Second Time Lucky? – 30/11/15

So The Chosen One is now the Walsall manager Dean Smith as Brentford supporters await agog for confirmation that he will hopefully become the new Head Coach at the club.

Whilst Pep Clotet was apparently the first choice for the job, that deal could not be consummated for a variety of reasons perhaps not unconnected with the current uncertainty at Swansea as well as the total cost of the package required to bring him to Griffin Park.

It is important to say up front that second choice does not mean second best as I understand that the club would be more than delighted if either candidate decided to take up the challenge.

So whilst we wait for the situation to be resolved and I am sure that the cameras tonight at Bolton will be panning the stands in the Macron Stadium in the hope of seeing Smith lurking in the background or skulking in the shadows, I thought that it might be helpful if we examined his career in greater detail and looked at his background and achievements.

Smith is still relatively young in managerial terms at forty-four years of age and had a long and distinguished playing career as a no-nonsense centre half who played well over five hundred Football League games for the likes of Walsall, Hereford, Leyton Orient and Sheffield Wednesday.

He will fit in perfectly with Brentford as he played in four unsuccessful playoff campaigns for Walsall, Hereford and Leyton Orient and fully understands and has experienced the heartache of falling short at the final hurdle!

His best friend would not have described him a cultured defender but he read the game well, was tough and effective and he almost broke the heart of every Brentford fan back in 2004 when he equalised for Sheffield Wednesday in Martin Allen’s Great Escape season seemingly long after James Alexander Gordon had begun to recite the final scores after the referee, George Cain, had lost all sense of time and played on until the home team scored.

After retirement, Smith became Youth Team Coach and Assistant Manager at Leyton Orient and remained there until 2009 when he was named as Head of Youth at Walsall before taking over as manager in January 2011, making him the fourth longest serving manager in the game, behind only Arsène Wenger, Paul Tisdale and our old friend Karl Robinson with an incredible tenure, given the vulnerability of any manager’s position, of four years and three hundred and twenty-nine days.

I am sure that all Brentford fans, desperate for a speedy resolution to the current situation, sincerely hope that he does not make it much beyond that impressive figure!

He is a well qualified and respected coach who possesses his UEFA Pro License and he encourages his teams to play positive, passing and attacking football and to play the ball to feet, as we have learned to our cost in previous meetings between the two clubs.

His time at Walsall has been highly successful given their relative lack of resources, and he took them to Wembley for the first time in their history last season in the final of the Football League Trophy and he has established them in the top half of the table with the promise of a promotion challenge this season as they hover around the top six in League One.

He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the lower divisions and youth football at all levels and has brought through or purchased many young players of exceptional ability such as Will Grigg, Florent Cuvelier, Sam Manton, Romaine Sawyers, Tom Bradshaw and Rico Henry.

Brentford have never found Walsall a pushover in recent years and I well remember a hard-fought draw at The Bescot Stadium in January 2014 when The Saddlers ended our run of eight consecutive victories and could easily have won the game late on.

Mark Warburton’s verdict on the home team that day: It was a tough game and Walsall worked hard and moved the ball well, perfectly sums up the approach of a typical Dean Smith team.

From what I can tell Dean Smith fits the bill as far as Brentford is concerned. He has nearly five years’ worth of managerial experience and has gained a deserved reputation as a excellent coach who more than makes the most of what he is given. He develops and encourages young talent and allows them to flourish within a positive environment and I am told that he is good at man-management.

Smith is a great friend of Martin Ling, so cruelly afflicted by depression in recent years and he has now amended his approach to the job now given the potential risks to his health:

What Martin went through made me realise how important it is to appreciate that there is an outside world, away from football. The support network of your family, friends and staff is integral.

I have always seen myself as a positive person and you come to realise that you are dealing with the natural sensitivities of human beings. That’s why I don’t go into the dressing room after games. It is too emotional a time. I would rather wait, and speak to the players rationally on Monday morning.

Thanks to Mike Calvin and Living On The Volcano for that quote which emphasises just how thoughtful and well-rounded a character is Dean Smith.

It is quite obvious that his team respects and plays for him and he has also done a good job of managing upwards to a tough Chairman in Jeff Bonser who does not attend home matches because of his unpopularity with the Walsall supporters.

Bonser admires Smith and his achievements at the club:

His philosophy is to play good football and, regardless of the results, I think that’s how we play. We’ve stuck to the philosophy and we’re going to continue to stick to it, because it’s bringing us some success.

I can totally see why Brentford want Smith and let us just hope that the feeling is reciprocated. Bonser will probably be a hard nut to crack in terms of compensation and he refused his manager permission to talk to Rotherham when they came calling a few months ago.

Hopefully Smith will want to take up the challenge at Griffin Park and make it obvious to his Chairman that this time he wishes to leave.

Smith was fairly disparaging towards Brentford at the time when we signed his star striker Will Grigg, whom he felt should have joined a bigger club, rather than another League One outfit, however I will take that as a simple case of sour grapes as all is fair in love and war – and football too!

I am sure that nothing is finalised at the present time and that this, just like the Clotet deal, could still go either way. There are no guarantees as there are so many intangibles and potential obstacles that can arise as well as a plethora of different parties involved in any deal including agents and family members.

We also have to keep within our budget and ensure that the entire recruitment package is realistic and affordable.

There will also be the need to decide if he brings any of his staff with him. Bonser might have something to say about that as might Matthew Benham given the continued presence of Paul Williams who would surely expect and fully deserve a coaching role in any new set up. Lee Carsley’s role will also need to be clarified if it is not already decided.

As you can see, there is much to ponder on and a lot that needs to be settled before we can breathe easily. Walsall have a crucial match against local rivals Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night and I am certain that all parties would like to know where they stand before then so I expect a speedy decision one way or the other within the next twenty-four hours.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed!

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Damned If You Do… – 28/11/15

The airwaves and social media channels alike have been red hot with activity and comment, most of it negative, exasperated, mocking and even vituperative in tone, in response to Brentford Co-Director of Football Phil Giles’s statement last night updating the supporters on the current state of play regarding the head coaching position at the club.

This is what he had to say:

In Lee’s last post-match press conference, he discussed the possibility that the Nottingham Forest game would be his last in charge. This was the expectation of both Rasmus Ankersen and myself. Lee’s comments were made in good faith based on the conversations we held last week.

Circumstances this week have meant that we haven’t been able to make the change as originally anticipated. We will continue with our process to find the right long term Head Coach for Brentford, rather than make a hasty appointment.

Lee has done a superb job since taking charge in September and we look forward to our game with Bolton on Monday evening.

This has been enough to rouse much of the fanbase to fury.

Now before everyone starts with the accusation that I am merely a mouthpiece, shill, or an apologist for the club I will make the point that the purpose of these articles is simply for me to spout off and give my opinion about anything and everything that is happening in and around Brentford FC both on and off the pitch.

I try to avoid unnecessary knee-jerk reactions and, unlike Keith Stroud and Brendan Malone, allow myself time to think before making a final decision. I try as hard as I can to avoid factual errors by taking soundings from friends and contacts in and around – and sometimes well outside – the club and I always endeavour to check my sources before rushing into print. I also take the laws of libel very seriously indeed.

Of course I am probably proved wrong as often – or even more so, than I am correct in my musings, but that is just the luck of the draw. I welcome, publish and respond to any and all feedback and comments to what I write and I am quite used and inured to readers telling me that I am deluded in what I have to say.

I have also not held back in heavily criticising the club over its actions whenever I feel that it is justified. Just to give a couple of examples: I felt that certain individuals were naive in the extreme not to anticipate that ongoing behind closed doors negotiations with potential replacements for Mark Warburton would not leak out into the media and cause the horrendous destabilisation that threatened to jeopardise our promotion push last February. I also felt strongly that the club’s initial crisis management was inept and poorly executed in the extreme.

The appointment of Marinus Dijkhuizen was also totally bungled and we do not know yet how much its impact will eventually influence the outcome of this season given that we have been forced onto the back foot ever since.

I have given a great deal of thought to the current managerial or head coaching hiatus and as far as I am concerned the club cannot and should not be criticised in any way, shape or form for how it has managed and continues to deal with a difficult and complex situation.

Here is my reading of affairs and how they have developed since the end of September and the sacking of Marinus. I fully expect however that much of what I set down is not totally accurate but it is as close to the truth that I can get:

  1. An interim Head Coach is needed at short notice and Lee Carsley is the obvious immediate candidate given his previous, albeit limited, managerial experience and the respect he has gained from the entire squad since his arrival last season
  2. Lee is persuaded to sign on for the rest of the season despite his misgivings, possible concerns about the necessary commitment owing to his family situation and preference to remain as a development coach but he is assuaged by the knowledge that the club will be looking for a permanent replacement from the outset
  3. After two initial defeats, Lee Carsley, aided by the invaluable Paul Williams and Flemming Pedersen is able to put his stamp on affairs and the seemingly terminal decline is arrested and reversed. Not only that, the dramatic improvement in results leads to Lee winning a fully deserved Manager of the Month Award for October
  4. Lee remains entirely consistent and honest in all his public statements reiterating his preference for youth coaching and that he feels that he is not ready for a job of this magnitude which requires a far more experienced pair of hands
  5. Efforts are being made behind the scenes to identify and verify potential candidates for the permanent role but Carsley’s success means that he has bought us sufficient time to ensure that a panic or rushed appointment does not have to be made and that the optimum candidate can be sourced and ideally hired
  6. Given his success I would expect that efforts were made to persuade Lee to change his mind and take on the role on a permanent basis. Maybe he even prevaricated and considered the option too, but the end result remains the same. He does not want to continue in his post any longer than is strictly necessary
  7. A short list is being considered and soundings taken and three names appear in the media: Pep Clotet, Dean Smith and Justin Edinburgh
  8. There is no smoke without fire and it soon becomes evident that Clotet is the preferred candidate. He has limited managerial experience but is an acclaimed coach with an excellent track record, particularly for a man of his relative youth, and Swansea, where he is currently employed, would appear to be a benchmark and exemplar for how Matthew Benham wants his club to set up and play in terms of the quality and style of its football
  9. The situation at Swansea, however is complex, confused and ever changing. Will the manager stay, will he be sacked? Is he being pressurised to make changes in his coaching staff? Will the status quo finally prevail? Is the Chairman willing to allow Clotet to leave or does he want him to stay? Is he looking to extract compensation for him? To a large degree these questions remain unanswered and I am certain that there have been shifting sands over the past couple of weeks
  10. Assuming that Clotet is the man and that he has passed our due diligence (it is of course entirely possible that we have changed our mind too), then it must be a difficult, longwinded and frustrating challenge to firstly persuade him to leave the Premier League and take up the job at Griffin Park and then extract him from his current situation
  11. It would appear that last weekend Brentford believed that this interminable process was near to completion and that we were on the verge of announcing an appointment
  12. Lee Carsley was obviously kept fully updated on the progress of all negotiations and therefore quite reasonably made it clear in his post match interview that he fully expected that the Nottingham Forest match would be his last match in charge
  13. Unfortunately the goalposts changed and what we thought was almost a done deal is no longer the case. Has the change of heart come from Clotet? Has his club decided to hang onto him? Are agents muddying the water? Does his family prefer to stay put rather than move to London? Can we keep compensation and salary costs down to a manageable level and remain within our budgetary constraints? I cannot provide any firm answers to these or any other relevant questions
  14. The bottom line is that what we thought and honestly believed would happen has not yet taken place. Maybe the Clotet deal is dead. Perhaps there will, even now, be a change of heart from whoever is holding things up and he will still be appointed. Highly doubtful, in my opinion
  15. More likely we are on to our next preferred candidate who apparently is the Walsall manager, Dean Smith, and hopefully we will have better luck with him
  16. Second choice does not mean second best. I fully expect that we have identified at least two excellent and ideal candidates for the job either of whom the club would be happy to appoint. For my part I would have liked Clotet for the reasons previously expressed and feel that Smith also has the experience at the coalface to do well and has a football philosophy in line with our own
  17. The only consideration is to get things right this time. We cannot afford another poor appointment if the club is to continue to progress as we fully intend. Thankfully we do not have to make an appointment simply for the sake of doing so and can within reason, take whatever time is necessary
  18. As long, of course, as Lee Carsley continues to play ball and is prepared to hold the fort until the new man is in place. I have no idea if he has set a deadline or if he is willing to remain in charge for an indefinite period as necessary. My gut feeling regarding Lee’s state of mind is that the sooner we are in a position to appoint a new Head Coach the better
  19. I would also add that we are only one of three attractive managerial/head coaching vacancies in West London and it does not appear that either Fulham or Queens Park Rangers are having any more success in getting a deal over the line than we are

I feel that the club has acted entirely responsibly in this entire process and does not deserve the flack that it is receiving from all quarters. Hiring a new manager or head coach is an extremely complex and crucial undertaking. There are so many variables that can change or go wrong. You are dealing with a plethora of individuals, from the candidates themselves, to their agents and representatives. You then have to negotiate with the club and cope with family interests as well. In other words there is a lot of juggling that needs to be done and so much is totally out of your own hands.

I am happy and content that Lee Carsley will remain in charge on Monday and know that he will be fully focused on the task ahead. I also know that the massive amount of work being conducted by the club behind the scenes and under the radar will continue until we are ready to announce the identity of our new Head Coach and I am fully confident that this time it will be the right choice.

Commercial Break – 26/11/15

Cover mock-upLike every other Brentford fan I am waiting impatiently for something to happen – for the white puff of smoke that signifies that a decision has been made.

Will there be an announcement regarding the identity of our new Head Coach?

If so will it come today/tomorrow/soon/next year – please delete where applicable.

I am more than happy to wait until we are able to make the right decision and then get the deal over the line given that we are in safe hands at the moment under Lee Carsley, even though we are all aware – and he has made it abundantly clear – that he does not want the job and is keen to return to his development coaching responsibilities as soon as possible.

Today also sees the closing of the Loan Transfer Window at 5 pm.

Will we make a late signing that will take us all by surprise?

Can we make do with Lasse Vibe and The Hof as our sole strikers until the return of Marco Djuricin?

Is that taking an enormous risk given the number of fixtures coming up next month and over the holiday period?

What happens if one of them suffers injury too? Will we have to rely upon the Development Squad to fill the gap?

I was going to write yet another article covering all of the above and speculating on what might be happening behind the scenes.

Instead I am going to save you the bother of reading my normal guff and I will wait a little while until maybe things appear a little bit clearer on both fronts.

I will then look at the depth of the squad and discuss how well we are set up to deal with all the challenges that lie ahead.

So today I am going to make  barefaced commercial appeal to you all.

If you like and enjoy what I write and you haven’t yet bought or even considered buying my book Ahead Of The Game, please can you at least think about doing so?

It covers everything that happened last season – and what an incredible season it was – as well as what else could and maybe should have taken place too!

There are some great photos and articles on Brentford matches, players and managers from the present and past, lots of comment, humour and nostalgia as well as guest articles from the likes of Billy Reeves and Richard Lee.

Hopefully an enticing prospect for all Bees supporters!

More importantly I would like to thank everybody who has taken the time and trouble to buy it and I really hope that you have enjoyed reading it, either through inhaling it in one go, or reading it in bite sized chunks. The choice is yours!

The reviews on Amazon have all been excellent and sales have also gone pretty well given its specialised appeal, with over 500 copies sold to date and I really hope that we can increase that figure substantially over Christmas given that the book would surely make an ideal present for any Bees supporter.

Please can you also let me know if you have any comments on either the book or the blog as I would welcome any suggestions for future articles – or also publish anything that I am sent by any of you.

As you are aware I have been writing regularly this season and there has been no shortage of material given what has been happening – good and bad, both on and off the pitch.

I would very much like to publish another book next Summer covering all the happenings of this season but to be frank, in order to make that happen I have to demonstrate the commercial viability of Ahead Of The Game, and that means that sales have to increase over the Christmas period.

I really need your help and I hope that some of you will be able to do so.

As I have said, I am so grateful to everyone who has already bought the book and hope that others might take a look at it either on Amazon or from the BFC Superstore, as it is available in both places.

Ahead Of The Game is available to purchase at the BFC Superstore either in person or via mail order and also on Amazon at:

http://tinyurl.com/p6tsasj

Thank you.

Best wishes

Greville Waterman

 

 

Blazing Meteors – Part Two – 24/11/15

A couple of  months ago I began to tell the story of some of the Brentford players who began their career at the club so well but merely flattered to deceive and who all fizzled out for a variety of reasons without fulfilling their seemingly once abundant promise.

I ended the last article in the early 90s and will pick up the narrative with Lee Luscombe. He joined the club from Southampton and in fact cost us a fee of up to fifteen thousand pounds predicated totally on appearances. He was clumsy and ungainly but when he occasionally managed to get every part of his body working in unison he could be devastating and he scored some incredible goals including a soaring header in a vital promotion clash against Stoke City and a wonderful angled volley against Charlton. He was plagued by inconsistency and was released after our relegation in 1993 and soon faded out of the game. A waste of an excellent talent.

Mickey Bennett was a makeweight in the Dean Holdsworth deal but for a short while it looking like we had signed a gem as he initially showed directness on the right wing and an eye for goal, but his impact was to be short-lived and he was slowed down by a chronic injury. He missed a crucial penalty at Bristol Rovers when his weak shot was saved easily by a goalkeeper in Brian Parkin who should never have been on the pitch after rugby tackling Bennett in front of a gaping goal and escaping with a yellow card when a red seemed inevitable. David Webb played him as a striker but with little effect and his Brentford career ended in ignominy after Joe Allen was left with a broken jaw after a notorious training ground incident.

Grant Chalmers should have been a star and I still do not understand why he did not have a long and successful career in the Football League. He made an immediate impact as a ball playing midfielder on his arrival from Guernsey and made a massively impressive debut at Peterborough where he ran the entire game before being one of the best players on the pitch against Spurs in the Coca-Cola Cup. He scored a well taken goal in the five-one romp against Bristol City but soon faded out of contention.

Famously he was dragged out of the club bar just before the kick off against Derby County on Boxing Day when Chris Hughton was injured in the warm-up but he was himself substituted after apparently suffering from the effects of a now unwanted pre-match pie! Phil Holder, ironically a skilful midfielder himself, never seemed to trust Chalmers and he lost confidence, drifted away and out of the game before returning to Guernsey.

Craig Ravenscroft was another home grown player who started well with a goal at Huddersfield but he could never quite overcome the handicap of his lack of height and strength and dropped into Non League.

Scott Canham looked a world beater throughout his loan spell from West Ham in 1996 and he was massively influential in leading us to safety when a relegation battle looked far more likely. He was small and compact but played with his head up, put his foot in and showed vision in his passing.

He returned to Upton Park but unexpectedly signed for the Bees at the beginning of the following season for twenty-five thousand pounds. I had tried to get my client Ericsson, the club sponsor to help underwrite the move but their assistance wasn’t necessary. He looked a totally different player on his return and failed to secure a regular place in the first team before joining Orient where he also struggled to establish himself.

Allan Glover, Lee Frost and Pim Balkestein are three other players who similarly enjoyed wonderful loan spells at the club but singularly failed to impress when signed on a permanent basis. I am sure that we will never be able to fathom out the reason why!

Kevin Rapley was asked to shoulder too much responsibility too soon and I believe that this hindered his future development. He scored eleven goals in his first full season when he was our main striker and one of the few successes in an awful season that ended up in relegation. Who can ever forget his brilliant last minute winner against Burnley from a dramatic scissors kick and the wild celebration that followed with his manic run half the length of the pitch triumphantly waving his shirt above his head?

The following season he fell out of favour with Ron Noades and was loaned to Southend before leaving for Notts County for whom he scored on his return to Griffin Park in the game made infamous by the exploits of Gary Owers. For a striker of his quality and potential to score a mere thirty-three goals in his entire career was a major surprise and disappointment given how well he had started.

Tony Folan should now be enjoying his retirement after a glittering career and at least one hundred Republic of Ireland caps under his belt, such was his outrageous ability. As it was his career was beset by a constant stream of niggling injuries and he was never able to make the impact that he promised after his series of outstanding displays when he joined the Bees from Crystal Palace in 1998.

I can still picture that mesmerising dribble and goal against Peterborough and the Folan From The Halfway Line effort against Cambridge United. He had so much time on the ball and he possessed elegance and grace and opponents just could not get close enough to tackle him. Unfortunately he was unable to overcome the injury jinx and off field problems and his career simply petered out far too soon and well short of what he could and should have achieved had he been granted a modicum of good fortune.

Mark Williams was another local boy who almost made good and for a time it looked as if he might establish himself as a speedy winger but he became typecast as a Super Sub and set a new club record for substitute appearances with seventy-one in total.

Striker Mark Peters arrived at the club with a great fanfare and a glowing reputation from Southampton. He soon proved his ability in front of goal and he scored twenty-one times in thirty-two reserve team matches. He even scored for the first team against QPR, a sure fire way to gain instant hero status but it never happened for him with stories of off field and attitude problems.

Martin Allen soon cancelled his contract and he then played for a plethora of local teams without ever making the impact he should have done in the Football League. Football is not just about ability but also about hard work and dedication.

A nodding mention here to Alex Rhodes, of whom I have already written elsewhere at great length. It was a real tragedy that his career was blighted by injury and misfortune as he was such a promising talent and will always be remembered for scoring the solo goal against AFC Bournemouth that secured The Great Escape from relegation in 1994.

Karleigh Osborne has made a decent career for himself and is still playing well for AFC Wimbledon but somehow you feel that it might have gone even better for him given his ability. Perhaps he was promoted to the first team a bit too quickly and I remember Andy Booth giving him a fearful bashing but he persevered and established himself in the team as a powerful and pacy central defender who surprisingly failed to flourish at either Millwall and Bristol City.

Remarkably, Charlie Ide is still only twenty-seven years of age and is playing at a level of the game far below his true ability. He started off so well for the Bees and shone in that dreadful relegation season of 2006/07 as well as scoring some valuable goals. He never appeared to show the dedication necessary to make the grade and his career disappeared as rapidly as it had flourished.

Sam Tillen established himself in the first team as an exciting attacking left back and scored a great equalising goal at Leyton Orient with a perfect angled volley. He was even selected for a Football League Under-21 match against Italy but he went backwards rather than developing and he was released by Andy Scott and is still playing in Iceland.

Ross Montague had his embryonic career wrecked by a stress fracture in his back and a torn cruciate knee ligament otherwise he might still be our current first team centre forward, so talented did he appear to be when he broke into the team as an eighteen year old.

Gary Smith looked like he was the answer to our midfield problems after he joined in 2007 and he blossomed under Andy Scott but the injury jinx hit and he was never the same player again.

I am not sure if Nathan Elder deserves to be mentioned in this context given the tragic nature of his injury at Rotherham but until that terrible collision with Pablo Mills which I can still clearly recall with horror and which left him with a double fracture of the cheekbone, fractured jaw, triple fracture of the nose and impaired vision, he was a bustling centre forward and a clear crowd favourite.

He had been sent off twice that season at Gillingham when he defended Marvin Williams and far more contentiously by Stuart Attwell against Notts County and he was totally devoid of luck and good fortune. He never played for the Bees again and his career never recovered. A tragic loss.

Thinking about some of these players and how fate conspired against them has deeply saddened me, others have nobody else to blame but themselves for not making the most of their ability. Let’s just hope that there are not many names to add to this list in the near future and that our players all fully realise their potential.

Hofmann – The Pinball Wizard! – 22/11/15

Football is traditionally referred to as a game of two halves but the Brentford versus Nottingham Forest match yesterday afternoon broke new ground as it is best described as a game of three thirds – a first forty-five minutes where absolutely nothing happened, a pulsating fifty-two minute long second half packed with incident and action and then the post match press conference where much was revealed.

The Bees had not seemed to have benefited from the international break and were flat and torpid in the first half. There was lots of passing – mostly sideways but absolutely no pace, movement, energy, vigour or penetration.

In another words this was not a typical Brentford performance and it felt almost like a practice match or shadow boxing as the ball was moved slowly and carefully from player to player with nobody able or prepared to attempt the killer pass. Our sole tactic seemed to be to give the ball to the ever willing Alan Judge and hope that he could create something out of the blue.

Forest set up in two banks of four and stifled us and their goalkeeper Dorus De Vries must have been the coldest man at a frigid Griffin Park given his total lack of action. The visitors kept Ward and Mendes wide and they created several chances for Nelson Oliveira but thankfully David Button was sharp and alert and kept the Bees in the game with a series of saves – none out of the ordinary it has to be said, but the first half was total one way traffic and the Bees were distinctly fortunate to go into the break on level terms.

Lee Carsley apparently got into his team at half time but nothing much changed early on and Brentford were indebted to Button for a wonderful clawing save from Oliveira’s header and Lansbury was allowed to run through a static midfield who waved him past before shooting a presentable opportunity over the bar.

John Swift had endured a tough day with nothing going right for the youngster but he finally put in Brentford’s first on-target effort when his twenty-five yarder finally forced the frozen De Vries into action.

Carsley had already demonstrated his frustration at what he, along with the rest of us, was being forced to endure – although he at least was being paid to freeze – by belting the ball miles in the air when it fell out of play by the dugout. Finally, his patience exhausted, he made two significant changes on the hour in an effort to breathe some life into his sluggish team. Swift and the totally anonymous Vibe were replaced by Canos and Hoffman although there were several others could could also have been hooked without too much complaint.

Suddenly the tempo changed as the Bees were inspired by the effervescent and gifted young Spaniard, and just as was the case against Preston, Canos had an instant impact, scoring his first ever league goal with a close range effort in a packed six yard box when Dean headed down a Judge cross after a McCormack corner had been half cleared.

The Bees were inspired by the substitution as Canos roared around the field pressing, passing and dribbling and Hofmann too finally provided an outlet with the size and strength to hold the ball up. He is also a gifted footballer and used his sleight of foot to bamboozle his tall markers and bring others into play.

Suddenly the Bees took control. Judge shot over and a pulsating move ended with McCormack stretching but just failing to reach a deadly low cross in front of an empty net.

Then the Bees self-destructed when Dean mis-controlled, overran the ball and tried to make up for his mistake with a lunging tackle which was harshly penalised by the referee. Dean heatedly disagreed, picked the ball up to remonstrate and demonstrate the legitimacy of his challenge and when Williams went to grab the ball, Dean’s swinging arm apparently caught the Forest substitute who went down as if shot.

Referee Malone produced the red card with Stroud-like speed and in an instant the match was turned on its head. Villain or Silly Sausage as Dean was unforgettably described by Billy Reeves after the match? Williams certainly made the most of his opportunity but Harlee was impetuous and gave the referee a decision to make, not forgetting that the whole incident was caused by his own error whilst in possession of the ball.

Whatever actually happened, and the incident was over in a flash, I cannot see an appeal succeeding and we will lose Dean for three crucial matches at a time when he and Tarkowski were playing so well together.

Jack O’Connell replaced Judge and slotted in well but the damage had been done and a Forest team which had squandered its opportunities was offered an undeserved way back into the game and they took immediate advantage when a Mills cross was criminally mis-controlled by Diagouraga on the edge of the penalty area and the predatory Lansbury took full advantage of the gift and slotted the ball low into the corner.

Brentford now had twenty long minutes to hang on, as Forest would surely go for the jugular, but the anticipated bombardment on our goal never happened. Bidwell and Yennaris were immense and the two centre halves won everything. Woods, McCormack and Diagouraga covered, chased and held the ball whenever possible and Hofmann and Canos worked hard and never allowed their defence to settle.

In short we looked like a Brentford team again and we finally began to believe that we could hold onto our hard won point. Even better Carsley kept waving us forward as he realised that attack was the best form of defence. Canos turned brilliantly in the box and his effort forced a wonderful save from De Vries. McCormack had impressed with his set piece delivery and a perfectly placed long free kick was met by Tarkowski but his header clanged clear off the post.

Forest had shot their bolt and we waited for the six long minutes of injury time to expire but the Bees had different ideas. Diagouraga slid a perfect through ball to Woods who roared through the defence, fought off his marker and hammered an angled shot which was parried by De Vries straight to Hofmann, and his instant effort from the edge of the area caught not one, not two but three defections off Vaughan, De Vries and then Lichaj on the line and ended up in the corner of the net. Hofmann – The Pinball Wizard as his effort had won the game for us

Cue tumultuous celebrations and yet another in a catalogue of late winners by a team that never knows when it is beaten.

The rollercoaster ride of a second half had ended with three glorious and unexpected points when at one time one or even none had appeared more likely. What can ever beat the excitement of a ninety-sixth minute winner?

Let’s just hope that it was simply a case of blowing the cobwebs out of our system after what was a lacklustre first half non-performance. Canos and Hofmann provided the catalyst for our recovery and we were much improved in the last half hour.

If that was not enough there was far more to come when Lee Carsley was interviewed by Billy Reeves after the match and made it perfectly clear that this had probably been his last match in charge with a new man expected to be appointed early next week. Lee then stated that he would be remaining at the club to support the new Head Coach and would also return to his Development role. Paul Williams would also remain in post. Good news indeed!

There is a lot there to assimilate and I think I will let the dust settle before I attempt to do so. I assume that Pep Clotet will be the new man in charge with Carsley staying around to assist in the handover and Williams remaining as a first team coach. Whether Lee then returns to his former position as Development Squad Manager and, if so, what that might mean for Kevin O’Connor are questions that remain unanswered at the present time.

At this point I am sure that all Brentford fans would like to join me in giving thanks to Lee Carsley who has won five out of his nine matches in charge and been responsible, along with Paul Williams, for a total sea change in our approach and performances.

Brentford break the mould and do things differently it would appear and I am sure that never in the history of the game has an interim Head Coach had such a run of success, won the Manager of the Month Award and then voluntarily given up his post despite the entreaties of the club, because it is not what he wants to do at this juncture of his career. Only at Brentford….

Thanks Lee for everything you have done and I am delighted that his talent and influence will not be lost to us.

What a day and I am sure that there will be more exciting news unfolding within the next forty-eight hours.

What I can say without a shadow of doubt is that it is never dull being a Brentford fan!

 

Lull Before The Storm As Bees Prepare To Return To Action – 19/11/15

Preparations are well underway for Saturday’s attractive home fixture against Nottingham Forest and the Brentford squad will be full of confidence and raring to return to action after their enforced fortnight’s break.

That is not to say that they have had their feet up as they were subjected to a gruelling series of training and fitness sessions before they were given a well deserved few days off which allowed the foreign contingent to return home for a brief visit.

There was no rest for some, with Alan Judge, John Swift and Daniel O’Shaughnessy all involved with their respective international squads over the last week or so with Judge now playing for a place in the Eire squad which has qualified for next year’s European Championship Finals and Swift receiving his first heady taste of England Under 21 football which has hopefully whetted his appetite for more of the same.

Judge sounded particularly bright and chirpy in his Bees Player interview yesterday and he fully recognises and acknowledges that he needs to maintain the form he has shown recently if he is to spend next Summer in France as he so desperately wishes to do, and that can only be good news for us in the meantime.

In that regard I cannot remember the last time that a current Brentford player appeared in the finals of a major tournament such as the World Cup or European Championship and I well suspect that if Judge is named in the final squad, assuming of course that he is still at the club and perish the thought that he is not, that he will be the first Brentford player ever to do so.

Former Bees Brian Turner and Bill Slater played for New Zealand and England in the finals of the World Cup in 1982 and 1958 respectively and Hermann Hreidarsson came very close to qualifying with Iceland whilst still a Bee. Two more ex-Bees in Stuart Dallas and Will Grigg are also in line to play for Northern Ireland this Summer.

The squad has been strengthened with the return to full fitness of the evergreen Sam Saunders and Josh McEachran played half a game in last week’s friendly match against AFC Bournemouth and cannot be too far away now, with Jota and Max Colin hopefully shortly behind him.

I recently read a report that attempted to put a monetary value to the cost of player injuries in terms of wages, treatment, insurance premiums and the financial implications of fielding a weakened team. It was hardly surprising that Arsenal came out near the top of the list with their massive and ongoing injury list costing them a whopping twenty million pounds last season. The formula also highlighted that the less injuries you have, generally the better you perform with Premier League Champions Chelsea suffering the least number of injuries.

I therefore think that we have not paid Brentford nearly enough credit for the way that they have performed this season despite what can only be termed a crippling and seemingly never ending list of injuries that at one time affected nearly half the squad, including several star names.

We finally seem to be over the worst now, although I do not want to tempt fate but even now for every player we get back to full fitness, another one seems to be struck down. Our current healthy league position simply emphasises the quality and depth of the squad and maybe at some point fairly early in the New Year we will really have a selection problem when the majority of players return to fitness.

Talking about injuries, the news about Lewis Macleod and Marco Djuricin is not good and I would be surprised if we see either of them back in action before the New Year at the earliest.

That leaves the Head Coach – and don’t you worry I will come back to that complex situation very shortly – with a selection dilemma for Saturday’s match.

Lasse Vibe played well as a lone striker as a late substitute at Charlton and after Djuricin’s injury at Blackburn, scoring on each occasion and Philipp Hofmann did exactly the same at Wolves. Reassuring news, indeed, but I am more concerned about how they will fare as a lone striker at home when the opposition sits deep and packs its defence unlike the situation in the away games when the opposition was chasing the game and left huge gaps in their defence for us to exploit.

I would suspect that we will keep to our successful 4-2-3-1 formation which allows us to dominate the midfield rather than allow the two strikers to play together and it will therefore be up to whoever is picked from the start, and I think it will be Vibe, to demonstrate some upper body strength, vim and vigour, make intelligent runs and hold the ball up until the midfield can get forward to support him.

They have both had several months to settle down, find full fitness and become accustomed to the demands of the Championship and it is now up to them both to seize this opportunity as the squad and supporters alike are now relying on them to produce on a regular basis.

Alan Judge has demonstrated his sharpshooting ability in front of goal, scoring six times to date, which means that he has already doubled his tally for the whole of last season but we need Swift and Ryan Woods to step up to the plate too bearing in mind that Pritchard and Jota notched double figures last season and Douglas and Dallas were not too far behind them. We really need those extra goals from midfield and ideally Jota will supply some of them once he returns to action.

As you can see, I have made no mention of the back four as I have pretty much given them up as a bad loss in terms of their goal scoring potential and prowess.

Tarkowski was deadly from six inches in the last seconds against Ipswich and Bidwell is getting a fair bit closer with some of his efforts as he still attempts to break his goalscoring duck but despite the services of our Free Kick Coach our defenders either make the wrong run or the delivery is not up to scratch. I look back at the likes of Terry Evans and Micky Droy who caused havoc in the opposition penalty areas (as well as their own from time to time) and scored far more than their fair share of goals. Where are their like when we need them so desperately now?

Pep Clotet remains the elephant in the room.

Is he our preferred choice to become our new Head Coach? If that is the case, is he likely to agree to join us and if so, when? How long is Lee Carsley prepared to remain in his current role given his oft-stated antipathy to it? Can he even now be persuaded to stay until the end of the season? If he is replaced will there still be a role for him at the club? Could the powers that be have handled things any differently and gone public about what is currently going on?

These points and many more have been debated at great length both in my articles and on social media and who knows what will transpire, and when.

I have made my views perfectly clear.

  • Lee Carsley would be the ideal choice to remain as Head Coach given how well he has performed and the players’ response to him, but he has made it quite clear that he wants out as soon as possible
  • We are conducting a recruitment process as far under the radar as possible and the media leaks have not emanated from the Brentford end
  • No statement will be made until there is any firm news
  • Hopefully there will be firm news as soon as possible which will bring the current uncertainty to an end
  • Pep Clotet is an exciting option who comes highly recommended by the likes of Steve Coppell and he would fit in well with the management philosophy currently employed at the club
  • His appointment – as would anyone else’s, would be a gamble in terms of how he deals with the players and the myriad of coaching and support staff

Who knows how long it will take before there is anything more to say rather than mere speculation, but as supporters it is our right and privilege to have an opinion and air our views – and we have certainly done so!

Maybe now is the lull before the storm. Saturday’s match against an underperforming but improving Nottingham Forest team packed with big name players looms ever nearer and nothing must distract the squad and get in the way from their immediate priority which is quite simply to win the game.

Nothing else really matters.

Pep – Yes Or No? – 17/11/15

The rumours about Brentford’s potential interest in bringing in current Swansea Assistant Manager Pep Clotet as our new Head Coach received a fairly mixed response from many of the readers of my initial article.

Bill Benn spoke for many of us when he commented:

I hope we keep Paul Williams who has played a big part in the recent upturn of results.

Some, like Jim Rourke felt that his lack of managerial experience counted against him:

My comment would be is that when Pep gets the top job things have not gone well. I would suggest also his appointment as Monk’s assistant coincides with the downturn at Swansea. Sorry to be so negative!

Mark Croxford took issue with this viewpoint and I feel that his rebuttal contains much sense:

How can that be true? Last year Swansea had their best ever season – and that coincided with Clotet’s appointment.

Swansea are probably the nearest model to the way that Brentford operate so it seems to make a fair bit of sense to be interested in someone from there.

Whether he would be the right appointment remains to be seen, of course, and it’s a big jump from being the adviser to the decision maker but with a team of coaches to share the burden, maybe it would be a good move for him?

beesyellow22 expressed his thoughts very emphatically:

The situation at Griffin Park has become like a soap opera this season – it’s hard to keep on top of what’s happening anymore!

Like you Greville, I would love for Carsley to stay in place until the final ball is kicked next May, but apparently the owner does not share this point of view. I understand and appreciate the desire to get the new man in place ASAP but who’s to say it won’t be another Marinus situation – particularly given Clotet’s poor managerial record? We could then find ourselves onto our fourth head coach before we’ve barely gotten into 2016!

If Clotet is indeed to be the new head coach at Griffin Park, then good luck to him. But the big fear for me is that the players have already been through so much already this season, that to get a new man in now could have a real adverse effect and undo all the fantastic work that has been done since Marinus and Roy were given the bullet.

Let’s see what happens, but Clotet’s (admittedly youth-based) managerial record does not fill me with excitement or optimism. In fact, if the plan is to bring in a guy with predominantly youth management experience, why the hell not give the job to Mr. Brentford himself – Kevin O’Connor? He’s doing a great job with the development squad, he knows the club inside out and he is Brentford through and through. Unlike Pep Clotet.

Bill Benn seized upon the hole in this argument – the fact that any managerial change is coming at the request of Lee Carsley and not necessarily Matthew Benham and his Directors of Football:

This is nothing to do with Matthew Benham. Lee Carsley simply doesn’t want to be a manager and wants to go to other pastures as soon as the new coach is in place.

I suggest you check out Lee Carsley’s background in football management too as he hadn’t been too impressive in the short periods he’s been caretaker boss. King Kev as manager at the current time…God give me strength

beesyellow22 was quick to come back in his defence:

It is all very well talking about Carsley not being impressive but facts are facts. We won four on the bounce. The players now know what they are doing. The players are happy once again. The training methods are now working. The players are fitter and stronger. The players (seem to) enjoy playing for Lee Carsley. Pretty much the same players who were failing under Marinus.

“Nothing to do with Matthew Benham”  – this is also extremely wide of the mark! Of course it is everything to do with Benham. Benham is the driving force and the beating heart behind everything that happens behind the scenes. He is a successful and driven businessman and someone who plays to win. Hence the (apparent) decision to now dispense with the services of the man who has a) dragged us kicking and screaming out of a relegation dogfight and b) won the Skybet Championship Manager of the Month award for October! This has EVERYTHING to do with Matthew Benham, presumably hastened by Carsley’s consistent reiteration that he does not want the job.

And why the derision re Kevin O’Connor? How is he any less of a suggestion than Clotet? At least he is passionate about Brentford FC and his early results as Development Squad Manager would appear to be extremely encouraging (I’m interested to hear what your reaction was when Warburton was given the manager’s job…)

Rebel Bee then gave his opinion on the current situation:

In the main I’m with beesyellow22 on this, let’s just rewind to the statements that came out of Griffin Park when Lee Carsley was put in charge until the end of the season. So that went well then didn’t it, as it seems he can’t get away fast enough – so why did he take it and why didn’t Brentford FC just say it was going to be a very short term move?

If Clotet does join I can’t see Carsley or Williams being part of the team going forward. And what has Clotet actually achieved in the game to justify our pursuit of his services?

There seems to be a fascination with overseas coaches, ironically I’d now convinced myself that Edinburgh and Smith could be decent appointments.

Here we go again.

Bill Benn stuck firmly to his guns:

bees yellow22, you said that Lee Carsley is leaving due to Matthew Benham which is complete rubbish and a slur against our owner. How many more times does Lee Carsley have to say that he  doesn’t want the job? In actual fact he hates it and wants to move on.

Lee Carsley has done a good job and I also would have liked him to have continued but he just doesn’t want to. He wants to coach young players as he does with the England Under 19s and it gives him the flexibility for him to work on other things outside of football. I was not dissing Lee Carsley by saying look at his CV but it’s just an example of if he was on our list today as a target check out his history before joining us and you could find many negatives.

We have had an horrendous injury list this season and unfortunately picked the wrong coach in Marinus Dijkhuizen, but this can happen to the best (Manchester United for example.) You might think this season is a soap opera but I among many other fans have enjoyed some great times this season with number one beating that lot down the road as well as our performances against Charlton, Leeds, Wolves, Bristol City and Blackburn to name a few.

When the new manager comes in I expect Lee Carsley to help the transition for a week or so and Paul Williams to stay. I know the majority of our fans will get behind the new man and also expect the usual uninformed clap trap to continue on message boards.

Rebel Bee still hadn’t given up and had an excellent point to make:

Bill we know you’re not dissing Lee Carsley, but if he doesn’t want the job and hates it so much then something has happened right? As a reminder here are the relevant quotes from our Chairman’s statement when he was appointed:

“The Club has moved swiftly and decisively in order to maintain its long-term vision and philosophy. That’s why Lee Carsley has been appointed as Head Coach for the remainder of the season. Lee has shown with the Under 21s that he is an outstanding leader. His work at the training ground has been hugely impressive whilst coaching the development squad and has demonstrated he understands the Club’s philosophy and the ambitions of Brentford FC. We believe these qualities will help Lee settle into his new role effectively and quickly”.

As to his reasons for not wanting to continue, we can only guess and speculate – I don’t blame Matthew Benham for this at all, however the management team shouldn’t get a pass for the Duikhuizen disaster.

I do wonder why once again why we have managed to make a mess of this, even if it is just in the way it was communicated. As for “uninformed clap trap” – really is that your answer to anyone who sees it slightly differently? I think you can do better than that.

Bill Benn was more conciliatory in his response:

“Clap trap” wasn’t aimed at you but the more extreme stuff that has been aimed at Matthew Benham on other forums and social media sites whenever there are decisions being made. I would agree our PR has been dreadful at time over the last twelve months. Lee Carsley has never ever stated that he wanted to be manager until the end of the season although others have been quoted suggesting that for reasons I don’t know, maybe wishful thinking. It’s no secret that he gives a lot of time to charity work and being in youth football gives him the time to do that. I wish him all the best and look forward to the new Head Coach taking over hopefully this week.

As was Rebel Bee and it is hard to argue with what he had to say:

Fair do’s Bill, but there are some wide of the mark views on both sides of this. Like you I have enjoyed some great days already this season – with Charlton and QPR the stand outs. I don’t expect Brentford FC to be top six or chasing promotion either.

I love the league and I’d just be happy to stay in the division with a bit to spare. I’d just like to see us settle down with the coach and players pulling together and playing some decent stuff. And I’d like the club to communicate and do its PR a bit better, so that we don’t need to speculate so much.

I will end with Peter Lumley who had a more radical and resigned viewpoint:

Whoever is appointed it will be just another Matthew Benham gamble with little regard for the views of the Griffin Park faithful.

For my money the “dream ticket”would be Kevin O”Connor and Paul Williams.

Thanks to everybody who participated in the discussion and I think that there will be far more to say as the situation develops over the week. For what it is worth here is where I stand:

Lee Carsley was the obvious immediate short term appointment when the decision made not to continue with Marinus. Who knows how hard he had to be persuaded in order to convince him to take the job and agree to take the reins until the end of the season?

If there was any doubt at the time about his willingness to remain in post until May then it was a mistake to make the statement confirming that he would do so. What I suspect is that Lee did agree to do so, however reluctantly, but soon realised that he had made a mistake and has been actively trying to relinquish his position ever since. This is terribly disappointing given how well he has adapted to the role and the positive response that he has obtained from the squad as is reflected in our improved results and style of play.

We therefore need to make another appointment and whoever we choose will be a gamble to some extent. Clotet is an interesting prospect for all the reasons I outlined in my previous article in terms of his obvious coaching ability and the lovely football that Swansea attempt to play. How will he do when elevated to the Head Coach role and will the players buy into his approach? These are imponderables that cannot be answered.

I suspect that a firm decision has yet to be made and that the situation will not be resolved quickly.