Brickbats and Bouquets – 17/1/16

Just as my article yesterday castigated James Tarkowski for his utter stupidity and selfishness, it is only right and proper that I give praise too whenever and wherever it is justified.

So will the Brentford Media Department please stand up and take a bow – yes that is you Chris Wickham and you too, Mark Chapman whom I am referring to.

The club’s statement regarding Tarkowski was a perfect example of less is more as it provided a clear but brief and unemotional description of his behaviour and its natural consequence without labouring the fact, elaborating on matters or going into unnecessary detail.

Yesterday they surpassed themselves when the club announced the sad departure of Jota on loan to Eibar on loan until the Summer of 2017 after agreeing an option to extend his Brentford contract for a further season and gave a full and frank explanation for his having no option but to leave the club while he works through some personal issues that require him to be in Spain rather than West London.

There is a crumb of hope and comfort for us as we are told that we have the option to recall the Spanish maestro during the next two Transfer Windows – this Summer and in January 2017 although quite frankly, I am not holding my breath.

In PR circles there are two schools of thought regarding the announcement and dissemination of bad news: You either bury it in and amongst other less contentious announcements and hope that you get away with it without the public noticing or cottoning on, something that is particularly prevalent in government circles, or, as Brentford have done, you provide full disclosure as well as a detailed and compelling explanation of the facts.

In my view, honesty is always the best policy and now every Brentford supporter is totally aware of what has been going on and should understand why, given the circumstances, the club had absolutely no option but to act in the way that they did and allow him to return home in order to sort out his personal life.

The club should be congratulated for acting in such an honourable and farsighted manner.

Jota too earned full marks by releasing a statement to the Brentford fans which made it abundantly clear just how difficult the last few months have been for him and how happy and content he has been at the club and if it had not been for his difficult personal circumstances he would not have been going anywhere.

The letter is heartfelt, open, honest and emotional and he memorably and evocatively states that my children will grow up listening to Jota in the last minute which I have saved forever in my heart as well as constantly in my head.

He ends by simply stating, I won’t say goodbye, just see you soon, so we will all just have to wish him well and wait and see how things turn out for him and his family.

In the meantime we will just have to make do with our abundant memories of the little genius and keep ourselves warm on cold nights by thinking about his twinkling toes and mesmerising dribbling and the incredible goals he scored against the likes of Leeds, Cardiff and Blackburn.

In truth it has been an horrendous week for the Bees and a real eye opener and possibly reality check for all of us supporters. I cannot recall the last time we ever lost three home games in a six day period and maybe Mark Croxford or Paul Briers or somebody else better informed than I can tell us if this sad state of affairs has ever happened before?

Losing to Middlesbrough and Burnley was bad enough if not totally unexpected, and whilst I realise that we had to husband our limited resources and rest players, in retrospect the FA Cup defeat to Walsall was just as damaging. Given where we are in the league a cup run would have ensured that we remain in the public eye and provided a real boost and fillip to our supporters in a season that now looks unlikely to end in a charge for the playoffs.

The Tarkowski and Jota situations just piled further upset and frustration on everybody and we now have to reassess where we are and what happens for the remainder of the season.

It is important to keep a sense of perspective and recognise that a position in the upper mid table of the Championship given everything that has happened to date this season both on and off the field is no mean achievement.

We were spoiled by last season’s top five finish and some senior representatives of the club were perhaps misguided in allowing us to think or expect that further progress and improvement was anticipated.

Frankly you are only as good as the players you are able to put out onto the pitch and we have been hamstrung by our massive and long lasting injury list as well as the loss of so many talented players mainly for reasons well out of our control.

The damage might not yet be over as we face losing more players before the end of the Transfer Window. Tarkowski moving on is surely a given and Toumani might well follow him out of the door, this time with our heartfelt thanks and best wishes. The Alan Judge situation remains totally open and up in the air and we just have to hope that no other club meets our valuation of the player.

There is also wide speculation that Sam Saunders will have his contract cancelled and leave for Tampa Bay Rowdies in the MSL. Should that be the case we cannot begrudge him his opportunity given his loyal service to the club and we can only wish him well. He has returned to the first team reckoning recently given the quality of his displays in training , but also because of our lack of resources and other options.

The loss of Jota is particularly damaging as he would have given Judge additional support and taken some of the pressure off him and revitalised our midfield.

Sergi Canos and John Swift have also shown that they have the potential to more than contribute at Championship level, however I have felt in recent games that they have both hit the wall and need to be taken out of the firing line for a while given their youth and relative inexperience. Swift too is learning how to play a new position and adjust to a role out wide on the left hand side of midfield.

This means that reinforcements are urgently needed and there was talk yesterday that George Evans was on the verge of joining us but that he had decided to join Reading instead. This is potentially disappointing news, given that he is a very talented young player, well known to Dean Smith from his recent loan spell at Walsall who would have been an ideal replacement for Toumani as a box to box midfielder. Evans also has an eye for goal, something that is lacking with Toums and it appears that we will now have to look elsewhere.

It is hard to argue with the view that so far many of our summer recruits have failed to step up to the plate and contribute to the level anticipated and even expected. Gogia has suffered from niggling injuries and not established himself and Kerschbaumer has not been able to cope yet with the pace and physicality of the Championship. Williams has disappeared without trace but he was simply a project anyway. Bjelland, a man of whom we had such high hopes has barely kicked a ball due to long term injury and Barbet has shown great promise but is probably seen as a player for next year rather than this.

As for the three strikers, if you could combine all of their best assets you would have a fantastic player indeed but none of them has totally convinced or demonstrated that they are the real answer to our problem. Andre Gray was certainly a hard act to follow and it is probably unfair to expect a foreign player to step in and find his feet at once but neither Vibe, Hofmann or Djuricin look like they enjoy or are best suited to playing as a lone striker and perhaps they should simply be congratulated for having done as well as they have given that they have scored fifteen goals between them, far more than Gray had managed at this stage of last season.

I cannot see this situation changing at the moment and we will simply have to get on with things as best we can until the close season when we can reassess matters.

McEachran is still regaining form and fitness and of the newcomers only Colin and Woods can be said to have been total successes at the present time although hopefully that situation will change .

I would be more than happy if we remain where we are in the league and start building for the future. What is certain is that we will remain easy on the eye and play exciting and vibrant attacking football whilst retaining a slightly soft underbelly.

I hope that we are able to bring in some new permanent rather than loan players either from abroad or the lower divisions who will be part of our future rather than just short term solutions brought in to plug up some immediate holes.

We now have a week to recover and take stock and hopefully we will not overreact to the setbacks of the last week, after all, Reading lost six games out of seven recently but have recovered as will we.

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Player Power – 16/1/16

I was doing some research in the early hours of this morning and chanced upon the wording of a standard footballer’s contract which I found particularly fascinating reading given the remarkable happenings at Griffin Park over the last twenty-four hours.

I have highlighted a couple of relevant clauses:

Duties and Obligations of the Player

The Player agrees:

 when directed by an authorised official of the Club

1. to attend matches in which the Club is engaged in

2. to participate in any matches in which he is selected to play for the Club

3. to play to the best of his skill and ability at all times

4. to undertake such other duties and to participate in such other activities as are consistent with the performance of his duties and as are reasonably required of the Player

Well it would appear that Brentford defender James Tarkowski must be suffering from dyslexia or a reading disorder given his recent behaviour when he informed his manager, Dean Smith that he did not wish to play against Burnley in last night’s Sky Bet Championship match and declared himself unavailable for the fixture despite being selected in the starting line-up.

The net result of his action was to bring about unspecified disciplinary action from the club but also to wreak havoc on team morale and organisation which surely played a major part in explaining Brentford’s spineless first half surrender to a rampant Burnley team which took full advantage of the home team’s ineptitude and total lack of fight, spirit, organisation or apparent ability to win any challenges for first and second balls.

It is all very well partially excusing the player for his actions by claiming that he was poorly advised and was perhaps misguidedly following his agent’s instructions but for me that does not wash. He is not a child but a twenty-three year old man who has shown a total lack of judgement and should surely know better and be able to know his own mind and make more reasoned and sensible decisions. As it is he has painted himself into a corner and made himself a total pariah in the eyes of all Brentford supporters who were previously great admirers of his on-field ability.

Apart from breaking the terms of his contract, Tarkowski’s strategy is incredibly dumb and ill thought through and will have totally the opposite effect to the one desired by him as all it will do is harden attitudes towards him from club officials and make them even more determined that he will not succeed in his effort to leave on his terms.

He has made it patently clear that he wishes to leave the club and ideally return nearer to his roots in the North West of England with last night’s opponents, Burnley, rumoured to be his preferred destination. He would also surely have noted the seriously enhanced wages that his former team mates are now earning higher up the food chain.

Well every player has his price, a statement that is particularly apposite and appropriate at Griffin Park where it has always been made quite clear that we cannot compete with the budgets and deeper pockets of our better heeled competitors and will sell our players should they wish to leave and if, and only if, our valuations are met by the potential buying club.

An offer of around four million pounds plus lucrative add ons from Fulham was apparently turned down for the player right at the end of the August Transfer Window, more I suspect because the club did not want to be seen to be selling yet another major asset at a time when the likes of Moses Odubajo and Andre Gray had already left the club rather than because the sum offered was unacceptable.

That has set the benchmark for him and it is understood that Burnley’s recent offer for Tarkowski is for far less than half that sum and is therefore nowhere near the figure that is being sought by the club.

By refusing to play he is now trying to force Brentford’s hand and stampede them into accepting a low ball offer for his services rather than wait for full market value to be offered by either Burnley or another of several clubs also rumoured to be sniffing around him.

His approach is totally doomed to failure as it is patently obvious that he has neither really thought matters through nor has he properly considered who he is dealing with. In a game of poker I would not expect Matthew Benham or his Co-Directors of Football to be the first to blink.

I fully expect that Tarkowski has bitten off far more than he can chew and that he is certain to follow the fate of Adam Forshaw who also made it clear at the beginning of last season that he wanted to leave the club and was promptly put on gardening leave and not selected again, and crucially was not allowed to leave the club until Wigan finally came up with the goods and offered us near what we were looking for in terms of his value.

A similar fate is surely certain to befall Tarkowski as he has totally burned his bridges and it is now quite impossible for him to play for the club again as the fans would not countenance his doing so and to allow him to win and force a bargain basement transfer would be scandalous and demonstrate that the players rule the roost and that by behaving badly and unconscionably they can force the issue.

Brentford are far stronger and more resolute than that and Tarkowski will now be left to kick his heels, ideally train on his own and, at best, play in the Development Squad until Brentford receive an offer that reflects his full value – however long it takes.

His agent would now be far better employed in drumming up further interest for his client, ideally at a fee level that will be acceptable to Brentford FC.

The current situation, which has been brought about totally by the player’s actions (or perhaps inaction might be a better description) is frankly of no benefit or use to anyone and the sooner it can be resolved the better it will be for all parties, but there is only one way out of this impasse which is for the club to be offered an acceptable amount for him and hopefully that is what will happen within the next fortnight.

Tarkowski’s character is now stained and blemished indelibly and he follows the likes of Gary Alexander into our personal Rogues Gallery and Hall of Shame for his pathetic and unacceptable behaviour.

What he should have done is quite simply follow the example of Alan Judge. He too is rumoured to be the target for several clubs in the Transfer Window, so what did he do and how did he respond?

Well rather than behave in the same puerile, selfish and blinkered manner as Tarkowski, he simply played his heart out and used the televised match against Burnley as a national showcase for his talent and total commitment to the cause. He was Brentford’s best player by a mile, scored a good goal and spearheaded a second half revival that at least regained a semblance of pride for a team that had been totally overrun before the interval and could easily have been trailing by five or six goals rather than just three.

Any managers and scouts watching the match cannot fail to have been impressed by his performance and attitude and we can only hope that he remains at the club until at least the end of the season.

That is how to do it and Alan Judge went up in the estimation of every Brentford supporter for the way he handled the situation last night.

As for the match itself, well there really is not too much to say as Brentford came up against an excellent team that smelled blood, went for our jugular from the first whistle and we were never allowed to settle down into our normal rhythm. Brentford chased shadows and made football seem like a non contact sport given the time and space they granted their visitors who were allowed to show off their ability and run rings around us in the first half.

The second half was a different affair and had the excellent Sam Saunders scored with an unlikely header or Maxime Colin’s shot have brushed the net on the inside rather than the outside of the post then who knows what might have happened as the comeback would really have been on but Burnley were streets ahead of us and fully deserved their comfortable victory.

We have now lost four games in a row and three home matches in less than a week. There is much work to be done as we have performed for only around half of each of our last three games and scored only once.

How we should go about that is for another day. For now I just hope that James Tarkowski is already reflecting upon his behaviour and has already realised that he has totally let his team mates, the Brentford staff and supporters and of course, himself, down by his selfish and inappropriate behaviour – and more importantly, that it will not succeed or get him the result that he desires.

 

Looking Back And Forward – 14/1/16

I was really pleased to see that the general reaction to Tuesday’s nights frustrating and totally undeserved defeat by Championship leaders Middlesbrough was an extremely positive one and that the overwhelming majority of Brentford supporters recognised how good certain aspects of our performance really were.

Like everyone else immediately after the end of the game, I was angry and disappointed at how capriciously we had been treated by the fates, however in the cold light of day now that emotions have died down, I realise that there was so much to be pleased and proud about in terms of how we performed against perhaps the best team in the league as well of course as a further reminder and confirmation of all the areas in which we need to improve and work on.

I will wait until after the Burnley match tomorrow night before trying to assess what is likely to be in store for us for the remainder of the season and what we have to look forward to.

In the meantime I thought that it might be enlightening to look back at how some other supporters assessed our performance against the league leaders.

Rebel Bee was as outspoken as normal, and long may he remain so:

I agree with your match summary so I just add honest comments and apologise in advance if they are too blunt for some.

  • New signings stepping up. Woods and Colin both outstanding – and had their best games in the stripes.
  • Vibe, looked dangerous for 15 minutes and had them worried, he then totally vanished – why?
  • Saunders & Swift were bothpassengers, we carried them both until they were hooked. Swift has real talent but doesn’t seem to want it enough and is too flicky at times. Sam’s dead balls were really poor, and he is possibly coming to the end of his time at Griffin Park.
  • It was great to see Toums and Tarks starting and both put in a very good shift. Judge didn’t quite hit his best but was decent throughout. We will struggle badly without any of these at present.
  • We played well, yet lack the things Boro have in spades (nous), we are so naive at this level, and remain error prone.
  • If I see Boro again it’ll be far too soon. I hope they go up and then get smashed every week playing like they do. Give me a Watford, Bournemouth or Norwich any day over this lot.
  • Forshaw may be better off financially but he’d have been far better off starting for us last night as our star man, instead he’s picking up splinters in his arse and moving down the pecking order with them. Total madness.
  • Our season’s ambition is now safety – that’s all.
  • Where do they find these referees – he was conned by them all night.

I guess I should elaborate a bit on my take on Swift. I think he has a lot of talent and disproves the theory that we don’t produce technically gifted footballers in England. And he is still young. I think he is unfortunate in that he has to date mostly played development football, and needs to acquire the hunger and a little of the physicality that you see from those that have worked their way up the divisions. To be fair it was a tough test against very streetwise opponents yesterday, and he is one to watch, and I am glad we have him.

Peter Lumley was also bemoaning our fate:

Walking away from Griffin Park last night I could not recall feeling so dismayed at the outcome of a game we could and should have won. We totally dominated possession and had eleven corners to their five.

But more importantly, Middlesbrough committed twice as many fouls as us.

Their defence has won many plaudits for its strength and organisation But few have spotlighted the cynical fouls and faked injuries that must be condoned by their manager.

If they want to gain promotion by playing the way they do then good luck to them. I can only hope that Brentford are never tempted to follow their example !

Their message to referees appears to be: “do not penalise us, it’s just what we do!” Yes the Bees did contribute to their own downfall by wasting two great scoring chances in the opening minutes. But once again the run of the ball went against us when David Button made a split second decision to push the ball away from a corner taken in a swirling wind.

Also I cannot recall a half season when so many controversial refereeing decisions have gone against us.Many say that these decisions even out over a whole season.Let us hope that they do!

beesyellow22 has also made some extremely sensible and well thought through comments:

Good article, Greville. Good comments too. I do not totally agree with Rebel Bee (who always writes with great insight I must say) with regards to Swift.

I thought he was actually pretty good last night and linked up well on the left with Bidders, Woods and (occasionally) Vibe. I do agree that he is “flicky” though!

Sadly, I also agree that Saunders is more representative of the past than the future. Last season saw him and Yennaris do great things on loan at Wycombe and, surely if we are to be serious about pushing for promotion next season, we have to put sentimentality to one side and accept that it’s time to look for new attacking options and let Sam leave?

At League One or Two level he could still make a real difference but at Championship level I think he’s too much of a passenger.

I thought that Tarky and Toums played pretty well but I also felt that perhaps Tarky might have had his mind elsewhere at times. Perhaps that’s inevitable when you know that another team wants you (and will pay you more and take you back up north to where your roots are).

Overall I thought we were great last night and against a lesser side we would have surely won. You can’t blame Button for his error – he has been brilliant for us all season and made some excellent saves last night too (his header out at full stretch in the first half was superb).

Yes, we know how Middlesbrough play and last night they didn’t disappoint. I actually didn’t think they were as cynical as they were last season, mainly because we played such excellent stuff in the first half. They never had the ball!

The key points for me are two-fold: first, we desperately need a Jonathan Douglas type player to put a bit of steel in the side, galvanise the team and bite the legs of the opposition and secondly we obviously need a long-term replacement for Andre Gray. Vibe does his best and I like him a lot but as has been said many times, he won’t (can’t?) hold the ball up and bring the midfield in like Andre did last season.

I like Djuricin a lot (his passion for the cause is marvellous) and am really looking forward to seeing what he can do between now and May. I hope he starts on Friday, as he always looks really dangerous and capable of sticking it in the back of the net – if he has the service.

I’m trying to remain upbeat about things but it is difficult when you play so well and lose yet again! The manager’s interview with Billy Reeves was really positive and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next season when he a) has spent a sustained period with the squad and b) has hopefully brought in a few players of his own that will see Brentford start to take the shape of what can justifiably be called a ‘Dean Smith team.

Michael Ohl was also pleased with what he had seen and was optimistic about the future:

It’s not nice losing to teams like Middlesbrough for the reasons already stated. No real flair, cynical, tough, badgering the referee etc.

Do we want to be like that, and be top or play the Brentford way with all the ups and downs that that entails?

There has to be a middle way or more accurately we have to stop making so many unforced errors.

Although we had a lot of chances, the last half hour was total frustration. We just couldn’t find a way to break them down, and I really couldn’t see us scoring. If we had taken our chances at the start . . . would we have won? Or would we have given it away?

I don’t know if I am alone, but I am always expecting now to see some sloppy pass to which the opposition say thanks very much and capitalises upon. In this respect Toumani is the one I most expect it from, with Tarkowski and Dean closely behind.

I try not to be too critical about our players, but, Reading notwithstanding, the last few games have been just so frustrating. Surely the players must feel the same?

Watching Brentford these days is not for the faint hearted.

Let’s see what Friday brings.

Button Fingers! – 13/1/16

We seem to manage to find ever more creative, original and quite frankly daft and utterly ridiculous ways of losing to our bogey team Middlesbrough and last night took the biscuit as we totally surpassed ourselves in terms of the unbelievable way we conceded the winning goal.

The previously underemployed David Button flapped at a harmless left wing corner from Leadbitter that was caught in the swirling wind and he managed the remarkable and seemingly impossible feat of punching the ball backwards into his own net despite being under little challenge.

This totally undeserved goal on the hour took the wind out of our sails and despite a late and frenetic rally Middlesbrough held out comfortably for their sixth victory over the Bees in the last two seasons in the course of which they kept an incredible ninth consecutive clean sheet.

Middlesbrough are the epitome of a likely promotion winning team in that they are incredibly well organised, totally committed to the cause and give you absolutely nothing. We, on the other hand possess flair and ability in abundance but are profligate where it matters the most – in both penalty areas.

Middlesbrough were dull, boring, negative and cynical in the extreme and also did a wonderfully professional job of managing the hapless referee, Gavin Ward, who was mere putty in their hands and allowed them to get away with all their excesses whenever we threatened to get behind them. Grant Leadbitter was in the official’s ear at every opportunity and helped ensure that every marginal decision went their way.

The Bees needed to put on a performance and to regain some confidence and self respect after Saturday’s insipid display against Walsall and they certainly succeeded in doing so.

Their football was fluent, sharp and creative, the pace and intensity so sadly lacking against Walsall was back and every player looked more than comfortable on the ball. They dominated possession and forced Middlesbrough backwards with Woods outshining the combative Clayton and Leadbitter and Colin rampaging forward at every opportunity.

Quite simply we let our illustrious opponents off the hook by squandering two early and glorious opportunities which were both created by Lasse Vibe skipping past the lumbering Ayala.

First he set up Alan Judge who tried to pass the ball into the corner of the net from the edge of the area but shot just wide, and then when given a clear run in on goal he delayed his shot fatally and could only hit Konstantopoulos as the keeper flung himself at his feet.

That really should have been the opening goal and despite minor flurries at the other end, particularly when Diagouraga’s poor backpass almost gifted a goal to Nugent, the Bees totally dominated the first half with Woods, Judge, Swift, Colin and Bidwell combining beautifully to find pockets of space and gaps in the visitors’ defence.

For all our possession, relentless pressing and probing the final pass was not quite there. Dean headed wide and Judge forced another excellent save from the keeper who pushed the ball onto the post (shades of Stuart Dallas in the same match last season) but far too often our threat petered out in the final third where Vibe, after his opening burst, was lightweight  and easily brushed off the ball and never looked capable of holding the ball up long enough to allow our midfielders to flood forward in support of him and our threat was snuffed out.

Saunders had a long range floating free kick turned over the bar but the half ended all square when Brentford’s wonderful display deserved far more.

The second half started off where the first had ended and some glorious one touch pass and move football ended with Colin’s powerful effort being turned aside by a goalkeeper who was coming under increasing amounts of pressure.

A goal looked likely to come but when it did it was Brentford who gifted the lead to a team which took full advantage and then choked the life out of the game as they sat on their lead and dared Brentford to break them down.

For all our possession we rarely threatened to do so despite three attacking substitutions which saw Canos, Hofmann and Djuricin augment our attack and we even tried the previously elusive 4-4-2 formation but the die was cast and after some late thuggery by Clayton who took one for the team after he cut Judge down when he was in full flight, all our efforts came to naught and Middlesbrough had stolen the points.

Last night provided a clear demonstration of all our strengths and weaknesses.

I brought my Watford supporting friend to the match who left purring with pleasure at the entertainment we provided but he hit the nail on the head when he stated that for all our pretty football and the delicate patterns that we weaved we had very little upfront and our attacks too often fizzled out given Vibe’s inability to act as a target man and bring his midfield into play. Get the ball into the mixer was his advice and one worth listening to at times.

We would have gleaned many style points for the intricacy of our play but there was no bite at either end of the field.

Unfortunately I read the game correctly when, pessimist that I am, I predicted that we would create and spurn several chances and then self-destruct at the other end and that is exactly what happened on the night.

It is time to manage expectations and look at us as a work in progress. What happens in the remainder of the transfer window is key. Will we weaken or will we continue to develop? There are still massive question marks about the future of the likes of Judge and Tarky who are two of our shining lights. If they go they must be replaced with players from home or abroad with the potential to be even better than the ones leaving the club.

Even if they don’t another new face or two would not go amiss. Colin and Woods are both exceptional young players who have slotted seamlessly into the team and we will need another few gems like them if we are to continue on our upwards path.

The loss of Jota is a terrible blow and his ingenuity and pace might have unlocked the Middlesbrough defence. A replacement has to be found as Canos is a raw and impetuous talent, a young colt who will understandably thrill and frustrate in equal measures.

The playoffs this season remain a possibility but are highly unlikely given how brittle we are in both penalty areas. We always look like conceding a soft goal.

Yesterday the culprit was Button and his error cost us dear as we were well on top when it occurred. Goalkeepers are fallible and human and in David we have an exceptionally talented one who was long overdue such a faux pas.

Toumani also almost gave our visitors a gift and the overwhelming majority of the goals we concede are down to lack of concentration and individual error.

Vibe, Hofmann and Djuricin all have their strengths but none of them are really what we need given the way that we play. Can something be done about that situation? Probably not until the end of the season but yesterday highlighted our shortcomings.

Frankly Middlesbrough showed us we need to toughen up, take more responsibility and do a bit more of the dirty work. We are too quiet, nice and soft where it really matters.

Leadbitter was a constant presence, screaming at, encouraging and cajoling his team mates and setting a wonderful personal example. He would not allow them to be beaten and we lack somebody like him as well as leaders on the pitch.

There is so much to admire about us and we should take all the positives out of last night’s performance, but we should also recognise what we are, a very decent Championship team that is establishing ourselves in the league and one that is totally easy on the eye and full of young talent.

That is pretty good and more than enough for the moment as long as we continue to improve and progress.

Middlesbrough join Birmingham City on my personal hate list but we have much to learn from them about professionalism and game management and hopefully we can ponder on the key lesson from last night which is never give a sucker an even break. We had them on the ropes but let them escape to fight another day.

Last night was a reality check and we cannot afford to be so naive, wasteful and generous in the future.

The Fans Aren’t Too Happy – 11/1/16

There was a lot of muttering after Saturday’s defeat by Walsall regarding the team rotation and selection, the apparently cavalier way it appeared that some of the players treated the FA Cup given the lack of zip and intensity of our overall performance, particularly in the first half,  plus concerns about whether we are likely to recover for the two tough matches that lie ahead this week as well as even the half time parade around the pitch by the FC Midtjylland squad. In fact I think I shall just let everybody vent and offload today given how fed up most of you sounded.

John Hirdle can start us off and I agree with every word he said:

Our First half performance was as insipid and as uninspiring as I have seen in a long time. Dean Smith’s pre match words regarding picking a team to respect the competition and to win the game seemed very hollow indeed. I felt sorry for Hoffman. He is no solo striker and had no support whatsoever from midfield. A baffling tactical line up given Smith’s inside knowledge of the opposition. As you rightly say all will be forgotten quickly if we can get things right both on Tuesday and Friday, and we return to the tempo and energetic game we know we are capable of to prosper in this league.

It does seem that the club and the players these days don’t seem to give a toss about the Cup competitions. Even with reduced admission prices, the inevitable outcome is that the fans will eventually vote with their feet and just give these games a miss in the knowledge that the club has no desire to progress in them. I find this very sad indeed.

Clive Longhurst had lots of questions and absolutely no answers but his comments certainly concentrate the mind!

Great article, as always. My worries are: will this be an “Arsenal week”, when, in six days our season effectively ends? How did our philosophy of attacking, pressing football dissipate so quickly?

The “if Judge goes we’re sunk” therorists seemed to include the rest of the team yesterday! How much strength in depth do we actually have? If Saturday’s team weren’t good enough to beat a team we could be facing in the league next season, which players are pressurising our first team for their places? We have people, but do we have sufficient strength in depth?

Is it a mere coincidence that all the players who have been transfer targets over the summer and January all came from British clubs. Are our European signings still struggling to become acclimatised to British football (I realise that Jota is the exception that proves my rule)?

I overheard our chairman (at a certain book signing in the club shop) say he didn’t think we would “do much business” in the January window. Does that mean the bids for our players have come as a surprise and, if they prove successful, do we have replacements in our sights or will we be forced into more team selections like the one we saw yesterday?

Will a parade of a more successful football team at half time yesterday be an inspiration to our team or fill them with feelings of being the poor relation?

I hate posing questions and not offering solutions but, I just don’t know. My optimism and confidence in the club and its management have been dented. I hope my worries will be reduced in seven days and forgotten by the end of January but, it’s Brentford innit!

Former player Richard Poole puts things into context as he reminds us of a time when players just got on with things and rotation had not yet been invented:

I was not there on Saturday but Brentford, like all the other teams rest their players and don’t bother with the cup competitions  Of course I realise that football is much harder physically than when I played. At that time we had only a sixteen man squad as well as two youngsters.

I rememember at Easter time on the Friday we played at Colchester, on Saturday we went to Chester, two matches in two days, plus all the travelling, then we hosted Colchester, the team at the top of the table, at Griffin Park on Tuesday evening. On the following Saturday we had Bradford at home and at the age of sixteen I played in all of them and just missed the first half at Chester.

Today’s players are, or should be, in top condition. We had poor training facilities and did not even have the use of a gym. Our supporters have to get up every day and go to work and most footballers will tell you that they would prefer to play games rather than just train. All this talk abut tired legs makes me smile. I know that many of our players have been out injured and I would like to know how many games each player has played since the start of the season.

In other words footballers today are totally mollycoddled.

Peter Lumley also wasn’t very happy:

Everyone, however competent, has the odd bad day at the office and I am afraid Dean Smith had one such day on Saturday. I had no problem with the team selection. What bemused me was the way the Bees played so deep in the first half. It was as though they were relying on breakaways without trying to make any! Dean Smith has to take some responsibility. He cannot just blame the players for the unbelievably bad performance.

Tim Ward echoed his sentiments:

That was really frustrating. I, like you, love the cup and had been looking forward to this game. I knew Walsall would be a good side and provide tough opposition but had assumed that we’d be prepared and up for it.

Im not sure what you think but I really hoped that when we needed to make changes we could have taken the game to them by replacing Macca with Marco and playing two up front. I thought The Hof actually played quite well and has the ability to bring other players into the game but was so isolated up there on his own – I felt frustrated for him.

As Clive alludes to above I hope there isn’t a resignation amongst the team that we will lose Judge. It did look a bit like that.

Interestingly I thought we really missed Tarky and Toums – not so much defensively but in the way they bring the ball out and start the counter attack. The replacements just don’t seem to be the same type of players. Early days maybe but the team did look unbalanced and predictable.

One last point. I wish that more players would take responsibility for shooting. I know that Dean said he wanted more shots (and how good was Woods at Reading) but too many times they seem to be trying to craft the perfect goal.

As I said, I fell frustrated!

I quite agree with Tim’s comments and think that a Plan B should be considered where necessary and playing two up front for the last fifteen minutes might have been a good idea unless Hofmann had run himself out.

Michael Ohl also did not enjoy what he saw:

The FA Cup matters to me as well Greville. That it appears to not matter to players makes me sad.

I think we should give some credit to Walsall. They were keener, quite attractive to watch and should they go up I think they should do just fine. They can only play what is up against them and yes Brentford were that bad and if would have been unfair to them if we had sneaked past them and won the game.

There was a lot of negativity from the Ealing Road end, and some pretty vitriolic comments made about Hoffman, unfairly I think.

I hope the saving of players for the week ahead is justified, but I have a gnawing feeling that it won’t be a good week.

I hope I am wrong.

Rebel Bee found fault with pretty much everything and I cannot argue with much of what he said:

A very good selection of comments.

Richard Poole’s reminiscences on squad size and fixture congestion back in the day are something that our staff should read. I’ve been around the block with Brentford FC like you all, and the great moments have to be savoured, whilst the hits are taken on the chin. But we follow a club where everything is analysed, and by many measures we aren’t where we wanted to be in terms of squad strength, depth and our transfer dealings.

Four home cup defeats since promotion is no accident and who can blame fans for not turning out on the evidence seen – 6,500 Bees showed up yesterday for a game versus a League One side – not bad is it?

I didn’t think there was much in the game in truth, they shaded it I guess. Worryingly until Alan Judge’s entrance our only creative spark came from Swift and Canos – two loanees – not good. We won’t score many with Hoff or Vibe as the lone front man and Djuricin is a finisher, he can’t head the ball or hold up up, so for me he needs to play with Hoffmann in a two man front line.

Most of the injured players are now back on the scene,  and it seems that we over estimated the bounce this would give us.

Early days I know, but I feel but Dean Smith needs a decent week on and off the pitch, otherwise we could slump and we are not safe yet.

As for the FC Midtjylland halftime parade – frankly it was ill judged and a bit embarrassing.

I cannot see us changing from 4-2-3-1 as it has worked so well for us, but as I said above, we should show some flexibility when necessary. I think that the more accurate way of looking at it is to realise that none of our three strikers really suit the way that we play and we have yet replace Andre Gray with a player of similar style.

The parade didn’t bother me at all and I think that it just did not help that it came on a day when we so patently underperformed and fans were looking for things to criticise.

beesyellow22 provides some sort of perspective

Another great post, Greville and I agree with many of the comments above.

It was a very curious performance from Brentford. As has been discussed, we backed off them throughout the first half and gave them far too much time on the ball. We weren’t really on it in any department and failed to create anything of any real note.

It was strange, because when I saw the lineup before the kick off I actually felt quite excited. All the changes made seemed entirely acceptable and it looked like a great opportunity to give good players who have been warming the bench in recent weeks a decent run out. To me, our starting eleven didn’t look particularly terrible and I wouldn’t have said that we were either disrespecting Walsall or failing to take the competition seriously. Unfortunately what transpired over the course of that first forty-five minutes proved otherwise.

A weak, insipid, tired, uninspiring performance from a side which displayed none of our usual exciting cut and thrust and devil-may-care free-flowing football. Lots of huff and puff from the Hoff (or should that be Hoff and puff) but no incision and one solitary shot on goal. Canos was completely nullified by Walsall’s left-back who was superb throughout and the team from League One were superior in every department.

Second half we looked sharper, but Walsall never looked like getting beaten and, but for the post, would have wound up winning by even more.

I am reluctant to criticise either the manager or the players but we really did seem curiously subdued yesterday. If anything, it reminded me of watching Dijkhuizen’s Brentford – no sense of common purpose and a general lack of any discernible game plan. This is obviously disappointing, because the FA Cup is still a massive competition and, as a (usually) exciting, high tempo, free-scoring Championship side, I was hopeful that this season we might be capable of a decent cup run.

I thought the manager was right to rest Judge, Tarkowski and Toums because I believed that the players coming in would seize their chance with relish. Yes, I knew the dangers Walsall would pose and I also realised how desperate they would be to have some kind of revenge over Dean Smith. However, I was confident that we would have both the strength in depth and high intensity kind of football to edge it on the day.

How wrong I was.

We now move onto two massive, potentially season-defining games in four days. It doesn’t get any tougher than playing Boro and it will be fascinating to see how we play on Tuesday night. I was genuinely depressed about how easily we got beaten on Saturday and how little fight many of the players appeared to have (with the exception of Judge and also Swift, who I thought had a great game personally).

I still have faith in our new manager and hopefully finally breaking the Middlesbrough hoodoo will go some way to erasing the memories of the Walsall game. But it was a curious one and I, like the rest of us, am still scratching my head as to why we were so awful.

I will end with these comments which are an excellent summation of where we are.

This is a crucial week for the Bees and at the end of it we will know far more about where we are going this season. Saturday left us all feeling flat and we desperately need a spark and some good news given all the uncertainty currently surrounding the future of a few of our best players.

Jota’s loss is also an unexpected and bitter blow that we will just have to deal with and it also did not help how well Kemar Roofe performed yesterday. There have been rumours on social media that we have been looking at Oxford United’s exciting young player and his brilliant two goal performance against Swansea and Oxford’s victory might make it far more difficult, if not impossible for us to sign him if those rumours were in fact correct, given the hype that will now surround him.

I am excited and, I confess, a little bit worried too about how this week will pan out but I expect that we will recover from Saturday and put in two committed and excellent performances – you cannot really ask for more than that.

A Bad Start To A Tough Week – 10/1/16

Yesterday’s disappointing and frustrating defeat to Walsall in the Third Round of the FA Cup left a slightly sour taste in the mouth so insipid and uninspiring was Brentford’s overall performance and given that fact that this was the first leg of what is certain to be a tough and arduous week that also sees us play two of the promotion favourites in the shape of our nemesis, Middlesbrough and Burnley I intend to be sensible and conserve some of my energy and ration my words in order to ensure that there is something left in the tank for me to cover the next two matches!

To be honest there really isn’t too much to be said as Dean Smith rolled the dice, understandably rotated the team given the need to rest some tired legs and ensure that the squad can cope with the demands of three matches in a hectic six day period and unfortunately his gamble didn’t pay off.

Colin, Tarkowski, Diagouraga, Judge and Vibe were all rested with recalls for Yennaris, O’Connell, McCormack, McEachran and Hofmann.

Conspiracy theorists will point to the absence from the starting lineup of possible transfer targets Tarky, Diagouraga and Judge but I would prefer to believe that they were all being saved for the hectic week that lies ahead.

I have no problems at all in those changes being made as the squad should be strong and deep enough to cope with them but where I do have concerns is in how we sleepwalked through the first half and showed no real interest in competing.

Brentford have built their recent success on high energy, pressing, movement and maintaining a high tempo, all of which were sadly lacking in our play throughout a first half which ranks with the worst seen in recent memory at Griffin Park.

Why should this be the case as the manager was well aware of the threat that his former team presented and their decent and highly committed performance cannot have come as a surprise to him?

So lacking in pace, imagination, tempo and dare I say effort and energy was Brentford’s first half performance that Judge had to be brought on after the break and his skill, pace and enthusiasm revitalised Brentford who dominated the second half and would have drawn or maybe even won an unlikely victory but for a combination of exceptional goalkeeping and profligate finishing.

Dean Smith’s former team played their role as party poopers to perfection. They were neat and tidy on the ball, aided and abetted as they were by a lethargic Brentford team which sat off them, stayed deep, never pressed and allowed Walsall to maintain possession for long periods without benefit of any challenge.

Hofmann was totally isolated up front and a strange team selection which featured three holding midfielders ensured that he lacked any support from midfield runners and we created very little in that appalling first half.

It came as no surprise when Mantom was allowed to run unchallenged from deep whilst we ignored the danger and simply watched, backed off and admired him and his perfectly placed curling long range effort gave Walsall a totally deserved lead.

McEachran looked yards off the pace and the game totally passed him by. McCormack ran down blind alleys and only Woods made any impact through the centre but was too easily snuffed out. The formation for once did not work, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the personnel selected did not gel and merely replicated each other’s style of play.

Swift and Canos flitted in and out of the game and Hofmann showed some clever touches but one soft McCormack shot on target in the entire first half tells its own sad story and left the Bees with much to do.

It gives me no pleasure to say that FC Midtjylland appeared to expend more energy in their languid halftime stroll around the pitch than the Bees did throughout the first half.

After the break Brentford seized the initiative, mainly thanks to the tireless efforts of Judge, who demonstrated just how hard it would be to replace him should he leave in the Transfer Window.

We huffed and puffed and efforts from Judge, Hofmann, Swift and Canos were well saved by Etheridge and Dean missed horribly from a free header.

There was more good news with the return from injury of Djuricin who had a late run out off the bench. He found good positions but understandably lacked sharpness and missed two late opportunities to save the day.

Walsall massed in defence and presented an impassable barrier and always broke quickly with Sawyers prominent and but for a brilliant save from Button and a late header from a well worked corner kick routine which hit the post, the margin of their victory would have been greater, and we could not really have argued.

My memory of the FA Cup goes back over fifty years when I was taken by my Liverpool supporting Dad to the 1965 Cup Final where his heroes defeated Leeds United, much to his delight.

The following year I also saw Everton’s narrow victory over Sheffield Wednesday in a five goal thriller that left me breathless with excitement and my Dad a bit less impressed.

I am well aware of the magic of the cup and the mystic hold it has over supporters of a certain vintage and am saddened that this no longer seems to be the case.

I can also remember some of our wonderful days out against the likes of Cardiff, Chelsea, Southampton and Sunderland as well as the embarrassment of suffering giant killings at the hands of Guildford City and Telford amongst others.

Yesterday was therefore important to me and I resented the fact that it didn’t appear to matter too much that we were knocked out of this famous and august competition at the first opportunity.

I well appreciate the juggling act that we faced given the two tough matches that lie ahead next week and have no problem with our utilising other squad members, as that is what they are there for, although the side selected could have been better balanced.

What rankled and upset me more is that certainly before the break the match and occasion really did not seem to matter to the players so uncommitted, languid and unacceptable was their display which reminded me of the way we strolled through a recent FA Cup tie against Wrexham which also ended in another defeat by lower league opposition.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and should we gain four points or more from our next two matches – a really tough ask, then yesterday’s debacle will be forgotten, at least until Fourth Round day when we will be left kicking our heels and without a match.

I hope we come out fighting against Middlesbrough as we will certainly need to do so. Losing can also kill confidence and I now have  a horrible, nagging and negative thought running through my mind about the horrendous prospect of three home defeats in a week should we play as badly against Middlesbrough and Burnley as we did against Walsall. Surely that will not be the case!

I am just left feeling rather sad and empty that our most famous cup competition has been so devalued and is now seen as a necessary evil rather than something to look forward to with relish and anticipation.

Is this simply the price of progress and if so, is it an acceptable one? What does everyone else think?