Jonathan Douglas – Will He Stay Or Will He Go – 22/7/15

There have apparently been some unsubstantiated rumours flying around over the last day or so suggesting that Brentford might be prepared to allow midfielder Jonathan Douglas to leave the club and find a new home. As of yet I have neither seen nor heard anything that fully convinces me that there is any truth in this suggestion, but sometimes there is no smoke without fire and it has got me thinking about the player and how much of a role he is likely to have at Griffin Park next season.

Firstly let’s look back at his contribution over the past four years. It can simply be summed up in one word – massive. Uwe Rosler persuaded him to leave Swindon Town, where he had spent a couple of successful seasons, been voted Player of the Year and was an established member of the team, and spearhead his new project at Brentford. Swindon fans reacted to his departure with vitriol and fury, just as they were to do subsequently when Alan McCormack and loanee Alex Pritchard also joined us after spells at the County Ground. We simply cherry picked their best players by convincing them that there was a far better future to be had at Griffin Park and subsequent events have proved us right.

Douglas has played over one hundred and sixty games for us, averaging over forty appearances per season and when fit has been an automatic first choice selection under both Rosler and his successor Mark Warburton. Not bad for a Bosman free transfer. He is perhaps best remembered for his crucial last minute headed goal against Oldham which gave Mark Warburton a winning start in his first match as Brentford manager, took away any uncertainty that might otherwise have crept in, and ensured that our promotion challenge remained on track. In fact it is hard to isolate too many individual stand out moments for Douglas as he rather eschewed the spectacular for the massively reliable and consistent.

He was voted Player of the Season by the supporters in his first season at Brentford and also captained the side on many occasions despite his assertion that he did not see himself as a natural leader. He led more by example and became a source of inspiration to his team mates by dint of his swashbuckling and buccaneering performances in midfield which combined non-stop effort and energy, an engine strong enough to cover almost every blade of grass on the pitch, hard tackling, the unerring ability to read the game and snuff out danger as well as an eye for a pass and a goal. He possessed almost every attribute required for a midfield player in today’s game, bar pace, but given that the first yard is said to be in the head, he was rarely left trailing so well did he read the game.

In other words he never accepted second best and was tough on fellow players who fell below his own high standards. He was an alpha male and a powerful presence in the dressing room who was not slow to make his opinions heard and he had strong views that he was quick to express. This trait, I would surmise, did not always make him the most popular player with either management or directors but he was always true to himself and searingly honest.

In his first three seasons at the club he proved that he was amongst the top midfielders in the third tier but doubts remained as to whether he could raise his game and adapt to the challenge and requirements of the Championship. Predominantly a defensive midfielder, did he have the skill on the ball and vision to hold his own against the better players he would be facing at the higher level?

The statistics speak for themselves. In all Jonathan Douglas played four thousand and forty-three minutes last season, more than any other outfield player, and missed only two games, one through suspension, and the other when he was rested to eliminate the risk of a second suspension at a crucial stage of the season. He seemed to be inspired by the challenge and demonstrated a skill on the ball and a subtlety of passing that had previously lain dormant. As soon as Toumani Diagouraga won his place back into the team Douglas knew that he had someone to watch his back and with the defensive gaps filled behind him, he was given the freedom to advance forward with the ball and he became a potent attacking force, scoring a career high tally of eight goals, including four headers, and assisting on four more. It is rare that a player of his age and experience improves and develops new skills but Dougie was the exception that proved the rule.

He made a habit of sneaking late and generally unmarked into opposition penalty areas where he found pockets of space and he should really have notched an unprecedented double figure goal tally given the opportunities that fell his way. His confidence was boosted by a wonderfully taken goal against Crystal Palace in preseason with a perfectly placed curling effort that proved that he was far more than a mere destroyer. He became more flamboyant and ambitious on the ball attempting any number of subtle flicks in and around the opposition penalty area that sometimes came off and created chances for the likes of Gray and Jota. He made no less than forty-six passes per game with an impressive eighty-two percent accuracy rate.

Perhaps his acknowledged value and indeed, indispensability to Mark Warburton proved to be his undoing. He was played too often and for too long as he missed only two league matches and was taken off early only three times all season. He was overworked and at his age this took its toll. It often seemed in the latter part of the season that the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak as he was just that split second too late to spot an opening or make an interception. Douglas celebrated his thirty-third birthday during the season and given his seniority, I believe that he should have been used more sparingly and that over four thousand minutes of action was too much for him. I am not carping or criticising as he had a quite exceptional season and proved that he more than belonged at Championship level. The Middlesbrough playoff matches, however, proved to be an eyeopener as Jonathan gave everything but there was nothing left in the tank and he and Diagouraga were left chasing shadows by the roadrunners Leadbitter and Clayton who combined vision and subtlety on the ball with a level of energy and a dash of ruthlessness that we simply could not match.

They demonstrated quite clearly the gulf between the exceptionally good players that we possess and the real elite at this level and that leads onto where we find ourselves now. It is crucial that we keep improving, raising our standards and enhancing and developing our squad, new players have already arrived with the expectation of more, and stalwarts such as Tony Craig, Sam Saunders and Alan McCormack have sadly began to be left behind and I suspect that Jonathan Douglas is next on the list. Such is the cruel and inexorable way of football.

All would be fine and good if he was able to reconcile himself to the inevitability of the situation and the fact that given the increased competition for places he is no longer likely to be an automatic choice next season and give us perhaps twenty games of top quality performance. Maybe that is what will happen as the likes of Josh McEachran and Konstantin Kerschbaumer are vying for his position, however I believe that Jonathan is such a competitive and proud individual that he will find it extremely hard if not impossible to accept not playing every week and if that is indeed the case it might well be in everyone’s best interests for him to be allowed to move on to another club where he can become the fulcrum of the team and play as often as a player of his stature, experience and talent deserves to do.

I am sure that the truth will be revealed over the next week or so and I find myself rather conflicted by the situation. I fully support the desire to upgrade and have real competition in every position and time waits for no man, however I also worry at the prospect of losing good, solid, proven professionals like Douglas, Craig, Saunders and McCormack as you know exactly what you will get from them. They will fight for the cause with skill and passion, give everything and never accept defeat until the final whistle. I can only hope that our new recruits share their work ethic and will to win.

Such is progress but time will tell.

 

Final Cover 020615AHEAD OF THE GAME

For anyone interested in reading my take on everything that happened both on and off the pitch last season, as well as the odd diversion into nostalgia, player profiles and club history, leavened with some (hopefully) pertinent and amusing comments, my new book Ahead Of The Game is available now.

Here are the Links to where the book can be purchased:

http://www.brentforddirect.co.uk/product/400/0000-4811

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ahead-Game-Brentford-2014-Season-ebook/dp/B00ZPO1OBU/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1434732211&sr=1-3&keywords=ahead+of+the+game

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ahead-Game-Brentford-2014-Season/dp/1910515140/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1434732211&sr=1-3

Published 17 June 2015 | 978-1-910515-14-3 | 408 pages | Print and Kindle | £15.99, £8.99

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11 thoughts on “Jonathan Douglas – Will He Stay Or Will He Go – 22/7/15

  1. Morning – nice balanced look at the career (to date) of one of my favourite Bees players over the past 4 years. The only area where I differ slightly is that I’ve never seen JD as a tackler / enforcer etc – actually it is something we’ve lacked for a while now. You rightly picked up on the fact that most of Toumani’s superb performances last season came when he had JD next to him – so we may inadvertently be losing 2 players rather than one if Douglas is to leave. The other challenge will be to replace the 20+ goals scored between JD / AP – these have to be found elsewhere.

    Overall I can accept that in order to improve we may have to replace some players that we hold very dear – the dip in JD’s performance level in the latter part of the season as he tired was noticeable, and yes the Boro equivalents ran all over our midfield in the play off games when it mattered. To go further we’ll need better – although I’ve a feeling that whilst me may have a lot of “footballers” to come in – we lack leaders and physicality – no better test to see if we can cope than Ipswich on day 1 then.

    There doesn’t seem to be a lot of sentiment around GP these days, maybe that’s inevitable and just us catching up with the rest of football, but I really do hope that this is handled well by BFC, if it is the end for JD – he deserves that. His performance in that epic Chelsea cup game at GP will live long in the memory – possibly his finest for us.

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  2. You have put it perfectly and I might well quote your reply tomorrow as it sums up exactly what I think about JD.

    We must keep the positivity in the dressing room and how he is handled might well have a lot to say in that.

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    • Surprised you weren’t aware of JDs destructive behaviour under our last 2 managers.Whilst I agree he’s been a good signing apart from age catching up with him this last season there is no doubt in my mind it’s time to move him on.We only cherry picked players from Swindon due to the funding of Matthew Benham (who he has also fallen out with)not the stature of our club being bigger than them something we are not IMHO

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      • Bill there is an awful lot of stuff that I know and have been made well aware of that I feel is wrong to put in the blogs. Maybe I pull my shots a bit but I think reading between the lines I make it quite clear what I feel about JD.

        As far a Swindon are concerned they are another of the so called bigger named clubs who we have caught up and overtaken, of course totally thanks to the funding of MB but we are creating the infrastructure both on and off the pitch to ensure that we stay ahead of them.

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  3. Hello Bill, no I haven’t heard about JD’s behaviour but your description of it seems a bit strong- only heard the recent rumour doing the rounds, perhaps to justify him being outed. I may have been living under a rock for the past 4 years but have never heard anything like this about him. Only that he is a strong character ,direct and speaks his mind – that kind of thing – oh and of course seemingly loyal to MW, as were the rest of the squad. I’d overlook anyone falling out with Uwe, we know that pretty much the entire team did in the dressing room on occasions, and I could fully understand why.

    So i’ll judge JD on what I have seen – his performances, and on that basis i’m inclined to agree with you – a great signing who has been an inspirational part of BFC’s rise – but perhaps time to move on to a club where he’ll be a regular starter.

    I do hope that MB and the new regime can handle a few big personalities though – and I don’t mean disruptive. Otherwise we’ll see a few more shown the door before the season starts, not comfortable with the thought that only “yes men” will get on in this brave new world. Hope it’s not the case.

    I think we’ve moved past Swindon now and are re-establishing ourselves as a solid club in the 2nd tier in all respects. This is very much the positive legacy of MB’s ownership – breathing life back in to our beautiful old club.

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    • Let’s be honest if JD was 6 years younger these issues would be tolerated or adressed and a solution sorted.However the owner is funding a new modern direction with the requirement for all staff to get behind and those who don’t will be moved on.I couldn’t really care less about players these days they come and go but when Greville posted his adoration of JD,when he knows only too well how disrupted he has been I wanted to put some balance on here.If I had supported BFC for the last 7 years I expect I would look at JD as a legend alas it’s been 54 years.

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      • You’re completely entitled to your view of course, but this description of the new modern BFC leaves me cold, It’s football’s version of the Truman show, some Utopian dream of perfect harmony which is anything but. I really hope it isn’t like that, and if it is it won’t work, whether we could care less about players or not. True the modern stereotype of a Prem footballer isn’t great, I don’t like it either & can’t relate to them. But we have been lucky not to have many/any of these so far, maybe in the future but not now. Personally I would “turn it in” when the day came that I couldn’t connect with or relate to any of my Bees heroes.

        I’m sure you know a bit more about JD than me, i’ll just have to go on the performances and effort, and on this score the bloke owes us nothing and left everything he had on the pitch. That’ll do for me, he goes, if he goes, with my thanks and respect.

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  4. I’m fascinated how this story broke. I am aware that either by accident or design JD was listed as ‘released’ on the Football League list of available players. Is it not possible that this, and only this, was the ‘Sky sources’ being quoted? I, like you, await some form of official comment from the club before eulogising too heavily.

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    • Rebelbee i think I’ve already posted my positive opinion of JD as a player.maybe it’s an age thing but I stopped seeing players as Hero’s many moons ago.I went to the end of season red ball do when we got promoted and didn’t speak to any of the players although many other fans did.I just love the direction MB is taiing this club and can’t understand after the crap we have had running this club over the last 50 years what is there not to like.

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  5. I agree with Bill in that my Brentford heroes are the boys of the early 70’s – the Brodies, Gelsons, Hawleys, Ross’s Oh and Allan Mansley from the previous decades rather than the players of today.

    I feel an article coming on…….

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  6. Ah yes allan mansley i saw him in one game and that why i started watching Brentford but do remember all there are so many things said about this and that player and yes some do play a roll as well its like when you fish OH if you had seen the size of that fish that got away by that i mean do not believe all you hear

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