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.