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Table makes wonderful reading as Brentford beat Bolton to tighten the gap.

14 Jan

Brentford 2 Bolton Wanderers 0. Another league game unbeaten at Griffin Park (that’s 13 now, our longest run since 1951) and The Bees a mere three points outside the play-offs. True, that gap is tighter than a duck’s behind at the moment.  The same winning margin divides all six teams from Sheffield United down to ourselves in 11th. Yet with victory (and other results going our way)  all that stands between Brentford and a place in the promotion slots, let’s not pretend things aren’t getting very exciting as we enter the second half of the season. Saturday’s trip to Reading already can’t come soon enough.

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Form an orderly queue. Bolton were the visitors on Saturday

It was a game where victory eventually came to the team who bossed it yet nobody would have been surprised had we left Griffin Park with a point. Brentford had taken the lead just before half time. Flo Jo picking up a sweet pass from Lasse Vibe to hammer home high and hard from the cusp of the six-yard box and into the far corner of the net. It was a powerful finish to light up what in truth had been a somewhat turgid opening period. But a 1-0 lead going into the break was all that mattered and as the players re-emerged, it seemed only a matter of time before that was doubled.

Kamo fired straight at goalkeeper Ben Alnwick from yards out with the whole of the goal to aim at. Nico saw a shot bounce of the post. The Bees pressed. The Bees came close. Then the balance of play began to swing as Bolton sensed a glimmer of hope. Dean stuck to his starting XI as the pressure built.

The away fans gasped. The home support clenched buttocks. If the first half had been a damp squib then this was very much exploding into life. A freekick was headed wide, I forget who, as Bolton came oh-so close. Barbet and Bjelland the unfortunate victims of a bouncing ball as Daniel Bentley came to the rescue.  Bolton, cynical in the challenge, but desperate for a point.

And then it was over. Sergi Canos, a late sub for Florian Jozefzoon, squaring it for Neal Maupay to double our lead with the sweetest of backheels. Being honest, there had been a slight suspicion of offside from where we were sitting but nobody cared. The execution had been delicious and the sense of relief was palpable. Besides, watching the video highlights afterwards (Sky Sports have theirs up already; 12pm for the league to let us put the ‘official’ version up) there was nothing wrong with the goal. Perfect positioning and the calmest of finishes. Stick that in your pie and eat it, Ian Moose.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

It’s hard to find fault on what was a wonderful afternoon. Brentford continuing their fine, fine form ahead of Saturday’s trip to Reading. There’ll be over 2,000 Bees fans at that one. A quite wonderful effort for a game where the reward for another win is there for all to see. If I have any ‘negative’ (and the word is used in the loosest sense) it would have been in the delay to making any substitutions.

Whereas the Warburton era saw you able to set your watch by his making changes within ‘the zone’ (60-70 minutes on the clock), regardless of how the team were doing, these days there seems to be almost a reluctance to switch things around until late on. Even when the opposition are turning the screw as we saw yesterday. Sitting where I was, there was a definite upping off the the ante from Bolton that might have seen us pay pay the price with the Bees continuing as was.

It’s a small observation and, ultimately, one that will be dismissed by the fact we came away with a 2-0 win. That will be proven as Dean having faith in the players he picked to do a job and their following it through. And on that point I can’t disagree – they DID. Yet equally, football is a game of fine margins. We all saw how tense it got for a while and there have been times this season when it’s felt as though we’ve been slow to react to what is happening in front of us.

But as we all know, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I couldn’t manage a beer yesterday (it’s dry January) let alone a football team. Perhaps that is just part and parcel of being a Bees/football supporter – we’ve been conditioned over the years to fear the worst. To expect that kick in the nuts; that ultimate sucker punch. Defenders are paid to defend and they did that admirably. Chris Mepham in particular having yet another stand out game. Talk about a wise head on young shoulders. Dean made his calls and the result shows he got them right. Again.

Equally, the Warburton era saw a team picked by numbers even when perhaps a change might have been due. Jonathan Douglas (at the end) and Harlee Dean (when he was at the more unpredictable end of the scale) seemingly nailed onto the teamsheet. Dean isn’t afraid to mix things around as was seen with Sergi tied to the bench for most of yesterday’s game. With Mepham continuing to keep out more experienced colleagues.

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Late sub Sergi – insert your own caption

But we digress. That’s the price of writing these things on the hoof. Mark Warburton was a hero to pretty much all of us at Griffin Park. He did his thing his way and we all know how close Brentford came. Likewise, we all know how things ended.

That was then, this is now. Dean Smith is the man in charge. Along with his coaching staff, he’s more than getting the results. More than building a quite wonderful team spirit. He has his team set for a second half of the season that could, if things continue, eclipse any that have come before.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be saying this back in September given the start that Brentford had. Players sold, bottom of the table and four points from eight games. Then, we went to Bolton and won 3-0. How things have turned since that point. Could Saturday’s win over the same opposition prove an equally telling catalyst ?

One things for sure, it’s going to be fun finding out. Here’s to Reading and that gap towards the top getting even tighter.

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The red and white express raced to another win on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

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Brentford leave Aston Villa feeling under the weather. Again.

27 Dec

“I think it’s hard, no disrespect to Brentford, Barnsley, but this is a different kettle to those clubs where there’s no real expectation… Staying in the division is probably the expectation”. Not my words, but those of Aston Villa manger Steve Bruce in the build up to the visit of his team to Griffin Park.

How they had a hollow ring as yet another former Premier League club under-estimated ‘teams like Brentford’. The Bees made it 6 points from 6 over Christmas with a fine 2-1 win under the floodlights (and the rainclouds) at Griffin Park on Tuesday night. It was a victory that, but for a brief flurry in the dying moments, was never in doubt. Brentford, inspired by Sergi Canos and shored up by the quite sublime Chris Mepham, blew aside Aston Villa as easily as though they were a crisp packet caught in the breeze.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park

Canos – possessed once again by raw energy, blistering pace and consummate skill – did everything but score the goal his performance so warranted. As it was, he played a key role in our opener. Winning the ball back to find Ryan Woods, the Ginger Pirlo’s pass was met by Romaine Sawyers who fired it hard and low from outside the box into the bottom corner to give Brentford the lead with just over twenty minutes gone.

It was as precise a finish as one could hope to see and another moment of genius from a player who continues to impress. That’s five goals now this season for Sawyers and Brentford really are scoring from every angle. Whilst Josh Onomah would level things up for Aston Villa just before half time, normal service was restored soon after the break. Lasse Vibe followed up Friday’s brace at Norwich City, firing home the loose ball in the box as Villa failed, quite spectacularly, to clear a Canos corner.

Watching the highlights on Sky afterwards (and they are now available on the internet until the official, Mark Burridge infused version can be released), the phrase “I can’t quite believe the shodiness” is used to describe Villa’s defence. They’re not wrong but you’ve still got to be there. You’ve still got to put them away. And Lasse did that to send the Griffin Park crowd wild.

It was a game played out in quite torrid conditions. The rain didn’t let up for the entire 90 minutes and so fair play to Dean Smith’s Bees for just getting on with it. The visitors, on the other hand, struggled to find cohesion and to find shape. They were second to everything, including the final result. But you can only play who you are up against and if the Bees continue to face teams like Aston Villa then happy days.

Just because you once won the European Cup and played in the top flight, doesn’t give a divine right to ‘be any good’. You can’t just win by turning up. The footballing world has long changed and if dinosaurs like Steve Bruce want to keep on living in Jurassic, rather than Villa, Park that’s just fine by me.

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The rain, and Flo, didn’t let up

The ironic thing being that this is now the second time in 11 months we’ve done a job on Aston Villa at home. Who could forget the 3-0 humbling handed out back in January, just about the time of Scott Hogan’s sale?  To misread the opposition once is unfortunate but to do it twice is downright shabby.

Still, that’s not my concern. Long may it continue. Dean Smith and his boys got it bang on last night. The aforementioned Mepham, who made his mark on Hogan early then never looked back, and Andreas Bjelland were both sporting ‘blood’ shirts by the time Keith Stroud ended the six minutes of injury time. There was no quarter given at the back where Nico also shone, covering in the right-back position which he first filled what seems like all those years ago. Flo Jo, Romaine, Ryan. Dan Bentley pulled off a couple of fine saves when they were needed.

To overly single out anybody would be unfair. It was just that sort of night where everybody did what was expected. Even Norwich City, who had earlier beaten Birmingham City to leave them rock bottom of the division. With Brentford now in 12th place on 34, that’s twice as many points as the hapless Blues who are 3 from safety on just 17.

Those comments about being ten times better are looking a long way off at present. Oh well, that’s their problem. We’ve got bigger fish to fry and with another home game approaching, the visit of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, here’s hoping for more of the same from Dean and his boys.

And, could we perhaps see Alan Judge at some point? One of the loudest cheers of the night was reserved for his announcement on the substitute’s bench. If not Wednesday on Saturday, then by the time we’ve hosted Notts County in the FA Cup I’ve a feeling we’ll have seen him in the red and white once more.

That, if anything, would be THE miracle of Christmas. At least, in TW8.

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Captain Nico – too many mince pies or making the best of the conditions?

Nick Bruzon

Rampant Brentford exorcise the memory of QPR and render Fulham pointless.

3 Dec

Where do you start with that one? A 3-1 demolition of Fulham at Griffin Park on Saturday saw Brentford make it 4 points out of 6 from back-to-back West London derbies. With it, the Bees moved into the top half of the Championship table and above both our near neighbours. It was the perfect tonic following the disappointment of the final few moments at QPR earlier this week and a performance that shows just what Dean Smith’s team can do when they put their minds to it.

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Another afternoon, another win

Mind you it was a case of very much adjusting to the game and, subsequently, each other. A hamstring Injury to Lasse Vibe early on (and no recognised striker on the bench) saw Romaine Sawyers coming on to sit up top. A so called ‘False 9’ as Dean would later refer to him. Whilst we’ve tried this one before, at QPR two seasons ago – the only time they’ve beaten us in the last 7(seven) encounters – this time things were different for Brentford. So very different.

For a moment it looked shaky. The Bees went a goal down after Fulham were given the freedom of the Griffin Park back four. The visitors were lining up to slide home one time Bee Ryan Fredericks’ cross. In the end it was Neeskens Kebano who did the needful at the back post. Daniel Bentley then kept us in it with a wonder save but from that point on it was one way traffic.

Ollie Watkins set off on a quite wonderful run through the middle of the park, covering close to 50 yards before releasing Sergi Canos to leave David Button no chance. Canos (and the Fulham defence) take the glory but full kudos to Ollie for a lungbusting run.

1-1 at half time and the Bees came out to pick up where they left off. The half had barely begun when Romaine Sawyers made it 2-1. The player may feel he was in the right place at the right time although the goal had as much to do with the omens in the stand and on the terrace. Got to love a lucky shirt, lucky fleece (amazing where you get the inspiration from) and a Trevor Extra Strong Mint. Many thanks John – the real hero of the afternoon as man in the right place at the right time with the lucky confectionary.

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Lucky shirt. Lucky fleece. Lucky sweets. Nothing lucky about the win

With Fulham reduced to ten men, following the customary red card from referee Bobby Madley it really was game over. A detail confirmed with just five minutes to go as Romaine Sawyers set up Ollie Watkins to close things out. Two goals up against West London neighbours with just moments left on the clock. What could go wrong? Five minutes of injury time, that’s what!

But whereas Monday saw Brentford hit the self-destruct at QPR,  this time around there was to be no such repeat. Ball retention was the key as we passed it around, backwards and even had the odd probe to see down the clock.

3-1 it finished. What a result. What a performance. What an afternoon. There were tears from Fulham official. What a shame they didn’t get the chance to use their shiny new GIF. Please, stop sniggering.  There was even a gif in return as the ghost of the Obama meme threatened to raise its head once more. It was beautiful ! Well played the Brentford media team on hitting the perfect balance, this time.

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A word or two, also, about Mr. Madley. We all know him of old, especially ‘that’ game at Leyton Orient. Officious, pernickety, trigger happy and more cards than a Clintons sale. Yet I thought he had a great game yesterday.

True, there were a few moments where he couldn’t help but be his over-officious self but he called the cards right – including the yellow for Sergi who had seemed to go in dangerously, albeit not connecting. But given the lack of protection we’ve had at times this season, the four yellows (including a second for Fulham’s Odoi) were spot on. As were the proliferation of dead balls awarded in an otherwise open game that was, generally, allowed to flow.

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View from the terrace : When Sergi met Bobby

Sergi Canos was understandably named man of the match. I love watching him in action. The skill, the speed, the enthusiasm. Yet, for me I think Romaine probably just deserved it. A goal, an assist and a player very much a fish out of water in terms of the role he was asked to play. As Dean would later note on ‘official’, “I know, at times, he isn’t everyone’s favourite but I thought his performance today was excellent.

Dean, I couldn’t agree more.

As ever, the video highlights are up on Sky. Probably worth a watch before we get treated to Mark Burridge’s version. If his commentary is anywhere near as good as his post match Twitter then they’re going to be compulsory viewing when these go live after mid-day.

What a finish. What a way to celebrate rainbow laces day. Top half of the table, current kings of West London and a fine, fine performance from Dean Smiths’ injury hit team. But perhaps the biggest cheer of the afternoon was that for somebody returning from injury, Lewid Macleod. How good was it so see him back on the Griffin Park pitch? It seems an eternity since he was stretchered off at Loftus Road last season.

The road to return has certainly been a long one but, again, as impressive a display from the club in looking after our long term sick as the player in putting in all those hard yards. Nice one, Lewis.

Next up, a certain Mr. Judge? Here’s hoping….

The sun is past the yard arm so the video censors let Mark do his thing

All that’s to come, though. For now let’s just enjoy the moment and savour a fine win. Matthew Benham, back in his customary place at the front of the director’s box after a surprise ‘substitution’ against Burton, seemed ecstatic as the second half goals flew in. Certainly, those in the paddock and around the ground were. Except, perhaps, in the away end. If only they’d had a nice, new GIF.

It’s our fourth season in the Championship and, it would be fair to say, that derby day form has certainly been with the Bees. Jota in the last minute at Griffin Park, Sam Saunders with that fifth minute beauty and Stuart Dallas doing ‘that thing’ at the Cottage during our 4-1 steamrollering are amongst the many highs.

This one felt as good as any of them. What an afternoon. What a result !!

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Who needs Pointless or Strictly Dancing for Saturday entertainment ?

Nick Bruzon

Move along, we go again etc etc. There’s a lot more to frustrate you than Monday.

29 Nov

Queens Park Rangers 2 Brentford 2. Take a look in the record books and that’s what you’ll see following Monday night’s trip to Loftus Road. So QPR salvaged a point as their manager used his post match interview to savage their fans. And? Move along, there are bigger fish to fry – like Fulham on Saturday.

I didn’t write anything on these pages yesterday. Whilst I’d normally do so immediately after a game, this was different. We all know what happened on Monday night. Although some thoughts were penned (for the Fulham matchday programme), sitting down at the computer with my espresso to start this blog I couldn’t do it. Not that there was any particular reluctance, albeit the evening had ended in what could politely be described as a ‘frustrating conclusion’ , but as I looked at the coffee to try and clear that post-match fug  the mind began to wander. And wander. In no particular order

‘Expresso’. FFS, it’s Espresso. Es. Not Ex. What part of anybody with eyes in their head and the ability to read thinks ‘s’ is pronounced ‘x’?

Mrs Brown’s Boys. It’s a man. In a wig.

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Mrs Brown. Man? Tick.  Cardigan? Tick.   Wig? Tick.   Jokes?   Move along, nothing to see here

Katie Hopkins. Saying. Anything. Just shut up. Please.

The demise of the Brentford ‘Terrace Talk’ video feature.

Getting Ant and Dec wrong – how is that possible? Ant always stands on the left (contractual obligation to stop old people getting confused).

Ian Moose and his ego. The man has more good friends than Paul Nicholas and Jan Francis.

Len Goodman’s ‘Partners In Rhyme’. The bastard offspring of Mrs Brown’s Boys (humour level) and Catchphrase as Len has somehow been convinced that he’s the new Bruce Forsyth. He isn’t.

Alan Green.

Team GB. Why? Where? How was this allowed to become a thing? We’re Great Britain . It’s not Mannschaft D or Equipe F.

On an Olympic vibe, the faux verb, ‘to medal’. I blame Sue Barker for that one.

Memes.

Surveys about the ‘Best James Bond ever’ that have Roger Moore ranked anywhere except number 1.

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Roger Moore at his best

Sir/Lord Alan Sugar saying ‘You’re fired’, Granted, it’s a catchphrase, but surely by definition his wannabe employees/ business partners need to be hired before being able to be fired?

Corporate Account hashtags on Twitter. Who could forget the joy of #BigNewAmbitions, #Novemberkings or #Trophyfriends?

The Stone Roses – how? Three good songs (at best).

Mrs Brown’s Boys. If ever The Emperor’s New Clothes was reimagined for the 21st Century then here it is.

Getting videprinter brackets wrong. They start at 7(seven), not sooner . Or, at least, they should.

Nick Knowles – that is, the version that has reinvented himself as a singer (although if you ever need a boost then the reviews section on Amazon for his new album is more entertaining than the product itself).

Eric Clapton – unplugged. Worst. Album. Ever. The plinky plonk versions. The toe curling between song ‘banter’. Six months in the back of an overland truck going across Africa with that locked on repeat in the tape deck is too much.

West Ham. See : Winning the World Cup in 1966. Trevor Brooking scoring a header. Media love in with their season long farewell to Upton Park. If only somebody had mentioned.

The England Supporters Band. Show me one person to claim this self-appointed bunch of trumpet wielding clowns enhance a game of football and I’ll show you a liar.

Band banned

Nobody asked for this

iPod headphones. For supposed technological giants, the singular inability of Apple to create a product that plays music inwards rather than outwards is one that astounds.

Footballers reassuring us that ‘We go again ‘ after a particularly bad performance.

Clackers and foam fingers to ‘enhance’ the atmosphere. See also: drums. Not quite in the same league as ‘that band’ but not far behind.

South West Rail automated apologies for the inconvenience. Specifically that bit where the system pauses that fraction of a second to crowbar in the sincerity level of their apology during a particularly bad delay.

John Bishop (adoration levels). Apparently he’s from Liverpool and likes football.

Peppa Pig. A terrible example for any young children who may be watching. And yes, I realise they’re her target audience but the amount of mud splattered shoes/trousers I’ve had to rescue over the years has seen a simmering, and one way, animosity build towards the porcine puddle jumper.

I could go on. The point being (aside from the fact I watch too much TV) that no matter how frustrating the circumstances of getting a draw away from home, there could be a lot more niggly things out there to annoy you. If nothing else, that’s still only 1 win for QPR out of our last 6 games since Brentford ascended to the Championship.

Instead, my focus is now on Saturday. On Fulham. On another win.

Oh, and did I mention Mrs Brown’s Boys?

Nick Bruzon

Time for a Halloween horror show? Will ten times better Harlee be left to eat his words?

1 Nov

There’s not much more we can really say going into this one. Brentford travel to Birmingham City this evening for a game where our ex-captain Harlee Dean has ensured that the Bees have nothing to lose and everything to gain with his words prior to the weekend’s 0-0 draw against Aston Villa. And closer to home, Yoann Barbet and John Egan have been getting into the Halloween vibe as they’ve been out and about meeting some very excited young fans.

But first, St. Andrews. Tonight’s game had already been one heavily laden with anticipation following our recent transfer activity. If Wycombe Wanderers are sometimes referred to as Brentford B (such has been the procession of players from TW8 to Adams Park) should Birmingham share twin town status with Brentford ? Scott Hogan moved to the city, c/o Aston Villa, in January. A move which, sadly, hasn’t fared that well and sees him already touted for a ‘cut price’ sale.  Then of course we had that gut busting triple whammy over the summer. Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin all sold to Birmingham City on deadline day for a cool £12million.

It would be fair to say that the immediacy and surprise of selling three fan favourites to a divisional rival left many frustrated. Myself included. Yet now the dust has settled it is Brentford who find themselves four points (effectively five when you factor in our goal difference being 13 better) clear of the Blues. The chance to really prove a point was something that already had fans keen to get to this one.

And then Harlee opened his mouth to make ‘that comment’ about his current team mates relative to his former ones:

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.

Ten. Times. Better. I’m still laughing. We were awesome that season. City have been bang average this time around. Understandably he’s come in for all amount of scorn in regards to this claim. A claim which was followed up by his side’s lethargic draw with Aston Villa on Sunday. Hey, at least they kept a clean sheet although Jota will still be kicking himself about the chance he missed when clean through.

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Say what you want. Nobody can doubt the size or history of Birmingham City. Yet reputation and former glories count for nothing when you are slugging it out in the Championship. Something Leeds United, Aston Villa et al have found out when they take on…..teams like Brentford. Whilst Dean Smith may not be viewing this as any form of grudge match, you can be sure our fans are well up for this and are going to be out to make themselves heard. Bring it on…

Off field, the club celebrated Halloween by playing trick or treat on some of our locally based Junior Bees. John Egan and Yoann Barbet donned the fancy dress to knock on the doors of some very excited young fans.

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A familiar face welcomed visitors

If you haven’t seen the film already, you can catch this below (and the full story is on official). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This club is second to none for embracing the local community and our fanbase. Whether it be the family fun day, open day at the training ground or the Christmas party the players are never anything but 100% genuine; the club are only ever 100% into it. I can’t imagine a Manchester United or an Arsenal doing all of this, for free, on such a regular basis. Getting out into the community or giving the fans a chance to meet their idols. The reaction from the kids says it all and there’s a huge THANK YOU from me given Harry’s chance to participate.

Although in retrospect, and given what is coming this evening, perhaps best that his comments at the end were more to do with the Buzz Bee pumpkin lantern and less with what he said off camera about a former captain. To the current one….

John. Yoann. Thank you. And if you could go and lay on another Halloween horror show, at St. Andrews, that would be fantastic.

The players do their thing. HB is really into satsumas…

Nick Bruzon

Has Harlee scored a huge own goal (or is he just talking b*llocks)? As for that cup draw….

27 Oct

It says something when the Haribo cup draw was only the second most nonsensical thing in the football world on Thursday. Harlee Dean, perhaps sore at missing out on this season’s Brentford captaincy to Nico Yennaris, has done some silly things in his time. Namely the ogs, suicidal back passes, red cards, woeful positioning and ‘going again’. But his motivational speech for Birmingham City prior to their forthcoming derby with Aston Villa has potentially topped the lot.

I’m not going to sit here and overly slag him off. His words generate their own, natural, reaction. Besides, despite the errors from somebody learning the game Harlee more than had his positive moments over six years at Griffin Park. Very much the unsung hero, he was one of my son’s favourite players (after Sam and Jota ). He is  also one of a very elite group – a Brentford player to score at Wembley – and, of course, would later help us to promotion. Let’s not forget our former captain is the current Bees player of the year. And now he is at Birmingham City.

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Harlee – heart on his sleeve.

Perhaps it is having to be content with a place on the bench that has triggered him to show some ‘passion’. To try and endear himself to a home side whose supporters must be frustrated at their current anti-form. Moreso, having spent huge amounts in the summer transfer window. To try and build some positivity at St. Andrews ahead of the Aston Villa game on Sunday lunchtime.

Anyway, there’s already enough flak out there for the player without me adding to it. This, after his claim that the current Birmingham City squad  – who still sit below the Bees in the table – is 10 (ten) times better than that which he himself was a part of when we finished fifth in the Championship under Mark Warburton.

His interview, which you can see below (and skip to about 1.20 to bypass the rest of the nonsense) , contains the gem:

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. and this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right”.

On the one hand, a Brentford squad containing the likes of: David Button, Jake Bidwell, Number 26, Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jon Toral, Jota, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan. That’s before you add the experience provided by the likes of Dougie, Macca, King Kev and Toumani.

On the other, a Birmingham City squad whose record in the league since Harlee joined has been: LLLDWLWL. Five defeats out of eight. Including the 6-1 humping at Hull City and most recently a 2-0 loss at Millwall (although he was only part of the squad that day). Even we’ve beaten them this season !

Deluded? Desperate? Or just panicked? Looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights, the famous 1000 yard stare coming to the fore, was this simply a case of opening his mouth then engaging brain in order to fill dead air? Or just some misguided attempt to win over the fans before a game which will finish 1-1 (standard Aston Villa result).

One expects a player to back his new team. I’m not that naive. Yet this came over as a cheap dig and crass stupidity. Forgetful of his own past where, but for some of our own defensive errors at a time when Tony Craig was bizzarely kept out of the team, a squad that could well have reached the Premier League.

With Brentford travelling to Birmingham on Wednesday night, all he has done is further galvanise the already vocal Bees support ahead of that one. Dean Smith must be sitting back and chuckling at his own team talk having been delivered already. Don’t be surprised to see Nico given the captain’s armband in that one.

Nice one, Harlee. And thank you. For once I’m hoping you really have scored another own goal.

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Warbs’ squad. Apparently, a tenth of the talent as that now at Birmingham City

Back in the world of real football, the draw for the fifth round of the Haribo sponsored EFL cup look place yesterday. Eventually. In yet another publicity stunt masquerading as an ‘error’, the draw was massively delayed due to what was described as a twitter glitch. This, a competition, where previous draws have seen the live Facebook feed from Thailand (count the things already wrong with that sentence) mysteriously drop as Charlton were seemingly drawn against both Exeter AND Cheltenham. The confusion of round two with the three ball system.The third round taking place at 4.30am, from China. But not televised.

All of which has, coincidentally, got the drinks company name trending on social media. Something which once again happened yesterday before the draw would eventually take place over an hour after it was due to start. Who’d have thought it?

Yawn. Boycott.  I’m certainly not going to start buying their product now. Out of principal. And taste. If nothing else, they sponsor Reading.

Although perhaps, in retrospect, this is all Harlee is guilty of. Talking something up to get us publicising it. Let’s be honest, Birmingham City on a Wednesday night probably wouldn’t have been top of the list a month ago.

Now though… Things have just got very tasty. Unlike a certain soft drink.

Buzzette REd Bull

No C****** for this Bees fan. It’s Red Bull all the way

Nick Bruzon

Bentley is the Lion tamer as Bees take three deserved points.

15 Oct

And we’re off the mark at home. Brentford took the unbeaten Championship streak to five games at Griffin Park yesterday. a 1-0 win over Millwall giving us 9 points out of the last 15 following on from the win at Bolton aswell as draws with Reading , Middlesbrough and Derby. Yet it was one of those games where, as ever, the scoreline only told half the story of the day – both on and off the pitch.

First up, the win. Dean Smith has been talking up his Brentford team for weeks. Citing ill fortune, huge possession and if onlys. On Saturday, we took our chances and our rub of the green. Aided by superb performances by both Romaine Sawyers and my man-of-the-match Daniel Bentley, the Bees were serving of their win although would have had few complaints had the visitors snatched something late on.

The penalty incident awarded to Millwall after Jed Wallace was adjudged to have been fouled by Henrik Dalsgaard looked questionable (even as to whether it was inside the box) from where we sat. But as referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot, Millwall’s Lee Gregory fired home.

Alas. For the Lions. No goal!! Manager Neil Harris was incensed. As were their supporters. As were their players. Instead, a spot kick was awarded despite the protests from The Lions. And it was that man Bentley, diving to his right, who was able to push Gregory’s effort away and keep his virginal net intact.

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Probert points to the spot. Definitely not a goal

Should the goal have stood? Who cares! We’ve been at the rough end of enough refereeing injustice in our time to take a lifeline when it is offered.

The penalty aside, Probert had it tough yesterday and was given little support from his assistants as he earned the ire of the home supporters whilst an aggressive Millwall team got stuck in. A second half foul from George Saville on Ryan Woods in particular seeing the Millwall man very lucky to stay on. There was only one winner in that central midfield battle all afternoon and what a shame the former Bee had to resort to such cheap tactics.

What shame this all distracted from Romaine’s wonder goal. A beautifully hit shot from distance, straight after half time. He struck it hard and low into the bottom corner after taking a pass from Dalsgaard. It was so soon after the restart that many supporters hadn’t even taken their seats. Including yours truly. Finishing half-time refreshments on the forecourt, Cousin Charles turned to me and said. “Let’s go. There’s going to be a transformation in the second half”. And as we turned, the cheer went up. How it helps to have friends in high places. How it helps to have a cousin whose win/attendance ratio is the sort of stat money can’t buy (and this was mentioned yesterday!)  How it helps to have the highlights to subsequently catch up on so we can see what was missed.

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View from the Braemar – Brentford press on after Romaine’s opener

Being honest, whilst the stats show the Bees dominated and the highlights (currently available here on Sky) show we peppered the Millwall goal in the first half, that opening period didn’t feel a comfortable one. It was disjointed and the visitors more than had their share of play. And chances. Bentley had to be on top form all afternoon as despite a Romaine and Ollie being amongst those to go close, it never felt as though we were truly in control or nailed on to win.

But football turns on moments. Romaine’s goal was followed by another identikit chance moments later that went just wide. The addition of Lasse vibe from the bench brought a palpable buzz to the crowd in a game we really had to win. Victories for Birmingham City last night and Bolton that afternoon meant the teams below us were threatening to drag the Bees into it. But win we did. Bentley made two more fine saves as Brentford continued to push but couldn’t find a way through despite coming close on numerous occasions.

Lasse was as happy as the fans

We’ve bemoaned the lack of shooting in recent weeks. Fairplay to Dean’s boys, nobody can say we didn’t try that today. Whilst ‘deserving’ counts for nothing in football, the effort put in by the team was definitely rewarded at full time. A 1-0 win is still a win. And don’t forget that as much of winning a football match is about not conceding as it is about scoring. Thanks to Dan Bentley, we certainly nailed the former part yesterday.

The other point of note from Griffin Park was the new electronic advertising boards on Braemar Road and behind each goal. These are part and parcel of modern football. Anybody who has seen a televised game in recent years will be well aware of these. The signs are already second nature to many and with the pre-install article on ‘official’ telling us they are able to be lifted up to Lionel Road, expect them to stay.

As a means of reeling in the additional revenue then I can understand why we have jumped on board. It makes sense for the club and sponsors to have these positioned within the arc of the TV cameras. As long as the players aren’t distracted then they are only going to be a permanent fixture.

What I can’t fathom is the logic in having the smaller, crowd facing display. Whilst the club did warn us these were coming, the video they sent through to prepare those sitting right in front of these, and showing static adverts, was not anything like what was delivered.

Instead, we had a non-stop cavalcade of distracting and slightly blurry, scrolling messages that lurked in the peripheral vision like somebody flashing a multi-coloured torch into the corner of the eye for 90 minutes. There were enough adverts for LeoVegas and Utilita already on display – from shirts to programme to the stands to the dugouts – without the need to try and further sear these names on to the retinas of those sitting in the first few rows of the paddock.

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The crowd facing side of the new system is a huge distraction

I’m sorry. This is a BAD move. This is supporter unfriendly move. This is something that, having actually made the effort to alert fans about in the build up, is then nothing like what we were shown it would be. See the video below. This is something that totally ruined the football experience.

The build up article to these on the club site promised that they would “add to the matchday experience for fans.”

So nobody is in any doubt. In my opinion, they don’t. They are horrific. They are distracting. Out of principal I will never, ever buy or use any of the products being beamed into my face whilst this is up and running. And that goes for now consigning this season’s shirt to the back of the wardrobe. Which is a shame. But there you go.

I want to watch football. Not soft focus advertising that looks as though it should be found on one of those digital displays in the window of a local taxi office. How does this add to my matchday experience? My matchday annoyance, perhaps.

I appreciate the club is looking to maximise revenue opportunities. But there is a way and a means. And this crowd facing digital aberration is definitely not it. If anybody from the club is reading , is there any way these can please be switched off or toned down?

On the plus side, no more half time trips to the bottle bar for me.

What has been delivered is not what we were told about. No scrolling and in focus

Nick Bruzon

Out of the cup but where next?

20 Sep

Brentford 1 Norwich City 3. We’re out of the EFL Cup after a night in which we were never even close to being in it. Hey, let’s be positive though. At least Bolton Wanderers lost ahead of Saturday after their long trip to West Ham.

Dean Smith would later describe the second half performance as being “insipid” but I’d also question if he watched the opening period.  It was a 45 minutes punctuated by strange refereeing decisions and a Bees team who were second to just about everything. Even spot kicks as, when presented with the ultimate lifeline and a chance to haul ourselves back into it at 1-0 down, Yoann Barbet blasted his penalty so far over the top that it’s now in low earth orbit.

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Barbet’s pen. (Inset: now)

But then we’ve a tradition of centre backs hoofing dead balls over the bar. See also that ill-fated period of giving spot kick duties to number 26 ( a player who, ironically, missed one for Burnley last night as they lost out against Leeds). Likewise Miguel Llera and his attempts to channel Sam Saunders but which were more akin to Jonny Wilkinson. Why not just give it to a striker? A player whose job it it to strike the ball. To find the back of the net. Subsequent free kicks would suggest the Frenchman’s radar was somewhat ‘off’.

Yet let’s not hide behind one missed penalty. Even before then the writing felt on the wall where, with three B-team players making their first starts, those experienced heads picked by Dean needed to stand up and be counted. To guide the debutants. Instead, they went awol. Instead, the head coach was unable to do anything beyond take tips from Thomas Frank and occasionally lift his arms in frustration.

If Yoann was impersonating Jonny then this was almost like watching the ghost of Marinus past. And in places it was almost like reliving that ill-fated Oxford United tie from a few seasons back.

At a time when we should have come out all guns blazing in the second half, we fell even further behind. Just six minutes were on the clock after the restart when Mario Vrancic doubled the Canaries lead with a free kick curled over the wall and under Luke Daniels. His first had come just ten minutes into the opening period following a very soft penalty decision awarded to Norwich. But they took advantage of their opportunity; you can’t knock them for that. We wasted ours to the extent that even the Met Police were sledging us.

And at 2-0 down, the game was up. Brentford, who had been second best for most of the first half, didn’t even bother. Only Justin Shaibu, on for the totally ineffectual Neal Maupay, coming close with a curler that bounced back off the inside of the post. At least, until Josh Clarke popped up with our consolation goal in stoppage time. But by that point Josh Murphy had already made it 3 for the visitors.

As a means of psyching ourselves up for Saturday and the trip to Bolton, this was less a shot in the arm as us shooting ourselves in the foot. Unless, of course, it was an attempt to deliberately mislead any watching scouts. Truly, this was a soul destroying experience. Akin to what I can only imagine it would feel being force-fed Mrs Browns Boys for 90 minutes.

I could sit here and pick this apart but what’s the point? If you were there, you saw it. If you weren’t, then know that Norwich City were totally up for it and deserved their win. Likewise, know that should we pull our socks up and pull a result out of the bag on Saturday then I have no doubt this one will be forgotten about as quickly as it happened.

We’ve strength to come back off the bench, for sure. That’s the advantage of having a squad which gets stronger each transfer window. Just who plays? Whilst injuries haven’t helped his cause, Dean seems no closer to knowing his first team and this is going to be our 9th game in the Championship. There’s only so long you can experiment for.

Get it right and he’ll be a hero. Get it wrong and the few boos we heard at full time last night could well become a crescendo.

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Dean Smith – nice trainers ; tough challenge

Nick Bruzon

7(seven) and 0. But is it as bad as it looks or is the table lying?

13 Sep

7(seven) games in and Brentford remain locked on three points, sit second bottom in the Championship table and have still failed to record a league win. Our latest attempt saw a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday where despite taking an early lead via Nico Yennaris, normal 2017/18 service soon resumed. The only consolation of the night was another blank and another defeat for a Birmingham City side who now join us in the bottom three.

But first, matters closer to home. Another game, another defeat for Dean Smith and his new look Bees. A trip to Sheffield Wednesday was never going to be an easy one but we were given a gift wrapped start after Nico gave us a 9th minute lead from outside the box. It was less a piledriver and more a bobbling grass cutter but, somehow, Owls ‘keeper Kieren Westwood conspired to let it squirm under his body.

Do check out the Sky highlights package (at least, until ‘official’ are allowed to do their thing) to see just how much of a gift this was. Still, who’s complaining? Not me. After all the patches of brilliance and bad luck we’ve seen to date then perhaps this was it. Something had gone our way. The dam had been breached and surely normal service would resume. Alas not.

The longer it stayed 1-0 the louder the inevitable equaliser began knocking on the door. And then, with first half injury time being played, we welcomed it in. Despite Wednesday charging through, John Egan was still able to clear Gary Hooper’s goal bound effort off the line. Sadly, it was only cleared as far as the near post where it bounced back to the grateful player who bundled it home for the equaliser.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 07.12.44Ph-eep. (I would also accept: Ph-hew). Half time. 1-1 The proverbial stuffing knocked out of the Bees and a psychological mountain to climb. K2? Or should that be Wednesday 2 ? Ross Wallace capitalised on our ongoing inability to clear a ball played into the box as he stabbed home a corner with 20 minutes left. Despite Brentford’s best efforts, that was it. 2-1 Sheffield and Dean Smith looking to rationalise more dropped points.

Speaking to the press afterwards (and you can read his thoughts in full on ‘official’) there was more talk of us creating chances but just needing to take them. Of being unlucky. Of our play deserving more than it has achieved in terms of results : “We didn’t take our chances and then gave away a soft goal. ….. Not concentrating from a corner lost us the game. We were then the better team again after they went in front and deserved to score another goal, but it wasn’t to be”.

Sorry, Dean. But let’s have a bit of context here. We don’t deserve to win every game. Sometimes we’ll play well and lose. Others, we’ll play badly and win. But this season we’re making basic mistakes and we’re not winning in the league. And even just acknowledging this would be a start. Surely? Instead, it feels as though we are wallowing in self pity.

Let’s have a bit more context. At the same stage of the 2015/16 season, 7(seven) games in, Marinus Dijkhuizen had taken the Bees to 8 points and 2 wins. It was horrific to watch at times and, whilst nobody wants to see a manager lose his job, it couldn’t end soon enough. Likewise, I’m not for one second calling for his return or hoping Dean suffers a similar fate.

Far from it. We are still three games short of the magical ‘played 10’ marker. That position where the league table is finally deemed to have taken shape. A time where bad luck has had a chance to iron itself out. Where updated squads have had an opportunity to gel.

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Dean v Marinus. If we are looking at stats

I’m sorry. I don’t believe our squad is stronger. I believe our squad is potentially stronger although, to date, this is yet to be demonstrated. How can we dominate, always be told we deserved to win but so far fail to accomplish this? Being honest, the team that ended last season would wipe the floor with this one. At present.

Yet equally we know why departures happened. Money talks; players walk. The rest of the squad are still adjusting. As much to those exits as to each other and the lack of any settled team. This was the ninth line up change in nine games since 2017/18 began. It is only natural that it will take time for things to come together.

At the end of the day (Clive), let’s have one final piece of context. It’s only early September. Trips to Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday, immediately after the transfer window, were never going to be easy. More importantly, we’ve a home game with Reading followed by a trip to basement club Bolton. Surely if we follow Dean’s beliefs about bad luck, great play and keeping on doing what we are doing these will be the games to put that into practice? Boom. We’ll be off the mark, up and running.

Besides, it could be worse. We could be Birmingham City. Harry Redknapp’s expensively put together new look team lost. Again. This time to Leeds United. His team failed to score. Again. Clayton who now? His defence were as generous as he is with the club’s chequebook as they continued to leak.

The Birmingham boss was in fighting form afterwards, reading from the big book of Smith as he told the press: “We completely dominated the second half. It was one-way traffic, wasn’t it?

As for our former captain, he must have been itching to ‘go again’. Instead, we got another of the twitter ‘faves’. See also: “It wasn’t good enough” for a full house in post defeat bingo

Sound familiar?

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Nick Bruzon

If you promise the earth, then you’d better be able to deliver.

3 Sep

The morning after the morning after the night before. Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin are still at Birmingham City and have left Brentford. It wasn’t a bad dream. It really happened. There’ll be more than a few eyes on the Championship’s 20th placed team when they visit Norwich City on Saturday. As there will be on the Bees for our own trip to Aston Villa.

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It really happened

So what to make of it having had 48 hours to take it all in? What do we think after Phil Giles has undergone a very gentle probing from Ciaran Brett? That, on a YouTube video that we’re probably all seen already but is further below.

Well, initial feelings from yours truly were of understanding our ‘model’ yet also a feeling of utter deflation at the way it has been implemented this time around. So close to the line of looking like we’d have an incredible squad, this has happened. Feelings of confusion as to how this tallys up to those previously quoted statements that included the proclamation from Rasmus that the goal is to get stronger each transfer window. Feelings that, whilst obvious, it really is just all about the money. I wrote a column about it – you can find it here – which has generated a lot of reaction. It was angry. It was passionate. It was what being a football supporter is all about.

It was packed full of typos. I apologise. Try writing on an iPhone in a Belgian hotel room. But sometimes, thoughts need to be documented. Moments need to be captured and that’s how I was feeling about what happened between Brentford and Birmingham City at that point. I’m certainly not going to apologise for giving a damn about a team I’ve supported since 1979. I know Matthew Benham can’t keep pumping money into the club to prop it up and revenue needs to come from elsewhere. Yet the whole thing felt so cold, so calculated, so businesslike and it hurt. That’s as much from the players.

Reading Jota’s subsequent letter he may aswell have just published a tweet saying ‘Kerchinggg’. “The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” he told us in his latest farewell.

Really Jota? Really? I’d rather you hadn’t bothered. You’re just hurting us now. We know how passionate you can be and how much love you have. This is agent speak.  It was as opposite to “This isn’t ‘goodbye’ but more of a ‘see you later’ or ‘hasta luego’ as we say in Spain because I have just extended my contract for an extra year.” as one could imagine.

In time I’ll remember all those wonderful memories. Right now it still all feels too raw. Birmingham City can afford to pay him a reported £40k a week, We can’t. Simple economics and you can’t blame him for taking it. Yet after all the love for the club. All the support offered when we’d supported his loan return to Eibar, something which in his own words at the time, was “based solely on personal circumstances” , there was a thought that perhaps he might sign another year’s extension. Pay back that love and loyalty or even give the Premier League a shot with Brentford.

Yeah, I know. Cloud cuckoo land. I’m a supporter. I care. There’s the obvious mistake. It is based on fantasy rather than the balance sheet. That’s not how football works in the real world. This week has shown us that in spades. Without passion and heart it is nothing more than a money making machine. We emotionally invest in these players, we get their names on our shirts and then they chip off for the next big pay day. That’s football. It happens. It hurts.

But taking 48 hours away from the last column, it has given the club a chance to say a few more things. The video with Phil Giles has been published in which he explains how the reasoning for the sales was to keep the money coming in before contracts expired. That it had always been the plan to buy over the summer and sell just prior to the window closing. “Strategically it’s the ideal way to do it. Sell them late and buy them early.

As noted in that previous column, I know this is how football, especially at Brentford, works. I know we’re all about ’sustainable’. I understand a lot of what Phil, who acknowledged that fans will be deflated by the moves, was trying to say.

But what was as telling as anything else was what the video didn’t say. Whether because Phil wasn’t asked or couldn’t answer.

Fairplay to Ciaran for asking if we were stronger after this window. After a pause, the answer was a less than convincing one. “Well we retain a squad of young players. I don’t see weaknesses in our squad. I don’t see finished players. I see a strong set of B-team players ready to come through. So from that point of view it provides a really good platform. Not just on the pitch but for the sustainability of the club in the future. It’s not an old squad who’s depreciating in value

By which I read it as : No. But hopefully down the line we will be.

Phil spoke about how Harlee had stepped up when number 26 was sold to Burnley. How we’d survived the Scott Hogan sale to Aston Villa. Indeed, we’d immediately gone out and thrashed them.

I’d love to have found out why we chose to sell three players to Birmingham City. What the strategic thinking in strengthening a team that sit just above us in the table was? Or were these simply the best/only offers for the players?

Phil says his piece. Very much like the Curate’s Egg

Reading Maxime Colin’s article in The Birmingham Mail he claimed that there had been offers from France that the club turned down. And he’d been unaware of the wider wheels in motion: “It wasn’t a plan or something prepared in advance….
“It wasn’t something prepared in advance and I wasn’t told about them, especially Jota which I didn’t know until the end”.

You know what? It feels somewhat redundant asking about it now. Phil’s video is quite clear about how we operate. Bring them through, sell them on and pay the wages at the club. That the definition of a post window squad is somewhat of a fluid one, open to interpretation. This is how Brentford FC works.

However, it would be nice to know what our aspirations are. Is Championship survival the way forward? At least until the stadium at Lionel Road is built? If that prediction from Rasmus of being in the Premier League by the end of this campaign is to come true, then selling established, settled players aren’t the actions of a club looking to make that step up. At least in the immediate short term.

I feel for Rasmus. He’s come out with some key mission statements that Brentford fans will not forget. If you promise the earth, then you’d better be able to deliver. Yet there has been no attempt to realign those aspirations. Short of the phrase #bignewambitions being airbrushed from history (and that’s no bad thing in anybody’s eyes). Why not just come out and talk to us? Speak to us openly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. And again. And again.

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So here we are. The squad is what the squad is. No amount of wailing or gnashing of teeth will change that. I for one will be 110% behind the players when they run out. As noted on Friday, we have newcomers Kamo, Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins already doing great things. We’ve got Ryan back in the team, the centre back situation is clearer and Romaine Sawyers has come out the blocks flying. The option of Flo Jo and Sergi out wide is a delicious one. Start to get the wins under the belt against Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading then this will all be a storm in teacup. Move along, the model works.

Let’s just hope the model doesn’t break….

Oh , and if Norwich City are reading (they aren’t ) you’ve no idea what a boost it would be at Griffin Park if you could please pick up three points next Saturday.

Nick Bruzon