The End of the Beginning – 18/2/15

Well the long-awaited statement finally arrived late yesterday afternoon. Brentford supporters have been clamouring for information and clarification from the club ever since Matt Hughes’s bombshell article last Tuesday, which had set the cat among the pigeons by announcing that Matthew Benham had decided to change the management structure at the club and dispense with the services of Mark Warburton. Supporters were confused, angry and disappointed not just at the proposed changes but also because they had been forced to wait for a week until the situation was confirmed. Personally, whilst I welcomed the statement which in its carefully and well drafted nine hundred and twenty-four words gave chapter and verse into the owner’s thinking I thought that it had not arrived late but in reality was three months too early.

I have absolutely no problem with what Matthew Benham is proposing as it demonstrates his vision, openness to change, uniqueness of approach, passion for the club and determination for it to progress and excel. I simply wish that his hand had not been forced prematurely and that the changes could have been announced and implemented as originally intended after the end of the season. Had that been the case then the ensuing uproar could have been handled and managed far better and the fallout would not have been as damaging as has been the case in the last appalling eight days which have seen the club mocked, pilloried and heavily criticised throughout the media and football world and supporters turn on each other. Not just that, but two crucial matches have been lost, we have fallen out of the playoff positions and the players are naturally saddened, angered and confused at what has transpired as well as the lack of clarity.

The statement confirmed that Mark Warburton and David Weir will leave at the end of the season and Sporting Director Frank McParland has been put on immediate gardening leave. Again, their departures, harsh though they might appear, had not been intended to be discussed, formalised and announced until the close season and it remains to be seen if Warburton and Weir can maintain their focus and commitment to a club that they know will shortly dispense with their services and, crucially, manage to re-motivate and inspire the players to climb off the floor, redouble their efforts and ideally maintain our promotion challenge – a tall order indeed.

At least the players now know where they stand and the doubt and uncertainty has been removed. They know that they are playing for their future and for the right to remain at a club that for all the setbacks of the last few days, remains ambitious, progressive and determined to progress further. Getting to the crux of the matter, the players are also well paid and I understand that there is a highly lucrative bonus scheme in place that is worth significant sums to every squad member should we finish at or near the top of the Championship table. There now needs to be a show of unity and togetherness and Mattthew Benham needs to visit the training ground straight away and address the players face to face, stare them in the eyes, discuss his plans with them and persuade them to get back onside. Mark Warburton and David Weir will also be determined to leave on the highest possible note and ideally complete the job that they have both so ably started. They need to convince potential new employers that it is as much their management, coaching and motivational abilities as the structure and system employed at Brentford that has been responsible for the club’s success and at a more basic level there is the natural human reaction of wanting to show the world that Benham has made a massive error in his decision.

Not many Brentford supporters would disagree with the owner that the squad, admirably though it has performed, or even over-performed, needs strengthening both in numbers and quality to cope with tired legs and the pressure of the business end of the season. That opportunity was spurned in January, which, of course, led to the schism between Benham and Warburton and the fateful leak of the news of the owner’s determination to make the changes in both approach and personnel. There is still a final opportunity to bring in loanees and I would hope that a new striker and centre half are at the top of the agenda. Who scouts or selects them now is open to question but the bottom line is that the supporters and players alike would be reinvigorated by a couple of high quality, experienced players who could take the slack off some of the existing squad members who have been visibly wilting under the telling pressure they have experienced. Let’s hope that something is being planned and implemented in time for the visit of Bournemouth and that two of the injured players, Alan Judge and James Tarkowski are also fit to return. The eyes of the world are on Brentford and we need to respond on Saturday.

It is hard to know what to write about the situation facing Mark Warburton. So far forty-two managers have lost their job this season and looking through the list of names and examining their individual records, it seems laughable that a man as obviously successful and gifted as Mark will soon be joining their number. I have written pages of praise about him over the past few months and even described him, accurately, I feel, as “The Renaissance Man of Football.” Without delving too deeply into the stats, his nominations and awards as Manager of the Month and success in getting Brentford over the line last season into the Championship after an interval of over twenty years, his record is unparalleled as he has led to club to wins in fifty-four percent of his matches and the Bees are currently undefeated in seventy-two percent of the games in which he has managed the Bees.

Those figures are quite staggering and yet I am not quibbling with the owner’s decision to move on. Benham knows exactly how and where he wants the club to go and he has rarely been proved wrong in the past. He wishes to remodel the club’s management structure and employ and implement a system rare in the UK but far more common elsewhere in the football world. A Head Coach will be appointed to work alongside a new Sporting Director and he will rely upon a new recruitment structure using a mixture of traditional scouting and other tools including mathematical modelling. Crucially as a key part of the new recruitment structure, the Head Coach will have a strong input in to the players brought in to the Club but not an absolute veto. That, I am sure, was the main sticking point between Benham and Warburton and ensured his departure, given that they apparently disagreed over player recruitment last month and several deals failed to be completed, which brings us full circle.

Mark Warburton will depart with the sincere thanks and gratitude of every Brentford supporter as he has done an outstanding job and he now faces the biggest test of his career with the challenge to ensure that the Brentford players do not merely go through the motions for the remainder of the season.

It was been a horrible week for the club and everybody associated with it and there has been a lot of collateral damage. Now we have to learn the lessons from the mistakes made, lick our wounds, move on and determine never to repeat them. The club also needs to repair the disconnect with the supporters. There is a Brentford style and way of doing things, which appears to have gone by the wayside over the past few days, not I am sure by choice. The club and supporters are generally as one, acting in concert and the two need to be reconciled as only by doing so can we maintain our progress. Matthew Benham’s statistics, formulae and hieroglyphics are crucial to our future, but not nearly as much as the bond between club and fans.


11 thoughts on “The End of the Beginning – 18/2/15

  1. Greville. I applaud you for the eloquent way you have summed up the current situation at the club we both love and in particular the feelings across the piste, those felt by the club, it’s employees and supporters alike. I congratulate you for committing your thoughts with such clarity. We continue to live in hope and must stay true to our core beliefs around what is best for the long term future of Brentford FC.


  2. So after the week from hell & arrival of a statement worthy of the name, we are left in the knowledge that is was indeed times journo 1 – BFC 0. That hurts as much as anything that has followed, and the thought of a previously disinterested media dining out on BFC’s shortcomings fills me with rage.

    Whoever leaked the story, if it went down that way better stay clear of GP, they will not be welcome again.

    Short lived though it was – the beautiful period is over, since Mr Rossler departed my bad days at work or troubles elsewhere have been soothed by the magnificent achievements of our club – unified and pulling together. My every moment has been consumed by this fine manager and his team, the growth of BFC, and of course the incredible improvements off the pitch to boot. I honestly thought it could be dynastic, Warbs as our Shankly, Busby or alike. I knew he would move on one day, mad though it sounds only to manage the national team! But it’s all over now, and although I’ll be there as ever cheering on my club, things wil never be the same again. Maybe I’m out of step, old skool and lacking the vision and ambition that we need to progress, sorry – I can’t help it. MW has been treated shabbily in my eyes and I thought we were better than that.

    There seems to be a swing of opinion towards MB now, his money, his club, his ambition etc. Maybe his “moneyball” formulas and apparent penchant for structure & foreign coaches will pay off, he may be right and I’ll be first in line to commend him if it comes to pass. But for me we had it all, the full package – we were getting there anyway, and now have decided to change tack.

    MB has my gratitude and support – not that he probably needs it, I’ll be a lot more skeptical in future, and I hope the writer of this fine blog is too. They’ve been caught out and someone needs to provide checks and balances, more so now than ever. Blind faith support for the owner isn’t healthy & if we as supporters form opinion simply through the fear of him bailing on us, the slippery slope has begun. It would be great to see all of the non playing staff reach out to us fans now and put this to bed, that would go a long way to so brining us together again.

    So the games come thick & fast and there is all to play for, can MW and the team regain focus and get back on track? What happens if they don’t & defeats pile up – not a pleasant scenario for anyone concerned. Our next opponents will help to answer that one, if bees turn it on with a packed GP behind them AFCB had better watch out, if not they have all the tools to pull out all the stitches on recent wounds – what then?

    We’ll know soon enough.


  3. As ever Grev you have the situation summed up perfectly.I think the thing i find most difficult to grapple with is why Matthew Benham has chosen this particular time to make these changes to the structure of the club when things are going so well under Mark Warburton and the present system. If we were struggling at the bottom of the table then it would be more understandable. Of course having put in the amount of money in to the club he has, Benham has every right to go down whichever future avenue he wishes too and he deserves the trust and support of the fans until he proves to us otherwise. Being the dinosaur I am I can’t say the talk of Mathematical Modelling and sleep coaches leaves me drooling but who knows? Benham may well be a complete visionary and in three to five years time his success with such methods at Brentford may well have many other English clubs going down the same road. For the here and now whether Mark Warburton actually lasts the season out or not we should all get behind him in the remaining games and show our appreciation of an excellent Manager, and as the events of the last week have shown a man of great integrity also. There will be no shortage of takers for his talents when he becomes available post Brentford I am sure. The players as always are the key to everything and now we do at least have some clarity on things it is up to them to make the last couple of months of the season exciting. We know they have the ability and quality. Question is with all that has happened will they have the motivation? I guess we will find out Saturday.


  4. well greville if i read right the owner is looking for the running of the club like here in France .this system i know very well as when nearly 40 years ago when i signed fir second divison club SC Toulon if was the owner who wanted me and not really the coach..Then after 6 months i got injured the coach was sacked as for the third time in three years we missed out on promotion by a couple of points.So in the end after changing the coach and more later the owner the club went up in 1983 and to this day where are Sc toulon well there hardly exist in the very low depths of no league football .Thou i cannot see this happening to our Brentford and i do agree with lots of the points of rebelbee like lots of today’s owners they want more say in things on the playing side of things and thats normal its there money. How many of the teams in England have this system and its works! Chelsea Man U ect , They got mangers very strong headed and i feel rightly would not let the owner muddle with the playing side thou iam not suggesting this is the case but the line is very thin so yes in my little experience of a manger in the lower non league football here in france years ago i am old school and can quite understand what our manger felt.I think theirs only one thing us Bees can do is stay behind our team and just hope all will work out thou like many I feel it was not just badly handled but quite un- professional and should have been dealt with near the end of the season


  5. Let’s not forget that MB & the management team (including MW I guess) brought in Uwe Rossler – one of the most hyped and over rated managers in my bees lifetime. So to my mind we are 1 out of 2 currently – great call to appoint MW, bad call to let him go. Regardless the structure / next coach has to work out, I fear it may not & see similarities with Brighton.


  6. Greville, I am amazed at some of the fans reactions to this decision and while I understand the support for mark Warburton I am at a loss as how and why folk can dam mathew benham For his actions I am behind benham 100% bit to hear fans saying lets start a petition to get benham out is outrageous and full of blind ignorance. The matter is now clear and if mark does not see or agree with mathew philosophy on moving the club continuously forward that is his choice. I get the impression that both had a true and in depth heart to heart and tho different views were aired an amicable parting was agreed. now we as fans must focus on our bright future once again and see that managers like players as we have witnessed the last two seasons come and go almost in a heartbeat bit we are lucky to have a owner who cares about the club, has a long term vision and im sure a passion just as big as any brentford fan. The only thing I am not sure about is if he should have stayed til the end of the season (no disrepect to warbs ) but we are safe and I feel the appointment of a new manager asap is the better way for the club tho I do see the negative side to this that may effect our style of play for the rest of the term. as sad as it is to see this outcome lets just remember how long we have waited to be in the position we now find ourselves……..Onwards and upwards is is not an option…………its our destiny.


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