There might well be an old friend playing against us on Saturday but most likely Adam Forshaw will start the game on the substitutes’ bench and it will be interesting to hear what sort of welcome and reception that he receives from the aficionados on New Road.
His move from Wigan to Middlesbrough was described to me this morning by another Bees fan as “just another rat leaving the sinking ship.” Harsh but maybe accurate as he played a mere seventeen matches for Wigan and remained there for only five months before moving on.
It all looked so good for him when he left Brentford, but his dream move turned sour very quickly and he has explained his recent whirlwind state of affairs in an interview published on the Middlesbrough website today:
I had two great years at Brentford.We went very close in my first year there by getting to the play-off final. Unfortunately we missed out, but the following season we went one better and went up as runners-up. I know Brentford have a lot of good players but I am honestly surprised to see them doing so well this season.
People keep saying they will fall off but they are not showing any signs of it, so all respect to them, including the staff and players and everyone there. They will be tough opposition on Saturday. Their home ground is a bit of a fortress to them, so we’ll have to be really ready. They get about 12,000 fans and they are really close to the pitch. They are a good set of fans and they are a really good football team, but I am more than confident that we can go there and get a result.
It’s been a strange last five days or so, it hasn’t been great on the pitch with Wigan and off it there have a few problems with the reshaping of the squad. When I found out an offer was being made, and that a bid had been accepted, then I was really looking forward to the challenge of coming to Middlesbrough.
I loved my two years at Brentford. We got promoted and when I found out that Wigan wanted me, I was over the moon. I believed it was going to be a great move, something that would be good for my career. Unfortunately, it proved not to be. It was a tough five or six months and, like I said, when this chance arose I grabbed it with both hands. We were having a bad time on the pitch. They were some great players there and a lot of people say they can’t understand why they are in that position. It’s hard to put your finger on it. Putting that to one side, I’m now a Middlesbrough player and I’m relishing the challenge here. First and foremost, I know how big a club this is. Watching from afar, the style of play is really encouraging. That excites you. I’m a midfielder that likes to play football so to be coming into a team like this is really exciting.
Forshaw is just the latest player to join the brain drain or, less charitably, fire sale from Wigan and follows Callum McManaman, Roger Espinoza, Ben Watson and Shaun Maloney out of the exit door from the DW Stadium. Either they are clearing the decks and ridding themselves of all their prime sellable assets and top earners in preparation for a rocky road ahead and likely relegation to the First Division, or this is Malky Mackay’s last gasp effort to build a team in his own image that will keep them in the Championship.
As for Forshaw I hoped that he would realise that he would benefit from another year of seasoning at Brentford but his comments above make it clear that he did not expect us to perform as well as we have done and his head was turned and he felt that he was bettering himself by virtue of his move to Wigan.
Once Forshaw had made it clear that he wanted to leave and that his mind was made up, I really admired the way we handled a difficult situation that could easily have turned nasty, as we effectively put him on gardening leave, isolated him from the rest of the squad and concentrated solely on extracting the maximum value for him from Wigan. The deal was fiddly and protracted, and if we are to believe the rumourmongers, involved Wigan negotiating away the 50% sell-on clause we had with Everton, and all ended happily. We received top dollar for a young player who had cost us nothing and Wigan won the services of an exceptional talent.
What’s happened since hasn’t gone totally according to the script. We have gathered strength and momentum and barely missed him given our undoubted strength in depth in midfield and Forshaw surprisingly struggled to make any impact in an underperforming Wigan team and was in and out off he team. He was stationed in front of his back four when we played at Wigan and looked a mere shadow of the dominating presence that we had been accustomed to see at Griffin Park.
I can understand his desire to leave us even if I don’t entirely agree with it and despite the temporary upset it caused us I suspect and indeed hope that the move to Middlesbrough revitalises him as Forshaw is far too good a player to be struggling to make his mark in the Championship.
As it is he is still simply one more example of the Curse of Griffin Park and muddled thinking. Adam Forshaw is one more in an ever-growing list of players who thought the grass would be greener away from Griffin Park.
Simon Moore’s career has stood still over the past couple of seasons and he has played far fewer games than his talent has warranted. He is more than young and good enough to come again but he needs to play regularly at Championship level, something that would have happened had he remained at Bremtford.
Harry Forrester is the saddest case of all as Brentford and Doncaster have passed each other like ships in the night and, despite his gifts, he is now no more than an injury prone winger playing for an average First Division club who bursts into life and illuminates matches with his sheer ability far too infrequently. He made an cataclysmically poor decision to leave Brentford and it is one that I suspect haunts him to this day when he looks ruefully at how far we have progressed and how his career has gone backwards and become stymied.
A couple of months ago I would have added Clayton Donaldson to the Hall of Shame as both he and his new club, Birmingham City had both started the season slowly, but the Blues have recovered under Gary Rowett’s inspired leadership and Clayton has scored an impressive ten league goals and now resembles the dynamic, powerful leader of the line that we so enjoyed throughout his three years at Griffin Park.
The message to me is clear. Footballers have a short and unpredictable career and it is quite understandable that they seek to better themselves and maximise their earnings. But sometimes the seemingly obvious move is not in their long term best interest and it is best to simply do nothing.
I hope that our current crop of stars have learned from the examples above that given our rapid rise up the totem pole, our increasing profile, the quality of the coaching they receive and the way in which we play the game, Brentford is a fitting and appropriate place for them to hone, develop and show off their burgeoning abilities and that the grass is not necessarily greener elsewhere.