I thought long and hard before writing yesterday’s article.
Saturday’s match left me as angry, bemused, disappointed and concerned as I am sure it did every other Brentford supporter.
The easy option would have been to give in to my emotions and vent my spleen and write something highly negative and critical about what is currently happening both on and off the pitch at Griffin Park.
That would most certainly have been the easy option and knee jerk reaction but I resisted the temptation, not without some difficulty, and instead I wrote the quickest and shortest article of my life, only twenty-eight words in length, that took me all of thirty seconds to compose and yet it was read by more people than anything else that I have written for the last few months – indeed since news of the Mark Warburton crisis broke in February!
Maybe there is a lesson in that fact for me too! Perhaps less is more and the least time I take and the shorter the article the more popular it will be! Maybe that is something for me to ponder and deliberate about for the future! Believe me anything that reduces the amount of time I generally spend most days thinking through, researching, analysing and finally writing each article would be greatly welcomed by me!
I received several replies from readers who were far less restrained than me
Michael Ohl was brief and brutal:
Very disappointing. My expectations have been adjusted to staying up. Terrible ref. Ugly opponents. Vibe looks like he might be a god signing. Clarke may develop into something useful. Button was outstanding. At least the pitch gave a good account of itself.
Rebel Bee gave a more studied, if sardonic view of the situation:
Totally inept from all involved perhaps bar Button, and it was a game with no redeeming features at all. Good to see all the new coaches are working their magic! Maybe the sleep coach is doing his thing – most of the players and crowd seemed to be having a nap in a shambolic first half where we could have been four down. As poor a midfield quartet as I’ve seen since the days of Butcher.
This is exactly what happens when good players leave, to be replaced by inadequate cover from lower levels across Europe. There are huge questions over the competency of Marinus Dijkhuizen with his big decisions all going badly wrong for him.
We have huge problems – and it is time to face facts.
That is fairly close to what I might well have written immediately after the match if I had given way to temptation and it is quite natural to let off steam after what was, in truth, a totally inept performance but, as I will say later, I think it might well be more reasonable, fair, accurate and beneficial if we wait for a little while longer before we come to any firm decision and pronounce our verdict.
Steve Houlihan was also not too impressed with what he had seen:
Marinus has to work with what he is given and on yesterday’s show that will not be enough. The game reminded me of a League Two performance when MK Dons beat us 3-0 at Griffin Park. On that day a faster and stronger team made us look like a development squad.
We are simply not at Championship level at the moment. I fear for the team with two tough northern away days coming up.
Gary Manning was disappointed that I had not given my immediate viewpoint:
Well Greville sometimes one word is too many and a thousand not enough. I was hoping for some comforting words today to cheer me up! Did you ghost write Len Shackleton’s chapter on football directors, in his autobiography?
No I didn’t, I am not nearly that old and plead not guilty to writing that famous blank page which provided chapter and verse on Shackleton’s opinion on the average football director’s knowledge of the game.
Dave Hodson also had a gentle dig at me:
Come on Greville I don’t expect sulky heads-dropped performances from the players and I certainly don’t expect one from our mercurial correspondent. I expect you in early tomorrow and want those fingers clattering away at the keyboard until there’s smoke coming out of them. Keep the faith.
Well Dave, I hope you are feeling a bit better now.
Alan Dally was also concerned at the current state of affairs:
Greville, you are right. Least said soonest forgotton, as my old Granny use to say.One observation from me is that, despite what many think, we miss Dougie big time. Or at least Toums does. He is a mere shadow of the player who played alongside Douglas. The worrying thing from my point of view is that the togetherness that was apparent under Warbs has disappeared out of the window. Maybe that should not surprise me as the massive changes since May seem to have torn the place apart.
It is still very early days, but nevertheless the warning signs are there. My initial thoughts on Marinus are not totally positive, but I’ll be the first to admit he has been dealt a tough hand up until now. As I said, it is still very early days, but my Bournemouth mate who took a 20/1 bet on us being relegated is smiling at the moment. He took this bet as he was convinced that the Bees totally lost the plot in February and will pay a heavy price for their stupidity. Personally I think we will still finish around midtable, but the doubts are now creeping in.
Gary Hennell was more positive in his comments:
I am from a family that goes back over a hundred years supporting Brentford, we all live in Kettering these days but travel as much as possible to Griffin Park when we can afford to. Me, Dad and my sons were there yesterday and I can’t help feeling that Marinus hasn’t figured his system out yet for the players he has. Diagouraga will never be a centre midfield distributor in a 4-3-3 formation, Warbs knew this, I think we all know McCormack is better equipped for that role all day long. However, what I really liked was that he spotted it and had no hesitation in taking him off, just a shame we were 2-0 down before he acted.
As soon as we switched to 4-4-2 Brentford were transformed and Vibe came alive – he needs to be in the middle not out on the wing, he has a great attitude, works hard and produced some fantastic flick-ons and clinical finishing – he will be a great buy! Sadly, my view is that Brentford look totally disorganised this year and lack pace in transistion to attack, Hoff looks out of his depth and lacked any support. I liked Colin a lot, he looked composed, quick and with good distribution – an upgrade in my opinion, so I think Benham and his statto’s are getting it right on the whole.
I just wish we had more time to get this system sorted and not have sold our only natural left winger, which I put money on will cost us big time against Leeds. Anyway, fingers crossed for Jota, McEachran, Judge & Vibe – now there’s a Championship attacking front line I cant wait to see in action. Will we go down? No, not with these all fit, only if Marinus takes too long to figure out 4-3-1-2 is the only system he can play at the moment and I would shove Judge in the middle to create the lovely passing moves we saw at Griffin Park last year. Up the Bees!
There are some conflicting opinions there and the message boards and social media have also been red hot with vituperative comments, in-depth questioning of our approach and expressions of doom and gloom leavened with some isolated pleas for more patience and understanding.
So where do I stand?
I really do not want to regurgitate what I have already written at great length over the past few weeks, but the key points and questions that are flashing repeatedly through my mind are as follows:
- Brentford are and will remain a selling club until our income levels increase and are more in line with the requirements of a competitive Championship team
- Without the largesse and continued support of Matthew Benham we would have a National League budget at best if we were forced to live within our means
- We are also hindered by the need to adhere to the stringent Financial Fair Play restrictions
- Players follow the money and there is very little you can do about it particularly if they have release clauses in their contract
- They also get distracted when they learn what the market rate is as well as how much their former colleagues are earning elsewhere
- All players have their price and if another club meets our valuation then they will be sold
- All players who are sold will be quickly and adequately replaced
- Have we sold too many players too quickly and allowed evolution to become revolution through trying to integrate too many new players at one time
- Marinus Dijkhuizen’s plan have been totally stymied and hamstrung by having his squad decimated by injuries to key players and late sales
- It seems ridiculous for him to have taken one squad to Portugal, bedded them down and then pretty much having to start again given the loss of so many players
- Homegrown players are proving to be too expensive, however is the squad blend correct or are we now relying on too many new foreign players who have no experience of the daunting requirements of the Championship
- Are we in desperate need of leaders both in the dressing room and on the pitch
- Will our analytics and stats based player recruitment prove to be successful and will our new players prove to be up to the required standard once they have settled in to their new surroundings
- How many of our new recruits will blossom and become saleable assets in the near future as we need to keep selling players at a massive profit to afford better replacements
- Have our new Co-Directors of Football enough experience and suitable contacts to ensure that, as has been the case for the past couple of years, we obtain privileged access to Premier League loanees of massive talent and potential a la Pritchard
- We pride ourselves in thinking outside the box but do we we have enough basic football experience and contacts in the boardroom and behind the scenes.
- Given that our playing budget has surely been increased substantially from last season’s figure, has this extra money been well spent
- Have current prime assets such as Button and Judge, whose departure would be massively harmful to us, been offered enhanced contracts commensurate with their value, given that they are obviously now well aware of what they could perhaps earn elsewhere
- We have now lost more than enough of last season’s squad and cannot afford to lose any more key starters particularly given the current injury jinx
- We were promised a squad enhanced both in quantity and quality. Injuries have taken their toll and the jury is out about the quality of all our newcomers but to be reduced to a situation where we have untried youngsters on the bench, no spare forwards, McCormack as our midfield playmaker and Harlee Dean playing an an auxiliary striker is unacceptable and hard to accept
- We need at least two more strikers, a playmaker, a midfield enforcer and perhaps even another centre half
- Is the dressing room a happy place and are the players buying into the new methods
- The Head Coach has received a baptism of fire and I hope that there is no disconnect between him and the recruitment side of the back room team and that he is being given a reasonable say in player movements both in and out
- It must be particularly galling for Marinus to receive constant questions about ins and outs when neither are his responsibility
- The new pitch played perfectly on Saturday, but did the previous abomination provide further problems for the squad and backroom staff
- Have we been too zealous in adhering to a totally new way of running the club rather than trying to combine the best of the old with the best of the new
- There were articles in the match programme from the Chairman and Chief Executive who both made excellent points regarding the problems we have faced and they tried to manage expectations and urge a sense of realism towards the outcome of this season
- They may well be correct but their comments do beg the question that given the enhanced budget is it reasonable for us to spend far more money to at best stand still but more likely go a fair way backwards when it might be thought that Matthew Benham was perhaps looking for us to kick on this season
- There is also talk that Miguel Rios has left the club which is also worrying news given how well he is regarded in academy and youth circles
Dijkhuizen’s comments after Saturday’s game were telling, honest in the extreme and extremely concerning and they pretty much sum up what every Brentford supporter is thinking:
I didn’t recognise my team in the first half. There was no organisation and we were poor on the ball. We are not the strongest and most physical side so if you are bad on the ball then we have no chance. But I know we have to be patient because some of our players are only having their second game in the Championship.
It is difficult to adapt but we need to get used to the tempo because players coming from Germany and Holland are not ready. We have had too many changes in the preseason and now have had some big injuries to players. We also have a bench with no strikers on it and the side looks to be lacking leadership. Hopefully we will be able to bring one or two more players in before the window closes.
He actually expressed himself far more clearly and cogently than any supporter and given his position and insider’s view, it is obvious that he feels that matters are serious and need immediate attention. Perhaps he has been more far more open and honest than his superiors would have liked!
Marinus has also received a lot of flack – totally unjustified in my opinion, for his apparent detachment and lack of emotion on the bench during matches. If that is your opinion of him then perhaps you should take note of this quotation from the excellent and thoughtful Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale which comes from Michael Calvin’s wonderful new book on the psyche of football managers – Living on The Volcano:
I was criticised for about a year at Exeter for not having any passion, because they expected something different. I live this. I’m consumed by it. Try thinking about a really important decision and screaming at the same time. It doesn’t work, does it?
Keep quiet, think clearly. I’m taking everything out of my mind and concentrating on one big decision, the thirty seconds out of ninety minutes when I have to get everything right.
There are a lot of questions that still need to be asked about the situation at Brentford, both on and off the pitch, and quite frankly there are still very few answers yet to be had. The transfer window closes tomorrow night and we need to see what strengthening has taken place before that time, given the two exciting arrivals today, and indeed if we lose any more of our assets too, and we should not discount that possibility either.
Of course I am concerned. I had hoped that with our new mould-breaking strategy and increased investment we would progress even from last season’s miraculous achievements but I remain fully realistic and aware of the time it takes for new systems, approaches and, indeed, players to settle down and bed in ,and we now have a welcome and much needed gap of a fortnight before our next game where a lot of hard work will doubtless be carried out.
Let us see where we are at the beginning of October when we go into the next international break and I am sure that the situation will look a lot clearer by that time.