Now I know how it must feel to be one of massed crowd of supplicants in St Peter’s Square waiting eagerly for the puff of white smoke that signifies the election of a new pope and I can well identify with their frustration when all they see, instead, is the Fumata Nera, or dark smoke that signifies that the necessary two thirds majority has yet to be achieved.
What’s all this got to do with Brentford FC, you might well ask? Well, along with every other Bees supporter I was hoping to to see on Monday the long awaited statement that promised to bring an end to an appalling week of indecision, muddled thinking and strife at the club that has prevailed ever since The Times revealed the supposed intention of Matthew Benham to replace Mark Warburton as manager of the club at the conclusion of what had, until the publication of Matt Hughes’s fateful article, been an season of phenomenal and exponential progress and success both on and off the field.
Everything turned to dust as the week progressed with no satisfactory explanation or resolution from within the club and and Brentford’s reputation became increasingly sullied with know-it-all commentators throughout the media treating our club as a laughing stock rather than as the ambitious, well run, groundbreaking and united institution that we supporters had thought it to be.
Since last June I have written one hundred and seventy-five articles which have mainly been a paean of praise to the club. Over the course of over two hundred thousand words I have referred time after time to Brentford’s forward thinking, vision, ambition and sense of community, how the club and its supporters connect as one, as well as the groundbreaking partnership of Benham and Warburton.
For the last week I have been doubting myself and my judgement. Did I get it entirely wrong? Recent years had seen a universal sense of wonderment and disbelief as an ugly duckling was transformed into a beautiful and elegant swan. Today I look back at some of the words I have written with bemusement and disbelief as the club that I love and admire is unrecognisable and seems almost to have returned to the bad old days and dark ages.
The last week has been a total and utter shambles, a complete mess entirely of the club’s own making that has, temporarily at least, destroyed the bond and unity between club, players, owner, management and supporters. A bond that had contributed so greatly to our success. A case study of ineptitude, hubris, naivety and stupidity. In years to come I am sure that they will teach Brentfordgate as a case study in how to self-destruct and threaten to destroy something that looked so promising. As Richard Littlejohn would say “You cannot make this up”!!
With the future of the manager up in the air, as well as rumours of disagreements behind the scenes and bungled transfer approaches it was not surprising that the team reacted accordingly with an appallingly tepid and seemingly disinterested performance at the weekend as they visibly disintegrated, and were resoundingly defeated by a Charlton team that had not previously tasted victory for three months. Fans turned on fans, some were in the pro-Benham camp, others pro-Warburton and the reputation of two good men who have both proved in concert to be unparalleled saviours of the club were appallingly and unforgivably vilified by confused and ignorant supporters who should still have known far better.
Immediate remedial action was required before the wound turned septic, and a statement was promised that would ideally set our disturbed minds at rest, take us off life support, out of intensive care and back on the road to recovery. We are still waiting.
I fully realise that after last week’s initial bungled attempt at an explanation that begged more questions than it provided answers, it is crucial that what we are hopefully about to receive is cogent, logical, agreed by all parties and brings closure in such a way as to allow all elements at the club, owner, management team, players and supporters to come together so that we can again feed off each other, regain our unity and trust and even resume our assault on the playoffs. Wishful thinking perhaps but totally necessary if irreparable damage is not to be done.
What made the timing even more crucial for me is the fact that the players return to training today and we need to get them back on message and totally focused on the task at hand rather than on what is happening behind the scenes. Footballers hate uncertainty and they need to know who their manager is and whether he still retains the trust and support of the owner. Only then might they put the last week behind them and be in the right frame of mind to perform to the level that is required and necessary if the season is not to end in disarray, particularly with AFC Bournemouth due to visit us on Saturday.
I wrote the other day of the potential messages that the statement could convey and unless Matthew Benham is a total magician who can conjure a new manager plus coaching and support staff out of his hat this morning then there is really only one option that seems likely and practicable or indeed less damaging than the alternatives.
Like many others I felt that given Saturday’s spineless surrender at The Valley it would be necessary if appallingly callous for Mark Warburton to be sacrificed immediately, but now I believe that that would serve no purpose and only cause far more problems than it solved. The only way forward is for there to be a firm statement, backed up by a visit today to the training ground by the owner, that states clearly and categorically that whilst he and Warburton have regrettably agreed to part company once the manager’s contract expires, they have discussed and sorted their immediate differences and are both totally committed to working together for the remainder of the season to ensure that our impetus is restored and that we finish in as high a position as possible. In that regard there will be an immediate influx of a couple of loan signings that will bolster the squad for the tough games that lie ahead ahead and help us maintain our challenge in and around the top of the league.
Just as the Roman Emperors gave their subjects circuses and gladiatorial shows, we supporters need to have our minds distracted from the current hiatus by the arrival of a centre half and a striker, and not more callow eighteen year olds still wearing their pimples with pride, but a couple of battle hardened and probably expensive professionals who will add value and contribute from the start of their stay at the club. Not easy to find, I grant you, but that is what a scouting department is for.
The season is balanced on a tightrope and can go either way. We can plummet to our doom or we can hold on tight and maintain our balance and equilibrium. I expect to know which way we will go within the next day or so.