On the one hand I, like I would suspect most other Brentford fans, will miss my football fix for a fortnight, but isn’t it wonderful to sit back and relax for a while and just luxuriate in how well the Bees have done to date?
A brief resume of our achievements is as follows:
We sit comfortably in tenth place in the Championship with seventeen points.
We have won five of our first eleven games, three at home and two away.
We have been competitive in all bar one of our opening matches.
We have already played against several of the so called “bigger” clubs and anticipated promotion challengers in Brighton, Leeds, Reading, Norwich, AFC Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Watford and have only looked out of our depth against Middlesbrough.
We could quite easily have drawn against AFC Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford and beaten Birmingham City which would have put us on top of the League!
We have scored fifteen goals so far, the ninth best record in the League.
Only six teams have conceded more than our sixteen goals.
So called lower division journeymen such as Alan McCormack, Jonathan Douglas and Tony Craig have adapted to the higher level like a duck to water.
New signings like Alan Judge, Andre Gray, Moses Odubajo, Alex Pritchard and Jota have settled in to their new home and are performing exceptionally well on the pitch.
The younger players such as James Tarkowski, Harlee Dean, Stuart Dallas and Jake Bidwell have not been owerawed by their new surroundings.
The team is being well managed and supported off the field and any gaps in the squad are quickly filled.
We have looked totally comfortable and the quality of our football has already received much favourable comment.
Clubs are beginning to alter their normal style of play in an attempt to counter our approach.
We are beginning to cause a stir as the football world takes note of our achievements.
The fans are responding and crowds are higher than anticipated with four consecutive five-figure home attendances.
In other words we have started exceptionally well, far better I am sure than we would have expected, and our success to date bears testimony to the calibre of our squad, management, football and support staff alike.
Of course there are warning bells and lessons that must be learned, but we have proved to be a quick study and have already adapted well to our new and rarified surroundings.
Later on in this International Break I will look more closely at some of the key areas where improvement or adaptation is needed and where the squad needs buttressing, but that is for another day.
Today I simply wanted to put on record just how massive our achievements are to date whilst still acknowledging and recognising that in the context of the season as a whole we have really done nothing yet.
Complacency will be fatal and we only need to look back at our last season spent at this level of the game back in 1992-93 to see just how badly things can turn out after a promising start.
I have already written in depth (http://tinyurl.com/qh9334s) about the differences between then and now but it might be worthwhile going back twenty-two years in order to re-examine exactly what went wrong.
We didn’t play our eleventh league game until the seventeenth of October 1992, as by this stage of the season we had also played an additional four Coca-Cola Cup ties against Fulham and Spurs as well as two Anglo-Italian Cup Preliminary ties against those well known Italian teams, Swindon Town and Oxford United.
A packed schedule indeed.
Our league record was patchy in the extreme as we only won two of our first eleven matches, against Southend and Portsmouth (who else remembers the incongruity of Ashley Bayes crouching behind the goal and coaching Gary Blissett and Neil Smillie’s googly header deceiving Alan Knight) and lost five of them, amassing a total of ten points.
We had scored eleven goals yet conceded only thirteen.
Things were to improve dramatically, as between the middle of October and the end of the year we took twenty-three points from our next twelve league games, winning seven of them, and the New Year began with the team sitting comfortably in tenth place.
It is easy to see now where the cracks were forming and that we were really in a false position even when we were congratulating ourselves at the turn of the year.
A small squad was decimated by injuries and began creaking ominously given the pressure of the eight additional Anglo-Italian Cup matches.
Players were played out of position and the gaps were not filled from outside.
The New Year began with an horrendous run of results with one win and a draw and eleven, yes eleven, defeats in thirteen games which dropped us into the relegation zone from where we never really escaped.
Despite a mini revival which coincided with the return from injury of Terry Evans and brought eight points from four games, four defeats in the last six matches brought about an inevitable conclusion and relegation was confirmed on the last day of the season after a shameful capitulation at Bristol City.
Why did we go down?
It is difficult to know exactly where to start.
We committed hara-kiri by selling our prime asset in Dean Holdsworth and replacing him appallingly, firstly with the ineffable Murray Jones and then with the one dimensional Joe Allon.
A deadly combination of the cheap solution not working before being followed by a panic buy – welcome to the world of “old” Brentford.
Our general recruitment policy was flawed and slapdash in the extreme, and none of our signings made much of an impact.
Despite losing Chris Hughton in December to a career ending injury, no real replacement was signed until March by which time the rot had well and truly set in.
Mickey Bennett flattered to deceive and was a one game in four merchant, Detzi Kruszynski had an aversion to training and hard work, Shane Westley was slow, clumsy and agricultural and both Alan Dickens and Kenny Sansom were pedestrian, disinterested and well past their sell by date.
Only Paul Stephenson impressed but he was signed far too late in the day to make a real difference.
As for the loanees, Gerry Peyton was an excellent replacement for the injured Graham Benstead, but the less said about Paul Mortimer the better.
It is illuminating to note that we only managed to obtain a transfer fee for one of our 1992-93 signings in Joe Allon, the rest disappeared without trace and with no recompense to us in return for the investment we made in them.
We basically had a strong Third Divison squad minus two of its best players in the departed Dean Holdsworth and the injured Terry Evans, desperately trying to hold its own in a far higher standard of football.
Our tactics were crude in the extreme and were mainly based on lumping the ball upfield to Marcus Gayle and Garry Blissett and hoping that the evergreen Neil Smillie might create something out of nothing.
Blissett performed heroics in scoring over twenty league goals but nobody else managed more than six, and a grand total of fifty-two goals scored all season in forty-six league matches highlighted where the main problem lay.
Once Detzi Krusynski left the club, our midfield was bypassed wherever possible with hard tacklers such as Billy Manuel and Simon Ratcliffe employed mainly as ball winners and to help the ball on.
In other words there was barely a creative bone in the entire squad, and a limited team employing basic tactics with a threadbare support staff and uninspired management, did pretty well to secure as many points as they did.
No wonder we lost ten games at Griffin Park as our shortcomings were ruthlessly exposed when we tried to take the game to the opposition.
The most embarrassing but enlightening moment of the season was watching a nine-man Swindon team running rings around us, and totally outfootballing us to such an extent that, despite our two man advantage, we were left clinging on desperately for a point.
The differences between then and now are many and obvious.
We are now in an extremely fortunate and favourable position given our modern and scientific approach, and enlightened management structure, but it does us no harm to look back and learn from the mistakes made in an earlier era, which resulted in a massive opportunity to establish the club at a higher level being thrown away so quickly and carelessly.
Given how far we have evolved I honestly cannot see history repeating itself!