Tag Archives: Wales

There are games of two halves and then there was that. Bees baked in Wales.

18 Feb

A day that started with such promise. An afternoon that saw us forty-five minutes away from an FA Cup quarter final. An evening that ended with a press of the self-destruct button the likes of which Brentford haven’t seen since, well, the trip to Hull or more pertinently, the opening twenty minutes of the home game with (erm) Swansea City. And it was the Swans who once more provided the catalyst to our undoing as Ollie Watkin’s magnificent opener was rendered meaningless by three second half goals and a red card for Ezri Konsa in little over a quarter hour phase. It ended 4-1 to Swansea. It could have been five but for a very delayed call from the linesman. What can you say? Beyond me having to console five year old HB after his own pre-match prediction of 3-4 was thrown back into his face in as dramatic a style as one could ever see.

It’s a fair bet we’ve all caught the game by now. The free to air broadcast on BBC Wales meaning that anybody who wasn’t able to travel on the resultant free coaches would have had ample opportunity to watch it live. It was the consummate example of that old cliche about football being a game of two halves. With the opening salvo from Swansea snuffed out at little more cost than a yellow card for Yoann Barbet, the Bees got going. In style.

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Swansea had come forward early but made little progress

With the exception of Luke Daniels retaining his FA Cup place, Thomas Frank named the same team that tore Aston Villa apart for fun on Wednesday evening. It was a decision that was proven correct as we went for it. Swansea City barely had a look in as slick passing and wonderful interplay from the attacking quartet of Said, Sergi, Neal and Ollie suggested a goal was inevitable. When it came, on the half hour, it was beautiful. Benrahma breaking forward at pace, feeding the ball forward to Maupay on his right. The Frenchman then provided the same to the overlapping Watkins who burst into the box and fired it across the face of goal high into the far side of the net.

Yesssss !!! 1-0. We’re on our way. The fans erupted. Tinfoil trophies (of which there were plenty in evidence) thrust high into the sky. Strangers hugging strangers and the dream was on. Swansea looked dead on their feet. Impotent. A flaccid reminder of the team who had obliterated us in that opening twenty minute spell at Griffin Park back in December when they’d raced into a three goal lead without reply. Half time came with optimism high, the fans in wonderful voice and a chorus of boos rising around The Liberty stadium from the home contingent. Surely this was it? Surely….?

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Yesss!!! 1-0. Ollie Watkins you beauty.

What happened at half-time will, forever, remain as unfathomable a mystery as Stonhenge, the Pyramids and Ian Moose’s narcissism. Brentford gave the appearance of a team who had forgotten how to play football. Graham Potter in the home dressing room, presumably, delivering the mother of all team talks. Either way, it was a different Swansea City who emerged.

They were level within five minutes from a free-kick awarded in the most dangerous part of Saunders territory. Daniels unable to reach the ball as it fizzed past him, hit the post but rather than bounce clear hit the back of his head as he was still diving and pinged back into the goal for 1-1. It was a hammer blow. It should have been a warning that we were now very much in a game. Alas, it got worse.

An immediate goalmouth scramble aside, there was little further response from, or respite for, Brentford. Daniel James gave the home side a 2-1 lead shortly after with a quite remarkable effort. Picking up the ball just outside our box, he ran full length and full tilt up field. The acceleration was incredible, even running wide at one point with three players left trailing in his wake, before turning back inside and leaving Luke Daniels, caught in no mans land, for dead. Hats doffed to James for pulling this one off. It was brutal. With it, any remaining psychological stuffing that had been left after the unfortunate o.g. was truly knocked out of us.

Minutes later that man James broke clear once more. This time, he was stopped. But at the expense of a red card for Ezri Konsa as the defender took the last desperate measure available to him in order to try and preserve the narrow deficit. Referee Stuart Atwell has no choice but to show the red card. It was a challenge that, at least, succeeded in the aim of keeping our opponents at bay. For five minutes.  Sergi Canos, again filling in at wing back, was played twice by Bersant Celina who also danced past Julian Jeanvier before slotting home for 3-1. Urghh.

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Even the scoreboard was trolling us

With the attacking threat of Benrahma and Canos removed just moments later as the substitutes came on, the game was effectively dead. If it hadn’t been already. If Thomas had gone almost full strength with his starting XI, the bench offered little in big game experience or match saving nous. Whilst most of these young players will have their time, throwing them in to a game that was only being kept alive on life-support was never going to change anything. And , sadly, it didn’t. 3-1 became 4-1 became 3-1 as the linesman eventually intervened. It made little difference with Swansea grabbing the fourth goal that their second half domination suggested would come as the game limped towards full time.

Even then, Neal Maupay had a chance to restore some pride. His decision to chip the ‘keeper when put through, not quite coming off as the beaten Bees saw it loop over the bar. He made a call. He tried his luck. It didn’t happen. Boo-hoo. The subsequent highlighting of this by the BBC in a standalone video clip entitled , “How did he miss this? Watch Maupay’s terrible effort for Brentford” as cheap, unnecessary and out of context a feature as Ian Moose talking about that Cardiff game last season. No recognition of his quite incredible form this campaign or when it actually happened, with the players physically and emotionally drained after an absolute pummelling. 

Likewise, no mention of what he was clearly feeling as he ran to the Brentford fans at full time to hand over his FA Cup shirt to one lucky supporter. Poor show, BBC. Keep up the wonderful work, Neal.

It was an awful experience to be part of. The second half, I mean. I had tears to cope with at full time from a distraught HB who managed to compose himself and eventually clap his heroes off, despite the clear upset he felt. Looking around, he wasn’t alone. The club’s magnanimous gesture of laying on the coaches and cheap tickets felt very much secondary at that juncture.

I’m gutted this morning. Even now after trying to sleep on it. Swansea ran the second half show ; we handed them the tickets. The dream of the cup quarter-finals disappearing as quickly as it came. HB’s tin foil trophy stuffed into a dustbin on the way home.

Talking to supporters after the game, there seemed to be very much an expectation that this column was going to be used to ‘put the boot in’ today. But I just can’t do it. To coin that well worn of parental phrases, it not so much that I’m angry as disappointed in you. The chance was there and we couldn’t take it. Instead, to collapse in a combination of errors, bad luck, subsequent no-show and of course, the pace of Daniel James has left me feeling broken. A numb feeling in the pit of the stomach that will pass with time but at the moment feels far, far too raw.

I’m just hoping HB uses his half-term break to sleep in. About a week should do it….

Nick Bruzon 

Are we all set for a jolly boys (and girls) outing? The quarters are beckoning….

16 Feb

Oh my. The FA Cup fifth round is here. Opportunity is very much knocking. Watford are already through to the quarters after winning 1-0 at Loftus Road last night. Now we’re getting ready for our shot as Brentford fans begin to countdown for Sunday’s trip to Swansea City. There’s plenty to whet the appetite for that one today with Newport County hosting Manchester City and the visit of Millwall to AFC Wimbledon. That’s before you even get to the likes of Doncaster v Crystal Palace or Monday’s final game denouement that had TV producers reaching for the ‘coverage selection’ button the second Chelsea v Manchester United came out of the hat.

We can only start at the Liberty Stadium. On paper, there isn’t much to grab the neutral about the prospect of Swansea City v Brentford. Whilst both clubs and their fans will be viewing it as a wonderful chance to progress, it hardly has the upset potential of Manchester City at Newport County. The follow up story to Wimbledon’s wonderful humiliation of West Ham (winners of the trophy in 1980 and World Cup in 1966) from the previous round. Don’t let that fool you for a second. This one is huge and I can’t wait.

You could hear the collective groan echoing around TW8 and the GPG as the decision was made to move this to a Sunday afternoon, 4pm kick off for the benefit of BBC Wales. I’ve said my piece on that decision already and we just have to move on now.

With the prospect of a rail engineering works ruining it for everyone, the club sprang into action quicker than Neal Maupay running though on goal with the announcement of free coach travel to the game. Along with the reduced ticket prices , it was about as supporter-friendly a gesture as one could get. Consequently, myself and Harry are the ones now re-upholstering the tinfoil trophy that has seen us through the previous rounds. An £11 return trip for two of us, including entrance to the game, a bargain in anybody’s book and the reason The Bees will be there en-masse as the coaches filled up in nano-seconds.

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Who doesn’t love a coach trip ?

It’s not going be easy, that’s for sure. For either team. Only four points separate Brentford and Swansea City in the Championship table. Advantage traditionally favouring the home side as we’ll be running out in that glorious brown and orange. Here’s hoping for a repeat of the performance at Rotherham in that one, rather than a repeat of the performance just about anywhere else on the road whilst wearing this most stylish of shirts.

The good news for those deeming this to be some sort of jinx (honestly, I’ve never heard such nonsense, now where are my lucky pants?) being that we’ll have a new goalkeeper’s shirt making its debut. If what a source close to the club told us plays out, this one promises to have us kit nerds salivating.

The other factor to play more into the hands of Sunday’s eventual result is, of course, our recent form. We’ve only lost once in the last 12 whilst the midweek victory over Aston Villa was just about as comprehensive and stylish a performance as one could ever hope to see. Truly, Brentford were magnificent. Dean Smith left shell-shocked at full time and chuntering all sorts of nonsense about his team ‘deserving it’ (change the record) after Neal Maupay sent the hone fans wild in the 91st minute. Even now, Saturday morning as this is being written, I have a huge grin on my face thinking about that moment.

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This one from Brentford official said it all about Wednesday

Prior to that and, excusing the Forest game, it has been a case of scoring at least three goals a game in the previous five. A streak that coincided with Brentford playing stylish football with confidence and swagger. The ball being moved around the team for fun as we took the old mantra of “Push up, Brentford” to heart. It was a self-belief that was in evidence once more on Wednesday night. Here’s hoping Swansea City get to experience it themselves on Sunday afternoon. 

For sure they’ll be feeling as upbeat as we are. A home draw is the first thing any club hoping to progress would ask for in the later rounds of the FA Cup. Swansea have had that prayer answered  whilst on pitch have had a fairly strong start to 2019, winning five out of their nine games played so far in all competitions. They’ll no doubt fancy this in their own back yard whilst also have the benefit of ‘Mark’ Lawro Lawrenson using his BBC prediction column to back the Bees. Trevor Nelson and DJ Big Zuu (literally no idea – parents, ask a kid) going for the home side.

My main concern with this is Lawro’s assertion that, “I am backing Brentford to stay unbeaten, and get through on penalties.” We all know the nonsense he spouts these days and his presence as a pundit or co-commentator is generally greeted with the same fear felt by a pre-match press room buffet as Ian Moose approaches. But penalties? Seriously? You’ve got to think our name is on the cup if that’s going to happen. Here’s hoping he’s right. You can read that one in full, here.

Otherwise, its going to be a case of trying to make today feel as much like a normal Saturday as possible. I make no apologies for being excited or loving the FA Cup. Perhaps it’s an age thing but this tournament remains, for the supporters, about as exciting as it gets. The nostalgia, the romance, the potential, the shot at glory and even the cliches. 

I saw a quite wonderful tweet from @DeanCornish1966 yesterday about the Newport – Manchester City game, noting that:

ITV news preview on Newport v Man City just included:

2 x ‘The whole town is buzzing’

1 x ‘biggest match in history’

1 x ‘David v Goliath’

3 x ‘unbelievable’

1 x ‘dare to dream’

1 x ‘Gulf in class’

2 x ‘dreams are made of’

1 x ‘stacking shelves’

If ever there was close to a full house in cup upset bingo then here it was. But it’s what makes this trophy so special. Even now. It’s why I’m taking a five year old boy on a marathon coach trip to see if we can equal our furthest ever progression. Or perhaps even go beyond.

I’ve no doubt that when me and H are sitting down this evening to see if Newport can throw a potato skin under the feet of Manchester City (that’s one which ITV missed), the talk will be all about what awaits on Sunday afternoon. 

That, and maybe seeing if we need to add another layer of tinfoil to our replica trophy. 

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We’re all up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

BBC Wales stick two fingers up to The Bees ahead of Blackburn visit

2 Feb

Brentford host Blackburn Rovers this afternoon, looking to make it 9 games unbeaten and continue the climb up the table that Thomas Frank’s rejigged team have been enjoying since just before Christmas. It is a game that will see him looking to kick on from the disappointment of being held at Barnet in the FA Cup on Tuesday night. That in itself, a game which now presents a further headache beyond the forthcoming replay. Namely, BBC Wales selecting the fifth round tie at Swansea City for a Sunday afternoon, 4pm TV fixture. The reaction to that news one of universal frustration as a day of motorways or train disruption awaits anyone looking to make that trip.

First up, Blackburn. I have to be honest that their position in the table had escaped me. Instead thoughts of Rovers normally turn to Gary Blissett in the FA Cup, ‘Birdy’s date’ (THE single best kit launch video ever – Kitman Bob, if you are reading I remain available) and Jota causing Mark Burridge to explode in the commentary box. Yet a quick glance at the Championship standings shows them just four points behind Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) in the hunt for a play-off place. They’ve won four on the spin, conceding just a solitary goal whilst the BBC match preview tells us that they are the kings of the second half goal. Brentford, beware.

Come on Bob. I’m game if you are

Yet The Bees are no slouches either. With goals being scored for fun and Neal Maupay exhuding all the confidence and prowess of a Grand National winner, we’re a force to be reckoned with ourselves. The squad is now confirmed after what was, thankfully, one of the dullest deadline days in history. There was none of the alleged interest from Dean Smith up at Villa Park and so Thomas can be confident he has his boys until the rest of the campaign. Unless, of course, any of them fancy joining Nico Yennaris in China. That being the news that was confirmed on official yesterday but which even Matthew Benham had been tweeting about the day before.

The goals against Barnet were all great. Ollie’s strike from distance, Neal slotting home another ice cool penalty and then Sergi maintaining his composure after a quite delightful ball to feet from Henrik Dalsgaard. Then there were the three efforts against the post. Had Moses Odubajo found himself an inch or two luckier I think we may have had another ‘Jota moment’ in the commentary box. #burridgegasm. Instead, we’ve been left with a tricky replay and the image of John Motson talking tactics under the shadow of Ian Moose stuffing his face. For crying out loud man, at least chew.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

The goals against, and the midfield, were very much a case of ‘move along, nothing to see here’. I guess in part this was down to the slight squad rotation in a game played out against the backdrop of a passionate full house. One thing’s for sure, you can see the incredible difference Kamo makes to the squad. We’re a different team when he starts and one has to hope he’ll be back in the Brentford line up today.

I can’t even come close to calling this one. It promises to be a fascinating match up and I’m intrigued as to how hard we react after Tuesday night. The only thing you can be sure of is that’s going to be bitterly cold out there. Whatever you do, please take care and wrap up warm. The slush may have been cleared but I almost lost a few toes to frostbite on the school run past Griffin Park yesterday.

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A carpet of slush is clear from Griffin Park, Friday

From the league to the cup, next. “An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same…… As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off“. 

My words, written on Wednesday morning. Well that’s just another example, if one were needed, of why yours truly is the numpty on the terrace rather than any sort of informed source. As was revealed yesterday, whomever wins the replay on Tuesday night has now seen the match at Swansea City moved to 4pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Well thanks a bunch, BBC Wales. Talk about sticking two fingers up to the fans who now face the prospect of the three scariest words in the English language – ‘Rail replacement bus’- which we’re all thrilled to hear is operating between between Bristol and Cardiff on the Sunday. Expect a return home of about midnight if you chose to take the most godforsaken mode of transport since records began.

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Bad news for The Bees

The reaction has been almost universal. It all seems so pointless. A game that’s not even likely to sell out being picked for a regional arm of the BBC – albeit one available outside of Wales via the medium of Virgin and Sky. Yet we all know that watching it on the armchair is nothing like being there. And why do it at such a ridiculously inconvenient time, given the travel hell that is sure to unfold (see also: moving the cup final to an evening kick off). 

I’ve no doubt the club will point out that we are beholden to the rules of the competition and the whims of broadcasters. Broadcasters who clearly don’t give a monkey about the people that actually make the competition what it is – the fans. Let’s wait to see if BIAS swing into action. This would be the perfect forum for them to say their piece or, better still, our fans’ group get involved. Seriously Adam, if you are reading then you’ve got a quite wonderful opportunity to do something for the supporters. No matter that we already know it is a decision which won’t be over turned.

And yes, I realise that we have to get past Barnet first. They’re in exactly the same boat as us but there’s nothing to stop our clubs, and fan groups, presenting a united front on this one. At least until 7.45pm on Tuesday night.

Still, that’s for then. For now, we’ve got a visit form Blackburn Rovers to look forward to and I can’t wait. See you there.

Now, how about one more look at Jota…..

 

Nick Bruzon   

In the end the lure of the beach was too much.

23 Jan

What can you say? Congratulations Chris Mepham on finally securing his dream move to the Premier League. The Welsh centre-back completed one of the most expected moves of the season yesterday when he finally left Brentford for AFC Bournemouth with the fee reported at £12million plus the usual, copious add-ons. It was no surprise given Eddie Howe’s previous bids in the last two windows along with the player’s own omission from the squad that beat Rotherham United 4-2 on Saturday. This, following injury absence that had coincided with Thomas Frank rejigging his defensive line up and seeing his Bees finally return to unbeaten ways. Yet the gain here is all for Bournemouth as, despite a suggested higher offer from Dean Smith (something c/o my good friends at Beesotted, who are always on the money), the young Welsh International has declined a move to Aston Villa and chosen to take a trip to the beach. So to speak. 

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We can take consolation in great memories, lots of money and no hashtag

For Brentford, it means further shrewd transfer business as another player who we have picked up for minimal outlay (Chris joined as an under-16 back in 2014) has departed for the sort of money we could only dream about a few years ago. The club has made no secret of saying it will sell if the valuation and deal is correct and here we would seem to have another example. Bournemouth have made no secret of their intent to acquire a player whose rise has been, frankly, stratospheric. He hit the ground running last season and regular Welsh call ups were soon to follow. 43 games and one goal (oh, that knee slide against Sheffield United…) after his Griffin Park debut he has now reached the top flight with Bournemouth.

Eddie Howe must be purring like the metaphorical cat who got the cream. In one respect it is a gamble given Chris has played so few games but my word, what performances he has put in over that time. Last season, especially, where nobody could quite believe the confidence, precision and calmness of a player thrust into the squad and then the first team following the departure of Harlee Dean to Birmingham City. 

Things continued a pace this time around with Chris a regular call for ‘first name on the team sheet’ although, it would be fair to say, things did go somewhat amiss from mid-October. For the whole team. Thomas Frank’s first game in charge, a 1-0 defeat at home to Bristol City, saw Meps shown red for two bookings (the second somewhat innocuous) but from that point a malaise came over the Bees defence and midfield. It has something that has only been over remedied with the restructure of our our line up and with Chris having missed the resurgence through injury, perhaps the thinking is that with the fee on offer we have sufficient cover now in place to continue the upwards surge.

Whatever the reason, nobody can deny the talent that Bournemouth now have at their disposal. Chris has the potential to go all the way to the very top. On a personal note I’m obviously sad to see him go but it’ll be intriguing to see how quickly he adapts to life in the top flight. One can only assume he’ll take to things like a duck to water and despite the apparent ‘better terms’ offered by Aston Villa, taking the direct route to follow your dream is very much the way to go. As the ever eloquent Bernard Quackenbush put it on Twitter last night:

“As someone who has lived in Bournemouth for 38 years, with its miles of sandy beaches, warmer climate and with Sandbanks, The New Forest & the Dorset countryside on your doorstep.

Why the f@ck would you choose to live in Birmingham over Bournemouth. It was the only sane choice“.

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‘That’ knee slide

Elsewhere, we’ve had some downtime on these pages recently and so didn’t comment on the 4-2 win at Rotherham on Saturday. It was a result that saw our first win in the quite wonderful brown/orange kit as the unbeaten run continued to 7(seven) games. Those hardy souls who made the long trip to Yorkshire were treated to goals of the highest quality. Kamo’s second (our third) has to be the pick of the bunch  – a quite wonderful pass and move display direct form kick-off after being pegged back to 2-2. That Rotherham didn’t get a touch until fishing the ball out of the net tells you all you need to know about this one.  With an FA Cup fourth round trip to Barnet next up, what a time to find your form on the road. Wha ta time for the Jaffa cake shirt to finally come to the fore.

Albeit, the word on the street is that Thomas Frank has never tasted Jaffa cakes before. The training ground address is 100 Jersey Road, Osterley, TW5 0TP…..

Mmmm. Jaffa Cakes

Nick Bruzon

Bees blunted by Blades and random ref but what a celebration.

31 Mar

It’s a point closer to the play offs for both teams as a day that saw two controversial dismissals ended with Brentford and Sheffield United drawing 1-1. It was a day that ended with Daniel Bentley winning his personal battle with former Bee Clayton Donaldson as two great stops late on kept us alive. Bristol City, whose own last gasp equaliser at Barnsley gave hope to Birmingham City, are next up in what promises to be a real six-pointer at the right end of the table. With just 7(seven) games to go and the gap to the play-offs 7(seven) points, the chance of a spectacular climax to the season is still there. Just.

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Brentford entertained Harchester United at Griffin Park on Saturday

What can you say about events at Griffin Park where there was a very real danger of having to call out the Coastguard? Well, if the Middlesbrough game was made uncomfortable for the supporters thanks to the snow, this time around it was Biblical levels of rain. Somewhat appropriate for the Easter Weekend and what was still, mostly, a very Good Friday.

Those who took one look at the torrents heading their way and bailed out of coming to this one did, at least, have the consolation of staying dry behind their computers or in front of the TV as it lashed down from the warm up to the post-match handshakes. The water was already spraying up off the surface as Yoann Barbet stroked home dead ball after dead ball in his pre-kick off routine. Conditions didn’t get any better.

By the time we got down to proper business, you could have launched a flotilla down by the Braemar Road touchline. Flo Jo in particular, perhaps ruing one second half challenge that left him soaked through in the quagmire. But if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Pack it up and go home. Not that there was anything particularly hot about yesterday, the first half especially.

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View from the Braemar – Flo ended this one soaked through

That opening period being a somewhat tepid affair that saw even ‘angry dad’, my most favourite amongst those fans who sit around us in the Braemar Paddock (what genuine passion and enthusiasm that always stays the right side of ‘family’) remain silent for the vast majority of that opening period. The linesman on the near side saved the usual telling off that his performance so often warrants.

How things changed when the teams came back out after half time. There was vigour. There was gusto. There was the late arrival of Mrs Bruzon, delayed due to transport debacle. And as such, there was the customary goal for the opposition that her presence so often heralds.

If lucky pants, shirt and not shaving on a winning run work for some supporters, she’s almost the opposite. There have been several moments of what we shall simply call ‘unfortunate timing’ over the years. Within minutes of taking her seat, Sheffield United had taken the lead. A deflected effort from Chris Basham beating Daniel Bentley to make it 1-0. It spurred Brentford into life.

Yet, if Mrs B is somewhat of an albatross at times (in a footballing perspective), young Harry is the opposite. “Daddy. If we score a goal, will you lift me up?” he asked as play resumed.  Little more than ten minutes later, he was being raised aloft as Welsh international Chris Mepham (how good does that sound?) made it all square. His left footed drive from 12 yards out was followed up with the most incredible knee slide across the sodden surface.

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Chris Mepham leads the celebratory charge

Talk about enjoying the moment of his first goal in league football. Yet who could blame him? What a wonderful season it has been for a player plucked from the B-team to the Bees first team. And from there to his national side.

It’s no wonder he celebrated as he did. For once, the horrific conditions aiding the cause There are plenty of tweets doing the rounds of this one. Take your pick. They’re all brilliant.

Yet if the goal was a moment of ecstasy, we were bought crashing back down to earth with a sickening bump moments later. With most supporters watching the celebration, over in the goal mouth referee Jeremy Simpson had taken umbrage with visiting goalkeeper Jamal Blackman lashing out at Ryan Woods. He was red carded yet, likewise, so was our own ginger Pirlo.

Having seen one version of the footage, I’m at a genuine loss as to why we’ve been penalised. Perhaps something was said to the ref or perhaps he had a better view. Perhaps he simply made the mistake that Woody’s subsequent reaction suggested. Who knows? Dean Smith told the waiting media after the game that he hadn’t seen the incident as yet. Perhaps on review he’ll then appeal.

It was a game changing moment. From Brentford pushing, it was United who once more gained the ascendency. Simon Moore was brought on between the sticks to join Clayton and Jack O’Connell as three ex Bees playing for the visitors. Yet it was Daniel Bentley who proved to be busiest from that moment on. He was the man responsible for us gaining the point which has kept faint play-off hopes still alive.

As Dean Smith would note in his press conference, “Nothing has changed. It is still must-win. The less games you have left then the less likely you are to make the Play-Offs if you don’t win games. We have gone four without a win now. We have played very well in two of those games and should have got something. We have to turn that around very quickly now on Monday.

So where do we go from here? Will the Bees appeal? Do we have any hope of the play-offs? A win at Bristol City is a must if that is to happen. Should we be content with aiming for a fourth successive top ten finish? Something that would, in itself, be an incredible achievement for a club with our history and budgetary challenges relative to our rivals.

When you have the likes of Sunderland (whose incredible 4-1 humbling of Derby County was THE result of the day) and Birmingham City tripping each other up at the bottom, it shows yet again that size, reputation and spending prowess count for nothing if you can’t do it when the ref blows his whistle.

Brentford couldn’t quite get the win yesterday. But given all that was going on, I’m well happy with a point.

Roll on Monday.

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Where’s Karl Fletcher?

Nick Bruzon

Is this the future ? Next season’s ‘must start’ player, ‘must have’ fashion item and big ticket.

23 Mar

Take a couple of days away from the blog and it all happens. Despite international break meaning the visit of Sheffield United is still a week away, Brentford fans have been kept well on our toes with a surfeit of good news. The interview conducted by the GPG with Matthew Benham has been published. Season ticket prices for 2018/19 have been revealed. Chris Mepham has made his international debut for Wales whilst Andreas Bjelland’s Panini incarnation for Denmark in the 2018 World Cup has been released to the world (thanks to Beesotted for spotting that one).

Chris does his thing. What a man !

First up, the GPG and Matthew Benham. Whilst he may not say much publically, when Matthew does give these sort of interviews they are well worth a read. This one is no different. I’m sure we’ve all seen it already although if you’ve missed it then it’s here.

Another very personal piece about his thoughts, hopes, investment (which is now up to £106million. One. Hundred. And six. Million. Pounds) and the future of the club amongst other varied topics. I’m not going to regurgitate it here, suffice to say this is well, well worth a read and so good job all round to the GPG readership and production team on this one. When Matthew speaks, it’s definitely worth listening.

The one point I did want to dwell on was in regards to his thoughts for a potential April Fools joke. Per the interview, at one point Matthew considered Rasmus would have appeared modelling the new look third and third scarves (Brentford, Fulham and QPR). The associated blub from Rasmus would, in Matthew’s words “Use loads of marketing speak and say like “this ticks a lot of boxes”.  “

Seriously. What a shame this never happened. This would have been absolute genius whilst the reaction alone would have been incredible. Better still, the hopefully positive fallout once our more knee jerk elements ( I’m sure I’d have bitten too) realised they’d been had. There’s no better way to get a positive reaction than taking the occasional moment to have a good natured laugh at yourself.

It did get me thinking though. Discussing this point on Twitter afterwards with @crumblechris , it has potentially lead us to stumble across a club shop winner. Whilst we all know the usual half and half scarf is the devil’s own product, merging two tradtional rivals onto one piece of ad-hoc merchandising, why not celebrate a more positive partnership? That of our co-directors of football.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the Phil and Rasmus half and half scarf.

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Kamo models 2018/19’s ‘must have’ fashion item. Possibly

I’d never, ever wear anything with a QPR crest on it but I’d happily hand over my money in the club shop for one of these. Matthew, Mark, Cliff. If any of you are somehow reading (unlikely, I have to be honest), how about it…?

Next up, season tickets. The news was announced yesterday that these are being frozen for the third, successive season. This is fantastic . Moreso given juniors have had their reduced to £49 in the family section. Talk about a way to get that next generation of fans along to Griffin Park . If you haven’t got one, then what better time to upgrade the membership card? Another season of Championship action (at the very least) awaits along with a team who, on their day, have played some of the most exciting football we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Brentford as an established Championship side? It’s happened. Now to see if we can take this to the next level. Full details are on Brentford ‘official’.

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The 5-0 destruction of Birmingham City. About as a complete a peformance as we’ve ever seen.

Congratulations Chris Mepham. We all know what an incredible start he has had to league life but to move up to his national side so soon shows just how much he is destined for big things in the future. Hopefully at Griffin Park and then Lionel Road. Yet there he was making his debut for Wales in China on Thursday afternoon. A 6-0 win was just about as perfect as it could have got for him. The only downside, if there can be one, being Wales missing out on that additional goal which would have seen the game officially deemed a bracketing. Of course, the magical scoreline being 0-7(seven).

Whilst I’ll leave the interviews (and genuine effort) to the likes of Beesotted and the GPG, what I can say (clanngggg, the sound of a name being dropped) is that I was fortunate enough to catch up with both Rasmus and Phil earlier in the week. Specifically during the event to mark ground being broken at Lionel Road. Talking with them about transfer strategy (including those summer moves to Birmingham City) you could hear the genuine pride and pleasure about the way Chris has come through and filled the void left by Harlee. Along with Brentford currently having five B-team players on international duty at U-19 level, you can’t deny the fruits of their labours as The Bees look to their next first XI.

If Chris just missed out on a slice of football mythology, Andreas Bjelland has achieved it. Being immortalised in Panini form. Big thanks to the eagle-eyed team at Beesotted who spotted this one when the World Cup sticker book was revealed this week. As big an honour as an international cap, Andreas, Denmark and Brentford could become one of the most valuable commodities in playgrounds and offices up and down the land this summer.

Congratulations, Andreas. Here’s to 2022 when we see Chris Mepham (Wales and Brentford) alongside you in the book.

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Got it. Got it. Need it. Could Andreas see his stock increase?

Nick Bruzon

Bees get the point as Changchun Yatai get that Vibe. What next as Sunderland await?

11 Feb

Brentford 1 Preston North End 1. After that mini run of double defeats, here was a chance to get back to winning ways before the double header against two teams up to their hips and necks in the relegation quagmire – Birmingham City and Sunderland. Yet on a day which saw the long anticipated transfer of Lasse Vibe to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai for a fee rumoured to be £2m and a much changed Bees team lining up against promotion chasing Preston, in retrospect was it as disappointing as it felt at full time?

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Any votes for ‘China in your hand’ on #BeeTheDJ ? Farewell, Lasse

No. In a word. As a fan, I’m always desperate to win no matter whom we are up against and whichever players are staring. Yet a first XI which, had it been picked during the transfer window would have had supporters screaming ‘conspiracy theory‘, more than held their own and arguably had enough chances and possession to have wrapped this one up. There was no Sergi Canos – suspended. Ryan Woods had to be content with wandering up and down the Braemar Road paddock, chatting to supporters and confirming he should be fit for the Sunderland game. Yoann Barbet was dropped to the bench whilst wunderkind Chris Mepham was awol.

Yet this was still a strong team with Josh McEachran having a very positive start before returning to the frustrating enigma that his performances so often are. When he’s on form he really is a talent and his forward passing is a joy to behold. Equally, there’s more sideways and backwards passing than down the road at Twickenham. Watching the England-Wales rugby after this one, I was half expecting our number 10 to put in an appearance. No irony lost, given one challenge he put in on Callum Robinson. Move along, nothing to see here. It’s a tough call for Dean how he crams that central midfield, who makes way and how he can get the very best from his available resources. Certainly, the arrivals of Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were very welcome.

It was a game played out in front of a sparse crowd under drizzle soaked skies. It was a game that saw Brentford give away a goal out of nowhere. Tom Barkhuizen putting Preston ahead before Florian Jozefzoon levelled things up just eight minutes later with a goal described by Sky Sports (and you can get edited the highlights here) as a superb strike. I say this given I missed it, in circumstances described in the trade as ‘doing a JJ’. Still, anything for the cause. From then on, it was one-way traffic and I can’t wait to hear how the ever wonderful Mark Burridge described all this when the full fat package is available later *.

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View from the Braemar: Andreas Bjelland v Preston – a Dane in the rain

With Greg Cunningham’s second yellow seeing the visitors reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes remaining, it was backs to the wall stuff. Ollie Watkins blazed just wide whilst Alan Judge came oh so close with a curling free kick in the dying seconds. Emiliano Marcondes added further threat from the bench and it is no surprise Dean came out with post-match comments that included his observation that, “We should have got three points today as our performance was good”.

Second half, it was good. Very. Although, equally, we can count our blessings The Bees didn’t go behind in the opening period. Tommy Spurr adjudged to have been marginally offside as he headed home for 1-0. But no. Instead it was that sweetest of football feelings – opposition cheers being snuffed out by the wave of a linesman’s flag. 0-0 it stayed, until Barkhuizen did the needful.

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It’s an early shower for you, number 3. Cunningham walks.

As for Brentford, up front remains a tough one for Dean. Neal Maupay had one, clear chance when put through one on one with Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd. The man in black (Rudd, not the ref – if Kitman Bob is reading, what ARE the rules on that?) quick off his line to smoother the striker’s shot from eight yards. Other than that though, there were slim pickings in what you’d deem a typical striker’s chance. One thing’s for sure, with Justin Shaibu on loan and Lasse sold without being replaced, Neal is in for the long haul. That’s no bad thing either. We saw early on in the season what an impact he had off the bench. Here’s hoping that given a prolonged run of starts he’ll push on and find the back of the net on a regular basis.

My other thought is in regards to Dean Smith’s post-match observations. Both in this one and the previous two games. The 3-0 Loss v Derby saw him note that, “We had the better chances… the score-line wasn’t a reflection of what I thought was two-evenly matched teams”.

The game prior, our 1-0 Loss at home to Norwich, saw him opine how: I feel that the better team got beaten” going on to add later that, “I think Norwich will feel fortunate that they have gone away with all three points”.

Yesterday, it was that we should have won. Personally, my take on it is that we could have won. What a difference a letter or two makes. At least Dean recognises the chances we are creating but as has been said a gazillion times on these pages, they count for nothing if you can’t put them away.

As has also been said, who’d be a manager? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Overall, He and his team are doing just about most things right. Certainly, there are no huge complaints from where I am sitting. Quite the opposite. We’re pushing it against the best in a phenomally tough division and more than holding our own.

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with not winning a game. We all want to. Myself included. I remember league two days. No money etc. etc. etc. I saw a reference on Twitter the other day to the Eddie May/ Micky Adams relegation season. Grim stuff. We’re more spoilt now than we’ve ever been. Moreso with the new stadium plans really gathering pace. But the football fan is never happy. We always want more. We live in hope of what might be. We all have a dream. We always want better.

I understand Dean’s passion and desire but I also know what I see when I’m watching the same game he is. Too much of the ‘we deserved to win/ should have won’ starts to lose impact after a while.

Hey, it’s a small gripe. At least he’s got faith in his team and is constantly reinforcing that positive message. If it’s the worst thing Dean does then we’re in good hands. He has tough decisions ahead, that’s for sure, and I don’t envy him picking the team to start against Sunderland. Likewise, his substitutions, whenever they happen….

But these are nice decisions to have to make. There is competition for the starting berth in just about every position. Yoann Barbet, in particular, must count himself very unlucky to have missed out this time around (albeit I love seeing Josh Clarke out there). No doubt he’ll be amongst those hammering down Dean’s door this week. Metaphorically speaking.

I’ve no clue who Dean will start on Saturday at Sunderland. Could this be Alan Judge’s time? I can’t wait to find out though. Given their own late comeback from 3-0 down to earn a point at Bristol City on Saturday, it’s not going to be as easy as the table suggests. That’s for sure.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a black cat backed into a corner and desperately fighting for survival. Bring it on.

As for Lasse Vibe, there’s not much more that can really be said. We all knew his contract was up. We all know what he has done for us over the last few years. How open and friendly he is. How enthusiastic and dedicated to the cause whilst at Griffin Park. Talking to supporters yesterday and reading through social media, I can’t see anybody wishing him everything but the best.

I can’t think of any other club or any other player where losing your main goal threat has been treated with nothing but universal good vibes. Yet that’s Lasse.

THANK YOU. Here’s to the World Cup..

* until then, here’s the post lunchtime update with the ‘official highlights’. Great job on the comms, too…

 

Nick Bruzon

 

Cliff crowns a great day which even ‘that trumpet’ can’t ruin.

25 Mar

With Friday’s column bemoaning the lack of Brentford related activity over the International break, it was another case of exquisite timing as the club confirmed later in the day that work has now begun at the Brentford Community Stadium site on Lionel Road South. Over in Dublin, John Egan was in the squad for the Republic of Ireland against Wales last night although a rogue musical instrument threatened to outdo even the much maligned (and rightly so) alleged band of the England supporters.

But first, Lionel Road. There’s not too much to add in regards to the Stadium announcement beyond a huge sigh of relief and gratitude at this latest news. It seems almost an eternity away since the club’s plans were approved by Hounslow council back in December 2013. The Bees were then in League One and Uwe Rosler was (technically) still our manager although his move to Wigan Athletic was coming somewhat quicker than ours to a new home. Indeed, looking back on the BBC report from the time it notes that, “The Bees hope to move to the 7.6 acre site on Lionel Road from Griffin Park for the 2016-17 season.

Of course, we have had further referrals and the CPO to go through since that point which have delayed proceeding somewhat. And whilst , at times, I can’t help but think of Lionel Road without the words “Monorail, monorail” going through the head, finally things are under way. There was another ebullient statement from Cliff Crown whilst, along with the article on Brentford official, a new website launched at brentfordcommunitystadium.com in which supporters will be kept abreast of developments.

The only slight downside about his news being the lack of obligatory photograph featuring Cliff, Mark Devlin et al leaning on shovels and wearing hard hats. But, given this current stage of the project involves clearing the site in preparation for the main build, perhaps this construction related favourite is still to come.

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It really IS happening.

The other Bees related topic from yesterday was, of course, John Egan’s selection for the Republic of Ireland. Whilst he had to be content with a place on the bench, this remains a huge honour and it can’t be long, surely, until he wins his first cap. With another home game scheduled for Tuesday, a friendly with the darlings of Euro 2016 Iceland, he may not have long to wait. Here’s hoping that fully deserved honour comes John’s way imminently.

One thing that armchair viewers won’t be hoping for is a return of ‘that trumpet’. Far be it from me to criticise another nation’s culture and perhaps this is well received part of their International game. Personally, my own belief is that, much like goal music, spectator performed musical instruments should not be allowed anywhere near a football stadium. Whatever the form.

The list of offendors is a well travelled one. Who could forget the sound of the Vuvuzelas from World Cup 2010? About the only positive to be gleaned from England’s ineptitude in that one being that an early exit spared domestic supporters being obliged to put up the droning cacophony.

Then there’s John Westwood. The self proclaimed Mr. Portsmouth. Him in the stove pipe hat, wooden teeth and dreadlocked fright wig whom the cameras seem contractually obliged to make a beeline for whenever Pompey are on TV. He looks like he needs a good wash down with some bleach and a wire wool brush (think  – Russell Brand and his spray on perm-wear leather effect trousers)  whilst the noise, with that incessant ringing of a hand bell or use of a trumpet, must mean that season tickets in the near vicinity come with a health and safety warning.

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Can’t give Westwood the full oxygen of publicity. Bell. End of.

But, of course, the prime offenders are the alleged England supporters alleged band. Regular readers know the drill at this point. If you want the usual rant about the stale, off key parping and flat renditions of jingoistic greatest hits from Bernie Clifton and his uninvited cuckoos in the nest then you’ll find it here (along with a lot more nonsense).

They’ve always been the low point. Until now. And the lone trumpet at Ireland’s Aviva stadium. Who was it? Why was it? How can a solitary instrument cut so clearly through what was, by all accounts, a fervent and vocal crowd.You’d have heard this thing above a jumbo jet taking off. It was so shrill that, by all scientific fact, only dogs should have been able to hear the bloody thing.

Yet here it was. Clear as day. As annoying as Westwood guesting in the England ensemble with a vuvuzela. If there’s one thing that’s good for unifying football fans it’s hatred. Not of each other but of wind instruments.

And this was the consummate in unwelcome hot air. Not even the sound of Jota’s refrain could lift this into the realms of acceptability.

Matthew Benham has already made it quite clear that goal music will never, ever happen in his time. Let’s hope the ban extends to trumpets when Lionel Road is complete.

Nick Bruzon

Surprise inspiration from Richie and Mark as Bees twiddle their thumbs this weekend.

24 Mar

This is the time of season that these pages normally express an element of frustration with International break. Very much one of the downsides of Championship life, Brentford have now got another eight days to wait until the home double header against Bristol City and Leeds United. The king of comebacks against Burton Albion already seems a distant memory although Sergi Canos did take to Twitter yesterday to remind us  all how wonderful that was.

Sergi – a dab hand with the air guitar, too

So, what to do whilst we await City and Leeds? Well, this round of Internationals is slightly different in that we do have some additional interest. Whilst it’s not unusual to see Andreas Bjelland and Lasse Vibe selected for Denmark, John Egan is in the Republic of Ireland squad when they take on Wales in a World Cup qualifier tonight.

Even if you have no Irish or Welsh affiliation, the chance to see one of our team make his international debut (subject to final team selection) has to be better than Liechtenstein v Macedonia on the red button or, worse, a double header of Coronation Street. If nothing else, with the Irish rugby team having played at the Avvia last weekend when they scuppered England’s Grand Slam aspirations, it will be very interesting to see how the surface holds up less than a week later.

With permission having been given to London Irish to ground share at Lionel Road, Brentford supporters are, not surprisingly, questioning the integrity of the playing surface. The likes of Sergi and Jota better suited to playing on a billiard table rather than a ploughed field. And that is meant metaphorically; I’ve never seen either at Rileys in Twickenham.

All of which is great, but then it does leave us with a blank slot in the diary on Saturday. Well, how about getting on your bike? Quite literally. With the mornings getting lighter there’s never been a better time to undertake a bit of exercise whilst, at the same time, enjoying the fresh air. Personally, I’ve just started doing this again – triggered predominantly by my own lack of exercise. The realisation has finally set in that FIFA on the PS4 does not count no matter how many times I’ve tried to tell myself since Christmas.

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FIFA 17 – fun but not, technically, exercise

Likewise, there’s only so many times I can convince myself that the pecs have just ‘slipped’ or that the layer of fat around the midriff is there to insulate over the cold winter months. So the beer and junk food has gone out the window (for now) whilst there’s been additional inspiration from two unlikely sources – Richie Firth on Absolute Radio and our own Mark Chapman from the Brentford media team.

Richie, speaking on the Christian O’Connell breakfast show last week, was extolling the virtues of vibrating massage plates which, when fixed to the body for twenty minute periods, would slowly burn the fat away. All well and good – aside from looking like a complete numpty as you stand around in your pants with Borg style implants affixed to the torso.

More importantly, where is the aerobic exercise? Where is the fun? Where is the smug feeling of having actually gone out and done something, then boring your mates rigid afterwards?(And yes, I see the irony).

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(L-R) Richie and OC doing more traditional exercise despite the horrific attire

But it was Bees programme editor Mark Chapman who is the straw that broke the camel’s back. His own ‘fanActiv’ blog on Brentford official has been a real call to arms, with some brutally honest observations about where he was prior to starting this aswell as how things are progressing . Three blogs in (the latest was published last Friday and can be found here), I have to say that is a case of doffing my cap to him.

It’s not easy to admit you need to get up off your backside. It’s even harder to do this so publicly. Nice one Mark, and THANK YOU for the motivation. Keep up the good work and stay off the chocolate bars.

So this weekend sees another ‘dry’ one for yours truly. I’m not so naive as to pretend that by the time Bristol City and Leeds come around I won’t be out the back of The Griffin – the prematch pint is a quintessential part of football’s rich tapestry – but at least I won’t feel quite so guilty about doing it.

Lecture over. Whatever you do this weekend, have fun. If anybody is in Richmond Park on Sunday morning, I’ll be the one wheezing. But, most importantly, good luck to John Egan tonight.

We’ll all be wishing you well.

Nick Bruzon

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

21 Mar

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

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

Brentford ‘official’ share the great news on social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you can find out who, here…

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Nick Bruzon