End Of Term Report – Part Three – 28/5/15

25. Raphael Calvet

Never really challenged for a place and has been overtaken by others coming through the ranks. After two seasons without making any impact it is surely time for him to leave.

26. James Tarkowski

A stop-start campaign for James as he had to undergo a massive learning curve, experiencing Championship football for the first time. He ended up playing thirty-four games partnering a combination of Harlee Dean, Tony Craig and Liam Moore. Dean and Tarks ended up in firm possession of the shirts and gelled together well in the latter part of the season but James had to cope with the extra handicap of having to play on an unfamiliar left side of the defence, and this caused him problems as he was sometimes caught in possession whilst trying to take an extra touch and get the ball onto his favoured right foot.

He was as comfortable on the ball as ever, striding forward, dropping his shoulder and advancing menacingly into the opposition half. He distributed it beautifully as well, and he played an important part in helping us break through the initial press and start our own attacks. Sometimes, though, he lost concentration and overplayed, costing us a number of goals, but he is still learning and improving and has more than enough ability to play at Championship level or even higher.

He also had a one hundred percent record at taking penalty kicks!

27. David Button

David Button had a wonderful season and was a Championship ever present in goal. He was very much our first point of attack as well as our last line of defence and his quick and accurate distribution played a massive part in our overall style of play and freedom of expression. He generally tried to play it short but would occasionally hit the ball long for Gray or Dallas and he was the instigator of Andre’s brilliantly taken and confidence restoring goal against Watford – Route One football at its most effective.

He sometimes failed to deal effectively with crosses and he could also use his physique better as he is an enormous man, but he was utterly reliable and often quite brilliant and he won us numerous points with some incredible saves against Birmingham, Rotherham and Norwich in particular. You can count his blatant mistakes on the fingers of one hand and Button has developed into one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship with admirers from the level above. He is another who we will do well to hang onto this summer.

28. Nico Yennaris

His season at Brentford never got started and he only played once in the Championship, unfortunately in our worst performance of the season at Charlton, where he looked uncomfortable and exposed at left back. Nico had a successful loan spell at Wycombe Wanderers where he played at both right back and in midfield and ended his season at Wembley in the playoff final. Will he be back next season for another crack at establishing himself at Griffin Park or will he perhaps be searching for regular first team football elsewhere? Nico has real ability but he still needs to make his mark.

29. Liam Moore

Liam’s return to Griffin Park for a second loan spell was generally welcomed given his pace and left sided bias but the England Under 21 international totally failed to seize his opportunity. He had mixed fortune in his three matches, struggling against Clayton Donaldson at Birmingham, coming out all square in a physical battle against James Vaughan of Huddersfield and looking weak and totally out of his depth against Ipswich’s aerial bombardment. He was withdrawn from the fray at Portman Road and soon returned to Leicester allowing Dean and Tarkowski to develop an effective defensive partnership.

30. Josh Clarke

Formally a flying winger, Josh reinvented himself as an attacking fullback in the style of Moses Odubajo, and he impressed in his new position in the Development Squad. This was enough to earn him a contract extension and now it is up to him to prove that he has what it takes to forge a successful career.

31. Chris Long

Twenty year-old Chris Long arrived in the January transfer window to back up and support Andre Gray and he more than did his job whenever he was fit. He scored four times in ten appearances including three in his two starts. He was what we had previously lacked all season, a goal sniffer and six-yard box predator. He would doubtless have played more games had he remained fit and he also made a couple of perplexing returns to turn out for Everton when we were desperate for him to play for us. I hope we make every effort to ensure his return to Brentford next season on either a loan or permanent basis.

32. Jack O’Connell

The tall, cultured, yet powerful left sided defender did not feature for the Bees beyond sitting on the bench after his January transfer from Blackburn Rovers but he is seen as a potential star of the future. He performed well whilst on loan to Rochdale and did enough to suggest that he will be challenging for a first team place at Griffin Park next season when his presence, if selected, would enable Tarkowski to revert to his more natural right side.

33. Montell Moore

Montell made an instant impact on his debut as an eighteen year old at Dagenham with a goal and three assists. He was named as a substitute on several occasions but never played again and unfortunately received a criminal conviction. It was considered politic and best for his development to send him on loan to FC Midtjylland in Denmark where he has since gained valuable experience. Let’s see how he responds next season.

34. Daniel O’Shaughnessy

A regular in the Development Squad who did not look out of place in the preseason friendlies but was never close to earning a first team place. His future at the club might well depend upon whether Alfie Mawson decides to stay with Brentford or take his chance elsewhere. I suspect he will be given another season to prove himself and perhaps be sent out on loan.

35. Jermaine Udumaga

Nineteen year-old Jermaine Udumaga impressed as an attacking midfielder or striker whose goal tally reached double figures in the Development Squad. He was named as a substitute for the first team on four occasions but has yet to make his debut. He has signed a new one-year deal and will probably be competing for opportunities next season with Montell Moore.

39. Nick Proschwitz

A last minute purchase that reeked of uncharacteristic panic and poor judgement. He contributed little off the bench and never looked up to the standard required. He was offloaded to Coventry City where he had an equally unimpressive loan spell.

Alfie Mawson

The tall central defender enjoyed a wonderful season at Wycombe Wanderers where he was named Player of the Year and he now has a tough decision to make. Does he accept Brentford’s offer of a new contract or instead move to a new club where he can start as first choice? The central defensive position is in a state of flux at Griffin Park with at least two of the six current incumbents likely to move on as well as perhaps one new arrival.

Mawson is unlikely to force his way into the first team squad next season but he could yet decide to sign a new deal with the Bees and go out on loan again, but my guess is that he will move on.

Will Grigg

Will enjoyed a sensational season on loan at MK Dons where he scored twenty-two times, helped them to promotion, won their Goal of the Season Award and was named in the Northern Ireland international squad alongside Stuart Dallas.

He still has one year remaining on his Brentford contract and a decision now needs to be made on him. Should we give him a clean slate and see if he can force his way back into the reckoning at Griffin Park or sell him when his stock is at its highest? The key questions are whether we see him as a Championship striker and if we feel he can thrive in the system we are likely to employ next season. I suspect that in the event that MK Dons, or another club meets our valuation of him that Will is likely to leave on a permanent basis.

The manager, Mark Warburton, his assistant, David Weir, coaches, Simon Royce, Kevin O’Connor and the rest of the back room staff also made a massive contribution to the team’s success as they filled the players with confidence, encouraged them to remain true to their principles and ensured that they continued to play positive, attacking football throughout the entire season.

End Of Term Report – Part Two – 26/5/15

15. Stuart Dallas

Stuart Dallas can look back with great pride at his season’s accomplishments. He established himself in the Northen Ireland squad and looked fully at home in the international arena. He also played over forty times for Brentford, scored eight valuable goals, played on either flank as well as filling in seamlessly at centre forward and full back. Dallas was often a victim of the numbers game given that we possessed so many quality midfielders and was a real danger coming off the bench when he was often able to turn the match in our favour.

Strong, quick, direct, powerful, good in the air, and with a rasping shot, he is a manager’s dream and he will go down in Brentford history for scoring two wonderful, unstoppable and unforgettable goals at Craven Cottage against the old enemy, Fulham.

16. Jack Bonham

Jack Bonham played only once last season and impressed against Brighton in the FA Cup and, more importantly, kept first choice David Button on his toes through his quality performances in training. He proved that he is developing into an excellent goalkeeper but at some point he will need to gain some Football League experience ideally through a loan spell away from Griffin Park.

17. Jon Toral

Another loanee who played with a level of maturity way beyond reasonable expectations given his total lack of experience before he joined the Bees. To end his debut season at the age of twenty with thirty-four league appearances and six goals, including a couple of magnificent volleys and a hat trick against Blackpool, was no mean achievement. Tall, rangy, comfortable on the ball, technically excellent, and with a few tricks in his repertoire, he has a glittering career ahead of him, hopefully at Griffin Park, if a suitable deal can be negotiated with Arsenal for whom he has signed an extended contract.

18. Alan Judge

He was the team dynamo, a never-stop-running bundle of energy, our go-to guy who simply made us tick. His contribution was immense with three goals and a team leading thirteen assists and he was badly missed during his extended injury break early in 2015. He was always able to spot and then execute long range passes and create gaps in the opposition defence. His long range shooting was as powerful as ever even though his radar was often a bit off, but his perfect curling match-clinching free kick at Fulham was one of the moments of the season. His immense contribution was finally recognised when the Irish Messi won his first Republic of Ireland full senior call up on 12 May 2015, when he was named in the provisional squad for two matches the following month. Perhaps our most important and influential player overall.

19. Andre Gray

In his first season as a regular Football League player Andre Gray totally defied expectations by scoring eighteen goals and barely missing a game. All this whilst playing in a totally new position for him as a lone striker at a level three leagues above what he had experienced on a regular basis before. His overall contribution was absolutely staggering and some of his goals were eye-opening and quite brilliant in their execution – think of Derby, Wolves and Watford at home and Millwall and Cardiff away. No wonder that scouts were queuing up to cast their eye over him. Of course he showed his inexperience and was by no means a complete player. There is still much room for improvement and I think that he will perform even better when playing in a wider position supporting another central striker, but it remains to be seen if our new Head Coach will change our system and play with two strikers.

Andre was frustrating as he missed a ton of chances, but he created so many of them for himself, and ploughing a lone furrow was an exhausting and thankless task. Next season he will be even better.

20. Toumani Diagouraga

What a season from a player who had pretty much been written off at the start of the season. He simply got his head down and when his opportunity finally came he produced a series of brilliant performances and he maintained his form until the end of the season. Dovetailing perfectly with Jonathan Douglas, with one sitting and the other playing in a more forward role, he was our ball-winner and quarterback who got us up and running and helped turned defence into attack with his unerring ability to find a man. His shooting was as appalling as ever but we really didn’t mind and expected nothing more. His level of improvement and consistency was staggering.

Being totally objective, our eyes were well and truly opened when we saw how impressive Leadbitter and Clayton were for Middlesbrough playing in a similar role to Diagouraga and Douglas and that is the level that we need to aspire to next season.

21. Alex Pritchard

Quite simply, Alex Pritchard was absolutely brilliant for us and was one of the most influential loanees we have ever had. This was, however, a double-edged sword, as the better he played, the less chance we had of signing him on a permanant basis. He also established himself in the England Under 21 squad and will be welcomed back to his parent club, Tottenham Hotspur, next season with every chance of establishing himself as a Premier League player.

He scored twelve times for us, demonstrated that he knew how to take a penalty – a rare skill for a Brentford player, assisted on another seven goals and made eighty key passes from open play, more than any other Championship player. Alex made a massive contribution to us in the new year, scoring eight times, including a quite brilliant long range curling effort at Derby that had us all drooling and blinking in total disbelief and he maintained an eye-opening level of consistency and commitment that was admirable in a young player and a loanee as well.

Alex always managed to find pockets of space in which to operate and he was mesmerising on the ball. To watch footballers of the skill and panache of Pritchard, Jota, Judge and Odubajo play together for Brentford was something totally beyond my wildest dreams and clearly demonstrates just how far we have come.

22. Betinho

Who? Why? Answers on a postcard please.

23. Jota

If I close my eyes and allow myself to daydream I can see a clear image of Jota dribbling down the right wing with the ball seemingly tied to his bootlaces. Head up, he looks for openings, cuts inside with the ball glued to his left foot, leaving defenders trailing in his wake bewitched by his twinkling feet, before ending up with a perfect cross or effort on goal.

We expected a lot given his background and the record fee we had paid for him, but Jota, or José Peleteiro Ramallo, to give him his full name, was even better than we could ever have envisaged, and he ended a remarkable first season in English football with eleven goals and a glowing and enhanced reputation.

Even if he had done nothing else, he would have lived long in our memory as Jota – in the last minute! To score a season-defining late winner against Fulham was enough to make him an instant hero but to repeat the feat by scoring again late on at Craven Cottage, followed by a last gasp equaliser against Nottingham Forest in the next match truly beggared belief.

It wasn’t so much the number of goals he scored, although eleven was quite a tally for someone who played out wide, but the way in which he did so and the variety of goals he scored. A mesmerising dribble in a packed penalty area against Leeds, a close range tap-in against Reading, cutting inside and shooting from outside the box against Fulham, rolling the ball home through the eye of a needle against Wolves, a curling long range belter at Cardiff, finishing calmly and clinically against Blackburn, Norwich and Wigan, a brilliant near post volley at Fulham, running from his own half at Blackburn and picking his spot and a most unlikely header against Nottingham Forest. The pace of a long and exhausting season understandably seemed to take its toll in the last few games when he appeared to run out of steam and was less effective, but he did more than enough by virtue of his undoubted skill and bravery on the ball to attract the attention of Premier League predators. He will be even better next season as he becomes more attuned to the demands of the English game and I desperately hope that we can hang into him.

24. Tommy Smith

Tommy was consistency personified whenever he was called upon, generally as a late substitute. He always put in a shift, looking for the ball and using it sensibly and he was a valuable calming influence. He scored the opening goal of the season – a much needed late equaliser against Charlton, and contributed several assists, none more crucial than when he stood up a perfect cross in a packed penalty area that took out the goalkeeper and picked out Jota for his injury time equaliser against Nottingham Forest.

He more than justified his contract as he was also an excellent influence and example in the dressing room and if we do not see him again he leaves with our thanks, admiration and gratitude.

End Of Term Report – Part One – 24/5/15

Well, the dust has finally settled, I have had some time to reflect and it is now time for me to give my brief verdict on the entire Brentford squad and how they performed last season:

1. Richard Lee

It is finally the end of the line for an excellent and popular goalkeeper who was plagued by a series of ill-timed injuries throughout his career. I have no fears for his future given his eclectic interests and capabilities. He is a true polymath who is likely to be a success in anything that he puts his mind to. With his pathway to the first team firmly blocked at Griffin Park his last hurrah was a surprising short term loan move to Fulham but he was not called upon there. We will all remember him fondly, particularly for his sunny disposition and penalty saving prowess.

 2. Kevin O’Connor

Another giant of the game whose influence on the pitch has waned but who I fully expect to have an important part to play in our future both as a coach and an exemplar of what the club represents and the values that it espouses. Kevin became the first person in history to be inducted into the Brentford Hall of Fame whilst still involved with the club, a fitting honour for a true gentleman and Brentford legend.

3. Jake Bidwell

Jake just gets better and better and has established himself as an excellent Championship quality player who simply gives of his best every week, unobtrusively and effectively. He defends well, is tough in the tackle, good in the air, uses the ball well and is rarely embarrassed by his lack of genuine pace given his ability to jockey his opponents out of the danger zone. He is eager to overlap and his crossing is accurate and incisive. He is often taken for granted by our fans who fail to take into account his relative youth and the fact that he is likely to improve still further. We still await his first competitive goal for us – one that is certain to be celebrated in style!

4. Lewis Macleod

Well at least we still have something to look forward to next season given that the arrival of Lewis Macleod turned out to be a massive let down and damp squib. A lingering hamstring injury which was exacerbated by a bizarre accident incurred in training, meant that he was restricted to an anonymous forty-five minutes in a Development Squad match. Our hopes were resurrected and our interest piqued when he made a surprise appearance on the bench for the home playoff match against Middlesbrough but he remains cloaked in mystery until the start of next season.

5. Tony Craig

Tony Craig lost his place in February and was never able to regain it or overcome the challenge of James Tarkowski and Harlee Dean. He remained an influential figure on the bench cajoling his team mates into greater efforts, but after three seasons of excellent service the top of the Championship is now perhaps a step too far for him. We certainly missed having a natural left-footed central defender but I suspect that TC might well be looking to move on and he deserves to play regularly given his age, experience and ability. Perhaps a return to Millwall and his old stamping ground might be on the cards for him?

 6. Harlee Dean

Harlee had an up and down season and was never slow to speak his mind, but ended the campaign on a real high with several blistering performances where he combined his customary passion and aggression with signs that he was finally maturing and learning what it takes to succeed at Championship level. He became less impetuous and began to recognise when it was safe to play out from the back and when Row Z was called for. I had thought for a long time that he was likely to be on his way out from Griffin Park in the close season but I now suspect that he has shown sufficient progress and development potential to remain part of the squad for next season.

7. Sam Saunders

Sam barely featured for Brentford in the second half of the season and was allowed to move on loan to Wycombe Wanderers where he thrived and was an integral part of a swarm of current and former Bees that spearheaded their promotion push. Sam’s season ended in total heartbreak when he was forced off the field after only two seconds of the playoff final. At least he is now part of Wembley folklore, but not in the way he either envisaged or wanted! His future with us is uncertain for next season but I fully expect him to be in massive demand and to be able to take his pick from the cream of Division One clubs. His last appearance for the Bees came as a second half substitute against Blackpool and Sam signed off perfectly with a last minute assist from a trademark perfect near post corner.

8. Jonathan Douglas

Jonathan Douglas maintained his consistency throughout the season and ended up with a career high eight goals. He was as competitive as ever, driving the team forward and he also developed the ability to drift late and often unseen into the penalty area where he offered a real goal threat. Who knows how differently the season might have ended up had the giant Konstantopoulos not somehow stretched to save his looping header in the playoff semifinal game at Griffin Park? JD has signed a new contract and is expected to maintain his enormous influence next season.

9. Scott Hogan

What can you say about Scott Hogan and the traumas he has experienced? He was signed as our first choice striker from Rochdale and we were all excited at the prospect of him leading our attack. Injury prevented him starting the season and he finally made his league debut as a substitute at Rotherham where he suffered a horrible anterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee. Scott underwent reconstruction surgery and it appeared that his rehabilitation was going well and that he was even on-track for a return to full fitness in time for preseason training when in April he re-injured the same knee after catching his foot in the turf in training. He has had to have another operation and is now expected to be out for the rest of 2015. Life is so cruel sometimes.

10. Moses Odubajo

Moses can hardly have anticipated how well the season ended up for him. Alan McCormack’s injury saw him switched from the right wing to right back and he never looked back. He has learned how to defend and his pace generally gets him out of trouble. His real strength is in going forward and he and Jota combined so effectively and formed a highly potent partnership on our right flank which was the source of much danger for our opponents. Moses has found himself in his new position, he is already an England Under 20 international and seems certain to play at the highest level as he possesses all the attributes required to play fullback in the modern game.

12. Alan McCormack

Alan’s season was ruined by his ankle ligament injury at Bolton in October as by the time he had recovered full fitness Moses Odubajo had established himself in his position at right back. Alan was a constant presence on the substitutes’ bench from February onwards but was rarely called upon, which was surprising as he generally made a real impression when he came on, given his bite in the tackle, good use of the ball and his ability to act as an enforcer and ensure that our more subtle ballplayers were not subjected to intimidation by the opposition. He is another whose future is open to question, as at thirty-one he surely wants to play more regularly.

14. Marcos Tebar

Marcos dropped out of sight and was only called upon as an unused substitute on three occasions after Christmas. What is more, he was barely used in Development Squad matches either. There is no explanation for this mystery and it is hoped that he remains at the club next season and that he is given another opportunity and a fresh start by the new Head Coach, as Tebar demonstrated in preseason that he is an enormously talented player who simply needed time to get used to a new environment.

The Lowlights Of The Season – 21/5/15

I had a lot of fun just the other day recalling all the highlights of the season and it really wasn’t a difficult exercise. Once I started writing it proved almost impossible to stop and it was more a case of what to leave out rather than what to include.

Now the boot is on the other foot as I go to the other extreme and note down the low points – all the things that saddened, angered, confused and upset me over the course of ten past ten months or so. Given how exceptional last season was, I really do not want to nitpick so I very much hope and expect that this list will be a darn sight shorter than the previous one, but here goes and please feel free to add your own suggestions too:

  • Transferring Farid El Alagui to Hibernian without our having the chance to say goodbye to an excellent pro and a really lovely guy who was prevented by a serious injury from showing us just how good he was
  • Clayton Donaldson coming to the conclusion that the streets of Birmingham were paved with gold. I still wonder just how well he would have done for us last season in our new system.
  • Promising local product Montell Moore falling foul of the law and being sent abroad for his own good
  • Adam Forshaw deciding that money talked and helping to engineer his move to Wigan
  • The Bees Player hiatus and the eventual loss – hopefully not permanent – of the irreplaceable Luis Melville
  • Putting a brave face on it and trying not to show how disappointed I was when I heard that we had signed misfit Nick Proschwitz
  • Seeing Nick Proschwitz play and realising that he was even worse than I had imagined
  • Our non-existent defending at Dagenham – a total embarrassment
  • Not getting the result we deserved at AFC Bournemouth
  • Mad Madley and his eccentric refereeing performance against Birmingham City
  • Clayton Donaldson wearing the blue of Birmingham at Griffin Park
  • Losing a tepid Capital One Cup match to Fulham
  • Scott Hogan’s appalling injury at Rotherham, when he collapsed with nobody near him
  • The initial excitement when we signed Betinho turning into complete bemusement when he totally disappeared from sight
  • Tarky’s misplaced pass against Norwich which led to their opening goal against the run of play
  • The non-penalty against Norwich when Pritchard was flagrantly clattered in the area
  • Getting “Middlesbroughed” – Part One
  • Being told how clinical James Tarkowski was from the spot and then watching him put his penalty against Leeds into orbit
  • Marcos Tebar becoming the invisible man
  • Graham Salisbury’s appalling slow motion penalty award against us at Watford
  • Getting patronised by all the Watford fans sitting around me as we totally outplayed them, but lost
  • Suffering through an interminable five hour journey to Bolton and then having to watch us subside to a tepid defeat
  • Alan McCormack’s long-term injury at Bolton
  • David Button getting caught upfield in Bolton’s penalty area as they scored their third goal from our corner kick
  • Mathew Buonassisi disallowing yet another Brentford goal against Sheffield Wednesday
  • Watching us standing around admiring Derby County in the first half without suspecting what was to follow after the break
  • The journey home from hell from Nottingham with multiple M1 junction closures
  • Harlee Dean’s faux pas against Fulham
  • Somehow losing at Huddersfield after dominating, and Jake Bidwell’s classy own goal
  • Gestede equalising for Blackburn right on half time after a cruel deflection by Harlee Dean
  • The second half at Cardiff – seemingly the longest forty-five minutes in history
  • Self-destructing against Ipswich Town
  • The early and crucial offside goal at Wolves
  • Jake Bidwell not claiming our goal at Wolves after his cross was deflected in
  • Andre Gray missing from point blank range in injury time at Wolves
  • Uwe Rosler getting fired at Wigan
  • Andre Gray’s horror show against Brighton in the FA Cup
  • Alan Judge missing six weeks through injury
  • Jon Toral getting the ball stuck comically between his feet at Brighton after going round the keeper
  • Andre Gray’s shank in the first minute at Norwich
  • Getting “Middlesbroughed” – Part Two
  • Suspecting that it was, in fact, Patrick Bamford who called out for Harlee Dean to leave it
  • Not strengthening the squad in January when we were still in contention for the top two and our needs were obvious
  • Timesgate and how it became open season on us in the national media, a factor that threatened to blow our season apart
  • The schism between Matthew Benham and Mark Warburton
  • The appallingly drafted initial press release from the club – Football is a Village
  • Keith Stroud – just who we needed to referee the Watford match
  • Losing so cruelly in the last minute to Watford
  • The terrible non-performance at Charlton
  • Playing Stuart Dallas at left back at Birmingham
  • Clayton Donaldson leading us a merry dance at Birmingham
  • Liam Moore at Ipswich Town
  • Throwing the Cardiff City home match away through two appalling unforced defensive errors
  • Kenwyn Jones’s great save in the last minute going undetected by the referee
  • Two more soft and avoidable goals conceded at Blackburn
  • Allowing Millwall to totally outplay us
  • The joke penalty awarded against us at Fulham
  • Yet more soft goals given away against Nottingham Forest
  • Throwing away two points after our best performance of the season at Derby and feeling sick for the rest of the weekend
  • The lethal combination of missing gilt-edged chances at Sheffield Wednesday before handing them the winner on a plate
  • The Dancing Bears – Button, Diagouraga and Tarkowski’s combined horror show from that goal kick against Bolton Wanderers
  • Thinking that we had blown the playoffs
  • The Chris Long saga
  • Scott Hogan suffering a further serious injury in training
  • Getting “Middlesbroughed” – Parts Three and Four
  • Watching us squander yet another corner or free kick
  • Not getting enough players in the opposition penalty area
  • Cringing at some of the unnecessary risks taken in our defensive zone
  • Saying goodbye to Mark Warburton and David Weir
  • Realising that the season was finally over

The Highlights Of The Season – 20/5/15

I have now just about recovered from the excitement of Brentford reaching the playoffs, if not the slight let down of our defeat last Friday at the Riverside Stadium.

Whilst everything that happened last season still remains so clear in my addled brain I thought that I would like to pay my own personal tribute to everyone at the club by noting down a list of my most memorable and favourite moments from the past ten months or so of hectic activity. I am sure that you will all have your own preferences and I would love to hear from you with your personal highlights. I fully intend to come back to this list time and again during the summer months without football and use it as an aide memoire and comfort blanket as I eagerly wait for the new season to begin. So here we go!

  • Understanding for the first time how ambitious and sensible our recruitment plans were when we signed Andre Gray, Moses Odubajo, Alex Pritchard and Scott Hogan
  • Watching Andre Gray in the preseason friendlies and seeing how deadly he could be in front of goal
  • Moses Odubajo’s incredible winning goal against Crystal Palace
  • Seeing so many of Fleet Street’s finest in the press box for the Charlton match
  • Tommy Smith’s late equaliser against Charlton. Starting the season with a home defeat would have been a real bodyblow
  • That mad night at Dagenham when six goals were not enough for us to win
  • Richard Lee signing off with two trademark penalty saves in the shoot out at Dagenham
  • The excellent performance in defeat at AFC Bournemouth when I realised for the first time that we would be able to cope with the demands of the Championship
  • Signing a much vaunted foreign player with only one name – and Jota really lived up to the hype
  • Our first win of the season at Blackpool and the unique 4-6-0 formation we employed in the second half
  • The brave and brilliant second half performance with ten men against Birmingham City when Warbs totally outmanaged Lee Clark, we overcame Mad Madley’s best efforts to thwart us and Moses kept his head to score late on
  • Winning at Rotherham. Payback for the previous season’s lacklustre surrender
  • The beauty and incisiveness of Moses Odubajo’s goal against Brighton after that defence splitting pass from Alan Judge
  • Walking away smiling and happy despite a three-nil home defeat to Norwich City.
  • Knowing that we could never play quite as badly again as we did at Middlesbrough
  • Dispelling our fears and acknowledging the mental strength and determination of the team to recover from two debilitating defeats
  • Easily beating and totally outplaying the faded glory that was Leeds United
  • Knowing that we had been robbed of at least a point at Watford and that were as good as them on the night
  • Totally outplaying Uwe and Adam Forshaw at Wigan
  • Jota’s outrageous dummy against Sheffield Wednesday just before Andre Gray’s disallowed goal
  • The week beyond our wildest dreams when we beat Derby, Forest and Millwall and shot up the table
  • Stuart Dallas’s last minute volleyed winner against Derby County
  • Toumani Diagouraga’s resurrection as Patrick Vieira
  • Singing in the rain in the postmatch lock-in at Millwall
  • Ian Holloway’s heartfelt praise of Brentford and how our club was run. The first outside recognition of just how good we were
  • The Brentford 125th Anniversary Book and working with Dave Lane and Mark Croxford to bring it to fruition
  • Beating Fulham!
  • Toumani almost scoring against Fulham
  • Harlee Dean’s run and blistering equaliser
  • Jota – in the last minute!
  • Alan Judge’s perfect assist after his performing seal impression
  • Pulverising Wolves without even playing that well
  • Andre Gray’s run and shot against Wolves
  • A perfect fifteen point November
  • Making more so-called big names in Blackburn and Cardiff look ordinary
  • The magical first half display at Cardiff
  • Jota’s goal at Cardiff and his interplay with Alex Pritchard
  • Sam Saunders scoring two consolation goals against Ipswich Town
  • Jonathan Douglas becoming a real goal threat, particularly in the air
  • Jack Bonham proving against Brighton that he really is an excellent goalkeeper in the making
  • Laughing at Steve Evans’s ludicrous post match posturing and hallucinations after we beat Rotherham
  • Feeling that we were finally being taken seriously by referees when we were awarded a well-dodgy penalty at Norwich
  • Alex Pritchard showing nerves of steel by calmly converting the penalty that won us the game at Norwich
  • David Button’s elastic save from Cameron Jerome
  • Outclassing Leeds at Elland Road and dismissing the whines of the home fans who could not accept losing to ” little old Brentford”
  • The whole team celebrating as one with Warbs after Andre Gray’s solo goal against Watford
  • The match of the season against AFC Bournemouth marked by Mike Dean’s exceptional refereeing
  • Total domination against Blackpool with forty-two shots and a Jon Toral hat trick
  • Chris Long’s youthful exuberance and clinical goalscoring ability against Huddersfield
  • Enjoying Daryl Murphy’s unbelievable miss for Ipswich Town
  • Welcoming Simon Moore back to Griffin Park
  • Jota’s solo goal at Blackburn and Mark Burridge’s most fitting celebration on Bees Player
  • The sheer relief after Moses Odubajo’s totally undeserved last gasp equaliser against Millwall
  • Completing the double against Fulham watched by over 6,000 Bees supporters
  • Jota – in the last minute! Again
  • Stuart Dallas’s two long range goals at Craven Cottage
  • Jota – in the last minute! Against Nottingham Forest
  • Playing Derby County off the pitch
  • Alex Pritchard’s goal at Derby – touched by genius
  • A central defender scoring with a header from a free kick at Reading
  • Everything about the Wigan match
  • Giving thanks to Blackburn Rovers and Reading for services rendered
  • Reaching the playoffs at the last gasp and finishing fifth in the Championship
  • The fans’ celebrations at Middlesbrough
  • Saying thank you and goodbye to Mark Warburton and David Weir at Middlesbrough
  • The team and management making us all so proud all season
  • Rejoicing in the sheer ability of our players and at how Judge, Pritchard and Jota can make accurate fifty yard passes and bring the ball under control with effortless ease
  • Seeing all our loanees and former players doing so well at Wycombe Wanderers
  • Listening to Bees Player
  • Enjoying matches with my family and taking my son and daughter to the Leeds and Nottingham Forest games
  • Writing all these articles and the contributions and positive feedback that I have received from you
  • Not running out of ideas for articles – there was always something new to write about
  • Ex-Bee Richard Poole’s comments and replies from France
  • Matthew Benham’s continuing vision and support of the club

Groundhog Day – 18/5/15

imagesSo despite their best efforts Brentford’s season came to its conclusion at the Riverside Stadium on Friday night. The Bees just couldn’t pull back the one goal deficit from the first leg, conceded again halfway through the first half when Tomlin’s long range effort received a helpful deflection off Harlee Dean which took it beyond Button’s reach, and then carelessly lost possession twice after the break and were ruthlessly punished by breakaway goals from Kike and Adomah. A four goal aggregate defeat in the tie was cruel indeed on Brentford who deserved slightly better but it cannot be denied that we were comfortably second best overall.

For us to reach Wembley there were several prerequisites. We needed to be at our absolute best and to be brave and positive on the night. We also had to display the self-belief and confidence to play our own game and take care of the ball. We needed leaders on the pitch who would set a personal example and help encourage their team mates. Most crucially, we had to be clinical in front of goal when chances came our way. Unfortunately none of these boxes were ticked and we subsided to a comprehensive defeat.

We must give credit where it is due. Middlesbrough were everything that we weren’t. Tough, big, strong, compact, organised, street-smart, determined, ruthless, comfortable on the ball, quick to turn defence into attack and deadly in front of goal.

Their game plan worked a treat. Firstly, just as had been the case at Griffin Park, they let us know they were there and knocked us out of our stride and never allowed us to build up a rhythm by commiting a series of cynical and deliberate fouls whenever we threatened to break forward. They gambled correctly that the referee would not intervene early on and by the time Lee Mason belatedly decided to exert his authority and use his yellow card, it was far too late and the damage had already been done. We were nervous and tentative and never managed to break at pace as Middlesbrough funnelled back and denied us any space as soon as we reached the congested midfield area.

Leadbitter and Clayton chased and harried and snapped at our ankles from the first whistle. They were relentless and tireless in their efforts to snuff out danger before it developed and not to allow us the time and space we needed to hurt them. But they were both far more than water carriers and mere defensive spoilers as they demonstrated a real ability to read the game and to pass the ball accurately and with precision.

Both Jonathan Douglas and Toumani Diagouraga have been inspirational for the Bees this season but it was instructive to compare their overall effectiveness and impact upon the game with that of Leadbitter and Clayton who clearly demonstrated the difference between excellent players and the true elite at this level.

With our creativity stifled at birth, Jota, Judge and Pritchard flickered into life only intermittently and were never an influence on the game. Our chances were few and far between and there was no margin for error. We simply had to take our opportunities when they fell our way, but we let them all slip.

Early on, Jota shot weakly from outside the area and his effort was easily saved but our two key moments came either side of halftime. Judge’s angled cross eluded the straining head of Ayala and Gray was left with a clear sight of goal but his weak headed effort was going nowhere when it hit a defender and was deflected straight to the keeper. We came out far more determined and positive after the break and straightaway the overlapping Odubajo’s perfect low centre was somehow missed by Gray as he attempted to turn the ball in from right in front of goal. That could have been a turning point as if he had scored it would have silenced the crowd whose anxiety would doubtless have transmitted itself to the team. That was it until a sweet move opened up the defence near the end but substitute Chris Long was pressurised into slicing his angled effort well wide of the goal.  I doubt if we have ever created fewer chances in a match over the course of the entire season but you have to give due credit to the job that Middlesbrough did on us as well as acknowledge that we did not do ourselves justice on the night.

Harlee Dean was by far our best player closely followed by Moses Odubajo, David Button and James Tarkowski. Jake Bidwell appeared to be mesmerised by the pace and twinkling feet of Albert Adomah and was far too preoccupied with his defensive responsibilities to help support his ailing attack.

We did our best but it never really looked as if it would be enough and Middlesbrough finished up beating us four times in a row over the course of the season, scoring ten times with us managing one measly goal in reply, despite our knocking on the door so many times, particularly in our two home matches.

Could and should we have approached the game in a different manner? I would, in passing, refer you to Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Mark Warburton and Plan A anybody? We basically played the same game four times against Middlesbrough with identical results on each and every occasion. It would certainly have been brave and maybe even foolhardy to have tinkered with, or even changed a formula that had worked so well throughout the season and that had indeed been responsible for getting us to the playoffs in the first place. Managers are paid extremely well to problem solve and be flexible and imaginative where necessary but nothing changed and on Friday our limitations and shortcomings were yet again ruthlessly exposed.

It would be churlish indeed to carp and criticise given how wonderfully well we have performed all season and the amount of pleasure that Brentford have provided to all lovers of pure attacking football around the country. Mark Warburton’s loyalty and commitment to his squad was also laudable and their sense of unity and togetherness certainly played a large part in our success, but our failure to strengthen in January when the opportunity apparently presented itself, meant that we were forced to rely on a small squad and there were precious few options available to freshen things up or make significant changes off the bench.

I know that I have mentioned it before, but I still believe that the most illuminating statistic of the season is the fact that thirteen of the eighteen players in our squad on the opening day of the season on the ninth of August last year were still involved when the season finally drew to a close on the fifteenth of May. The five who fell by the wayside were Richard Lee, Marcos Tebar, Nico Yennaris, Montell Moore and Nick Proschwitz. They were replaced by Jack Bonham, Toumani Diagouraga, Jota, Jon Toral and Chris Long. So with the exception of Chris Long, who arrived in January, and Liam Moore who came and went in the new year, the squad remained almost unchanged for the entire season, something that I doubt has ever occurred in modern day football where there is invariably a high turnover of players who come and go and are seen as replaceable assets.

That was the way that Mark Warburton wanted to manage and it will be fascinating to see whether his ultimate successor favours a different approach next season in terms of squad size and rotation and, indeed, our overall formation and pattern of play.

That is for the future and now is the time simply to reflect on all the incredible events of the past nine months and salute the Bees and everyone involved with the club for providing us with such an incredible season that came so close to returning us to the top flight of English football for the first time in sixty-eight years. Friday’s match ended in a cacophony of sound as the travelling Brentford supporters paid a raucous and heartfelt tribute to their team and its supporting cast of Mark Warburton, David Weir and Matthew Benham.The imminent departure of Mark Warburton and David Weir certainly marks the end of this chapter but the story has barely yet begun.

I Believe! – 15/5/15

  • I believe that we can win at Middlesbrough on Friday night
  • I believe that Brentford will be playing at Wembley in the Championship playoff final
  • I believe that we can still win promotion to the Premier League
  • I believe that the tide will turn and it will be fourth time lucky for the Bees against Middlesbrough
  • I believe that we will be more clinical in front of goal and, in our most important game of the season, take some of the massive chances that we have previously let slip
  • I believe that the entire squad will go out totally focused on the job in hand and determined that this will not be the last game in charge for Mark Warburton and David Weir
  • I believe that we are a “team” in every meaning of the word and that our unity and sense of togetherness will help us triumph
  • I believe that the Middlesbrough fans and local media feel that the tie is already won and that they can book their tickets to Wembley
  • I believe in the power of hubris to bring about nemesis
  • I believe that we will get stronger and stronger as the game progresses and Middlesbrough will wilt
  • I believe that the pressure of the occasion, nerves and the weight of expectation will affect the Middlesbrough team and supporters alike and that we will take full advantage
  • I believe that Mark Warburton will have devised the perfect game plan which will enable us to reel Middlesbrough in and then take advantage of our pace and cutting edge
  • I believe that the influence and example both on and off the pitch of our band of experienced and good professionals like Jonathan Douglas, Tommy Smith, Alan McCormack and Tony Craig will help motivate and instruct their team mates and get them over the line
  • I believe that we will have learned the lesson from our previous capitulation at the Riverside Stadium last year and that it will be payback time on Friday night
  • I believe that the passionate support of our two thousand fervent and rabid supporters will help inspire the team to victory
  • I believe our incredibly talented midfield will outwork, out hustle, out pass and outrun the opposition
  • I believe that we will snuff out the threat of the likes of Bamford and Adomah
  • I believe that we will defend like lions
  • I believe that Brentford will become the talk of the football world after their performance on Friday
  • I believe in Mark Warburton
  • I believe in and give thanks for Matthew Benham and his vision and support for the club
  • I believe we will have a long, exhausting but triumphant journey home in the early hours of Saturday morning and we will barely feel our fatigue as we will be floating on air
  • I believe that Middlesbrough will be unable to cope with the pace and marauding forward runs of Moses Odubajo
  • I believe that the referee, Lee Mason will stamp down on Middlesbrough’s antics and protect our ballplayers from intimidation and bad tackles
  • I believe that Adam Forshaw will be regretting his move from Brentford at the end of the game on Friday
  • I believe that we deserve to get to Wembley given our overall skill and quality as well as the sense of adventure and positivity that we have displayed all season
  • I believe that Harlee Dean and James Tarkowski have developed into an excellent central defensive partnership and are finally beginning to realise when it is safe to play out from the back and when Row Z is called for
  • I believe that David Button is one of the top three goalkeepers in the Championship and that he will prove it again at Middlesbrough
  • I believe that Jake Bidwell is an unsung hero who just gets on with his game and performs with great quality week in and week out
  • I believe that Jonathan Douglas and Toumani Diagouraga will not allow Middlesbrough to settle on the ball and that they will provide our attacking players with a stream of accurate passes
  • I believe that Middlesbrough will be unable to cope with the flair, interplay and shooting ability of Jota, Alex Pritchard and Alan Judge
  • I believe that Andre Gray will take his opportunities and be the match winner on the night
  • I believe that Stuart Dallas will make a massive impact coming off the bench with his directness and hard running
  • I believe that there will be eighteen Brentford heroes tomorrow night at Middlesbrough
  • I believe that this is our year and that we are destined to get promoted