Grigg’s Gone – But Will He Be Back? – 19/7/14

GriggI don’t know about you but I’m always excited when Brentford sign a new striker, so when Will Grigg arrived from Walsall this time last year things weren’t any different.

What wasn’t there to like?

We had just managed to beat off strong competition to sign a young, twenty goal full international striker who had just come off a career best season with one of our rivals.

Grigg had impressed when playing as a lone striker at Griffin Park for Walsall. He had made intelligent runs, pulled our central defenders out of position and looked a real threat even without receiving much support from his team mates.

I first saw him play against Cardiff when his cleverly placed chest pass sent Conor McAleney racing through for a perfectly created and taken goal.

The auspices were favourable and it looked like we had signed a good ‘un.

He impressed again on his home League debut against Sheffield United, scored two well taken goals and everything looked good until the first setback.

Late on with the Bees coasting to victory, he was impeded by the galumphing Harry Maguire – in passing, if he’s a £2.75 million centre half, what price James Tarkowski ?

After eight successful spot kick conversions for Walsall, Grigg strode up confidently to claim his hat trick, but his far too casual effort was telegraphed and George Long saved his second consecutive penalty against the Bees.

Frankly it all seemed to go downhill for Will after that miss and there seemed worrying parallels with misfit, Paul Hayes, who also missed a penalty on his home debut the previous season against Yeovil and never really recovered or showed Brentford fans his true qualities.

A hat trick on his home debut would surely have set him up for a successful campaign, but niggling injuries and international calls also took their toll and throughout September Will seemed either to be on an airplane or in the treatment room.

Marcello Trotta’s return to the club also did his prospects no favours and gradually Grigg slipped out of the reckoning and became a permanent feature on the substitutes’ bench.

The confidence seemed to drain away, he was tentative in front of goal and easily knocked of the ball with a worrying lack of upper body strength and he posed no real aerial threat.

There were a few chinks of light amongst the gloom. A scrambled equaliser against Peterborough, a goal that in reality belonged to George Saville whose header had surely crossed the line before Grigg slid in.

Then, surprisingly preferred to Trotta at Meadow Lane, he led the Notts County defenders a merry dance and gave his best performance for the Bees, scoring a well taken close range winner.

Surely now his time would come – but it didn’t.grigg2

He also found himself shunted out to the left wing where his influence was peripheral and a further hamstring injury against Swindon on Boxing Day saw him fall further down the pecking order.

Another well taken goal arrived in January against a hapless Port Vale, but that ended his tally for the season and when young loanee Chuba Akpom was preferred to him as a replacement striker the writing was surely on the wall.

He was finally restored to the centre and given starts against Bradford City and Tranmere but his sharpness and confidence had evaporated and he was a shadow of the player we had expected, freezing in front of goal when presentable chances came to him in both matches.

Every so often you could see evidence of his undoubted ability, a quick turn, an excellent layoff but he presented little threat to the opposition.

That really was the key factor; for all his missed chances, strike partner Clayton Donaldson contributed so much more to the team with his selfless running. Grigg appeared to be adding little.

After promotion was won he gave an awfully insipid and languid performance, ironically enough at MK Dons, where his inability to hold the ball deep in the opposition half led to a swift injury time counter attack and late home equaliser.

The Brentford crowd had generally been very supportive of Grigg but by the end of the season their patience was running short.

His fee had been set by a tribunal so it was hardly his fault that his cost was rising steadily with every appearance and milestone and the figure to date of around four hundred thousand pounds hardly represents value for money.

With the new season nearly upon us the decision has had to be made on Will.

Should he stay or should he go?

With a full preseason behind him could he rise to the challenge of Championship football, put last season’s disappointment behind him and make a fresh start?

The answer seems to be “no” with Brentford being linked with a never ending list of strikers and Grigg too attracting admirers in reportedly Bristol City and MK Dons.

And it was the MK Dons who captured Will on a season long loan yesterday.

As per normal, Brentford Manager Mark Warburton handled the situation perfectly, reflecting that this was a fresh opportunity for a player far too talented to be languishing on our bench.

I genuinely hope that Will proves that last season was an unfortunate aberration and that he forces himself back into the reckoning at Griffin Park.

He is a far better player than he showed us last season, but football moves on quickly and his time at the club might well already have come and gone.

His former manager, Dean Smith at Walsall has also commented recently that he didn’t think that Brentford’s system last season suited Will which implies that maybe he was the right player at the wrong time.

I think it is a near certainty that Will Grigg will restore his reputation and regain his confidence, particularly given the similarities in playing style between MK Dons and Walsall, but I somehow doubt that it will happen in the red and white stripes of Brentford.

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