Good news has been scarce, sparse and rather thin on the ground lately given Brentford’s patchy start to the New Year, so let’s shout it from the rooftops – Harlee Dean and Nico Yennaris have both joined Sam Saunders in extending their contract with the club, Harlee for two years and Nico until 2019.
Given the recent departure for a variety of reasons of Jota, Toumani Diagouraga and James Tarkowski and the accompanying uncertainty surrounding other squad members, it is encouraging to say the least to learn that two established players have decided to buy into the club’s stated determination to rebuild and strengthen the squad at the end of the season and thus remain part of the Brentford project.
We certainly needed to hear something positive this week following the avalanche of unanswered goals rippling our net recently and for differing reasons we should be absolutely delighted that both Harlee and Nico have staked their immediate future with the club.
Up until very recently I suspect that you could have obtained long odds on Dean making the decision to stay, as he and the football club appeared to have fallen out of love with each other and a parting of the ways seemed inevitable.
Harlee perhaps felt that he didn’t receive the respect that he deserved as well as maybe coveting the salaries received by several other Brentford alumni elsewhere. He had also oft bemoaned the fact that felt that he was the scapegoat and the one generally to be blamed and dropped when things went awry.
On the other side of the fence Harlee’s tendency to shoot from the hip and give vent to his feelings about all sorts of matters pertaining to the club, sometimes before apparently engaging his brain, did not apparently go down too well in some rarified circles and there appeared to be a Mexican standoff with the club not seeming to be making serious efforts to resign him and the player stating that he would be leaving at the end of the current season when his contract expired although he was hoping that something could still be worked out.
What was never in any doubt was the fact that Harlee would continue to give his all on the pitch and he has certainly done his utmost to put his finger in the dyke and try and stem the flood of goals that we have conceded.
Harlee wears his heart on his sleeve on the pitch (and off it too) and he has jumped, headed, tackled and covered to the best of his ability and has visibly improved as a footballer over the last couple of years and at twenty-four still has the potential to progress even further.
He seems to have learned from his impetuous reaction which saw him punished with a daft and totally avoidable and unacceptable red card against Nottingham Forest and has become a calming influence and a leader to those around him. He also reads the game far better which enables him to use and exemplify the old adage that the first yard is in the head and cover up his lack of pace.
He is now a proven and accomplished Championship central defender who anticipates and snuffs out much of the danger that threatens us and he has also gained confidence in the attacking system he has been asked to play in and has become an accurate long and short passer of the ball.
Thankfully he is yet to attempt Tarkowskiesque dummies and feints as he brings the ball out of defence and he is a footballer who is equally aware of his strengths and limitations.
So what happened to bring about this volte face?
On the one hand the club needed a quick triumph to reassure supporters given the setbacks of the past month or so and Harlee resigning has provided a statement of intent given that a senior, well established player who is also a firm fans’ favourite has not followed the general exodus out of Brentford FC but has seen and heard enough regarding our future plans and aspirations to decide to stay.
This decision also demonstrates that the opinions and wishes of Dean Smith are being listened to as the manager had made it clear that he wanted to have Harlee on board for next season and beyond.
The sale of Tarkowski also meant that Harlee was the only senior right sided centre half at the club and therefore a more valuable property than had been the case previously.
Despite his all round improvement Harlee might not have been seen as a player good enough to help take us to the heights of the Premier League and perhaps his continued stay at the club reflects that our ambitions have to some degree been put on hold or made more realistic until the move to Lionel Road comes to fruition.
I now wonder if we will attempt to bring in another defender to compete with him, such as Giklingham’s John Egan, whose name has been bandied about or whether Harlee will be seen as the undisputed first choice next season?
Hopefully Andreas Bjelland will be fit enough to play alongside him and Harlee will benefit from having an experienced partner, as he did when Tony Craig was there to support, encourage and prompt him.
Harlee excites and frustrates me in equal proportions, but I respect him for his passion and commitment and I am pleased that one of the few remaining members of the old guard will still be with us next season.
He really gets what Brentford is all about, he knows how much beating Fulham and QPR means to us all and he is a fighter and a warrior. We need more like him in the squad.
Lets just hope that he finally becomes more of a danger to the opposition at our set pieces.
That Wembley header seems a long time ago now but his Fulham thunderbolt will live long in the memory.
The announcement that Nico Yennaris will remain for a further three years was not greeted as effusively by many Brentford supporters but I really can’t see what they have to complain about.
Nico arrived a couple of years ago from Arsenal and given his Premier League pedigree, expectations were high but he was a damp squib, unable to displace Alan McCormack after Shay Logan’s departure and he fell into the shadows where he remained until Max Colin suffered a long term injury earlier this season.
He had also enjoyed a successful loan spell last season at Wycombe Wanderers alongside Sam Saunders and played in their losing Playoff Final against Southend United. Some were even surprised that he wasn’t unloaded permanently but he returned to Brentford patiently waiting his turn.
When it came he more than seized his opportunity and Colin was hardly missed as Nico put in a series of eye opening and dominating displays where he showed pace, strength and tenacity and he was more than unfortunate to lose his place when the Frenchman returned.
He remains in and around the team and filled in last Saturday in central midfield and came close to opening his goal account.
He has certainly demonstrated that he is quite good enough a player to cope with the demands of the ChampionshiSome fans expressed a view that signing Nico to a new contract shows a sign of lack of ambition.
To that I would respond that every successful team requires sonebody who can slot in well in a variety of positions without fuss whenever necessary and Nico fits that bill.
He is still very young at twenty-two and is visibly improving as he gains in confidence and might yet develop into a first team regular.
At present I see him as a versatile water carrier and do not expect to see him as a first choice but rather as a squad player deluxe who will do a fine job whenever and wherever he is called upon and having him breathing down their neck will help ensure that everybody else maintains their standard.
So, some good news at last for all Brentford supporters which will hopefully go some way towards allaying our slight concerns at our current situation.
All we need now is three points on Saturday as well as the likes of David Button and Jake Bidwell to follow in the footsteps of Harlee and Nico – surely not too much to ask for?