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.