Category Archives: Brentford

Said Benrahma- The Algerian whose taken the Championship by Storm

Said Benrahma is the name on every Championship fan’s lips this season as a series of sparkling displays have highlighted just how talented the 24 year old is.

A quick search of his name on YouTube and you’ll find some of the finest highlight reels in football, including an ingenious double nutmeg on Middlesbrough’s Lewis Wimg this term.

He is so good at sliding the ball through a player’s legs that Brentford B coach Sam Saunders recently told the Guardian:

“He could nutmeg a mermaid.”

Yet, Benrahma is so much more than just a tricky winger.

He has been the Bees creative force this season, forming an impressive attacking trio alongside Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins (who have been christened Brentford’s BMW) netting fifteen goals and providing six assists in the league.

Routinely deployed on the left wing, Benrahma loves to cut inside on his right foot and deliver a cross or have a shot on goal. He is one of the most technically gifted players in the division, with his dribbling often leaving defenders in knots.

His contribution to Brentford’s promotion push since the restart has underlined his importance to the Bees, scoring five and assisting one as Thomas Frank’s side have won all of their games since the break to sit just two points behind second place West Brom.

Three of those strikes came in the weekend’s game against Wigan, with the winger clinically dispatching the relegation threatened side with relative ease. His first was a well timed volley, the second an inch perfect cross come shot after he had tormented Byrne and the third a well placed shot into the far corner giving Marshall in goal, no chance.

Manager Thomas Frank was full of praise for the winger’s display, stating in his post match press conference:

“I think in general he has had a good season so far, but he has absolutely hit the ground running after this coronavirus break.

“He has added extra to his game, such as arriving in the box, and these last four games he has been getting better and better,  with his passing and his finishing.

“I have to praise him for his work ethic. He worked extremely hard. He has been good, he needs to keep it up.”

A Benrahma inspired Brentford then came from behind against Charlton at Griffin Park to continue their march towards promotion with a 2-1 win. Benrahma won and coolly converted a penalty to equalise before the Bees scored a second to pick up all three points.

He caused problems for Charlton all evening as he occupied a more central role, picking the ball up in between the lines and playing neat interchanges with Watkins.

His form this season will come as no great surprise to those who watched him at Griffin Park in his maiden campaign in England last season. He managed ten goals and fifteen assists last year as Brentford finished 11th but Benrahma has taken his game to new levels this year.

He represents another shrewd bit of business from the London club, as he was picked up in the summer of 2018 from Nice for a fee of £2.8 million, after catching the eye on loan in Ligue 2.

Having come through the youth ranks at Algerian side NRB Bethioua, Benrahma moved to France, linking up with Balma SC Colomiers and then moving on to Nice. He made his debut for the first team in 2013, aged just 18 but spent the majority of his time at the club in the reserve side before going out on loan. He left Nice having made 17 appearances, scoring three goals.

His first loan spell came in Ligue 1 with Angers, then he dropped down to Ligue 2 and had stints with Gazélec Ajaccio and Chateauroux. It was at the latter, which he first started to show his undoubted potential and came to Brentford’s attention. He scored nine goals in 31 appearances, aged just 22 and Brentford decided to take a risk and snap him up that summer.

He hasn’t looked back since and the Algerian is now surely worth at least ten times the fee Brentford paid for him. With a host of Premier League clubs sniffing around him, Benrahma is likely to leave if the Bees don’t make it out of the Championship this time around, having already talked of his desire to play in the top flight.

A full Algerian international, Benrahma has won three caps for his country and comparisons are often drawn between him and compatriot Riyad Mahrez. Both started their journey in Ligue 2 before lighting up the Championship and both are silky wingers who enjoy nutmegging opponents and creating chances.

If Benrahma, who was nominated for the Championship Player of the Year, manages to emulate Mahrez’s career trajectory he may well go down as one of the best bargain signings the Championship has ever seen.

For now, his focus will be on finishing the campaign strongly and propelling Brentford to the big time.

With just four games left of the regular season and potential play off dates to come if Brentford can’t pop West Brom to second place, now is the time for Benrahma to show his quality and provide for Brentford when they really need him.

Interview with former Wimbledon, Brentford and Watford player Marcus Gayle

Former footballer Marcus Gayle has played for Wimbledon, Brentford and Watford amongst others in his footballing career. When he hung up his boots, he went in to coaching and for the past few years has been involved in a host of other projects.

Gayle has been enjoying some free spare time of late, due to the lockdown.

“I’ve quiet enjoyed the lockdown to be fair, I like the slowness of it, it’s calmed things down, I’ve used it as a time for reflection, sharpening my tools on my educational side and a bit more reading.”

Gayle has played for a host of clubs but it was his time at Wimbledon FC in the nineties that he remembers most:

“In the time of the mid 90’s when I started playing with them, I was there seven years and had a whale of a time and the crazy gang helped me mature from being a boy to a man in a short space of time because of the characters. It was a test every day mentally and physically at times.”

He was also fortunate to play international football for Jamaica:

“That was a brilliant period as well. I played for about two years. It was very colourful the characters again. It was a positive and historic moment as well. It was a beautiful experience playing in the world cup, you kind of dream off as a kid to represent Jamaica through my father.”

After his playing days were over, he turned to coaching and started on that path with a spell as Wimbledon’s reserve team manager:

“I played ninety-nine per cent of my career just focused on playing. I didn’t really give much thought into what to do next.

“The main thing was make sure you look after your money and if you’ve got time to do that you will have time to evolve into a different pathway. How it turned out at my days at Watford, I didn’t even see myself as a coach but others did. Indeed, the younger players were always tapping into my knowledge and I was unaware of what I could become.  They saw me as someone that they could go to in the club a senior statesman and they saw me as a coach before I even did.”

Gayle continued:

“The opportunity came around when I finished in 2008 to take over the reserve team, which I did for four years which was thoroughly enjoyable.

“It was just to prepare them because when you get into the first team environment it can be quiet harsh, like how are you going to cope with somebody telling you something, they are not going to ask for anything in the first team, they are going to demand or tell you and it won’t be in a nice way.”

Gayle eventually became manager of Non-League Staines Town, where he was based for two and a half years.

“I was well equipped for it.  I was happy in picking and choosing players and developing players, so I was really doing everything. I really did my apprenticeship at Wimbledon, so, to step into first team management was just like another move. You were playing in a decent league Conference South, you had a budget to deal with, which was totally fine but for me really it was giving young players an opportunity.

“There was always a reservation about managers not wanting to play young players as the their perspective is that he wants three points. He ain’t going to trust the youngsters but I was the complete opposite. I signed a lot of nineteen soon to be twenty year old players as the bulk of my squad just to trust me as a coach and I will be here step by step and let’s just give you the opportunity and that is what I did.”

Gayle is heavily involved with Brentford as a club ambassador, Kick It Out out and ambassador for Kick Off @3.

“I met the guys that founded that a few years ago and they just wanted my support for events and input as well. So, I was more than happy to do that so we have been doing that for the last couple of years. What they are aiming to do is to build up the rapport between young people through sport and the community police in general.

“I can see that there is a disconnect of trust, so they wanted to use sport as a way of unifying everybody at the same place same time and really build up trust and understanding between the two. I totally agree with this because I think there is the disconnect at times where the police may see youngsters as problematic . The aim is that we can all be united through sport and try and mend connections that are being broken at times.”

There has been a lot of talk recently of Black Lives Matter and the solidarity that everybody has shown towards this:

“I think the issue needs to be raised and the acknowledgement from the Premier League is great, having the slogans on the back of the shirts I’m not in full agreement with that as I just think that is going to open a can of worms and a wider debate and it clouds what’s really going on.

“It’s taken away what the message is, it’s not saying only black lives matter, we all matter however there is a disproportionate rate of certain teams that effect black lives in this country. That’s historical, systematic and those are the things that we need to have a big debate about.  This all starts with the leadership from the boardrooms etc.  and the people who make decisions in football there is hardly anybody of colour in these positions.

“They all, however, want to talk about race and equality but we are not even in the conversation, so we need to have our voice heard. How it is today, everybody is their own broadcaster. We don’t need to go to the mainstream media to put our voice out there as we have our own social media platforms as we all talk on that. I just think it is going to be problematic for the first twelve games or so but it’s going to open a can of worms later down the road, then, we will have different debates about different topics and where is it ever going to end.”

Incredibly, there are only six BAME Managers currently out of 91 clubs. This is a concern for Gayle:

“Even though it is six, it is better than how it was. To take six right now is an encouragement but my thoughts on that is again it is down to the leadership. The board room and the decision makers that appoint but ultimately, where is the transparency in the boardroom and openness. How are there black footballers playing for the top sides, winning titles, captaining those great teams and as soon as those players are retiring are deemed you are nowhere near good enough, compared to our white counterparts. The question is we want equality but we want equality to do the exact same thing the equal opportunity as a Wayne Rooney, a Frank Lampard, a Steven Gerrard and those are prevalent.  This is a fair debate to listen to!”

You can listen to the full interview with Marcus Gayle by clicking on the link below:

https://soundcloud.com/user-365414754/marcus-gayle-1

Analysis of the Championship Run-in

Championship fans up and down the country were today (June 8) given a huge boost of excitement with the EFL announcing the restart schedule released – along with confirmed TV selections.

The journey will continue for Sky Bet Championship clubs with the action kicking off again on Saturday 20 June. They couldn’t have gone for a juicier opening fixture with promotion contenders Fulham & Brentford clashing in front of the Sky cameras for a West London derby.

So with just nine games remaining, who is in the running for promotion and relegation? Let’s break it down and give a final prediction of what could go down starting with the relegation candidates.

We all know what gruelling and outright horrible season the Championship can be for clubs. It is 46 games of tough, physical games of football and we would usually be talking of these remaining nine games as the last hurdle, but truthfully, with the break, everyone has now had, anything could happen. Even more, than it usually does. Seriously, the Championship has become even more unpredictable – let the party begin.

Last term, 44 points renewed Millwall’s Championship status and the year before that, 43 points kept Bolton up. Yet with 27 points still up for grabs, Hull City sit one place out the drop zone on 41 points which makes you realise we could be in for a much higher points total to guarantee safety.

So who are all the teams in the relegation run-in? I suppose this is almost impossible to pinpoint with the dramatic changes this league can produce but all the way up to seventeenth spot we have Stoke City who are just three points adrift. Below them are Huddersfield, Middlesbrough Wigan and Hull. The drop zone meanwhile contains Charlton, Luton, and Barnsley.

Given the number of ridiculous results that the Championship can produce I almost feel it a pointless exercise to start analysing the run-ins that the teams have but some crucial relegation clashes are coming up – one of them being Hull vs Middlesbrough.

The Yorkshire derby (I’m sorry) has been selected for Sky coverage on Thursday 2 July and could play a pivotal part. The Tigers made a terrible gamble in January by selling their dynamic duo of Jared Bowen and Kamil Grosicki to West Ham and West Brom respectively and it’s fair to say it couldn’t have gone worse for them.

At one stage it looked like Hull might be in for a fairly stable season but since Christmas, they have picked up just eleven points from a possible forty-two, including heavy defeats in the last two outings to Leeds and Stoke.

Elsewhere, the pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for Wigan Athletic who were in the form of their lives and picked up huge wins over the current top two, Leeds and West Brom. It’s a huge fight meanwhile for Barnsley, who, despite some half-decent form themselves, are still bottom of the pile and seven points adrift. Gerhard Struber has not done a bad job with the Yorkshire club but the sheer awfulness of their start to the season before he took charge in November means that it still hasn’t been enough.

Charlton Athletic have been hit with a huge blow, which has been a big talking point ahead of the restart with several players including top scorer Lyle Taylor, refusing to continue. Taylor (30) is out of contract and states his physical health as reasons for not agreeing to a temporary extension as he doesn’t want an injury to prevent him from a move next season.

Even with Taylor’s goals, Charlton are two points deep in the relegation zone and without them, you do wonder where the results are going to come from. Below the Addicks, we have Luton Town who for most of the season have just looked a little bit out of their depth. It would be a shame for Luton to go down as their epic rise, fall and rise again has been a great story. Do they, however, have enough to stay up?

Huddersfield and Stoke may be living life dangerously sitting just three points clear, but the misfortunes of Charlton and Hull I think will keep them safe enough and out of the equation. Huddersfield will, however, have crucial games against Wigan and Luton, meanwhile Stoke will have to fight off tough opposition with three of the top six still to play.

Final Prediction
21: Charlton Athletic (Survived)
22: Hull City (Relegated)
23: Barnsley (Relegated)
24: Luton Town (Relegated)

So on we go to the epic prize that is the Premier League. Once again this is going to be a tough one to predict and it really wouldn’t shock me if a team I mention in this somehow ends up in a relegation scrap. This division is mental, it really is.

With just six points separating sixth and thirteenth – don’t shoot me if I end up getting this horrifically wrong.

I reiterate that form could completely go out the window with the big break that we have had and the run-ins could make no difference whatsoever but nonetheless, we’ll start with the current top two.

Leeds and West Brom have looked the best bets for promotion for a lot of this season and six points currently separates West Brom from Fulham in third with Leeds one point ahead of Albion in first. Both have had their bad spells this season and at one point it seriously looked like both Fulham and Brentford could take up the top two spots.

Before the pandemic, however, Leeds were in tantalising form winning their last five games and conceding no goals in the process. For West Brom, it was a little more up and down drawing away to Swansea and losing at home to Wigan but the Baggies did register big wins over Preston and Bristol City before that.

With Brentford ten points behind West Brom, we have to suggest at this stage that Fulham are the main contenders to challenge the top two.

However, a reminder that Fulham do host Brentford in the first game back and an away win for the Bees could give them a very good argument that they are still in the mix. Thomas Frank’s side will then have to face West Brom immediately afterwards at home so those two games perhaps could give us a good idea?

In that same game week, Leeds will host Fulham in what could also prove to be huge. My word I have missed this barnstormer of a league!

We must also not forget Nottingham Forest who sit level with Brentford in fifth, however, since their big home win over Leeds back in February, the form for Sabri Lamouchi’s men has been very up and down. They were shocked at home to Charlton and since been well beaten in their last game at the hands of Millwall. Forest have been crying out for Premier League football even longer than Leeds but still strike me as a team that is developing under Lamouchi.

There is no doubt that Lamouchi has transformed Forest into a much better side than we have seen over the years and for that reason, in my opinion, it puts him in the running for manager of the year. Should they, however, fall short this season they’d have to be big favourites next year.

Four points behind Forest in sixth we have Preston where thankfully we can now just be talking about who is going to take that spot come July. Not that I should completely disregard Preston ploughing through everyone in nine games and go up as champions but let’s just pretend that isn’t possible. Alex Neil is another manager who has done a tremendous job this season, turning Preston from a mid-table team to a side that is mounting a promotion challenge.

They do, however, face stiff competition from Bristol City, who are just a point behind The Lilywhites, while Millwall and Cardiff are just two points adrift. Oh, but then we have Blackburn, Swansea and Derby who are also very much in contention…I give in, please no one shoot me for this prediction.

To make matters more difficult these are all teams who’s form has been very inconsistent, I mean that’s probably why they are where they are. I do make a strong case for Gary Rowett’s Millwall though, who, since Rowett’s appointment I’ve identified as dark horses for promotion.

Rowett has had a lot of talk about him since his shock departure from Birmingham as to how good a coach he is and it did not go well for him at Stoke. At the time it looked a risky decision to take the managerial role at The Den, given that the previous season Millwall had very narrowly escaped relegation and were sat in seventeenth spot at the time of his appointment.

The Lions though have lost just five league games in his 23 game tenure and with just two points separating them and Preston they do look a good bet. Bristol City meanwhile were in very bad form before lockdown and despite that potentially making no difference anymore, they aren’t a team that has struck me as one that would maintain a spot in the playoffs. I would also say similarly with Guy Mowbray’s Blackburn Rovers, who have been in and around the mix for a while now and for a long time topped the form table, but ultimately I see them coming short.

Swansea and Derby are interesting ones because the Swans were at the top end of the table for a while before Christmas but a bad run of form led to their slip down the table. They are a young footballing side that given time under Steve Cooper, they could be well in the mix next season.

Derby, on the other hand, have had a very eventful season.  The signing of Wayne Rooney in January to the sacking of captain Richard Keogh. Focusing on the football, they’re a team that has tried to play out from the back under Phillip Cocu but just haven’t done it that well. Their fortunes have however recently changed and the results have started to come, which has led to them being back in the mix but I think it will be too little too late for them.

Final Prediction
1: Leeds (Promoted)
2: West Brom (Promoted)
3: Fulham
4: Brentford (Promoted via Playoffs)
5: Nottingham Forest
6: Millwall

Brentford crowned EFL Football Manager Cup Winners

Brentford supporter Sam Jacques successfully managed the Championship side to FM2020 EFL Cup glory this past weekend.

The Bees overcame Welsh side Swansea City in the final of the competition in a nerve racking penalty shoot out after the match finished 1-1 after 120 minutes of action.

The final was ultimately decided by David Raya’s penalty saving heroics after saving spot kicks from Andre Ayew and Conor Gallagher meaning that the shootout finished 5-4.

In truth, Jacques’s team should have won before it reached the penalty stage having created more than enough chances to win the contest in normal and extra time but were kept at bay by the Swansea’s impressive keeper, Freddie Woodman.

It was however the Welsh side, managed by supporter Gareth Roberts, who took the lead through Conor Gallagher who latched onto a long ball from Matt Grimes.

The lead lasted a mere 79 seconds as Emiliano Marcondes headed in Mathias Jensen’s free kick to make it 1-1 before half time.

The second half saw a number of missed chances from the Bees, Marcondes and striker Ollie Watkins both wasted good chances.  In extra-time Marcondes also saw a goal disallowed for offside.

Ultimately, these missed opportunities did not come back to haunt Brentford as they were able to keep their nerve from 12 yards to bring to an end a compelling virtual tournament organised by EFL and partnered by Mind UK.

Overall 54 teams took part in the tournament, which lasted over four weeks.  The JustGiving page set up has so far managed to raise £7,929 for the Mental Health Charity and there is still time to donate to this very worthwhile cause.

EFL Football Manger Cup Round Two Review

The EFL Football Manager Cup is building up ahead of steam following the second round’s completion.

The virtual cup began on Monday 18 April with 54 teams in the hat and has now been whittled down to just 16 sides.

The match of the round was undoubtedly Brenford’s compelling encounter with Shrewsbury Town.  The Bees had to come from behind twice to secure a 2-2 draw in normal time.  Following an additional 30 minutes, the sides still could not find a winner so the contest was settled by who could keep their nerve from the penalty spot.  Ultimately it was the Championship side who prevailed 3-1 thanks to goalkeeper David Reyna who produced the crucial save from Shrewsbury’s midfielder Shaun Whalley.

Joe Lolley’s Nottingham Forest meanwhile managed to put five past Southend at the City Ground thanks to two goals from Ben Watson and Portuguese left back Yuri Ribeiro.  Lee Camp’s Birmingham City side also managed to score five in an impressive 5- 0 over Forest Green Rovers.

Elsewhere, Luton Town progressed to round three with a 3-1 success against Ipswich, mirroring the exact result between the sides when they met in the Carabao Cup back in August.  While there were 1-0 wins for Fulham and Mansfield Town against Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth respectively.

This tournament has so far managed to raise £1,879 for the mental health charity, Mind UK and you can continue to donate via the JustGive Page until it’s conclusion on the 17th May.

The draw for the next round is set to take place this Sunday via the Football Manager twitter page.

EFL Football Manager Cup Schedule

The Round of 16 – Commences week of May 4th

The Quarter-finals – May 11-14th

The Semi Finals –  Saturday May 16th

The Final – Sunday May 17th