Into The Hornets’ Nest – 30/9/14

deeneyIt’s a local derby for Brentford tonight when they visit Vicarage Road to take on a Watford team that has serious promotion aspirations.

In other words yet another mountain for Brentford to climb, but to be honest we are saying the pretty much the same before every match as there really is no such thing as an easy game in the Championship.

Watford have made a solid start to the campaign and are a vibrant attacking team jam packed full of extravagant foreign talent brought in by their owner, Giampaolo Pozzo.

And yet this just might not be the worst time to play them for a variety of reasons.

Watford had a long and exhausting journey back home from Blackburn on Saturday and the Bees will hope that they are still leggy and recovering from all their travelling.

Star striker and team fulcrum and inspiration Troy Deeney is still absent through his hamstring injury, not that Watford are short of other excellent striking options, and Oscar Garcia yesterday resigned as Head Coach through health reasons after a stay of less than four weeks, following his recent heart scare.

We obviously all wish him a full and speedy recovery and recuperation and he has quickly and seamlessly been replaced by his assistant, former Fulham coach, Billy McKinlay, who is an experienced and wily old bird.

garciaLet’s hope that I haven’t simply been clutching at straws as Brentford will need all the help they can get and also perform at their optimum if they are to make the short journey home clasping one, or even three, precious points.

There is a strong ex-Watford connection at the club.

Brentford manager Mark Warburton, formerly head of the Watford Academy will be keen and determined to make a successful return to his former stamping ground.

His squad also contains two former Watford heroes in Richard Lee and Tommy Smith, however injury will most likely reduce their role to that of cheerleader, a state of affairs that must be extremely frustrating to the pair of them who would have welcomed the opportunity to perform in front of their former supporters.

Lee’s injury will allow another ex-Hornet in Jack Bonham to sit on the bench.

Toumani Diagouraga also had a spell at Vicarage Road and, if selected tonight, will want to prove to his former employers that they were wrong to let him go.

watfordBrentford come into the match on the crest of a wave and bursting with confidence after Saturday’s best performance of the season and three points against a Leeds team who were totally outplayed and outclassed and were fortunate to escape with only a two goal defeat.

It would be easy for Mark Warburton to say “same again” and, injuries permitting, send out the same eleven who performed so well.

He adopted that approach after our excellent and vibrant performance against Norwich and sent pretty much the same team out four days later at Middlesbrough, but his decision totally backfired when they ran out of steam and were hammered by a rampant home team.

There were three late substitutions on Saturday when Pritchard, Jota and Gray were taken off and replaced by Tebar, Proschwitz and Diagouraga and I wonder if any of them plus perhaps Dean, Toral and Betinho will feature from the start tonight?

A key to achieving success this season will be to use the full complement of the squad and the necessity to rest players when required.

This is particularly important this week when we play Watford tonight followed by yet another tough game (aren’t they all!) on Saturday against Reading.

At least we do not have the problem of travel weariness given the absence of long journeys this week.

Given the injuries to Lee, Smith, Dallas, Saunders, Hogan and Yennaris the manager’s options are fairly limited unless he decides to blood some of the youngsters such as Calvet, Clarke, Moore and perhaps even Bradley Clayton, yet another gem to emerge from the ranks of the Academy.

Their time will certainly come, perhaps later on in the season, but I still feel that the squad needs boosting by another couple of bodies as the pressure and tiredness begin to take their toll.

At least we will have another International Break (how I love that term when used in connection with the Bees) after the Reading match when we will have a full fortnight to recharge our batteries.

The Bees have sold out their entire allocation of just over two thousand tickets and that number will be boosted by at least one as I will be sitting on my hands in the Watford end accompanying a Hornets season ticket holder friend of mine.

Let’s hope that a few things happen tonight that, given where I am sitting, I will be unable to shout and applaud about!

For those of you too young to remember, there was a keen rivalry between the two clubs, particularly in the mid to late 70s, before Watford motored on ahead on their journey to the top division, under the inspired leadership of Graham Taylor.

The last time we won at Vicarage Road was back in April 1977 when Andy McCulloch’s majestic header, accompanied by Paul Priddy’s two incredible penalty saves gave us a very satisfying one nil victory.

That completed a rare double as the previous month a large and expectant crowd under the floodlights at Griffin Park saw an electrifying three goal burst in the opening quarter of the game which enabled the Bees to cruise to victory.

As always there is a back story and apparently Jackie Graham made it perfectly clear to his team mates just before the match in the tunnel exactly how much it meant to him to beat our local rivals, and, probably more terrified of their own skipper than the opposition, the Bees came out of the traps like scalded cats and hammered their opponents.

Watford took full revenge the following season when they cruised effortlessly to victory by the same score at Griffin Park.

The season ended with both teams being promoted from the Fourth Division and an honours even draw at Vicarage Road.

As ITV’s “The Big Match” coverage confirms, we then played out a thrilling three-all draw the following season in a match notable for the appearance of the Playboy Bunny Girls and the phantom whistle just before Watford’s second goal.

Marvellous memories.

In our last brief spell in the second tier of English football, an appalling home team penalty decision for hand ball when the ball was driven against Billy Manuel from point blank range settled the match and contributed greatly to our eventual relegation, so perhaps we are looking for some payback tonight.

Some of you might have read the regular correspondence I have been receiving from former Bees and Watford striker Richard Poole and I hope that he is anxiously looking out for the result tonight from his home in France, and I am pretty sure which team he hopes to win too!

Games between the two clubs are invariably passionate and exciting and I expect nothing less tonight.

Let’s just hope I can keep my mouth shut during the game or my enjoyment of the proceedings could be curtailed and end earlier than I would like!

Advertisements

Matthew Benham Versus Massimo Cellini – No Contest! – 28/9/14

saville1.thumbI don’t normally write two blogs in a day.

It really is quite hard enough to write one!

Given how they read I suspect you all think I knock them off in about ten minutes or so.

Unfortunately the truth is somewhat different.

These articles don’t write themselves and generally it takes quite a while to compose my thoughts and set them down on paper.

Very often I sit there looking at that empty computer screen winking back malevolently at me and have absolutely no idea what on earth I am going to write about, but somehow it all seems to come right in the end, the words begin to flow, and, given that quite a lot of you make positive and helpful comments too, and seem to come back for more, I must be doing something right.

I watched the Reading versus Wolves match at lunchtime with great interest and was impressed with our former loanee George Saville who used the ball excellently, but ran out of steam soon after halftime.

He missed a wonderful chance when set free on goal and also still seemed to be playing on the edge, all too ready to flare up and react to any provocation and it was evident that Reading set out to wind him up and clearly succeeded in their aim.

Given that we play them next weekend I watched Reading carefully.

They were as neat and tidy on the ball as you would expect from a Nigel Adkins team but were porous and vulnerable at the back and left gaps that we could surely exploit.

For a home team they seemed to create remarkably few chances, but still scored three times, yet more evidence that the finishing at Championship level is far more clinical.

I then tried watching a terribly one-sided Premier League clash between West Bromwich Albion and a horribly limited Burnley team who I fully expect us to be playing against next season.

Albion were no great shakes themselves, but were far better than their opponents, and won in a canter by four clear goals, with Saido Berahino scoring twice and looking a real handful.

huntHopefully his short loan spell spent slumming it at Griffin Park was a bit of an eye opener for him and helped him grow up a bit.

It would certainly appear that he was taught some manners by Uwe Rosler and Gary Alexander and he does seem a more mature young man now.

I have also spent some time browsing the Sunday newspapers looking, as I always do, for former Bees plying their trade elsewhere up and down the food chain, and what really interested me today was not so much who played yesterday but more importantly, who didn’t.

Missing from action for whatever reasons were regular stalwarts such as Marcus Bean at Colchester, Ryan Dickson and Gavin Tomlin at Crawley, and Leon Legge at Gillingham.

Most remarkably, Craig Woodman, a permanent fixture in the Exeter City team, was also absent yesterday through injury.

More concerning for me was the continuing absence of stalwart David Hunt from the Oxford United squad.

mc2He is one of my favourite former Brentford players, as, just like Marcus Bean, he was always totally committed to the cause, as well as having the time to engage with supporters.

I hope that he is simply injured and not slowly slipping away from us next to be seen playing outside the Football League.

Of course that happens to every player eventually but he surely still has so much to offer.

What caught my eye though more than anything else, were the remarkable photographs of the eccentric Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino standing behind the goal alongside the (currently) adoring away supporters.

Apparently he arrived at the ground accompanied by his minders and did not stay in the Directors’ Box but first sat amongst the Brentford fans in the Braemar Road Paddock before being removed from the home area to stand with his fellow Leeds fans in the Brook Road end.

Now what was all that about?

Was he so filled with passion for his team that he could only express his support sufficiently by standing behind the goal with his fellow supporters, or was it just more evidence of his need to be the absolute centre of attention, and milk the love, support and homage of the Leeds faithful, especially on a day when his new manager was taking charge of the team for the first time?

mc 1Perhaps he was reinforcing his diktat that “I, Massimo am still Number One at the club” and making sure that everybody else was aware of the fact and duly recognised it.

Given the problems that Leeds United have faced in recent years, maybe their supporters are glad to have him and are prepared to accept his idiosyncrasies.

Perhaps they are just grateful for his attention and support and feel that he will restore them to their past glories.

Who knows?

Maybe they are correct and he will in fact be successful.

His early decisions and ability to change direction without apparent rhyme and reason do not fill me with any great confidence and I suspect it will be a turbulent ride for everybody connected with the club.

To be honest I keep thinking about John Hurt, who gave such an unforgettable performance as the megalomaniac Caligula in “I Claudius”.

Personally when I read about his antics, which have, of course attracted massive tabloid newspaper headlines, I just sat there and gave thanks for the people who are currently running our club so quietly, unobtrusively and effectively.

We have a strategy and a plan both on and off the field, from top to bottom, and we seem to be keeping to it, and you know what, it is working because it has been well thought through and is eminently sensible and pragmatic.

We have previously been subject to the whims of dictatorships and seat of the pants leadership, and personally I find that approach annoying, upsetting and totally exhausting.

No football club should be subject to the whims of one person acting alone without any checks or balances.

And it never works for long either.

I have no problem with Leeds United and I wish them every success apart from when we next play them later on in the season at Elland Road, but I know which team I would rather be following, and I well suspect which club is better run.

benhamThe Leeds United fans were good natured in defeat yesterday and recognised and accepted that they had been second best on the day, but they were, perhaps understandably enough, pretty patronising about “little Brentford” and they described us on their message boards as a small club with a terribly old fashioned stadium that in previous years they would not even have deigned to play in a preseason friendly.

Well, times have changed and I far prefer our immediate future to theirs.

Oh and I believe that Matthew Benham has also been known to stand on the terraces with his fellow Bees fans, but given his lack of public profile and desire to remain incognito and firmly behind the scenes, I suspect that hardly any of them even recognised him!

What A Response! – 28/9/14

jotaFor all the optimism I publicly expressed before yesterday’s crunch match against Leeds United I have to admit that I felt pretty nervous before the kickoff.

Which Brentford team would turn up?

Would it be the confident team that had passed Brighton off the pitch and came so close to humbling Norwich City or the no-hopers who capitulated without much of a fight at Middlesbrough last Saturday?

The match appeared to be very much a watershed that might well prove to be a lasting indication of how well we were going to do throughout the season.

Every match in the Championship is like climbing a mountain and there are no easy points on offer.

It would be so easy for the Bees to start feeling sorry for themselves and become overwhelmed at the level of challenges that faces them every week.

As Manager Mark Warburton emphasised in his programme notes yesterday, the overriding difference between Division One and the Championship can simply be summed up in one word – quality.

That is not just the quality of the opposition we face on the pitch but, just as importantly, the heightened quality of the opposition’s preparation, off field support, analysis and fitness.

As we have already learned to our cost, any mistake, loss of concentration and general sloppiness which would have resulted last year in nothing more than a groan of disappointment, are this season punished ruthlessly at this exalted level, and the few chances that come along cannot be spurned.

Our confidence and self belief had certainly taken a blow, and we, management, players and supporters alike, had had a whole week to stew over things without the opportunity of a midweek match to prove that this was merely a blip rather than the beginnings of a rapid descent down the league table.

The upside of this delay was the squad had been able to get the spring back into their legs and also spend valuable time on the training ground all this week, not merely to lick their wounds, but also to practice all the areas that had let them down at Middlesbrough, in particular, defending from the front and being more penetrative in the final third of the pitch.

Yesterday was therefore a daunting proposition, particularly given that we were playing another of the so-called “big boys” in Leeds United, a team who had graced the Premier League and European competition in recent years and whose tradition and record of success dwarfed our own.

As I wrote yesterday, on the last occasion we faced the same opposition at Griffin Park we adopted a formation about as aggressive as the Maginot Line and we resembled nothing more than a tortoise with its head withdrawn within its shell, hoping to ward off the blows which would doubtless rain down upon us from our exalted opposition.

We were in awe of Leeds and played accordingly and totally ceded the initiative to our opponents.

Would history repeat itself yesterday afternoon or would the team have the strength of character to go out and prove that they truly belong in the Championship?

There were so many other questions to answer:

Would we be out sung and intimidated by the raucous hordes of Leeds United supporters who flooded Griffin Park?

Would our small and slight team be knocked off the ball and their close passing game by the Land of the Giants who emerged from the away dressing room?

Well, the team provided an emphatic answer to all their critics and played Leeds United off the park and cruised to a two – nil victory which, had it not been for the acrobatics and gymnastic shot stopping of keeper Silvestri, could have ended up in a five goal thrashing.

The football was slick and effective.

We ran at the opposition and pulled them out of position and the interchange of passing was a joy to behold.

Pritchard came back to form and threatened the opposition with his ceaseless promptings.

Judge was tireless, switching from the middle to the left wing and his dribbling and accurate passing found the gaps in the porous Leeds defence.

Jota started quietly but showed his true class with an eye-catching first goal for the club where he showed instant control, found space in a crowded penalty area and his fast and twinkling feet left two defenders on their backside before he found the roof of the net.

A goal which came at a crucial time, just before the interval and one of real beauty as it came from a series of wonderful one touch passes under extreme pressure that tore the opposition apart.

You get what you pay for and Jota is the real deal and is showing signs that he is beginning to settle down.

Odubajo terrified Leeds with his pace and close control and was two excellent saves away from scoring.

Gray played the lone striker role to perfection, worrying the two centre halves with his pace and intelligent running.

He turned beautifully early on but his goal bound effort was blocked.

Douglas then threaded him through with a defence splitting pass.

leeds1Pearce bundled him over and miracle of miracles, referee Dean Whitestone pointed to the spot.

Craig ran up to the official no doubt to remind him of the red card he received recently for an incident, that in all honesty was far more clear cut than yesterday’s.

So yellow it was, and then, to general incredulity, James Tarkowski strode up to the spot.

Would he stroke the ball effortlessly into the corner of the net and give us the lead our possession fully merited?

Unfortunately not as he joined the pantheon of Brentford defenders such as Peter Gelson, Jason Cousins and Leo Roget when his rising shot screamed over the cross bar and is probably still in orbit.

leeeds3According to his manager, Tarkowski is metronomic in his accuracy from the spot in training at Jersey Road but, as we saw yesterday, there is a massive difference between slotting them away on an empty training ground and attempting to do the same when facing hordes of manic away supporters.

Tarkowski unfortunately lost his nerve and for all his manager’s post match support, which is no more than you would expect from such a master of man management, I would expect that James might well go to the back of the queue when we are next awarded a spot kick.

Leeds had barely threatened and the Bees fully merited their interval lead.

After a brief flurry when Judge and Jota both shot over, the visitors came back in to the game when they started to play through the middle and Button was forced into an excellent stretching save from a Pearce header, but that was almost the only time that Leeds forced him into action.

The sign of a good keeper is when he is called upon to make a crucial save after having had nothing to do and Button rose to his challenge.

The back four won all their battles.

The recalled Tony Craig provided balance and calmness and led his troops well and unobtrusively. His return made a real difference.

Tarkowski put his penalty nonsense behind him and played impeccably.

McCormack and Bidwell did all that was necessary and took full adavantage of the attacking space granted them by the Leeds diamond.

Silvestri saved brilliantly from Gray and Moses and then foiled Tebar when the substitute tried to outguess the keeper with a subtle dink.

Douglas then took a quick free kick that put McCormack away and with Moses screaming for the ball on his right, Alan strode on unopposed.

Surely he would slip Moses through on goal but Leeds continued to back away and McCormack shot from just inside the area and a deflection took the ball past the keeper who had seemed almost unbeatable.

Every player was on his game but the real accolade has to go the former Leeds midfielder Jonathan Douglas who is a new man this season.

He led our pressing game and was eveywhere on the pitch as he foraged tirelessly to break up the opposition attacks.

What has come as a welcome surprise is that with the extra space afforded him in the Championship he has shown a real confidence on the ball and yesterday he played some beautifully weighted and subtle passes that created time, space and opportunities for his team mates.

He was a true leader and inspiration.

So a lot of questions were answered yesterday and we left the ground filled with pride.

Brentford had played beautiful football and demonstrated yet again that their positive approach can obtain results.

We had made a team coming off two wins look second rate.

Today is a day off and the chance for us all to recover and take pleasure in what we were privileged to watch yesterday.

Tomorrow the team starts to prepare to face traditional rivals Watford on Tuesday evening.

The Championship is relentless and unforgiving, and yesterday proved that we are certainly up to the challenge.

The Right Approach! – 27/09/14

leedsIt is a big game for Brentford this afternoon when they take on Leeds United at Griffin Park.

Well, in truth, every match in the Championship is one to relish.

Today’s game, though, has even more significance, coming as it does after the Bees have suffered two consecutive defeats, the first a very harsh and undeserved one at the hands of Norwich, whereas last week we were well and truly tonked at Middlesbrough.

Confidence must have taken a bit of a jolt after these reverses so what I, and I am sure every Brentford fan is looking for, is a response and a reaction today.

Ideally we won’t be feeling nervous or sorry for ourselves but will come out with all guns blazing, be positive and take the game to our opponents.

In other words we need to seize the initiative from the first whistle and believe in ourselves and our right to be competing on the same stage as our illustrious opponents.

What makes matters even more intriguing, though, is the identity and reputation of our visitors.

This afternoon we take on one of the greats of English football in Leeds United, a team who in the past decade have graced the Premier League and competed for top European honours.

Mark Warburton has remarked on many occasions of the need for his Brentford team to concentrate solely on the eleven players facing them out on the field and not on the name, heritage and tradition of the team for whom they are playing.

In other words we should ignore the badge on their shirt and simply regard them as just another team that we are looking to beat.

We have already proved against top teams in Brighton, AFC Bournemouth and Norwich City that we belong in the Championship and are there by right and not simply good fortune.

Our football has been slick, cohesive and positive and we have always looked, both home and away, to take the game to our opponents rather than merely sit back and absorb their pressure.

It is highly illuminating to look back at the last time we played Leeds United and contrast the situation we faced then with how things are now.

Leeds were in Division One after our promotion to that division back in 2009 and our two matches against them were the most keenly anticipated once the fixtures were announced.

The first match at Griffin Park in December 2009 came at a time when Brentford were struggling and Andy Scott reacted to our lack of form, and the strength of the promotion challenging opposition by setting us up in a totally defensive 4-5-1 formation with Ben Strevens playing on the right hand side of midfield and Charlie MacDonald left to forage alone and totally unsupported up front.

We stifled the midfield, defended like heroes and harassed and harried our opponents at every opportunity.

In other words we were totally negative in our approach, made no real effort to win the game and basically gave Leeds the initiative and the message that despite our home advantage we did not believe that we were capable of defeating them, or of even attempting to do so.

Andy Scott’s approach was rewarded with the nil-nil draw that he was undoubtedly hoping and playing for and the crowd accepted his approach and cheered the result to the echo.

leeds2We knew our place in the football food chain.

Would our supporters have been so forgiving if Leeds had put away one of the many chances that the profligate Jermaine Beckford spurned on an afternoon when Brentford had precisely no efforts on target?

Who knows.

The return match at Elland Road in March 2010 saw a brave and more cohesive display by the Bees which was rewarded with a fully merited one all draw.

Again though, our approach was all wrong as the large number of travelling Brentford supporters resembled nothing more than a coach party of country yokels up for a rare day out in the big city.

The occasion was all that mattered and the chance to visit a much bigger club, look around the ground and admire the Billy Bremner statue and, as far as the match was concerned, we had few, if any, expectations.

Nor was it really the priority for the day.

The draw was a massively unexpected bonus and it was certainly an afternoon that will remain long in the memory.

I am, of course, being a bit unfair as Brentford, if not quite run on a shoestring at that time, could not be expected to compete in quality with the Leeds players we were facing and we therefore employed the tactics that we did in an effort to nullify their extra skill and ability.

Two draws would say that Andy Scott was totally justified in how he set his team up in both games against far superior opposition, however it is imperative that we employ a totally different mindset today.

We have to go out onto the Griffin Park pitch believing that we are as good as Leeds, if not better, and then do everything within our power to prove it by attacking them rather than give away the initiative, as was the case on the last two occasions we played them, where in truth, we made very little effort to win either game.

For all their track record and reputation, we are not inferior to Leeds.

They will be trying to impress their new manager and come into the match bang in form following wins over AFC Bournemouth and Huddersfield Town and also as a total mystery to Mark Warburton who has no real idea how his opponents will set up.

So what.

Let them worry about us.

Hopefully Judge, Pritchard, Jota and Odubajo will give them something to worry about and I am sure that Jonathan Douglas, once an Elland Road hero, will also feel that he has something to prove against a team that dispensed with his services a few years back.

Today provides us with the chance to turn things round, but our approach to the game will dictate whether we are successful or not.

It’s not about Leeds – it’s totally about us, so let’s be brave and positive and let them worry about us.

Keep Calm – Part Two – Richard Poole Has His Say – 26/9/14

??????????????It seems like last night’s Fans’ Forum was well received and I am gratified to learn that quite a few of the questions I posed in my last article were both asked and answered.

A lot of good sense was spoken and we are lucky indeed that our club is in such safe hands at present.

I spoke the other day about the need to keep calm and not over react after the last two defeats and the accompanying jolt to our confidence levels.

Well, our former striker from the 70s, Richard Poole, seems to agree as he has just sent me this latest update and his passion and deep-felt love for Brentford FC has moved me deeply, as I hope it will you:

I have just been watching the Liverpool match in the League Cup against Brentford’s last league opponents Middlesbrough.

This brings back such wonderful memories from September 1974 when we were drawn away to Liverpool in the second round of the League Cup.

Although I was still a young apprentice, Mike Everitt took me along as thirteenth man.

Only one substitute was allowed back then so I sat on the bench and watched how close we came to beating the mighty Liverpool that night.

Yes, us, little Brentford, ran them so very close and took the lead through Roger Cross, nearly made it two-nil when Barry Salvage missed a great chance, and only lost narrowly by the odd goal in three.

Although Kevin Keegan did not play that night I remember I was standing outside our team’s dressing room when he spoke to me and asked if I would like to take a look around the trophy room with him, and did I jump at this opportunity!

I only really realised recently just how lucky I was to live the dream even for such a short period of time.

The thrill of actually sitting on the bench at Anfield and as I went up the tight stairway to the players’ tunnel seeing the immortal words ” THIS IS ANFIELD” before taking my place on the bench with the rest of the staff.

Incredible times!

Although we lost the match, we gained the total respect of all the Liverpool players who recognised how close we had come to a massive upset.

We did not travel back to London that night, which was rare at that time, and certainly the exception to the rule.

lpoolAfter most away matches we travelled back to Brentford on a long coach journey, generally not arriving home until well into the early morning.

That night we stayed at a hotel and were invited by the Liverpool players to join them at a night club.

Not only were they great stars but they were also great men.

I was fearfully proud to be a Bee, but sometimes it was very hard given the way some people in the football world would denigrate and talk the club down.

There was a time just before signing for Brentford  when I was selected for England Under 15 Schoolboys trials along with Kevin Harding which took place at Bisham Abbey for a whole week.

We both signed schoolboy forms for Brentford at thirteen or fourteen years old and played for Hounslow schools.

So here we were with talented Under 15s like Ray Lewington and Butch Wilkins, and lots of others who were on schoolboy forms with big clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal and OPR.

The following year we would play against them all in the South East Counties League.

We had some great players like Roy Cotton but most of our team were non contract players and we would be up against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal who would have twelve or fourteen apprentices in their side but our team, Brentford, at least won their respect.

Anyway going back to the England trials, we were all asked by the England training staff who we had signed schoolboy forms for.

Well when Kevin and I said “Brentford” we could hear this audible gasp go up around us, but we were always proud to pull on that red and white shirt.

From the moment we joined the club as schoolboys under Frank Blunstone, and when we became Apprentices at fifteen we were made to feel proud to belong to Brentford FC.

This feeling was instilled into all of us by the training staff as well as all the players.

When we signed apprentice at the age of fifteen, we played in the South East Counties League Under 18 Championship which contained a lot of the first division Under 18 sides which were packed full of apprentices.

Our home matches were played at Ruislip Town’s ground, not on the their first team pitch but on the one just next to it with a slope worse than the one at the old Yeovil Town ground.

We had a great team who more than defended Brentford FC’s name and everyone was proud to pull on that shirt.

At the end of the season we were invited to enter a youth tournament in Frankfurt with lots of international teams, which we won after a penalty shoot out.

Yes, a Brentford team winning on penalties and we must have been one of the first English teams to win a penalty shoot out.

I am proud to say that the last shot was from me and as well as winning the competition, I finished top goal scorer in the tournament and won an award

Although we came back with a trophy there was only a little picture in the Middlesex Chronicle !

All the playing staff and managers really made you feel part of something and to be proud but upstairs in the Board Room, well that was another story.

When we played our youth matches on a day when the first team was at home there were always some of the players cheering us on as we played  on the Saturday morning.

One who was always there was Jackie Graham.

What a great bloke he was.

I remember when I scored my first team goal against Bradford City, I turned and started running back to the centre circle, but then I heard a strong Scottish voice saying “stop running son, enjoy the moment” – it was Jackie Graham.

He was so hard and a great competitor on the pitch as well as when we had Scotland versus England matches in training!

Now I hope he won’t mind me saying this, but he was a man who was not afraid of anything except the dreaded needle when each year we had a flu injection.

Please forgive me Mr Graham!

So, all you Brentford fans just KEEP CALM.

You will earn respect and you must never forget where we come from – yes, Brentford, and  we should be so proud of Brentford too!

I for one will never forget what it meant to me when I was that starry-eyed youngster, to belong to something called BRENTFORD FC.

Thanks to everyone who helped me during my time at this great club.

I think that at the time I just did not understand quite how lucky I was.

I experienced Liverpool, Lincoln and Bradford with Brentford and made my debut in the league cup for Watford at Crystal Palace and in the next round I played against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

My paths crossed with so many places and so many different people throughout my career.

I also met Elton John who was the club president at Watford.

Brentford gave me such a good base which even to this day helps me in my life.

I think that Richard has said it all and he has demonstrated yet again how former players feel about our club, which is a truly special one.

Another Brentford supporter, Andre, was similarly moved by Richard’s comments:

Whatever ups and downs the next forty years have in store for the club (and I hope there’s more of the former), I really hope we never leave behind the essence that prompted Richard’s comments and the reason why we continue to follow this club, and that in forty years time some of the current players will be able to write about their time at the club in the same heartfelt and moving fashion.

And, for the avoidance of doubt, that’s not a tear in the corner of my eye – just a bit of grit.

Honest.

The Burning Issues! – 24/9/14

fmThere’s going to be a Fans’ Forum tomorrow night at the club with Messrs. Mark Warburton, David Weir, Frank McParland and Mark Devlin in the chair, ready to face the inquisition and verbal onslaught from Bees supporters.

I suspect that the four of them are now cursing the timing of this event, coming as it does directly after two heavy defeats.

Sod’s Law, indeed, and had the Q&A session been arranged for a couple of weeks earlier then I am sure that there would have been nothing but bouquets on offer.

As it is, now is hardly the time for brickbats, given that Brentford have taken to the Championship like ducks to water and have been highly competitive in seven out of their first eight matches.

Indeed, the eleven points already gleaned is probably a few more than most people expected at this stage of the season.

What I intend to do in this article is to note down all the questions that I personally would like to hear asked and answered tomorrow night.

I would welcome any comments and suggestions as I am sure there are many other things that you would like to ask the Brentford Brains Trust.

dwSo here we go.

Before we start I would like to suggest that the evening commences with a heartfelt vote of appreciation and thanks from the fans to the management for everything that they have done for us over the past nine months since Mark Warburton took over.

The transformation has been incredible and almost beyond belief.

Let the questions begin:

MARK WARBURTON

Have we settled down as well as you expected in the Championship?

What are the key learnings from our opening matches?

mdDid last Saturday’s result and performance come as a surprise and do you think it was just a blip?

Do you intend to experiment with other formations or stick with 4-1-4-1?

Do you think we are better set up to play away from home using our pace on the break?

Do we get enough men in the box and will you try playing two strikers together?

Do you think we lack height and strength and risk getting bullied out of games?

Are we a bit too nice on and off the pitch and should we start to try and influence referees more?

mwWhy do you think we cannot buy a decision from referees at the moment?

Do you speak to referees after matches and if so have any of them admitted making mistakes?

How is Raphael Calvet progressing and will he and any other players go out on loan?

How likely are we to hold onto Alex Pritchard for the whole season?

Are any of our players near to international honours?

Moses Odubajo – full back or winger?

Alan McCormack – full back or midfielder?

How do you see Nick Proschwitz progressing?

Is Jon Toral seen as the box-to-box Adam Forshaw replacement?

After Alan McCormack will more of the experienced players also be awarded contract extensions?

Do you intend to strengthen the squad before the January Transfer Window?

Does Will Grigg still have a future at the club?

Big man or little man up front?

What will Betinho add to our options?

Has Andre Gray’s success surprised you and how is he coping with the lone striker role?

Is Marcello Trotta in your thoughts as a striking option?

How do you keep the players believing in their ability?

Is Nico Yennaris likely to challenge for a first team place soon?

How close is Sam Saunders to full fitness?

How is Scott Hogan progressing and does he have family and support down South?

DAVID WEIR

What different attributes do Tony Craig, Harlee Dean and James Tarkowski bring to the team?

Zonal Marking or Man To Man – discuss?

How can we stop conceding so many long range goals?

Do we shoot enough from outside the area?

Who has shown the most improvement so far this season?

Short corners or long, and why do we so seldom threaten from set pieces?

FRANK MCPARLAND

Can you tell us more about our scouting network abroad?

Are we looking in France as well as Spain?

What type of analytical data do you use to assess potential signings?

Agents – discuss?

We seem to pay a lot in fees to agents. How attractive an option is Brentford seen to be now?

Do we stand to earn any performance related or sell-on fees from any of the players we have sold?

How are our Spanish and Portugese contingent settling down and what assistance do we provide them?

Talk us through the Adam Forshaw transfer negotiations?

What do Spanish players in particular have to offer?

Are you concerned at the results and lack of emerging players from the Development Squad?

MARK DEVLIN

After the Norwich experiment are there plans to allow other away fans into New Road?

How easy is it for potential new fans with no purchasing history or floating football supporters to buy match tickets?

What is the latest news about Lionel Road?

When is work expected to start on site at Lionel Road?

Do we expect to move to Lionel Road in August 2017?

What is the budgeted average home attendance this season?

What is the capacity of the away end now?

Can you talk us through the rationale of the venue and ticket price for the 125th Anniversary Dinner?

What other activities are planned to celebrate the 125th Anniversary?

That is all I managed to come up with.

Please feel free to add your own questions.

As always, tomorrow night promises to be an interesting and lively debate.

Keep Calm! – 22/9/14

boro1Well, it was all going so well – an hour gone last Tuesday night and we were in control of the match against Norwich, pressing hard for the opening goal which looked certain to arrive at any moment.

One point seemed likely to be the minimum reward for all our efforts and we looked like ending up with a potential four, or maybe even six point return from two really difficult matches against Brighton and Norwich, both sides likely to be promotion challengers.

Then the roof fell in.

An unforced defensive error, a refereeing howler and the Norwich game slipped through our hands, albeit unjustly, but such are the whims of the footballing Gods.

Brentford travelled to another one of the Championship elite in Middlesbrough on Saturday, hoping to right the ship, but returned with their tail firmly between their legs after suffering a four goal hiding that, from all accounts, could easily have been more.

This was also the first time a Mark Warburton team has lost successive matches.

So what now, and where do we go from here?

Firstly we need to put things into perspective.

Brighton, Norwich and Middlesbrough were always going to present a tough challenge, and three points out of the nine on offer, and one and a half excellent performances out of three is probably as much as any of us supporters really expected beforehand.

That being said, seven goals conceded and none scored in our last two hours of play is a worrying record to say the least.

It would be easy to write Saturday off as being simply a bad day at the office, and, indeed, maybe that is all it was.

We play a high tempo, energetic, pressing game and two full-on matches followed by a journey to the other end of he country left the squad tired and leggy and lacking their customary verve and brio.

I am sure that there will be a reaction from the players and a much improved performance next week against a revitalised Leeds United team.

This league is totally unforgiving, there really is no such thing as a easy game in the Championship, and next Saturday’s match will provide yet another stern test, and if that isn’t difficult enough, we then visit neighbours Watford for a keenly awaited local derby against yet another team aiming for promotion.

Most importantly, we have to avoid feeling sorry for ourselves at all costs.

Even though we can’t buy a decision from referees at the moment, we simply have to keep our heads up and continue playing the way that we have been doing as it has brought us sustained success for the past couple of years.

I remember Richard Lee saying in his book that if you keep losing but continue to do exactly the same thing in both matches and preparation, then you cannot expect results to change.

That certainly isn’t the case with Brentford’s situation at present.

Yes, there are many things we need to improve upon in terms of defending tighter, protecting the ball better and being more clinical in the final third, but these merely require tweaks to our current system rather than major changes.

That well-known philosopher Martin Allen would always warn players and fans alike not to pop the pills when results go badly, or conversely, glug the champagne when you are winning.

Sage advice, as it’s crucial to keep things in perspective and recognise just how narrow are the margins between success and failure.

Things can change in an instant and it won’t take much for Brentford to get back onto the winning trail.

Frankly, Saturday’s match was the first one all season where the Bees were clearly second best.

In the previous seven games either team could have come out on top as the advantage seesawed and veered dramatically as the minutes unfolded.

So what changes will Mark Warburton make for the next match?

Very few I suspect, given that the whole team seemed to have a collective off-day on Saturday.

Odubajo, Judge, Jota and Pritchard will be expected to be less profligate with the ball, stop turning it over so easily and make things happen.

A bit more defensive cover from them would also be appreciated.

There could be a return for the hard running of Stuart Dallas, and, if match fit, Betinho might well challenge for his full debut.

I can’t see a fundamental change with two strikers starting a match together although I think there will come a time when this needs to be tried out.

Teams have to defend from the front and if the ball keeps being given away by the attackers then the defence will come under continuous pressure with the likelihood of drastic results.

This is what happened at Middlesbrough and it cannot reoccur next Saturday.

Both full backs were left isolated and exposed and need midfielders to track back and provide additional cover.

I do wonder if the manager might decide to play Alan McCormack in midfield alongside Jonathan Douglas, a move that will provide us with far more bark and bite and one that looked very promising against Norwich City.

If so, who will play at right back?

Moses is surely wasted there but Nico Yennaris is currently unavailable through injury.

Jon Toral might also be a decent long shot to start as he is a tireless runner, blessed with great ability, who makes things happen.

Perhaps he is seen as the eventual Adam Forshaw replacement as we lack a real box-to-box player at present.

I wrote just before the start of the season that three into two doesn’t go, (https://bfctalk.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/three-into-two-doesnt-go-2814/)

and there is yet another decision to be made regarding the two central defenders.

deanTony Craig has not played since his dismissal against Birmingham a month ago and I think it is time to bring the skipper back.

His experience, calmness under pressure and leadership have never been needed more than now.

Having a left footed centre half also makes us more balanced.

This is certainly no reflection upon Harlee Dean who, as always, has given everything to the cause, but has been guilty of some rash decisions that have proved costly.

Harlee wears his heart on his sleeve and his post match interview on Saturday simply demonstrated his passion and hatred of losing.

Neither are bad things, but engaging your brain before opening your mouth is always advisable and he came close to making direct criticisms of his team mates which might not have been well received within the dressing room, and it might be expedient to take him out of the firing line for a spell.

The good news is that the squad now has a full week before the next game and can spend quality time on the training field to retrench, recover and regain their strength, shape and confidence.

It is not about licking wounds, but much more about tinkering with a few things and reminding players about their responsibilities and, indeed, what they have previously proved that they can do so well.

They have already demonstrated that they are more than good enough to compete successfully at this level, but everyone needs to be on form and on top of their game against Leeds United.

Roll on next Saturday!