Did any Brentford supporter see that photograph of Kevin Mirallas and Leighton Baines squabbling over who was going to take a crucial penalty kick against West Brom on Monday night and not break into a cold sweat and cast their mind back to that truly horrible day in April 2013 when…… you know exactly what I am referring to, and I am not going to dredge up any more ghastly memories of the pre-penalty contretemps between Kevin O’Connor, Marcello Trotta, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Clayton Donaldson and what transpired afterwards.
Anyway, back to the player reviews and I fully expect to finish off my half time report in this article.
I just love it when the Bees sign players with just one name like Betinho and, of course, Jota, or José Peleteiro Ramallo, to give him his full name, who signed in August from Real Club Celta de Vigo for an undisclosed fee rumoured to be in excess of a million pounds. Jota is another indication that Brentford’s ambition and aim to be in the big time as he is a wonderfully talented inside forward who has a left foot that could open a tin can. The ball appears to be glued to his foot as he brings it under instantaneous control and is already on the move, head up, looking at the options he can choose from. He is a wonderful proponent of the lost art of dribbling as he glides past opponents with effortless ease. Mainly playing in an advanced wide right role, he can move inside menacingly and shoot from distance with that wand of a left foot as Fulham can attest. His injury time winner against our rivals would have ensured him hero status in his lifetime even if he wasn’t the most extravagantly gifted player I have ever seen wearing a Brentford shirt. He took a while to settle down in his new surroundings, Mark Warburton eased him in gently, and he also benefited from having other Spanish speakers around him in the squad, but it was quite obvious that he was a special talent and he introduced himself with a flourish by scoring a goal against Leeds of quite stunning quality, when he killed the ball instantly, somehow found space in a packed penalty area, dropped his shoulder, left two defenders on their backside and carefully found the roof of the net, all in less time than it has taken me to describe his achievement. He has already scored six times in eighteen starts and his long range effort at Cardiff where he found the top corner of the net with unerring accuracy was another eye opener. Tackling and pressing were alien concepts to him but he has learned quickly that there is no such thing as a luxury player in the Brentford team and he has learned how to do his fair share of the necessary dirty stuff off the ball and his determination to chase a lost cause towards the corner flag led to Lewis Dunk losing his cool, pushing the Spaniard to the ground and fully earning his second yellow card. Yes, he can drift out of games and run out of steam soon after the hour mark, but Jota is becoming a greater influence on matches and now attracts the close attention of his opponents, this providing extra room and space for his teammates. Alan Judge has monopolised free kicks close to goal up until now with Alex Pritchard generally in close attention but I suspect that Jota might also have something to contribute in this area. I never saw Johnny Brooks play and up until now Stan Bowles, who was in the twilight of his career, was without doubt the most skilful player I had ever had the privilege to see play for Brentford, but in a few short months Jota has easily taken over that mantle.
24. Tommy Smith
Tommy is the epitome of the good pro. A player of vast experience with over 550 games to his credit mainly at the Premier League and Championship level, at thirty-four year of age he has been brought in as much for his off field influence and as a good example as for what he can contribute on the pitch itself. He has only started one match and probably played a bit less than he either wanted or expected but he has made several valuable contributions when coming on as a late substitute, none more so than his late deflected equaliser on the opening day of the season that saved Brentford from what would otherwise have been a demoralising home defeat by Charlton. He has also made goals for Jon Toral and Jonathan Douglas. He might have lost a little pace but he is still an exceptionally clever player who reads the game well, makes intelligent runs and does not give the ball away cheaply. He is the perfect player to bring on to help hold onto a lead and close the game out. He is exactly what we need this season, a player who has vast experience and knows the Championship inside out and understands what is expected of him. He has played his role to perfection.
25. Raphael Calvet
Given his pedigree one would have hoped that he would have earned an opportunity by now but it hasn’t happened for the young French defender as of yet although he did well in the preseason games. He is not yet twenty-one and time is on his side. Calvet is tough and skilful but needs to get the chance to demonstrate his ability and get some experience of the Football League. Ideally he will get the opportunity for a loan move and benefit from it as much as Alfie Mawson has done from his spell at Wycombe Wanderers.
26. James Tarkowski
The season hasn’t really taken off for James Tarkowski as everyone, himself included, would surely have expected. He was a colossus in the second part of last season when his anticipation, strength and excellent use of the ball ensured that he cemented his position alongside Tony Craig and he started the season as first choice ahead of Harlee Dean. He played reasonably well but never touched the heights of last season and his performances were punctuated by careless errors and Ill-discipline. He was guilty of overplaying against Norwich which helped contribute towards the crucial opening goal, he conceded an unfortunate penalty at Watford when he made a needless challenge and his penalty kick against Leeds is probably still in orbit. He lost his place after being suspended for five bookings, some unfortunate, others a bit silly on his part and Harlee Dean seized his opportunity. Harlee had to wait for two months to get back into the team and after a couple of rusty performances now looks as if he is getting back to his best form. We now have three excellent central defenders competing for two spots in the team plus perhaps the possibility of a new face arriving before the end of the transfer window and James will need to be at his best in order to keep his place.
27. David Button
It has taken a bit of time but even the most grudging Brentford fans are finally realising just how good their goalkeeper is. Button has played every Championship match, kept seven clean sheets, and his shot stopping ability has come increasingly to the fore. Who can forget the reflex saves against Birmingham and Rotherham that helped win us crucial points and he has conceded very few soft goals. He could still command his six yard box better and does not use his physique as much as he surely should. Where he stands out is in his distribution. He sets the tone for our possession-led style and rarely kicks the ball long unless forced to do so, or if he can see the opportunity to set Andre Gray free with a quick clearance. He invariably rolls or kicks the ball short to a waiting defender and sets us on our way. From time to time it can misfire with disastrous consequences, as it did against Norwich, Fulham and Ipswich but more often than not we retain possession, probe for gaps and start an attack thanks to Button’s initial clearance. Button has grown in confidence as he has finally established himself as a first choice keeper after a multitude of loan spells and his improvement over the past half season has been massive and he has become one of the most reliable keepers in this division.
28. Nico Yennaris
The season has been a frustrating write-off so far for the young defender as he was forced off with an injury early on at Dagenham and has barely been seen since. He took time to recover, scored an excellent goal at Swansea for the Development Squad and eventually forced his way back onto the substitutes’ bench. He came on for a brief appearance as a substitute against Brighton in the FA Cup just long enough to admire the visitors’ two goals. At twenty-one Nico still has plenty of time to stake his claim either as a right back or defensive midfielder but he would have hoped to have been higher up the food chain after spending a year at the club.
33. Montell Moore
Montell made a memorable debut as an eighteen year old at Dagenham, scoring a well taken goal from the edge of the penalty area and assisting on three others. He has also sat on the bench six times without being called upon. He is a quick striker with an eye for goal and he has earned a new three year contract, proof indeed of the faith the club has in him. He has just been sent on loan to FC Midtjylland in Denmark on loan where he will gain valuable experience Definitely one for the future.
39. Nick Proschwitz
German striker Nick Proschwitz was not rumoured to be our first choice but joined the Bees in August on a free transfer from Hull City just before the first game of the season. He has only started one match in the absence of the injured Andre Gray at Blackpool and has invariably appeared as a late substitute. He scored a late tap-in to clinch the win at Rotherham but has otherwise struggled to make a contribution and generally looked off the pace. He has failed to demonstrate any potency in front of goal or the ability to hold the ball up consistently and he missed two gilt-edged late opportunities to win the Sheffield Wednesday match. The jury is still out although it must be hard for him to make an impact when he is only given the odd few minutes to impress on the pitch.
Finally, a few words of praise for Mark Warburton, David Weir, Simon Royce, Kevin O’Connor and the rest of the back room staff. We have totally surpassed everyone’s expectations except perhaps for theirs and they have imbued the players with confidence and self-belief and simply encouraged them to play football and remain positive at all times. Long may they continue to do so and given good luck with injuries there is no reason why we shouldn’t maintain our progress and success over the second half of the season.