The silly season has just begun and the predators are apparently already bashing our door down and lining up to pluck our best assets away from our clutches at Griffin Park.
Yes it is that time of the year again and our collective blood pressure is sure to rise on a daily basis until relief arrives with the closing of the January Transfer Window.
In the not too distant past we did not contemplate January with dread or a sense of foreboding simply because nobody really coveted any of our players enough to pay the panic premium that seems to be charged at a time when the heart often seems to rule the head and nonsensical fees are paid by clubs looking for that final player who will help them ensure promotion or avoid the drop.
Now things are different and we boast at least three star players in Alan Judge, James Tarkowski and Jota who, according to the rumour mill, are all on the verge of leaving the club.
It is still early in the month and nobody knows for sure if any or even all of them will move on but there was identical speculation this time last year about the likes of Andre Gray and Moses Odubajo and despite all the rumours, both players saw the season out at Griffin Park.
To put it bluntly, we are simply the victims of our own success. Through a combination in recent years of enlightened ownership, inspired management, for the most part superb player analysis and recruitment and a determination and commitment to play a unique brand of positive, attacking football the Bees have totally over performed and punched way over their weight.
Despite having one of the lowest average attendance and turnover figures in the Championship, Brentford have established themselves as one of the best footballing teams in the division and built up a squad that contains many valuable assets who are coveted far and wide.
We pay more than decent wages but our budget is dwarfed by the larger and more established clubs within the division, some of whom spend reckless and unjustifiable amounts and ignore the dictates of Financial Fair Play given their determination to join the Premier League gravy train and others are buttressed by a series of enormous parachute payments that give them a ridiculously unfair financial advantage.
We are not competing on an even playing field and for us to have reached the playoffs last season and to have a realistic chance of repeating that feat at the end of the current campaign is an incredible achievement which highlights just how well we are managed and run and the quality of the players we have managed to identity, attract, recruit and develop.
That last verb perfectly sums up where we are as a club at the moment. Brentford, in my opinion can best be described as a stepping stone club where young players of potential know they will be given a showcase where they will be able to hone, demonstrate and improve their skills in a positive and nurturing environment.
Being situated in London is a double edged sword with the attractions of a big capital city offset by the price of housing and cost of living but we are a more than attractive proposition for well advised young players who want to progress.
In other words Brentford puts them in the shop window and there are many clubs out there who are happy to let us do all the hard graft in terms of player recruitment and development and then swoop in to pluck them away from us and benefit from all the work we have done.
Unfortunately given the disparity in our size, income and wage bill we are still at a stage of our development when we are totally unable to prevent this asset stripping as it is pointless to keep a disaffected footballer, and all we can do is grin and bear it, ensure that we receive top dollar for our players, replace them more than adequately with more diamonds in the rough and wait for the time to come when we are in the catbird seat.
The situation will only change once we move to Lionel Road and start to benefit from the additional income streams that it will offer or actually get to the Premier League ourselves. Then we will be able to call the tune and hang onto our best players until we decide it is time to move them on.
Players are tapped up as a matter of course and have agents and other intermediaries in their ear all the time telling them of the riches on offer elsewhere and our current crop will be well aware how much the likes of Moses Odubajo and Andre Gray are currently earning. Just imagine the sort of tales than Alan Judge hears when on international duty with Eire?
There is talk that Sheffield Wednesday are currently offering to triple Alan Judge’s wages and as a family man entering the prime of his career he cannot fail to be attracted by such an offer than we cannot hope to match and nor would it be a sensible decision for us to do so given our financial constraints.
Players have to look after their own interests as the average professional playing career lasts for less than eight years and injury can strike at any moment.
I do not blame the like of Simon Moore, Harry Forrester, Adam Forshaw, Clayton Donaldson, Stuart Dallas, Odubajo and Gray deciding to move on for reasons that in several cases appear to have been more financially driven rather than a way of improving their career prospects. Moore, Forrester and Forshaw have faded into the background and their once promising careers seem to have withered on the vine.
Whilst they can all point to inflated bank balances they might also reflect upon the fact that they could conceivably have actually earned more by staying at Brentford and benefiting from the massive bonus payments that were made last season for reaching the playoffs!
I have written previously about the parallels between Brentford and Southampton and our approach is pretty much identical.
- We do not need to sell anyone and want to keep our best players
- We will only sell them if they decide irrevocably that they wish to leave
- They will only leave on our terms and not theirs – in other words the buying club will have to meet our asking price
- All departing players will be replaced by someone who either already is, or is expected to become, an even better and more valuable player
If a player wants to go and we don’t want him to go, as appears to be the case currently with Tarkowski and Judge then the club’s response is simply to say that they are not for sale unless our valuation is met and if that is not the case then they will remain at Brentford FC.
It is rare that players have been allowed to leave on their terms or to run their contracts down. It happened with Clayton Donaldson and the same situation might be repeated with Harlee Dean but more often than not the club manages difficult situations exceptionally well.
Looking back at previous deals, I think it is more than fair to say that selling Moses and Andre was fantastic business for the club as we will earn up to thirteen million pounds for the pair of them plus a hefty sell-on percentage if and when they move on again. This is money that will be reinvested in new players.
We are, after all a business and must take advantage when such a deal is on the table, as long, of course, as we replace the players with new ones that could turn out to be even better and more valuable.
It would be hard to deny that Max Colin is as good as Moses and he is probably a better defender than his predecessor and whilst it is fair to say that there is no current individual player at the club who can be said to have replaced Andre Gray and what he brought to the team, the facts speak for themselves.
At this point last season Andre had scored nine Championship goals wheres the trio of Lasse Vibe, Marco Djuricin and Philipp Hofmann have contributed fifteen Championship goals between them.
Like all other Brentford fans, I do not want either Tarky or Judge to go, however if they decide that that is what they want to do and our valuation is reached, then I retain full confidence in the club replacing them more than adequately.
The time to worry is if players leave and nobody arrives of a suitable calibre and so far, despite some narrow squeaks in the last close season where some of the newcomers have yet to fully prove themselves for a variety of reasons, we are still well ahead of the game,
As for Jota, who knows what the situation is and whether he has become unsettled. The fact that the talk is of a swift loan move back to Spain can surely only be explained by a pressing personal or family problem that needs to be sorted, rather than footballing reasons.
I hope that this is just scuttlebutt and unfounded social media rumour as he is a footballer who is touched by genius and we have all been waiting for his return with a combination of expectation, anticipation and bated breath.
It would be cruel if the cup is dashed from our lips and he also decides for whatever reason that he needs to leave the club, however Jota, for all his undoubted quality, is also a replaceable asset even if it is hard for us to accept that fact.
Our current squad is immeasurably stronger than it was three years ago and I am certain that it will become even stronger in three years time. Players come and players go, that is the way of the world, and we just have to trust in the club to manage our affairs properly as has undoubtedly been the case up until now.
We are growing and evolving rapidly as it is. Four seasons ago we were a reasonable Third Division team, now we are looking realistically at getting to the Premier League.
That is a massive jump and we have to accept that we are competing in a different arena now and have to play by a different set of rules.
With the welcome loan extensions for Canos and Swift we have actually started the window well by ensuring that two excellent young players will remain at the club for the rest of the season.
There is a lot of water to flow under the bridge between now and the end of January and there are certain to be some highs and lows for us supporters to endure and even enjoy, however I would, suggest that by the beginning of February we will have a playing squad that is as strong, if not stronger than the one we currently possess.
Time will tell.