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.