Tag Archives: Villa Park

The return of ‘the ex’ presents a wonderful opportunity to show how we’ve moved on.

13 Feb

Like the return of Harlee Dean et al with Birmingham City last season, tonight’s game certainly has an extra level of spice. Brentford entertain Aston Villa and, of course, former head coach Dean Smith in front of the Sky cameras in a clash that has the imagination running into over drive. What a wonderful opportunity awaits Thomas Frank and his Bees team to show just how we’ve progressed. Just how much Dean left behind. 

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Dean Smith – friends with just about everyone

Dean Smith brings his Villa team to Griffin Park, having only tasted victory once this year. That, a 2-1 triumph over basement boys Ipswich Town. Indeed since our paths crossed in the Championship, the Villans are yet to earn all three points against Brentford. Three draws on the road and two home victories – including the 3-0 hammering administered on the day Scott Hogan left TW8 for Villa Park – sees recent form between the two sides very much in our favour. Not bad for a pub team !

Indeed, that 3-0 at the end of January 2017 was one of the finest displays that we’ve produced since our ascendency to this level of football. It’s amazing what a bit of inspiration or the desire to prove a point can do.

And if those are your motivating factors then they don’t come any bigger than chucking in the return of a manager who left us for another. We all know his reasons for leaving Brentford. Turning down the opportunity to take the reins at the club you supported as a boy (and beyond) would have been an incredible decision. Those sort of chances don’t come around every day and so one can sympathise with Dean in making that leap to what is one of the most famous names in club football.

Villa Park is a wonderful stadium with a huge fanbase and a club with genuine aspirations to return to the Premier league. Apparently they won the European cup once – if only somebody had mentioned. Who could forget the moment assistant coach John Terry lifted that famous trophy high into the Rotterdam night sky?

We’ve been consistently strong - especially against Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Rain or shine, we’ve had plenty of recent highlights against Villa

Yet as was noted in the previous column, all this doesn’t doesn’t change the fact that Dean left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where, quite fantastically, we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling earlier this season. He’d got the team playing some quite wonderful football, albeit we’d started to wobble as he left.

Now Thomas Frank has the hot seat. The team have been scoring goals for fun in a scintillating hot streak and face an FA Cup fifth round tie this Sunday. We’d gone ten unbeaten prior to the weekend’s trip to Nottingham Forest. Even that 2-1 slip up saw enough chances created (along with a couple of goals conceded that the coaches have no doubt been reviewing at the training round) in a performance that on another day would have seen us come away with at least a draw. 

Aston Villa on the other hand only have the aforementioned 2-1 home win over Ipswich and have to look back as far as Boxing Day (Swansea) since the previous time Dean was able to taste victory. No doubt I’m sure they’ll feel that they should have claimed a few more since then but the proof is in the ‘W’ column. ‘D’ counts for draw, not ‘deserved to win’. Their last run out, the 3-3 draw at home to Sheffield United, saw them at their best. And worst. Racing into a 3 goal deficit they somehow clawed things back to earn a point with goals on 82, 86 and then deep into injury time. 

Indeed, our own game at Villa Park this season ended in similar circumstances. Jonathan Kodjia popping up deep, deep into injury time to snatch a point after Neal Maupay had stamped his authority all over the game with another brace to give us a late lead. We all know what happened after that one when a retrospective red card was issued to the French man. I’ve no doubt he’ll be the subject of pantomime booing and niggly challenges tonight. That’s football. There’s nothing finer than trying to wind up one of the opposition – moreso when you have a point to make. Just ask Harlee and Birmingham City (5-0, wasn’t it…?).

On paper, this one has home win all over it. Current league form and recent performances against Aston Villa both see Brentford in the driving seat. Yet we all know that’s not how football works. Anything but. I can only imagine this one being tense. It’ll have goals but try to pick how many for each team and you may aswell stick your hand in the barrel marked lucky dip. The one thing you can be sure of is that there won’t be a repeat of  The Monkees. 

Will there…..?

 

Nick Bruzon

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Dean Smith goes from Brentford hero to Villan.

10 Oct

Oh my. It’s happened. Dean Smith has tonight left Brentford to take over as head coach at Aston Villa. John Terry is confirmed as number two. It is a move that has been widely rumoured since the Villa Park club sacked Steve Bruce and one which, as has been well documented in the build-up, now sees Dean given the chance to take over at his boyhood club. Yet with Dean still in charge for the promotion chasing Bees draw at table topping Leeds United on Saturday, I thought there may be glimmer of hope that the rumours would be unfounded. Sadly for us, this isn’t the case and Dean is now a Villan.

First things first, there seems to be a universal out pouring of good wishes for Dean from the Griffin Park faithful. Everyone from Natalie Sawyer and Mark Devlin through to supporters across the social media spectrum have been wishing him well. And understandably so. Dean has guided Brentford to successive top ten finishes in the Championship and leaves us with the team one point outside the play-off places. He has had them playing some quite wonderful football, most recently seen at Leeds where the home team snatched a (possibly fortunate) draw in the final moments of an action packed game at the weekend.

From here, he joins the club he and his family have always supported. Villa official have been quick to jump on the now predictable medium of a hashtag with #oneofourown (something I thought was the exclusive property of Frank Lampard’s Derby County) quick to appear in the signing ‘GIF’. Yet only last week we noted on these pages “Indeed, who would willingly step into the maelstrom of unpredictability that is Villa Park at present? There are those well documented financial issues that emerged over the summer and a fan base quick to make their opinions known. Whether vocally or via the medium of a rogue cabbage.

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The words of Aston Villa ‘official’

Well, it seems the lure of ‘his’ team calling was simply too great. A siren on the rocks enticing him from a promotion push to a challenge that was once one of the biggest jobs in football and is now a wonderful opportunity to restore a former giant of the game to the position they naturally aspire.

For Brentford it is a huge shame on a personal note. Dean has only ever conducted himself wonderfully and has been nothing but charm personified when I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to him. His enthusiasm and love of the game, and the club, has been infectious. And now it is his job to instil that same warmth at Aston Villa.

On the pitch our set up is a solid one. Thomas Frank, who has been assistant Head Coach since December 2016, steps up into temporary charge. With our model and stability well established, surely he’ll be offered the role on a permanent basis? With Richard O’Kelly’s position to ‘be clarified in the coming days’ (not my words but those of Brentford official, in their piece which can be read here) the only other credible alternate is the B-team’s King Kev although that is, perhaps, something to come in the future.

We’ve lost our manager from a winning position before. Look at what happened when Mark Warburton took over from Uwe Rosler. Brentford were promoted to the Championship. Of more concern will be our ability to retain the crown jewels in a squad that is hugely talented yet, sadly now for us, Dean knows inside out. Certainly January’s window will be even more traumatic than ever but if Thomas, or whomever takes up the reins full times is able to keep up our current form, then who would want to leave? Don’t answer – that’s one for a few months’ time.

Instead, now is the time to wish Dean good luck. To hope we cross paths in the Premier League next season. To thank him for some exciting times so far. But equally, to know this current team – on and off the pitch – is more than just one man.

I’m gutted to see Dean leave. I’ve no worries about what we’re going to do for the rest of the campaign – The Bees ARE going up and I can’t wait.

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Can Dean inspire this level of passion at Villa?

 

Nick Bruzon

Will Stoke get Woods? Does it have a beach? Can Bees push on at Blackburn?

25 Aug

Strap yourselves in folks, this could be some day. Brentford travel to Blackburn Rovers looking to continue that unbeaten run of early season form which currently sees us sitting fourth in the pack of twenty-four teams. Yet the big question is whether Ryan Woods will be travelling with The Bees as news of the rumoured interest from Stoke City cranked up a few notches yesterday when the Potters as good as let the cat out of the bag. If you believe them. Yet if this comes to pass, it will end one of the most protracted moves of the summer following the initial stories and bid from Swansea City. At the same time making somewhat of a mockery of a transfer window which contains the biggest hole this side of the QPR defence (nil points. P4 L4).

The trip to Blackburn represents the mid-point of an intense two-week period that has already seen us beat Wednesday on Sunday and then have victory at Aston Villa cruelly slip from our grasp deep into the 95thminute out of 95 on, erm, Wednesday. That was a game which will as much as anything else be remembered for the goals from Neal Maupay which took him to the top of the Championship scoring table. Likewise, his retrospective red card which means he is missing from today’s game aswell as the League Cup on Tuesday and then the visit from Nottingham Forest next weekend.

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The Villa game ended 2-2 (and with a retrospective ban for Neal)

So what does Dean do to compensate? Personally, I think he’ll push Ollie up top and mix the wingers up. Said Benrahma and Sergi Canos have been doing quite magnificent battle over that right hand berth but can they be accommodated at the same time? Will Alan Judge make a start (although hopefully not as a false 9 – see yesterday) ? Does Marcus Forss then come off the bench and Ollie go back to our traditional shape if we need to change things up? Or, indeed, might Dean start like that anyway?

Who knows? I’m just the numpty on the terrace rather than anybody with any real knowledge – whether behind the scenes or just of football in general. Whilst on the one hand it may expose our lack of an alternative out and out second striker, based on what we’ve seen to date, the one thing Brentford have always done is play as a team. Score (and show) goals from every angle. From every positon bar goalkeeper. And with the length he gets these days, one wouldn’t be totally surprised if Daniel Bentley was to find the back of the net.

The other change I would think may also come is in central midfield. Both Nico Yennaris and Kamo have been superb when they have come off the bench for Lewis and Josh. The step up in play at both Stoke and Aston Villa was demonstrable by their entrance to the field of play. Dean has a wonderful bench available and is yet to change his starting XI in four league games. Yet with the matches coming thick and fast, and one enforced move in Maupay already thrust upon him, don’t be surprised if Dean twists further when the teams are announced at around 2pm.

One player that even I’m not so naïve as to think will be starting is Ryan Woods. Sadly. As noted in the introduction, Stoke City seems to be edging ever closer to getting their man. BBC Radio Stoke were bigging it up on Wednesday evening (be glad you can’t get it down here, given the Bees observer they had to drag in to opine on that one) and then yesterday it was the turn of current Stoke manager Gary Rowett. He announced that Woodsy, who was of course an unused substitute for that Aston Villa game, has already had a medical. He went on to claim that, “We are quite close to concluding a deal but we are not there just yet.

Brentford official are, of course, saying nothing. The club never comment on rumours and whilst history teaches us that you’ll never learn anything from fanzines, this all has a somewhat familiar ring to it. I think back to July 2013 when Simon Moore was being linked with Cardiff City, Back then their manager Malky Mackay (who, for the record, is currently the performance director of the Scottish Football Association – good luck with that one) told the media two days prior to signing the player that, “It’ll be paperwork first thing Monday morning, that’s the only thing holding that one up.”

An odd statement to make when infact we all knew Simon was simply on holiday. At the beach. In Cardiff.

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Cardiff beach. Simon Moore once holidayed there. According to Uwe.

Unless Stoke does have a beach then it kind of suggests this one is all but nailed on. The fee reckoned to be £6.5-£7(seven) million depending on which which source you read. Presumably with the usual clauses that Brentford have the shrewdness to insert. Who’d have thought we’d get money from Alfie Mawson’s sale to Fulham after all this time?  

Do I want him to go? No. In a word. That’s me being an emotional, selfish fan. Will we miss Ryan? Absolutely. The tussle that has gone on for his services (and those of us looking in only know of Swansea and Stoke’s interest to date) show the regard with which he is held in this division. Would we cope? Well, here’s the thing. I don’t want to tempt fate overly but look at what we’ve already done this season and Woodsy hasn’t got close to the pitch. The first XI and oncoming substitutes have performed quite wonderfully. It has been our best start to a campaign since 2013/14 and we we ended that one with promotion to the Championship. The squad would be stronger with him, no question, but it has still had a stunning start without.

This club has made no secret of transfer strategy. That we won’t stand in the way of players who want to leave if the price is on our terms. That we have got the player replacement technique pretty much nailed on now. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to stay. But I also trust what we’ve seen before. Adam Forshaw, Simon Moore, Moses (welcome back), number 26, Andre Gray. The Birmingham three – Jota, Maxime and Harlee. Aww, I do miss those defensive wobbles. They’ve all gone. We’ve survived. If Ryan decides his time has come then good luck to him. And huge thanks. He’s a hero and an inspiration at Griffin Park.

Yet now it seems that chapter is coming to a close, should the announcement indeed be confirmed today. Stoke City need a player of his ability, that’s for sure. Despite the wealth of talent they already seem to have their midfield was conspicuous by its absence when we traveled up there the other week. Supporters disappointment at ‘only’ getting a draw, further exacerbated by then seeing Wigan hump them 3-0. Even Will Grigg scored a penalty. The reward for that a (surely temporary) place in the relegation zone.

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Stoke have bite. But not much more…at present

The one other thing this has exposed is just the vagary of a transfer window that shut weeks ago yet still sees players able to move between Championship clubs on loan or, as would seem to be happening here, ‘loan with a permanent contract in January’ deals. It does seem to defeat the purpose somewhat and one can only feel for managers trying to put their squads together when they now have not one but effectively two windows to cope with.

QPR themselves have signed strikers Tomer Hemed from Brighton and Burnley’s £5m man Nahki Wells on loan for the duration of this campaign. Not quite sure how that all works but it seems to be legal – an unusual strategy for them given the £42m fine and transfer ban they finally agreed to in July following the breach of FFP rules.

Still, that’s their issue. I’m focussed on Blackburn and Brentford. Regardless of whether Ryan Woods is in the squad or sitting in the bottom three with Stoke. That a position I can’t imagine that they’ll occupy for very long should the move go through.

As for us, I’m calling this one as an away win. Complete confidence for the boys in brown and orange. Maupay may be missing but this squad is just too good at present. Enjoy the game!

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The current table. Come on Ryan. If you go, at least leap frog 20th….

Nick Bruzon

Bees march on after cracking game at Villa Park.

23 Aug

The morning after the night before. Brentford took a point from a 2-2 draw at Aston Villa that sees the Bees move up to fourth place in an evolving Championship table which is now almost half-way towards attaining ‘fully taken shape’ status. It was a point that we would all have taken before kick–off and yet, with Villa’s equaliser coming deep into the final minute of five added on by referee Jon Moss, still felt as though we’d had the win cruelly taken away from us. That the Bees had snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. A scenario, at least result wise, akin to QPR away last season.    

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The stats tell it all

Yet at the same time, the common consensus on social media was that it had been a quite wonderful advert for Championship football. That Brentford had put in their (relatively) weakest performance of the campaign to date and Aston Villa should perhaps be kicking themselves for not having wrapped it up early on themselves.

It was almost the opposite of the Stoke (away) game. Whereas as the Bees started that, like every other time the season, on the front foot, this time around the hosts didn’t allow us a chance to settle. Villa pressed and pressed whilst the Bees couldn’t get out of their own half. Chance followed chance and surely it as only a matter of time before the goal came. And on 23 minutes it did. But to Brentford. A quite delightful run and cross from Sergi was headed cleverly into space by Ollie Watkins to Neil Maupay. The Frenchman made no mistake as he buried it with a clean strike high into the back of the net.

Get in!! Our sofa erupted. Not literally. Although the pizza did fly and Mrs. Bruzon does now have a very awkward stain to get out of the upholstery. Glad that one wasn’t me. Yet the joy didn’t last long. With half time approaching Jonathan Kodjia levelled things up for Villa, evading Ezri to fire in hard past Daniel Bentley from close range. It was a goal that Villa’s pressure had suggested would come and so take nothing away from our hosts. It was pressure they continued into the second half as we struggled with our shape. The full backs both looked ragged whilst central midfield was given a much needed backbone with the additions of Kamo and Nico for Lewis and Captain for the night, Josh McEachran.

The two changes made all the difference and with the inevitable sub-by-numbers of Said Benrahma for Sergi Canos, the screw started to turn. Nico almost gave us the lead with one impressively hit shot from distance as the game turned into an end-to-end classic. Maupay then went one better with Ollie Watkins again turning provider. His shot was only parried down and Neal’s reactions were quick enough to again bury it first time. Whether he should have been on the pitch after a stamping incident in the first half was caught by the cameras, albeit missed by the ref, is another question. There will no doubt be a few squeaky bums at Griffin park today as we wait to see if that was deemed accidental or deliberate foul play.

It didn’t look pretty but I’m just the numpty on the terrace and that’s a question for Mr. Moss to consider. There’s nothing we can do and Dean Smith has already come out and said that should any charges be pressed, he’ll be doing similar. He used his post-match conference to tell the BBC that, “If you remember the incident, Mile Jedinak fell over, got up and then smashed Neal in the back of the head so, if they are looking at retrospective for Neal, then we’ll do so for Jedinak.

Let’s move on though. Back to the game. 2-1 up. Less than ten minutes to go yet still Brentford pressed. Said Benrahma had a glorious chance to extend the lead further. His close range head, flying like a tracer bullet to the goal was again only parried by Orjan Nyland in the Villa goal. It bounced on the line and seemed over, but television replays confirmed the ball hadn’t fully crossed.

I say ‘only’. Nyland had minimal time to react and credit to him for a cracking performance when it counted. Likewise Daniel Bentley who, one stutter aside early on, looked as commanding as ever. Sadly, he could do nothing about the late, late equaliser that had an almost inevitable feel to it the moment five additional minutes of time were indicated. It gave Villa the exact period for which they knew they could throw the kitchen sink at things and sure enough, with what must have been the final move of the game, that man Kodjia was on hand to break Brentford hearts.

I was gutted. I think we all were. But at the same time, some perspective. We are unbeaten. We are fourth. We haven’t lost to Aston Villa in five games at this level. That we are all disappointed about picking up an away point tells you all you know about how far this team have come. This isn’t fans being greedy. About having some sort of divine right to just turn up and win. This is about knowing how well we have played all campaign and so being genuinely hopeful of pushing on to take all three points once that second half fight-back had taken hold.

I’m also glad that with one, potentially two, new signings in the stands for the home team, we’ve got this one out of the way early. Like the Bees, Villa sit in the play-off zone on 8 points and I think they’ll only go on to get even stronger. The top two a genuine aspiration for the players. An expectation, perhaps, for the fans. Certainly on this showing.

It could have been more. Given the clock, it probably should have. But take nothing away from Villa in a game where I’d have taken a point up front. Having slept on it, the proverbial ‘fair result’.

With Dean Smith’s interview not appearing on Brentford ‘official’ as yet, I’ll be keen to hear his thoughts in full. Was it another game we ‘deserved’ to win or does he feel a draw was the just result? Funnily enough, we joked about his having a ‘deserved to win’ table on these pages after the Stoke game. Then sure enough, the Sky team would talk after the game about how the club “build an alternative table; the justice table”.

Hmm. I’m all for motivation and telling the players how good they are. Yet results don’t lie and the league table certainly doesn’t. If it works for the club whilst the Championship is still forming then fair enough.  Personally, I’m not a fan of the Justice league. If nothing else, Batman and Superman aren’t a patch on the Hulk and Thor….. 

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I’ll get my coat

Final observations about the game – the viewing experience via Sky Sports. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to travel for this one but there was a convenient alternative. TV.

Great coverage, in general, although even as the most ardent admirer of our quite stunning brown and orange kit, I don’t think I was alone in struggling to make out the respective teams. Perhaps it was easier at the ground, and certainly seeing it in the flesh at Stoke presented no issues.  Yet back home on TV, under floodlights, there did seem to be somewhat of a clash. Perhaps a case for orange shorts? Or a third shirt? There’d be no complaints from yours truly with either option.

As for Sky themselves, what is their obsession with our old badge? Still they get it wrong. Come on chaps, it’s not that hard. Surely? How can their graphics department be so out of touch? Let’s all move on from the clipart montage. If you have to get it wrong then at least give us a castle.

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Dear Sky. Please. Stop. Getting our badge. Wrong.

The only other point of note from the night was Reading who drew 2-2 with our next opponents, Blackburn Rovers. Whilst ordinarily as insignificant as result as they come, a point takes their total to 1. Meaning there is now only one team in the Championship who have P4 L4 Pts 0.  

And that, of course, is QPR. After suffering the indignity of a 7(seven) goal bracketing at the weekend, their own woeful form continued with a 3-0 home defeat to Bristol City on Tuesday. They’ve only scored twice all season and have GD of -11 already.

With Birmingham City also failing to win, again, anyone still feeling despondent about last night’s 95thminute (and surely there won’t be anyone now), just take a look at that table today. Top and bottom.

With Brentford not playing QPR until November, one can’t imagine Steve McClaren will still be in the hot seat by that juncture if they keep up this run of form.  Here’s hoping though.

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The fledgling table makes for great reading. At both ends

Nick Bruzon

There’s only one team I want to do it on Saturday. For all that is good in football.

26 May

For us Brentford fans, the season is over. A fourth top ten finish in the Championship, our last significant action of the campaign (aside from beating the Loftus Road mob, again) was Neal Maupay’s magnificent 94th minute equaliser at The Cottage in mid-April. Those two points denied to Fulham have ended up being the difference between their attaining automatic promotion to the Premier League and now finding themselves in a play-off final against Aston Villa. That game is today. Saturday.

But actually, I’m not as into it as perhaps I normally would be. This is nothing to do with excitement about the chance to play Liverpool bingo later in the Champion’s League final. More with the participants and what I’ve seen on social media this week.

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

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In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

 

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Could Scott Hogan celebrate another goal today ?

 

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T

Nick Bruzon

 

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

Here we go again…..

12 Sep

No sooner has the weekend gone than Brentford hit the road for a second away game in three days. Following the 0-0 with Aston Villa on Saturday, next up is tonight’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday. Can Dean Smith’s team make it 7th(seventh) time lucky and record a first league victory that, whilst our play has more than suggested should have come by now, currently remains tantalisingly out of reach?

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

 

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Arrogance and over confidence. How many times will we see it?

 

Nick Bruzon

 

What a wonderful gesture for fans. There’s still time to get involved.

7 Sep

With the Brentford Fan Forum tonight and the return to Championship action approaching with the trip to Aston Villa on Saturday there’s going to be more than enough to talk about over the next few days. So we’ll keep this relatively brief and acknowledge our near neighbours QPR. Specifically the fact that this Saturday sees them celebrate the 100th anniversary of their first fixture at Loftus Road when Ipswich Town visit. For the stat lovers amongst us, 8th September 1917 saw QPR take on West Ham for the stadium’s opening game and now they are looking to celebrate a centenary.

It wouldn’t be a ‘new stadium’ story without West Ham muscling in on the act. Apparently, and you may have missed it, they moved recently. Albeit these days the buzz is less about their own Olympic Park and more their owners. But that’s another story.

This time around, QPR are the team in the limelight. And to help mark this occasion they’ve been asking fans to use the hashtag #LoftusRoad100 to post pictures on Twitter. The best of these will then feature on the programme for the Ipswich game.

What a lovely gesture. And how great to see the reaction of supporters. Not just from QPR but other clubs, too. Not least Brentford where several of our fans have got involved in the action to help our neighbours mark the date. Photos of the stadium exterior, players scoring goal after goal, Romaine Saywers and even the technicolour marvel that is the scoreboard are all featured.

So do take a quick look. #LoftusRoad100. And for anybody wishing to get involved, the closing date for entries is 10am today.

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100 years of Loftus Road. Can you help them celebrate?

As for Aston Villa, I can’t wait to get back to action on Saturday. What with several of our heroes moving on, the Stadium news and Gibraltar shipping 9 in Belgium it’s been a turbulent week or so for yours truly. But all that’s behind us and its time to look forwards.

And what better way to do so than with the major positive being Sergi Canos. The Spanish wing wizard featuring in the B-team fixture at Griffin Park, against QPR of all teams, earlier in the week.

Whilst I missed the final score, I do know that he made it through 66 minutes of the game and seems as excited as ever about playing at Griffin Park. Certainly if his own Twitter feed is to be believed.

We all know how good Sergi is and what he can do. At a time when some of us might need a shot in the arm, to have him back will be a wonderful thing. Aston Villa haven’t had the best of starts and will no doubt be there for the taking, albeit I’m going for my standard Villa bet of 1-1 in this one (for research purposes, that’s currently available at 23/4).

The Villans sit just above Brentford in 18th place and, it would be fair to say, so far haven’t set the world alight this season. See also: last season. Moreso, for a team inexplicably tipped as title favourites when the campaign began.

That said, our own record isn’t as good as some of our play suggests. However, and quality though they were, with both Harlee and Max departing for Birmingham at least the plethora of defensive combination should be whittled down somewhat. There was a double pair of Danish clean sheets for Andreas Bjelland and Henrik Dalsgaard during the break, which will only have the defensive duo in high spirits. Chuck Sergi into the mix and who knows what could happen?

Whilst I’ve called it 1-1, Villa failing to score is an equal possibility. Certainly if our old friend SimonHateley on twitter is to be believed. He’s recently posted a wonderful graphic showing just how Villa Park really is THE place where goalscoring form goes to die.

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Villa Park. Where form goes to die. Apparently

That’s all to come though. First up we have the Fan’s forum. Don’t forget that one starts at 7.00ppm tonight in The Hive and so do get along if you can. I can’t imagine many other clubs doing this on such a regular basis and what a great chance to put anything you may wish to ask to our top brass.

Enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

What’s worse than a hashtag? Two hashtags. And a fake Whatsapp

4 Jul

Roll on August. Please. As tumbleweed continues to blow through the Championship, something actually happened yesterday. Brentford haven’t signed/sold anybody although Aston Villa have – and it would be fair to say they are wetting themselves over picking up a past his prime John Terry from Chelsea. Elsewhere, we’ve dodged the TV cameras with the latest fixtures up until the end of September. And there’s shock news there for Leeds United fans.

Clanggggg. The sound of a name being dropped. This week I wrote the annual season preview for FourFourTwo magazine, looking at the good and bad of Brentford, along with a number of other Championship based questions. One of which being – Who will be the biggest pantomime villain in the Championship this season?

I did think about Aston Villa super fan Simon Hateley – still smarting from all his bravado last season coming back to royally bite him. What was Villa’s record against the Bees? Ah yes, P 2 W0 D1 L1 GD -3 and £15m handed over – thanks for that.

But then it really would be too niche and, besides, Hateley fits more in the category of unintentional comedian rather than poor man’s Christopher Biggins. That said, he’s still going strong on Twitter at the moment, declaring his own Scott Hogan a ‘bag of shite’ this week. And you can follow him etc at @simonchateley.

Sadly, magazine deadlines ahead of an August publication got in the way of choosing a player who would surely have won the poll hands down. Aston Villa new boy, John Terry.

In the most cringeworthy of press releases – a simulated WhatsApp conversation between Dr. Tony Xia (the man going neck and neck with Vincent Tan as the Championship’s poor man’s Bond villain) – the news was released yesterday. In it, (current) manager Steve Bruce was given the news that Villa had got their man from Chelsea.

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Oh, you couldn’t make it up. Toes are curling just looking at this news now. I’m not sure what’s worse. The cheesy press release or the fact they’ve signed this most disruptive and washed up of players. No premier League club have touched him. No MLS side – surely the standard cash cow for any past their prime ‘name’ – have made an offer he can’t refuse . No side challenging for Championship promotion have gone near him. I can’t wait to see us run rings around the rusty old legs. September 9th can’t come soon enough.

There were multiple hashtags for this one. #WelcomeJT and #PartOfThe Pride. Still nowhere near #Bignewambitions or #Trophyfriends but at least we’ve dropped all that nonsense now. Good luck to Villa, seriously.

Whilst Hateley was unusually silent on the subject, comments on Twitter from other fans included: “Most high profile signing at Villa for years.” ,”Im over the moon with this, great signing, leading by example, UTV” and “Can not wait until I see the legend he is at villa park, what a sight that will be!” I fear this is a massive gamble that will only end in disappointment – whether for Terry’s new admirers or his team mates.

Give me Harlee Dean, any day.

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JT is a Villan. Indeed

Elsewhere, the latest round of TV fixtures has been announced. Brentford have managed to swerve the cameras whilst perennial Sky favourites Leeds United only appear once. Not a typo. The club that have had more appearances than Steve Claridge has had clubs have only been picked for their trip to Sunderland. Infact, there seems to be a real mixture of teams being shown for the games prior to 9 September.

That said, we’re not out of the woods yet with 14 July being the final date for the last September games to be announced. Fulham and QPR are amongst those to also avoid rearrangement, so far. Surely West London won’t avoid selection come the next round.

This is all part and parcel of being in the Championship, of course. Griffin Park has been a popular place for the cameras over the last few seasons and it’s no doubt a matter of time before our number is up. At least we can do some train booking in relative confidence though and with Sky having opted for Sheffield Wednesday v Nottingham Forest on September 9th, at least our trip to see Scott Hogan, John Terry (assuming not dropped, suspended/injured by that stage) et al remains as is

The full list of TV fixtures to date on ‘official’ .

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Brentford will return to Villa Park at 3pm on 9 Sep

AUTHOR’S PLUG – (it’s all for charity).

And if you’d like to read more about last season including those wins over Villa and Leeds, amongst others then please don’t forget (how could you?) that the regular season review e-book is now available for download. This one is titled ‘Welcome home, King Jota’ and this time around it is for a great cause. All funds raised are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Likewise, any subsequent sales from the previous versions.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 2016 to May 2017 and a bit of new material too, you can pick it up, here. It’s just £1.99.

So why not do something great to help our club. What else will £1.99 get you? What better way to spend some time on the commute to work, the beach, by the pool or even hiding out in the toilet at the office?

For less than the cost of half a pint on match day, it’s the season review that has been designed to fit in your pocket (if you are using an i-phone).

Nick Bruzon

From the best to the worst in football’s role of honour. Plus a new favourite site.

21 Mar

Whilst there were some Brentford fans upset about the recent sale of Scott Hogan to Aston Villa, one would hope that those concerns have now been dispelled. Ably abetted by the two amigos on the flanks, a rejigged formation and a great Dane up top, The Bees have money in the bank and 25 goals in the 11 games since the Scott moved to Villa Park. Things could have been a lot, lot worse as we’ll look at momentarily. At the other end of the field, there was great news for John Egan who was called up to the Republic of Ireland squad for Friday’s World Cup qualifier with Wales.

Nobody could doubt John’s performances this season. At one point he was neck and neck with Scott to be our leading scorer whilst, more importantly, has forged a wonderful partnership with Harlee Dean at the back.

Brentford ‘official’ share the great news on social media

I don’t envy head coach Dean Smith having to crowbar the pair of them, Yoann Barbet and fellow international Andreas Bjelland into his team. Perhaps the quality at his disposal goes someway to explaining our mid-season persistence with three centre backs. It was a valid attempt but one which persisted for far too long as it became clear it wasn’t working.

Yet, and with the greatest respect to Yoann and Andreas, John and Harlee are – at least in my opinion – our absolute nailed on first choice centre backs. Harlee has been magnificent this campaign and, along with Dan Bentley and John Egan, remains in my top three for player of the season. Although had Jota returned a month or two earlier then that competition would be an even stiffer one.

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Jota – c/o Sky. Imagine if he’d come back earlier…..

So news of John’s call up yesterday was one that is thoroughly deserved but has only been a matter of time. John, if you are reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) congratulations. As for Harlee and Dan, give it another season or two playing like this and their matching him on the International scene, for England, is well within the bounds of credibility.

Next up Twitter. A popular subject on these pages for many reasons. Ease of use, interaction with the actual players, Kitman Bob and his BBB giveaways, banter with fellow fans and the most immediate means of learning news updates are amongst the many reason for the site’s popularity here.

For Brentford supporters, there’s a recent addition to our family of familiar faces (© the Middlesex Chronicle big book of ’80s alliteration) out there in cyber space. Brentford Bot.

In their own words, “Judging Positive and Negative mentions of Brentford“.And that’s about all there is to it. But very, very well executed, often deadpan but sometimes laugh out loud funny and showing a tireless dedication to keeping the Bees family updated. I’ve no idea who the power behind the Bot is, but it’s well worth a follow. You can find @BrentfordBOT here.

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Brentford Bot does his/her/its (?) thing

Ok – striker sales. We talked at the top end about the departure of Scott Hogan to Aston Villa. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth need no reminding of what has happened in the past – Nicky Forster, Carl Asaba, Gary Blissett, Robert Taylor, Dean Holdsworth, DJ Campbell and even Andy Scott are amongst those who have been sold in their free scoring prime. Goals aside, the other thing connecting these players was their lack of a like-for-like replacement.

To be fair, how do you replace the likes of Deano, Bliss or the FT index? Even for the player, following a fan favourite and goalscoring legend must be thankless task. Yet when this goes wrong it can be truly horrific.

FourFourTwo magazine have just started to publish their list of every league club’s worst ever player. The initial instalment, in a series which is now running daily, runs from Accrington Stanley up to Bury, taking in the likes of Aston Villa, Bournemouth and of course Brentford along the way.

On the Bees front, it feels somewhat awkward badmouthing one of our own yet for whatever the reason we’ve had some players over the years who really haven’t shone. Past their prime, over weight, over rated or just really, really bad. It happens. It happens to every club. So when FourFourTwo approached yours truly for the name of the Griffin Park protagonist, it was one that eventually came about as a result of a public vote. Too much power should not lie with just one man.

It was a top five that included, in no particular order : Nick Proschwitz, Paul Davis, Murray jones, Neil Shipperley and Steve Claridge. Yet in the end the ‘winner’ was a clear one.

And you can find out who, here…

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Nick Bruzon