I have just received articles from two Brentford supporters who both have many years on the clock. Larry Signy and Bernard Jackson have been following Brentford FC for more years that I suspect the pair of them care to remember and they have trenchant and heartfelt views about the current situation which they can put into context given the multitude of ups and downs they have both witnessed during their decades of loyal support. Here is what Larry has to say:
I have deliberately refrained from writing this until a whole week after the official announcement about the future of Brentford was released by the club. It has given me time to read all the many varying, conflicting, often wildly biased views – and to try and reflect my own opinion. And I have to say that I’m just as confused as ever I was when the whole sorry story first leaked out. The only clear thing is that Mark Warburton will leave at the end of the season – and we knew that already.
Please don’t think I am taking sides in anything I now write – or that I denigrate anything that anyone has done to get The Bees where they are today. I am just baffled, and in trying to de-baffle myself am simply trying to put things the way they seem to me. We are told that club owner Matthew Benham wants a new-style ‘revolutionary’ way of running the club – but so far, to my mind we have been given no proof of that. Changes – yes. A new title for the man running the first team (rather than a Manager he’s to be a Head Coach); a new Sporting Director whose job will be to find and sign new talent replacing a Director Of Football, whose job has been, ahem, to find and sign new talent; and a panel of experts to help find those new players replacing an existing panel of experts trying to find and replace new talents. That panel, we are told, will use statistics to find the best players for our club – as we have been doing since Matthew took control.
But even statisticians will tell you, statistics can be made to prove anything. For instance – does two and two equal four……or twenty two? It’s a system that may well work in a number of fields where there are definites (banking, insurance etc) – but we are talking football here……..a little matter of twenty-two human beings (and a referee) knocking the hell out of the statistics and what should happen. As I said somewhere else, does that mean if Joe Bloggs of Little Puddefoot FC keeps ten clean sheets in a row is he is a better ‘keeper than England’s Joe Hart who has only managed nine?
Oh yes, the new Head Coach will not have the power to veto players he doesn’t want in his squad – and if he’s presented with some players like that by the ‘new’ selection panel he will possibly have to build his team with some players he doesn’t fancy. To my mind, that’s like asking Leonardo da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa using only blue and red paint or telling Michelangelo he must carve the Pieta and David statues using house brick rather than marble.
So far, things have gone well, very well, with the old system over a couple of seasons – with Matthew and Mark Warburton as a very good partnership. So I have to wonder why there needs to be change. No-one has yet explained that. Nor has anyone told us why Mark can’t buy into the new idea (least of all the very diplomatic man himself). The various statements have apparently tried to clarify things – but as far as I can see, there is nothing revolutionary in any of it. To my simple mind, we have been fed a lot of words about looking to the future, the way things are going etc, etc, etc. Except – to my ill-informed and possibly ignorant-of-the-facts mind there is one big change. And that is what the announced changes might mean to the future of the club.
We have been told that there is a five-year plan to develop the club (abee has written about this recently and knows more about it than me) and were given to understand that Matthew Benham wanted (and I’ve put it in quotes although he may not have used these actual words) “a sustainable club in a new stadium at Lionel Road…..established in The Championship”. To attain that sustainability he wanted to develop the youth system so the club could find young kids, bring them through the various youth levels to the development squad, and then into the first team where they would eventually be sold at a profit to allow the next batch to come through. That was the successful old Crewe Alexandra way – and, I believe, the way Barcelona go about things.
Now, apparently, we are looking at paying (big?) money to bring in new first team players – probably from overseas, and either senior ready-to-use names or youngsters who can be trained up in the Brentford style – so we can become a top Premiership club. We don’t exactly know that’s the way we’ll be going because we just haven’t been told. We are, we are told, going for a more Continental style of running things – but it’s interesting to note that Barca, again, has a manager rather than a Head Coach – like Real Madrid, and the English Euro League giants Manchester City, Chelsea. Alex Ferguson didn’t do too badly in sole control either.
But now? Well, will the existing youth set-up change under the new regime (what statistics do you use for a six-year-old who loves playing football?)? Will the existing medical team stay etc.etc? How will BFC be set up in the future? I don’t know, and my reaction to it all? Well…….?????
I am not taking sides between new way and the old way – I can’t, because to my mind I still don’t know – and I still wonder just where is this big revolution? Perhaps somebody will eventually tell me – and other fans. What is planned for the future? Will it all work? Only time will tell, and I can only sincerely hope that the Championship table statistics at the end of this season prove successful.
Factually I believe that Luis Enrique is actually titled Head Coach rather than Manager at Barcelona but Larry makes his points clearly and cogently. Bernard Jackson also has his doubts in his mournfully titled “Bees Lament:”
Having seen the Bees lose five or six times in a Wembley/Cardiff cup final I have decided not to attend if they should reach a Championship playoff this year. What a really tough decision for a supporter to make and strange for someone supporting since 1947! My grandchildrens’ schoolmates are “supporters” of Premier League teams whom few of the youngsters have ever seen live. Having a grandad with allegiance to the Bees is strange but also interesting and unusual.
So here is a granddad in his eighties and doubtless a member of a small group still alive, who saw Bill Gorman, Joe Crozier and Dai Hopkins playing at GP . What can I make of current events ? Sadness, pride and expectation. Sadness that arguably the best manager we’ve ever had, has decided to leave at the end of the season. Pride that the team has achieved its present position and reputation and expectation that things ain’t gonna be the same as they were!
Matthew Benham’s involvement and money has brought the club to where it is today. The reputed investment of £90 million earns the incontestable right to make the decisions which he considers best for Brentford Football Club. Whether he is correct in those decisions remains to be seen but I foresee changes at the club I’ve supported for the last 67 years.
The clapped-out old stadium will go along with the memories of clapped out old teams and results which caused many miserable Saturday nights for me (and my family!). There will be a recruitment strategy relying on mathematical modeling which may bring an unexpected manager and players to the club. The new manager, new players and new stadium are signs that there is a future model for Brentford Football Club which old blokes like me will just have to get used to. I suppose I’ll still apply for a season ticket in the new place and hope for regular success……but it ain’t gonna be the same. That’s progress I suppose.
I appreciate and well understand that our supporters have reasonable doubts about the way forward and the current uncertainty. Indeed I share some of these concerns and look forward to more clarity about what is proposed. I worry about the immediate future but remain highly optimistic about our medium to long term prospects.
I spoke to an experienced, highly informed and connected national football journalist yesterday who also knows the people involved with running the club. I asked him where he thought Brentford would be in three years. He paused, cogitated for a moment and said: “Good question! Before the current shenanigans I would have said lower half of the Premier League given the way the club has been run and structured and the high levels of team spirit, self-belief and morale. Now…. who knows?”
We are all feeling uncertain as our world has suddenly turned on its axis. Knowing Bernard as I do as a close personal friend for many years I am saddened that he has decided not to attend should we reach the playoffs. Is that a personal protest or does he see himself as a jinx? Who knows? Perhaps some of my readers can provide both Larry and Bernard, loyal and committed supporters that they are, with some level of comfort and reassurance?