So what has happened over the course of the past twenty-four hours in the Brentford soap opera? In reality not too much new information has been made public. As you would expect, there have been public votes of support for Mark Warburton from players such as Harlee Dean, Tommy Smith and Richard Lee and the team made it perfectly clear how much they value and respect their manager by their choreographed and moving celebration with Warburton after Andre Gray’s goal on Tuesday night.
Players are generally the last to be informed about off field developments and are always best advised to stay out of club politics and shenanigans so I simply take their actions at face value as a heart-warming demonstration of support for their beleaguered manager. There is no doubt of the depth of their respect for Mark as was made clear by Harlee Dean in his recent interview in the excellent Thorne In The Side fanzine when he described Warburton as: someone who wants to do better himself and give that chance to those around him. He encourages all of us to succeed and wants everyone to be the best they can be.
It is rare to read such a ringing and heartfelt endorsement of a manager’s capabilities so if it is generally recognised and accepted that Mark Warburton is exceptionally good at what he does why does Matthew Benham apparently want to replace him and his management team too? We will have to wait for the Brentford owner to make his reasons public and he hinted in two enigmatic tweets early yesterday morning that the last twenty-four hours had been very difficult for him, he was acting in the long term interests of the club and that he would try to explain the situation more in the next couple of days.
So whilst we are waiting for further developments and revelations we can only speculate on what has been going on behind the scenes at the club. Given Mark Warburton’s evident success and no suggestion that he has in any way passed his sell-by date, why then should our owner allegedly wish to dispense with not only his services but also, it has been speculated, those of Sporting Director, Frank McParland, as well?
There was a clue in The Times yesterday which reported that the manager had not wished to accept the offer of additional coaching resources, in particular a free kick coach and a sleep guru. These suggestions are so bizarre that they can only be true and are symptomatic of the owner’s approach as he has demonstrated time after time his admirable desire never to accept second best and to ensure that all avenues are explored, no matter how seemingly outlandish or from where they originated around the world, so that we can exploit every potential advantage given that matches are decided by such small margins, a fact that we have discovered to our cost time after time this season.
Perhaps Mark Warburton was resistant to change and not as receptive to such novel ideas as the owner anticipated and expected and Benham is looking for somebody who will embrace new ideas and philosophies. Given that our record from set pieces this season is abysmal with a Stuart Dallas effort and Harlee Dean’s late face saving equaliser at Dagenham plus Jonathan Douglas’s header against Reading the only ones that spring to mind, apart from a couple of penalty kicks, you would have thought that any help in that area would have been welcomed with open arms, particularly given the proportion of goals that other teams seem to score from their set pieces.
Maybe we are not progressing as quickly as Matthew Benham desires, despite the generally accepted view that we are moving far faster than anticipated. In that regard there has been much speculation in previous months about the likely arrival of high quality foreign players and yet none of them have materialised.
Perhaps the owner wants to move quicker than the manager in terms of bringing in new players and he feels that Warburton is too loyal to his existing squad? Assuming we have made serious efforts to sign them then why have we not been able to get any of these deals over the line? Certainly we are now competing for a better class of player with teams with greater resources than ours who might well be playing at a higher level, and we all know that transfer deals are fraught with problems with so many parties appearing out of the woodwork claiming to represent any footballer of note. But that is why we have a Sporting Director in place and given that the media have reported Frank McParland’s possible departure too, maybe his performances and perceived lack of results have also come under scrutiny by Matthew Benham?
A new manager might well take on board more of Benham’s philosophies and buy in to his proven data and stats driven approach and allow the owner to contribute more fully. He might also be more receptive to an influx of higher quality players from abroad. Maybe too there is a potential cross-fertilisation of ideas and best practice from our association with Danish Superliga side FC Midtjylland that could be better exploited?
As for the leak in The Times the other day, I suspect that that is far more easily explained. There were reports a week or so ago from Spain that the club had apparently been in contact with Paco Jemez of Rayo Vallecano and these did filter through to the the UK, and were indeed mentioned briefly on the Griffin Park Grapevine. Perhaps they were brought to the attention of Mark Warburton who, not unnaturally, approached Matthew Benham for clarification. Not willing or able to dissemble, the truth of the owner’s desire to make changes at the end of the season was revealed far earlier than planned and the cat was out of the bag. As to who was responsible for the leak, I need do no more than refer you to the old Latin adage cui bono – or who benefits. Given that several senior members of the management and coaching staff had apparently been advised that their contracts were not going to be renewed at the end of the season and that they would be looking for new employment then it is not hard to speculate who might well have been responsible for the damaging leak.
So what happens now? The damage has been done and Matthew Benham’s plans for what I am sure was intended to be a seamless if painful transition at the end of the season have been totally scuppered. The club has been holed beneath the waterline, morale has been shattered, the unique relationship and bond between club and supporters has been cast asunder and Mark Warburton is a dead man walking.
Mark Warburton is a man of great strength and determination and I can only hope that he remains totally fixed upon the task in hand – getting promotion, and remains in situ until the end of the season, assuming that no rapprochement can be reached between him and Matthew Benham, something that is highly unlikely to occur. Benham too is a totally focused and single-minded individual who is used to being proved right and to getting his own way. Assuming he has decided to make changes in the management structure then I am sure that is what is going to happen and when his mind is made up he rarely if ever changes it. Whether he is proved right or wrong is for the future. He has made his decision, hopefully discussed it with his advisors and taken their counsel on board.
What cannot be questioned is his total commitment to and love for Brentford FC and his determination to do what is best for the club, improve us and never put our future in jeopardy. Maybe a truce can be brokered, wounds can be patched up and smiles, even if only a rictus grin, can return to peoples’ faces. We can but hope. This has been a season of total triumph and it would be unconscionable if it should all fall apart because of the owner’s leaked intentions.
The further complication is whether both parties will come to the conclusion that Warburton’s position is now untenable or other clubs will swoop down on us and attempt to prise him from our clutches even at this late stage of the season. There are two Premier League clubs currently looking for managers with a third potentially having a vacancy in the near future. At least one of them is, I know, an admirer of Mark Warburton and what he can offer. Assuming that he has been advised that his contract will not be renewed at the end of the season, Mark has to look after his own best interests and consider all his options. The nightmare scenario is that he is offered and accepts another job, walks out with his entire back room staff and we are left high and dry and rudderless for the remainder of the season. That is a prospect that hardly bears thinking about, but is in my mind, a real possibility.
I wish I could be more positive but we are now in a real pickle and the immediate future is totally unsettled. I can see a point at the end of the season when a new manager arrives from abroad, perhaps a name that will surprise and excite us, and we move on to greater things with an influx of high profile foreign stars. Such is the way of football. What concerns me more is the here and now and what happens over the next few difficult days and weeks. All, I am sure, will be revealed shortly.