke had one sniff and gobbled it up.

The home crowd woke up. Brentford hung in there. We survived. Half time came and the Bees were clapped off. The supporters still believing. And then the second half began. Kamo came on for Josh McEachran. The Bees regained their composure and twenty minutes in parity was restored. Ollie Watkins with a wonderfully drilled shot, low and hard from 25 yards out, levelling things up. It was more than ample reward for a performance that had seen the Bees slowly, yet relentlessly, turning the screw. And this was before we’d even been treated to the electric pace of new boy Benrahma.

It could have been 2-1. Perhaps it should have been one. The Potters had Jack Butland to thank as Watkins almost wrapped it up whilst Neal Maupay came close on a couple of occasion to. Whilst Tony Pulis out ranks the rest of the league (albeit having played a game more) taking his Middlesbrough team to the top of the table, at times it felt as though we had all stepped back in time to The Britannia and he was pulling the strings. Stoke kicked. Stoke tripped. The Bees were denied a stonewall penalty. “Hoooofffff” exhorted the Bees fans, everytime they took the industrial route out of defence.

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View from the away stand – spot the ball; spot another foul

It ended 1-1. Nobody would have been surprised had Brentford taken all three points. Everyone was surprised how Tom Ince was somehow named as man of the match. One for the sponsors, I’m sure.

In a shock turn of press conference events, Dean was quick to note how he thought we deserved to win. Whilst praising the magnificence of his team he would note that  “The only thing missing was that we didn’t get the three points that we deserved…

You can see that video in full below.

Brentford now up to six points in the ‘deserved to win’ table

What else can you say? Well, the new brown and orange away kit looked superb. The Bees performance matched it. Given the numbers on view in the away stand I can only presume that these are starting to gain the popularity already lavished on them by those of us with taste. I can only imagine that the comment of “It looks like curtains” from one Stoke fan on the way out was a reference to their own promotion chances rather than my own replica top. A few more performances like this and they’ll be flying off the shelves by the time we make the trip to Blackburn at the end of the month.

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Brown and orange was everywhere

Last week against Rotherham was brilliant. Yet they were the team that are rank outsiders for the league. Stoke are at the other end of that spectrum. The favourites by a country mile. Yet, if anything, I take infinitely more heart in the way Brentford played yesterday. Never surrendering. Never giving up. The sort of game that in days gone by we’d have sat back, 10 behind the ball, and hoped to grind out a point from or maybe snatch a lucky goal.

Instead, it was the complete opposite. Don’t fear the reputation. Don’t get over awed by the location. Just go out and play your game. Do your thing. Take it to the home side.  And my word, didn’t we do that with some style!

Four points from six has been our best opening to a Championship campaign in the five season we’ve now been playing at this level. Only Marinus Dijkhuizen in 2015/16 has matched this (not a typo) and we all know what came after next after that pair of games. Move along, nothing to see here. Editor, fetch me the Burnley unicorn graphic….

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Any excuse to crowbar this one in – how far we’ve come

It IS early. We do need to wait 10 games for the table to truly take shape. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but feel absolutely exhilarated by the 180 minutes of league football I’ve had the privilege of witnessing Dean Smith’s team play so far. Marinus he ain’t, that’s for sure.

Catching up afterwards with one observer who actually knows what he is talking about, it was opined that, “We were fantastic AGAIN today. I want automatic promotion AND the moral high ground“.

This, before adding that “ROMAINE SAWYERS IS A ROBOT ON WHEELS“. On yesterday’s performance, I wouldn’t disagree. 

Warning! Warning! Danger, danger. Sheffield Wednesday…..Robot Romaine and Doctor Smith are out to pick up where they left off.

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Sheffield Wednesday are next up in the league

Nick Bruzon

What a week. What a 16 years. Why today is more than just ‘another’ game.

11 Aug

Stoke City here we come. Brentford hit the road today, safe in the knowledge that Ryan Woods remains a Bee after a somewhat uneventful, albeit tense, transfer window slammed shut on Thursday ™ . That said, there can’t be one Bees fan who doesn’t know full well there still remains a gaping hole in the middle of it through which a player could still leave before month end. This, whether to / from another Championship club. Or Lower. Whilst we may be out of the woods in terms of the ginger Pirlo heading to Swansea City, that still remains a theoretical possibility for a few weeks. And with Sam Clucas leaving the Swans for today’s hosts after initially failing to agree terms with top flight Burnley, could their interest in Woodsy now be renewed?  Or might today see a renaissance for Ryan?  

First up, Stoke City. We’ve not had a competitive fixture with the Potters since the 2002 play-off final. That was the one we lost. 2-0. Although we had the unique experience of getting beaten in Cardiff, rather than in the semi-finals or at Wembley. That was the one I attended with my Stoke supporting flat mate Phil and HB’s now godfather, Colin. Where Jack Segal of First Great Western trains tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home by taking the train out of commission at Newport. Amongst his lesser offences. How DID that evening all work out, Jack? How much did that taxi cost? The one where Steve Coppell’s squad was not so much broken up as splintered into a million pieces immediately afterwards. 

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Move along – nothing to see here. Again.

It wasn’t a great day all round by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, I was glad to be clear of Stoke. They changed managers a few times but would hold station until the enigmatic Tony Pulis out shone their divisional rivals to make it into the Premier league in 2006/07. It was a position the Potters would maintain until their love-in with the top flight ended in a bitter divorce at the end of last season i.e. they were relegated. And now our paths cross once more. Sixteen years later.

Cripes, Stoke look tasty. Unlike most relegated teams, they’ve been able to keep the majority of their squad together. Clucas has come in from Swansea whilst they had already strengthened with the £6m+ purchase of midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo. In addition, Dean Smith was quick to recognise other new boys including Tom Ince and Ashley Williams in yesterday’s press conference. That’s before you factor in the likes of Joe Allen or England World cup squad member, goalkeeper Jack Butland.  

Then again, the Bees look equally impressive. You can only play the opposition presented yet Saturday’s 5-1 obliteration of Rotherham was about as one-sided as it gets. This despite Ryan Woods not being named in the matchday squad after the interest from Wales. Frankly, that we ‘only’ scored five is still about as confusing as it gets. Brentford were insatiable when pushing forward and could really have made a claim on those beautiful brackets that come with a 7(seven) goal score. Yet three points and top of the table after the first round of games are about as much as one could hope for.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance against Rotherham

Today will be an infinitely sterner test. Just where is that dividing line to be drawn between Rotherham being awful and Dean Smith’s team being considered able to take that next step up? Will the team change now that Woodsy is available? Even just the bench?  Dean told the media team yesterday that “Ryan is a full member of our squad. I am very pleased he didn’t leave. We had bids and there was an unsettling period for Ryan but nothing has happened. Our valuation was not met so he remains a Brentford player.

What that means for today is unclear. I just can’t see a winning team being changed but equally, and has been noted many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. One thing Dean does is surprise us with his choice of personnel. Last season’s opening period was punctuated by no team being the same in successive games for a stretch that seemed to last about two months, if I recall correctly. Might we see more of the same?

There’s only one place to find out and that’s 3pm at the bet365 stadium (things to note not to call Lionel Road – I think I’ll cry if we run out at the LeoVegas Arena). I can’t wait for this one. If for no other reason than we get to see how well the boys do in that quite magnificent brown and orange away shirt.

Roll on kick off and see you there.

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Looking forward to seeing more of Said in the brown today

One final note on the Woodsy situation. Or, more specifically, the Swansea City situation. What mess must they be in at present? I’m not close enough to be in any position of knowledge but looking in, it seems staggering. They’ve had years in the Premier League. They have those god awful parachute payments to help keep them afloat. Former Bee Alfie Mawson was sold to Fulham for a fee noted at close to £20m. Clucas for another £6m+, yet they couldn’t reach to Brentford’s valuation (thought to be £6.5m) for a player they had been courting all window.  Then again, that Clucas deal represents a somewhat awful turnaround for a player who cost £16m from Hull City (along with Stephen Kingsley heading in the opposite direction) just 12 months earlier.

That’s not to have a dig at Swansea. Far from it. We all know what it’s like being on the wrong end of your best player leaving or financial mismanagement. More, to note once more how well we are being run and how relatively stable things are at Brentford compared to a lot of other clubs.

Great job, Mr. Benham. Now here’s to three points  today.

Nick Bruzon

 

 

The weather outside was frightful, but Lewis was so delightful.

18 Mar

Oh my. How good to be back in the warmth after that one. Brentford and Middlesbrough played out a 1-1 draw in blizzard like conditions at a freezing Griffin Park on Saturday. That much snow was falling all around, I half expected Shakin’ Stevens to put in an appearance at half time (best. song. ever) . It was a draw which, after the blips against Millwall and Cardiff City, has all but mathematically ended our play-off hopes. Come on Bees, prove me wrong – again.

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A snowy Griffin Park

For those who missed it, Sky Sports have the video highlights on line already. Anyone who was there would have seen that despite dominating the possession, we couldn’t quite turn opportunities into goals. Yet against a side that have long been seen as a bogey team for the Bees, it was a more than creditable performance with man of the match Lewis Macleod and Ryan Woods pulling the strings in the middle whilst referee Simon Hooper pulled our legs erm, in the middle.

His sending off of substitute Romaine Sawyers for two yellow cards, the second of which was softer than than the avalanche of snowflakes that filled the air, rounded off a poor afternoon for the man in black. The visiting players surrounding a referee who should have been stronger after what was, at best, an accidental coming together. Yet his missing the opportunity to insist on an orange ball (one day, it will come back) should have perhaps warned us what to expect.

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Sky highlights show Romaine see red. The ref in no way allowing himself to be influenced.

For Middlesbrough, a first half lead came with an impressive strike from the commanding Adama Traoré after twenty minutes. Running across the edge of the box, he found the gap to fire a powerful drive past Daniel Bentley. It was a lead that came at a time when the game had been delicately balanced. Both teams having already seen a handful of efforts. It was a lead that didn’t last for long as Lewis Macleod, who had earlier seen a shot from just outside the area tipped over by Darren Randolph, fired home low and hard from the edge of the box to equalise.

One all and with over an hour to go, surely there would be more to come? Sadly not. That’s how it stayed despite the best efforts of Macleod and his colleagues as Brentford really began to turn the screw.

Even the appearance of Sergi Canos from the bench, for once the gloves understandable in absolutely bitter conditions, wouldn’t tip the balance. Brentford had the lion’s share of the possesion and chances but Middlesbrough were resolute and, for their defence alone, justified with the point that keeps them in the final play-off place.

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Sergi with his snow, ball. It should have been orange

But for sharper finishing or what the BBC match report describes as Brentford “guilty at times of overplaying in dangerous areas” it could have been all three points for The Bees. Instead, the late intervention of Mr. Hooper meant an early bath for Romaine and a draw being played out in those final few minutes as Boro’ finally pressed once more.  

Massive kudos to Lewis Macleod. We all know the injury hell he has been through over the last few years but how that seemed a thing of the past. With clear direction to shoot from the edge of the box, a single goal was the least his play, opening up the Boro’ midfield as easily as a can of tuna, deserved.

They were awful conditions to watch a game of football in with a howling, icy wind cutting through supporters as the snow fell. It can’t have been much fun playing in it and perhaps the desire to keep warm lifted both teams to really run at each other from the off. It was hardly the kick and rush game one would expect from a Tony Pulis outfit, even if that physical aspect was still there as they let the Bees push on.

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Lewis was head and shoulders above Middlesbrough

Instead, we were offered an entertaining spectacle with Brentford keen to underline the play-off credentials. Sadly, it was Middlesbrough who got the point that keeps them in but with Brentford 8 off with 8 to play, we’re now in the territory of really needing to pull in a few favours. Stranger things have happened of course and at least we’ve now got an international break in which to take stock.

On a personal note, a huge word of thanks to everybody at the club – players and staff – for all their efforts yesterday. Harry was lucky enough to be one of the mascots and had an absolutely fantastic time from start to finish. Talk about being made to feel welcome and a proper part of things. Even in so much as being allowed to kick the ball on the centre spot when the teams came out and leading the line in the handshake.

“Daddy. When I was shaking the hands of all the naughty team I felt like a real footballer.” They’re not my words but those of a four year old fan who had the time of his life when he could have been forgiven for asking to give this one a swerve and staying at home with a hot chocolate.

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Feeling like ‘a real footballer’

Nick Bruzon

Glenn, Slovakia, Saint Etienne. So Tough, for England

21 Jun

England are through to the last 16 of EURO 2016. Wales topped the group. Russia are going home (presumably to huge cheers all round). Slovakia are now hanging on for other results after a peculiar brand of anti-football that, fair play to them, shut out Roy’s boys and leaves them waiting to see if third place can be secured.

Those are the headlines as group B came to a close for England in St. Etienne but there was so much more to it than that. Roy tinkered. Roy lost out.

It was a demonstration, if ever us Brentford fans needed another one after some of the Marinus era performances, that stats and possession don’t win games. Although, to be fair, at least England managed some shots (come on Bees fans, it’s all good now !). The BBC figures show how one sided a game this was in all but the key category – goals scored – as the match ended 0-0.

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BBC stats don’t lie….

 

Jack Wilshere was anonymous whilst Postman Pat after an all night ‘bender’ would still have offered better delivery than Jordan Henderson showed. In what seemed to be a wonderful atmosphere – so loud even ‘that band’ were drowned out for vast swathes of the game – England had the chances but just couldn’t take them. Any of them. Not even one.

Then there was Glenn Hoddle. Oh, for some level of decent co-commentary on ITV. Talking to one New Road observer during the game, his take on it was that Glenn had been replaced by a random sentence generator. Another, that Sacha Baron Cohen was filling in for him.

Whatever the answer, his performance was the normal drivel infused nonsense . “I think that’s a tactical move,” he observed after one substitution aswell as noting that “Sturridge has just had a mouthful.”

Glenn went on to explain how the lack of England’s ability to breakdown Slovakia was because “We’ve got all footballers out there at the moment”, with the solution to this being a call for Andy Carroll.

I could go on. Those are but a handful of the examples plucked at random although , equally, perhaps it is something that ITV are putting in the water. Over in the Wales  – Russia game  my sources tell me how Tony Pulis noted that, at 3-0 up, “Wales will be happy to stay in front here” .

Yes. Gareth Bale made it 3 goals from 3 to see his team top the group by a point after what seems to be a steamrollering of Russia. I didn’t see it, can’t comment but can only say “well done”.

Outside of all this, England ARE through. England remain unbeaten. They now face a last 16 game agasint the second placed team in Group F which, all things considered, could have been a lot worse on paper. Mind you, so should a game against Slovakia have been. On paper.

It will take a better man than me to call who Roy & co face next out of Hungary, Iceland, Portugal or Austria. The only thing I’d say for sure is that given recent history, what chance another encounter with Cristiano Ronaldo? He of ‘cheeky wink’ infamy.

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Ronaldo, a cheeky wink never too far away

It isn’t all doom and gloom, whatever you read.

It would have been wonderful to top that group and failure to breakdown a bus parking defence has cost England dear in that respect. Yet is it that bad?

Roy has ended the group stages happy. Indeed having dominated three games to such a level that he told reporters after the game, “That gives me some sort of satisfaction.”

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A Slovakian bus, parked. England couldn’t get past

 

For now, though, the most important task of escaping the group has been achieved. There’s a few day’s break until Monday, 8pm, when England ‘go again’.

Until then, there’s four more groups to play out and, of course, the release of the Championship fixtures tomorrow (Wednesday). For us Brentford fans, this will make a nice diversion and a chance to see how our next 9 months will map out.

Until Sky get the carving knife out…

For now, here’s St.Etienne….

St.Etienne. So Tough. Why do I bother….

Nick Bruzon

As the EURO winners show, what would be our Phoenix From The Flames ?

18 Jun

With EURO2016 now fully underway, Friday’s games saw Spain crank things up a notch and Croatia lose it – on and off the pitch. With much of what involves the England fans dividing opinion and generating some very contrasting views from those ‘on the ground’, there was no doubting what we saw on our TV screens yesterday. Plus, in an effort to blow away the current glut of Griffin Park tumbleweed, we have Brentford thoughts, updates and pictures.

First up, Croatia. 2-0 up and cruising against the Czech Republic, not only did they throw it away to be held 2-2 but their ‘fans’ have, surely, lined them up as the next nation to be given a suspended disqualification alongside Russia. This, after a shower of flares and firecrackers descended onto the pitch from the Croatian end as the game reached it’s denouement.

Combined with fighting amongst their own fans, they were ugly scenes that also saw one steward lucky to escape injury as a device went off in his face. Slaven Bilic, talking as part of the ITV panel for the Spain game, attempted to quantify it with the observation that “There are many fans who are against the FA”. That these are protests against a perceived Zagreb bias in Croatian football.

I can’t comment either way on that. My knowledge of the wider problems in European football extends about as far as when Gibraltar’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Belgium is going to take place. But what I can say is that, like the flare launched at England fans during the Russia game, one can only wonder again how security – with France on its highest state of alert – is working? Moreso, just what can UEFA do, if anything, to stop what should have been a wonderful tournament (and still can be) turning into one which will as much be remembered for all the wrong reasons?

As for Spain, a second clean sheet and three goals against Turkey saw them step up an ominous gear. Wth many people’s favourites France leaving it late to record their second victory, the Spaniards by contrast made their six points look simple. After 61% possession, 707 passes and 18 shots (although with goals to match those stats)  they’re already in to 10/3. Forget patriotism – grab that price whilst you can.

Just one other observation on the Spain game, which comes courtesy of Jamie Lovell (@jtlovell1979 ) on Twitter. I can’t take the credit for this but he put into words, wonderfully, the exasperation many of us were suffering from at the hands (or voice) of co-commentator Tony Pulis.

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For me, Clive

Look positive Jamie, at least it wasn’t Glenn Hoddle

Ok, back home and Brentford. I took a stroll past Griffin Park yesterday and couldn’t resist the chance to stick my head over the wall. I have to say the pitch is looking wonderful already.

Granted, the club took the steps to dig it up as soon as we’d played our last ‘home’ game ( if I recall, some sort of thrashing administered to Fulham, wasn’t it?). That, following the pitch-gate shocker at the start of the season.

But, you have to say, credit for what seems to be a job well done already. Here’s to seeing how the Bees perform on it when Championship action recommences in August.

Griffin PArk June 2016

The pitch is looking luxuriant

And when it does, Brentford will find themselves joint 7th (seventh) favourites for the title. Checking my online bookmaker for research purposes this morning, this odds are now up and we’re priced 20/1.

Somewhat stingy for a team who, by our own head coach’s admission, were in a relegation scrap as recently as March? Or easy money for a team who have rediscovered the way to goal via Scott Hogan and those signings who have now ‘bedded in’ to the side? Either way, this is how the bookies see the Championship at present.

And finally, Euro ’96. Kind of. With the football in everybody’s faces at the moment, even the radio is getting in on the act. You can’t move on Absolute Radio at present for World in Motion or Three Lions. Which is no bad thing.

The latter, especially, bringing back all sorts of memories. And not just about how terrifyingly bad David Baddiel was at singing. Seriously, that was the best take?

But talk on the subject amongst some of my Brentford supporting friends led from there to the TV show from which it sprang, Fantasy Football League (of course, co-hosted by Frank Skinner). In particular, the ‘Phoenix From The Flames’ segment in which a famous moment from footballing days gone by would be recreated on a council pitch, featuring the original protagonists.

Specifically, conversation got onto the topic of which Brentford moment would we recreate? Perhaps with the wonderful Sean Ridley and Jo Tilley in the Baddiel and Skinner roles ?

That penalty’ is perhaps too obvious Besides, having not really been discussed in the media after the event, people might not remember. Other topics for consideration included:

Mike Grella destroying Bournemouth; Jota v Fulham; Paul Hayes and Will Grigg being less than on fire when taking home debut penalties; promotion v Preston; Gary Blissett knocking Manchester City out of the FA cup and inciting a banana wielding pitch invader; DJ Campbell giving Gary Breen nightmares.

In the end, though, we settled on cup action. Against Everton. Richard Lee’s penalty saves were the highlight for many but, equally, the pre-game footage of the respective club mascots still gets a watch every now and then.

Whilst the respective kids must be close to teenagers now, that would almost add to the recreation. That said, I’m not sure if we could afford Leighton Baines’ appearance fee.

Could this be recreated, Phoenix style?

Until then, here’s to a weekend of six games and, hopefully, some more magical moments.

Nick Bruzon

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

7 Feb

Fear not, Brentford fans. This isn’t another discourse on FCM although their role does play a part in today’s column. I’d love to pretend I was a connoisseur of all things Shakespeare but nobody is going to be fooled by any pretensions of being high-brow. Whilst the line is one of the most famous from Hamlet, it wasn’t The Bard who gave me inspiration but Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Originally spoken by the character Marcellus (presumably not Trotta), it is one which has since slipped into common usage to describe corruption or a situation in which something is wrong. You’ll also find it in one of the greatest ‘so bad it’s good’ films of all time, Arnie’s ‘Last Action Hero’ in which the Terminator star’s mock trailer for a more explosive version appears.

Hasta la vista, William

Before anybody calls in the lawyers, I’m not suggesting any form of corruption at Brentford. Or FCM. Clear?!

That said, I’m still not entirely convinced that all is good about the situation surrounding our club at present. We lost at Brighton on Friday night and that is part and parcel of having to rebuild a successful team. Moreso, playing against a side pushing for promotion who seem to have rediscovered their mojo.

Yet I do wonder how we could run them so close on Boxing day, yet 6 weeks later be played off the park. Did Toumani and James Tarkowski, both since sold, make that much of a difference? Or was there more to it than that?

What really worried me was Dean Smith being quoted as saying: “We spoke about the training and we felt the intensity hadn’t been good enough and that carried over into the game. I felt it turned over the first goal

Wow! How on earth has that been allowed to happen? We’ve got more specialist coaches than National Express so what is wrong in the set up that we lack training ground intensity? Is there discontent behind the scenes following more high profile departures after the influx of statistical recruits over the summer?

Was this a throwaway remark made out of context or should we really be concerned?

Ordinarily, I might now have paid this quite so much attention, were it not for what has already happened this season. We had the Marinus experiment that ended after a mere 9 games and 2 wins – of which the first was inspired by a brace from Andre Gray.

Whilst the club’s statement didn’t go into huge specifics on his eventual exit, despite us being told how great things were in the Fans’ Forum just days earlier, there are several suggestions on news sites that training ground issues were a huge part of this. The Daily Mail, in particular, made the statement that , “It was the quality of training which was his true undoing, with a number of first-team players holding serious misgivings”.

Indeed, in his introduction of Lee Carsley as the successor to Marinus, our chairman specifically noted : “Lee has shown with the Under-21s he is an outstanding leader. His work at the training ground has been hugely impressive whilst coaching the development squad and has demonstrated he understands the club’s philosophy and the ambitions of Brentford FC.”

Lee certainly had the team back up to the incredible heights we’d reached last season, even winning October’s manager of the month award following a run of four straight victories. Since he left, the team has managed four more victories in the 13 games since Dean took over.

We’ve only scored 6 goals in the 7(seven) games that covered the transfer window period and then the Brighton match. Of those, 3 came in the only win over that period, the away game at Preston.

Draw what conclusion you want from these stats but I’m not convinced we have an entirely happy camp. It’s always harder looking in, of course, and perhaps there is still an element of caution after so much change has taken place.

Lee Carsley MOTM

October very much a ‘head coach’ high point after Marinus

Fans aren’t happy either. Just look around social media to see them sniping at each other. The GPG is going into meltdown in certain areas. Twitter is an angry place. Club employees are publically critical of supporters for voicing opinion whilst even the normally placid ‘Brentford FC loyal’ site on Facebook is becoming a fractured group.

You can ignore this but discontent in cyber space fuels discontent on the terrace and people ARE falling into two camps. On the one hand those who say we should put up, shut up, trust the hierarchy and be grateful for what we’ve got . After all, it wasn’t so long ago we were fighting for survival and playing in Division 2 . That this is long term ‘project’ (I HATE that word to describe a football club).

On the other, those who say that – you know what, whether expected or not we did bloody well last season. Why shouldn’t we have tried to build on that team, with a manager who had performed heroics ? What’s wrong with wanting our team to succeed and do better each season? Having had a taste of Championship success, who wouldn’t want more?

Compare this to the last three seasons where the most we’ve had to argue about is whether Marcello Trotta should have come back (a resounding yes, for me). Now, supporters are at each other’s throats but who is right?

As ever, the answer seems to lie half way between both. I’ll put in my usual disclaimer at this point about being eternally grateful of Matthew Benham’s investment but, equally, every supporter’s right to still ask questions about our direction.

We’ve had to sell. But so heavily? Was last season our best shot of going up and, having just missed out, is it now simply a case of treading water whilst building up both the balance sheet and a new team until we are ready to move to Lionel Road?

This sort of consolidated approach can pay long term dividends. Look at Stoke City. They reached the Championship after beating us in the 2001-02 play off final and immediately sacked their manager. Gudjon Thordarson was replaced by Steve Cotterill with Tony Pulis taking over from him just four months into the season. Six years later, Pulis took Stoke into the Premier League on the last day of the 2007-08 season. A place they still hold today.

As a side note, what few may recall is that during his time in the Championship, Pulis was also sacked by Stoke before being reappointed. In the interim, Dutchman Johan Boskamp was appointed for a season. It was a period that saw him bring in a number of new players from Europe but his inconsistent side limped to mid-table.

Unlike Stoke, our European approach has this analytical element. It worked for FCM but will it work for us? So far, the jury is out. Equally, and whether he likes it or not, Rasmus Ankersen seems to be public enemy number 1 in some circles.

At the end of the day (Clive), you can understand some scepticism given that the chairman of one club is responsible for transfer policy at another. Ours.

How can you split two roles? Who will get preference when the ‘statistical jewel in the crown’ is uncovered? Moreso, when a team that is crying out for a goalscorer has not looked / been able (delete as applicable) to make any investment over the January window.

If Rasmus is reading (who knows) then why not give an interview? But not to the club media team. What about a hard hitting one? I’d love to see if the likes of Beesotted could probe him properly. Billy Reeves style.

And this wouldn’t be to take pot shots – quite the opposite. Whether people like it or not, this is currently our direction so let’s hear more about it, please. Why not try and engender some trust? Last time that we were told everything was rosy it wasn’t, so how about some reassurance now?

Our new look approach. Our three / four (I count Lee twice) head coaches in one season. Our shedding of a side that came ‘so close’. Further talk of training ground issues. Even just this squabbling amongst ourselves are all things we are not used to at Brentford. Why not sit down in front of a couple of respected supporters and give us your take ?

There’s no real answers from me in today’s column. I’m just one numpty on the terrace chucking a few questions out there and calling things how I see them – from one supporter’s perspective. Some may agree; others probably won’t.

To be honest, that we are talking about Championship consolidation in almost a negative term seems bonkers. I get that bit.  Yet there is an underlying vibe that surrounds this which, whilst perhaps just me, I’d love to hear more about from the other side of the fence.

The club.

Rasmus talks to Beesplayer

Is Rasmus the man to reinvigorate our support?

Nick Bruzon

David Niven beats Manchester United as Championship beats the hype

18 Aug

Having returned from Bournemouth, Brentford prepare to visit another beach town for Tuesday night’s trip to Blackpool. With games at Cardiff City and Brighton also to come, the Championship is providing as many chances to dig out the bucket and spade as opportunities to watch football.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

 Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further along.