Brentford Vice Chairman Donald Kerr today continues his explanation of what a Brentford director actually does and starts by talking about some of his experiences visiting other teams on Brentford away days:
Like visiting someone’s home, spending the match in the board room occasionally gives you an insight into how things are going on behind the scenes, how united the other club appears to be, or how genuinely supportive they are of the team management or style of play. As a result, the subsequent news of a takeover or of a team manager’s departure is sometimes slightly less of a shock.
If I was asked for my biggest surprise as a visiting director it would be the trip to MK Dons last Easter Monday. When we arrived, as usual about 1.30pm, I met their manager, Karl Robinson, as I was picking up my ticket from reception. He overheard me announce that I was a visiting director and spent ten minutes congratulating me on Brentford’s promotion the previous Friday and discussing the prospect of our new stadium. He confessed that Griffin Park was a extremely horrible place for visiting teams and managers to visit (he didn’t say extremely!) and that he hoped we retained that aura when we finally moved. When I finally reached the boardroom, their Chairman, Pete Winkelman was standing there, complete with a tray of champagne, demanding that everyone toasted our success. He also spent some time addressing the room, singing our praises as a club that was doing things the right way and one that deserved the promotion we had just achieved. I know that as a Trust Director I should perhaps take a different view of MK Dons but it was difficult not to admire the style with which they accepted another disappointing season for them, and by contrast our success.
I remember only too vividly the last season we spent in the Championship, and to my shame recall setting off for Bristol City on the last day of that awful campaign and then, not far from home, turning back because I sensed we had no chance of getting the win we needed, and I couldn’t face the prospect of another and final miserable defeat. I never envisaged that we would struggle in the same way this season, and, having the privilege of inside knowledge of our pre-season planning, which started well before the end of last season, I was confident we would do more than just survive. However, even if I was allowed to place a bet, I couldn’t have guessed that we would be in the top six at Christmas or that we would be playing the sort of football we are seeing home and away almost every week. Thinking back to the game at Middlesborough, I feel that their dominance of that game was what I expected we might experience much more often than has been the case. And, with the exception of the Ipswich game on Boxing Day, we haven’t since repeated that experience of being well beaten.
As directors, we generally don’t hear about players being scouted or potential transfer targets until shortly before names are more generally known, and that I feel is exactly as it should be. We have enough off field matters to deal with, and that is where our expertise, such as it is, is best exercised.. But we are keenly aware of the work being done by Frank McParland and those who support him, and the extent and reach of the scouting system. And, long before the season started, we knew that the players being signed had been subject to close scrutiny, and that the club’s ambition was to compete rather than simply to consolidate. Notwithstanding that, I think it is astonishing how quickly Andre, Moses and Jota have adapted to the demands of the Championship, and to how our own League One promotion winners have also thrived at the new level. Toumani has been like a new signing, and Stuart Dallas is developing exactly as we were promised when we first signed him. Of course, the worst moment of the season so far was the terrible injury to Scott Hogan at Rotherham.
Beyond the first team, I have tried to see a couple of youth and development squad matches this season and there are some encouraging signs of players finally breaking through from our own academy. We are investing a lot of time and money in that area and, as directors, we are constantly looking at the timescale of potential return on that investment. The recruitment of Lee Carsley is a real coup in this respect and I know he feels there are one or two stars in the ranks below the first team squad. There can’t be any fans that don’t want to see Montell Moore make that final step up, and it is great to see Alfie Mawson doing so well at Wycombe too. One of the clues to the potential in the Academy is the selection of players for teams above their natural age group and we have several earning that right at the moment. Maybe we’ll see them in pre-season games next summer.
It is so encouraging to hear from Donald that things are going so swimmingly off the pitch as well as on it. The club is in good and safe hands, and there appears to be a well thought through and realistic strategy being applied and followed.
My own brief experience of the Brentford board was totally different. I was invited to join it by Eddie Rogers shortly after the Southampton FA Cup tickets fiasco in 2005 with the specific remit of trying to improve the professionalism of the club’s communication with the supporters and media alike. This shouldn’t have been too difficult a task given the low base from which I was starting, as the club was rarely either positive or proactive in this crucial area. I was then asked to liaise with the team manager at the time as well as pave the way for the recruitment of a new Chief Executive.
For various reasons all of my plans were stymied and the goalposts changed completely, and I felt it impossible to remain a member of the board as it was organised at the time. This was a terrible shame as it had long been my ambition to become a member of the BFC Board and ideally use what knowledge and expertise that I had for the benefit of the club and its supporters, but it wasn’t meant to be and that is something that still causes me some sadness and regret nearly a decade later.
That is quite enough of my self-indulgence, and I am simply delighted that the club I love so much is now in such safe yet knowledgeable and ambitious hands.
And finally, Brentford signed a nineteen year old midfielder Josh Laurent to a Development Squad contract yesterday. So what, you might say, just another young hopeful trying to make his way, but I think this time things might be different. Josh comes from QPR and turned down a new contract with our old rivals to sign for us. Perhaps he realises which of the two clubs is on the rise?
He also has some experience of playing in the Conference on loan to Braintree, so he can obviously look after himself. Having listened to his Bees Player interview, he is certainly not lacking in confidence and he has come to Brentford because he feels he can play first team football for us in the near future. Ambition and self-belief are all important to young footballers and let’s just hope that he can walk the walk as well as talk the talk. What makes his capture even more pleasing is the gnashing of teeth and vitriol being spouted on the QPR message boards as their supporters bemoan the loss of one of their most promising youngsters to a club that even they have to acknowledge is better run and has a more focused and developed strategy than their own. Happy Days!