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.