Tag Archives: Wigan

Is this a chance to get back to winning ways? Or will the table talk?

3 Feb

Brentford travel to Derby County safe in the knowledge that, a mass exodus to China aside (and Lasse Vibe is still very much flavour of the month there, per Phil Giles’ interview during the week), we know the make-up of our squad for the rest of the Championship campaign. It’s a good thing too, because things don’t come much tougher than a trip to Pride Park where the Rams have remorselessly climbed the table to the point that only Wolves sit above them. And even there the gap is closing. Yet as last night’s game between Bolton and Bristol City showed, anything can happen in this division. Anybody can beat anybody. Few people expected the Trotters to beat City but their reward for a 1-0 win was an escape from the bottom 3. The Bees don’t need to worry about relegation but that’s not to say our job is any easier. Equally though, the reward for victory could be a fantastic one. As for Leeds United, you’ll have to wait for the Preston matchday programme for thoughts on them – I’m sure we’ll all cope.

However, today is all about Brentford and Derby County. Whilst other teams have started to reel them in over the last few games, it is still our hosts who occupy an automatic place in the promotion race. At present. The gap to Wolves still 11 points and one would think it’ll take a choke worse than Wayne Rooney’s form at a World Cup finals for them to blow that one. Yet the race to second place is still wide open. Aston Villa are just a point off whilst Bristol City would have started the day level with County had they done the needful last night. Cardiff City are in a similar position, going into their own game at Leeds United today. Expect them to come away from that one with all three points.

Pressure and expectation can do funny things, though. I reference this a lot on these pages but I’ll never forget that final weekend of the 2014/15 Championship campaign. Derby didn’t need to do much more than just turn up to confirm their place in the play offs in a home against a Reading team with nothing to play for but Pride. Yet they didn’t even manage that, missing a penalty en-route to a 3-0 capitulation that saw them miss out on a promotion shot as Brentford were amongst the teams to overtake them en-route to the play offs for the Premier League. It still seems incredible, even now.

Might knowing that they have a chasing pack breathing down their own necks increase the anxiety for the home support? Could Brentford sweep in and clean up just as Reading did three seasons ago? Whilst we’ve had it tough against County in the past don’t forget we have our own, huge incentive. Prior to last week’s game with Norwich we’d been flying. Our own victory then would have taken us all but into the top six . Instead, it is Fulham who now sit in that slot whilst The Bees faced with the toughest of tasks, on paper, if we are to get back to winning ways.

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Harlee and the Judge – not a 70s cop show but a tough trip to Derby from days gone by

Whatever happens, it is just one game. One, tough game but that hasn’t phased us before. We know how well we have been playing at times. How poorly in patches. On the whole though it has been a pleasure watching Dean Smith’s team these last few months. We’ve a great run of fixtures coming up and what better incentive to hit them with than performing some sort of Ram Raid today to take the points from the hosts.

Yet bludgeoning our way through isn’t the Brentford style. There’s no crude unsophistication. A lack of tactical imagination at times, perhaps, but if we were perfect then we’d be top of the Premier League and lifting trophies. Instead, we have a team who play for each other and can play some quite breath taking football when we hit peak flow. The challenge today will be just who Dean starts with and how he sets them up.

An obvious point, perhaps, yet the first half against Norwich was as gloomy as the second was bright. Ok, we didn’t get the goal but at least we went for it. I like Dean a lot and he generally talks very objectively. But I didn’t buy his post-match analysis about Brentford being the better team over 90 minutes and deserving to win. We lost to a belter of a goal against a team who out played us in the first half. A team who out thought us in the second despite our wonderful approach play and infinite step up in both personnel and playing style.

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The Norwich game has been and gone

That was then and I don’t want to labour the point. Instead it’s just a case of taking that one on the chin rather than dwell on what was a first home defeat since August. Of, dare I say it, going again. The only other team to beat us in recent months have been Wolves, and nobody needs a lecture form me on how well they’ve been doing this season.

So we are more than set up for today. We more than have the talent in this team. Who sits up top is going to be an interesting decision for Dean. As will be choosing who provides the width, how defensive his centre midfield is going to be and whether he has anybody to offer Neal Maupay support. Then again, I wouldn’t bet on him surprising all of us.

All this shows however is that like most of us, I have no clue who Dean will start. Does Neal continue up top? Will Josh McEachran retain his place in the starting XI? Could, no should, Sergi Canos be promoted from the bench?

Roll on 3pm when we find out.

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

Could a returning Sergi see it raining goals?

Nick Bruzon

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Do Brentford have the scent of Royal blood at Reading? Could ‘other results’ actually happen?

20 Jan

Here we, erm, go again. Brentford travel to Reading on Saturday afternoon knowing a win, along with defeats (and definitely not victories as was originally noted)  for the five teams above us, will see the Bees end the day level on points with the play-off teams. Goal difference could even put us into that top six pack. True, this relies on things as improbable and distasteful as QPR and Birmingham City (amongst others) doing the needful but stranger things have happened before. Who could forget that wonderful denouement to 2014/15 when wins for Reading at all-but-there Derby County and Blackburn at home to Ipswich, combined with our own defeat of Wigan, saw the Bees slip through into fifth place?

Indeed it was the penultimate week of that season which saw a Brentford win on the road, at the Madjeski, to keep our hopes alive. Alan Judge and number 26 getting the goals as the Bees ended the day in seventh, two points and vastly inferior goal difference behind Derby.

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Andre Gray for 3-0 v Wigan (and other results) secure a 2015 play-off spot

We all know how that play-off campaign ended. It was the play-offs, after all. Although at least we got there, unlike Derby.  Instead the point is made to illustrate what can happen when you least expect it. Sometimes, other results can go our way despite form. Thankfully the end of the season is a lot further away this time and so to desperation for the not so super hoops or Birmingham to win doesn’t have the same frisson, that’s for sure.

Whilst that unholy alliance is not one Brentford need to make today, it is still a nice position to be in. For now, though, let’s just focus on ourselves. Other results will do whatever they do. With games to come against all the chasing pack we still have matters well in our hands. Besides, it seems a bit premature to be talking play-offs and potential promotion at this juncture.

Yet, the table doesn’t lie. The gap to Sheffield United in sixth place IS three points. I’d be a liar if I was to say to you that I wasn’t absolutely excited by this prospect, no matter how slim and tenuous it is. Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Can we do it though? Well, there’s no doubting Dean Smith’s team are on form at present. Last weekend’s defeat of Bolton followed a wonderful Christmas period in the league. Perhaps its best we forget about the hiccup in the FA Cup now. Move along, nothing to see there. Indeed, the Bolton game didn’t even require the mercurial Sergi Canos to start that one, although his presence at the end of the game was a most welcome one as the wide man set up Neal Maupay for 2-0 late on.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

I’m still not convinced we know Dean’s best / preferred starting XI. When this squad is on form and the players are at the top of their game, it really is a case of Buridan’s Ass. Which of the available options does he pick? 14 into 11 just won’t go. It’s one of those lovely problems to have, that’s for sure, with Chris Mepham’s form and the return of Alan Judge adding to his quandaries.

Reading, on the other hand, are missing John Swift whilst centre back Paul McShane is also reported as out. The Royals are very much off their A-game, form wise, although at least they have made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. In another battle of Championship v League 2, they made it through (unlike the Bees) and their reward is a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.

With that to come and their own progress requiring Tuesday evening’s replay against Stevenage, could players be rested? Might if be a case of that old cliche being turned on its head and the Royals concentrating on the cup, now they are effectively out of the league?

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John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

One can dream. I’m still expecting a tough one today. The trapdoor to League One isn’t actually that far off for Reading. They’ll be as keen to secure those points as we are. Yet along with form, Brentford will have massive support on our side. Close to 3,000 tickets have been sold to the visiting support . With less than 15,000 turning up for their last league game at the Madjeski, a defeat at the hands of Birmingham City (clearly ten times better than the Royals), the 24,000+ capacity ground could feel a very empty place for the home team.

Certainly, it’s a stadium that has been a happy hunting ground for the Bees. Along with the aforementioned 2-0 win, let’s not forget the following season. Dean Smith’s first in charge saw that wonderful 2-1 victory. It was a win that was lit up by Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos. Goals that fall very much into the category of ‘best we’ve seen in recent years’ (see also: Stuart Dallas at Fulham and Nico Yennaris at Birmingham).

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Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair (then)

That’s all in the past though. If it meant more points, I’d happily settle for 1-0 and a deflection off Josh McEachran’s backside. Scrappy finish or 25 yard piledriver, they all count the same.

Roll on 3pm when we find out which it will be. Roll on 5pm when we see just how those ‘other results’ have gone. Could Brentford continue to climb up the table? Might we be saying a small word of thanks to our rivals?

I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Nick Bruzon

Ryan’s wonder goal set a very high bar. That Sergi then cleared.

 

Brentford, Blackburn or Nottingham Forest? Who will win (or lose by less)?

6 May

This is it. The last weekend of the season with so much excitement still to come. And that’s just off pitch where the club have asked fans to dig out their retro shirts to mark the occasion of our current crest (badge) making one final appearance before being retired. Then there’s the small matter of Mark Warburton and Nottingham Forest hoping Brentford can do them a favour when Blackburn Rovers are the visitors to Griffin Park. With Birmingham City still not safe either, live on TV we’ve Sunday’s relegation shootout.

So what will happen? Will Brentford take the foot off the gas and Blackburn survive? Can Forest get the home win they need and hope their goals are sufficient? Both they and Rovers are locked on the same points and so if they match each others results, it comes down to goal difference. Which is currently -13 Forest and -14 Rovers. It could even turn into a case of whoever loses less heavily stays up.

And I have to say that because I fully expect Brentford to win. We’ve a chance to get up to 8th place, which would be one better than last season. Then again, for that to happen it means we need  to rely on victories for both Rotherham United and QPR. We’ve got to be realistic here.

But a win for the Bees, something that is in our hands, will see us surpass last season points total by two. That alone will be incentive for Dean Smith and a team that I fully expect to be focussed on going out in style.

I feel for the Nottingham Forest and Blackburn supporters in their having to rely on another result. Moreso, from teams who they may think are already on the beach or, in our case, at the Player of the Year awards that are taking place later on Sunday night. However, I refer you back to season 2014/15.

This was Brentford’s first in the Championship and Mark Warburton was looking to go out in style. Despite a little wobble towards the end, the Bees went into that final weekend needing to beat Wigan Athletic then rely on a slip up from Derby County or Ipswich Town in order to make the play offs. The Rams were home to hapless Reading and needed just a point to secure their own spot. We’d beaten the Royals a week earlier and they looked awful. Ipswich were on fire though and, likewise, avoiding defeat was all they needed.

On an incredible afternoon, BOTH results went our way. Despite taking an early lead at Ewood, the Tractor Boys were eventually reigned in and went down 3-2. As for Derby, they missed an early penalty and hit the self-destruct from that point. A 0-3 home loss to a bang average team with nothing, absolutely nothing, to play for was as unexpected as it was hilarious.

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Post Wigan: Err. You know that holiday? Well, Derby and Ipswich have both lost.

The point being that strange results can happen. That the team who appear to have nothing to play for on paper won’t just switch off. We’ve definitely been the beneficiaries of this fact in the past.

However on Sunday, and I take no pleasure from this prediction, my gut feeling is that Brentford are going to be the executioners. We’ve more than just pride to play for. For Blackburn Rovers to stay up, it’s going to have to rely on Nottingham Forest losing by more than they do.

Then again, as has been said many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. Take results based advice from these pages with a huge dollop of caution. Indeed, given the aforementioned favour they did us, there’s a big part of me that hopes Blackburn losing by less than Forest is the way this one plays out. Everybody in TW8 can go home smiling. Especially if Rotherham and (something I can’t believe we need or want to happen) QPR also win.

Then again, there’s the Mark Warburton factor. A hero to many at Griffin Park, could we take any pleasure from putting a nail in his Championship coffin? Perhaps it’s not one to overthink. Let’s just go out and let the football do the talking – whatever will be will be.

Besides, there’s more to think about off field. I make no secret of being a kit nerd and the club putting out this challenge to supporters has got me intrigued.

Just what could we see? What will the fans’  ‘favourite’ be? Does anybody even own that wonderful Hummel-lite version from 94-95; our first to feature the current crest (badge)? Is there a Samvo shirt out there that still has the sponsor intact rather than having disintegrated the first time it went through the washing machine?

On a personal note, I’ve whittled it down to a choice of three. Or four. But there are more than a few stunners to pick from.

Being fortunate enough to take part in filming an episode of Britain’s top rated day time TV show Bargain Hunt yesterday, both the Bees and the kit obsession made it into that really awkward chat bit at the start.

And that bit, when the show goes out, is quite likely to be the highlight. Let’s just say it’s a lot harder than it looks ‘playing’ live rather than when you watch from home.

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Just some of the shirt choices – although current crest (badge) only

Likewise, subject to any last minute editorial decisions then I gather the match day programme will feature a very special top ten.  Although after last weekend’s Brian Guest affair at Fulham, which the club knew nothing about in advance, we probably shouldn’t take anything on that front for granted.

So if you haven’t done it yet, why not have a root through the back of the wardrobe and see what you can pull out? Whatever your thoughts on the current crest (badge) why not help see it off in style?

The next time we all get together, there’ll be a new design in place….

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Coming soon. To a shirt near you….

Nick Bruzon 

 

Bees got that vibe as that man beats Robins.

2 Apr

Another Saturday, another win. Brentford eased past a hapless Bristol City side 2-0 as though they weren’t even there. And in truth, for most of their first half showing, they weren’t. It was another game where we were left waiting for the consummate 90 minute performance. That’s no criticism. Perhaps with the game well safe and Tuesday night’s visit from Leeds United in mind, one can understand us slipping back down into cruise control. At the end of the day, Clive, Dean Smith will rightly point to a clean sheet, a dominant (if somewhat restrained) display, two goals and a clean sheet. And I defy any fan to tell me they wouldn’t have taken that if offered before kick off?

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View from the Braemar – Romaine Sawyers got stuck in to City (c/o Tim Griffiths, thanks!)

As ever, get your full fat match reports on the BBC, Brentford official, Beesotted etc. Those of us that were there would have seen a game that was never in doubt from the off and was all but wrapped when Lasse Vibe doubled the scoreline on 26 minutes. This, after Sergi picked up where he’d left off at Burton Albion.

The spaniard’s opener one that Brentford fans were relieved to see in more ways than one after Joe Bryan had scythed through the wing wizard leaving him prostrate in agony. For a while it looked like our man of the moment was in all sorts of trouble. “I heard that one from up here”, one observer at the back of the Braemar Road would later note. For those of us on the touchline, right in front of where the incident occurred, there were most definitely hearts in mouths

You’re Donald Trump, you are”, shouted one young fan at referee Simon Hooper. The yellow card waved at the Bristol City man engendering the wrath of supporters who had been closer to the assault than the man in the middle. Thankfully, the enthusiastic young Bee (Sergi, rather than our own political commentator) was soon back on his feet to administer the perfect payback – an opening goal as he fired home from a parried free kick on 18 minutes.

Lasse Vibe soon made it two, heading home from a ball that was fired forward into the box, flicked up as it continued it’s journey to the back of the bet and finally steered home by the Great Dane. It was due reward not only for the Brentford faithful as for two IFK Göteborg fans who had come across to see their former favourite in action.

Interestingly, Lasse’s own own strike rate in Brentford colours of 0.367 (25 goals in 68) is now just behind that of Andre Gray on 0.38 (18 in 47). However, to see just how prolific he has been (Will Grigg supporters, please take note of this true definition of ‘on fire‘) , Brentford official nailed things wonderfully.

After that, we were all expecting it to be a question of how many Brentford chose to inflict upon the visitors. Instead, as the one-sided first half came to an end,  we sat back and waited for Leeds United. Sure, City hit the bar and the post in some rare sorties but, in truth, they could still be playing now and one can only imagine they’d have struggled to hit a barn door with a proverbial banjo. They really were that far out of their depth.

As ever, Sky TV have the video highlights up already. Alternatively, the official highlights are longer, have the commentary from none other than our own Mark Burridge and, more importantly, are now available to all.

We’ve got that Vibe. And that Canos. And Mark Burridge

Outside the ground, there was a stranger than usual vibe. Choruses of  “No surrender, No surrender to the IRA” ringing around the beer garden of The Griffin in a somewhat unusual choice of prematch song from Robin’s supporters. Seriously? In 2017 this one seemed about thirty years past its sell by date. Likewise, whilst perhaps more understandable, there seemed to be a lot of agitation towards Bristol Rovers. This is Brentford. Who? Cares?

As the aforementioned Braemar Road observer would also note – “How bad do things have to be that you hate, actually HATE, Bristol Rovers?” . A team about as inoffensive to most as pink unicorns or the Care Bears.  Despite the divisional gap (for now) it did seem as though they had somewhat of a huge inferiority complex. Yeah, we get it. You hate Bristol Rovers. Yawn.  Then again, geography counts for a lot. An awful lot. Perhaps Rovers being to City as Mrs Brown and her boys or the Loftus Road mob are to yours truly.

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City supporters in happier mood at full time, despite sliding down (the table)

Oh well, perhaps they can sort it out amongst themselves in League One next season. That’s assuming City aren’t overtaken, of course. With Rovers just two wins away from the League One play offs, there’s only one point separating fourth bottom City from the relegation places in the Championship. As for Brentford, we’re up to twelfth and the knowledge that a win over Leeds United on Tuesday night could see us back in the top ten.

Beating Leeds United will be a huge ask, of course. But their own defeat to play-off rivals Reading yesterday shows it is possible, despite the goal scoring prowess of Chris Wood. With a place in the play offs all but assured, can we use this one to continue our own upward trajectory? The Bees are three points clear of QPR and Fulham have to be next in the sights. With games against both still to come, the crown of Championship kings of West London (one worn by the Bees last season) is still, mathematically, up for grabs.

If anybody was in any doubt as to what we still have to play for, Beesplayer commentator par excellence Mark Burridge summed things up perfectly once the dust had settled . “Still lots to play for, another top 10 finish & win the derby games – so much to look forward to for Brentford FC fans next season too” he opined on social media.

Well said, Mark. With just 7(seven) games to go, the season still has plenty to offer. On Tuesday night at Griffin Park we find out how much.

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

The craziest day in football history? Bees top the lot as Clem and Bournemouth set the record straight.

19 Mar

No. It wasn’t a dream. I’m awake. Brentford really did come good in the most incredible style to turn a 3-1 HT deficit into a 5-3 win at Burton Albion. Back on 3rd May 2015, the Last Word published a column entitled: Was this the craziest day in Championship history? as the Bees secured a play-off semi-final with Middlesbrough and Bournemouth pipped Watford to the league title in the most dramatic of denouements. But yesterday saw all that come crashing back to the forefront of the memory for many reasons. Nonemoreso than the return of Middlesbrough fan and Last Word cult hero Clem. Of Clemwatch fame.

But we can only start up where we left off last night and the result from Burton Albion. If not as significant as that afternoon back in 2015 where our own defeat of Wigan, matched with just about every possible result going our way, saw the Bees reach the play offs for the Premier League, this was one that is at the very top of the list of “I was there” games, Purely in terms of what was a ridiculous afternoon it was from a Brentford perspective.

If you’ve seen yesterday’s post-match column we’ve done that one. What a quite spectacular game of football to have witnessed. Following it from home was stressful enough, I can only imagine what it was like being there. An afternoon reminiscent of celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup at Leyton Orient? Winning the fifth round of the FA Cup at Blackburn in 1989? That game against Wigan in 2015?

Only those in Burton will truly know how good this one felt but if social media is anything to go by then it can only have been up there with the best of the best.  There’s been plenty for those missed who out on this one to look at via the world of Twitter and other sources although, perhaps, in retrospect it was always going to be a special afternoon when Burton gifted Brentford an omen such as this.

Are Beesotted setting up in Burton?

Billy (Grant) of Beesotted fame wasn’t just spotted on the side of a building. He was one of many loving the moment Sergi Canos popped up at the railway station on the way home. As you do.

Billy and Sergi. The afternoon's excitement continues

Billy and Sergi. The afternoon’s excitement showed no sign of stopping.

Billy wasn’t alone. Just when you thought Sergi couldn’t be any more excited to be back at Brentford, his impromptu photocall proved us all wrong on that front. How Norwich City must be kicking themselves at acquiring, then falling too use, such incredible talent and incredible enthusiasm. Presumably the Spaniard has now got home or is he still obliging the supporters with more photos?

Sergio does it again. And again. What a man.

Bees photographer Mark Fuller caught the moment below as sweetly as one could hope. The next best thing to actually being behind the goal.

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Whilst his partner in media crime (not literally) Sean Ridley proved that sometimes, three words are all you need.

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But perhaps it was the EFL themselves who hit the nail on the head in regards to yesterday’s events.

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Yet to truly call yesterday incredible we also need to look at Bournemouth. Specifically because  Eddie Howe’s team beat Swansea City 2-0 at Dean Court/The Vitality Stadium.

On paper, no great surprise given The Swans precarious position but dig a bit deeper and it might not have been such a ‘gimme’ as first imagined.

Back in that 2014/15 season, aswell as charting Brentford’s first Championship campaign the Last Word ran a side feature called Clemwatch. It was a feature borne out of the sudden realisation made, as most are, in The Griffin.

Namely, that whichever team ever popular BBC roving reporter Clem (Mark Clemmit)  featured on The Football League Show would subsequently fail to win that afternoon’s game.

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Clem – never shy to mix it up in terms of reporting locations for The Football League Show

Was there any truth to this? Being the jinx conscious football fan (magic pants, lucky shirts, not shaving over a winning run are all par for the course) this needed study. And so over the course of that season Clem’s form was observed from the first week. Surely it wouldn’t be true. But it was.

Aside from some genuinely entertaining features, Clem finished up with a record of 7(seven) wins from 30 reports.

He started with short term Leeds United manager David Hockaday (who saw his new team lose 2-0 at Millwall) and finished with the consummate example of the Clem effect as Bournemouth scooped the Championship title at the expense of promotion rivals rival Watford.

Clem was at Vicarage Road to see if the Hornets, entertaining Sheffield Wednesday, could match Bournemouth’s result to be crowned champions. Both teams were winning with the BBC clock showing 90 minutes. Then, it happened.

Sheffield Wednesday proved themselves the ultimate party poopers as Atdhe Nuhiu levelled things up for the Owls in stoppage time. And there it finished at 1-1.

Whilst I’m sure that Watford fans will be more than pleased just to have gone up, I do hope Eddie Howe sent a big thank you to Clem. The effervescent reporter may have doomed Watford although, and it has to be said, he brought a lot of joy to viewers along the way.

Clem Clemawatch 30

Clem finished his season at Watford – who lost the title in the 90th minute

And that was it. With The Football League show disappearing from our screens the following season to be replaced by Football League Tonight (please, please, please never forget what was served up as replacement to Manish and Clem on that first episode) his work in that particular field was done. TV rights meant the BBC would focus on the Premier League and with Brentford failing to beat Middlesbrough in that play off semi final (or any game. Ever. It seems) we went our separate ways. Until yesterday.

With Clem finally on Twitter (@MarkClemmit) he’s been a recent ‘follow’ and, mid-morning, popped up with the announcement that Eddie Howe would be his interview subject on that morning’s Football Focus.

Cue good natured banter to a TW8 based Bournemouth supporter and Mike Grella fan about her team’s upcoming fate. The jinx would surely strike again? Yet the response was a surprising one. Not from Carey but from the man himself, defending his own recent record with the tongue in cheek note that times are changing.

That's me told, then. Clem is back. And better than ever.

That’s me told, then. Clem is on better form than ever .

And sure enough, they are. Bournemouth’s win sees Eddie Howe now joining the ranks of Sam Allardyce and Paul Lambert in being blessed by Clem. The jinx has reversed.

What can you say, but:

i) Sorry, Clem.

ii) Congratulations Clem.

iii) Thanks for being a great sport, and

iv) Should the worst happen to Middlesbrough then we can’t wait to see you at Griffin Park next season. Just make sure that if you have a mic with you, it’s pointing at Dean Smith.

And, of course, if you’d like to read more about our past three campaigns and the full Clemwatch story, then you can do so here.

Talking of Dean (puts crowbar back in pocket) we couldn’t finish without going all Ian Moose. Except without the pre-match catering obsession. It simply remains to say Happy Birthday to Dean Smith. Have a great day, my friend.

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Happy Birthday Dean Smith. Have a great day my friend.

Nick Bruzon

With Chelsea done and Aston Villa next up, could West Ham continue to disrupt Brentford boss?

30 Jan

I’d like to say “And relax” at this point but I can’t. We can’t. I’m still just so frustrated about the no show at Chelsea on Saturday as, it would seem, are an awful lot of Brentford fans given the response to yesterday’s column on Dean’s team selection and set up at Stamford Bridge. Yet straight off that we’ve Tuesday night’s televised home game with Aston Villa. If that wasn’t a tough enough challenge already, we’re waking up to the news that West Ham have finally sold Dimitri Payet to Marseille.

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The news is official. Does this mean Scott is next?

I really feel for Dean Smith on this one. Having a full programme of fixtures at the same time as the transfer window slams shut (TM) is just ludicrous. How on earth does a manger / head coach (whatever) prepare for a game at the same time as those final thrusts of frenetic bargaining are due to reach their denouement?

Will West Ham finally budge over Scott Hogan? Will Brentford have to compromise on the valuation that we have long held out for? If no sale has gone through today will he even be in contention to line up against Aston Villa? Just how on earth can these last minute negotiations which have become so much an unwelcome part of our game take place when the exact same subjects of such haggling are supposed to be plying the very trade for which they are now sought?

Presumably if not sold then he’s a Brentford player for the rest of the season and goes straight back into the team – the club then able to conduct the inevitable sale at their leisure over the summer.

Scott will go. I won’t be crying if it doesn’t happen this time around. And if only for the two figures it will stick up to those agents who have been doing their best to disrupt his, and our, preparations over the last few weeks.

None of this glosses over the Chelsea selection. Try the same against Aston Villa and we’re doomed. Dean HAS got the players that can win big games. He’s done it himself, too. Just look at Brighton away, the home humping of Reading or even the psychological triumph of the trip to Loftus Road. Yet for all of those is a Wigan (H&A), Rotherham, Fulham or Barnsley (all home).

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The QPR game just one of those when Dean’s Bees rose to the occasion

This is not me being ungrateful. I’ve said many times that the simple fact Brentford are approaching a fourth season in the Championship is cause for huge celebration in itself. But it is perplexing how the team have played so inconsistently this season. It is confusing as to why the formation change seems, at times, more and more about crowbarring in the centre backs and favoured midfielders than playing to our strengths.

I’ve not seen a team put in such a no-show as they did on Saturday in a long, long time. And let’s just discount who we were playing or where. If the FA Cup has shown us one thing this weekend, it is that a well organised and positive outfit can perform heroics against supposedly superior opposition. Sutton United, Lincoln City, Wolves and a desperately unfortunate Wycombe Wanderers are all proof of that.

Dean , if you are reading (you aren’t) Saturday was desperately disappointing. Moreso the subsequent press conference where there didn’t seem to be any perception of just how badly he’d got it wrong, this time around. Most of us expected to lose but at least to go down fighting or to even just give it a go from the off. I’d rather have lost 7(seven) – 0 and tried for 90 minutes than lose by four yet only turn up for the start of the second half. I take no pleasure from writing what I did yesterday. But sometimes things need to be said.

We’ve already been through the cold fish approach of Marinus – a man whose touchline routine appeared to be modelled on a game of musical statues. Let’s not go there again . We aren’t worldbeaters but at least it would be good to see Dean cares – something I have no doubt on. At least it would be good to see Dean get vaguely animated or just to follow up on his pre-match words.

Aston Villa aren’t going to be easy by any strength of the imagination. Specialists in the 1-1 draw (6-1 with 888sport, for the record), setting up as we did against Chelsea is a recipe for a 0-X scoreline. Reinstalling some width and remembering that the trick to scoring goals is to go forward then things could well be different – regardless of whether Scott Hogan is leading the line or trying on a West Ham shirt.

Chelsea is over. To coin that most awful of phrases, ‘We go again’. Let’s just hope it is in a different direction.

On Tuesday night, we find out.

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An early season trip to Villa Park saw another solid performance from the Bees

Nick Bruzon

Not quite a sick relative as agents play dirty, West Ham beckon and furious Phil rages.

22 Jan

Brentford lost at Wigan Athletic on Saturday. 2-1. The video highlights are here. The BBC, official etc have the match reports of what Dean Smith would subsequently describe as a  ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ performance after running Newcastle so close 7(seven) days earlier. Yet it was the talk surrounding Scott Hogan and his on/off move to West Ham that reached a new level after the game as the Wigan result played very much second fiddle in the post match talking points.

It’s an unchanged starting XI for The Bees this afternoon at the DW Stadium” declared Brentford official on Twitter as the team was announced prior to kick off. What they didn’t make any reference to was the changed bench as Scott Hogan hadn’t even made it into the match day 18.

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Unchanged. Kind of…

Another minor injury? Was he being protected ahead of the Chelsea game? Was he on strike in an attempt to force through a move? Or had one of his relatives been feeling unwell?

As it transpired afterwards it was none of these with Dean Smith revealing that the player had a ‘tight hamstring’ and ‘felt it would be a risk to play‘ after being seduced by talk from agents. Dean telling BBC sport that with what he’s been told is on offer for him, it’s very hard for him to go out and play.

With what he’s been told is on offer for him, it’s very hard for him to go out and play,” Dean told BBC Sport in an interview you can hear here.

But it was West London’s Premier Journalist, Tom Moore, who threatened to blow the lid off what was going on behind the scenes. “Just spoken to a livid Phil Giles. Explosive Scott Hogan update coming”, said his Twitter thirty minutes after full time.

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Not my words but those etc etc

We had to wait a further five hours before the big reveal where, it was fair to say, that our co-director of football was threatening to do his own David Banner impersonation. Clearly, he wasn’t happy about agents circling. Phil – welcome to the world of the humble supporter,

The story, which you can find here, contains three counts of livid, two furious, three variants of rage and four no criticism of Scott. The meat of the subject matter being what we’d all suspected – that agents are whispering sweet nothings into his ear about what he could be earning at West Ham and, as such, it is affecting a player who wants to compete but is distracted.

Interestingly, despite an approach that Phil describes as “Completely illegal” the club will not be making a complaint to the FA. This, for me, is the oddest part of a story which has been played out very much in the public eye. A story which has had more leaks than the Titanic. If we are that convinced then why are we taking no action?

Indeed, both Dean and Phil have gone out of their way to defend the player. This, the complete opposite stance to when James Tarkowski refused to play against Burnley ahead of his move to Turf Moor. At the time, the club put out an immediate statement saying how the player had declared himself unavailable after being selected and “as a result of these actions he will be disciplined by the club”, later adding that, “the club will make no further comment on potential punishment.

Whilst Tarkowski would later cite a sick mother as the reason for refusing to play against a team he was looking to move to, this time the justification is an apparent minor injury. Presumably our medical team were in agreement with this? Or is it just an excuse to avoid us getting backed further into a corner with one of our biggest games of the season a week away?

As Phil notes in Tom’s article : “The whole thing is ridiculous. We’re looking ahead to next week – what are we going to do then? We want to pick our best players. We’re paying our best players to play a big game.

Will Scott feature if he hasn’t been sold? Will he want to? Will that hamstring ‘injury’ have cleared up?

One thing is for sure. I can’t imagine this ending cleanly unless diplomacy of an ambassadorial level takes place. And fast. But that’s now living in cloud cuckoo land.

Matthew Benham confirmed last week “I’m holding out” so if West Ham refuse to stump up to our valuation, then things could get very awkward. The club clearly aren’t going be held to ransom whilst Scott’s immediate focus would seem to be elsewhere.

This is lose-lose for everybody at present, with the clock ticking on time for Brentford to get a replacement in should the sale go through. Unless, of course, the plan is to see the season through with The Hoff and Lasse as our choices up top.

Either way, the sooner this ends the better. And if for no other reason than Phil’s blood pressure. The said, how nice to hear him displaying such passion and anger in public.

Now let’s hope it can be channelled for the greater good.

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Scenes unlikley to be repeated ?

Nick Bruzon

As Sam says farewell does ‘that song’ still apply? And Wigan appear out of nowhere.

21 Jan

Sad times. Sam Saunders has left Brentford for Wycombe Wanderers. We all suspected this was coming after the midweek update from co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen to West London’s premier journalist, Tom Moore. And then, on the eve of our trip to Wigan Athletic, the news was confirmed.

I said my piece on Sam during the week. It’s available here. Feedback at the time from the likes of Twitter and Facebook was unanimous in agreement. A first for The Last Word but, undoubtedly, this due to the calibre of the man being discussed. Likewise, when the news was confirmed, the tributes were legion, with this one from Tom Cox being my pick of the bunch.

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So there’ll be no regurgitation today from your’s truly. Instead, here’s the farewell message from the man himself. Even in leaving, he hasn’t failed to raise a tear and a smile. That song….

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Whether ‘that song’ still applies remains a matter of conjecture for married men and women everywhere. One thing that will definitely remain in perpetuum is the area known as ‘Saunders territory’. It’ll be a long time coming until somebody in red and white can hit a dead ball at goal so sweetly and so consistently. So long, Sam. And thanks for all the goals.

As for Wigan Athletic on Saturday, it seems to have almost crept up on us. Aside from Sam, all the talk of West Ham, Scott Hogan, Chelsea and the FA Cup tickets has provided a huge diversion. All of a sudden it is match day morning and Wigan await.

Club sponsor 888sport have the home side as favourites. I don’t see it. Brentford were magnificent for huge swathes of the game against Newcastle United whilst, of course, won handsomely at hapless Birmingham City on our last road trip. A blockbuster form Nico Yennaris sealing the points in that one.

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The bookies here rarely wrong. But surely this is too generous?

Will Scott Hogan feature against Wigan? Unlikely. Given Dean Smith’s comments prior to the Newcastle game followed by an abrupt u-turn when the teams were announced. Something one could just about give him the benefit of the doubt over until the striker failed to make it off the bench. The whole thing smelt very fishy.

Perhaps that’s why we are priced at almost 2-1 to beat a team buried deep in the relegation quagmire. A team who are only being kept off the bottom of the table by virtue of Rotherham United’s ongoing ineptitude.

Brentford are stronger with Scott Hogan, no question. But even without him, Lasse Vibe has started finding the back of the net, Josh McEachran was amongst those to have a great game against Newcastle United whilst the deliciousness of Jota is a luxury we are beginning to enjoy the taste of once more .

There’s more to the team than just one man. How Dean Smith juggles those pieces is, as ever, the conundrum.

At 2.15 we find out.

Nick Bruzon

As transfer window starts to creak, will we be saying farewell?

30 Dec

Brentford host Norwich City on New Year’s Eve with supporters wondering if this could be our last chance of seeing Scott Hogan in a Brentford shirt. With the transfer window due to creak open on January 1st prior to the inevitable ‘slam’ shut (tm) at the end of the month, the free scoring front man is currently being linked with everybody from Newcastle United to West Ham. Even Aston Villa have been mentioned although anyone who had the misfortune to sit through the turgid encounter with Leeds United will realise it’s not so much a centre forward they need as a few crates of Red Bull. And that’s just for supporters. (please note : other energy drinks are available).

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Could these Championship rivals be the villains of the piece?

With fees as high as £15million being quoted, one really can’t see anybody blocking this move if that sort of money is genuinely on the table. Brentford have a new ground in the offing whilst have made no secret of the need to sell players over the last few seasons to ensure financial fair play criteria are met.

It is surely just a question of when rather than if? If the Christmas build up was all about the excitement of what we might receive, this next period is the opposite for supporters of a club like Brentford. The fear of who we could lose.

Like it or not, that’s the reality the club find themselves in. Being honest with ourselves, the play-offs look a leap too far at present. Much as I’m a footballing romantic and never say never, the simple fact is that we have too much quality ahead of us in the league table. Too much consistent quality.

Were Dean Smith’s team putting in the performances game after game then fair enough. But sadly, we aren’t. For every last twenty minutes against Birmingham or Cardiff is a performance like the respective first halves in those games. For every defeat of a Brighton(a) or Reading is a Barnsley or Fulham no-show.

The manager is still struggling to settle on his best team and formation. Substitutions seem haphazard whilst certain players are untouchable; others can’t get a look in. At times we look like world beaters. At others, a side lining up to let the opposition dominate.

You have to remember, also, that historically we’ve rarely (if ever) had things so good. After years of mediocrity results wise, we had that wonderful period under Uwe Rosler before Mark Warburton got us over the League One line. Since then, we’ve more than held our own in the Championship. The. Championship.

Whilst everybody wants wins and results , things need to be put a little bit into context. To see 10,000+ crowds week in, week out. To see Brentford on the cusp of a fourth season at a higher level after decade upon decade of League One or Two mediocrity. To have players that other teams are prepared to pay us millions upon millions of pounds for.

All of this is just a bit surreal. Even now. I’m still of the belief that we could, probably should, have gone up to the Premier League in 2014/15. But for village-gate who knows what might have been. Equally though, that’s behind us and the aforementioned context now needs to be the thing with which we view our longer term prospects.

But if we are unlikely to go up, this time, what about the other way? Allowing for the rose-tinted glasses of home support, going down would seem a tough act for any team in Brentford’s position. Even if we were to lose our principal goal threat.

Rotherham lost, again, last night whilst Wigan are doing their level best to join them on a trip back to League 1 ( sorry, who’s on fire did you say?). After that, QPR, Blackburn and Cardiff City are slugging it out for third spot. I’m still hoping Ian Holloway’s pre-season prediction of a West London relegation comes true. Moreso with the Bees due to host the hapless hoops towards the end of the campaign.

Other sides and other supporters have it no easier than us. I’d much rather be in our shoes than those of former Premier League champions Blackburn. For all that, at times, we’ve frustrated on the pitch in recent months, Brentford aren’t alone.

Just watching the fare on offer between Aston Villa and Leeds was a stark reminder that a gritty form of combative football followed by a final fifteen minutes of frenetic thrusting is not uncommon. And this was from two, so called, giants of the English game. Teams with genuine aspirations to return to a top flight they graced for so long. With aspirations to return to European competitions they’ve previously performed heroics in – something that looked a long way off on Thursday evening.

Should Scott Hogan leave us for Newcastle United, West Ham or other then I’ll be gutted. Likewise, if Alan Judge says farewell or Jota fails to return from Spain. Both are equally possible. But I’m also realistic about our position and how the club works. Given where we are this season then, for now, it seems a case of cashing in and holding station. A case of taking a tactical gamble whilst still picking up points and goals from other sources.

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Could scenes like this be a thing of the past?

I’ve seen some supporters say they’d give it up for the season if the aforementioned triumvirate leave in January. I don’t believe that for one second. I may be a numpty on the terrace. There may be twits on the sidelines or over enthusiastic keyboard warriors in a banana republic. That’s football and we all have opinions. However, the one thing we also all have in common is that we’ve supported this club for far, far too long. And it’s great.

We know we sell. We know we make things hard for ourselves. But we all know how much we love it supporting the Bees, no matter what fate throws at us.

Dean spoke about Norwich City yesterday, saying: “It is an important game for us because we want to exorcise the demons from the Carrow Road defeat

This much is true, but should Scott Hogan be sold then it could also see those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth needing to exorcise a more familiar demon. That of history. Dean Holdsworth, Gary Blissett, Nicky Forster, DJ Campbell and Andre Gray to name but a few.

Will it happen? Next month, we find out. Until then, here’s to stuffing the Canaries. See you there.

Nick Bruzon