The Transfer Window shut late last night and there have been several murmurings on social media and the message boards that Brentford did not do enough and failed to address their major problems.
In order to decide where the truth lies let’s first try and put things into context. Here we are on the third of February, basking in the warm glow of achievement with Brentford currently sitting proudly in fifth place in the Championship, well in contention for a playoff place or even automatic promotion to the Premier League. How incredible an achievement is that when the most optimistic of supporters would have been more than happy with a season of consolidation? As it is we have totally exceeded all expectations and are way ahead of the club’s own ambitious plans for future progress. Time is truly on our side.
In my opinion we have to reconcile two opposing points of view: firstly, More haste, less speed and then Carpe Diem. The club has planned for structured growth and whilst the Premier League is the ultimate goal, I am sure that nobody involved at Brentford even considered that becoming a serious possibility before the move to Lionel Road and our possessing the facilities appropriate enough for us to cope with the jump in status and capitalise upon the revenue opportunities provided by the Premier League.
I will also remind you that only a year or so ago the stated hope of most Brentford fans was that we would be in the Championship rather than Division One when we moved to our new stadium, and now we are talking about the Premier League! How far have we come in so short a period of time!
The question is whether we should perhaps mortgage our future by gambling on expensive new acquisitions in the hope of going up this season or if instead we should take a more patient and measured approach? Opportunities need to be capitalised upon and the fact that this season has gone so swimmingly is no guarantee that next year will be even better. It should be, given the sound foundations put in place, but you never know what the future has in store, as fate has a nasty habit of rearing its ugly head.
We all expected promotion last season as a natural progression after the Doncaster and Yeovil disappointments in 2013, and on the face of it we achieved this feat extremely comfortably with a triumphant procession to the Championship, and yet there was a tipping point, after the defeat at Stevenage in October, when we were floundering in mid table with confidence at a low ebb and disaffection within the ranks, and without the now famous post match discussion which totally turned our season around, who knows where we might have finished?
Let’s now look dispassionately at what Brentford actually achieved in the January transfer window. For the glass half-empty brigade we did not lose any of our star assets. Who knows if there were any serious approaches for the likes of Alan Judge, Jota, Moses Odebayo and Andre Gray but all of them remain with us for the remainder of the campaign and any predators have been thwarted.
We also brought in four new players. Josh Laurent, a highly promising young midfielder arrived from our local rivals QPR and it has been highly amusing to eavesdrop on all the internal squabbling that his departure caused at Loftus Road where the club appears to be in total disarray. From first sight he is a typical Brentford player, comfortable on the ball, fast, strong and eager to prove himself. Chris Long has also arrived on loan from Everton, where he is highly regarded, to boost our attacking options. Of course he is young and untried but he is a raw talent who impressed in his initial outing at Norwich when he helped us over the line in his late cameo appearance.
Lewis Macleod and Jack O’Connell are a totally different kettle of fish. Two young, promising players, bursting with ability and potential and yet we have managed to spirit them away from their previous clubs, taking advantage of their desperate financial straits. It has always been the case going back over the years that Brentford were robbed of their best prospects for derisory fees, now the boot is firmly on the other foot – and doesn’t it feel good!
Lewis is slowly recovering from a niggling hamstring injury and will shortly be back in action and I believe that he will make a significant impact throughout the remainder of the season. Generally acknowledged to be one of the most promising players in Scotland and a member of the full international squad, his potential is frightening. The supporters at Rangers have still not really got over his departure to a supposed minnow like Brentford.
Yesterday twenty year-old Jack O’Connell arrived from Blackburn for a bargain fee. Jack who, was the question on the lips of most Brentford supporters but fans of Blackburn Rovers and Rochdale, where he has had two highly successful loan spells, are well aware of his identity and ability. Here are some of the comments about him on the Blackburn message boards:
He’s got a quality left foot, he’s big & strong with pace.
He’s very good in the air and is head and shoulders above both centre halves we have at the moment. He can actually pass a ball.
Our best defensive prospect in years,
The best prospect we have had since Phil Jones
This lad is quality
This one might come back to haunt us
Sky Sports also recently highlighted O’Connell as one of the most promising young players in the country and produced the following scouting report on him:
Jack O’Connell has been hugely impressive for Rochdale this season. Liverpool-born O’Connell is an unusual case, given that as a youngster he almost slipped through the net, and was not picked up by any club until he was 18 when he joined Blackburn. A year after signing, he was handed his first professional deal and months later he was making his league debut, but with Rotherham United, who he joined on a three-month loan.
By this point O’Connell’s displays for Blackburn’s second string had also attracted attention from England’s coaching team, and he was capped by the Under-18s. After returning from his spell with Rotherham he was snapped up by York City, where he spent five months and really emerged as a real prospect.
Rochdale agreed a six-month loan deal for O’Connell last summer, which was soon extended to the full campaign, and his displays at Spotland have not gone unnoticed. Indeed he has also been handed the captain’s armband by Keith Hill, such has been his progress. He has also captained England’s Under-19 side as he continues to be recognised at international level.
O’Connell is a cultured defender, and has a real touch of class about him as he often looks to bring the ball out of defence before looking to open up play. O’Connell, who is also capable of operating at full-back, has an excellent left foot and he uses it with great effect to often try and switch play from the back. Despite his inexperience, O’Connell has come on hugely in the past 18 months and he looks destined for a high level.
He is an outstanding prospect, who has made great strides since joining Blackburn. Very much one to watch and already has a number of Premier League clubs monitoring him.
The Scout rating:
Current ability: 6/10
Potential ability: 8/10
OVERALL SCOUT RATING: 52/80
Current value: £500,000
Potential value: £8million
This is the player that we picked up yesterday for a fee rumoured to be less than a quarter of a million pounds. Not bad, and what’s not to like about this move?
His arrival is just one more in a catalogue of recent arrivals who all share similar characteristics, being young, talented, hungry, and eager to improve and I am certain they will eventually take us to where we intend to go – the Premier League.
How long is it since the club possessed young players of the ability of James Tarkowski, Alan Judge, Moses Odubajo, Lewis Macleod, Scott Hogan, Andre Gray, Jota and now O’Connell? All of these players have been signed within the last year and they could be worth millions of pounds to the club as they are all appreciating assets of a calibre rarely seen before at the club.
That is also without even mentioning the calibre of recent loanees such as Jon Toral and Alex Pritchard.
Yes, at first sight it would have been nice if we had blown an inflated fee on an experienced journeyman striker yesterday, but we all know the potential cost of such a move if it doesn’t pay off, as has been the case to date with Nick Proschwitz (who scored a well-taken goal last night for the Development Squad). I am sure that we tried to buy a promising striker from abroad earlier in the window but our efforts were rebuffed.
We will continue to conduct our business in a calm, rational, measured and planned way. I am sure that when the loan window reopens shortly we might consider a short term deal for another striker if the need continues, or maybe even another central defender given that it is expected that O’Connell will go out on loan, but there again, that was the plan for Tarkowski this time last year too!
The name of Swansea’s giant defender Kyle Bartley was also mentioned in despatches last night and who knows if he will arrive in a couple of weeks to bolster our squad?
We are in good and safe hands, we are well ahead of schedule and we will continue to do things in the manner that has been proved to work over the last couple of years. We are truly fortunate to be supporters of a club that is so well run and managed and has a clear blueprint for success.