Who’s In And Who’s Out? – 30/6/14

Now that the Bees have made three quick-fire signings in the last week I thought it might be interesting to see what our Championship rivals have been up to so far in the transfer market.

It’s probably a good time to have our first look as this is probably the lull before the storm as a plethora of transfers will be announced this week after contracts expire at the end of June.

Some clubs seem to have done most of their shopping already whilst others have kept their powder dry.

Let’s start by looking at the two teams who were promoted alongside Brentford.

Rotherham in particular have engaged in a massive trolley dash with no less than ten new players joining them.

Some Millers fans however are already expressing concern about the consequences of so many members of a promoted team being ousted by newcomers and the potential effect on team morale.

It has to be said that Rotherham’s signings look patchy in the extreme.

Jordan Bowery looked out of his depth at Aston Villa but could come good if the raw promise he showed at Chesterfield is finally realised and Matt Derbyshire was patchy but had spells at Nottingham Forest last season when he was a real goal threat.

Febian Brandy and Ryan Hall are two others who have yet to fulfil their abundant promise having flattered to deceive elsewhere and Scott Loach is a once outstanding goalkeeper who also seems to have lost his way in recent years.

Does anyone see a pattern developing here?

Their remaining newcomers are journeymen with either a Championship or Division One background.

There is no evidence that their spending has finished with Bournemouth striker Brett Pitman, once a Bees target, apparently on Rotherham’s shopping list but their main transfer target, the excellent right back James Tavernier snubbed their approach this weekend and signed for moneybags Wigan.

This was a real blow for the Millers as he was a potent and pacy attacking threat for them last season as well as taking a mean free kick.

There are also rumours that several teams including the Bees are sniffing around star midfielder Ben Pringle.

Now he would be a great signing for the lucky team that captures him.

Wolves have been far more parsimonious to date with their only arrivals being the lightweight but skilful utility player Tommy Rowe from Peterborough and the unknown (to me anyway) Dutch Under 21 winger Rajiv van La Parra, signed on a free transfer from Heerenveen.

More surely to come.

What is more interesting at Molineux is the exit door with expensive talent such as Kevin Foley, Kevin Doyle, James O’Hara, Stephen Ward and Roger Johnson all on Kenny Jackett’s pariah list.

The other club very active to date in the transfer market has been Birmingham City – surprisingly perhaps given their ownership and financial situation.

Finally rid of the millstone of Nikola Zigic’s sixty-five thousand pounds per week wage, a figure that fully exemplifies the madness of football finances today, The Blues have brought in a mixed bag of nine players including some real quality in our own former hero, Clayton Donaldson, powerful striker Wes Thomas from Rotherham and Stephen Gleeson from MK Dons.

Clayton’s move has already been dissected to death but Thomas and in particular Gleeson are excellent players who I would have welcomed at Griffin Park.

Doncaster Rovers,who were were so devastated to see relegated on the last day of the season from the Championship, have shed three of their better paid players with David Cotterill and Mark Duffy joining Birmingham and former Bees loan target Chris Brown joining Jordan Rhodes at Blackburn.

In contrast Blackpool seem to be in turmoil and preparing for a five-a-side league having released fourteen players, sold six more and signed precisely nobody.

AFC Bournemouth also seem to be biding their time, having lost Lewis Grabban to Norwich City when they activated his  three million pound release fee, but with Adam Lallana apparently on the verge of a reported twenty-five million pound transfer to Liverpool, Bournemouth will have a massive six million pound sell on fee to add to their transfer war chest.

Callum Wilson anyone?

Cardiff City also seem to have invested wisely in Adam Le Fondre from Reading and Federico Machedo, finally leaving the  nest at Manchester United.

Ian Holloway is trying to rebuild at Millwall and has taken a gamble on free-scoring Halifax striker Lee Gregory and it will be interesting to compare his progress next season with that of Andre Gray.

Watford too look likely to score goals at one end through the returning Matej Vydra and then concede just as quickly with the erratic Heurelho Gomes replacing Manuel Almunia in goal.

The key question for them is whether they can hang onto their much-coveted star striker Troy Deeney.

Early days as of yet but there have already been many interesting transfers completed in the Championship with many more to come in the next few weeks with perhaps more arrivals expected at Griffin Park too!

Bees Book Report 1 – 29/6/14

I thought it might be interesting every so often to alert Bees fans to any football books I have read that they might find particularly relevant and interesting.

So here goes:

richard lee

GRADUATION: LIFE LESSONS OF A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLER BY RICHARD LEE – Available at Amazon for £9.79 (paperback) or £6.62 (ebook)

There is a long-established viewpoint that goalkeepers, if not mad are totally different from their team mates and Brentford goalkeeper Richard Lee has certainly brought out a book that stands out from the norm.

Using the structure of a diary of a roller-coaster 2010/11 season at Brentford as his framework, Lee provides an acute, revealing and painfully honest account of how it feels to be a professional footballer and the way in which he has transformed his outlook, training and preparation in order to maximise his playing potential.

Lee opens himself up to the reader as an intelligent man quick to question himself and also riddled with fears and self-doubts who is not even a particular fan of the sport in which he makes his living.

Yet he is open and perceptive enough to challenge the traditional preconceptions of life as a footballer and search out and then institute his own methods of preparation and training both his mind and body which result in him producing the best and most consistent form of his life.

But don’t think it was an easy ride. Lee was brought in from Watford as first choice, was dropped before even playing a League game, fought his way back from third to first choice, was the hero of several heart stopping penalty shootouts, suffered the dressing room gobbledy gook of a manager in Andy Scott who he claims was a poor man manager and who was to end up with the sack, and suffered the heartbreak of missing a Wembley final through injury after doing so much to help the team get there.

Don’t feel sorry for Richard though as what comes through loud and clear is his clear analysis and understanding regarding his self-development and growth as a man who is becoming far more comfortable in his own skin and at peace with himself in terms of his occupation and level of achievement.

The book is written clearly and lucidly and is peppered with anecdotes and self-deprecating humour.

Lee is quick to give praise and thanks to the series of mentors who have helped him in his quest

As Gary Player said, “the harder I work the luckier I get” and Richard Lee has worked enormously hard to become the footballer and person that he is.

This book is a unique, uplifting and inspiring read which will live long in the memory due to its difficult subject matter and the honesty with which it was written and it never falls into the trap of becoming preachy or full of jargon.

There is a lot of stuff in here about man-management and how a certain former Bees manager apparently fell very short in this area and Brentford fans will find this insider view fascinating


FAMILY: LIFE, DEATH AND FOOTBALL BY MICHAEL CALVIN – Available at Amazon for £6.99 (paperback) or £4.79 (ebook)

Over thirty-five years ago Hunter Davies broke new ground when he was given total access to Tottenham Hotspur for a season and the result was ¨The Glory Game¨- a true classic in football writing.

I have long been waiting for something as good and Michael Calvin has more than come up with the goods with this well written and insightful insider’s view of Millwall’s promotion season to the Championship in 2010.

So authentic that you can smell the sweat and linament, he has got inside every aspect of the club, both on and off the pitch and truly answered a good reporter’s key questions – Who, What, Why, Where and When.

Brentford fans will be interested to read about “The Guvnors” – the group of experienced players who with the total approval of manager Kenny Jackett ran and policed the dressing room on his behalf and ensured that the players never compromised on their standards or stepped out of line.

They included Andy Frampton, Gary Alexander and Tony Craig and there is much in the book regarding their professionalism and commitment to their team mates.

There is much too about the troubled Lewis Grabban, a youngster who was at the time immature and a fish out of water in an otherwise tight knit dressing room and keen to go his own way and not buy into the group mentality.

This book is a real gem and will open your eyes as to what really goes on every day at a professional football club.

nowhere men

THE NOWHERE MEN BY MICHAEL CALVIN – Available at Amazon for £6.29 (paperback) or £3.49 (ebook)

Amazon currently offer over 15,000 books on football and I am sure that the overwhelming majority are the ghosted memoirs of the latest pampered Premier League brat and originality is hard to come by.

Mike Calvin has been around Fleet Street for many years and has established a reputation for pithy columns that get to the nub of the matter and for his ability to eviscerate cant and hypocrisy.

His previous book “Family”, a year in the life of Millwall took us inside the heart and soul of a football club and made us look at the club in a totally new light.

The book was rightly acclaimed but “The Nowhere Men” is totally different in every way.

Calvin has broken new ground and cast light on a hitherto ignored and unknown segment of the game, the scouts who are responsible for identifying and maintaining the pipeline of young talented players, some as young as the age of six.

He follows a group of scouts and becomes the fly on the wall, recording their conversations, insecurities, fears, whinges and even paranoia as they strive to discover the next potential superstar.

Like most people who spend an inordinate period of their lives working alone on the road and then on their backsides at football matches most scouts are garrulous individuals and their stories are explicit, razor sharp and do not spare the guilty and Calvin is an excellent listener and this book gives them their voice.

There are many footballers including Marcello Trotta who will shrink at the honesty of the withering verdicts of their ability or heart or lack of it and their weaknesses are laid bare by the group of scouts whose job it is to assess em.

Men like the evergreen John Griffin and Mel Johnson are seasoned watchers of the game and able to make detailed assessements of a player’s ability and likelihood to make a living from the game within a few moments of watching them.

You learn to watch the player and not the game itself which apparently is why many managers make poor scouts as they lack the singleminded ness required.

What is amazing is the cavalier fashion in which many scouts are treated, disposed of like old socks when a manager loses his job, working for expenses only and likely victims of the next palace revolution.

Calvin gives them their voice and reveals them as the unsung heroes that they are.

We hear fisherman’s tales of the ones that got away and for all their camaraderie. and sense of togetherness the scouts are competing against eachother and try to pull the wool over their rivals’ eye.

Calvin also lays open the current debate regarding the value of the traditional scout who trusts his eye, experience and judgment when assessing a player and the new breed of performance analysts who follow the Moneyball tradition of using statistics to make their choices.

There is an uneasy relationship between the two and this is a struggle that will continue.

The rich get richer but it is gratifying to read so much in this book about Brentford who are punching way above their weight and are outperforming the bigger boys in the way in which they structure their youth development programme.

The book is 390 pages of pure gold dust, well written, sympathetic and insightful.

This is a totally original book that breaks new ground and it has caused a real stir within the game as well as providing rich entertainment to those who choose to read it.

Please let me know if book reviews are of interest as I have just picked up an account of last season at Dagenham & Redbridge by Lee Price, an avowed Manchester United fan and feature writer for The Sun.

This looks like it might be great fun and I would be happy to share my thoughts on it next week.

What A Wonderful Day! – 28/6/14

Well some days are just perfect and yesterday was really up there with the best of them. I cannot tell you how many times I visited the Brentford FC website on Friday morning hoping to see confirmation of our new signings.

Finally it arrived.moses

But wait, on closer examination it wasn’t Moses Odubajo who had signed, but Development Squad prospect Manny Oyeleke – I knew then it was time to get my eyes tested!

But in the end both Moses and Luton striker Andre Gray signed their contracts and were duly paraded on the pitch wearing their new Brentford shirt and at a stroke our mood has been transformed from one of apprehension to massive optimism about the season ahead.

Moses and Andre are both young players of immense talent and potential and from listening to their interviews it is obvious that they see Brentford as a club on the up or as Moses’s agent succinctly put it “a Premiership club in the Championship.”

High praise indeed and symptomatic of how the club is perceived nowadays.

So this week three pieces of the jigsaw have been slotted in and given the strength of the existing squad there isn’t too much else required beyond a centre forward who can hold the ball up and take the weight off Gray, perhaps a left winger and another midfield player, both possibly on loan.Andre

There have been many murmurings about Rotherham’s trolley dash with ten players already signed but in comparison to the Bees’s new arrivals it really seems a case of quality over quantity.

You can’t really say a word against the Millers given the two tonkings they gave us last season when they were the only team to do the double over us, but I know whose squad I prefer.

The good news just didn’t stop coming with goalkeeper David Button signing a new three year contract and judging by the tone of the players in their Bees Player interviews it really seems a happy and confident camp.

It is rare that transfer fees are announced nowadays and yesterday was no exception but figures of around one million pounds for Moses and five hundred thousand pounds plus for Andre have been bandied about on social media.

Who knows how accurate these figures are but it would appear that Brentford have comfortably smashed their transfer record, previously set when Icelandic star defender Herman Hreidarsson signed for an estimated seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds.

Without being too specific I would guess that others in the top ten would now include Andre Gray, Will Grigg, James Tarkowski, Joe Allon, Alan Judge and Scott Marshall.

The last time Brentford went on a similar spending spree was at the beginning of Chairman Jack Dunnett’s reign back in 1962.

It all ended in tears and almost the demise of the club itself, but that is a story for another day and indeed one that fellow authors Mark Croxford, Dave Lane and myself fully intend to tell as we interviewed the still sprightly nonagenarian Mr. Dunnett last year.

The club caused a sensation when it brought in an all-international strike force of Johnny Brooks, John Dick and Billy McAdams and their goals ensured that the fourth Division Championship was won at a relative canter with a massive ninety-eight goals scored.

The difference between then and now (and really let’s not try and compare Jack Dunnett with Matthew Benham – please) is that we were signing excellent proven players whose best days were gone and their impact was short term and none of them had any resale value given that they were dead assets.

Things are different now as the club is stuffed to the gills with players who are coveted by other teams.

Let’s just hope that they can fulfil their ambitions at Griffin Park – and indeed, Lionel Road and that we have no need to cash in on the likes of Adam Forshaw, James Tarkowski and Jake Bidwell to say nothing of the plethora of young kids with enormous potential nicely coming to the boil in the Academy.

Talking of Johnny Brooks brings me onto the only truly sad part of this article as The Times reported on Friday that eighty-two year old Brooks is now suffering from vascular dementia which brings to the surface yet again the issue of concussion and the repeated effects of heading what was more like a cannonball than a football.Brooks2

There is much in terms of research and indeed disclosure that needs to be done in this area given that Johnny Brooks is by no means an isolated example and indeed Jeff Astle died of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition that has affected countless American footballers.

Footballers should and must not be allowed to die of “industrial injuries.”

So at a time of great joy, hope and optimism for all Brentford fans let’s end by remembering and rejoicing in the huge talent of Johnny Brooks and the enormous pleasure he gave fans of Spurs, Chelsea, Brentford and Crystal Palace alike and send him our best wishes.

Too Excited To Sleep! – 27/6/14

It’s late – or rather very early in the morning and it is well past my normal bedtime.

So what’s keeping me up?

It is the prospect of Brentford signing a couple of players later today.

We fans need a fillip after the disappointment of losing Clayton Donaldson earlier in the week and more importantly, we need to sign some forwards given that Will Grigg – rumoured to be leaving himself – is currently the last man standing.

article-2639600-1E32ED5A00000578-800_634x424So who might be coming in?

Many names have been bandied about on Twitter and the Griffin Park Grapevine including Callum Wilson and Patrick Bamford but according to social media the likely prospects have now been narrowed down to two.

Namely Moses Odubajo of Orient and Andre Gray of Luton Town.

The rumour mill has gone into overdrive and who knows, the stories may yet prove baseless but if true these two signings really will make the football world stand up and take notice.

A youth team product from Greenwich, Moses took the division by storm last season, scoring a dozen goals and making many more from his berth on the right wing.

He beat players with guile and pace, was brave, worked hard and had a real eye for goal.

His precocious talent, so reminiscent of another Orient favourite from the past, the late lamented Laurie Cunningham, was evident and once Orient lost so cruelly in that torrid penalty shootout at Wembley it was obvious that Moses, who had lit up Wembley with an outrageous volleyed goal in the first half, would be on his way to bigger and better things.

Bigger and better surely than Brentford with many Premiership clubs rumoured to have run the eye over a player valued by his club at well over a million pounds.

_62474901_gray_empWhat a coup if Brentford are indeed able to secure his services as his pace and mesmerising ability would turbocharge our threat going forward and also make yet another statement about the club’s ambition and determination to at least consolidate its position in the Championship.

For those with a taste for schadenfreude, I can only begin to think how sick Orient fans will feel should they lose their star player to a club they erroneously perceive to be their inferior.

Andre Gray’s signing would also turn heads as he is a pacy, lithe and sinuous striker and clinical finisher who came late onto the scene having blown his early chance at Shrewsbury.

He rehabilitated himself at Hinckley before signing for Luton two years ago where he has averaged one goal in every two games as he proved far too quick and sharp for Conference defenders.

He celebrated his twenty-third birthday yesterday and hopefully he will be receiving another wonderful present later today.

Signings such as these would further enhance the club’s reputation for bringing in emerging young talent who can develop and flourish given the empowering and positive regime and approach at Griffin Park.

Nothing excites supporters more than their club making a new signing, but signings of this calibre would certainly put a smile on our faces and show the football world that Brentford are on the rise both on and off the field.

Let’s just hope that for once the rumours are true.


Bienvenido A Marcos – 26/6/14


Brentford yesterday announced the arrival of new Spanish midfielder Marcos Tebar Ramiro and on first examination via the tried and tested fan scouting resources of Wikipedia, YouTube and FIFA Soccer, the former Real Madrid player appears to be an exciting prospect.

He is not the first Spaniard to play for the club as Javi Venta had a short spell at Griffin Park last season and winger Jose Gallego made six appearances way back in 1946.

Born in the Basque Country, his family fled to Britain to escape the ravages of the Spanish Civil War and he has the distinction as far as I’m aware of becoming Brentford’s first overseas player.

I know I’ve set myself up with that last statement and fully expect some anorak statto will pedantically correct me if I neglected to mention some long-forgotten Lithuanian fullback who played a few reserve games before the war – and just in case anyone thinks otherwise, Cyril Toulouse was born locally in Acton!

Brentford’s track record with foreign players has been fairly up and down in recent years with some magnificent successes tempered by some dismal failures – Herman Hreidarsson and Jide Olugbodi everyone?

Herman’s arrival in 1998 was a massive shock. Since when did little-old Brentford ever pay seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds for a player?

Later on in Ron Noades’s reign that and many other similar questions would be answered!

Herman bestrode the pitch like a colossus, light years ahead of team mates and opponents alike in terms of his speed of thought and pure ability although his early appearances were littered with goal-costing errors as his seemingly casual approach was at odds with the hustle and bustle of the fourth tier of the English game.

He soon settled and scored a classic staggeringly confident winning goal against promotion rivals Cardiff.

Herman was far too good for us and was soon off to Wimbledon for a massive two and a half million pound fee – a sum we have since come nowhere near matching until perhaps the sad day when Adam Forshaw eventually leaves us.

Iceland has provided a fertile hunting ground and the peerless Ivar Ingimarsson went through the entire 2001-2 season as an ever present without once picking up a yellow card – a record I sorely wish he had tarnished by kicking Jamie Cureton up in the air just before our nemesis broke our hearts when his late goal cost us promotion.

Polish midfielder Detzi Kruszynski was a massive influence in helping us win the last six games of our Championship season of 1992 but his influence soon waned.

Dutch defender Pim Balkestein also started well as a loanee but seemed to lose focus and interest after signing permanently and faded away.

I was a massive admirer of sweeper John Buttigieg, winner of over one hundred caps for Malta, who was signed by Steve Perryman seemingly oblivious to the fact that the sweeper system was totally unsuited to his squad.

Others also flattered to deceive.

American striker Mike Grella fired nothing but blanks apart from one amazing never to be repeated night when, touched by genius, he put AFC Bournemouth to the sword with a four goal performance. He now attempts to repeat the feat wth the Carolina RailHawks.

Marcello Trotta was also on an emotional rollercoaster during his two loan spells at the club. Thankfully it all ended well with promotion after the trauma of the previous season.

Let’s end with the truly bonkers Jean-Phillippe Javary. Signed from the mighty Raith Rovers despite rumours of a previous involvement with Barcelona, the midfielder was much hyped by Ron Noades but turned out to be a total damp squib and left in ignominy after strange goings on during a reserve match at Cheltenham.

We all all hope that Marcos has a longer and more successful stay at the club than Javary and maybe, just maybe, there a plan afoot for the arrival of a previously unknown twenty goal foreign striker – hopefully somebody more potent than the late unlamented  Clyde Wijnhard or Lorenzo Pinamonte.

Say It Isn’t So Clayton – 25/06/14



Well that was a bit of a letdown. Today should have been one of the most exciting days of the season, one which I had been looking forward to for weeks with a heightened sense of anticipation.

The Brentford players returned to training this morning preparatory to their trip to a swanky US training camp next week.

All should have been great as indeed it was until I opened up the Birmingham City website and was greeted by the sickening sight (above) of our hero and talisman Clayton Donaldson being paraded on the St. Andrew’s pitch.

In truth Clayton’s departure did not come as a total shock and last week I had written what I thought was a measured article about the pros and cons of his impending decision.

In other words I thought that I had prepared myself in a calm and rational manner to face life at Griffin Park PC or post-Clayton.

Well I was wrong.

All was fine even when the horrid news was confirmed on the Brentford website.

He had gone and left us for one of our rivals, deadly enemies too from the past in Birmingham City, a club that seemed to be in financial disarray and meltdown.

That was sad but I could cope with the disappointment and all seemed manageable until I saw that dreadful picture of him in Birmingham.

My heart missed a beat and an almost visceral feeling of loss, pain and sickness permeated my entire body.

How could you do this Clayton? How could you desert us?

He really has gone. I know I have to face this fact however hard it is to accept.

We won’t see those lung-bursting runs any more. He won’t score those match winning goals for us again that seemingly snatched victory out of certain defeat.

Remember Portsmouth and Peterborough and the countless other times when he almost singlehandedly carried us over the line.

We won’t see that infectious smile and pure joie de vivre. We will really miss his unheralded and much appreciated work for the Community Sports Trust.

True we also won’t see him screw up any more one on ones, and certainly no more penalty kicks, and I suppose for that we should be grateful.

Today though is a day of mourning. Clayton came with high expectations and more than fulfilled them.

Now he has gone and I am very, very sad.

Football is a game that stirs the soul and the emotions.

I thought that I was old and cynical enough to take most things in my stride but Clayton leaving has really affected me and I’m sure many other Brentford fans too, as he represents everything good, solid and positive about the game and his skill, approach and very presence will be sorely missed over the coming months.

A Bite To Remember! – 24/06/14

Well sometimes you just have to go with the flow and be topical. My new blog containing a detailed, cogent and hopefully witty review of the brand new Brentford FC promotion DVD so pithily titled “We’re Going Up!” was all ready to go when Luis Suarez did… well you all know by now exactly what the charming Uruguayan did tonight.

So goodbye for now to the DVD review and hello to what?

I fully realise that Italian defenders traditionally make a meal of challenges they receive from opponents but Georgio Chiellini certainly did not appreciate being made THE meal by the snaggle-toothed striker or should that be biter?

I hope that FIFA give him the appropriate punishment that a three-times guilty gnasher deserves but I suspect that they will dither and vacillate mindful more of TV ratings than natural justice. Let’s see how toothless the faceless bureaucrats turn out to be.

So how do I put a Brentford spin on tonight’s appalling event?

The best that I can do is go back through the memory banks and briefly recall some the worst fouls committed by or perpetrated on Brentford players in recent years.

Does anyone remember Pat Terry a frighteningly tough journeyman centre forward from the sixties who saw out his long career with a final season at Brentford punctuated by goals and red cards? Never mind red cards it was the red mist that descended one autumn evening in 1968 when over seventeen thousand packed into Griffin Park to see if we could send Norwich City the same way as Hull City who we had pulverised in the previous round  of the Football League Cup.

A Hugh Curran inspired Norwich strolled to an easy victory marked by Terry, frustrated at the way his evening had gone, launching himself into a maniacal two footed kick into the chest of the gormless but totally innocent Laurie Brown who collapsed like a felled oak.

Those were violent times and earlier that season the bald assassin, Chesterfield’s Keith Kettleborough had to be smuggled out of the side door of Griffin Park with his head hidden in a blanket after his assault on star winger Allan Mansley left the star winger crocked and never the same player again.

Walsall’s Paul McShane will never be forgiven by the Griffin Park faithful after young striker Alex Rhodes, just blossoming into a confident and skilful attacker never fully recovered his pace or confidence after being clattered into the Braemar Road Paddock.

David Luiz collides with Jake Reeves

Let’s also give a well deserved name check to Chelsea’s David Luiz for his cynical, mean spirited and cowardly shoulder barge on young Jake Reeves – an assault that tarnished a wonderful day out at Stamford Bridge.

it’s not always the Bees who end up as the victims as Cambridge United’s Mick Heathcote and Paul Rayner’s spat over defensive responsibilities led to the former seeing red in more ways than one.

Not that we are immune to such behaviour as Darren Powell and Karleigh Osborne demonstrated at Bournemouth one Easter.

Nasty and unpleasant as all these incidents were, tonight’s assault took the biscuit and left me sickened to my stomach and unable to take another bite of my meal.

Who’s Coming In? – 23/06/14

If ever I want to make myself laugh or simply while away a few moments of downtime I log onto the Football Rumours website – you all know the one I’m talking about – and don’t tell me you haven’t looked at it too.

Giving it my normal cursory glance – Oh OK I admit it, I read it religiously from top to tail every day – the following names are apparently on their way to join us:

Calvin Zola – sorry gone to Stevenage

Callum Wilson – hhhmmm surely we would never be in a position to spend the money needed to get him

Marvin Sordell – good shout as he would be well known to Mark Warburton, but again…. the wages

Sean Scannell – hope he is better than his brother who had an anonymous loan spell with us yonks ago

Emmanuel Frimpong – please noooooo

Korey Smith – another good shout

Dean Cox – a bit too much like Sam Saunders but a real player

Alan Judge – well they had to get one right

Billy Paynter and Julian Allsop – methinks it’s someone from the GPG playing games again

It is total fiction and rubbish but provides hours and hours of harmless fun for us fans that aren’t “in the know” about impending transfers to and from Brentford FC.

And, in passing, can I just make the point that under the new regime at the club, secrets no longer seep out as if by osmosis. In past years speculation would always be rife and there would always be someone who would be totally on the money with the name of the next new signing well in advance of his arrival.

Well those days have gone, new security systems and a policy of Omerta are in place, not before time, and the success of ongoing negotiations are no longer compromised by a series of embarrassing and costly leaks. More evidence indeed of the club’s professionalism in the way it conducts its business.

Matthew Benham’s tried and tested transfer blueprint has been to bring in a series of precociously talented youngsters ideally on an initial try before you buy basis leavened with some experienced tried and tested professionals.

Adam Forshaw and Jake Bidwell would best sum up the first category with Jonathan Douglas and Alan McCormack the latter.

So what is in store for us as Mark Warburton and Frank McParland aim to finalise a squad ready and able to take on the unknown challenge of Championship football?

What really concerns me is that I am finding it hard to guage what the required standard is and whether the calibre of player we have signed or scouted in the past will be of the requisite standard.

There will certainly be several holes to fill given the departure of loanees Marcello Trotta and George Saville as well as squad players Shaleum Logan, Scott Barron and Farid El Alagui.

At the moment we are also waiting with bated breath for out of contract Clayton Donaldson to decide upon his future and the white puffs of smoke are expected any day now and ideally before the squad returns to training on Wednesday.

Should he go, and I am finding it hard to type with every part of my body contorted and crossed for good luck, then we will be left desperately short of numbers up front with Will Grigg the only contracted First Team forward.

His future seems in some doubt too – well at least in the minds of many supporters who felt rather short changed by his efforts last season.

Perhaps given a full preseason he will be fit and ready to play to his full potential and we will be treated to a player firing on all cylinders rather than the fits and starts of last season – or maybe we are already negotiating to cut our losses, a view that gains credence given the story that broke over the weekend of Bristol City’s reported interest in him.

We will certainly need two or maybe three strikers and given how difficult and expensive it is to find them I am totally in the dark as to where we will be prospecting. Will we splash the cash in a totally un-Brentford manner and spent serious money on a proven goalscorer? Highly unlikely in my mind given the likely cost and impact upon our existing wage structure. My money is on a high quality but unproven loanee and perhaps a signing from abroad.

Maybe we will be able to make our money go further in Eastern Europe or even Spain. I also suspect we will sign one very experienced striker who knows the ropes at this level.

Elsewhere we are in pretty good shape with Messrs. Dallas, Judge and the fit again Sam Saunders available on the flanks together with the emerging pace and promise of Josh Clarke and Charlie Adams.

We will probably sign another loanee in midfield to cover the loss of George Saville and perhaps a left sided utility defender who can cover left back and centre-half.

Nico Yennaris will also have to prove that he can make the right back berth his own.

Otherwise the squad seems primed and ready to go.

I am deliberately writing this before the players return to training and before any signings, with the exception of the exciting Alan Judge have been made.

I fully expect to have egg all over my face when every prediction of mine is proved incorrect – but that is what being a fan is all about!

Help Needed – Is There a Statto In The House? – 22/06/14



Yesterday’s blog on Clayton Donaldson brought about an interesting question from Andrew Potter who asked where Clayton stands on Brentford’s all time list of top goal scorers.

A really good and apposite question and one totally beyond my limited capabilities and knowledge.

When in doubt ask for help so hopefully one of my many – or should that be “any” readers will supply this interesting titbit of knowledge. Another option in the meantime is to undertake what used to be called “Desk Research” which has now translated into cribbing stuff from Wikipedia – so here goes with Brentford’s Top Ten all time goalscorers:

Jim Towers 163 (153 lge 9 FAC 1 LC)

George Francis 136 (124 lge 12 FAC)

Jack Holliday 122 (119 lge 3 FAC)

Gary Blissett 105 (79 lge 7 FAC 9 LC 10 other)

Dave McCulloch 90 (85 lge 5 FAC)

Bill Lane 89 (79 lge 10 FAC)

Lloyd Owusu 87 (76 lge 4 FAC 3 LC 4 other)

Billy Scott 86 (83 lge 3 FAC)

Jack Lane 86 (74 lge 12 FAC)

Idris Hopkins 80 (77 lge 3 FAC)

Clayton with his fifty-three goals for the club is nowhere near the top ten but I still fervently hope that he will remain with the club and start shooting further up the charts over the course of the next few seasons. All will, I am sure, be revealed over the next few days.

I was lucky enough to see three of the top ten play in Gary Blissett, Steve Phillips and Lloyd Owusu and GeoffBee and many others still around would of course have seen the “Terrible Twins” Jim Towers and George Francis in action.

There is no way of course of comparing them in terms of their ability and style of play given the differences in the game over the decades but I would love to somehow create a Brentford FC “Back to the Future” and be in a position to see Jack Holliday and Dave McCulloch in action.

What were they like, were they big and relied on their strength, were they great in the air, how fast were they, were they goalhangers or did they have defensive responsibilities too, what was the quality of the goalkeeping and defending like?

So many questions and so few answers with so little newsreel film remaining. The newspaper accounts of the time don’t really help either as despite being packed full of wordy and flowery descriptions of the action and atmosphere they are frustratingly short of tactical information of how teams and individual players performed.

On an aside, I was fortunate enough recently to pick up a copy of Mark Chapman’s fascinating book of facsimile editions of the 1935/36 Brentford FC First Division match programmes and what staggered and amazed me was how small footballers were in those distant days.

You think of some long lost and half-remembered heroes from that period and your imagination (or certainly mine) conjures up images of giants striding the pitch like a veritable colossus – in reality think again!

Stanley Matthews – 5ft 9ins and 10 stone 10 lbs, Arsenal legend and hardman Wilf Copping – 5ft 7ins, England centre forward Ted Drake a whopping 5ft 10ins, immortal International goalkeeper Harry Hibbs – a mere 5ft 9ins and most amazing of all, goalscoring legend from Everton, Dixie Dean also at 5ft 10ins.

These were by no means the exceptions, it was rare to find a goalkeeper or centre half in those days who was over six feet tall.

Does anyone remember the Bantam Divisions in the First World War in which the normal minimum height requirement for recruits was reduced from 5ft 3ins to a mere 5ft?

I don’t want to divert into a sociological study of height and diet in Edwardian Britain but as you can see – times were different and things have to be judged in isolation as comparisons are pretty meaningless.

So to finally get back to Andrew Potter’s question, if anyone can supply that missing list of Brentford’s leading goalscorers, he and I would be extremely grateful.

I would also be happy to try and answer any other questions that you would like to raise – just don’t expect a direct answer!

Does He Stay Or Does He Go? 21/06/14

I spent a few moments on Youtube this morning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3b1kWCSFos4) watching once again a montage of some of the goals that Clayton Donaldson scored for the Bees last season.

There were eighteen in all and over the past three seasons he has scored a total of fifty-three goals in one hundred and fifty-five appearances.

At a time when a hang-nail seems a plausible enough reason to miss a game it’s worth having another look at his appearance record. Clayton is seemingly indestructible and has averaged almost fifty-two appearances per season – an incredible record.

He never hides, always puts in a shift, does more than his fair share of defensive donkey work, has pace and power, can play down the middle or down either wing and scores goals with his left foot, right foot and his head.

And yet for all the recognition of his magnificent talent and achievements – and believe me, without Clayton we would be opening our new season against the likes of Chesterfield rather than in the Championship against Charlton – he has been subjected to many grudging comments over the past three years:

“Can’t score in a brothel”

“Scores one in every five chances”

“Worst penalty taker ever”

“Wasted out on the wing”

There might well be some truth in some of those assertions but we are not talking about Alan Shearer or Luis Suarez here but a thirty year old striker who had never played above the Third Division in England plus a few games in Scotland with Hibernian (about the same level in my biased opinion) before he joined Brentford on a Bosman free in 2011.

He took some time to find his feet and I well remember his first home goal against Colchester which was a typical Clayton finish – running onto a Myles Weston through ball, bursting past his defender, brushing him off, outpacing friend and foe alike and striding into the penalty are before curling the ball perfectly past a helpless keeper.

How many times was that beautiful cameo repeated?

Remember Swindon in the Playoff’s in 2013 or MK Dons away the year before where he silenced a vociferous home crowd pretty much single-handed.

He always played with a smile on his face and seemed to genuinely enjoy himself on the pitch – perhaps pinching himself at just how far he had come from his humble beginnings in Hull City (NOT Tigers) reserves.

Reading the message boards of opposing teams there was always a grudging admiration of his ability, or in the case of Swindon Town against whom he scored five goals in two seasons, a sense of abject terror, foreboding and apprehension at the prospect of Clayton turning out against them.

So why do I find myself writing in the past tense?

Simply because Clayton’s contract expires in less than a fortnight and there is currently no sign of him extending his stay at the club.

He has received some stick on the Griffin Park Grapevine and Facebook from some supporters who feel that his behaviour is selfish, traitorous and that he is letting us down.

Where do I stand on this issue? We have been good for Clayton and he has certainly been equally good for us. His goals and performances have put him in the shop window and he has certainly been in the sights of many avaricious Championship Managers who see the opportunity of signing a proven striker on a free transfer.

But look at that statement more carefully. At thirty Clayton is at the peak of his career and for a player who relies to a great extent on his pace and power he is perhaps unlikely to get much better, stronger or faster as he enters his fourth decade.

He is unlikely to ever have any resale value and most importantly, he is an educated gamble because he has never before been tested at Championship level.

We have certainly made him a more than decent offer and that linked with the guarantee of Championship football and the ease of his not having to uproot himself or disrupt his home life made me feel that we were favourites to retain his services – and maybe we still are.

Clayton returns from his honeymoon this weekend I believe and is imminently due to make public his decision about his future with Birmingham City reputed to have agreed terms with his agent who has certainly been “busy” on his client’s behalf.

Despite my concerns about whether he can hack it at the higher level, I would be very upset should Clayton decide to go elsewhere. Not upset at Clayton who I recognise owes us very little, given as I said earlier that he has more than fulfilled his side of the bargain. He came for nothing, gave us three years of magnificent service and would leave for nothing – quite reasonable and symmetrical in my eyes.

He is quite entitled to do what he thinks is best for his career and family and if he gets a higher or longer offer elsewhere, then it is entirely reasonable that he takes it.

I appreciate that this is probably Clayton’s last chance to make hay and he will never again be in a position to negotiate a more lucrative contract than he can now but I just hope that he makes the best decision for a combination of professional and personal reasons.

From our perspective we have a paucity of strikers with the enigmatic (I suspect some less charitable supporters could find another adjective to describe him!) Will Grigg the only firmly contracted forward remaining at the club.

Clayton has been a talisman for the club, the one true match winner that we possess and he will be hard to replace.

Let’s just hope that we don’t find ourselves in a position where we have to do so.

But if we do Clayton would leave with my total respect, thanks, gratitude and best wishes for the future – except of course when he plays against us.