Hopeless! – 15/2/15

Over two thousand Brentford supporters travelled to The Valley on Saturday afternoon by car, bus, train and boat all full of hope, if not expectation, that the Bees could put the troubles of the past week behind them and turn on a morale boosting display. But the only team whose confidence was boosted was Charlton who ended their long run without a win and strolled to an easy and comfortable three goal victory against a lethargic, dispirited and well under-par Brentford team.

Before the game the talk was that the mood in the camp was positive and confident and that the team was both determined and well prepared to put on a performance that would demonstrate their support for beleaguered manager Mark Warburton and ensure that their playoff charge was not derailed. So much for good intentions and brave words. The body language did not look right from the off and a well below strength team lacking the presence of Jake Bidwell, James Tarkowski and of course, Alan Judge, started slowly and soon got worse.

Brentford’s success this season has been based on a high tempo pressing game with the ball moved quickly and accurately from side to side of the pitch, maintaining possession for long periods whilst probing for an opening and when one appears for the pace to be increased suddenly so that we can take advantage. What we saw today was a team playing without belief and seemingly going through the motions. Their confidence and pace had been sapped as if by an unseen force as the ball was turned over with monotonous regularity, Gray was starved of support and resorted to niggly fouls, Pritchard and Jota were peripheral influences and Douglas and Toumani probed but to little effect. But for Button Charlton would have scored  far more than their one first half effort as the defence in front of him creaked ominously. Moses seemed to be wearing lead boots so seldom did he forage forward and he was often left trailing and left gaps in defence, Craig and Dean were willing but porous and poor Nico Yennaris was the sacrificial lamb at left back where he was hung out to dry with little support either in front or beside him.

No shots on target was a fair end result for an anaemic and witless first half performance and thankfully the tempo increased after the interval but although we maintained possession better and even ventured into the final third more often, we never threatened and Charlton scored another soft goal on the first occasion they threatened. Jota and Douglas seemed to bicker as we prepared to kick off and the heads went down even further. We huffed and puffed and improved significantly when the invisible Jota as well as Diagouraga and Dallas were replaced by Long, Toral and the excellent Tommy Smith in a rare triple substitution which demonstrated the manager’s displeasure with what he was watching on the pitch.

Charlton panicked when they realised that they were on the verge of their first win for three months and did their best to help us by funnelling back into two banks of four and invited us onto them. Douglas and Pritchard forced comfortable saves from Henderson before we gave away a comic cuts goal in injury time which simply highlighted how poor we were on the day. All three goals were totally preventable and the defence hardly covered themselves in glory, Dean in particular being responsible for two of the goals with Craig running him close in ineptitude. This was not a Brentford performance that we witnessed yesterday – or certainly not one that I had seen since the dog days of the Andy Scott regime. We looked listless, rudderless and played without passion, desire or organisation and our customary sense of togetherness seemed to have disappeared as players did not run to support each other, create space or help their colleagues out.

Charlton are to be congratulated as they fully deserved their win but it is not sour grapes when I say that they were a poor team who we made look far better than they are. What does that make us then? Hopefully a good team having a bad day at the office, weakened by injuries and suspensions and a lack of depth in the squad rather than a team whose spirit has been broken by the undercurrents and uncertainty that has reigned at the club since Tuesday when The Times broke the news of Matthew Benham’s supposed decision to replace Mark Warburton at the end of the season. Hopefully this was a one-off rather than conclusive evidence that things are broken beyond repair.

So where do we go from here? That depends totally on what is said in the club statement that is expected to be released on Monday. Clarity, certainty, harmony and closure are needed if the club is not to be torn apart by the confusion and feeling of total negativity that currently reigns. Nobody at the club has covered himself in glory if the media stories, rumours and scuttlebutt circulating throughout the ground yesterday are correct. As sole owner, Matthew Benham is fully entitled to to change the management structure as, when and how he wants, however he was surely totally naive or badly advised if he expected his alleged exploratory and preliminary discussions with potential replacements for Warburton to remain confidential. Whoever leaked the story to The Times has also succeeded in totally destabilising the club and holing it beneath the waterline. As that infamous statement asserted on Tuesday, football is a village and it is very hard to keep matters secret, as has been proved this week.

As for Mark Warburton, given what he has achieved since he took charge, it is harsh indeed that it would appear that his contract is not going to be renewed, but there has to be a reason for this decision that on the face of it appears to be bizarre in the extreme. Has there been a breakdown in the trust and mutuality that seemed to mark his relationship with Benham? Who knows if Warburton flouted the owner’s instructions and refused to rubber stamp the signing of a number of foreign imports during the transfer window or why deals seemed to go sour at the last moment. He should know by now that Matthew Benham expects to get his own way and can generally back up his decisions with the statistics to prove his case. Did he also reject the offer of additional specialised coaching assistance? That is yet another relevant and unanswered question given how poor our set piece delivery was at Charlton.

The facts though speak for themselves. We are on the slide and the squad is currently weakened by fatigue, injuries and suspension and is sorely stretched. Yesterday the acknowledged achilles heel of lack of cover or enhanced quality at left back, centre half and striker came back to haunt us as Dean and Craig played as if running through treacle wearing gumboots, Yennaris was out of his depth and Gray, surly and isolated. If every Brentford supporter, and, it would seem, the owner can see where the problems lies and the funds exist to bring in quality rather than quantity and the right players were available and willing to come to Brentford, why spurn the opportunity? Another question that needs answering.

We brought in four players in the transfer window, but none of them have helped us, Laurent is one for the future, O’Connell has been sent out on loan when perhaps he might well have been better served remaining at the club, Macleod has not even trained with the squad yet through injury and Long is really not the answer. I am excited by all three of our permanent new additions but they all appear to have been signed with next season in mind when we desperately need new blood now.

I fully understand when Warburton states that McCormack, Bidwell, Macleod, Judge and Tarkowski will all soon be available for selection but the squad also needs enhancing with more quality as well as more numbers if we are to maintain our challenge. The loan window is now open and perhaps we will look to reinforce central defence and up front over the next few weeks but the question then has to be asked who will be in charge?

There are, as far as I can, see five possible outcomes which could be announced next week in a statement which obviously needs to come jointly from Benham and Warburton:

  1. Matthew Benham changes his mind and declares that he is going to renew Mark Warburton’s contract
  2. Benham and Warburton state that no decision about the manager will be made until the end of the season
  3. Mark Warburton will be staying at the club when his contract expires but in another capacity
  4. It is announced that Mark Warburton will be leaving when his contract expires but everyone remains fully committed to working together until the end of the season
  5. An agreement has been made to settle Mark Warburton’s contract and he is leaving immediately

Please let me know if I have missed something out but I have sat on the sofa with a glass of Pinot Noir racking my brains throughout most of Saturday evening trying to come up with every possible permutation and nothing else presented itself to me.

Numbers one and two are total non-starters and three seems highly unlikely, all for reasons that I have given at length in previous articles over the past few days. That leaves numbers four and five. Leaving The Valley today in the slough of despond, I was certain that it would be better for everyone if there was an immediate parting of the way as, cruel though it would be, that might well be the only way to bring club, owner, players, management and supporters back onto the same page. Now having listened to Mark Warburton’s positive and eminently sensible post match interview, I am not so sure.

Frankly I do not believe that anyone at the club yet knows what will be the outcome and I fully suspect that there will be talks and negotiations going on throughout the day when emotions have hopefully cooled after Saturday’s fiasco. Hopefully Saturday saw the nadir of our fortunes and our reputation, both of which have taken a massive battering over the past few days. I am totally sanguine about our mid and long term future, but it is the next few weeks and months that worry me, and I am sure, every other Brentford supporter. When fans are arguing vehemently with each other over the best way forward and some are even openly questioning Benham’s bona fides it is time to draw a line and end this madness.

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33 thoughts on “Hopeless! – 15/2/15

  1. Spot on & a good read, I’m currently away & relying on forums / blogs – particularly in light of the lock down from BFC sources. Shame it wasn’t so a few days ago and we’d have avoided the leak and subsequent “village idiot” response.

    One other scenario is that MW is reaffirmed as manager or coach, maybe with the arrival of several new faces, whilst others around him are let go for one reason or another (I’ll leave others to speculate on those reasons). This may be too much for MW to accept and be seen as demeaning. A long shot but one possibility my limited imagination has produced.

    The evidence suggests that tomorrow will be a tough day, the lack of fight from the players yesterday could be telling – do they know what is to come, or was it just a weak team turning in a very poor performance? Also the deletion of MB’s Twitter feed yesterday, merely a precaution due to some OTT stick from the odd fan, or a withdrawal from social media in advance of the announcements to come?

    It is hard to imagine MW seeing out his time if results continue to deteriorate & the great man deserves to go out as a winner in our estimation – the prospect of him going now is frightening though – do we have enough points to be safe yet? MB’s drive and ambition won’t allow a 3 month write off surely?

    All in all this week has provided enough material for the historians to add a new chapter to the BFC story, a shame it isn’t the chapter I’d dared to dream of – “Warburton’s Brentford promoted to the premier League” sadly another title beckons.

    So here I am, dreading and anticipating tomorrow in equal measure, it’s sad – just very sad.

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  2. The only solution for me is for Mark Warburton to leave and let Lee Carsley and backroom staff take over if MB can’t bring in his targeted replacement immediately?Yesteday proved MB right as far as I’m concerned that team would not have won even without all this unrest after Tuesday’s efforts some plYers needed a rest and the ones brought in struggled.Oh to have had a left back Centre Half plus a striker yesterday and let’s remind ourselves why we haven’t,Team spirit alone won’t bring success.Thanks Mark for the great 14 months but you don’t embarass your boss and dent his well funded ambitions and get away with it hope you read the script properly with your new employers.

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  3. Excellent article and two great replies. Best bits I have read in the last 24 hours. Bill may have spoken the truth about yday but what was upsetting from other sources was the insinuation that the players didn’t try. I don’t know. Thanks to all three of you for some sensible writings.

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  4. I read a lot about the Bees on various sites, twitter etc. I keep being told that Benham is a visionary business genius who leaves nothing to chance etc.

    Hard to imagine how such a person could have handled this so badly really. Of course players and managers come and go and MB has the perfect right to create whatever structure he wants and to employ (or not) who he wants, but all this current situation does is make us look like the idiots in the “football village” we so strangely talked about in the press release.

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  5. Agree, absolutely spot on… like every other BFC fan, I had dreamed of Warbs leading us to the PL (promised land or Premier League, take your choice) but personally, I can only see outcome #5 working now. So the $64,000 question is: can Benham bring in a really top coach on a short-term contract? I don’t really see this being Carsley as he’s very much a Weir man, but happy to be wrong.

    Trying to keep the glass half-full while it seems the lot’s spilling out, remember we’re only a point off the play-offs with games to come against Bournemouth, Derby and Ipswich, whilst Ipswich, Norwich and Watford all still have games to play against four of the current top six, so lots of points to be won and lost. The good news is that we’ve done shock, denial, anger, bargaining and depression in five days, so now acceptance and action! Up the Bees and keep up the great articles…

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  6. As matters have been brought to a head, is there a possible scenario that Brentford’s new manager will be announced tomorrow within the same Club statement which announces that Warburton is leaving/has left? I’m wondering whether to read anything into the Club statement being delayed from last Friday to Monday? Sky Sports News were at the Club on Friday evening so something must have been expected?

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  7. I’m thinking along the lines that the appointment of Paco Jemez will be announced with an interim coach put in place until the end of the season?

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  8. Whichever way it goes (and my ‘old Brentford’ persona says hope for the best but fear the worst), you certainly haven’t chosen a boring season to begin your blog with…

    …but isn’t that an old curse: ‘May you live in interesting times’?

    For my tuppence worth, MB may well have very sound reasons for replacing MW at the end of the season, but this has been a horrible way for all this to come out.

    I’m as big a fan of statistical analyses as anyone, but the fact is that you can analyse whatever you want, look at hundreds of clubs and thousands of matches, but it’s only ever an average and you still can’t eliminate the rogue result – especially when you’re dealing with complex beings like humans. That’s in the nature of stats.

    Like anyone else who has made money from predictions (gambling, hedge funds, what have you), MB has done so by having more and better information, and being cleverer at spreading the risk. But he’s still working on percentages, not on certainties. Once he’s decided to put his money on the 3:45 at Kempton, as it were, he’s no different from all the other people he advises.

    As far as your initial post, of your five options, option five is the least worst, given where we are at the moment.

    I’ve got a horrible feeling there’s an option six however:

    6. MB gets pissed off, cuts his losses and sells up.

    Not easy to countenance, I admit, but stranger things have happened.

    Anyway, as I said at the start, you’ve got some great material for your book coming up!

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      • Yes, but it puts things into context. Unless there’s some other long-term Bees fan who’s also a multi-millionaire, who is willing to invest big bucks and who also knows about football and wants it played the way we like that’s hanging around in the wings, then MB is the only option. And a real boon to boot.

        He’s certainly not omniscient, as the past few days have shown (certainly in terms of hiring PR people), but think of the alternative.

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  9. Excellent article Greville, well done.

    As both you and Bill Benn have alluded too and what every Bees fan knew and was crying out for at Christmas was cover at left back, another centre half to push the often wonderful but occasionally lax Harlee Dean and Tony Craig – who Warbs had lost some faith in; and a more experienced forward than Chris Long to help Gray out.

    None of this happened and we are led to believe that Warbs was reticent to bring too many new faces in. I can fully understand MBs annoyance with this especially as on Christmas Day we were in an outstanding position in the league.

    I’ve no idea what the best outcome would be on Monday but I hope it’s not as embarrassing as Tuesday’s statement or yesterday’s performance!

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  10. It is possible to show support for MB without the need to denigrate MB’s achievements or rewrite past events. We have lacked cover in some key areas and this has been an issue, but the quality players needed to strengthen aren’t going to come to BFC to be benched in case needed. It’s a progression & up until last week MB & MW have done great things to improve the squad together.

    We are on the verge of saying goodbye to a great manager, arguably our finest ever. That shouldn’t be allowed to happen lightly. Maybe those less sentimental than me can look past it and leave it at thanks and bye – I can’t I’m afraid.

    Great thread by the way.

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    • Well greville i might be in cukoo land but there was is one question nobody ask because you must be insane to ask it What if all this about the chairman not wanting us to go up this year .yes souns stupid but our ground not ready and the club its not quite ready i sen some unbelievable things in football over 40 years ans well! As some say better to stay and consolidate for a couple of years in this league and when the new ground ready etc

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      • Richard, it costs MB somewhere north of £12m a year in hard cash just to keep Brentford in the Championship. So ‘consolidating’ (I’m never sure what that means – plan for midtable is it??) for say three years gets MB little change from £40m on top of what he has already ploughed in. The quicker he can get Brentford into the Premier then the quicker he starts to get some return on his enormous investment.

        Easy to talk about ‘consolidating’ when it’s someone else’s monies we’re spending.

        I do not believe for one minute that MB (he is the owner……the chairman is Cliff Crown an employee of MB) would not wish to go up this season.

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  11. Thank you Alan. I too totally discount the conspiracy theory. This is simply a cock up of gargantuan size.
    I hve already mentally composed my next article assuming it is announced that Warburton is leaving today. I really see no alternative unless Matthew Benham can produce a rabbit out of his hat and announce a new manager today!

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  12. If my memory serves me correctly the Spanish link first came to light on the GPG but was not overemphasised. My reaction when I first read it was ‘Oh,oh’ this one could snowball. Frankly the club should have been on red alert and smothered the whole thing at birth by making a statement after speaking with MW and explaining what it was all about. I have commented before that if MB has decided to accelerate the on field model to a more European style then that ‘strategy’ must be in the Five Year Plan or whatever it’s called these days. As such it would have been discussed by the board with MW and his team and how it affected them would have been thrashed out. I’m not going to speculate on who leaked the story to the press but it was on the GPG for some days before the actual leak although of course further details came out in the press to give it an air of authenticity i.e. the parties to the alleged conference call(s) to Spain.

    The truly appalling Club Statement last Tuesday approved by the board and club executive actually ended.

    ‘At this critical stage of the season, we don’t propose to make any further statements in relation to these rumours.’

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  13. Another busy day in the village you’d imagine! Hopefully we have enigma machines on standby to decipher the code when it comes in.

    Big game Saturday – need to channel all the emotion into something useful, GP rocking & 3 points against the leaders would be a great tonic, whoever is in charge.

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  14. There is a seventh alternative.
    Maybe MW was invited to go for an interview somewhere, and MB either threw a tantrum (I really don’t believe that) or sensibly decided to look for a possible replacement. He or his team saw the guy in Spain – who promptly and unwisely tweeted that he had got the job.
    All very well and normal – no trouble at all. But then someone picked it up –The Times got it – and we were in the deep deep stuff.
    The trouble then seemed to be in the way it has been handled – nothing more. No transfer conspiracies, no fallings out, just a careless word or two followed by zillions more unwise and probably untrue words. No-one has explained and MB, who claims he is ‘a normal fan’ (what other normal fan can out money into the club to the extent he has?), got some bad advice. It has gone steadily downhill since, with rumour, pseudo insider knowledge, ‘facts’ and ‘counter facts’ sending the story spiralling to a place it should never have been allowed to go.
    Today’s statement will hopefully explain things. We can only hope MB and MW will both act in the best interests of the club and its supporters.

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  15. All valid and interesting comments and I javelin to admit while reading andre’s comments sent a colususs shudder down my spine, the very thought that MB would sell up petrifies me however I can’t see it happening. I think as we all do the timing was poor , the original statement was poorer and the delay in the next statement tells me MB was be clear and open to what is going to happen. whatever happens we need or should I say the training guys need to keep the players wrapped in cotton wool no doubt mistakes and needless mistakes have been made on the pitch but this team has established a bond between them and so it saddens me to say no matter what the outcome with ME in the meantime someone has got to keep these lads positive, happy working and make them feel special cos inn my eyes they are and come Saturday MR or not the same team will be on the pitch……inn often see the word being used with brentford and now is the time to to use it with real heart. ………..BEELIEVE.

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