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.


11 thoughts on “Too Soon To Tell – 31/8/15

  1. Good article Greville. Being patient can be really difficult. Our Head Coach has given an honest and pretty accurate summary of our situation,which is a good sign. I wonder what the players think of it, and what they will do to help – they have got to take some responsibility. One of the things I liked about Vibe was how he kept going, it’s a pity the rest of the team didn’t show the same level of effort.


  2. Good points. I really hope this experiment works. One point I disagree with you and a lot of other fans on, is the dismissing of Macca as somehow not up to the job. I think he could be a Toumani style surprise this season if he is only given a chance of a run in the centre. He has just what we need. Good distribution, breaks up the other teams play, won’t be intimidated in fact to the contrary he intimidates and he bosses and drives the others on. What more do we need? And he IS skillfull on the ball. He was key in changing the game on Saturday, stopping Reading absolutely slaughtering us.


  3. Great points, to me it does seem two or three of the new players have not got used to the pace of the championship yet, we have already lost the spine of the team and then to lose jota was a massive blow,plus most recently gray,what was most dissapointing saturday was our shots on goal.i found it odd the manager was out with the players before kickoff i can not ever remember seeing that before.
    I do hope we can turn this round soon before the crowds start dropping away.


  4. well far away here in France i can onlu say through was has been said but as a player years ago or today as a pro you do not go out to lose well i hope so the team should at least give there all but thriugh the diffrent comments i feel thats not being done and some will say iam old school this coaching system i do not like at all and yes the owner puts his own money into the club but then nobody forced so lets stop beating around the bush after the international break we will see where we are going but whatever it will be a long season and the second year in the championship always are


    • sorry all about my spelling mistakes just go in from a long hot W-K in the 40c phew these are the daus i miss england lol


  5. Another excellent article, as always. When the view of other Brentford fans is either one of complete and utter apathy or a kind of ‘support the team at all costs otherwise you’re not a real fan’ attitude, your insightful writing serves as a refreshing (and honest) alternative.

    I too was at the Reading game and I, like many, thought we were abysmal. Uncomfortable on the ball, lacking ideas, very little going forward and, most worrying of all, absolutely clueless at the back. When Reading scored their third right at the death, I somewhat rakishly said, at the top of my voice, ‘statistically speaking, we’re losing 3-1’. A fellow Bees fan close to me in the Ealing Road stand took exception to this and things became a bit heated. But are we not allowed to express discontentment when we play as badly as that? According to some people, no. Which is frustrating. Because on Saturday we were bad. Very bad indeed.

    The worst thing is the comparison with last season: assured, measured, confident, totally comfortable in possession. Brilliant going forwards, solid (more often than not) in defence. I still wake up in a cold sweat when I think about Benham’s (misguided) decision to let Warburton go. In hindsight, could he not have put his moneyball plans on hold, signed Warbs up for 2 or 3 more years and gone again this season with the existing (and very successful) management structure in place?

    But that’s all hypothetical. We are where we are and we have to deal with it. All the main points have been made, so I don’t have to go over them again. Suffice to say, the club were MASSIVELY naïve when it came to players wanting to depart. Warburton was a leader, and a great one at that. Once the club decided he was out, it was inevitable that many of his team would want out too. And so we are left with a load of new players, none of whom have Championship experience, all of whom need time to adjust to the rigorous demands of one of the most competitive leagues in European football. Trouble is, it’s time we don’t have.

    Bringing in Djuricin and Canos looks like a great (and desperately needed) move; but to me it seems like papering over some pretty enormous cracks. The defence is terrible, central midfield is awful, and we need at least one new explosive winger.

    The big question for me is centred on Dijkhuizen. Yes, he’s been dealt a terrible hand, but disregarding that, is he up to the task? Of course he needs time to prove himself, but I have an awful feeling he simply isn’t the right man for the job. Yes, he’s lost Odubajo, Dallas, Pritchard, Jota, Bjelland, McEachran and Gray, but is he able to galvanize the players and get them scrapping? From what I’ve seen, the answer is no.

    Of course, we have to give him another 10 or 15 games to work with the players and prove he’s up to it. Then and only then can we judge him. But injuries and departures aside, I fear he lacks the necessary qualities (leadership, passion, knowledge of English football and the capability to rouse the squad into fighting for every single ball and every single point) to keep us up… let alone get us pushing for the playoffs.

    The Championship is a formidable league and last season we had a manager who was beyond exceptional. This season we have a guy with limited experience and a squad that literally doesn’t know if it’s coming or going. If it were up to me, I’d give Dijkhuizen 20 games. If we stabilize, great. If we are fighting a relegation battle (or worse, are by that point ‘doing a Blackpool’ – i.e. cut adrift by 10 points or more), I would seriously consider putting Lee Carsley in charge, with support from Kevin O’Connor. Two passionate English pros who might just be able to get the players to fight as hard as they’ll need to to survive this season.

    Final thought: last season, brilliant as he was, many of us said that Warburton didn’t have a plan B. This season, Dijkhuizen hasn’t even got a plan A.


    • Thanks Dave, much to ponder over here. I might well publish your reply in a day or so and see what others think too.

      Not sure like you about Marinus but as I mentioned in my article I do not equate leadership and decision making with animation on the bench.


  6. Great post Dave Washer – I see things similarly.

    I genuinely feel that through this period where so much changed has been forced upon us senior figures at the club needs to show leadership, positivity and engagement with fans. Basics in communication that are not being done well enough. Cliff Crown’s article in the programme is a belated start but doesn’t go near far enough.

    Most of the fans that I know are confused, bemused and anxious at what they see – all i hear is why are we doing this? Outside of the BFC bubble we defend our club and do our best to sell MB’s new vision – whilst inside we are concerned.

    On Saturday we needed to see progress, that was all. Not a bit of it, it’s a long time since I’ve seen such a dysfunctional bees team take the field, the midfield 4 were appalling. And that causes me to worry about MD – the obvious thing to do initially was to start Alan Mac in midfield and possibly even Saunders too instead of the hopeless Gogia and lightweight Kershbaumer. Twice now MD has been forced into desperation measures to try to save games – the 1st time I gave him credit for it, on Saturday I though his game management was very poor.

    It also occurs to me that the loss of Moses, Dallas & Gray has taken away any natural pace and powerful runners from the side. attributes that are almost a “must” in the championship and we don’t have much of it now.

    The pressure is ion now, what happens if we take 2 heavy beatings at Leeds and Boro?



    • I hear that there will be a Fans’ Forum later this month and I hope the big guns show their head over the parapet and don’t leave us withMark Devlin and Marinus. The programme article was helpful and sensible but I am sure that expectations within the club were far higher at one point and now they are being lowered.

      Pace is what we lack with the loss of Jota, Gray and Moses and I hope the 2 new men have it in abundance. We sorely need it.


  7. “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?”

    “[The Chairman and Chief Executive] 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?”

    “The big question for me is centred on Dijkhuizen. Yes, he’s been dealt a terrible hand, but disregarding that, is he up to the task?”

    As you say Greville, there are a lot of questions that still need to be asked about the situation at Brentford, both on and off the pitch. I think the three I’ve quoted are the key questions, and that the answers to the other 20 or so that you raised are almost all “no”.

    Mark Warburton’s departure was a massive loss to the Club not least in that he had ideas and skills derived from outside of football. Len Shackleton may have been right – and right about the current Brentford board as well – but it’s not the board that have caused this mess. It’s down to the owner and his clear-sighted view of what needed to be done to secure the club’s long-term sustainability. I use the word long-term deliberately because in the long-term he’s right. But it’s in the short-term that we have the problem, and possibly the medium-term as well if the whole project goes pear-shaped, which on Saturday seemed highly likely.

    As things stand, I think too many steps have been taken too quickly. Maybe some were out of our hands, like the long-term injuries. But others have been taken by the owner. We have gone from one director of football to two, an unusual step in itself. One of them has no direct experience of football and the other leads another club, in another country, as chairman, with all that involves. That strikes me as taking novelty to ridiculous lengths. An accumulated risk, to use an appropriate metaphor, when a win-double may have been more appropriate (I know nothing about gambling). Why not twin the statistician with somebody steeped in the English leagues and football academies, or at least a grassroots football person with good club contacts? As if intoxicated by the novelty, we’ve then taken it further by appointing a foreign coach with no experience of the Championship, and apparently little influence on how the other two are thinking and operating. That may not be the case, but as somebody said above, having taken such radical steps isn’t it encumbent on the Club’s well-staffed PR machine to discuss and explain to fans the reasons behind such radical thinking and how it is intended to work?

    The answers to all of the questions will become much clearer in time. It’s far too early to say whether all or some of the gambles will pay off. I agree with the long-term strategy, but I have a horrible feeling that the execution in the short-term may damage the club’s medium-term plans and perhaps cause the strategy to be abandoned altogether. I said in an earlier comment that we are ill-equipped for a relegation battle and I think Saturday showed why. I desperately want the strategy to work, but I don’t think that at moment it’s being given a fair chance. I really want to be able to eat my words come Christmas.


    • Excellent post.

      Why is there so much change so quickly? It’s akin to playing Russian roulette in the toughest division of them all.

      Again I shall say it, we would all possibly chill out a little if we heard something from the top.


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