Stats And Stuff – 30/12/15

It is quite staggering just how much statistical information about football teams and individual players is now freely available within the public domain. Statistical analysis is now an accepted and growing part of the game and given the quality and depth of the data that I was able to unearth free of charge on the internet I can only wonder at the level of information that is gathered and provided privately to the clubs themselves.

I generally go to a wonderful website, WhoScored.com which provides a treasure trove of easily accessible data that can be understood even by a mathematical dunce like me.

What I find so fascinating about using the data before I write anything about Brentford FC is that it makes me question my judgement about pretty much anything that I have seen unfurl on the pitch in front of me when I watch the team play.

Watching Brentford play can be a veritable roller coaster ride with so many highs and lows as your spirits and emotions are taken to the heights and then plummet to the depths all within the course of a ninety minute match. Judgements can be clouded by what you think that you have seen rather than what actually took place out on the pitch.

We also all have prejudices and preconceived views about every player. For example if you spoke to a Brentford supporter today and asked for an opinion on John Swift, our talented midfield player currently on loan from Chelsea, there would probably be some purring comments of appreciation about his quality on the ball, eye for a pass, ability to glide sinuously and effortlessly past opponents and also make late runs into the penalty area but these would probably be interspersed with some grudging mention of his supposed defensive weaknesses, as to the naked eye he does not always appear to track back, press and support his defenders as much as you would like or is needed.

Is John Swift a defensive liability and a luxury player? Fact or fiction? Does his offensive contribution more than make up for his supposed defensive shortcomings? In order to come to some sort of conclusion I consulted the oracle and Stats God at WhoScored.com and here are the stark, objective facts, untainted by any bias or rose tinted spectacles.

I looked first at his defensive statistics and they were telling. Swift makes 0.9 tackles per game, comfortably the least of any first team regular, apart from Lasse Vibe. Yennaris and Colin make the most (2.5) and all of his midfield colleagues attempt more tackles than Swift. He also makes less interceptions than any of his team mates and he has yet to block a shot. These stats would therefore appear to bear out the suggestion that defending is not yet a strong part of Swift’s game. Tellingly in a description and profile of his overall game WhoScored.com rates his defensive contribution as weak.

Where things begin to look much better for him however is when you look at his offensive statistics. John has scored three goals and made four assists in his fourteen appearances to date. He also takes 1.3 shots on goal every game and makes 1.4 key passes per game, more than anybody else in the team apart from Alan Judge. He also attempts more dribbles than all his team mates apart from Max Colin.

I could break his game down even more, but hopefully the message is coming through loud and clear that John Swift is making an exceptionally effective offensive contribution to the team that more than justifies his starting position, even if he needs to pay more attention to the defensive side of his game, as it is what you do without the ball that can often be just as important as being a Fancy Dan when in possession.

I thought it might be interesting to delve a bit deeper into the Brentford team analysis on WhoScored.com and see if there were any trends emerging after the first half of the season. According to the figures our style of play is typified by the following:

  • Possession football
  • Attacking down the right
  • Play with width
  • Short passes
  • Playing in their own half
  • Opponents play aggressively against them
  • Aggressive
  • Consistent first eleven

Our strengths are:

  • Counter attacks
  • Finishing scoring chances
  • Shooting from direct free kicks
  • Creating chances using through balls
  • Creating chances through individual skill
  • Coming back from losing positions

Whereas we are deemed to be weak at the following:

  • Defending against attacks down the wings
  • Aerial duels
  • Defending counter attacks
  • Defending set pieces
  • Stopping opponents from creating chances
  • Avoiding fouling in dangerous areas

These all look pretty much spot on to me and it is reassuring that the figures in this instance back up and totally substantiate the subjective opinion I had already come to after watching the overwhelming majority of our twenty-four Championship games to date.

Our top six performing players given an analysis of all aspects of their game have been Alan Judge, James Tarkowski, John Swift, Harlee Dean, Jake Bidwell and Nico Yennaris, again, no surprises there, and interestingly enough, of the regular players, Toumani Diagouraga and Konstantin Kerschbaumer rate the lowest. Judge and Tarkowski are also rated as the top and fourth best player in the entire Championship to date – a wonderful achievement by the pair of them.

According to WhoScored.com the best eleven players in the Championship over the entire first half of the season were as follows:

Martinez (Wolves)

Onuoha (QPR)

Duffy (Blackburn)

Tarkowski (Brentford)

Friend (Middlesbrough)

Gallagher (Preston)

Norwood (Reading)

Stephens (Brighton)

Judge (Brentford)

Forestieri (Sheffield Wednesday)

McCormack (Fulham)

Not too many surprises there, in my opinion.

Of our thirty-six goals to date, one of the highest totals in the league, an eye-opening nine have come from set pieces, including two penalty kicks and two have come from counterattacks. That is a massive improvement on last season.

We attempt just under five hundred passes per game with a seventy-seven per cent accuracy rate. Eighty per cent of our passes are short, but we also hit nineteen crosses every match.

In that respect I only wish we could find out the average number of attacking players we had in the opposition penalty area every time we hit a cross as I am pretty sure that is an area where improvement is still needed.

I suspect that our analysis department might have a few words to say if they saw this article and would draw my attention to all sorts of facts and figures that have escaped my attention or that I have misinterpreted, and I am sure that I have barely scratched the surface of what is a fascinating subject that will become more and more important as the years progress.

Statistics have certainly changed the way that I look at matches and I have found them an invaluable tool in terms of helping me write more sensibly, rationally and objectively about players and matches and avoid going off on an unsubstantiated and ignorant rant.

Most importantly, what they show quite clearly is just how well we are performing as a team and also on an individual basis too.

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Something Special Times Two – 29/12/15

For most fans, watching your football team play can sometimes seem like a prison sentence without hope of parole, a hard and endless slog or even running through treacle in gumboots. Lots of hard work and running, effort, energy, but so little entertainment, reward or quality.

Perspiration but so little inspiration. It is a habit that is easy to get into but so hard to get out of once the routine has been established.

These words would sum up much of my experience watching Brentford over the past fifty years or so. Of course there are seasons and matches that stand out and are irrevocably engrained in my memory banks but in real terms they are few and far between and interspersed with so much that, looking back, can only and best be described as drab, boring, inept and instantly forgettable

Over that period there have been many memorable goals, an instant example would be Gary Blissett’s strike against Peterborough, that are totally unforgettable but more for what they meant to the team, club and us supporters rather for the actual quality of the goal.

Off the top of my head probably the best goal that I have ever seen Brentford score was Paul Brooker’s effort at Swindon in 2006 when he slalomed his way three quarters of the length of the pitch leaving seemingly half the Swindon team trailing helplessly in his wake. In that moment he was totally unstoppable and Messi and Maradona revisited and it stood out even more given the customary functional and plebeian style of football employed by Martin Allen’s team at that time.

All that changed yesterday afternoon when the Bees came away with a desperately hard-won and narrow victory at Reading. The performance was decent and organised if not inspired and for once Dame Fortune smiled down on us as we won a match that could quite easily have gone the other way had Reading made more of their possession.

A lot of credit for that must go down to the Bees who refused to be beaten and absorbed the pressure exerted on us by a home team that looked quick and innovative in midfield if insipid and wasteful up front.

We defended well and restricted Reading to very few clear chances and only conceded once when substitutes Vydra and McCleary combined beautifully with a series of one-twos to tear us open and create the space for the latter to score easily. In truth Button was forced into only one decent save and much of the credit is due to the back four of Colin, Dean, Tarkowski and Bidwell who simply rolled their sleeves up and presented an almost impassable barrier.

The midfield did not jell with Diagouraga and McEachran never really dominating or getting to grips with their task and sometimes chasing shadows with Toumani’s influence blunted by an early booking by Keith Stroud, a ticking time bomb of a referee who was, as ever, far too quick with his cards.

I wish he would adopt the following statement as his mantra: a foul is not necessarily a yellow card but Stroud seems programmed to blow his whistle and show a yellow card almost simultaneously without ever giving himself time to think and his looming presence cast a shadow over the entire proceedings with Button, Dean and Tarkowski also falling foul of the eccentric official. Judge too was strangely muted and Swift drifted in and out of the match stranded as he was out on the left flank.

For once we created very little with Vibe’s threat snuffed out but now I am coming to the real point of this article as we scored what were quite comfortably the best two goals that I have ever seen Brentford score in one match over all the years that I can remember.

For the first, which came at a time when Reading were well on top and looking likely to score at almost any time, Tarky strode imperiously out of defence, sold a perfect dummy and slid the ball to Swift in midfield. He laid the ball off to Woods just inside the home half of the field and he strode towards the Reading goal. On and on he dribbled as the defenders backed off complacent and secure in the knowledge that they were dealing with a man who is hardly prolific in front of goal as his record of only scoring one career goal in over one hundred and twenty games surely attests. Now he has doubled his tally!

With Vibe making a decoy run to the right and Swift trying to make a late run into the penalty area, there were few passing options available so Ryan let fly from twenty-five yards and the ball screamed towards the goal and was still rising as it hit the roof of the net with Bond a helpless bystander.

I am old enough to remember Bobby Charlton’s long range Exocet against Mexico in the 1966 World Cup and I can only say that Ryan’s goal yesterday was in the same class. It was a phenomenal effort that knocked the stuffing out of the home team and we were able to retain our lead until the interval largely untroubled.

Reading regrouped and dominated the early part of the second half, missed an open goal straight away and fully deserved their excellently worked and taken equaliser and looked by far the more likely team to earn the victory.

All that changed after seventy minutes when Judge found Woods who had now switched to a more central position where he was far more effective. His perfectly placed forty yard pass out to the right wing cleared the straining Quinn and found the ever willing substitute Sergi Canos who now produced seven seconds of pure magic as his first touch took the ball over his marker, Quinn, his second left Hector helpless as he moved into the penalty area and his third was a rasping and unstoppable left foot volley into the far corner of the net.

The youngster celebrated wildly in front of nearly three thousand adoring Brentford fans, as well he might, as this was a goal of true international class, executed instinctively and without fuss by a young player who has the football world at his feet.

What a way to celebrate his loan extension and his post match Bees Player interview clearly demonstrates just how committed he is to the Brentford cause. We are fortunate and blessed to have a young player with his ability, but just as crucially, his wonderfully positive and bubbly attitude, playing for us. He is a total breath of fresh air and a joy to watch and yesterday’s effort will never be forgotten by anybody who was privileged enough to witness it.

Reading huffed and puffed for the remainder of the match but their spirit had been broken by Sergi’s wonder goal and if anything Brentford looked the more likely to score a third than they were to equalise. The clumsy Hector saw red for a second yellow card after a pathetic and embarrassing dive and his side’s fortune plummeted with his unsolicited fall and we saw the game out with some degree of comfort.

2015 has seen Brentford play football of a standard unsurpassed in living memory and what a fitting way to see the old year out with two of the best goals that you could ever wish or hope to see. This has been a quite wonderful year for the Bees and who knows what riches 2016 will bring?

What is quite certain is that the goals scored yesterday by Woods and Canos have whetted our appetite for what is to come.

Patience Is A Virtue – 27/12/15

One should always strive for continuous improvement whatever your endeavour, hobby or line of work and I greatly admire people who set themselves challenges and push themselves as much as they possibly can.

Sometimes however a dose of realism is called for and I think that now is the time to look back calmly, objectively and rationally on Brentford’s nil-nil draw with Brighton yesterday.

Our visitors came into the match boasting a quite amazing record of only suffering one defeat in their opening twenty-two matches and whilst last season was an aberration for them as they were down amongst the dead men clustered around the bottom of the Championship table, there were good reasons for their temporary fall from grace and the current campaign sees them in their customary position of challenging for promotion, either automatically or through the playoffs.

Led by the astute and understated Chris Hughton, Brighton fielded a team jam packed with a Championship experience with the likes of Stockdale, Bruno, Greer, Dunk, Stephens and Calderon as well as the massive emerging talent of Manchester United’s Jamie Wilson.

Owned by another betting magnate in Tony Bloom, there are definitely similarities between the two clubs but, buttressed by their magnificent new stadium and near capacity attendances, as well as this being their fifth season in the Championship, it should be recognised and accepted that Brighton are well ahead of us at this point in time on their potential journey to the top.

Brentford, on the other hand are still learning and inexperienced at this level. Last season our wonderful brand of passing football, movement and high pressing took everybody by surprise and we came so close to making the seemingly impossible dream come true.

I might be alone in my opinion, but quite frankly I consider our current achievement this season of reaching the halfway stage of the season established in the top ten and within touching distance of the top six to be far more meritorious.

Consider the circumstances: for a variety of reasons we lost some of the backbone of our squad when the likes of Odubajo, Douglas, Dallas, Pritchard and Gray left the club and our recruitment in terms of both management and players left a lot to be desired with far too many foreign players untested in the Championship, and understandably struggling initially to come to terms with its relentlessness and its physical and mental challenges.

The appointment of Marinus Dijkhuizen as Head Coach also proved to be a failure

We suffered a quite ridiculous number of injuries and not just the normal run of the mill knocks and bruises but serious problems that affected players such as Bjelland, Colin, McEachran, Macleod, Jota and Djuricin who were expected to become mainstays of the team. Only now are we getting close to putting the majority of these players back to full fitness.

There have been massive changes behind the scenes with two new Co-Directors of Football settling into a new job and the players have had to listen to a variety of different voices and approaches in terms of their training and coaching give that we are now onto our third management team of the season.

There was also the fiasco of the Griffin Park pitch which caused more early season problems, hiatus and embarrassment.

No wonder we got off to a slow start as we were basically competing with one hand tied behind our back. Thanks to Lee Carsley and Paul Williams who reverted to basics and what had worked so well last season, benched many of the newcomers and established a settled team and pattern of play, we arrested what was looking like it might become an irreversible slide and fall from grace and turned the season around.

Carsley turned down the opportunity of taking the Head Coach position on a permanent basis which caused more uncertainty and upheaval, but his success bought us the time to make a measured appointment and the new duo of Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly has settled down quickly and made an immediate impact.

I am sure that we have made an exceptional appointment in Smith and I was even more reassured when I read these comments from one of his former players at Walsall, Romaine Sawyers:

He created a great environment to work in. Everybody seemed to learn. Everybody has the right to an opinion. He’d speak to every single player, before and after training.

I’d say his greatest feature was his honesty. He’d never tell you something you wanted to hear or say something just to provoke a response. He was straight down the line and I’m sure that the Brentford players will love him.

I hope that makes you all feel as good as it did me when I read it.

We are continuing to improve and progress and have established a fully deserved reputation for being one of the best and most attractive footballing teams in the division.

Given the level of backing we receive from Matthew Benham and our justified reputation for off field innovation and excellence, it is a good bet, if not a sure fire certainty that within a short period of time, maybe even before we move into Lionel Road in 2018, that we will be knocking at the door of the Premier League.

Our last two home performances against MK Dons and Huddersfield were both excellent and we blew both teams away, scored six times and could quite easily have doubled that total.

The mood was therefore optimistic with real hope and maybe even a sense of expectation that we could also defeat Brighton.

In the end we didn’t but we should have done so, as but for three exceptional saves from Stockdale from Judge twice and then a phenomenal full length dive to push away a header from Tarkowski that looked a certain goal , a poor late miss from Hofmann and a lack of penetration in the final third where the final pass too often went astray, we would have scored the goal that would have settled the game which ended up as an exciting nil-nil draw.

As I left the ground and when I read the comments on social media from other Bees supporters I felt that far too many fans were feeling not just slightly disappointed at what they saw as the Bees dropping two points but also even a bit let down.

Remember, this is Brighton we are talking about, not Championship lightweights like MK Dons or Huddersfield. We have no divine right to beat teams of that calibre and in my opinion given all the problems that we have had to overcome this season we are still punching way above our weight.

That is not to say that I do not feel that we can make a challenge for the final playoff position should we maintain our form, not lose key players in January and maybe even strengthen the squad particularly up front where we are not yet firing on all cylinders.

We cannot yet compete on an even playing field with the big boys in this league although given time, a new stadium and more experience at this level there is no reason why this situation cannot change but at present we should simply take pride and pleasure from the quality of our displays and the effervescent football that we play realising that we still cannot match many other teams in terms of resources and size and experience of squad.

That being said we possess so many real footballers who are so comfortable on the ball and provide us with so much pleasure and excitement.

We dominated proceedings yesterday, with fifty-nine per cent possession, twenty shots at goal and ten corners and out-passed our visitors, who pride themselves on maintaining possession for long spells by a vast margin – five hundred and fifty seven to three hundred and ninety.

Perhaps the most telling comment about our quality and the journey that we have come on came from Brighton manager Chris Hughton – a former Bee, after his team had clung on for a barely deserved point:

There are lots of exciting games at Brentford at the moment. They play a brand of football which revolves around a lot of sharp players good on the ball, and they will test any opposition.

As a team we had to dig deep because Brentford are a good team. 

There is so much to take pride and pleasure in at Griffin Park, and as I keep saying, we are so nearly a really excellent team – and there is still plenty of room for a massive improvement far beyond the levels that we have reached now, which are way above what I ever really believed I would be watching from a Brentford team.

I am just tickled pink and more than content with the fact that we will end 2015 as the best placed West London team in the Championship in our private battle with Fulham and Queens Park Rangers! I know that there is far more to come but that will do me nicely for now.

I would simply urge a little bit more patience and and understanding about the situation we currently find ourselves in. We are well on the road to success, it might just take slightly longer than some supporters expect.

Brentford FC & Boxing Day – 24/12/15

The prospect of playing promotion challengers Brighton & Hove Albion on Boxing Day is an exciting and enticing one as the Bees will have the opportunity to test their mettle and their own playoff credentials against one of the Championship’s best teams, and one that has only just lost its undefeated record at the twenty-second time of asking. A quite remarkable achievement and we will need to be at our absolute best in order to come out of the match with any reward.

As we await Saturday’s match with a mixture of relish and impatience I thought I would attempt to take our mind off the match by looking back at some of the more memorable Boxing Day tussles we have enjoyed – or not as the case might be – over the past few decades.

Our first Boxing Day clash of the 70s was away at Scunthorpe, hardly a local derby or crowd pleaser over the festive season! A more than healthy crowd of just under five thousand saw a late Roger Cross goal give us an undeserved equaliser.

The following season a bumper crowd of over eighteen thousand crammed into Griffin Park in the anticipation of seeing top of the table Brentford pulverise perennial strugglers Crewe Alexandra but the plucky visitors hadn’t read the script and the Bees squeaked home with a trademark header from John O’Mara.

Our 1972 Boxing Day defeat at Bournemouth was remarkable for us scoring twice away from home for the the first time in that horrible relegation season – our hosts, of course, scored three times, but also for Jackie Graham actually scoring with our well-rehearsed pantomime season free kick where two players pretended to argue with each other before a third took a shot at goal.

The 1973 match against Newport County was the one thousandth consecutive match covered by the Middlesex Chronicle’s George Sands and also the last game played for us by Stewart Houston before he departed gratefully to Manchester United.

I wonder just how many loyal and bleary eyed Brentford supporters caught the coach at eight o’clock on Boxing Day 1975 and were eventually forced to endure a goalless draw away at Exeter City? At least they must have been able to catch up with their sleep, before, after and probably during the game!

Boxing Day 1977 was appropriately named as it will always be remembered for the fisticuffs between Andy McCulloch and Aldershot’s behemoth of a defender Joe Jopling which resulted in the Brentford striker seeing red in more ways than one. Not a happy day all round as our promotion push was dented by a narrow defeat after an error by Len Bond and I sulked all the way home.

The following year saw Barry Silkman give a sumptuous display for Plymouth Argyle but two late Dean Smith goals saw the Bees come out on top.

1983 saw Brentford host Wimbledon on Christmas Eve, the last time a Football League match has been staged on that day, and the visitors won a seven goal thriller. 1984 saw a real Boxing Day dampener when a totally lethargic Brentford team never turned up and were hammered by three clear goals by a Bristol Rovers team who strolled to an easy victory.

Arsenal loanee Graham Rix lit up our easy three-nil win over a hapless Aldershot in 1987 and gave a performance that simply oozed class.

A goalkeeping error by Tony Parks led to a narrow defeat at Reading in 1989 and made me question the sanity of my decision to drive from Devon that morning to attend the game.

Our brief stay in Division One saw a memorable Boxing Day win over big spenders Derby County. Goals from Joe Allon and a perfectly placed own goal from Richard Goolouze ensured a much needed victory for the Bees.

Next season we won a ridiculous and farcical  match at Dean Court which saw Bournemouth keeper Vince Bartram slice a simple back pass comically into his own net and then scream abuse at his blameless defender – pure slapstick – and Steve Cotterill then missed two penalty kicks for the home team as we strolled to a three goal victory.

Orient were equally appalling the following season and after conceding three first half goals to a rampant Brentford, their entire team was sent back onto the pitch well before the end of the halftime break with a flea in their ear by their furious manager, John Sitton.

Brighton last came to Griffin Park on Boxing Day in 1995 for a match that surely should never have started given the frozen pitch and icy conditions. They certainly didn’t suit Dean Martin who was cruelly lambasted for his tentative performance by the Brentford faithful and appropriatelay enough the game was settled by a mishit cross by Dean Wilkins which floated into the far corner over the head of Kevin Dearden.

In 1996 we were forced to make the ridiculous journey to Plymouth but came back with a four-one win marked by a rare goal from Joe Omigie.

Brighton again came out on top the following season, this time at the Priestfield Stadium, and we beat Bristol City in 1999 in a match which saw Peter Beadle knock the ball out of Andy Woodman’s hands but the goal was allowed to stand.

Leon Constantine, who never scored a single goal for us, made a triumphant return in 2004 with a well taken second half hat trick which gave his new team, Torquay United a surprise win at Griffin Park.

The following year Brentford leapfrogged Swansea City and went to the top of the table after beating our rivals in a thrilling contest in which the unlikely duo of Eddie Hutchinson and Junior Lewis dominated the midfield and reduced Lee Trundle to a mere spectator.

Adam Griffiths gave Millwall a Boxing Day gift after twenty-three seconds in 2006 when he misjudged a backpass to Clark Masters and the game went further downhill from there as we were hammered by our near neighbours.

Not too many of our recent Boxing Day encounters have been very memorable, bar an excellent victory at Colchester in 2012 and the exciting three-two win over Swindon in 2013 marked by Sam Saunders falling flat on his face when about to take a free kick and after dusting himself off, he recovered and put his next attempt into the roof of the net totally silencing the jeering Swindon fans in front of whom he celebrated with a theatrical dive.

The least said about last season’s catastrophic Boxing Day collapse to Ipswich Town the better and I am sure that it is still fresh in the memory of most Brentford supporters.

Thankfully we seem to have a pretty decent record in matches played on Boxing Day and it is also good to note that more and more of these games are played against reasonably local opposition and we are no longer forced to endure endless trecks to the other end of the country.

As for the likely result of this year’s clash with Brighton, who knows, and hopefully it will be as exciting a match as last season’s five goal thriller. We come into the match in excellent form and Dean Smith will have some difficult decisions to make before finalising his squad.

I can’t wait!

The Reasons Why I Love Brentford FC – 23/12/15

  1. The indestructible Peter Gilham’s banshee cries of encouragement as the Brentford players take to the field
  2. Meeting up and kibitzing with my football friends at every home game and the sense of continuity it provides
  3. Having a prematch drink in The Griffin or a meal in The Weir
  4. The long post match telephone calls to friends and fellow supporters where we dissect and analyse every kick
  5. Endeavouring to guess the identity of players who we will sign
  6. Seeing the Griffin Park floodlights for the first time when I am driving down Ealing Road never fails to excite and re-energise me
  7. Griffin Park. It is old and obsolete but it makes my heart sing every time I go through the Braemar Road turnstiles
  8. Having my favourite secret hideaways where I know that I can still park my car before matches
  9. The imminent prospect of Lionel Road and knowing that it will also have style, class and a sense of identity and not just be another faceless cooky cutter stadium
  10. The red and white striped home shirt that symbolises perfectly who we are and what we stand for
  11. Bumping into Brentford legends like Peter Gelson in the Braemar Road forecourt and knowing that they are still part of the club and will always be made welcome
  12. Seeing so many new faces at every home game and realising that the secret is out – Brentford are on the rise and are a team well worth watching
  13. Watching us play away from home. All united in a common purpose
  14. Hearing the cries of appreciation mingled with lingering feelings of disbelief at the quality of the football we now play
  15. Knowing that the heritage and tradition of the club is recognised, appreciated and respected by everybody involved with Brentford FC
  16. The sense of innovation, originality and ambition that permeates our thinking and everything that we do
  17. The intoxicating prospect of being a supporter at a time when we are potentially writing a new chapter in the club’s history
  18. The reassurance of knowing that the club is in safe hands and is owned and run by people have have its best interests at heart
  19. The fact that the supporters are close to the pitch, feel part of the game and create a supportive yet intimidating atmosphere at every game which is second to none
  20. Evening matches under the floodlights at Griffin Park  – pure magic
  21. The Ealing Road Terrace  – a wonderful anachronism
  22. It’s All Your Fault! being sung at opposition goalkeepers who often shrivel under the verbal pressure
  23. Worrying before every Championship game that we will get hammered and totally outclassed but being reassured by realising just how good we are
  24. The sense of freedom, positivity and adventure with which we play and running rings around teams packed with lumbering giants
  25. Knowing that you will almost never see a poor game of football at Griffin Park and that the entertainment levels will be extremely high
  26. The look of amazement on the face of smug Premier League supporting fans who I bring to matches and are without exception stunned at the incredible quality of the football we play
  27. The sense of community that is engendered particularly thanks to the efforts of the Community Sports Trust team. We are all in this together and the involvement of the local people really matters
  28. The friendliness and efficiency of the management, marketing and media teams who are never too busy to have a chat or reply to an email
  29. The fact that the players are without exception decent young men who are committed to the cause and give everything both on and off the pitch – there are no prima donnas here
  30. The massive increase in the quality of our squad and the intoxicating blend of foreign talent and promising youngsters from the lower leagues
  31. Having an ever increasing number of current international footballers in our squad
  32. Seeing more and more young Academy players being encouraged and nurtured and getting closer to the First Team squad
  33. Watching the Development and Academy teams play the same brand of skilful, attacking football as the First Team as our philosophy is embraced throughout the club at all levels
  34. That I can now proudly state in wider company that I am a Brentford fan and no longer receive a barrage of smug, pitying and patronising looks and comments – the worm has turned. It is our time now
  35. Historians and authors like David Lane, Mark Croxford and Paul Briers who have a massive respect for the club’s heritage and are determined to preserve it for future generations
  36. The Hall of Fame which will ensure that the exploits of past club heroes will never be forgotten
  37. The Brentford Programme Shop, hidden under the Braemar Road stand, the best kept secret in the ground and packed full of wonderful memories
  38. Seeing more and more of the media’s big names, like the immortal Brian Glanville at Griffin Park and the professionalism and friendliness of Dave and Ian in the Press Lounge
  39. Mark Burridge and his wonderful Bees Player team who provide so much comfort and joy
  40. The enthusiasm, passion and erudition of Billy Reeves and the glorious word pictures that he paints when describing his favourite club
  41. The match programme and fanzines – more high quality publications disseminating the Brentford message

These are just my quick, initial thoughts and I hope to add to them very soon. In the meantime I would be really grateful if any other fans would like to provide their own reasons why they love Brentford FC and I will publish them over the next few days.

Thank you and happy Christmas to everybody.

Jekyll And Hyde – 20/12/15

Brentford’s performance against Huddersfield yesterday touched the heights but also, at times, plummeted the depths. For forty-five minutes the Bees were totally unstoppable and tore the visitors apart. Everything Brentford attempted came off and their combination of accurate passing, interchanging of positions, vision, dribbling and, just as importantly, hard work and relentless pressing, ensured that we fully merited our three goal lead at the interval – and it could easily have been a lot more.

After a minute’s silence impeccably observed in memory of the late, great Jimmy Hill, a wonderful visionary, Huddersfield chased shadows as Alan Judge pulled all the strings in midfield. Sergio Canos was almost unstoppable on the right wing and Lasse Vibe’s movement was far too much for the lumbering Hudson and Lynch at the centre of the Huddersfield defence.

Dean Smith took note of the potential effects of having played on such an energy sapping pitch at Cardiff on Tuesday evening and rotated his squad. There were recalls for Max Colin, Harlee Dean and Canos in place of Yennaris, O’Connell and Kerschbaumer and Alan McCormack returned to the bench. The fact that there was no space for Yennaris and Kerschbaumer in the eighteen simply highlights just how strong our squad is becoming.

Any nerves or self doubt as a result of our late and cruel defeat at Cardiff evaporated when we scored early on when Vibe found Swift who played a one-two off a hapless defender before slipping Canos through and the youngster turned Holmes, who was far too tight on him, and placed his shot precisely into the far corner for a goal which emphasised his class and massive potential.

Huddersfield’s confidence was shot to pieces and they funnelled back and allowed us all the space we needed to rip them to shreds. Diagouraga and Woods were given the room, time and freedom required to drive us up the field and it came as no surprise when Tarkowski strode forward imperiously, picked out Vibe’s run and chipped the ball into space and Vibe was set free behind a faltering defence and he took the ball on unchallenged before thundering a shot high into the roof of the net from a tight angle.

Whenever our hapless visitors did manage to string together a few passes – mainly backwards or sideways, the Bees swarmed around them, never gave them a moment’s peace and regained possession with ease. This was a footballing masterclass and whilst a Huddersfield team, lacking it must be said most of its first choice midfield through injury, were totally inept, it is impossible to overstate just how well we played. We were awesome and it was a performance as good as, if not better, than anything we have seen on this ground in living memory.

Our third goal came when Hudson was reduced to a tactical handball as the only way to stop Vibe bursting past him and Judge’s free kick from way out on the left wing was driven in towards goal and evaded everybody, friend and foe alike, before nestling perfectly in the far corner of the net.

The score could really have been almost anything at halftime given Brentford’s total dominance and the brilliance of their play and whilst the applause rang out from three sides of the ground, our visitors left the field to a cavalcade of boos from their supporters.

Unfortunately football matches last ninety minutes rather than forty-five, and what had appeared to be a stroll in the park became a far more even and competitive match. David Wagner could have substituted any of his players at the break but he hit the jackpot when he brought on Nahki Wells and Kyle Dempsey who revitalised his faltering team.

They went up a couple of gears and caught us cold with a well-worked goal within a minute of the restart when Wells found Lolley who scored emphatically from close range.

Suddenly the game changed as our visitors, who had absolutely nothing to lose and with lost pride to regain, went for the jugular with Dempsey, playing behind the front two, causing us problems as he ran at our suddenly exposed back four.

Dean and Tarkowski, totally unemployed defensively in the first half when they had the lumbering Miller in their pocket, now found themselves under pressure and found it hard to deal with small tricky opponents who ran at them unchallenged from midfield.

We creaked ominously and a second goal might well have turned the game on its head, but the Bees are never more dangerous than when breaking away at pace, and Judge gained possession on the halfway line from a Huddersfield corner and his run was ended by a bodycheck from Chilwell. A penalty it was and Alan converted emphatically to reach double figures in goals – a quite remarkable achievement for a midfielder at this point of the season.

Wells, Lolley and Dempsey continued to cause us problems and several efforts whistled narrowly wide of our goal as the game flowed from end to end.

Colin made an impressive return to the team, strong in defence and quick to support the attack and he won a ball that he should not have been allowed to do, before shooting narrowly over the bar. A raking move ended with Vibe missing the ball when unmarked right in front of a gaping goal and substitute Jota was far too casual and languid when sent clear on goal and his lame effort was easily saved before Vibe, challenging for the rebound, was taken out for what appeared to be a far clearer penalty kick than the one that had previously been awarded, but this time Mr. Gibbs kept his whistle to his lips without pointing to the spot.

There was a further bit of nonsense when Diagouraga tripped and fell on the ball deep into injury time and Paterson was able to streak away and his shot was parried by Button into the path of Dempsey who scored a goal that was totally deserved given the quality of his, and his team’s second half performance.

It is strange to come away from a two goal victory feeling slightly frustrated and flat but the difference between Brentford’s display in the first and second half was immense. As Huddersfield went up several gears, we changed down, thought that the job had been done, and were punished accordingly.

It just goes to show that you cannot take anything for granted in the Championship.

Without carping too much given how good were were before the break, what changed in the second half is quite simply that we were for once outworked by the opposition and we stopped pressing and challenging, allowing skilful opponents to have the space to run at pace at our suddenly exposed defence.

That is a lesson that we must learn, and learn quickly. There is no substitute for hard work and we fell short in the second half yesterday.

Brentford are now the second highest scorers in the league behind Fulham and, on average, there are three goals scored in every Brentford game.

Thrills, spills, skill and excitement are all guaranteed when you come to Griffin Park!

The recipe for success is to continue doing what we did in the first half yesterday, ideally eliminating the casual and unforced errors and remembering that a match lasts for ninety minutes or more.

Do that and we could become unstoppable.

Thank God For Brentford! – 19/12/15

I slept extremely well last night, particularly between the hours of seven forty-five until nine forty-five pm as I kept nodding off throughout the Sky TV coverage of the Birmingham City versus Cardiff City clash.

What an appalling match between two teams who exemplified everything that is wrong with the game of football today as they both hoofed the ball forward at every opportunity and gave it away with monotonous regularity on the rare occasions when they attempted to play football.

Quite frankly the match was almost unwatchable as both teams cancelled each other out and seemed to be trying to outdo each other in terms of the number of unforced errors they both committed.

Perspiration, certainly, but so little inspiration and it was quite fitting and appropriate that the eventual result was decided by an appalling refereeing error.

There was plenty of effort, sweat, energy, passion, running, defensive organisation, covering and tackling but a total lack of imagination, guile or skill on the ball – and both these teams are ahead of Brentford in the Championship table!

How can this be the case? What can we learn from these teams?

Well, simply that success in football is evidently not obtained by possessing the most talented and pure footballers. Other attributes are required and we quite plainly lack some of them.

I would not for one moment change our style or the manner in which we play. Our football can be exhilarating and breathtaking at times and provides us with so much enjoyment and pride as a club renowned – or maybe the better word is perhaps notorious, in previous decades, for being massive proponents of the long ball game has now found the faith and metamorphosed into becoming one of the best footballing teams in the country.

I do not want to be too picky, and yet… and yet, there is still something missing from our game. We have become much more diligent  and remorseless in our pressing and efforts to win the ball back higher up the field and we maintain a quick tempo in our game which can be impossible for opponents to cope with, but we continue to struggle against the larger, tougher, stronger, more neanderthal teams.

Both Birmingham and Cardiff have beaten us twice running and I well remember today’s opponents, Huddersfield Town bullying us off the ball, aided and abetted by a benign referee who did nothing to protect us, and then defeating us in our encounter last December.

I do not believe it is a case of our working less hard than these teams but more that we can at times be knocked out of our stride and put off our game.

That being said when we are really on song it doesn’t really matter how large our opponents are. I remember watching the Leeds United team emerge from the tunnel at Griffin Park last season and remarking that they looked more like the Land of the Giants and tag-team wrestlers rather than footballers, but we ran rings around them and played them off the pitch and they could not get anywhere near us on the day. We were simply too good and too quick for them to catch up with us and they could not kick us even if that had been their intention.

Earlier this season under Marinus Dijkhuizen, we slowed down our tempo and became far more predictable and teams were able to catch us and cope with us far easier and we found ourselves knocked off the ball and unable to dominate matches as we had done so often last season. Thankfully things have changed and we have now recovered our Mojo and reverted to a style that suits us far better.

In my view we must accept things for how they are. We will always be a bit vulnerable given the expansiveness of our play and the way our defenders play out from the back and support the attackers, and quite simply that is the price we have to pay, and for me it is a totally acceptable one.

What is less acceptable to me is when we shoot ourselves in the foot and contribute to our own downfall. This has been the case far too often recently when we have conceded a series of totally avoidable goals which have come about totally from our own stupid and unforced errors and lack of concentration. I am still replaying Tuesday’s defensive horror show back in my mind as I write these words.

I hope and expect that Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly are already working hard on improving our defensive shape and that we will soon begin to eliminate these expensive errors from our play as we cannot afford to donate any gifts to the opposition given how narrow are the margins between victory and defeat in the Championship.

I am so grateful for the way that we play the game and watching the dross on television last night simply emphasised how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy a team as gifted and easy on the eye as Brentford. Moreover, we have proved categorically that such a positive style of play can and does bring success too.

As I keep saying, we are so close to becoming a really excellent team and with just a bit more care in defence we will become even more formidable opponents for the rest of the league and perhaps challenge for a coveted playoff spot.

I have not seen anybody at our level of the game play football with the verve and brio that we do and long may that remain the case.