Bees In Dreamland – 30/11/14

wolvws1So how was November for you?

Pretty amazing might well be the reply from every Brentford supporter.

In fact it would be impossible to overstate just how incredible this last month has been for the club and fans alike.

We ended October on a bit of a wobble after drawing twice against Wigan and Sheffield Wednesday and losing badly at a revitalised Bolton Wanderers, a defeat which saw us fall into the lower half of the league table and drifting into thirteenth place.

Let’s just put my last sentence in context and attempt to impose a sense of reality as well as manage some inflated expectations before we move on to examine November.

We are talking about a newly promoted team, fresh from the third tier of English football, competing at this level for the first time in over twenty years against a series of massive clubs with recent Premier League experience, and yet there was some concern expressed in some quarters at our so called slump.

Some fans are really unrealistic and hard task masters.

At the start of the season any position outside the bottom three would have been deemed more than acceptable and most pundits felt that we would be a lower middle of the table team at best.

The reality is that once the team gained some self-belief and realised that they were easily good enough to survive and indeed, thrive in the Championship, it became obvious that Brentford would do far better than expected by everyone, except possibly by those within the club.

That being said, margins are so narrow, and several of our ten victories could have ended up in draws or defeats if things had gone slightly differently, and conversely, we could just as easily have won four of the five games that we have lost.

Let’s just stop for a moment and simply savour the fact that by the end of November Brentford have already defeated ten, yes ten, Championship teams, with some really big names amongst our victims:

  1. Blackpool
  2. Rotherham
  3. Brighton
  4. Leeds
  5. Reading
  6. Derby
  7. Nottingham Forest
  8. Millwall
  9. Fulham
  10. Wolves

That is not a bad list to say the least and is an absolutely incredible achievement by a team that is taking the entire football world by storm.

Oh, and by the way this is a mere three victories less than the thirteen gained by Brentford throughout the entire season in 1992/93 when we last played at this level of the game.

November has turned into one of the most memorable and successful months in the club’s history with five consecutive victories, the first time since 1934/35 that the club has achieved this feat in the second tier.

Victories, as I have said, over some impressive names, and we have proved that we have simply gone out and defeated the team that is put out against us on the pitch and not been overawed by their reputation, tradition and heritage.

Five victories that have propelled us into third place in the table, a mere one point behind the leaders, Derby County.

This is nosebleed territory in the extreme, and is an achievement that is totally beyond our experience and expectations, or let’s be frank, our wildest dreams, and frankly one that I still find totally impossible to process.

I just hope that we can remain there long enough for the reality to sink in, and that we continue to simply enjoy our success for as long as it lasts without becoming arrogant and developing raised expectations and a sense of entitlement.

Yesterday’s victory was never quite as convincing as the score suggests but our finishing was devastating and, as normal, we were fitter, better organised and totally outpassed and outworked the opposition.

Mark Warburton unsurprisingly started with an unchanged team, with Fulham match winners Dallas and Jota remaining on the bench, but they would have a similar impact yesterday when they were finally called upon to enter the fray.

Wolves sat back early on and allowed us to play in front of them and we kept possession easily and comfortably without ever managing to hurt our opponents.

The only one hurt was skipper Tony Craig who took an unseen and unpunished elbow from Sako in an aerial challenge which stained the Griffin Park pitch red with his blood.

It was Wolves in fact who came the closest to scoring.

Bakary Sako, who had taken his ridiculous celebratory Swarovski crystal-encrusted boots off after the warm-up, bent a long range free kick narrowly over Button’s crossbar with his more prosaic un-bejewelled pair of Nike’s and the tricky van La Parra got away from Bidwell’s close attentions and his centre beyond the far post was brilliantly met by the straining Danny Graham and his header went – nobody really knows quite where.

It hit the underside of the bar and bounced down over the line according to Wolves, but the man who counted, the assistant referee, was unconvinced and play continued.

A narrow escape and maybe a let-off for Brentford and this was a massive turning point, as Wolves came into the game on a poor run of form and an early goal would surely have revitalised their flagging spirits.

George Saville returned to his old stamping ground, almost literally at times, and he thrashed around the midfield like a human combine harvester and received his customary early booking for an agricultural scythe into Alan Judge and his influence waned like that of the setting sun on what was a quite beautiful mild November afternoon.

For all their possession, Brentford created nothing until they scored.

Finally, on the half hour, Toral picked Evans’s pocket after a Wolves throw in and his persistence was rewarded when his slide rule pass sent Judge in on goal and he sashayed between two defenders at pace before flicking the ball almost contemptuously with the outside of his right foot beyond the helpless Ikeme.

Incredibly it was the Irishman’s first goal of a wonderful season where he has been a massive influence with his nonstop energy, vision and skill.

It was a goal of rapier-like deadliness which skewered the Wolves defence and took the wind totally out of their sails.

Button had one sharp save to make his with legs from Sako but Brentford were now in total command.

Wolves changed their approach in the second half and started pressing us high up the pitch, which resulted in them pinning us into our half for the first twenty minutes without creating much apart from an Edwards effort which went narrowly wide of the near post.

Brentford were playing well within themselves and the introduction of Dallas for Toral resulted in us regaining the initiative and simply changing up into a higher gear, and Wolves simply could not live with us.

Odebajo finally won his crucial battle with Sako and with Golbourne off injured he could finally find the opportunity and space to rampage forward, and as Kenny Jackett ruefully admitted after the match, the more Wolves attacked, the more it was Brentford who looked like scoring.

We sent men pouring forward into the space left behind the advanced Wolves players pressing for an equaliser, and we simply tore them apart with incisive close passing and our pace on the break.

Pritchard and Judge combined menacingly and a Hoddle-esque volleyed pass from Dallas sent Judge rushing into the area and his lobbed volley was acrobatically turned over the bar by the keeper.

The imperious Harlee Dean then won the ball deep in his own half, rampaged upfield, just as he had done against Fulham, and found Pritchard, who, with the ball seemingly tied to his foot, made space for himself, and played the ball across the area beyond the straining Dean, for the unmarked Dallas to score calmly and without fuss.

Harlee has rapidly become a massive influence both in defence and as an auxiliary attacker and, on current form, will take some shifting from the first team.

Wolves’s heads went down and their challenge evaporated.

Brentford now went for the jugular and Judge picked out Gray with a perfectly weighted long pass and the former Wolves youngster took the ball across the edge of the area, shrugged off three defenders and buried a fearsome low strike beyond Ikeme into the far corner.

His was a goal of breathtaking quality which emphasised the gulf in confidence between the two teams. Wolves stood off and just watched and tried to react whilst Brentford ran rings around them and made things happen.

Gray retired to a hero’s ovation, he now believes in his own ability, and with five goals in as many games is developing into both a massive threat and an immense prospect.

jota wolvesHis recent progress just goes to show how well a player can perform when he is given the time and support to grow into an unfamiliar role.

Jota came on for the last few minutes and put the cherry on top with a typical party piece goal which simply emphasied the gulf between the two teams.

Judge it was who slipped him through, and Jota’s angled finish from the edge of the six yard box was perfection personified as he threaded the ball through the eye of the needle into the goal.

So this incredible month is coming to an end and every Brentford supporter must wish that it could continue ad infinitum.

Mark Warburton must surely be named as Manager of the Month given his perfect and unblemished record although Ipswich’s Mick McCarthy could run him close given their four wins and a draw over the same period.

Gray too and maybe Toumani Diagouraga, who was imperious yet again yesterday, might also come into contention for Player of the Month honours.

To receive either or both awards would be wonderful as this is New Brentford, and we no longer worry about tempting fate, but in our heart of hearts we know just how good we are and hopefully the run will continue.

We are certainly good enough to achieve great things this season.

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How Others See Us – 29/11/14

We Brentford supporters all know exactly just how good our team is at the moment and, at the same time, really have no idea at all how much better it is going to get over the coming months and even years.

That is the beauty and excitement of the wonderful journey on which we currently find ourselves.

Nobody quite knows where our magical mystery tour is going to end – and we can but dream.

Slowly and surely the rest of the football world is catching up with us and finally grasping that there is something quite special, totally unexpected and unprecedented taking place under the radar at Griffin Park.

beagrAs we prepare to climb yet another mountain this afternoon and take on the challenge of Wolverhampton Wanderers at Griffin Park I thought that it might make us all feel a bit calmer to read what other people are saying about us at the moment.

Sky Sports Football League pundit Peter Beagrie was asked this week to explain our amazing start to the season and to come up with the secret for our success.

His comments should be nectar to our ears which will surely be burning with pride:

The secret of their success is continuity.

It’s a squad that has grown together over the last few years with a few quality additions showing the same desire and work ethic and creating the consistency required to do well in any division.

Mark Warburton has carried on the great work and structure Uwe Rosler put in place, maintaining the principles and professionalism the German demanded.

He was a brilliant choice and it was not a gamble to put the former stockmarket man in charge having worked closely on the recruitment side studying players’ character as well as their ability to maintain unity and harmony in the dressing room.

w2Plenty of pace and energy, and a mix of young and hungry players, with a couple of experienced heads, make Brentford a tough opponent for anybody, especially now mentally they all feel they belong among some of the more illustrious company in the Championship.

Bournemouth are their direct comparison in size and stature and showing what you can achieve when you build a team over a few seasons.

I fancied Brentford to do well and not only survive but possibly get a top-ten finish, and at the moment they are well ahead of schedule.

It’s refreshing to see a club and staff embrace the division above, playing without fear and being allowed by their manager to express themselves, long may it continue.

Just how good does it make you feel to read an impartial viewpoint like that from an experienced former player who knows precisely what he is talking about and has become a well regarded, knowledgable and thoughtful commentator on the game?

Steve Claridge – eat your heart out!

Wolves midfielder and former Brentford loanee George Saville played a key role in last season’s promotion team and has an in-depth knowledge of what makes us tick:

It’s no surprise at all to see them doing well – they’ve got a good manager, a great set of players and good individuals.

The owner there is very ambitious from talks he gave us last year and they’re on the up, so it’s a good place to be at the moment.

Wolves manager Kenny Jacket also had some good things to say about us:

Brentford are in a great position in the league, they have a new stadium coming and they’ve built well.

Maybe they’d say they were in League One a year or two longer than they’d have liked because they were close to getting up, but perhaps that allowed them to build and to grow.

They’ve just won four on the trot, which shows you that it can be done.

They’ve brought in a new front four and have options off the bench as well – maybe Judge is the only one still around playing out of their front four.

The options they have for that front four are good and they have kept it similar behind.

They’ve been settled and started very well and, looking at the Fulham game on Friday night on television, they looked a threat right the way through and looked like they can score goals.

It might be sensible for us to take some of his words with a pinch of salt as it is customary for a football manager to big up his opponents before he plays them as a possible face-saving exercise, but, reading between the lines, he obviously rates us and is worried about the threat we pose his team.

I next scanned some of the Wolverhampton Wanderers message boards and amongst the normal hyperbole, gibberish, ignorance and blinkered views I read the following comment from Young Wolf with great interest:

They are in a rich vein of form at the moment, and they do play some lovely football, but if we can sort ourselves out quickly (and I trust Kenny to do so) I think we do have a better midfield and are a better side.

That is what they call being damned with faint praise, as there was certainly a sting in the tail, but hopefully we can turn the tables on Wolves and ensure that it is payback time for the convincing defeat they inflicted upon us last season.

Greg Dyke, Chairman of the Football Association, can hardly be called impartial given that he is a long-suffering fan and a former Chairman of the club, but distance lends perspective and he recently had this to say about how the long suffering Brentford suppporters have finally and not before time changed their tune:

Yes, we are the absolute world champion club in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, something we have been doing since about 1947 when I was born.

If we were 3-0 up with five minutes to play, ask any Brentford fan if we would win the game and ninety-nine percent would still be uncertain.

Having said that we are playing some great football now, the best I’ve seen in years.

Is it an impossible dream? No, it isn’t, let’s see where it leads us.

When self-doubt strikes, as it undoubtedly will, simply cloak yourself in the comments you have just read above and believe!

Much Ado About Nothing – 28/11/14

w2Well, that was a bit of a damp squib wasn’t it?

The loan window closed last night at Griffin Park without anybody either jumping in or being defenestrated.

In truth, no real surprises there as Mark Warburton had already made it crystal clear that he was more than happy with both the quality and depth of his squad and was fully content to make do with what he has until the transfer window opens again in January.

When interviewed at the training ground yesterday he seemed blissfully unconcerned about the ticking clock and rapidly approaching deadline and, when asked if he expected any movements in or out, merely commented without an apparent care in the world that Frank McParland was dealing with all transfer matters back at the club today and would let him know if anything happened.

Not a major priority then!

Would I have liked a new loanee?

The answer is a qualified “yes”.

We have cover in pretty much every position and there is now a plethora of talent unable to even claw a seat for themselves on the substitutes’ bench.

Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders and Marcos Tebar are now fully recovered from injury, add further depth to the squad and are all challenging for places.

Montell Moore is also performing exceptionally well in the Development Squad and is a real talent whose time might surely be coming fairly soon.

All that being said and agreed, I would still have been happier if a new striker had been brought in who could cover for our existing trio of Andre Gray, Nick Proschwitz and Betinho.

I do not intend to go over the why’s and wherefore’s of the quality of each of them, and what they bring to the party, as I have done it to death in previous articles, but I simply feel that we are going into a packed Christmas programme and another option up front would be extremely helpful as a contingency should injury or another misfortune befall one of our strikers, who we will need to wrap up in cotton wool.

The problem of course, is finding somebody who is available, affordable, fits in with and adds value to the squad and, in our current situation, with Gray excelling and our only playing one striker, is prepared to accept that he will be unlikely to start any, or many, games.

Those are hard boxes to tick and I suspect that we were unable to find someone who matched that exacting bill.

Danny Graham, for example, who is likely to play against us on Saturday, would have cost us top dollar and expected, quite naturally, to have come in as first choice.

That was not going to happen at Griffin Park given Andre’s recent performances where he has excelled.

I yesterday suggested that the best option would be a young and unproven talent from the Premier League, but on reflection I can see what a risk that would have been, as, whilst there are certainly such players around, whether they would be able to step up to the plate in the Championship is highly open to doubt given the quality and physical demands of the competition.

Rhys Murphy anyone?

Saido Berahino certainly had the ability in front of goal and was a precocious talent, but he fell short in other areas, and, given the unity of the current squad, and how well things are going, we cannot afford to take any chances.

To be honest, I am delighted that Mark gave such a public show of confidence in his current squad and am also fully aware that last minute arrivals are never generally the best planned and can sometimes reek of being panic buys.

The squad is certainly talented enough, as has been shown by our wonderful November which has so far seen four straight wins, two over major promotion hopefuls, ten goals scored, a rise to an unprecedented fifth place in the table, the emergence of Andre Gray and Toumani Diagouraga as match winners and major influences, plus a growing awareness that there really is something incredible happening at Griffin Park under the noses of an unsuspecting football world.

Mark Warburton is certainly well in the running to be Manager of the Month for November, and the two aforementioned players will also have a good shout of being nominated as Player of the Month too.

I have no problem in mentioning both of these facts, as this is “New Brentford”, a club that simply rises to every challenge and obstacle put in front of it, and I very much hope that we have to face the so-called curse of the Manager of the Month as I am certain that we will just ignore it and get on with our game.

We face a tough challenge tomorrow in Wolverhampton Wanderers, who will be smarting after three straight defeats and only gaining one point in four games.

We need to take care as they will be a wounded animal determined to prove that their recent poor results are merely a blip and not the start of a catastrophic plummet down the league table.

I am not going to write a match preview here, but simply remark that whilst there are merely another three valuable Championship points at stake, there is also a little matter of pride and revenge to consider

henryWolves ended our long unbeaten run last season and both outthought and outplayed us at Griffin Park.

Three – nil was a harsh scoreline, but they were far better than us on the day and fully deserved their victory.

It has to be said, however that some of their players (are you listening Mr Henry) rather over celebrated at the time and went way beyond what are normally considered acceptable bounds of behaviour.

I am sure that Russell Slade might have something to say on this delicate subject at this point, given his complaints after our win at Brisbane Road, but there really is a massive difference between making your delight at achieving a crucial victory perfectly clear by celebrating amongst yourselves, and provoking the home fans by gesticulating and taunting.

I am pretty certain that something might well be said on this emotive subject before the game in the home dressing room.

Bring it on!

Ins And Outs? – 27/11/14

careThe Loan Window slams shut tonight and as always when such a milestone approaches there is a frisson of excitement and anticipation on the part of every football fan, and Brentford supporters are no different.

Will something happen today before the five o’clock deadline, will we make a surprise move and bring in a new face or two?

Will perhaps a couple of our unused squad players kicking their heels on the sidelines be sent out for some first team match practice?

Who knows, but what is certain is that social media and the Brentford FC website alike will be red hot as supporters nervously check every possible news outlet throughout the day waiting for the puff of white smoke.

As is normal these days, rumours and hot gossip emanating from the club itself are totally nonexistent.

They keep their business extremely close to their chest nowadays, and I suspect that very few people, if anybody, outside the magic circle of Matthew Benham, Frank McParland, Mark Warburton, David Weir, perhaps Club Secretary Lisa Hall and finally the director who has to sign any paperwork will have any inkling of what is planned for today and what may or may not transpire.

Whilst all fans thrive on gossip and speculation and avidly seize upon any snippet of information that they can unearth, it has to be said that the club’s policy of omerta is simply good and sensible business practice, although it really does help spoil our fun.

So many transfer deals in the past have been compromised when somebody blabbed and spilled the beans.

I am reminded of those emotive Second World War posters carrying the message “Careless Talk Costs Lives”.

One has to keep a sense of proportion, and I am not suggesting for one moment that anybody involved with Brentford FC ever pays the ultimate price when the cat is let out of the bag, but I am equally certain that several transfer targets in the recent past were hijacked by other clubs who might well have discovered confidential information through leaks that were then published prematurely.

The only name that has been mentioned in the local media is that of Tommie Hoban a promising twenty year-old centre half at Watford who would be well known to Mark Warburton from his time spent at the club.

hobanHoban has risen through Watford’s youth ranks and made his debut in the final match of the 2010/11 campaign.

It was two seasons later, under Gianfranco Zola, that he established himself in Watford’s first team and despite missing a year of football due to an ankle injury, he has made thirty-eight appearances to date for the Hornets.

Interestingly enough he has commented recently upon how difficult it is for a promising homegrown youngster to force his way into the first team at the club.

“When Malky and Dychey were managing here a lot of young players were given the opportunity to go out and play.

When the Pozzos took over there was still that chance to get in the side and I was given my opportunity.

Now we are a side that wants to get promoted to the Premier League.

So it may now be harder for younger players to break into the side.

We have got a lot of good quality players but I think if you are good enough you will still be given a chance.”

The dramatic change in philosophy at Vicarage Road since the Pozzo takeover has seen the Hornets name starting lineups without a British or Irish player but Hoban has still managed to make eleven appearances so far this season.

It looks like Watford might well want to get him out on loan in order to play some first team football but I cannot for the life of me see how that can happen at Griffin Park at the moment.

Harlee Dean and Tony Craig are the pair rightly in possession of the first team shirts at present with James Tarkowski breathing down their necks and eagerly looking for an opportunity to win back the shirt he lost after his recent suspension.

Unless injury strikes there is surely no opportunity for a loanee to force his way into the first team reckoning at centre half in the immediate future.

That is not to say that the club might not be looking in the future to upgrade what is already one of the strongest positions in the squad but I would doubt if Hoban would be seen as an immediate replacement for one of the three players currently vying for recognition.

Watford would surely only send him out on loan if he was likely to play regularly in the first team and unless I am missing something then he would need to go elsewhere today.

That being said, if Brentford were to loan out Raphael Calvet today then there would be a space in and around the squad, as with Alfie Mawson remaining at Wycombe where he is really impressing, Daniel O’Shaugnessy would be the only other spare central defender at the club.

Maybe Brentford do have some plans for Hoban but I would be surprised if he is a viable and realistic target for today.

What else might happen?

Let’s first look at potential exits.

With the Christmas programme fast approaching and pressure likely to be put on the squad by a never ending and relentless onslaught of matches and travelling I would be surprised if any squad players are allowed to leave the club today as they will all probably be required as cover over the next month or so as the pressure bites.

Nico Yennaris has so far had a season to forget as he his progress has been set back by injury and he has never really been in a position to challenge for a first team place since his initial injury suffered at Dagenham in August.

He really needs games and at the moment is not being named on the substitutes’ bench.

That situation could certainly change as injuries take their toll and players need a break, but he, or even perhaps Marcus Tebar, who is now recovered from his injury and needs some match action, could conceivably be given the opportunity to get back to match fitness elsewhere.

Tommie Smith has not featured as much as he might have liked but is far too valuable to be loaned out.

The example of Toumani Diagouraga is fresh on the mind as he is a player who was revitalised by his loan spell at Portsmouth and came back a seemingly different player, one who is now one of the first names on the team sheet.

We did however have the cover available to allow him to leave for a short spell, but I do not see that as being the situation now.

Possibly Josh Clarke and Calvet might be given the chance to play elsewhere today and some of the other Development Squad players might also be found local non-league clubs to play for over the Christmas period, but I do not see any shocks or surprises exiting through the out door.

In that regard, suggestions on message boards that James Tarkowski might be sent out on loan are surely nonsensical as he is one of our best players, and is one injury or a few mistakes away from regaining his first team place.

As for other arrivals today – who knows?

We remain short of cover upfront where Andre Gray ploughs a lone furrow supported by the ever-willing Nick Proschwitz who spells him for the latter part of most matches.

We are wafer thin in the striking department as Betinho does not appear to have kicked on and has not even been named in recent Development Squad teams.

He is obviously nowhere near the first team at present, which is a real shame given the anticipation and expectation, unreasonable though they were, on his arrival and the need to give Andre a rest from time to time.

Montell Moore is highly promising and his time will certainly come, but it is far too early for him to be expected to make an impact at Championship level.

So do we stick or twist?

Danny Graham was rumoured to be arriving a few weeks ago but he would have come at a very high cost and would also have expected to play every week, and that is where the dilemma lies.

Gray has developed far quicker than could ever have been expected and given the season-ending injury to Scott Hogan, is now the undisputed first choice striker.

Whoever comes in would surely be expected to support and spell him rather than replace him and, as I have said before, clubs want their loanees to play rather than languish on the bench.

For that reason I would not be surprised if we do bring in a young striker from a higher level, another Chuba Akpom type of raw, inexperienced but talented player who could add some value without needing or expecting to play every match.

All will be revealed by tonight and, as per normal I fully expect to have got everything completely wrong, but, like everyone else I will be agog with anticipation!

Hall Of Fame – 25/11/14

bookerBrentford’s 125th Anniversary Dinner last week saw another welcome milestone when five former players were inducted into the Brentford FC Hall of Fame.

Bob Booker, Peter Gelson, Keith Millen, Alan Nelmes and Danis Salman are all true Brentford legends and are worthy and deserving additions to an elite club.

With their arrival there are now fifteen members of the Hall of Fame and I would like you all now to try and see how many of the other ten inductees you can remember.

In order to give you sufficient time to allow you to search the recesses of your memory so that you can work out their identity, I will reminisce for a moment about the five new inductees.

Bob Booker simply epitomises everything that is good about Brentford and what the club represents.

Never the most gifted player in the world, he made the most of what he had, gave everything to the cause, never caused a moment’s trouble – except to the opposition, and played in every position apart from goal.

He scored an unforgettable hat trick against Hull City and I also remember an accomplished display as an emergency centre half against Fulham.

His never say die approach endeared him to supporters and he overcame a career threatening knee injury to revitalise his career and earn a transfer to Sheffield United where he also became a club legend and First Division regular.

gelsonWho else can recall the excitement when the news was leaked in November 1991 that the Bees were on the verge of signing a First Division star – and after much speculation it was Bob who eventually materialised for a final spell at Griffin Park, but we forgave him everything!

Peter Gelson was a loyal one-club man who served the Bees with dignity and pride for more than a decade and played well over five hundred games, second only to Ken Coote, as a rugged and reliable centre half.

He was not the tallest of defenders but timed his leaps perfectly and won everything in the air and was a seemingly impassable barrier, except against his nemesis, Jack Howarth who always gave him the runaround and once scored an awesome hat trick of headers for Aldershot at Griffin Park.

Peter remarkably scored twice with punts from inside his own half of the field, and less memorably, hit a late and potentially match saving penalty kick against Aldershot onto the inside of the roof of the old Brook Road terrace and caused the occupants of the Royal Oak End to be showered with years of accumulated rust.

Then, just to add insult to injury, Aldershot broke away following the goal kick, and scored a match clinching fourth goal.

millenPeter remains a season ticket holder at the club and he can be seen at every match in Braemar Road where he is rightly treated with the affection, awe and respect accorded to a true Brentford icon.

Keith Millen played against Wigan at Wembley as an eighteen year old teenage prodigy and developed into a consistent and gifted centre half who formed outstanding defensive partnerships with both Terry Evans and Jamie Bates, and Brentford were so fortunate to have three such talented defenders to choose from.

He simply got on with his job calmly and efficiently and read the game so well that danger was generally snuffed out before any damage was done.

It was a disappointment to all supporters when he fell out with David Webb and, after flirting with a possible move to Spurs which never finally came to fruition, he was transferred, when still in his prime, to Watford where he also flourished.

Alan Nelmes took time to settle down to the rigours of league football after he joined Brentford in 1967 from Chelsea but he grew into the role and became a quick and underrated defender who proved to be the perfect foil to Peter Gelson.

NelmesHe scored only two goals for Brentford, once when playing as an emergency centre forward at Notts County, the other, a last minute winner from a corner against Scunthorpe at Griffin Park after he lost his marker, Kevin Keegan, who was ball watching.

Unfortunately he was more deadly at the other end of the pitch and signed off with a trademark own goal, a real beauty, in his testimonial match against Chelsea in 1978.

Danis Salman made his Brentford debut against Watford at the age of fifteen years, eight months and three days and 248 days and still holds the record as the Club’s youngest ever Football League player.

Danny was tall, quick and strong and played at right back or centre half and was an ever present danger when he overlapped down the right flank.

salmanHe also scored one of the softest and most bizarre goals I have ever seen when his weak thirty yarder somehow spun through keeper Nigel Batch’s hands and legs and barely had the pace to cross the goal line, but it was enough to gift us a victory over Grimsby.

He spent eleven years at the club and made three hundred and seventy-one appearances before joining Millwall.

I always felt that Danny rather missed the boat and stayed with us a bit too long as, with his ability, he could and should have played at a far higher level.

All five were wonderful players and are also real gentlemen who remember their time at the club with pleasure and pride.

Anyway, it is now time to discover how many of the other ten members of the Brentford FC Hall of Fame you have managed to remember.

70sThey are as follows:

  1. Malcolm MacDonald
  2. Dai Hopkins
  3. Joe James
  4. Phil Holder
  5. Dean Holdsworth
  6. Jackie Graham
  7. Alan Hawley
  8. Bobby Ross
  9. George Francis
  10. Terry Evans

Did any of you get all ten names correct?

I doubt it, I certainly didn’t.

Worthy though they all are of their places in this august gathering.

I spoke yesterday to the club’s Deputy Head of Media and Communications, Mark Chapman, about the Hall of Fame and remarked that there were some obvious omissions from the current list of former players and managers already honoured.

Mark stated that he was well aware of this but that it was the club’s policy to first honour players who were still alive and, in that regard, it is likely that there will be another name announced very shortly who will be a very popular and deserving addition to the Hall of Fame.

Exciting news indeed!

That is not to say that the prewar giants and others who are sadly no longer with us, such as Jack Holliday, Jim Towers and of course, Harry Curtis, have been forgotten, and Mark assured me that their time will definitely come, once the most appropriate and fitting way to celebrate their memory has been decided upon.

Hopefully once Lionel Road is completed there will also be a space reserved in a club museum to pay suitable homage to the wonderful achievements of our former greats.

Thanks to Mark, who with his knowledge, passion and respect for the past is a totally appropriate custodian for the Hall of Fame.

So, in the meantime I can going to set all my readers an immediate task.

Please can you let me know who, in your opinion, out of our past heroes and inspirations do you think most deserves election into the Brentford FC Hall of Fame?

I await your nominations with bated breath and all suggestions will, of course, be passed onto Mark for consideration.

Day Off! – 23/11/14

flsWhat a lovely, peaceful and satisfying day I had yesterday.

After long lie in to sleep off the excess celebrations from the night before,  I woke up with a smile on my face as I realised that the incredible and momentous events of Friday night had really happened and weren’t merely a dream.

In fact the reality was far better and more satisfying than anything I could have ever dared hope for.

Brentford had beaten their old enemy in the most satisfying of circumstances and sent them scurrying back to SW6 whining and moaning with their tail firmly between their legs.

Even more than that, Brentford had risen to the challenge and massive expectations of their fans and put on a performance that will live long in the memory, one that must also have thrilled, surprised and amazed everyone watching the live broadcast of the local derby on Sky Sports.

The days of us crumbling and choking on the big occasion seem firmly behind us and the team seemed to relish the challenge and enjoy the opportunity to strut their stuff before a national audience.

I have to confess that I watched the entire programme twice, once when I came in late on Friday night, and again, just to check that it wasn’t a figment of my imagination, on Saturday morning.

I was right the first time, we really had put on a notable performance that had even the hardened Sky pundits waking up and taking notice and appreciating our style, approach and quality.

Griffin Park, too, looked at its best, resplendent and sparkling in the glare of the floodlights and the scene was set for a magnificent game of football where the presumed underdogs and no-hopers seized the initiative from the off and blooded the nose of their illustrious and wealthy opponents.

I am not going to rehash my match report as I wrote that yesterday, but suffice to say that I was suffused with pride watching the events unroll on-screen yet again.

How Ross McCormack, danger that he was, could have been named as Man of the Match was a decision so ludicrous that I simply laughed in disbelief.

Was I being paranoid or was this simply more evidence of media bias against Brentford?

The fact that the studio pundit, Billy McKinlay, was a former Fulham coach might have had something to do with it, but if a Fulham player had to be chosen, then the blindingly obvious candidate was their goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, the elastic man, whose series of wonderful saves kept the Cottagers in the game and almost led to them pulling off a totally unmerited victory against the odds.

Perhaps they had simply been unable to pick out one Brentford player when in truth all fourteen shone equally on the night?

Whatever the circumstances, the choice of McCormack highlighted the danger of making such a decision well before the end of the game, as I firmly believe that the Man of the Match had been selected at a time when Fulham were still winning the game.

I take my hat off to Ross who was magnanimous when interviewed after the game, looked fairly sheepish and embarrassed when accepting his award and conceded that Brentford had been by far the better team and fully deserved their victory.

The Daily Mail published a full and effusive report on their website but otherwise our achievement went largely unnoticed in yesterday’s media.

Good, let’s stay under the radar for as long as we can!

A long day now stretched in front of me without the normal stresses and concerns of a Saturday in the football season.

The Bees had more than done their stuff, the pressure was off and I could simply relax, smug in the knowledge that whatever happened we were certain to end the day still firmly ensconced in the Playoff zone.

I watched the Huddersfield versus Sheffield Wednesday no-score bore draw at lunchtime and whilst you have to make allowance for the passion of a local derby, there was so little quality on display from either team, and the Bees looked light years ahead of  both of them on the evidence of that game.

I awaited the other results with keen interest but felt totally confused and conflicted.

Should I be looking at the teams at the top or bottom of the league?

Did I want Derby or Blackpool to lose?

With the innate caution and pessimism ingrained in a Brentford supporter of long standing, I was first drawn to the relegation zone and noticed with relief and satisfaction that we are now thirteen points above Rotherham who sit uneasily in twenty-second place.

Can they make up the gap on us, are we going to be OK and avoid the dog fight at the bottom of the league?

Panicky thoughts such as these flashed through my mind until I took a deep breath and began to analyse the situation more objectively.

We have now played eighteen of our twenty-three opponents, and yes, we are likely to find it harder when we play everybody for the second time, as forewarned is forearmed but a cataclysmic collapse like the one we experienced back in 1993 just isn’t going to happen again.

AM:PS2We really do have so much more quality and are so much better equipped for the gruelling demands of the Championship both on the pitch and behind the scenes.

That is not to say that we will not experience some good hidings between now and the end of the season given the calibre of some of the opposition and players who will be facing us.

I finally accepted that in reality there really isn’t too much for us to worry about and allowed my eyes to rise and examine the top of the Championship table.

There we were, sitting proudly in fifth place, and long may that situation remain.

Who knows where we will end up as we are on a magical and momentous journey which will end, we know not where, but it is great fun to be part of it.

And given what most of us have been through over the years supporting our beloved Brentford, the disappointments, the raised hopes and shattered dreams, I really do not think many people would deny that it is about time that we had our time in the sun.

It is OUR turn now.

Mark Warburton turned up as a guest on the Football League Show last night.

In his calm, understated manner he talked total sense, gave credit where it was due and his sharp analysis contrasted with the bumbling inanities and cliches spouted by the ineffable Steve Claridge who he totally outshone.

Mark advised caution and hoped that we would remain out of the spotlight for as long as possible.

Most of me hopes that he is right but I really feel that the cat is out of the bag as is evidenced by this comment from Sam Lewis’s match report in today’s Football League Paper:

While rivals Fulham were parading themselves in the Premier League and playing in a European final, envious Brentford were pottering around in the bowels of the Football League in a half-empty stadium.

How the tide of the Thames has turned in West London.

It’s taken sixteen years for the clubs to collide in the league, but what is it they say about good things coming to those who wait?

Brentford are flying high in the play-off places.

Their new stadium is coming and if they keep this up, so are United, City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

How I wish I had written those wonderful words.

Just to cap a perfect day, the phone rang at about seven o’clock and it was Paul Shrubb ringing to say what a fantastic time he had had at the match, how welcome he had been made to feel and how incredible it was to walk onto the Griffin Park pitch once more to receive the acclaim of the Brentford supporters.

Days don’t really come much better than this.

Bees Up! – Fulham Down! – 22/11/14

I have finally woken up this morning but feel as if I am still in dreamland.

ful4Did we really win our fourth consecutive Championship match last night, the first time we have achieved that feat almost since there was a King on the throne over sixty years ago?

Is that us, little Brentford, sitting comfortably in fourth place in the league, a mere point off the top?

Was that really Brentford who came back seemingly from the dead, with two goals in the final ten minutes of a pulsating match, to win a game that we looked like losing despite totally dominating from start to finish?

Was that Griffin Park, ram packed to the gills with the roof seemingly coming off as the stadium erupted at the final whistle?

The answer to all four questions is an emphatic yes.

This has been a seriously good few days for the club as we begin to come of age.

The landmark 125th anniversary was celebrated by over six hundred guests at a glittering dinner held on Thursday at the Hurlingham Club in SW6 where Brentford took over Fulham.

The team repeated the feat last night, playing their illustrious visitors off the park and their sumptuous football provided yet another feast this time for the spectators at a sold out Griffin Park as well as the viewers of the live broadcast on Sky Sports.

I wrote recently about our dilemma.

Do we try and remain under the radar or shout from the rooftops about the incredible recent happenings at the club?

I am afraid that given what occurred last night the decision is going to be taken out of our hands.

The football world is finally waking up to the fact that there is a new power emerging in West London.

It is of course early days yet, and we must try and avoid getting carried away as in the greater scheme of things we have achieved very little, but we are certainly on a journey.

The force and momentum are with us, and on the evidence of what experienced Bees watchers have seen so far this season, who knows just how far we can go and where we will eventually end up.

Last night it was the turn of Fulham to challenge our new found self-belief.

The two teams were renewing a rivalry that flourished and grew in the 80s and came to a head on that glorious Sunday morning in April 1992 when the visitors were demolished by a four goal first half onslaught by the Bees.

Since that unforgettable day Fulham, buttressed by Mohamed Al-Fayed’s millions roared ahead and left Brentford trailing far behind in their wake, and seemed to have firmly established themselves in the Premier League until they imploded last season and were relegated with ignominy after a thirteen year stay at the top level.

Under Kit Symons they have been recovering from an appalling start to the season and fielded a team packed full of top level international stars, but there still seemed to be a sense of entitlement surrounding them and they gave the firm impression that they felt it it was all a bit beneath them to spend a Friday night slumming it against their poor relations at their dilapidated shack of a stadium.

Back in the day, one of my clients, Ericsson, sponsored Queens Park Rangers, and by virtue of my job I was sentenced to five years’ hard labour where I was expected to attend some matches at Loftus Road.

At that time, just like Fulham, QPR had been relegated from the Premier League and mistakenly pulled out all the stops to retain most of the overpriced so-called superstars who had totally under performed and got them into the mess in the first place.

Excellent players, like Trevor Sinclair, slept-walked their way through the season, making it patently obvious by their inertia and reluctance to sweat that they had no real interest in playing at a level they felt totally beneath them and only gave their all on the big occasion in an effort to attract a new club.

ful3For Trevor Sinclair read Brian Ruiz last night.

Fulham were a mirror image of that lamentable QPR team – all fur coat and no knickers as the old expression goes.

Brentford took the game by the throat and totally outplayed their visitors in a first half of total domination.

Brentford’s incisive and pleasing to the eye short passing style contrasting with Fulham’s prehistoric long ball assault.

The Brentford midfielders interchanged with alacrity.

Pritchard’s magic feet opened gaps in the Fulham defence, the rampaging Jonathan Douglas and the revitalised Toumani Diagouraga won every loose ball and passed it impeccably, the live-wire Alan Judge was at the centre of everything good we did and Toral showed further evidence that he is coming of age as a first team footballer.

All that was missing was a goal, but thanks to an inspired display from the marvellous Marcus Bettinelli in the Fulham goal we were somehow denied the two goal cushion which was the least that our first half display merited.

He stretched like a languid cat to foil Toral’s low header aimed into the corner, tipped over Craig’s header, acrobatically pushed Judge’s curling free kick over the bar and best of all, made a save from Toumani’s carefully sidefooted volley that defied gravity and belief.

It was a goal all the way until the keeper somehow stuck out a strong left hand to save his team.

David Button was a virtual spectator, but showed his sharpness when he plunged to his left to deny the dangerous Rodallega, who should have buried a close range header when set up by his partner Ross McCormack.

Games at this level are settled by such narrow margins, as for all their domination and effervescent, mesmerising football, Brentford could actually have come in at the break trailing, despite having played perhaps their best forty-five minutes of the season.

Football is such a strange game sometimes!

Andre Gray had led the lumbering giant Dan Burn a merry dance and he escaped his attentions yet again before being foiled by the keeper who smothered his close range poke.

Button too was called into action as Fulham finally roused themselves from their apparent deep slumber and made a sharp save to deny Rodallega.

But the Colombian would not be denied, and just before the hour, Brentford’s well oiled machine developed a kink in the engine as Dean’s short pass was intercepted by Williams, and ten seconds later the ball was in the Brentford net as McCormack easily set up Rodallega, the man over, who finished calmly and effectively.

ful1Their were many similarities to Norwich City’s first goal at Griffin Park in September, also donated by a generous home defence guilty of overplaying.

Tarkowski was the culprit on that occasion, Dean on this, but he simply rolled his sleeves up and determined to make amends, which he did in quite spectacular style.

As is normally the case, Mark Warburton’s substitutions revitalised us.

Jota and Dallas gave us fresh legs and renewed impetus, and Proschwitz finally looked the part when he replaced the exhausted Gray.

We survived a difficult fifteen minute spell when we dropped too deep as Fulham gained in belief, and surely thought that they were on the way to a smash and grab victory that would have been totally against the run of play.

We recovered, found a second wind and started to play our football again.

There was space on the flanks where Pritchard, Jota and Dallas tormented their defenders and Odubajo and Bidwell were tireless in their overlapping support.

The Fulham defence creaked but the door remained firmly shut until Dean took charge.

He picked the ball up near halfway, saw no obvious pass, and, like a modern day Beckenbauer, strode majestically into the Fulham half.

He found Dallas on the left wing who performed miracles to hold off three straining defenders and conjure up a low cross from the touchline when the ball seemed destined to go out of play.

Parker stretched to clear, but the ball fell to Dean near the edge of the area, who leaned back and struck a glorious right foot volley beyond Bettinelli and the helpless defender covering on the line.

The net bulged and Griffin Park erupted.

Game on, and a shell shocked Fulham did not know whether to stick or twist and got caught between two stools as they did neither.

They forced another sharp save from the excellent Button but were caught upfield in injury time when Judge bounced the ball off his head like a performing seal, shook off a tired challenge, turned and pinged yet another perfect fifty yard pass straight out to Jota stationed on the right wing.

His control was instantaneous and perfect, he cut inside his defender and there was only one thing on his mind.

His shot from just outside the penalty area was hard and well directed and kissed the outstretched and seemingly beseeching arm of Burn diving in a vain effort to block the shot, and the deflection took the ball into the corner of the net.

Cue disbelief and wild celebrations as the roof came off Griffin Park.

Fulham had a muted penalty shout ignored by the excellent David Coote, who officiated calmly and without fuss, and Proschwitz and Jota both forced sharp saves from Bettinelli as the Bees comfortably played out the remaining minutes of added time.

The whistle went to roars of appreciation as the players, management and fans were united as one in celebration of a famous and merited victory.

It is now time for everyone to believe and accept that we are quickly developing into an excellent team, with players who possess skill, pace, verve and confidence.

The balance of power is shifting in West London.

The Bees are on the rise!