Tag Archives: Vitaly Janelt

Half man. Half Robot. All Burridge.

15 Jun

Another date with the reality of our situation is coming. Fast. As Brentford fans continue to bask in the excitement of our play-off win, Wednesday sees the Premier League fixture list released. The moment we discover when The Bees will entertain and (hopefully) visit the famous names we’ve only seen in sticker books, on Match of the Day, the odd cup tie or perhaps their own ad-hoc visits to the lower leagues. Leeds United, Wolves, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool. The list is a long one and is laden with anticipation. As was noted in the previous column, there’s not one opponent who doesn’t provide an added element of intrigue.

Yet before we get there, its time for another book back at last season from another of our special guest columnists. This time, the man that has seen it all. The man who has described most of it to us. Brentford’s commentator par-excellence and the king of I-follow, Mark Burridge. We caught up this week for a chat about all things from play-offs and Premier League to commentary and covid. Mark talks through his highlights on the pitch, his players of the season and the ethos coursing through the club – on and off the pitch.  Enjoy…..

As for today’s headline, we WILL get there…..

Mark and team at Wembley

Mark, let’s start at the end. 29th May at Wembley. For those in the stands it was the culmination of a life’s dream. Can you put it into words, both as a fan and a commentator.

How did you keep your cool? Did you? Any tears shed?

It was ultimate professional performance from players and staff, started fast, a brilliant counter attacking second goal and then they just comfortably managed the game. Swansea had only scored 3 goals twice all season, so I was convinced it was our day early in the match. There was no way back for Steve Cooper’s team. Every player was 7/8 out of 10 and when that happens with Brentford the opposition are in for a long day.

Being relaxed early on made it all more enjoyable, the fans clearly felt that way too, so many smiling faces on display at half time. It was a strange feeling at the end, nothing dramatic from me as the result had been clear for some time, particularly after the red card.

I felt intense relief, pride, a sense of justice and simply enjoyed the celebrations around me. The tears, hugs, generations of families together, a truly special moment that you knew had to be enjoyed. Stuart Wakeford came to embrace Marcus Gayle and like many fans, the final whistle was the signal for raw emotion and Stuart had found it overpowering. There was such a genuine warmth.

Marcus and Stu embrace

That very same togetherness was everywhere within our eyesight. Some fans had sunk to their knees, others waving flags, shirts, hats. It was our day, at last. The football gods, had called time on play off & cup final pain for Bees fans, at least for now. The infamous Doncaster penalty, the most cruel and numbing of last minute dramas, well if this now was the pay off we’ll shake hands and call a truce!

Knowing that we were finally going to leave Wembley as winners and had experienced just what reward the play offs could be, was very new to Bees supporters.. Martin Lange was smiling down on us.

We were going to carry on with broadcasting until after the trophy presentation, so it was just a time to treasure. Then I looked at my phone and saw a ridiculous number of Whatsapp messages…

After clicking on the first few, it was a still of my Dad in the stands which I knew might happen if we were victorious, as Sky wanted to feature some of the elder fans who were inside Wembley and had been watching Brentford the last time we were in the top flight (which has now gone viral much to Dad’s bemusement).

That really was an emotional moment and I started to think of our dear friend Greville, of Dan & Jamie Powell, how much this would mean to them after such a difficult time in the respective lives. They are here at Wembley, somewhere, loving this and drinking it in.

It was a beautiful emotion right then that I couldn’t put into words.

I just felt incredible gratitude that this moment could be shared by so many & mean so much to so many fans all around the world. Dry eyes suddenly became a little tearful, I’d never enjoyed a moment so much watching others and trying to describe what was taking place in front of our eyes. 

Being with Marcus Gayle & Ben Burgess and hearing their emotion and their thoughts on what this will do for the Club and community was another reminder of why ex pros have such an affinity Brentford Football Club. Contrasting backgrounds with Ben on loan for just one season (2001/2) but has always kept in touch with BFC, writes such good articles in the match day programme and does a sterling job on commentary when he joins us for games in his native north west.

Marcus is the fan who became a Bees professional footballer, Premiership player, World Cup international and then a role model through his work with Kick it Out. The man who had bought a season ticket and was enjoying the games as a fan again until we bumped into each other in a local food shop in 2016 and we had a conversation about joining us on match day commentary.

As everyone knows Marcus is now our proud Club Ambassador. Having seen him make his debut for Brentford many years ago, then to share this victory with both he and Ben, with my Dad in the stadium as well, it simply does not get any better than this. What a magical end to a long season.

You and the team have provided an absolute lifeline this season, With the gates to Lionel Road locked you’ve kept us going with the usual passionate commentary. To us, that side of things felt ‘normal’ but what was it like commentating in what was effectively an empty room? How do you maintain the enthusiasm?

I’ve heard others say working at stadia was joyless and soulless and can certainly understand why that would be said but everyone working at a match would no doubt have realised they were in a very privileged position. Travelling to and from games alone (EFL guidance) was something different and it was often a case of arrive, set up equipment and leave as soon as possible. It was all very well organised but quite surreal compared a usual match day

The games generally lacked the intensity & energy you would enjoy with crowds, which was to be expected. The players may well be professionals but they are human beings first and foremost, so it was tough for them, particularly with the condensed season. It was very difficult without crowds but we got use to it early on and had experience of this at the end of last season. The fans are the energy of football. They are to players, others fans and certainly commentators too!.

I had encountered some of the top names commentating on radio a few times without background noise and it was a hard listen. At Lionel Rd the gantry vantage point is simply incredible (a MUST see when tours are available) but we were the only ones up there broadcasting unless it was a SKY game, with the press level pitch side there’s so little you would hear in the way background noise, as we were are quite detached. 

One of the SKY commentators said he would find it very difficult without the fake noise they would have piped in their ears during the game. It certainly must have helped somewhat.

Fortunately I was lucky to be around people with a great knowledge of the game, all things Brentford and who were passionate, yet measured.

It wasn’t until the Bournemouth away leg in the play off semi final that it probably dawned on Marcus Gayle & I just how different football felt again. This totally changed again for the play off home leg. The volume was simply remarkable. Off  the scale. With just 4,000! This bodes well for next season!

iFollow raised about £42m for EFL Clubs. Were you aware just how important the service was to fellow fans. Did you feel it was important to stay as positive as you did?

There was hope that fans would be back after a few months, at least in reasonable numbers. So we had a numbers of ex players booked to join us who would be experiencing Lionel Rd for the first time and would be introduced to the fans inside the stadium before the match. Covid saw so many changes throughout the season, mirroring the case levels so it was effectively an ever changing feast. Some ex-players had to be cancelled and dignitary numbers were often being lowered from an already miniscule number.

Contrary to what was said after one game we certainly did not have 200 fans in the ground!!

Considering supporters had missed out on what should have been a packed house for the very last game at Griffin Park and then not had the chance to be at the first game at the new stadium it is fair to say that Bees fans had every right to feel very disappointed and frustrated. Allowing the options to freeze ST’s and offering iFollow free for so many games, along with the GP Tours are all examples of the Club being in tune with supporters. The input from the various fan groups playing a big part in the right decisions being made.

iFollow suddenly had a much larger audience and with it quite a few adverts! We never knew when they were coming on! Plus half time discussions were cut short because of the same. The cost to watch the games appeared to be good value and did allow fans to stay in touch with the season, even if it’s nothing like being at the game. 

Some supporters freely admitted they enjoyed it more as it allowed the opportunity to see all games when they might previously have only attend a handful during a usual season.

Covering both audio & visual commentary at the same time was also something that required tolerance from fans, as it is not perfect plus there appeared to be the occasional technical issue.

Overall though, iFollow worked well during a very testing time for everyone.

These past 16 months have tested the mental health of everyone and football has been so important for us all to feel connected to ‘normality’ so we were very aware that Brentford’s success might have mean more to people than ever before. Match day routines changed for everyone. No drink with your mates before, maybe now it was sit around the laptop, or the whole family around the TV.

We were positive because I know everyone involved on commentary regularly felt this team would get promotion from quite a long way out. When the squad was struggling for rhythm and consistency I don’t feel it is unfair to say so. Following the draw at Wycombe we did say as much.

We knew fans were getting frustrated. It was fast approaching winter, with much fear & uncertainty away from football itself and message platforms were the only outlet to vent an opinion.

At most games supporters will use up emotional energy at the game but last season was so very different and you probably saw the best and worst of social media. We couldn’t cover the ‘Boro away game due to Covid issues and the local BBC team did a great job. Once Brentford took control they were full of praise for our Club. Unfortunately there was criticism on a phone in by several home fans post match who, rightly or wrongly, felt the commentators were too generous to the opposition.

We have always intended, as is very the Brentford way, to be respectful to the opposition but it is a Bees service so you are representing the fans. Often away fans will connect to the opposition service, presumably just to hear what is said about their team. After the Leeds game last season we had their fans writing on Twitter how nice it was to hear opposition commentary say they the best team we had played since Wolves, some extending this as the ‘fairest’ they had heard.

Giving an honest opinion, hopefully a fair one is all you can really do. Some will like it, others not.

We love the game because not everyone sees it the same way.

What was a real tonic throughout the season is getting some lovely messages from fans, something for which we are very grateful.

What do you think was our performance of the season?

There were some key ones for me.

The 3 points at Barnsley came in the middle of monthly wins in South Yorkshire and got our season going. Some robustness was starting to become clear.

We were excellent for a long time at Watford, showed great character to get a point in the end and the Bournemouth league win at home was probably the best of the season at Lionel Rd

The formation change at Preston was much needed at a difficult time, the 5-0 win against a normally solid side was flawless.

The Cherries feature heavily for me in the whole season, the win at The Vitality Stadium at the end of the season was another important 3 points. 

Jonathan Woodgate’s team were on a great run at the time with 7 (errr brackets) straight wins, scoring for fun and clearly believing they had timed it right, to entering the upcoming play offs with an air of invincibility. Brentford winning, with 10 men for nearly 50 mins, dealt a blow to Bournemouth from which they never truly recovered.

In the end there can though only be one game that had absolutely everything.

Football is about excitement and drama, none of which you truly experience without fans. We all wish there were more supporters in The Brentford Community Stadium, on 22nd May but in this wretched season 4,000 was a huge bonus. 

It was the day Lionel Road finally became our new home, rather fitting in a week that saw bulldozers doing their worst at the wonderful Griffin Park.

So much has been written about that play off win but there wasn’t a hint of panic when Bournemouth went 2-0 up in the tie, in rather strange circumstances. Brentford still believed, Thomas Frank believed. Lionel Rd still believed. Our fans believed. Bournemouth did not.

So it proved, as we witnessed a catastrophic decision making meltdown by the opposition whilst under pressure from a rampant Brentford team that refused to give up. After Chris Mepham’s red card there was an air of inevitability about the outcome, yet it remained wonderfully tense at the same time.

Forss strikes late and Lionel Road erupted.

Begovic goes up for a corner in time added on and we notice the M4 Elevated Section is at gridlock both ways. ’Everyone wants a piece of this game’ we said, as it did feel the whole world would have been engaged in this thriller.

The scenes at the end will never fade either.

It was a reminder just why you love football and  simply worship Brentford Football Club.

There can be only one for Mark

Ivan Toney is, understandably, in line for our player of the season. You’ve seen a lot of Brentford teams over the years, is he our best ever? And who else do you think deserves to make up the ‘top three’ at the end of season awards

Without doubt Ivan Toney is the best for me. Not just for his goals. Barry Fry said he was also Peterborough’s best defender and we’ve all seen why. The amount of times we have seen our striker heading away from an opposition set piece. ‘I get back and defend because I want to help the team, I want to win’ he said at Wembley.

That’s what we had witnessed all season. He was a little rusty at the start of the campaign but once up to speed you could see Ivan’s quality.

It was at Sheffield Wednesday in October that he showed us what an incredible touch he possesses, linking up play with the cutest of touches and headers to feet. That’s when I thought there wasn’t much missing from his game. He scores, he’s brave, he has the skills of a midfielder, he defends, he leads. Can play out wide too, just see the quality of his cross for Ghoddos’ goal in the win against Luton!

Ivan was substituted late against Rotherham in the away game, allowing Aaron Pressley to make his debut. Before leaving the pitch he urged all his players to stay focussed for the last few minutes to see out the win, one of the little things you notice at a game that make you realise what a special team player he is too.

One of the greatest leaders in a red & white shirt we have ever seen. Pure winner.

My second choice would be Vitaly Janelt. Half man, half robot. A signing I thought likely to be ‘one for the future’, like many no doubt. Following the injury to Christian Norgaard the timing of his introduction was perfect. A solid debut up at Hillsborough, then impressive in the win at Oakwell, followed up with scoring his first Brentford goal against QPR.

Then he just kept getting better.

At Cardiff he got scythed down twice but just got up and on with it. A man made of steel.

He scores big goals as well – none more than against Bournemouth in the play off second leg.

Editors note: There have been more than a few from Vitaly – although not all commentated on by Mark…. 😉

Third choice has to go to Sergi Canos.

The way he has come back after a tough start to the season and following a bad injury has been remarkable. Nothing but admiration for him and the flexibility to play wing back so effectively was vital in helping gain promotion. 9 goals for the season, including a hat trick at Cardiff, he has been a bright spark for us on & off the pitch.

Love his ‘We want more’ tweets after each win. Still only 24. Hard to believe.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

Over the years you’ve been alongside the likes of Greville Waterman, Luis Melville, Geoff Buckingham, and co, what do you think the current team bring to the commentary?

Diversity, knowledge, pragmatism, humility and a big understanding of all things Brentford, both past and present.

They have all been excellent plus Karleigh Osborne & Charlie MacDonald fantastic new additions.

We always say to ex players ‘just come in when you like, at any time, fans want to hear your views more’. Their opinions are vital to make it work on a match day.

Where do you thing Brentford will finish in the Premier League next season?

I’ll go for 15th in our first season in The Premier League. Bees will take some big scalps and also possibly have a few uncomfortable scoreline.

Lionel Rd will be an important advantage when near or at full capacity. The crowd can play a very big part, as always. It will be fascinating to see how new signings blend in, alongside the players we all believe will prove their quality at the top level.

One thing is for sure, Brentford will have no intention of being tourists.

Finally, just how special do you feel last season has been for everyone connected with Brentford Football Club?

It has been a truly remarkable achievement to gain promotion this past season.

The team had the shortest of breaks last summer before the new campaign got underway and had also lost two huge players in Watkins and Benrahma.

There was a somewhat inevitable hangover from last season and the squad were at a new stadium where there was little advantage as fans had never been experienced – it was never going to feel like ‘home’ under these circumstances. After the last game it most certainly will do!

We lost the fewest amount of games (joint with Norwich), were top scorers again, and went of an unbeaten run of 21 games, then ending with another one of 12. Considering the gruelling schedule, this says all about the quality & character of the players and management but also speaks volumes about some of those not in the spotlight, such as Neil Greig, head of medical, plus Chris Domoney (aka ‘Sladey’) who looks after the aching limbs and muscles so well, whilst his effervescent personality can be infectious for all around.

Take in the Carabao Cup run as well, where we reached the semi final (including a quick taster of VAR) then to go on to achieve the ultimate prize is unheard of at this level.

How often do you hear of knockout tournament runs derailing a promotion campaign? Not to Brentford though, who bucked the trend with a relatively small squad.

If you also factor in losing the talismanic Christian Norgaard for a big part of the season, as well as captain Pontus Jansson, then hitting the top of the table only to promptly lose two more big players in Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva, you start to realise a little bit more about the magnitude of this success, to still achieve promotion.

Off the pitch we also have our heroes. Such as Bees fans Jamie Powell & Billy Coleman, whom the Club and fans have supported through extremely difficult times.

This shows the strength and warmth of the Brentford family. We all need each other. Together we are stronger.

The fans groups, Bees United, Bias, the social media message boards. All have played their part in trying to keeping fans engaged. When automatic promotion slipped away there were many reasoned voices stating the case to stay positive, including this column, and it has been very much appreciated by many.

Jim Levack also wrote an informative article towards the end of the season after a timely conversation with a staff member following the Cardiff game.  It was a time for cool heads.

There were also so many confident fans who sparked calmer debate ahead of the season extension.  After all if you’ve supported the Bees for some time the mere thought of play offs make your head spin a little! Yet there were so many believers this time who probably helped others to keep the faith.

Next season will hopefully see crowds back and we can all enjoy football as we have been use to over the years. In The Premier League.

The Club is in good shape. Both on and off the pitch. It is run by people with understanding of others, true empathy, kindness and warmth. You will be treated as a supporter, not a customer.

Brentford is entering a new chapter, the brand is set to grow. Most of us never dreamed we would see our football club play in the top flight. Yet he we are. Awaiting the fixtures this Wednesday.

Bring on the fixtures…The Bees haven’t played Liverpool since the FA Cup in 1989

Was this the best performance ever?

23 May

It was during the full time rendition of Hey Jude that I finally went. Bottom lip wobbling and tears streaming down the face. The emotion of everything that had gone before kicking in at the next level. Quite simply, the most incredible afternoon of football experienced as a Brentford fan. A 3-1 win home win over ten man Bournemouth (Special agent Mepham playing his own part to perfection) something where the scoreline alone can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the story. Swansea City now await in the final. Themselves, aggregate winners over a Barnsley side who couldn’t quite catch up in their semi. That’ll be a feisty one on Saturday but its not really a huge topic for now. What played out at Lionel Road was about as a special as it gets. To be part of it a privilege. A performance up there with Leyton Orient away. Burton Albion away. Preston at home – the one where we finally got promoted after the pain of what happened the season before. Oh for a repeat this time around.

It was an afternoon where everyone played their part even prior to kick off. The 4000 Brentford supporters making the place a cauldron of noise as the players warmed up. As the line ups were read out. As the players went back in. Peter Gilham doing his thing. Cripes, I was sounding like Madge Bishop after smoking 40 JPS by the time we made it to The Griffin last night. Can only imagine what his voice must be like now.

Bournemouth, warming up in our corner, left under no illusions as to the reception they were going to face when the game began. A crescendo of cat calling and jeers accompanying their own pre-match prep. Oh, I’ve missed being part of a crowd so indescribably. This little taster of what was to come sending goose bumps up the spine and that was even before Hey, Jude came over the P.A. For once, a ‘studio’ version rather than the rambling live one we were so used to at Griffin Park (“This time, just the ladies”) that, even better, seems to have edited down to cut quickly to the “Naaaa. Na-Na. Na-na-na-naaaahhhhh” . 

Then, our first blow of the day. This had all been going too well. The BBC match reporting revealed that Christian Norgaard had been replaced by Mads Roerslev. Himself, initially pushed to the bench to accommodate the return of Henrik Dalsgaard. True enough, Peter Gilham reading the teams out one last time confirmed we’d be needing an 11th hour rejig. Oh Brentford, it’s never easy. No matter. With Bryan and Emiliano starting this game alongside Sergi and Ivan, our attacking intent was still clearly the focus. Yet if this had us on a momentary backfoot, what happened next is one of those things that will go down in football folklore.

Thomas Frank had talked at length in the build up to this one just how important the crowd would be. We’d seen the videos and one even played out on the big screen. Of course we all knew this and were already doing our bit when, over in front of the main stand he started running down the touchline , gesturing to the supporters to raise the roof. Fair enough, until he turned the corner in front of the West Side. One North stand observer standing next to me said,”He’s going to do it. He’s going all the way.” Sure enough, he did. The crowd feeding off his energy. Thomas pumping them up. Taking fist bumps en-route. Arms whirling like some crazed dervish. Lifting the crowed and getting them whipped up in a manner that Delia Smith could only aspire to. Twelfth man? We were the entire squad.

Thomas turns it up to 11 prior to kick-off

And then it began. Brentford one goal down on aggregate but 90 minutes to turn it around.

And then it began. Brentford two goals down on aggregate but 85 minutes to turn it around.

If Christian Norgaard missing out was as bad as we thought it would be then think again. Danjuma broke at speed as the Bees attacked and with nobody but David Raya back, he had all the time in the world to bear down on goal ,  pick his spot and make no mistake. Crap. This wasn’t in the script. An absolute disaster of a scoreline. A catastrophe of a start. Yet if this was going to silence the crowd and take the wind from the sails, it was a case of anything but. Push up, Brentford? Oh yes. 

With a quarter hour gone (about one minute of actual game time, given the way that Bournemouth and goalkeeper Begovic in particular were time wasting – an injury free opening period seeing an additional ‘6’ awarded ) Brentford were back in it. Lloyd Kelly deemed to have handled Emiliano’s cross and referee Gillet pointed to the spot. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Cue pandemonium. Cue petulance. Cue Ivan Toney eventually being allowed to step up and do that thing he does, once more. Calm as you like and goal 32 for the season was the reward. The ripple of the net sending Lionel Road in to meltdown. An ear splitting wave of noise greeting the finish. 

Whilst I’ve not watched any of the replays as yet, Mark Burridge has shared this today. His own view (and comms) from the gantry. You want goosebumps? Take a look, and listen, to this….

1-1 on the day although a goal down still. Brentford kept going. Bournemouth kept it niggly. Trying to reach Wembley by not allowing a game to take place. The Bees pushed. Chris Mepham stumbled and there was Bryan Mbeumo to whip it off his toes. He rounded our former player and was clean through. A chance to run one-on-one at Begovic much as Danjuma had done to Raya. Except. Except. The sneakiest of rugby style ankle tap tackles followed as his out-stretched hand saw the flying winger felled. The decision was a no brainer. The photograph now doing the rounds to accompany it a work of art. I’ve no idea who took it but kudos. Straight red. No choice.

If a picture paints a thousand words….

Whether Bryan would have scored or Begovic smothered the chance we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter. Instead, Bournemouth were left to play the final hour, and any possible extra time, with ten men. Frankly, given the performance of Beogvic over the course of the afternoon they were lucky it wasn’t nine. I’m still not sure how he only got one yellow. The time wasting aside, the ‘injury’ he suffered after running into one of his own players was about as cringeworthy and embarrassing as it gets. Still, that was their problem.

Half-time came at about a quarter past six. Brentford had been unable to add any additional goals despite our best efforts, our crowd and our team. Sergi was on fire. Emiliano showing just why he is so highly valued by the coaching staff. Matthias Jensen (and the second half especially) stepping up his game to new heights. Surely a second goal would come after the break? Surely?

Within five minutes, our prayers were answered. Vitaly Janelt scoring a goal that I’m still not sure how it went in. He seems to tackle one of our players, one of theirs, fall over and unleash a blockbuster of a shot all at the same time. Even seeing that on the screen in The Griff later in the evening, it defies logic. But in it went. In it flew. A strike of the most incredible sweetness. The aggregate scores tied. Any pretensions of holding on that Bournemouth may have had sent back in to the dressing room to keep Chris Mepham company. Lionel Road erupting once more. The aforementioned cauldron threatened to bubble over. Bournemouth, a team visibly falling apart in front of us. Piece by piece. Their meltdown as clear as Michael Douglas after he couldn’t get his McDonalds breakfast.

On we went. On we pushed. The Bees with an extra spring in the step. Bournemouth wilting. A punchdrunk boxer desperately hanging on and awaiting that killer blow. Set up Marcus Forss to deliver it. 82 minutes on the clock and boom, it was there. A deadly first time finish from close in. The hunter’s aim was true. The place exploded. The players celebrating in the shadow of the water tower. All except Henrik Dalsgaard who stood in front of the North Stand. A messianic pose. Veins bulging. Mouth screaming. The crowd being egged further on. The intensity etched across his face. The moment one that, in retrospect, I only wish I’d had more than a mobile phone to capture.

Its fuzzy, but….

But that doesn’t matter one jot. What matters being that there were now less than ten minutes for us to hold the lead. What a time to take it. What a response followed. We kept going. We tried again. Bournemouth waiting until the four minutes of added on time to finally threaten. Begovic heading up for a last, desperate gamble. The stress levels were, I’ll admit, there. If it were to happen at that point then….. but it didn’t. The defence remained rock solid. The Cherries not given a sniff from their flurry of corners and set pieces. The final whistle greeted with the most deafening of roars. One to wake the dead. The waves of relief palpable. The hugs and ecstasy clear for all. It was a moment to top them all. 

Our record in the play-offs is about as well documented as they come. Whilst the job is any half-done, the feeling at full time was one of really getting a monkey off the back. To come back in such style. To show such strength of character. For Thomas to get his tactics spot on, despite the blow of losing Norgaard so late. It was just about the perfect performance. To be part of it a true honour. I can only hope those watching in the pubs had as much fun. The next best thing to being there. 

Then Thomas did his thing, again. The full time lap of honour greeted with more photos. More smiles. Yet instead of giving his traditional ‘thumbs up’, this time around he gave something special. “One more to go”…..

One more to go

I’m not an idiot. Swansea City will have enjoyed their own moment equally and be as pumped for the final as we are. Like us, they’re only 90 minutes from the Premier League. It’s going to be one hell of a tense affair on Saturday. Yet having experienced last seasons and then this, any additional motivation we may have needed was delivered in bucketloads yesterday.

Talking to Mark this morning, he nailed it just about perfectly. “Yesterday, Lionel Road became our new home.” 

I can’t wait to move in. I can’t wait to see who we may be inviting around for dinner. Just got the small matter of getting Saturday out the way first…

What else is there to say? Hats off Thomas Frank. As much as anybody, he got it spot on yesterday. From that bonkers lap at the start, through enforced last minute changes, excellent tactics and key substitutions. A top, top performance from that man.

THANK YOU.

Nick Bruzon

Rams await as Sergi speaks out.

16 Mar

Tuesday night. Another round of fixtures at the business end of the Championship table. The weekend played out with Brentford seeing our own win on the road matched by away wins for Swansea, Barnsley and Watford on Saturday. Norwich picking up three points the following day. Now, we’ve another chance to see if things can change around any. For the Bees, a trip to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County awaits. The Hornets are at Rotherham whilst Steve Cooper’s side face a trip to Bournemouth. Themselves, once looking nailed on for automatic and now trying to play catch up to the play-off pack. How quickly things can change. How quickly they can return with a few wins on the bounce. Easier said than done, of course. Elsewhere, Sergi Canos has spoken to Sky Sports about his own return from injury and the social media abuse being handed out this season by some of our followers.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

First up, Brentford face Derby County at 7pm this evening. The Rams are very much at the wrong end of the table compared to recent seasons and whilst relegation is probably not a subject on the agenda, they’ll want to start picking up a few points to make sure. Should Birmingham City start winning a few Derby may find themselves sucked in once Rotherham’s mammoth four games in hand play out. Stranger things have happened.

They’ll need to start finding the back of the net though. Saturday’s home loss to Millwall was their fourth game in a row without troubling the scorers. The sort of stat that always makes me angsty. I’ve been following Brentford far too long to take anything of that nature for granted. Following football far too long, to be fair. Complacency is the mother of all f*ck ups and we’ll need to be at our very best tonight. Pride Park never an easy place to go, regardless of how well our opponents are playing. The Championship a division where anyone can beat anyone. Something we’ve said many, many times. Mainly because it’s true. All being well a philosophy Watford and Swansea City will be on the receiving end of this evening. Much as we need to focus on ourselves only, let’s not pretend we won’t be keeping an eye on those other results.

The good news is the Bees played out of their skins to beat Blackburn Rovers on Friday night. Rock solid at the back and dominant in midfield. Winston Reid and Ethan Pinnock (a player I saw described afterwards as a ‘heading machine’) locking it up in the CB positions. The combination of Vitaly Janelt and the returning Christian Norgaard made the midfield a dream to behold. Ivan Toney doing what Ivan Toney does. Scoring. It was the sort of game that might have seen us pegged back or even beaten in days gone by. This time around, we held our nerve and took three crucial points. More of the same tonight would do very nicely, thank you. Here’s hoping everyone remains fit as, if so, I can’t see Thomas changing anything up. Sergi Canos the obvious choice to come in but given how the team played, I’d imagine he’ll have to be content with a place on the bench and trying to make his usual high energy impact.

Ah, Sergi Canos. What can you say? Well, if we’re on these pages its only going to be positive stuff. Or, at least, fair.  Then again, any regular reader (should such a concept exist) will know that. Aside from being our Harry’s favourite player he’s one of those you can’t help but love. The passion, the desire, the team spirit. The goals. The speed. The enthusiasm. The love for Brentford and our fans. Sure, he’s had his off days but who hasn’t ? The season has been a long one and players must be knackered. Moreso coming off the delayed end to the previous campaign. For Sergi, there was also that injury suffered at Nottingham Forest that kept him out for the best part of 2019/20. It’s amazing to think that at only 24 years old he’s fast closing in on his 200th Brentford appearance. 

Yet all this hasn’t stopped a quite bizarre hate campaign, bullying even, from a sub-strata of apparent fans on Twitter this season. Criticism and objective comment is one thing but this has been nothing short of consistent bile. Poison. Keyboard warriors at their very worst. We all know who they are. Their crud keeps popping up. You can try to avoid but still it appears. Frankly, I’ll call it out anyway. We can pretend it isn’t going on but it is. See also: FrankOut. Err…..?? Our team have been on an upward trajectory all season, everyone wants the same thing – promotion – and moreso after the frustration of how last season played out. So how does a ‘special’ group think they can help? By putting the boot in to one of the players trying to achieve that goal. Go figure. And sure enough, Sergi has seen it.

His interview with Dan Long on the SkySports website is here. Everyone should read this. Regardless your opinion on the player. WE all have favourites. We all have players whom, perhaps, we may inwardly groan when we see their name on the team sheet. My word, some of those to have worn the red and white over the years…. Cripes, it makes your hair curl to think back. Yet despite all of this we’ve supported them through thick and thin. Certainly, at the time. No matter how frustrating it was. And that’s been the (relatively) crap ones. The sad thing being Sergi’s actually ‘any good’. Yet the lemmings have had it in for him. His own comments sum it up..  

Normally, when you are not injured, you are playing and you manage that criticism during the season, but because I was going from zero to 100, it did affect me a little bit because it wasn’t only coming back from injury, it was also handling that pressure and that criticism from everyone. It was quite shocking because it was all at once. It didn’t help me, I’m not going to lie.

Perhaps it’ll subside. Perhaps just one person might change their choice of words or think before committing comment to social media. Might also consider the mental health of players. Just because they have the dream job and the public eye doesn’t make them immune to a constant barrage of abuse. Be kind, everyone. Would you say it to his face? Well, we all know the answer to that. 

I’m glad Sergi has said his thing. It’s a shame he has had to but it’s nothing we haven’t been banging about for months on these pages. Now, perhaps, everyone can just shut the heck up and back our boys. All of them. There’s 11 games to go and every point, every goal, is going to be crucial. Starting tonight at Derby County.

I’d love to be there in person. Instead, it’ll be time spent on the sofa with Mark Burridge. Metaphoriocally speaking. Sky also have it on the red button. See you there. In spirit.

Amazing to think this was 2015 yet he’s only 24

Nick Bruzon

A very beautiful, ugly win. They all count though.

13 Mar

Well, well, well. I’d open with a comment on our league position but fear some of us might get upset. DM’s are open hun. Hope all is ok. Instead, let’s look at the result. Brentford beating Blackburn Rovers 1-0 on a Friday night capped with another ice-cool penalty finish from Ivan Toney. A game in which we dodged more than a few bullets, no question, but perhaps could have scored more ourself. A game marred by a horrific looking injury to Bradley Dack after the Rovers’ man almost caught David Raya cold when going for an opportunistic steal. You could see the upset on Tony Mowbray’s face, obliged to talk to Sky at full time when it was clear his mind was only on his player. A game where there was no irony lost in the fact our winner came from the penalty spot whilst, being honest, our hosts  should have had one of their own awarded following a clumsy challenge by Mads Bech Sørensen on Ryan Nyambe. I’ve seen them given, Clive, and that was definitely one that got away. Given the run of ropey spot kick decisions enjoyed by Swansea City in recent weeks, perhaps it was time one went our way. No matter how harsh it was on the opposition. With the Swans at Luton this afternoon and Cardiff City knowing that defeat of Watford could see them enter the play-off positions, it’s all set for an intriguing Saturday.

First up though, events at Ewood Park. The excitement was palpable from prior to kick off with the selection of both Christian Nørgaard AND Vitaly Janelt in midfield. Finally. The moment we’d all been waiting and my word, wasn’t the return of our great Dane a joy to behold? He was magnificent from the off. Janelt likewise. The question of whether they could play together answered in emphatic style with attack broken down and passes being pinged forward with abandon. Widemen Fosu and Mbeumo playing just as fluently to take the game by the scruff of the neck. The former earning the spot kick after racing a beautiful pass from the ever creative Toney and being felled in the box. Up walked Ivan with his trademark approach. His trademark precision. His trademark goal. 1-0 up and only ten minutes gone.

No words needed

Brentford pushed on and pushed up. Possession dominated. Janelt and Jensen with the best of the follow up chances. The game in control but the knowledge that we’ve seen so many of these lost in the past always at the back of the mind. A second half that could have seen it go ether way. One finger tip save from Raya denying Dack when it seemed the ball would surely sneak inside the far post. Ivan Toney with a wonderful effort from just inside the Rovers half almost saw goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski lobbed when off his line. Substitute Sergi Canos unleashing a piledriver within moments of coming on that Kaminski did well to turn away. Marcus Forss perhaps guilty of missing the chance to put the game to bed and avoid us enduring those painful last few minutes of squeaky bum time. That’s before we mention the two penalty shouts for Rovers.

Mads has been very, very lucky. I’m still not sure how it wasn’t given but, you know what, I’ll take the decision. No matter how hard done by Blackburn will surely feel. Match referee Geoff Eltringham at his most random. Just as we’ve said Swansea would, obviously, accept everything that has gone their way in recent games of course we’d do the same. Move along. Nothing to see here. As for the Dack shout, I’m not so sure that was as cast iron as our opposition make out. It almost seems a secondary discussion given the injury suffered in the subsequent coming together. What seemed innocuous as it happened soon became clear to be anything but. The Blackburn manager confirming at full time that Dack was in a bad way with suspected cruciate ligament damage. Sometimes, our beautiful game can be anything but. Moreso given the same player had only just returned in December from a similar injury. Kudos to Tony Mowbray for keeping it together with a camera shoved in his face. He clearly wanted be anywhere but there and his words really emphasised the bond shared with his players.      

For Brentford, three points earned. The sort of game that could have been an absolute potato skin has ended with all three points coming back to West London. The return of Christian Nørgaard something that cannot be under estimated. Cannot be lauded sufficiently. He, Vitaly and Ivan were immense. They all were though. Winston Reid and Henrik Dalsgaard brutally tough. A rock solid Bees team able to call on both strength and skill. No pushovers. The top end of the table calling. A trip to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County on Tuesday night and then Nottingham Forest visit next weekend before international ‘break’. Let’s just keep Christian away from the Denmark squad, this time.

The rest of the weekend fixtures start to play out at lunchtime. Luton  – Swansea is first up at 12.15pm with Watford going in the traditional 3pm slot. Any favours grateful accepted. None expected. This promotion race will go all the way to the line. Brentford are currently in second place. That’s a fact and certainly nothing to be ashamed about. Here’s hoping we’re still there after game 46. If we can achieve what Thomas Frank described at full time as “A very beautiful, ugly win” then anything is possible. Starting at Derby…..

Nick Bruzon 

Points are closing in.

28 Feb

I woke up this morning to H bouncing all over the house. Ecstatic about the Brentford result against Stoke City but, as much, events at Bournemouth and Swansea. That’ll be what watching the highlights on Quest does to a a 7(seven) year old – and dad, to be fair. So as much in an attempt to continue my own shoddy home schooling as in his own desire to get involved, he’s shared a few more thoughts. Here’s Harry’s take on events at Lionel Road yesterday….

POINTS ARE CLOSING IN

It was great afternoon for Brentford because I always have a bad feeling about Stoke. 

It was lucky that my lucky shirt was soaking wet from the washing machine because Stoke were wearing the same colours of black and yellow. My dad was still wearing the same lucky shirt though but we told him to take it off after Stoke scored.  It was quite soft after Raya kicked it out towards them rather than Sorensen. Where’s the Raya of the fuzzy hair and the great saves? I want him. Not the Raya of the short hair and the slippery boots.

The first half was quite stressful because it looked like we were never going to get a goal. Mostly because we trying to play a killer ball down the core instead of going to the wide areas and stretching out the defence. Stoke played well.

In the second half Stoke had pressed so hard earlier they couldn’t keep up with Brentford. Vitaly Janelt stood round the edge of the penalty box saying “Give it to me. Give it to me.”

So Fosu was like, “Here you are. Here it is. What are you going to do with it?

Well I’ll show you what I’m going to do” and then he boots it into the top corner.

Then the goalkeeper say, “Where’s the ball gone? I thought it was at Vitaly’s feet a second ago…… Oh, its in the back of the net.” 

I’ve only seen a better goal when Sergi booted it over the head of Smithies against Cardiff. It was one of those goals where I always try in FIFA but never get it right. Apart from that Vitaly gets it right.Vitaly’s goal was as funny as Bristol City’s last goal against Swansea. One on one, who wins? The striker does !

Later in the game Ivan Toney scored his goal. He put it in like the keeper was sitting down on the pitch. Toney had two options. He could go for placement or power. Well, he’s a striker and he’s that close. Me, myself, would have gone for power anyway. Just in case but Ivan just goes for placement. It was a crucial goal for Brentford. The goal also lucked out on us big time because Watford and Bournemouth both got red cards but also Watford lost and it was only one goal for Bournemouth. 

Harry Bruzon

What a difference 7(seven) days can make. Was this goal of the season?

28 Feb

Well, well, well. Wasn’t that the day? Brentford pulled the quintessential game of two halves out the bag to further tighten the screw on second place after a 2-1 win at home to Stoke City. It was a game with numerous highlights, and a few lowlights, but the standout moment being an absolute blockbuster of a goal from Vitaly Janelt. The midfielder leathering it from 25 yards out on the diagonal, hard and high into the top corner. It was a strike which reignited our fire in a game containing so many elements of classic 2020/21 Brentford. Yet with every other result going our way, it really was a quite wonderful Saturday. Watford losing to Bournemouth in a fixture which ended with more handbags than Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe was followed by Swansea City getting tonked at home by Bristol City, leaving the Bees three and four points clear of the Hornets and the Swans respectively. Plus, of course, infinitely superior goal difference. Granted the Welsh outfit still have two games in hand but compared to full time at St.Andrew, when they were one point behind with three games over us, things feel a touch less angsty.What a difference 7(seven) days can make! With Norwich City travelling to Wycombe Wanderers this lunchtime before hosting us midweek, the battle at the top of the Championship table is more alive than ever.

We can only start with Brentford, though. My word, even by our standards it was a horror show of a start. There was the classic ‘early goal’ conceded after an attempted pass out by David Raya went the same was as it did to gift Coventry their second goal last weekend. With less than thirty seconds on the clock and seemingly under no pressure, he rolled a clearance straight to Stoke City player  Tommy Smith who took the unselfish option and squared to Jacob Brown. There was no mistake with the simplest of finishes and that was it. 1-0 down. 

You do it to yourself, you do. And that’s what really hurts,” as popular music’s Radiohead once sang. It was almost a mirror image of last weekend and totally inexplicable. For what its worth, I think Raya is hands down, if not feet, the best in the division although one can only imagine some specific practice in training this week ! Let’s put this down to bad luck and get it behind us. Fast.

So there we were again. A goal down. A goal that, being honest, was as gifted as they come. Opponents who we then struggled to make any headway agasint. They bossed the midfield and pressed us hard. So hard. Brentford forced to go backwards and sideways with such regularity it was almost as though Thomas Frank had been possessed by the spirit of Marinus Dijkhuizen. Oh, this was tough. The Bees unable to make any headway, time and again attempting to play it through the eye of a needle in midfield before getting snuffed out. Stoke City physical, solid, determined. Expending so much energy that as the quite excellent Charlie MacDonald in the I-follow commentary box noted,’There’s no way they’ll be able to keep this up in the second half.’ My word, he was right.

Once again, Brentford came out flying. The change in approach, coupled with some tactical substitutions for the Stoke players who had already picked up bookings, was palpable. If ever the notion that football is a game of 90 minutes could be demonstrated then then here it was. With Stoke seemingly burnt out, the Bees were flying. Pressure built. The flanks were finally used. Mbeumo finding his feet. Within ten minutes, the scores levelled after that absolute blockbuster from Vitaly. Sh*t. Did you see that? He must have a foot like a traction engine. To coin a phrase. Goal of the season contender and then some. It was a moment to make us scream the house down. The neighbours thinking, well I don’t know what but, frankly, for a moment like this then who cares? It was incredible. A strike that warrants viewing after viewing after viewing. How do we find them? Hats off to our DOFS once more.

Stoke left dead on their feet – loved this one from ‘official’

Magnificent though the goal was, and it was, there was still a hell of a lot more to do. Swansea City were winning. We weren’t. Then the bench kicked in. Jensen and Canos both on. The tempo increasing. The Bees coming ever closer to what felt like it must be inevitable. On 77 minutes a very welcome return fro Christian Norgaard. The Dane replacing Janelt who left with his head held high. A first league start in an eternity and what a time for him to re-enter the fray. Within two minutes we were ahead. Yet another Brentford trend of the season, a goal for Ivan Toney. He got on the end of a ball from Mbeumo to guide it home for 2-1. A 25th of the league campaign and now six clear of Adam Armstrong in the race for the golden boot. Incredible. Just incredible. With 13 games left, what could he finish on? What records could he break?

Even better though. As we took the lead, so did Bristol City. And then they did it again. With our own game  steered safely home, the Robins delivered the ultimate of favours. Three points denied Swansea and a further goal difference shift in our favour. There’s still a hell of a long way to go on that front but compared to last Saturday lunchtime, things certainly heading in a much better direction. If nothing else, it was quite wonderful seeing our more excitable element discover that the Championship is decided on a season’s worth of results rather than a car crash at Coventry or a 7(seven) day blip. Not that I’m counting chickens here because I’m not. I’m as confident as I have been all season but, also, acutely aware that  football is football and Brentford is Brentford. Get complacent or arrogant and you get bitten on the arse. At the same time, the table doesn’t lie and I’d rather be sitting in our shoes than anybody else. Perhaps Norwich City aside. The trick now is to keep on turning that screw. Starting Wednesday at Carrow Road. Cripes, that’s going to be immense.

For now, though, its all about another wonderful team performance. At least, in the second half. I’m still not sure what caused the no-show in the first half but kudos to the Bees for hanging in there. Likewise to Stoke City for really making us work for it. In the end though, it was a game we grew in to. It was a game that never felt it would slip away the more it went on. The return of Norgaard about as big a boost as one could hope for. Likewise, the signing of Winston Reid looking as shrewd an acquisition as they come.

I don’t want to get overly carried away here. The Championship still has a huge distance to run and will have more shocks, twists and surprises for sure. Yesterday was a huge psychological boost for Brentford – and perhaps even some of our Twitter crew – on and off the pitch What a way to set up the Norwich City game. See you there. On the sofa. Until then, I might just go and watch that Janelt goal one more time.

Things I’d forgotten about. Could Norwich’s loss be our gain on Wednesday?

Nick Bruzon 

Banging the drum for our Triple J.

25 Nov

Another game unbeaten. Another clean sheet. Another goal for Ivan Toney. Another three points for Thomas Frank’s squad. Brentford left Oakwell on the right end of a 1-0 win over Barnsley on Tuesday. The run now up to six games without defeat whilst conceding a mere two goals over that period. The Bees are sitting within touching distance of the play-off zone – up to eighth in the Championship table ahead of tonight’s fixtures. Then there’s the small matter of the game on Friday night. A televised visit from the Shepherds Bush outfit.

Ivan does it again

The obvious talking point ahead of kick-off was the team announcement. Ghoddos out. Canos out. Janelt and Fosu both starting whilst Ethan Pinnock also made a return. No arguments with any of that although Mads Bech can perhaps count himself unlucky after impressing to date. As noted last time out, the performances against Wycombe and Middlesbrough had been somewhat of a ‘challenge’ to sit through. Defensively sound but stifled creatively. Most of the midfield / attacking force failing to impress and, whilst I still can’t get my head around the vitriol directed towards one player, it was clear some changes were needed.

Change is what we got. The addition of Janelt to the centre of the park adding more solidity. Doing to Barnsley what had been done to us in recent weeks. Good luck Thomas Frank once Christian Norgaard is fit ! With it came the added confidence to push up. Tarique Fosu finally unleashed and having a blinder, too. An early shot from the edge of the box coming close but Jack Walton in nets managed to keep it out. Rico Henry could also count himself unlucky with a similar effort as Brentford went for it from the off before the game settled down.  One smart stop from Raya aside, there was little else to recall. Barnsley barely given a chance to threaten as the Bees waited for what seemed like the inevitable goal. 

It was only a matter of time, suggested Mick Cabble on the Iplayer comms team. Mind you, we’d felt the same against Middlesbrough and Wycombe, only to see them end in those insipid 0-0 draws. This one was different though. The second half began with Marcondes (2019/20’s Canos – we need one every season, it seems) on for Josh Dasilva. All being well that’s nothing more than precautionary. Like Rico, Ethan, David and Ivan he’s been up there in our best and most consistent performers so far. Long may that continue – especially with Friday’s big one approaching.

Brentford pushed up once more (the absence of that chant another reason to abhor the current situation of empty stadia).  Mbeumo came close before who else but Ivan Toney was there to remind us of the way to goal? With just over an hour gone, he rose like a salmon to guide home a Mathias Jensen corner. 1-0. Game on. Pressure off. It really was a precision effort. The technique and the steer all about what made this one. Placement over power as Walton was left with a mountain to climb trying to get even half-way close.

It could have been double almost straight after. Toney charging Walton to force a hurried clearance which fell to Mbeumo via Marcondes. The wideman broke forward, sofas at home already relived of the pressure as we all leapt to our feet in anticipation. Nooo. He fired just high and just wide. It could, probably should, have been two. I can imagine the Twitter meltdown had it been another player 😉 . Instead of cruising over the line we were left hanging on to the thought that one freak moment, one mishap and things would be level. But it wasn’t to be. 

Canos and Forss both made it on to the pitch late, with the former cueing up the later for a chance that – like Mbeumo – the player may well be frustrated about not burying. That’s football. We got the win and the record books will reflect three more points to Brentford. The table does’t lie and we wake up this morning to see the Bees just one win away from third placed Bristol City. Frank out !

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, that’s for sure. I’ve never professed to be an expert when it comes to football but at the same time, it was clear something hasn’t been working. Personally speaking,  I loved the combination of Janelt, Josh and Jensen in the middle and will certainly be banging the drum for our Triple J once again. Probably a little more niche than the BMW or FT Index but if you know you know.

Niche

Of what is probably broader discussion on social media, could Thomas Frank’s rolling of the dice marked Fosu prove to be a key moment in the season? Certainly Tarique took his chance in some style and must be a shoe in for Friday. Only time will tell on the anger term choices but with the games coming non-stop, it won’t be the last change we see. Sergi will be back. So will Saman. Sometimes those selections will be expected. Others, not so. That’s the one thing we have been calling all season – that squad use is going to be pivotal. If for no other reason than the increased substitution ruling has given more flexibility. Yesterday’s game already seeing us make four changes mid-match.

For now, I can’t see any change for Friday. Injury aside. We’ve continued to look solid at the back but despite ‘only’ scoring one goal, it never felt in doubt. There was confidence and attacking intent. A midweek trip to Yorkshire in the cold has all the appeal of sitting down to watch the Mrs Browns Boys Christmas special (warning – it IS coming back. Again. Like cockroaches, I can imagine Mrs. Brown and her cardigan would be the only thing to survive nuclear war). 

However, we rose to the challenge and held firm when it counted. There won’t be any amongst us who wouldn’t have taken a 1-0 had it, somehow, been able to be offered prior to kick off. With Quarter Pound off Rubbish next up, Brentford couldn’t have found a better time to return to winning ways. Now, over to you Peter Gilham. Something about a team talk….

You know it would happen

Nick Bruzon

Football fraud or the right result?

8 Nov

WE WON THIS GAME, BY A LOT!… THE FANS WERE NOT ALLOWED INTO THE STADIUM. WE WON THE GAME, GOT 71,000,000 GOALS. BAD THINGS HAPPENED WHICH OUR FANS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE. NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. MILLIONS OF THANK YOU LETTERS WERE SENT TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER ASKED FOR THEM! Hmmm. Not even Donald Trump himself would be able to try and convince you that the 0-0 snoozefest between Brentford and Middlesbrough was anything but a gift from the gods for the insomniacs amongst us. Whilst there was some consolation to be taken from the hilarious proceedings at West Ham later in the evening (where FulhamL have done it again) let’s not pretend the game at Lionel Road wasn’t horrific. Football fraud of the highest order.

Official update us as FT. Was this the score or shots on target?

Let’s try to look positive. Brentford didn’t lose. We’re unbeaten in four games now. Mads Bech Sorensen impressed again as did Ethan Pinnock alongside him. The Bees are only five points off second place and we now get a well earned rest. Thank heavens Rico Henry and Ethan Pinnock have avoided international call ups. 

Likewise, Middlesbrough are no mugs. With the Jonathan Woodgate experiment consigned to the annals of history, Neil Warnock is doing what he does. Sucking any glamour out of his football and, instead, replacing it with a steely resolve. An indefatigability from his squad combined with a simple inability to breakdown the most solid of midfields. With Matthias Jenssen shackled all afternoon and Vitaly Janelt sitting in the holding role, we were unable to make any intent as the midfield was swamped in our visitors favour.   

Ironically, despite the presence of the Championship’s leading scorer in Ivan Toney it was Janelt himself who had the one golden chance of the game. With Brentford starting the second half in a more attacking frame of mind, he connected with a low Dalsgaard cross just yards out. Surely this was it? The sort of opportunity even Ian Moose might have claimed he could have tucked away as easily as he would a pie at a half-time buffet. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Instead of guiding it home the shot was slashed at and spooned wide. Urghh. 

It was that close. At least I think that’s what they’re saying

It happens. No slating of the player from me for a solitary near miss. Middlesbrough came to do a job and boy did they do it. They got their point and stay above us. Frankly, we didn’t have the nous or the tactical wherewithal to get past our opponents. Kudos to them for also going unbeaten and their own start to the season. Say what you want about it but they’re a hell of a lot more effective than last time out. The sort of Boro’ side that have long held the jinx factor over us in the Championship. I suppose we should be grateful we didn’t lose! 

Look. It’s one more game. The unbeaten streak is coming together. We’re well, well in contention and have a run of games coming up against lower placed teams. Wycombe, Barnsley, Quarter Pound of Rubbish and then Rotherham United. Those of you getting stressed that we aren’t winning the league with 33 points come back after those. Look at early pace setters Reading whose record now reads LLL. Look at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County – languishing at the very bottom of the Championship after Sheffield Wednesday saw their 12 point deduction reduced to 6.

The Championship is an absolute marathon rather than a sprint. The table may have ‘taken shape’ but it is still tighter than Trump’s claims of voter fraud. I’d love to have a few more wins under the belt but I still think we’re heading in the right direction.

The key decision remains one of replacing Said Benrahma on the opposite flank to Bryan Mbeumo. It is, to date, something we’re yet to do convincingly. Then again, how do you replace the irreplaceable? For all those laying in to the players that Thomas has tried, let’s not forget the boots that need to be filled. That once in a lifetime talent – when he could be bothered, of course. Let’s not pretend either that our own miracle man had a tendency to go awol at times.

It was Boys Own stuff at times

We’ll get there. International break has come at the perfect time to allow for a recharge. Whilst a staunch traditionalist when it comes to footballing matters, even I’d agree that perhaps for this season the extended substitutes bench is really needed once more. There are just too many games and too many injuries. A temporary return from three to five substitutes one which may well benefit everybody in the longer term. Until that happens, expect tired legs to be running around for another 90 minutes as we saw yesterday.

And finally, whilst the Benrahma / West Ham story is now done and dusted one couldn’t help but notice how he and the Hammers got on yesterday. As much due to their opposition – FulhamL.  Sure enough, another game saw another defeat for the Cottagers. That’s now 6 out of 8. The latest coming at the Olympic Stadium last night where the home side took an injury time lead c/o a Benrahma assist. Hmm – let’s see if that one makes official’s ‘Loan round up’ . Yet Scott Parker’s boys had an even later chance to level things up when awarded a spot kick. That is, until this happened. Quite possibly the worst penalty of all time. Enjoy….

Nick Bruzon

It was Boy’s Own stuff on Thursday but who starts now ?

3 Oct

The League Cup has been and gone. Brentford are through and that’s fantastic but that’s also as far as it goes. For now. Thoughts of a Christmas quarter-final with Newcastle United can wait for another month or so. Instead, the focus is back on the Championship and Sunday afternoon’s visit from Preston North End. With the mood at Lionel Road one of optimism – as much due to the performance of Said Benrahma as off-field updates that came in a new signing and the David Raya to Arsenal story finally being put to bed – the big question being who starts? And up at Aston Villa, the love story between Dean Smith and  Jota has come to an end.

First though, Brentford. Cripes. Who’d be a head coach? What lovely problems for Thomas Frank to have. What decisions to make. Everyone’s a manager and will have different options as to the team. Sergi Canos has been wonderful but Said Benrahma sent a reminder about what he can do in the most jaw-dropping style.

‘That’ goal against Fulham, with Michael Hector humiliated by the backwards nutmeg, before the Algerian lashed it low and hard into the bottom corner from distance was pure Boys Own stuff. A more incredible return than the second coming of Jota.

Benrahma’s skils – an obscene publication?

Then there’s Mbeumo and Ghoddos. The waiting for Saman was rewarded as he provided the perfect tee up for Marcus Forss to open the scoring on Thursday.  Bryan is immense though. We all know his pace down the flanks and prowess in front of goal. Could Emiliano be sweating tonight as we at least try to fit three of the four into the starting XI? That’s before you even consider Toney v Forss. The big money replacement for Ollie Watkins or the young pretender with the thunderbolts in his boots and the habit of scoring whenever he takes the field?

Dominic Thompson had a great game whilst in goal, David Raya has shown just why Arsenal were so heavily linked. Those rumours should now be dispelled for a while after it was confirmed our number one had signed a four year contract extension on Friday. Pity Luke Daniels who has done a fine job deputising in the league for a man who has pulled off some world class saves during the Cup run. A man who, don’t forget, is the current holder of the Championship golden gloves.

Luke, of all, has most to lose should Thomas twist rather than stick when it comes to selection for Preston. Having waited his turn, it has finally come. Drop him back to the bench and you may aswell start looking to the B team for our reserve ‘keeper. That is, assuming Luke wants first team football. He’s more than good enough for it at this level, that’s for sure. I don’t envy Thomas that choice or that conversation – with either ‘keeper.

For me, Clive, assuming there are no injury doubts I think he’ll go :

Raya, Henry, Dalsgaard, Pinnock, Jansson, Norgaard, Dasilva, Marcondes, Benrahma, Mbeumo, Toney.

It’s going to be harsh on anybody who misses out after Thursday but with international break approaching, this is the time to go for it. Personally speaking, I’d love to see Marcus Forss start but if nothing else the bench should be tastier than a slice of sour-dough toast smeared in marmite i.e very.

Elsewhere, there’s been more transfer news. The bees have signed German Under-21 Vitaly Janelt from VfL Bochum. There was no pretence about the  midfielder’s skillset from Thomas, describing him as “Dynamic in his play and strong in the middle when it comes to duels. Most importantly, he has the aggressiveness and intensity in the high press that we want to have”.

Another classic set of signing photos suggesting we’ve picked up a player who would fit in as well as alongside a Jonathan Douglas or Christian Norgaard as he would in a cold war era spy thriller. Think the Man From Uncle or anything from the second best Bond, Connery.

All being well Vitaly is as stylish on field as he is off it

700 words in and no mention our opponents. Well, those early season results are tricky to get too much of a reading from. The Lilywhites have only managed a single point so far but that was up at Carrow Road – not a performance to be sniffed at. Are home defeats to Stoke and Swansea the sign of a team on the way out or simply one finding their feet in another bizarre season of behind-closed-doors football?  

We’ll find out on Sunday afternoon, that’s for sure. Season ticket holders should have been sent their I-follow codes by now. Don’t forget those all important tricks to ensure stress free sign on… Firstly, use Chrome. Not Safari. Surely something as simple as an internet browser thingy shouldn’t make such a significant difference but, as we now know, it does. Secondly, even though the codes allow you to watch for free, credit cards details are still required. Presumably supporters wanting to watch the Huddersfield game the other week will have now bypassed that pitfall but for anybody just coming in from work, please be aware.

And talking of watching football over the internet… Rasmus, bring forth the crowbar. The latest edition of ‘The Warm Up’ has now gone live on YouTube. Marcus and Stu are again joined by Karleigh Osborne for a look back at Fulham and Millwall along with a couple of very special challenges. Even  Harlee Dean, sorry Crash Bandicoot, puts in an appearance in the ‘nutmeg’ challenge. There’s another competition and the results of last week’s. Plus a forfeit that must now be paid. And how……

Finally, Jota. I make no secret of the fact he has been my favourite Brentford player in years. As much for the hair. The excitement of Benrahma, the last minute goals, the leaving opponents for dead (poor Jake Bidwell) and the return from loan after his love-letter to the fans. It all ended on somewhat of a disappointing note with the triple transfer swoop by ten times better Birmingham City before the King finally found his place in the top flight with Aston Villa. 

Sadly though, it wasn’t to be. After just 16 appearances his contract has been cancelled a year early by mutual consent. He is a free agent and surely Spain beckons? I mean, there’s no way he’ll come back here a third time. Is there…?

I’ll never forget all those good times and wonderful moments. Hail to the King. Wherever he goes.

Oh Jota…. Any excuse

Nick Bruzon