Tag Archives: Villa

Deploy the fishing rod emoji and brace for impact after points deduction

22 Mar

Poor old Birmingham City (yeah, yeah, yawn – I’’m “obsessed”). With Brentford having caught right up with our Championship rivals, to the extent of being a single point behind them with a game in hand as we head into international break, that gap has suddenly leapt to a whopping 8 in our favour. This after Sky and BBC WM (amongst others) today reported the point deduction awarded to the St. Andrews outfit for breaching profitability and sustainability regulations. It is a sanction meted out as a result of the club losing  £37.5m in the 12 months up until June 2018 after Harry Redknapp had gone shopping the previous summer. That, of course, a spending spree which saw Jota, Maxime Colin and Harlee Dean added to a wage bill that may have been ten times better for the players but has proven anything but for the club. With any punishment for the fan led assault on Jack Grealish in the Aston Villa game still lurking in the wings, who knows if there could be more to follow?

Yeah, yeah. I’m obsessed. Apparently. I love it though and don’t deny focussing on Blues. A lot. If for no other reason than they are a great yardstick as to our own progress. Can a team who plays fair and invests wisely, yet frugally, out play a free spending outfit with Premier League experience and a big stadium? A team who once had their moment in the sun but are now very much in the top flight shadows. See also: Leeds united, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough.  

Having finished above Birmingham for the previous four seasons in the Championship we’re now in serious danger of making that five out of five since promotion from League One. And it is magnificent.

Of course there’s the arrogance of so many fans on social media. Of course there are the cracks about being ‘tinpot’. About ‘little’ ‘teams like Brentford. But they are an irrelevance to me and to most Bees. Bring it on. All day long. We eat that crap for breakfast. It keeps us going. Inspires us. See also: Leeds United, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough. Size counts for nothing. Quite frankly,  the bigger you think you are the harder you fall. As is now being proven. The Twitter tears today are a quite magnificent thing to behold.

Of course there was big mouth Harlee Dean and his infamous ‘ten times better’ quote. As diplomacy goes, it was up there with Martin Rowlands and Russell Slade in the cult hero stupidity stakes (typo). Henry Kissinger, he ain’t. But we more than made our point about that in the two games which followed as Brentford scored 7(seven) without reply to secure another win double for the season. The post match lap of honour and singalong, as Big Bee Radio went rogue, the stuff of legend.

Yet for me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things bear repeating. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day.

1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning ,  there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a  3-1 aggregate win.

Deano and Bliss

The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as  Birmingham edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.

However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the campaign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.

Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).

Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..

And now, bringing things bang up to date, the nine point deduction sees us overtake Birmingham City once more. It is as familiar a tale as Brentford cocking up a play-off campaign. I’m not going to deny a smile upon hearing the news yet equally, I’m now desperate to make sure we finish the campaign ten times better off then them. Points wise. Let’s make sure that we’d have made it five successive finishes above Birmingham on playing ability alone, regardless of any punishment. 

So, yes. I DO focus on Birmingham City. A lot. But it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. The current rumours about Saïd Benrahma are proof alone of that.

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Just how much is he worth now?

Ultimately, a nine point deduction will make no immediate difference. City won’t go down whilst they were never in any real danger of assaulting the play-offs. Current form alone (LLLL) was conspiring against them. Yet this does, at least, look to mitigate against those trying to buy their way to success without having the resource to do it. Trying to consistently spend beyond their means, whatever the consequence . However fairly the others are doing it. Aka – cheating.

Big spenders, beware. And also owners looking to hire Harry.

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Not my words but those of the BBC

Nick Bruzon

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Prince William. Tom Hanks. David Cameron. Simon Hateley. Your boys took one hell of a beating. Again

13 Feb

Come on, Aston Villa. Perhaps one day you’ll give Brentford a game. One can’t even begin to describe the performance and dominance tonight as Thomas Frank’s Bees made it three on the spin at home to the Villans. Chuck in three away draws and that’s a mighty impressive record against the one time European Champions (1982 in Rotterdam, in case you hadn’t heard it mentioned before). Dean Smith’s return to Griffin Park was anything but a happy one as we warmed up for Sunday’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Swansea City in mightily impressive form. 

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Romaine brings the ball out of the back

It was another case of true domination against Villa. We’ve all been used to it over the last few seasons but this was about as one sided as it came. The visitor’s midfield was non-existent. Only a mass of bodies at the back, and the vagaries of our ‘referee’ Gavin Ward, keeping Brentford out. Yet the fact that it took injury time before Neal Maupay finally found the net made the eventual result all the sweeter.

It had never seemed in doubt from the first few minutes as Aston Vila were put on the immediate backfoot. It was a position from which they struggled to make any inroads but, and as we’ve said many times is the thing that actually counts in football, Brentford were unable to make the possession count. Brentford were unable to find the back of the net. Brentford looked like they may finally drop two points at home to Villa. Then that man Maupay stepped up and did his thing.

Oh my word, what a goal. What an explosion of ecstasy and relief from the crowd. What a finish as Maupay burst clear into the box before curling it high into the top corner. Visiting goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic left rooted to the spot as ball flew past him. Unable to do anything more beyond turning to watch the ball make the net ripple from the sweetest of strikes.

I’m struggling to remember specifics at present. The brain is a blur of excitement and relief. Despite outplaying our illustrious opponents for huge swathes of the game, we’d been unable to find a way though. The impressive Sergi Canos forcing a fine early save from Kalinic in the first half to set the tone for what followed in all aspects beyond the actual scoring of a goal. Here’s hoping he’s fit for Sunday and the injury related substitution was nothing more than a precaution. 

Even the most ardent of Brentford supporters were perhaps beginning to feel that this one may have to go down as an opportunity missed. Neal Maupay thought otherwise. It was one of those where you HAD to be there. I’m sure it was great on TV but the communal outpouring of celebration as the goal went in was one of THE moments of a season that is rapidly building pace to a frenzied denouement. Whilst one has to appreciate there were those who missed this game through their own personal circumstances, those choosing to deliberately stay away are missing out on something quite wonderful. 

Of course Warbs, Dean and Thomas have all played their parts in quite magnificent style but you have to doff your cap to Matthew Benham and the current regime at the helm of the club. Their vision and guidance has brought through the likes of Said Benrahma, Sergi Canos and Neal Maupay. Ezri and Julian continue to impress at the back. Long term Bee Yoann Barbet continues to exude enthusiasm from every pore. The last player to come in from the warm up and one of the last to leave the field of play at full time.It really is a special time to support Brentford.

That said, Thomas named a side without a traditional right back that instead chose to take the game to their illustrious opponents. Perhaps here was the answer to how you fit Watkins, Benrahma and wing back Sergi Canos (not a typo) into the same team. Moses Odubajo on the other side pushing an extremely high line as Villa struggled to get out of their own half. It was delightful to watch.   

Full time came with a traditional response from Dean Smith. Catching up with the replay upon the return home, he opined to Sky how it was, “On the scale of chances, not what we deserve”. Come on Dean, next you’ll be telling us that Villa won the European Cup. For once, don’t do press by rote. Just try and tell it like it was. This was as one sided a game as I’ve seen since the last time Villa visited this part of West London. Prince William. Tom Hanks. David Cameron. Simon Hateley  – your boys took one hell of a beating. Again. 

Where I would agree with Dean is his commentary about the referee. He’s always been one to say it like it is when it comes to the man in the middle and here he was spot on as he observed, “I’ve said this season the refereeing has been pathetic at times.” Truly, Gavin Ward was a nightmare. A Keith Stroud in Bobby Madley’s clothing. Penalties denied. Advantages pulled back. Decisions made with all the authority of a roulette ball trying to find an eventual resting place. How lovely would it be to have a referee and linos who get on with the game rather than instil a pre-match level of dread which is then fulfilled as proceedings get underway.  

The flip side to all this being that we won. Nobody will care that Gavin did once more what Gavin does so often. All that counts are the three points. 

Now bring on Swansea City and the FA Cup.

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Said takes the plaudits at full time

Nick Bruzon

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

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

Is this a case of ‘If’ or when?

4 Oct

Aaaaargghh. 5.30am. Alarm clock ringing. Eyes sore and head thumping with a plane to catch. I’m not going to lie – a few beers were drunk last night. And by a few I mean a lot. A rare night without Mrs Bruzon had been spent at The 100 Club in London’s swinging West End, watching popular music’s The Bluetones. Brentford fan Adam Devlin doing his thing quite brilliantly (guitar, rather than Twitter – where he is one of the undoubted kings of social media) and, as such, the cause of this morning’s discomfort. All of which meant thoughts of Aston Villa, Leeds United at the weekend and the swathe of stories I think I’d read on the way home had all been forgotten.

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I blame (and thank) Mr Devlin. Adam, not Mark

No bad thing, either. The last thing anybody in a fragile state needs at that ungodly hour is to start visualising cabbage or Steve Bruce sweating. So there was a half hour of respite until Absolute Radio kicked in. Specifically the sports bulletin where it all came flooding back with the news that, of course, Aston Villa had sacked their manager last night. That much anticipated decision finally made, despite the club only being two points behind a Brentford side who retained their place play-off spot after yesterday’s results planned out. I’ve no idea who won what games but a cursory glance at the table showed us in sixth.

The obvious question from a TW8 perspective is who will be pick The Bees starting XI for our own trip to table topping Leeds United on Saturday? The real snap back to reality was the news story continuing with the reminder that “Dean Smith, Thierry Henry and John Terry” were the early favourites for the now vacant seat. John Terry? Seriously? Wow.

Putting him to one side, there’s been talk for the last couple of years about Dean taking the position. The Villans are, of course, the team he grew up supporting whilst our own success in The Championship speaks for itself. Moreso, given the ‘small’ budget and controlled spending compared to some of the monumental transfer fees our more high profile rivals have splashed out. Indeed, Brentford have been the beneficiaries of a consistent buy low, sell high policy that has seen us stay within FFP rules despite our obvious size.

But being a fan of a club doesn’t make you a shoe in for the role. Dean may be the last person on Dr. Tony’s mind, especially given all the Thierry Henry talk over the summer. Yet given our man’s ability to work on a budget, and with his obvious connections to the talent in our squad, the lure is an obvious one.

Would Dean go if offered? You couldn’t begrudge anybody the chance to takeover at their boyhood club. I’m desperately hoping he’d politely decline if anything came his way now. That – and I think it was Natalie Sawyer who mentioned this yesterday – he’d want to stay put for now to see our job though. We’ve a wonderfully talented squad, a great attitude and a new home on the horizon. The future is very much a bright one.

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

We’ve been consistently strong, whatever the weather

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. A story which then led to getting lost down the rabbit hole of the internet, searching out ‘that’ A-Team episode when their Heath-Robinsonesque device of the week was the infamous cabbage launcher. Likewise, the question as to why they were always locked up in barns that were chock full of farm machinery, surplus machine parts, blow torches and welders goggles.

Yet we digress, as ever. These chances don’t come around very often and in my heart of hearts I’m already imagining the letter to supporters. His thanking Mathew Benham for the opportunity and noting how there was only ever one club he’d leave for. How he wishes Brentford all the very best for the future and can’t wait to play against us….in the Premier League.

Come on Dean, prove me wrong. Please.

Instead, let’s hope Thierry or anyone else gets it. Well, almost anyone. The last thing we need is another club being rebranded. Bad enough we’re currently being dragged kicking and screaming into the ‘Frank Lampard’s Derby County’ era.

One can only imagine how awful ‘John Terry’s Aston Villa’ will sound.

Nick Bruzon

P.S. If anyone from the band is reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) apologies for going all fan boy. But it was a quite magnificent night. On the plus side, that’s #BeeTheDJ sorted for Bristol City.

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That’s BeeTheDJ sorted at least

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

How times change. What a way to end the year.

30 Dec

How times change. The last time Brentford played Sheffield Wednesday (September’s game at Hillsborough) we came back on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat and ended the night sitting in the bottom 3 of the Championship table. Our hosts meanwhile, using the victory to climb into the play off zone. The Bees had acquired a mere 3 points from the opening 7(seven) games as we struggled to adjust to that triple sale of Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin to Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City. It was a period that even saw the statistical horror of Dean Smith having picked up less points than Marinus Dijkhuizen (8) at the same stage of the 2015/16 season. Things weren’t pretty. Moreso given our subsequent game with Reading which saw an early lead squandered in a tame draw that kept the Bees in the basement – only Bolton and Birmingham below them.

That was then. This is now. Suddenly, things clicked. Dean got his boys firing and the Championship is a much brighter looking place. A win today against the now managerless Owls could see us move to within 4 points of the play-off zone. Confidence is high following a run of just 2 defeats in our last 17 league games. Moreso, coming off the back of successive wins at Norwich (Oh, Romaine Sawyers. I’m still dreaming of THAT pass) and the Boxing Day knockout of Aston Villa.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Will who, now? Sergi was on fire against Villa, despite the torrential rain

That one in particular, as satisfying for the way we outplayed our opponents as much as the sour grapes (before and after) from manager Steve Bruce aswell as the self-entitlement from an element of the Villa fans.

Yes. You used to be good. You did win something, once. But that was then and this is now. Brentford are the progressive club, adapting to their circumstances. The likes of Villa, Birmingham and, to a lesser extent today’s visitors, amongst those who have experienced the good times and now finding things much tougher to adjust to when the boot is on the other foot.

We went into the Christmas period off the back of that awful draw with Barnsley. The 0-0 at Griffin Park was not a good game in any respect. That said, it WAS another point. The table doesn’t lie (whatever you may hear from much wiser people than yours truly) and we are where we are for a reason. Despite some wonderful play when we are on fire, failure to punish slack opposition or hang on to leads HAS hurt us.

Yet, at the same time, despite continued sales over the last few years (and some very tasty acquisitions, it must also be said) we have this wonderful knack of building team spirit and a squad which can more than compete on its day. We already have Emiliano Marcondes to come in, Lewis Macleod inching his way back into the team and Alan Judge on the bench following a 16 month recovery from that horrific leg break. There’s even the prospect of Konstantin Kerschbaumer to make a Toumani Diagouraga-esque second coming after a period out on loan. One has to live in hope…..

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Could we see scenes like this once more?

So I go into the game today fuelled with optimism. Excitement approaching peak levels. I have to be honest, I didn’t see us ending the calendar year like this after that Reading result back in mid-September. Yet now we are in a position where Brentford are the ones with a tentative glance being made towards the upper reaches of the table. With a squad that have picked themselves up after a shaky start to show some quite wonderful form. And with big spending Birmingham City now nailed to the bottom of the table. Barring a statistical miracle today, they’ll end the year in the relegation zone.

We may have lost Jota and Maxime. Harlee may think his new squad is ten times better than that which made the play offs under Mark Warburton. But I know where I’d rather be right now. A chance to go in to the top ten of the Championship with the right result and then a home FA Cup tie next weekend.

No doubt Sheffield Wednesday will be out to stop us in our tracks. The Owls will have more than a point to prove and, let’s not forget, caretaker boss Lee Bullen saw his team romp to a 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest last time out. This is by no means the stroll in the park that recent form may suggest. Brentford can do it today, no doubt. But blind optimism can be a dangerous thing if you are expecting a win – just look at Aston Villa. Dean and his team still need to be on their A-game.

Will we do it? Roll on 3pm to find out. See you there. I can’t wait for this one.

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More of the same from Boxing Day would be great. Apart from the rain

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.

Loftus Road 100

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.

Villa form

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