Too Soon To Tell – 31/8/15

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. We are also hindered by the need to adhere to the stringent Financial Fair Play restrictions
  4. Players follow the money and there is very little you can do about it particularly if they have release clauses in their contract
  5. They also get distracted when they learn what the market rate is as well as how much their former colleagues are earning elsewhere
  6. All players have their price and if another club meets our valuation then they will be sold
  7. All players who are sold will be quickly and adequately replaced
  8. 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
  9. Marinus Dijkhuizen’s plan have been totally stymied and hamstrung by having his squad decimated by injuries to key players and late sales
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. Are we in desperate need of leaders both in the dressing room and on the pitch
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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.
  17. Given that our playing budget has surely been increased substantially from last season’s figure, has this extra money been well spent
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. We need at least two more strikers, a playmaker, a midfield enforcer and perhaps even another centre half
  22. Is the dressing room a happy place and are the players buying into the new methods
  23. 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
  24. It must be particularly galling for Marinus to receive constant questions about ins and outs when neither are his responsibility
  25. The new pitch played perfectly on Saturday, but did the previous abomination provide further problems for the squad and backroom staff
  26. 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
  27. 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
  28. 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
  29. 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.

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Nothing To Say – 30/8/15

As Thumper’s Law so memorably states – If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all, so here is my verdict on Brentford’s performance yesterday against Reading…….

No Cheering In The Press Box! – Tom Moore Speaks – 27/8/15

sandsoftime-image-1-779168834I grew up relishing and poring over the words of the late, great, legendary George Sands, the writer sans pareil for The Middlesex Chronicle. Those were gentler, less hurried and frenetic times when he could spin out an elegant, witty and erudite match report to at least a couple of thousand words and he had the time and opportunity to do so given that he had pretty much the whole week to hone and refine his words until the publication of the one weekly edition.  He was not required or expected to interview players, or ferret out stories regarding transfer rumours or behind the scenes manoeuvrings – only the games mattered with perhaps a brief respectful comment from the team manager of the time.

George held the title of Sports Editor at the newspaper for thirty-five years and is best remembered for attending a total of one thousand one hundred and twenty-six consecutive Brentford games between December 1953 and May 1976, and his incredible achievement is listed in The Guinness Book of Records. He was so well regarded within the local community that he served so wonderfully that a testimonial match was held for him in 1980, surely an unparalleled mark of respect for a journalist. One day perhaps The Chronicle will mark his memory by publishing an anthology of his columns which have easily stood the test of time and remain a wonderful read to this day.

The life of a journalist today has totally changed given the ever-changing and evolving media landscape, the emergence of social media and the overwhelming need for immediacy with news having to be disseminated instantly and Tom picaccurately before it passes its sell-by date. I therefore went to one of the best and most popular local exponents of this art, Tom Moore, and asked him to describe the role of a local football reporter in 2015.

1. Please describe you current role and job

My current role is sports writer for GetWestLondon and our local papers. My main tasks are to cover Brentford, Barnet and Wealdstone as well as local sport in Hounslow but, depending on what the team needs, I will help out regarding covering our other clubs (Chelsea, Fulham, QPR, AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe). I also report on Middlesex CCC. 

When it comes to reporting on Brentford, I see my role as someone who is a bridge between the fans and the club. On press conference day, I’ll always put out question suggestions for Marinus Dijkhuizen on my Twitter page (@TomMooreJourno), which is why I end up asking about Lewis Macleod most weeks. He won’t be fit before the international break so forgive me if I don’t ask about him this week!

I also report on local sport in the borough of Hounslow. If you have a sports story, please email me (tom.moore@trinitymirror.com).

2. How did you get there? Were did you work previously?

I studied English at the University of Salford before enrolling in News Associates’ journalism course. After passing my exams and gaining experience, I started at London24 and worked there between October 2011 and December 2014 before taking on a role at GetWestLondon in February.

3. Did you always want to become a journalist? Any unrequited ambitions?

Everything from my A-Level choices onwards was geared to becoming a journalist.

4. Are you a Brentford fan? If not who do you support? If so is supporting Brentford a help or a hindrance?

I am a Brentford fan. It is a help in that I know where the club has come from, having stood on the terraces for ninety long minutes to watch us suffer a 7-0 defeat and I know all about the players of different eras. It is also a hindrance when you have to remain professional after tough defeats (Doncaster, Yeovil) or the great moments (Preston).

5. No cheering in the press box! Do you remain impartial and is it easy to do so?

I will talk to other journalists and offer my opinion about the performance. Cheering in the press box – as a rule, no (it may have failed on certain occasions – Chelsea). Normally a smile. When it comes to copy, I believe honesty is the best policy, whether people like it or not.

6. What are you favourite and worst memories of following Brentford?

My favourite memories as a fan normally revolve around the day out. Walsall in 2010 was a dire game but I had a great day with a mate. Leeds away last season was special. My favourite away day as a fan remains Darlington in 2009. The worst has to be losing 7-0 at Peterborough – a seven hour round trip and a lot of money spent for a disgraceful showing. Barrow away in the cup was also grim.

7. Any favourite players – or ones you hated?

I’m not going to reveal my favourites in the current squad. My first favourite player was Jay Tabb; the last one was Tony Craig. My least favourite player was Thomas Pinault. I wasn’t a fan of Sam Sodje by the end. I thought the hype had gone to his head.

8. Talk us through a week in the life of Tom Moore

Monday – Send a fair few emails regarding the previous weekend and produce stories from whom I have spoken to the previous weekend. Have a think about print coverage.
Tuesday – The paper takes more priority as I compile the local sport content for print. I’ll keep an eye on what’s going on at the Football League clubs I specialise in.
Wednesday – Finish off the paper and prepare web copy.
Thursday – Ring managers and attend Brentford’s media day, typing up stories from them ahead of the weekend.
Friday – Day Off (or help out colleagues if needed)
Saturday – Game
Sunday – Day Off (it can include a swim to provide me with some me relaxation time, alternatively I’ll try and get ahead for the following week)

9. How much pressure are you under to get scoops and unearth your own stories?

I put pressure on myself to do that.

10. How hard is it to get information from the new regime at the club? Was it easier in the past?

Not dramatically different.

11. How would you describe the attitude towards the club now from the national media? Are they hoping our new approach totally succeeds or fails?

It depends on the person.

12. Can you compare your dealings with the current Head Coach and previous managers?

The first manager I dealt with was Uwe Rosler. It took time to build a relationship with him but we got on well by the time he left for Wigan. I had plenty of time for Mark Warburton and spoke to him regularly. He’d always pick up the phone when I needed to ring him. As for Marinus Dijkhuizen, it’s early days so it’s just a case of working out how he ticks.

13. Do you have much contact with the players and how easy are they to deal with? Most/least helpful?

I speak to a player or two at least once a week on Thursdays and after games. Most are easy to deal with. George Saville was not always the most forthcoming. Compared to other clubs I’ve reported on it is easy.

14. No names but do you have your sources within the club who give you off the record information?

Yes.

15. Are you aware of any of the greats who came before you like George Sands?

I’m aware of George Sands. My direct predecessor, Jake Murtagh, did an exceptional job covering the club so I know I have big shoes to fill.

16. How do you feel about Brentford’s raised profile in the national media?

A raised profile means an increase in competition for stories etc. Reporting on the club in the League One/League Two days had its advantages.

17. Your favourite football journalist?

I’ll always read Jonathan Liew’s articles. I’ll also make sure I read stuff by people I get on with, whether football or not. Tim Wigmore is an excellent cricket/politics journalist.

18. How would you describe Brentford’s current strategy?

If Brentford tried to do what every other club did we’d lose out every time. It’s a novel approach. Whether it works, time will tell.

19. How would you describe Brentford’s playing style?

I loved the Mark Warburton style of football of just pure ‘all out attack’ but I do feel it went slightly too far at times. I want to see positive football as in every decision made is a positive one.

20. How do you feel about all the changes in personnel on and off the field and the recent spate of player sales?

I view Brentford players and staff in a different way to supporters; namely on how good an interviewee they are. Some players, not naming names, are better talkers than others.
I had a good relationship with Mark Warburton. I interviewed him over the phone soon after the announcement was made that he was going to leave the club. So, from that perspective, it was sad to see him leave. I knew how to work with him. Others were less helpful so it didn’t matter to me on that score that they left.

21. Are the foreign players different/easier to deal with than the English ones? How do they differ in approach or professionalism?

It all depends on the player. Jota’s English, for example, is not at ‘interview standard’ so I’ve yet to speak to him since his arrival. Others know English so can talk. Lasse Vibe and Marcos Tebar speak excellent English.

Thanks again, Tom, for providing all of us with such a detailed insight into your work and explaining so cogently how you operate and what is expected of you every week.

Reasons To Be Cheerful – 25/8/15

Queens Park Rangers – Nil, Brentford – Three. Doesn’t that scoreline have a lovely ring to it? It slides off the tongue so smoothly and perfectly. Just try saying it for yourself and see!

No matter that the victory came in a Development Squad tussle rather than in a first team match. Any victory over the old enemy at whatever level, and yes, despite any suggestions to the contrary regarding the likes of Fulham or even Birmingham City, QPR are certainly Brentford’s traditional rival and bête noire, must be savoured and luxuriated over.

Just in case our friends from Shepherd’s Bush think that yesterday’s result was an aberration, fluke or anomaly let me just remind them that we did the double over them last season too, scoring six times in the two matches and dominating proceedings to such an extent that even The Invisible Man, the immortal Betinho, managed to get himself on the scoreboard.

Oh, and if that still isn’t enough we also beat the Ra Ra’s by four goals to two last Saturday in the Under 18 Youth League.

Have I done enough gloating. No, not yet by a long chalk. I’ve barely got started.

My good friend, Mark Croxford, watched yesterday’s match which was dominated from start to finish by a young, vibrant, confident, exciting and talented Brentford team who could and should have scored at least six times and afterwards he spoke to a Rangers fan who ruefully and despondently admitted that it was the second time in only a couple of days that his team had been totally outplayed by a Brentford team. What wonderful words and doesn’t it make you feel good to read them particularly given the source of the comment?

There were lots of noteworthy performances and Lee Carsley and his coaches must have been purring with a mixture of pride and pleasure given how well the team had played on the day.

I also suspect that he was feeling a lot more sanguine than he was a couple of weeks ago after the Capital One Cup hammering by Oxford United. On the one hand he must have been proud at the fact that so many of his best prospects were named in the Brentford first team, but on the other, he would not have been happy at the way in which Josh Clarke, Josh Laurent, Courtney Senior and Jermaine Udumaga were thrown to the wolves and hung out to dry by being totally exposed in an horrendously weak team that lacked any real first team experience or seemingly even the will to compete.

Jack Bonham had the confidence boost of a long awaited clean sheet yesterday which included an excellent penalty save. He had an awful night against Oxford United when he could do little to prevent a torrent of goals and also fell foul of a fickle crowd who treated him appallingly, but hopefully he is now well on the road to recovery. He has all the ability in the world and he has been well coached, but success as a goalkeeper at Football League level is as much about intangibles such as sound judgement, good temperament and the ability to make instantaneous and correct decisions. I have long held the view that Bonham needs to gain experience by means of a loan spell away from Griffin Park and from playing games every week in which there are points and bonuses at stake rather than withering on the bench and playing Development squad matches which generally lack the necessary bite and passion.

Josh Clarke has also managed to rehabilitate himself from being a winger whose career was stalling to becoming an exciting attacking right back who now looks as if he could make a name for himself. He was one of the few players who enhanced his reputation against Oxford United and he must surely have taken inspiration from the example of Moses Odubajo who set such high standards last season.

Aaron Greene has pace, height, power and dribbling ability and was deeply impressive throughout the preseason period. He too has a real chance of making the grade.

Josh Laurent had a brief taste of first team football against Oxford and has now also made his Football League debut whilst on loan at Newport County. He too has much to learn and will certainly have his eyes opened throughout his loan spell but he has real ability and could go far. As an ex-QPR prospect whose departure from the club was greeted by massive outpourings of anger and frustration on QPR message boards, he must have been upset to have missed yesterday’s thrashing of his old team but I am sure he is happy to be where he is for the time being.

Daniel O’Shaughnessy is also finally settling down and developing into an effective central defender who might soon benefit from a loan spell and first team football elsewhere.

Midfielder Jan Holldack has also caught the eye with some encouraging midfield performances playing just behind the main striker in which he has demonstrated a real eye for goal from long range.

We are also blessed with real talent up front with Jermaine Udumaga, who made his Championship debut at Turf Moor last weekend and by no means looked out of place, Courtney Senior who has already made his first team debut whilst on loan for Wycombe Wanderers last season and Montell Moore who has much to prove after last season’s off-field indiscretions but is blessed with massive ability.

There is also a plethora of players coming through at an even younger age group and the likes of Tom Field, James Ferry, Zain Westbrooke and Gradi Milenge are all expected to improve further this season.

Brentford have gained much publicity and even notoriety over the last few months from their oft-stated policy of using a statistically based approach towards player identification and recruitment.

That is all very well but unless that strategy is underpinned and supported by a successful Academy system that also produces players who come into first team contention then all our efforts are likely to end in failure. We have lavished care, attention and monetary support into a Category Two Academy and hopefully it will start to bear fruit shortly.

We also need to ensure that there is a tried and tested pathway from the Academy however, first team places have to be earned on merit and the Oxford United experience when far too many youngsters were thrown together at one time clearly demonstrated that young players, however promising they are, need to be eased into the first team gently and in small numbers and also surrounded, encouraged and supported by more experienced team mates.

That being said, I would love us to be in a position before the end of this current season to introduce a policy or protocol whereby there has to be at least one Academy or Development Squad product on the bench for every first team game, with every effort, if not a directive, to be made to ensure that some of them actually play in the Championship and that we continue to give them pitch experience in all cup matches.

Yesterday was good news, firstly for the boost that any victory over QPR brings us, but, just as importantly because it provided further firm evidence that we are a long way ahead of our rivals in terms of our youth development – and that is really a reason to be cheerful.

Tipping Point – 23/8/15

Did as well as could be expected given what little we had, might be a fair description of Brentford’s performance at Turf Moor yesterday.

Burnley were tough, well organised and uncompromising and proved hard to break down, but in all honesty they were pretty dour and uninspired and were really there for the taking, particularly as they were lacking in confidence given that they were still searching for their first victory of the season.

Brentford more than matched them throughout the first half when we pinged the ball out to both wings with pace and accuracy with Diagouraga linking the play skilfully, and but for some pretty insipid finishing from the otherwise lively Vibe, a good save by Heaton from Judge’s well placed free kick and Hofmann not gambling and anticipating a couple of opportunities from penetrative balls into the area, we would have been comfortably ahead.

As it was, the home crowd was already beginning to moan and mutter and get on the back of their team when Brentford unforgivably gave away the initiative at a time when they were in total control and conceded yet another soft goal from Burnley’s first corner kick when Jones’s excellent delivery left Hofmann floundering at the far post, he lost his man and Keane headed home easily without much of a challenge. Maybe there had been a foul on Hofmann who claimed that he’d been pushed, but he was guilty of ball watching and we need to show better organisation and far more determination when defending set pieces or we will continue to suffer the consequences. Surely our set piece coach should also be looking at how we defend them as well as helping us to take advantage of our own opportunities.

Our heads went down at this self inflicted blow and Burnley gratefully took control without ever seriously threatening a second goal.

Our threat also disappeared for long spells, but we improved when Colin made an excellent debut as a second half substitute. He is pacy, plays with his head up and uses the ball intelligently and he looked to be an excellent replacement for Moses Odubajo. Finally some good news!

We flitted in and out of the game throughout the second half and went close with a long range effort from Kerschbaumer whistling narrowly over the crossbar and auxiliary striker Harlee Dean, easily our man of the match, almost getting on the end of a loose ball in the area during a late but abortive flurry.

As it was Burnley just about deserved the victory on the overall balance of play but had the Bees scored in the first quarter of the match, as they surely should have done, then Burnley heads would have gone down and Brentford would likely have emerged victorious.

In all honesty Brentford were totally hamstrung through lack of options. With the late sale on Friday of Andre Gray, who was an interested onlooker from the main stand, and the injury list still biting deep into our limited resources, pretty much every fit senior player was included in the squad and, as for the bench, it was utterly threadbare, and more resembled a kindergarten than being fit for purpose for a purported Championship promotion contender, with Senior, Udumaga and Clarke all included, and as Alan Judge ruefully admitted afterwards, it contained a mixture of defenders and kids and gave us no flexibility to change things.

Hofmann in particular needed a break as he had run himself out with little support but he was forced to lumber on given the lack of a suitable alternative.

I have written at length over the past week about our approach and provided a rationale for why we have allowed so many players to leave. I have to admit it hurt me to watch Stuart Dallas make such an impact and create the Leeds equaliser against Sheffield Wednesday and he would have made a real difference for us up at Turf Moor, it was similarly galling to see Jon Toral look so lively for Birmingham against Derby (I did try and refrain from mentioning how impressive Clayton Donaldson looked too but I failed dismally) but we have made our bed and we now have to lie in it.

We were promised an increased depth and size of squad with adequate cover in every position but so far that has proved to be a chimera. Injuries and sales, forced and otherwise, have meant that we have been reduced to using raw development squad recruits just to fill the bench and ensure that we have the requisite number of seven substitutes.

To be frank, I did not expect there to be quite the level of upheaval that has taken place recently and that we would pretty much be looking for an entirely new team.

A reported opportunity to earn the thick end of ten million pounds for Gray from Burnley when the add ons are included made the deal inevitable, and we have almost doubled our record sale figure in less than a fortnight. I have no complaints about any of the sales as long as those who have left us as well as the long term injured are adequately replaced – and quickly.

Without Moses, Gray and the injured Jota we have lost all of our pace and dynamism and much of our guile and we look a pallid and lethargic shadow of the exciting, speedy and vibrant team of last season that cut opponents to ribbons, but I fully realise and pray that things can change very quickly if we are able to complete deals for our prime targets and they then settle down quickly into a new team and pattern of play. Big ifs though!

Max Colin (great name) made an encouraging start at Burnley but Vibe, Hofmann and Kerschbaumer have, quite understandably, yet to find their feet in the hustle and bustle of the Championship. All have contributed little cameos to date with Kerschbaumer’s wonderful back heel at Bristol last weekend which helped set up our opening goal and his beautifully weighed pass yesterday that created  a massive chance for Vibe that he spurned. Vibe and Hofmann have also had their moments, particularly with the fourth goal at Bristol, but they have been pretty rare and spasmodic.

We have played some excellent football in spurts in each of our opening three league matches but we have looked disorganised, disjointed and open in defence, vulnerable at set pieces and lacking cover from the midfield and without Gray, pretty toothless up front. The loss of Douglas has nowhere near been covered adequately and with the departures of Pritchard, Dallas, Douglas and Gray, and Jota’s injury we now have to replace nearly three quarters of the goals we scored last season, and frankly I cannot see where they are going to come from.

It is hard to overestimate the impact that the injuries, combined with player transfers have had on us. As we came into the last couple of weeks of the preseason I fully expect that Dijkhuizen was planning on starting with the following team – until fate intervened:

  • Button
  • Odubajo
  • Dean
  • Bjelland
  • Bidwell
  • Diagouraga
  • McEachran
  • Jota
  • Judge
  • Gogia
  • Gray

Five of that likely starting eleven have either left the club or are currently unavailable for the long term and with Douglas and Dallas also departed we are really creaking at the seams. Midfield was our strong point last season with a combination of goals, pace, flair and flexibility and several selection options too, whereas now we are struggling for bodies and balance.

The season has barely begun but what happens over the next week or so up until the end of the transfer window in my opinion will set the tone for how the remainder of the season will pan out. Yes, of course we can sign loan players from early September too but we need to get some semblance of a settled team as well as strength in depth and give Marinus a realistic chance to build and develop his squad. We are a bit of a shambles at the moment – understandably so, given all the circumstances, and yesterday I hope we reached our nadir and the tipping point as I do not expect to see such a weak squad again for the forseeable future.

We drastically need reinforcements, but they have to be of a suitable calibre and character, and players who are ideally not just short term bodies intended merely to paper over the cracks. It would be a gross overstatement to say that we are currently in crisis mode regarding the size, quality and battle readiness of our squad but we are certainly cash rich and player poor – a horribly dangerous combination that could lead us to be held to ransom and perhaps have our pockets picked as the dreaded deadline approaches. The international break also cannot come quickly enough as it will allow us the time to regroup and ideally integrate new players into our system.

We are running out of time and much has to happen over the next week or so and this is the time when our joint Directors of Football need to earn their spurs. Gentlemen –  it is over to you.

Some Other Opinions – 21/8/15

I wrote a long article yesterday giving my opinion on what is currently happening at Griffin Park. Since then the water has been further muddied by Andre Gray turning down Bristol City’s offer and returning to train with the Bees. Just when it appeared that everything had settled down again, at least for the next few days until the madness resumed, news broke of an apparent nine million pound offer from Burnley and that the move could even be completed in time for Gray to make his debut at Turf Moor tomorrow – against, of course, Brentford! You really could not make this up!

Who knows what the truth is as Burnley are not renowned for flashing the cash around, and your guess is as good as mine regarding whether Gray will actually play tomorrow, and if he does, for which team. We supporters are just totally confused and heartily fed up with a situation that appears to be spiralling away out of control. We just ask for resolution one way or the other, but in today’s crazy world of football when money talks and agents rule the roost, there appears to be little that we can do apart from sit tight and hold out for the valuation that we have set on the player to be met by a team that he actually wants to play for. Pretty obviously Brentford is no longer high up on his list!

We also pray that should Gray finally leave us that sufficient time remains for him to be suitably replaced and for other players also to be added to what is a thin and beleaguered squad at present. I well suspect that moves are afoot behind the scenes and Gray’s future does not predicate everything that is being planned by our brains trust, but the clock is ticking.

The person I really feel sorry for is poor Marinus Dijkhuizen who must really be questioning his decision to join this mad house given everything has been thrown at him recently. How can he make any plans for tomorrow’s match when he does not know who will be playing for his own team, let alone the opposition? My heart goes out to him and we need to be very patient and understanding towards him.

Maybe there will be further news to report as the day progresses but I suspect that this sad and sorry saga will drag into next week or even beyond.

As for my article, several fellow Brentford supporters also had trenchant opinions that I would like to share with you all.

Rob Boyce commented:

I would certainly agree that consolidation is required, and that with the influx of new players the opportunity arises to mesh them into a potent force, once (hopefully) the injury situation improves. I also agree that the updates on the pitch and injury situation are a welcome change in communication, and hope that they are continued periodically.

Headlangdon felt similarly:

Fantastic post Greville. A properly considered, long term / long game article. I am not so sure that we are still considered a ‘stepping stone’ anymore, due to Benham’s revolutionary ideas. Maybe we are more of a championship enigma, with poachable players, though – as we keep building, this will change. I am happy to sit and ride this journey out instead of rushing it. Lets back the players, lets back Marinus and #InBenhamWeTrust.

Rebel Bee held stronger views:

 

As always a great read and today’s edition does raise a few areas where i’d like to challenge you a little. Always though in a friendly manner as I know we share the some love for this amazing football club – or folk club as Marinus now calls it. 
Firstly, I accept that BFC are financially one of the smaller clubs in the top two divisions, but we can’t allow this to become a litany for failure though. Firstly we have a very wealthy owner, whilst his generosity should not be taken for granted I doubt he’ll see us as financial lightweights in this league. We also have a growing fan-base, increased commercial income and a new stadium on the horizon, that I believe we will fill. We are a big club to those in Leagues one and two and we simply have to do what is being done to us and find / take their better players.

I don’t see much evidence of this right now, we are doing our work in Continental Europe.  I would like us to find another Andre. Moses and alike here.
 Sure we have to be prudent and there is this outbreak of madness amongst our rivals at the moment as they chase next year’s Premier League and Sky monies – leave them to it and if crazy money is offered for our players which we cannot match then let’s do the deals and get as much in for them as possible, then reinvest. Smart work here can bridge the income gap to some extent, Bournemouth and others have made it work! 


Then we come to those magical stats, not mentioned so much in the piece today, but i’ll simply pose the question. How many of our summer signings have been made based on the new analytical stats based formula -not a complaint just really interested to know? I have my doubts and would imagine that the pace of change has forced compromises here. 


Then to communication, firstly I give huge credit to Mark Devlin for the work he does and the way he communicates – under his watch we are way better than ever before in areas he touches. As for the rest – woefully inadequate and worse than ever in my view. With all this change and uncertainty a few reassuring words and an update on “the plan” from the top would go a long way. I know that Matthew Benham isn’t seeking the role of “gobby” attention seeking owner or front man – I have no issue with that, but someone needs to step up, also to give more public help and support to Marinus.

What have we heard so far, nothing from the Chairman, nothing from the Director of Football who achieved much notoriety as a master communicator and motivational speaker. A little more from Director of Football number two – our very own Alan Turing (Mr Giles), usually with fairly clumsy remarks. And that’s it. Come on guys – some “Churchillian” positivity is needed here and now, something we can all get behind – is it so much to ask or are we just too needy? 


Finally on to Andre – luckily we won’t get mugged off here, to my addled brain he wants out and wants to go to Hull City, he was apparently at their game on Sunday or at least watched it on television! We have the fee we want but not from them. now I truly hope that Andre stays with us, but I now doubt it very much, and we have to be wary of Bruce and Hull playing games to let this run on and on to weaken our hand, also for “someone” to suggest to Andre that he make himself unavailable for selection due to the “stress” of it all. I hope Andre is better than this, but either way I think they will all meet their match in our Mr Benham. We are 
still a work in progress and there is much to improve upon, but BFC are rising – get used to it people.



Paul Dryden said:

An excellent post as ever. Could we possibly imagine say three years ago purchasing players for six hundred thousand pounds and then selling on for nine million around a year later? We do have a small squad and an horrendous injury list but hopefully just round the corner Mr Lewis Macleod will be making his long awaited debut! If he is as good as they say he is then we are in for a treat.



Stephen Burke 
stated:

It’s a real shame about Gray – he has obviously had a very productive summer/pre-season and come back a better, stronger player who could score thirty goals in a season.
 As to everything else, who is pulling the strings at the club? If as seems likely it’s Matthew Benham, it would be good if he could tell us what’s going on. But PR has never been his strength!



Richard Poole wanted us to kick on:

Great stuff Greville but I think even us supporters should be thinking differently if we as a club want to push on from last year and I do not mean throwing the cash around. Yes it is great that we are selling and buying players and beating our transfer record  but we are not that “Little Old Brentford” any more, we are a Championship team which showed last year that we fully deserve to be in this league. OK we need a bigger ground to go with our status but we are in the Championship so let’s do our best to stay there or dare I say go further. This is the best opportunity in years to establish Brentford FC in the higher tiers of football so i hope we give the coaching team what they need and have no regrets at the end of season as we all know in football how things can change so quickly.

Mark Croxford , as always the voice of reason said the following:

That’s an excellent analysis.
 I do feel a little sorry for Dijkhuizen as he has made two or three references to the fact that he is “only the Head Coach” and yet he is getting plagued during every interview with questions about transfers, incoming players, etc. I understand the questions have to be asked and we all want the answers but I do think he’s been left a bit exposed.

He made a rueful “at last” comment when asked about football matters during a recent interview.
 To the outsider, he’s Brentford’s manager and is being treated as such. The Evening Standard last night started their article by saying that “Dijkhuizen will be allowed to spend the whole £8 million…” 
If the club really wants to hammer home the message about the new structure, I do think there needs to be a bit more effort to include some of the decision-makers in the necessary public part of the process – and I don’t really mean Matthew Benham.
 The way the new set-up was announced, I’d have almost expected the Head Coach to do the pre-match and post-match interviews only – and leave all the other stuff to someone else!



Does anybody else have anything to add? If so please let me know bearing in mind that matters might well have changed yet again by the time I have finished writing this!

What’s Going On? – 20/8/15

So what’s going on at Griffin Park as bemused Brentford supporters anxiously await the puff of white smoke that will finally confirm the departure of Andre Gray and the inevitable conclusion to what has developed into a never ending saga that has dragged on for several weeks now?

On the face of it the evidence is damning as Gray will be just one more addition to what now seems to be a massive and increasing exodus of players from Griffin Park since the end of last season.

Alex Pritchard, Jon Toral, Richard Lee, Tommy Smith, Alfie Mawson, Nick Proschwitz, Will Grigg, Stuart Dallas, Tony Craig, Jonathan Douglas, Moses Odubajo are the others who are no longer with us, and there have now been massive changes and upheavals to the settled squad that ended the season just a few short months ago in May.

However it is only when you look at all the departures in greater detail and analyse the reason for each one that you can obtain a full understanding of what has been going on.

Richard Lee retired as also did Kevin O’Connor and Smith and Proschwitz were both deemed surplus to our requirements. Grigg too was not thought to be the answer to our needs up front despite his rehabilitation at MK Dons last season and to obtain a cool million pounds from Wigan for a player who has never found his feet at our club was surely good business on our part – if not an inspired purchase in the first place.

Alex Pritchard’s future was simply out of our hands as the loanee returned in triumph to his parent club, Spurs. Would that we were able to find a way to spirit him back to Griffin Park as his influence is sadly missed which is hardly surprising given how talented he is and how effective he was at playing the killer pass that opened up the opposition defence.

Jon Toral also returned to Arsenal after his loan spell, although there were certainly rumours that we had tried to retain his services either on loan or a permanent basis and I confess that it came as a real surprise to me when he joined Birmingham. It is open to question whether he would have played sufficiently often for us as a loan player to have kept Arsenal happy but I was half-expecting that he would become a permanent Brentford player as he would have been an excellent addition to the squad.

Alfie Mawson simply and understandably felt that he would not get a look-in at Griffin Park and joined Barnsley for whom he scored his first goal at Millwall on Tuesday night.

Stuart Dallas was another who felt that he would receive more opportunities elsewhere given that he was seen more as a valuable substitute rather than as an automatic first choice at Brentford. The fee of around one and a quarter million pounds represented a massive return on the sum paid by the club to Crusaders but I suspect that his value might well increase in coming years as he gains more experience, and hopefully our interests are protected with a sell-on clause.

The Jonathan Douglas situation has been discussed to death on message boards recently and I would agree that his influence was waning on the pitch and that he was unlikely to reconcile himself to becoming a bit part player. His departure was therefore the best solution for all parties although I still feel that he has yet to be replaced adequately particularly given Josh McEachran’s injury. Tony Craig was another who needed to leave with our gratitude for services rendered over the past three years.

Our hands were then completely tied regarding the loss of star fullback Moses Odubajo to Hull City as a three and a half million pound release clause had been inserted into his contract in order to ensure that he joined us in the first place from Leyton Orient a year ago, at a time when bigger fish were also sniffing around him.

Hull offered us the money and we could not get anywhere close to competing with them in terms of the wages they were able to offer him given the income they have received from their spell in the Premier League plus the massive parachute payments they are currently in receipt of.

It pains me to admit it but we are still small fry and remain well down the football totem pole. We are totally stymied and our growth is restricted by the limited capacity and lack of resources of Griffin Park and I understand that our income is in the bottom three of all twenty-four Championship teams.

No wonder we are losing our stars to clubs who can pay them better. We might say that we are bigger than say Hull City or even Bristol City, but we are deluding ourselves to even think that that is really the case. Maybe in years to come once we have moved into our new stadium at Lionel Road and reached the Premier League, or even stabilised in the top half of the Championship, we can then match what is being offered by others to our top players but for the time being we simply have to accept facts as they are.

We are on more than a stepping stone and a proving ground where players receive a platform and the necessary support and encouragement to thrive, shine and improve. The best of them will then be picked off by bigger clubs than us who will certainly offer higher wages and perhaps even a better professional opportunity.

Footballers have a short career and an even shorter window of opportunity. Today’s budding star is tomorrow’s broken leg or free transfer and I would never blame any footballer for chasing the main chance and following the money trail.

Let’s assume that Andre Gray is earning around four thousand pounds per week at Brentford. This is a guess and I might well be miles out in my figure. Bristol City then come in and offer to pay him perhaps sixteen thousand pounds per week. What can he be expected to do in the circumstances? What would you do if you were offered the same choice?

I will tell you what will happen with Gray if you haven’t already worked it out for yourself – he will quickly get his agent to see if a higher profile club is prepared to pay Brentford the required fee and either match or better the salary on offer.

If nothing else is forthcoming then he will surely sign for Bristol City as he cannot afford to allow such an incredible financial opportunity to perhaps quadruple his salary to slip through his hands. Nor should he be expected to. Loyalty for, and love of the club is for us supporters, not professional footballers. They have to look after Number One.

Let’s now look at the situation for Brentford. Bristol City have apparently had an offer of nine million pounds accepted, perhaps seven million pounds down and an additional two million pounds dependent upon performance. Let me just repeat those figures and allow them to sink in. Seven million pounds down and an additional two million pounds dependent upon performance. This for a player we bought for around six hundred thousand pounds a year or so ago. Ideally there is also a sell-on clause included too. This is double the previous record fee received for a player!

If we turn down an offer of this magnitude we risk having a disgruntled player on our hands whose value could quickly spiral downwards.

Similarly, promising young players are happy to join us as they are secure in the knowledge that they will be in the shop window at Griffin Park and it becomes a win/win situation for all parties. We sign players who might otherwise have spurned us and we also benefit from the transfer fees that we eventually receive when they move on.

Should the Gray deal go through then we will have taken in over twelve and a half million pounds in transfer fees this summer with the potential of further payments to come.

The Brentford model is very simple and straightforward. We utilise our proprietary statistics and mathematical modelling techniques to identify hot young prospects who have either been ignored or undervalued by our rivals. We buy low then sell high once another club has reached our valuation of the player. Every player without exception is for sale assuming we receive adequate compensation.

The key though is what we do with all the money we receive. We are not asset stripping or hoarding the cash as some critics have asserted, and the money taken in is not siphoned off to pay off debt. Yes, some will go to endure that we remain within the stringent requirements of Financial Fair Play but the the majority is reinvested in the squad. The more money we bring in from player sales the more we can spend on investing in new talent.

Last year we sold Adam Forshaw and spent over a million pounds each on Moses Odubajo and Jota and around half that sum on Gray and Scott Hogan. Now we have upgraded exponentially as the money we have received from our outgoing players has enabled us to invest around six million pounds on the likes of Andreas Bjelland, Lasse Vibe, Philipp Hofmann, Josh McEachran, Yoann Barbet, Maxine Colin and Konstantin Kerschbaumer. There is also talk of us trying to bring in another four players before the transfer window shuts at the end of the month. That is a very tight deadline and we will do well to get suitable players in by that time and other clubs will also try and take advantage of our situation and charge us a premium.

The more we bring in, the more we can spend – it is a very simple formula. This year we spent over two million pounds, easily a club record fee, on Bjelland, and maybe very soon, given the extra transfer sums that have been received, we will be in a position to spend even more money on a player.

The problem is that the pressure is always on us to keep unearthing more and more uncut gems so that the conveyor belt can keep moving. It is far too early to say how successful any of our new signings will turn out to be and it is perhaps one of the cheaper newcomers, Andy Gogia, who might well turn out to be the most valuable, if he meets our expectations and turns out to be as good as is anticipated. With serious expenditure comes serious risk. Not all our signings will come off and some will fail to perform as well as expected.

Will Grigg turned out to be a total bust for us, but in the end we succeeded in more than doubling our total investment in him when we sold him to MK Dons. It was a close run thing though, as at one time it seemed that we might well lose a significant sum on him, but thankfully he performed well on loan at MK Dons last season which enabled us to set and obtain a fee for him that a year or so ago seemed highly improbable.

We have now spent heavily on seven players in recent weeks, and the more we spend the more we can lose as well as gain. Thankfully the analysts seem to have got it right far more often than not up to now but there will be increasing pressure on them to keep doing so as the stakes get even higher.

There is also concern that there are too many moves and changes taking place in too short a time, particularly when you also take into account the number of injuries we have recently been incurring – and not just any old minor injury, but serious long-term ones that have incapacitated the likes of Bjelland, McEachran and Jota. To some degree there has been little that we can do as most of the injuries occurred late on in the close season or in the first couple of matches of the new season at a time when most of the player sales, with the exception of Moses and perhaps now Gray, should he finally leave us, had already been completed. I see that as bad luck rather than poor planning however I feel for the new Head Coach as in many ways he has been handed a poisoned chalice as well as a massive opportunity.

Marinus Dijkhuizen has certainly got massive support off the field in terms of his coaching and specialist staff and he has indubitably been provided with all the potential tools with which to do the job, in terms of the number and quality of new players who have arrived. However his planning must have been hindered firstly by the unprecedented number of injuries, secondly by the Griffin Park and Jersey Road pitch fiascos and now by players being sold around him, admittedly for all the good reasons previously provided, at a time well after he had presumably completed his preseason preparations with his original squad and had already made decisions upon his best team.

Assuming Gray leaves and given the current injury crisis, it is anticipated that there will be yet a further influx of new players, plus of course Maxime Colin, into the squad over the next couple of weeks. All well and good certainly, as we are really short of numbers at present and this will also provide evidence indeed of the club’s determination to keep strengthening but it falls on the Head Coach to integrate yet more players into his squad – no easy task once the season has already started and the games come thick and fast.

The supporters are slowly warming to Dijkhuizen and appreciate his tactical flexibility, phlegmatic approach in accepting how things are and his bravery in terms of switching players and formation when things are not initially working out on the field. He will need patience and an understanding of the task and obstacles that he is currently facing but the omens are good for him and I feel that he has made an excellent start in what is a challenging new job.

We have to trust in the strategy employed by the club as it is the only sensible one given our financial constraints and it is surely the one that will continue to allow us to punch well above our weight and outperform clubs who are far richer but perhaps not as smart, brave or well informed as we are.

Given less radical changes since the end of last season and a bit more stability I would have been confident that we could have kicked on from even last season’s incredible fifth place achievement. Now I think we will need to retrench, regroup and allow our new group of players and coaches to bed in and settle down. We hoped for promotion, and still do, but now I think, despite what must obviously be a far higher playing budget than last season, that we will probably have to settle for consolidation.

It is still far too early to say whether we will be successful this season, or if we have perhaps bitten off more than we can chew. We have certainly been singleminded and relentless in pursuit of our goal but I would question whether we have attempted to do too much to soon and if evolution rather than revolution might have paid greater dividends. Matthew Benham is certainly a risk taker but he is only a taker of considered and educated gambles and we must believe in him and his team, accept a few growing pains and the vicissitudes of ill fortune and hope that the season turns out well.

Good communication is also essential. It really helps to reassure us when we are kept in the loop by the club. We were recently given helpful updates regarding the pitch repair and also the current injury situation which helped inform us and set minds at rest. I understand that a Fans’ Forum is planned for the near future. I appreciate that Matthew Benham is never one to seek the limelight and make public utterances but in this case, given the circumstances, his presence would be massively reassuring as it would be extremely helpful to hear things straight from the horse’s mouth.