Who Wants A New Book? – 31/3/16

Today I need to ask everybody a question – how many of you would be prepared to buy a new book by me should I be able to publish one at the end of this season?

Firstly I would just like to thank everybody who was kind or daft enough to purchase a copy of Ahead Of The Game. I am eternally grateful to all of you and only hope that you enjoyed it and were happy with your purchase.

My publisher, James Lumsden-Cook, the owner of Bennion Kearny was brave enough to take a real chance on me and probably against his better judgement decided to go ahead with the last book which thankfully received some fantastic reviews and has exceeded all expectations by selling the best part of one thousand copies.

Now the time has almost come when we need to decide how best to proceed regarding its potential successor.

The last book was pretty straightforward as it catalogued an unexpected but quite wonderful series of triumphs interspersed with the massive trauma of Warburtongate but this time it is likely to be a very different story given all the happenings and ups and downs both on and off the field since last July.

What the publisher quite understandably wants to know is how many Brentford supporters will really want to buy a book that is more concerned with lost opportunities, over expectations, defeats, disappointments plus a few massive high points too as well as an inquest and analysis into the many things that have gone wrong plus of course those that went right and an explanation as to why certain actions had to be taken?

I have already written the best part of a quarter of a million words regarding all the events of this season, both good and bad, and the book will be fair, balanced and objective and will look forward as well as back, rather than just being a moan-fest.

Hopefully there will also be a few unexpected guest writers who will provide their own perspective on all things Brentford.

For those who like their nostalgia, there will also be several more esoteric pieces on players and events from the recent and more distant past which I hope will be evocative and stir a few memories from all fans of a certain vintage.

The new book has provisionally been titled Growing Pains, which I think is a fair summation of where we currently find ourselves in the Brentford Project.

Like the first book it would be around four hundred pages in length, contain some fantastic action photographs from this season and retail at around sixteen pounds.

The BFC Talk blog has been going from strength to strength and the readership levels have risen dramatically this season and particularly over the past three months, so the key question is how many of you who either bought the first book or who read my blog either regularly or from time to time are going to be interested or likely to buy a copy of Growing Pains if and when it is published in June?

My publisher and I have spoken at length about this subject and he wants to guage likely levels of interest in the new book before he gives the project his final go ahead.

I am therefore going to ask if anyone with an interest in buying the book could please email BFC@BennionKearny.com and confirm that they are more than likely to buy the new book should it come out in June.

Reading between the lines we need to know that a minimum of three hundred people are likely to buy the book in order to make it a viable proposition.

Should the publisher receive significantly less than that number of emails expressing interest then the project could well be mothballed and the book not be published.

That is the situation in a nutshell, if enough supporters confirm their interest in buying a copy then it will be published – even, perish the thought, if we are relegated, unlikely though that prospect is.

I am desperately keen for all my work to see the light of day and very much hope that as many of you as possible will send an email to BFC@BennionKearny.com within the next couple of weeks as we need to make a final decision by the end of April.

Please don’t just leave a comment on Facebook or Twitter or on the blog itself, please send your email to the publisher.

Obviously sending an email does not commit you to buying a copy (and please also let us know if you might even be interested in buying an extra copy or two as a present for someone else) but it will certainly give us a reasonable idea of whether the book is likely to be a success or not.

Apologies for having to make this request but I am sure you can all see why I have to do so and hopefully you will all respond accordingly and send in your emails.

Thank you for all your interest and support.

Best wishes

Greville

 

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Mind Games – 29/3/16

It’s been a really strange and frustrating Easter weekend as, like I am sure so many others, I have been feeling lost and bereft without my customary football fix. I am sure that I will soon be corrected but I cannot for the life of me remember any other Easter in recent years which has coincided with yet another International Break and resulted in my having to find other ways to amuse myself.

I can still vividly remember Good Friday and Easter Monday last year which saw the nonstop excitement and adrenalin rush of those two unforgettable clashes against Fulham and Nottingham Forest. Hammering Fulham on their own turf will naturally go down as one of my best ever Brentford matches and I can still easily summon up all four of our goals on my personal memory bank and mental tape loop of great Brentford moments, but our late recovery from a seemingly insurmountable two goal deficit against Forest was perhaps just as massive an achievement as it simply exemplified everything good about us at that time and highlighted our relentlessness, never-say-die attitude and total refusal to give any game up for lost as Andre Gray’s clever turn and instant shot put us right back in the game and then deep into injury time Tommy Smith stood his cross up just above the straining hands of Karl Darlow where it was met by the bouffant hairstyle of Jota for a wildly celebrated equaliser.

Where has that spirit gone now, as we appear to have had the stuffing knocked out of us by a seemingly never ending series of body blows, some coming from out of the blue, others quite frankly self-inflicted, that have punctuated a season which promised so much but has ended up being such a cruel reality check to all of us, management, players and supporters alike. This season has been death by a thousand cuts and is still delicately poised and can go one of two ways as we now face a crucial nine match mini-season which will have so many repercussions for the club depending upon where we finish up after our final game at Huddersfield in less than six weeks’ time.

In that respect perhaps we all desperately needed and will greatly benefit from a two week break which ideally will enable us all to catch our breath, gird our loins and get ourselves ready for the struggle and potential torments or even triumphs that lie ahead as the Bees prepare to fight for their very Championship life.

We should all take some degree of comfort by recalling that we went into the last International Break in early October in total disarray on the back of three consecutive defeats, the loss of a Head Coach, the shocking and demoralising foot-in-mouth announcement by Lee Carsley that he had no desire to become the permanent replacement as well as sinking like a stone into a sorry twentieth place in the league table.

We only looked like going in one direction but Carsley apparently put his squad through a mini preseason bootcamp which addressed our lack of fitness and sharpness and we came out of the traps recharged and re-energised, a totally different team in every way, shape and form which won its next four games and went on to take twenty-eight points from fourteen games and ended the year in eighth place just outside the playoff positions. Promotion form indeed and an amazing turnaround which unfortunately has not been maintained since the new year began.

So we know that we can do it and let’s face it, depending on the results of the other strugglers, our minimum requirement for safety is probably a mere seven points from nine matches. Surely not too much to ask for? Given the run that we have been on since early January even that paltry target might seem a tough ask but hopefully Dean Smith will have used the time afforded him by the International Break productively and his ministrations and perhaps tweaking of his resources will hopefully produce the same effect as Carsley had in October.

There must be much for him to ponder on. Does he keep things as they were and hope that our luck will turn and we recover some form or will he freshen things up by changing the way that we play? He will also have to cope with an injury list that now has the names of Josh McEachran and John Swift added to it and we are all waiting anxiously for news about their potential availability for the run in. Given a likely shortage of midfielders will he decide to gamble by naming two forwards, not a formation that he has utilised previously either at Brentford or Walsall? Hopefully we’ll be able to glean some information as the week develops but we might have to wait until just before kickoff next Saturday before his intentions are finally revealed.

Our squad has looked mentally and physically exhausted and slowed down by a total loss of confidence which is hardly surprising as defeats beget more defeats and with every loss the pressure increases and self-belief withers on the vine. Players stop acting instinctively and instead start thinking about what once came naturally and they become afraid of taking chances and running the risk of making mistakes and having the crowd get on their back. As was clearly seen against Blackburn this results in a pallid and listless performance with the safe option taken at every opportunity and the ball being passed endlessly sideways and backwards with nobody prepared to put his head over the parapet and use his undoubted ability to try and make something happen for fear of failure.

There is one positive to consider in that Alan Judge and Lasse Vibe will both hopefully return to the club on a high and full of beans from their full international appearances for Eire and Denmark respectively over the past few days and that they might help raise the spirits of their team mates.

Reading the above which I believe succinctly sums up our current situation, perhaps the most important person at the club throughout this International Break is not Dean Smith but instead, Tom Bates. Who is he I hear some of you ask, did we manage to make a last minute loan signing before the loan window shut last week that has somehow remained unremarked upon? Unfortunately that is not the case, but that is another story given the injuries suffered in the last few days by Josh McEachran and John Swift which might yet rob us of their valuable services and reduce our selection options even further.

No, Tom Bates is a Performance Psychologist at the club who over the past ten years has worked with youth and senior domestic international athletes, coaches, managers and teams helping them to perform under pressure and be at their best when it matters the most. In his own words, Tom specialises in enhancing athletes’ mental and emotional performance states through creating, sustaining and improving supreme optimistic spirit and self belief.

That might all sound like gobbledygook, jargon and management speak but he has an excellent track record and if he can help revive the spirits of a dispirited squad that doesn’t seem to know where its next win is coming from then we will all owe him a massive debt.

Most Premier League footballers use sports psychology as a matter of course as it can help players to maintain or rebuild confidence, deal with anxiety or anger and keep their focus. Players are encouraged to try positive self-talk and convert their negative thoughts and fears into more positive ones. There is a sound scientific basis behind this as ideally thinking positively releases dopamine into the bloodstream which is linked to feelings of certainty and confidence and helps reduce cortisol levels, a hormone linked to stress and physiological reactions related to potentially harmful feelings and sensations of fight and flight.

Visualisation is another technique commonly used whereby players are encouraged to imagine and picture themselves succeeding in their specific tasks such as scoring from free kicks or saving penalty kicks and focusing on positive memories and recollections of doing the same on previous occasions.

Players might also be encouraged to repeat key words or phrases to themselves in an attempt to help regain focus when things go wrong or if the red mist comes down during a game.

I am barely scratching the surface as this is now a sophisticated science that has progressed way past early attempts in this field which included the notorious Romark, or Ronald Markham, to give him his real name, a hypnotist who was used by Malcolm Allison to assist Third Division Crystal Palace on their unlikely run to the 1975/76 FA Cup semifinal. Unfortunately it all ended in tears when he claimed that he had not been paid for his services and promptly put a curse on the club which apparently remains in force to this day.

Hopefully Tom Bates will be more successful in his efforts on our behalf. In the meantime I just have one question for him, can he please suggest something that will help keep all us fans calm, measured, united, supportive, positive, patient and stress free?

Dunne It The Hard Way – 25/3/16

The average length of a professional footballer’s career is no more than eight years according to figures provided by the PFA and for those who go on to play for longer than that there is generally a very good reason for their not falling by the wayside much sooner.

For the favoured few it is simply a case of their outstanding and overwhelming talent, but even then that can sometimes not be enough.

Back in the early 60s Barry Fry was considered to be one of the most promising Busby Babes coming through the ranks at Manchester United but despite his huge talent and self-evident confidence in his own ability, his lack of off the field discipline and application, in addition to a series of recurring injuries condemned him to a frustratingly short career that comprised less than twenty Football League matches at far less glamorous outposts of the game such as Bolton, Luton and Leyton Orient rather than the heady heights of Old Trafford that at one time seemed certain.

Talent alone cannot guarantee that a fledgling footballer makes the grade, what matters just as much is good fortune in avoiding chronic or career ending injury, having the luck to play for a manager who believes in you and the attributes that you can bring to the party as well as showing a combination of total commitment and dedication to the cause.

Millwall is a club that seems to attract players of a certain type who are totally in keeping with the gritty and tough nature of the local area. It is not a place for fancy-dan ball players and they, as well as men who shirk challenges and lack moral fibre generally do not remain at the club for very long. It is hardly surprising that the three players who have made the most appearances for the club were all tough and uncompromising defenders in Barry Kitchener, Keith Stevens and Harry Cripps. No shrinking violets there and any tricky forward attempting to go past any of them was liable to experience the delights of cinder rash.

Interestingly enough, there have already been a couple of outstanding books about Millwall. Eamon Dunphy’s Only a Game? Diary of a Professional Footballer, remains a classic of the genre over forty years after it was written and clearly demonstrates how a midfield player skilful enough to earn twenty-three caps for Eire was forced to modify and simplify his game and cut out all the frills in order to fit in and gain acceptance from the Millwall faithful. Journalist Michael Calvin’s more recent account of a promotion winning season, Family: Life, Death and Football, provided a brilliant insider’s view of life at the sharp end of the football pyramid as well as the importance of the club to its local community and vice versa.

Now there is a worthy new addition to the Millwall library with the publication of long-serving defender Alan Dunne’s recollections of a fine career which saw him play almost four hundred times during his twenty-three years at the club.

Dunne is a passionate and impetuous character who had to learn the hard way how to control his temper and ensure that his behaviour both on and off the pitch remained within bounds and his book is full of stories of his scrapes and escapades which on many occasions threatened to cut short what eventually became a long and meritorious career.

Make no mistake about it, Dunne is a talented defender who at his peak came close to full international honours with Eire, but what really set him apart from many former team mates was his total determination to succeed and his ceaseless will to win. He was not going to let anything come between him and his heartfelt ambition to become a professional footballer and woe betide anybody or anything that got in his way.

There is much here of interest to Millwall supporters. Dunne speaks of his massive hurt and disappointment at missing out on a starting place in the 2004 FA Cup Final team despite an apparent promise that he would play some part in the game. The numbing feeling he felt after being released by his former team mate Neil Harris. How he missed an opportunity to prolong his stay at the club when he should have pressed for a new contract and struck when the iron was hot at the start of the 2014/15 season after he had just spearheaded Millwall’s great escape from relegation from the Championship. He gives full, frank and honest opinions on a plethora of Millwall managers and team mates good, bad and indifferent as well as writing honestly about his sense of insecurity after being released and his struggle to find a new club.

He also paints a vivid picture of what it means to play for a club like Millwall and how the players feed off the fans and vice versa. Some footballers shrivel under the relentless pressure and are never accepted by a crowd that demands total passion and commitment at all times, others revel in the need to demonstrate their grit and determination and are quickly accepted and become part of the family as well as local heroes. Dunne certainly belonged to that last category and he writes lucidly and with pride about his strong relationship with a marvellous bunch of supporters.

The book is honest in the extreme and Dunne provides frank and graphic descriptions of all eleven red cards that he has been shown to date and how the red mist sometimes came down and he even acknowledges that perhaps three or four of them were in fact the correct decision.

Brentford fans will be interested to note that Dunne’s favourite goal was his equaliser at The Den last season in a match where Millwall were wearing a special camouflage kit to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of World War One. Dunne’s shot squeezed through the legs of Brentford defender Tony Craig on its way into the net and Dunne is also full of praise for Craig, his ability, temperament and dressing room influence. Another excellent professional who has also fully deserved his success.

Dunne almost came to blows with giant striker Mark McCammon in the lead-up to the Cup Final when tension was building and let’s just say that he probably shares the same opinion about McCammon’s footballing ability as most Bees supporters!

This is not just a book for Millwall fans and there is much that will be relished and enjoyed by supporters of all teams. Dunne clearly represents Everyman, and the archetypical lower division footballer. He made the most of what he had and overcame the vicissitudes of fate, injury, personal shortcomings and the whims of his managers as well as referees!

He has enjoyed a wonderful career and one that he has fully deserved given what he has always put back into the game and he is a shining example of what hard work and commitment can bring.

This is an excellent book which is highly recommended.

DUNNE IT THE HARD WAY BY ALUN DUNNE WITH CHRIS DAVIES. PUBLISHED BY PITCH PUBLISHING AT £17.99

 

I’m Tired – 23/3/16

  • I’m tired of all the infighting between Brentford fans – something that is tearing our great club apart
  • I’m tired of the lack of tolerance and manners being shown by some of our supporters
  • I’m tired of genuine supporters being bullied, abused and denigrated because others disagree with their opinion
  • I’m tired of the toxic atmosphere that seems to pervade everything and everyone in and around the club at the moment
  • I’m tired of reading page after page of endless negativity, arguments, insults and vituperation on all of the message boards
  • I’m tired of reading the sick and appalling comments regarding Dean Smith recently on Twitter, some of them potentially actionable in my opinion
  • I’m tired of having to referee disputes between readers of my own blog site – not something that I ever expected to happen
  • I’m tired of reading comments accusing our best player of selfishness and of not caring about the club
  • I’m tired of being accused of being self-serving and encouraging negativity on BFC Talk when entirely the opposite is true
  • I’m tired of trolls who seek only to cement discord by spreading their poisonous bile
  • I’m tired of the attacks on Matthew Benham without whom…
  • I’m tired of the ceaseless blame culture which is helping to wreck our season
  • I’m tired of my own sour grapes
  • I’m tired of the inquests which should all be delayed until the end of the season when I am certain that lessons will be learned and changes will be made
  • I’m tired of the massive over promising from the club which has led to unrealistically raised expectations
  • I’m tired of self-proclaimed experts spouting off and pontificating
  • I’m tired of know-it-alls who seem to be taking a positive delight and glorying in our current misfortune
  • I’m tired of not enjoying anything at the moment regarding Brentford FC both on and off the pitch
  • I’m tired of not being able to persuade any of my friends to come and watch us play this year
  • I’m tired of watching a vibrant, brilliant and exciting team that played without fear become boring, slow, pedestrian and mediocre
  • I’m tired of having to make excuses when in reality we are totally underperforming
  • I’m tired of watching players who are simply not up to scratch do their best to compete in the harsh world of the Championship
  • I’m tired of an obsession becoming a chore
  • I’m tired of going to sleep worrying about the Bees and waking up doing exactly the same
  • I’m tired of this season
  • I’m tired of going to away games recently expecting nothing
  • I’m tired of going to home games recently expecting nothing
  • I’m tired of losing games week after week
  • I’m tired of counting off the games until the end of the season
  • I’m tired of praying that there will be three Championship teams even more inept than us
  • I’m tired of bemoaning just how far we have fallen so quickly and how easily it might have been avoided
  • I’m tired of waiting for a striker to score a goal for us
  • I’m tired of waiting for Harlee Dean to score for us
  • I’m tired of waiting for us to get more players into the opposition penalty area
  • I’m tired of waiting for us to show bravery and attempt positive passes rather than go backwards and sideways
  • I’m tired of the disgusting behaviour of some of our supporters at away games
  • I’m tired of the barracking of some of our players during and after recent matches
  • I’m tired of waiting in vain for a referee to do his job and send an opponent off after he has tried to cut one of our players in two
  • I’m tired of horrid abuse being laughed off and excused as mere banter
  • I’m tired of our never ending injury jinx
  • I’m tired of excuses
  • I’m tired of feeling disappointed and conflicted about us struggling in the Championship when I would have given my eye teeth to have merely got there a few years ago
  • I’m tired of rumours and innuendos that are never backed up or substantiated
  • I’m tired of our inflexibility in our approach towards transfers
  • I’m tired of waiting for Championship tested players to arrive in order to reinforce our beleaguered squad
  • I’m tired of thinking about the furore there will be if tomorrow ends without another loan signing
  • I’m tired of asking kids to do a man’s job
  • I’m tired of pointless comparisons between Lee Carsley and Dean Smith
  • I’m tired of people failing to recognise that we have a Head Coach and not a Manager
  • I’m tired of supporters not accepting that Dean Smith plays a key role in player identification and recruitment
  • I’m tired of nonstop and ignorant criticism of Dean Smith which does not take into account the problems he is facing
  • I’m tired of continual references to Mark Warburton and how he was fired
  • I’m tired of fans bemoaning the lack of news and PR from the club and then complaining when the likes of Matthew Benham and Phil Giles are interviewed by supporters
  • I’m tired of the mainstream football media treating us like a laughing stock and just hoping and waiting for us to implode
  • I’m tired of Adrian Durham and his mindless shock jock jeering
  • I’m tired of Pitchgate
  • I’m tired of us shooting ourselves in the foot
  • I’m tired of the thought of the supporters of other relegation haunted clubs like Rotherham, MK Dons and Fulham taking comfort from the obvious dissension in our ranks
  • I’m tired of waiting for the Lionel Road CPO decision to be announced
  • I’m tired of counting off the days, months and years until we arrive at Lionel Road and just hoping that we can survive in the Championship until then
  • I’m tired of being patronised and laughed at by my Watford and Queens Park Rangers supporting friends
  • I’m tired of all the moaning about our association with FC Midtjylland
  • I’m tired of all the pointless match day parking restrictions around Griffin Park
  • I’m tired of all the ignorant criticism about our set pieces which are greatly improved this season
  • I’m tired of living in fear of being hit by the damn ball in Ealing Road
  • I’m tired of conspiracy theorists spouting nonsense about Matthew Benham’s plans for us
  • I’m tired of waiting for our Academy to develop some worthwhile prospects
  • I’m tired of our slavish devotion to a 4-2-3-1 formation when we do not possess the players to suit it
  • I’m tired of reading about Jota’s accomplishments back in Spain when I want him back with us
  • I’m tired of poor Lewis Macleod’s never ending bad luck and injury traumas and feel so sorry for him
  • I’m tired of having to remind people that we need to remain united if we are to survive this season unscathed
  • I’m tired of waiting for next season when hopefully we can repair some of the damage that has been inflicted this season
  • I’m tired of writing this blog

Pointing The Finger! – 22/3/16

Immediately after the disappointment of the Blackburn Rovers defeat on Saturday I gave my suggestions concerning what we should do next and how the team and management should use the International Break productively in order to both rest up and also prepare for the next crucial batch of eight matches in April which will decide our immediate fate.

I also suggested that a change of formation as well as approach would probably serve us well as if the way we are playing at the moment continually fails to provide results, as has been the case, then you need to change it or risk more failure.

Rightly or wrongly it has always been my stated policy to provide Brentford supporters of all persuasions with the platform within this column to express their own opinions. Sometimes I agree with them to a greater or lesser extent, more often I do not, but despite our differences we all share a passion for the Bees and are in awe of what Matthew Benham has done to revitalise our club, and it also provides a catalyst for other supporters to respond and have their say.

Lately emotions and tempers have been rising and patience and tolerance are in short supply, hardly surprising given the events since the turn of the year and I can well understand why people feel the way that they do.

By sharing conflicting opinions on the club I am not trying to rebel rouse, neither am I aiming to cause mischief or gain attention for myself and I have urged us supporters many times to unite and get behind our team at such a crucial time when perhaps our ambitious plans for the immediate future are at risk should we return to the lower divisions. Inquests and recriminations can wait until later.

I fully intend to continue as I have done and today welcome back Jim Levack who has been a regular contributor to this column and he now shares his view about what is happening at the club, how we have allowed ourselves to get into this mess and what can be done to improve matters and I concur with some but not all of what he has to say:

In almost half a century of watching Brentford I can’t recall a time when the club has been more riven by division than now. Fans fighting fans, terrace arguments, acrimonious and frequently personal internet battles, the current situation is sad beyond belief.

Not even during the dark days of Webb and Noades were the fans so divided over the right way to take the club forward. I have my own personal view of where the blame lies for this rift but it’s an opinion far too unpopular and incendiary to ever share.

Irrespective of what I think, one message board has almost four thousand posts on the subject of Dean Smith and a relatively low thirteen hundred on the subject of the Co-Directors of Football.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.

Because Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen are Matthew Benham’s right hand men, they have inexplicably escaped much of the criticism for the current slide towards the trapdoor.

Why? Their job is, as the club widely and foolishly proclaimed last season, to identify undiscovered talent with potential to avoid paying the ludicrous transfer fees and wages that make other clubs financially unstable.

I say foolishly because the second we did so and effectively got rid of Mark Warburton – no, he wasn’t sacked but we made his position untenable – the whole football world turned against us to the extent that if we now move for a player it sets alarm bells ringing.

No problem with the concept though. The strategy makes perfect sense for a club with limited revenue streams like Brentford. But why did we feel the need to shout about it?

Strip the whole thing down and the players we’ve brought in – Woods and Colin being notable exceptions – are patently not ready to play in a thriving Championship side, let alone one fighting for survival.

Last season’s side had a great balance, strong competition for places and a ruthless edge.

If Pritchard got knocked about, Douglas was there to drag him to his feet and snarl at the bloke who did it.

Diagouraga, if the ball did get past the midfield, mopped up the bits and pieces and gave it away simply and accurately, a fulcrum if you like.

Tarkowski and Dean were a peerless combination, Gray was powerful, quick and usually clinical, the likes of McCormack couldn’t get a start.

When Pritchard wasn’t doing it we had Jota, Dallas, Toral, or even Odubajo bombing on as well as Judge, all capable of producing a moment of magic.

We effectively had a four-pronged attack as well as creative, vibrant, skilful, quick options on the bench who could change a game that was drifting away from us.

Saunders and Yennaris were plying their trade in League Two. Now they are pivotal to our survival.

Don’t think for a second I’m denigrating the current squad in any way. They are, mostly, technically strong with huge potential, but are being asked to do the job of seasoned professionals with several years knowledge of the Championship. That’s not fair or sensible.

Josh McEachran is a case in point. We were told that he was the Douglas replacement. Don’t make me laugh!

Skilful yes, intelligent occasionally, but a ball winner? I’m sorry. The sooner he casts off the Chelsea starlet tag and starts bossing games as his talent suggests he surely can, the better. He was given the opportunity when Blackburn went down to ten men and singularly failed to take it.

Now we have a midfield lacking steel and stature that is overrun on a weekly basis.

McEachran and Woods are so similar it’s painful to watch, Judge has drifted into an I’ll play where I want thanks mentality to the side’s detriment, and Canos and Swift are young lads with huge potential who would benefit from a protector alongside them.

The best football teams are combinations of different characters, personalities, types of players, but if I had to pick one word to describe the current Brentford side, it would be lightweight.

Dean Smith must go posts and worse have littered social media whilst Rasmus and Phil have got off relatively lightly.

Grossly unfair in my view as they have effectively assembled this squad for Smith whose use of the word “finally” on bringing in Leandro last week was perhaps the first public hint of his frustration.

It’s far too easy to go to the other extreme and actually blame the Co-Directors of Football for everything too, as I’m sure they are moving heaven and earth to bring in loanees. Their reputations are, after all, on the line here.

I know that several quality players have been lined up for the Summer, but I’m guessing they won’t want to play in League One so we need to sort out this mess soon or I fear for our immediate future.

As Greville confirmed in his interview recently, Phil Giles comes across as a likeable, thoughtful and decent bloke doing his best and I’m sure he’s crunching the numbers to get it right, but sometimes football is – as I said at the time of Warburton’s exit – about far more than numbers.

As far Rasmus, I’m not entirely sure what his role is or the extent of his involvement at Brentford so it’s probably unfair to comment. Suffice to say that I’m sure he’s feeling the pain the same as Giles.

What I will say though is that the signings of Gogia – remember him? – and Kerschbaumer epitomise the malaise surrounding our new system.

I’ve watched Kerschbaumer closely when he’s played and although he may well become a decent player in the future, his positional awareness is poor. The best players have an unerring ability to be in the right place at the right time and if I’m honest it’s an innate ability and not one easily learned.

The ball never breaks to him because he’s constantly out of position. When it does, he’s brushed off it far too easily at the moment.

Now, after all the carefully placed pro-pieces in the media surrounding our strategy, whenever we approach a club or agent they think one of three things:

  • This lad must be better than we think if Brentford are in for him.
  • We can get more money for him if Brentford think he’s good.
  • If Brentford want him and see something in him, then bigger clubs will too so I can get him more money in wages.

Last season I read somewhere that Matthew Benham’s theory meant that a side near the bottom wasn’t necessarily bad because over the course of a campaign things even themselves out as luck plays its part. Right now though I’m reminded of the saying “you make your own luck in this game.”

The bottom line is that most Brentford fans with a brain have seen for many months that we lack steel, guile, bottle, balls, size, strength or whatever you want to call it. So why couldn’t Giles and Ankersen when the window was open?

If it’s because we don’t want to play that way and won’t abandon our principles then that’s arrant nonsense and, I hate to say it, arrogant in the extreme.

We also lack quality where it matters, but I accept that only comes at a price and, if rumours of a sudden cash squeeze are to be believed, it’s one we’re not prepared to pay whatever the outcome.

However, and here’s the stark truth, we are now staring trips to Northampton and Oxford in the face unless the squad is strengthened fast or the approach or pattern of play changes.

My fear is that a refusal to stray from the principles of finding young fringe Premier League players – unless they are exceptional talents – will not help our cause at a time when we currently need people with knowledge of this league.

To bleat on about Smith not being able to motivate the same side Lee Carsley had at his disposal is a red herring.

Carsley had Tarkowski and Diagouraga, two key players who both, in differing ways, played their part in ensuring the back four didn’t look vulnerable.

Importantly he was also given a short-term brief by Matthew Benham to steady the ship, stop the rot and stabilise by whatever means possible after the Dijkhuizen departure.

By contrast Smith has been told to work towards a longer term project with far less quality to call on. I might be wrong but I’d put a few bob on the fact that in confidential company, he isn’t happy at having his reputation put on the line by the club’s lack of activity in January, however valid the reasons for doing so.

That same lack of activity and dare I say it Big New Ambitions will, I hope, be reflected in season ticket prices for next season when people will adopt a once bitten, twice shy approach.

So what is the solution? To stick or twist? It’s a dilemma that Matthew Benham, as a gambling man, may well be relishing but I for one am not.

It’s fairly obvious to me – bring in a quick, pacy young winger on the fringes of a Premier League start and a mid-twenties defensive midfielder with a bit of bite and Championship know-how because a youngster in that role simply won’t do given our current predicament.

Maybe easier said than done at this stage of the campaign given our cash constraints, but the financial ramifications of relegation will be far more damaging than a few extra quid shelled out now.

I’ll leave the final word to this probably over long ramble to Jeff Stelling, whose stunning on screen analysis of Aston Villa’s season and predicament made me sit up with a start.

Without detriment to our new signings – some of whom may well go on to be real assets to the club IN TIME – or our scapegoat manager, there are clear parallels to be drawn.

If you haven’t seen it take a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL_zCdeIyQ8

Not Good Enough & Where Do We Go from Here? – 20/3/16

It would be all too easy and also perhaps satisfying and even cathartic to have a real go at the Brentford team which was unable to beat ten men and fell to a potentially disastrous defeat to a Blackburn Rovers team that on the day was never more than big, tough, well-organised and hard to break down.

But what’s the point of doing so as all fourteen players patently gave everything that they had and were unflagging in all their efforts to end Brentford’s appalling run which has seen them nosedive from a position of midfield serenity to the throes of a relegation dogfight that they seem totally ill equipped to cope with and which appears to have taken them completely by surprise.

I am also not going to criticise hapless manager Dean Smith as he can only use the tools that he has been provided with and once the players cross the white lines what happens then is totally down to them.

The plain truth of the matter as we thankfully go into an International Break which will allow us some respite and the time to take stock and fully prepare for a massive nine match mini-season which will decide our season and immediate future, is that the current squad is playing far below its potential and at some point the question has to be asked if they are good enough to compete in the Championship and if not, why not.

That again is not going to be a productive, beneficial or helpful conversation at the present time given the severity of the situation that we face.

Yesterday was both deflating and demoralising as the Bees totally dominated proceedings and had sixty-six percent possession but did absolutely nothing with it as the ball was shuffled backwards and sideways with monotonous regularity with nobody able or prepared to take responsibility, try something ambitious or attempt an incisive pass.

Dean Smith admitted afterwards that the team had been set up to ensure that we were more solid with the intention of avoiding more of the giveaway goals that have been a frustrating feature of our recent matches. To a degree he achieved these objectives as our visitors barely threatened apart from at set pieces where as expected they dominated given their height and strength. What he patently failed to address was our lack of attacking potency.

Button was forced to save comfortably from Gomez and brilliantly from Akpan’s close range header when he was left criminally unmarked from a free kick. Our soft underbelly was left exposed and the longer we went on without scoring the more the nagging thought remained that we would fall to yet another sucker punch, and our worst nightmare finally came true when close to the end of an eminentally forgettable match our defensive fallibility came back to haunt us and poor defending from a simple free kick which arrowed into the box from out wide saw a misplaced header from McCormack fall to the feet of Watt who cleverly set up Duffy for a fulminating close range finish which raged into the roof of the net.

For all our possession it is hard to recall more than a handful of times when we actually looked like scoring. Steele dived to paw away Barbet’s curling free kick which circumnavigated Brentford’s two walls as well as our visitors’ but in truth the save was fairly routine.

Even when a rugged and agricultural Blackburn team was reduced to ten men on the hour when Hanley walked for his second yellow card after a deliberate handball, unforgivably we never managed to trouble the keeper who was well protected by a massive wall of blue and white which funnelled together in the centre and comfortably smothered what little danger we provided.

Brentford were allowed to keep unchallenged possession out wide and positively encouraged to swing in any number of crosses which were meat and drink to the phalanx of huge defenders waiting eagerly to deal with them. Leandro Rodríguez, making his full league debut must have wondered what he had let himself in for as he was left totally isolated in the area and rarely had the benefit of players running beyond him in support. He was treated as a punchbag and given no protection by yet another weak referee who also ignored a blatant handball in the area. There is real hope for the future as Leonardo looked energetic, keen and clever on the ball but he was never given a clear sight of goal.

Scott Hogan also made his long awaited return from his injury nightmare and will provide a boost to our striking resources.

Alan Judge tried too hard to impress against his former club and had a game to forget. The responsibility of being both our only real goal threat as well as the architect of most of our chances now seems to be weighing down heavily upon him and he will welcome the respite and boost to his confidence which will come from some time away from the club with the Eire squad.

Judge selfishly and myopically squandered the opportunity to set Canos clear away on goal when deciding instead to shoot and had a succession of wasteful efforts which went nowhere near before he finally got his bearings correct deep into injury time when his curling effort extended the keeper who was forced to concede a corner from which Harlee Dean’s last gasp effort threatened the departing supporters already outside the ground on Ealing Road rather than the Blackburn goal.

That really sums up our goalscoring efforts for the entire match and highlights the extent that nerves and loss of confidence have rendered our team impotent.

In the glory days of last season we played a vibrant and positive brand of attacking football where five midfielders were encouraged to rotate positions and all get forward in turn to support a strong, pacy forward who ran the channels, and they all got into the area and never gave the opposition a moment of peace.

Jota, Pritchard, Douglas, Dallas and Toral all provided a real goal threat and scored over forty times between them, and Judge, who only managed to score three times, helped pull all the strings. We played through the opposition and were able to create space and a seemingly nonstop series of openings through our sheer ability and ingenuity as well as the relentlessness of our attacking approach.

I make these points not in anger or sadness but to highlight how greatly the situation has changed from those halcyon days when we had the players that suited the 4-2-3-1 formation that we employed. Now we have lost the pace, positivity and I am afraid to say, talent, that made us so effective.

Now we are slow, ponderous and predictable and only Judge, Swift (absent yesterday after his Instagram indiscretion) and Canos have any clue in front of goal whilst the likes of Woods, McCormack, McEachran and Kerschbaumer have scored only once between them all season.

Our lone striker remains isolated and without support and we never seem to get players in and around him on the edge of, and inside the penalty area. No wonder Blackburn were happy for us to send cross after cross into the box where we never threatened any danger.

McEachran should have come into his own after the sending off as the stage was set for him to take control of the match and make something happen for us. It was an ideal situation for him as he was able to pick the ball up unchallenged deep in our half from Button or a defender and move menacingly into the Blackburn half. This he did on countless occasions but absolutely nothing came of his efforts as he never attempted a pass that threatened to cut the opposition open. He always took the easy and safe option and we literally went around in circles and got nowhere – very, very slowly.

So where do we go from here? The situation now looks extremely serious and increasingly dire as Rotherham continue to come up with an unlikely series of results, winning yesterday at Ipswich. We are now playing only to avoid the last relegation place and all our efforts now need to be totally focused on that objective. Our whole short term future depends upon us remaining in the Championship as I cannot begin to imagine the consequences for the club should we get relegated.

My suggestion is for us all to have a day or so of mourning, anger and offloading and allow all the frustration to come out and then we have to regird our loins, put our disappointments behind us and work in unison to try and get ourselves out of this mess, which in my view is entirely of our own making.

The time for inquests and recriminations is for later and definitely not now. Hopefully we will be able to breathe a deep sigh of relief in early May and then, and only then, dissect this shambles of a season and do whatever it takes to ensure that the multitude of mistakes that have been made by all parties are learned from and never repeated. It might well mean that our structure needs to be examined extremely closely and that individuals are forced to take responsibility for their actions. We might also need to change the fundamentals of how we operate. Who knows? But all that is for later and not for now.

Hard though it will be to do so, we quite simply need to keep calm and the fans more than ever have to get behind the team, as indeed they did yesterday.

Most crucially we need to throw away our current default formation and adopt a system that suits the players we have. 4-4-2  with two strikers playing up top would be my choice given the current and obvious lack of incision and support from midfield. We need to score some goals and win at least a couple of matches and currently we barely look like scoring and are creating little. Scott Hogan made a more than welcome return yesterday and he and Rodríguez must be allowed to develop a partnership and attempt to provide some goal threat.

The easy option for Dean Smith will be to try and make us even more defensive but this must be avoided at all costs. I do not mean that we become naively open and attack at will, simply that we defend properly, something that we have not done all year, but also concentrate on asking some questions of the opposition and getting a couple of players into the penalty area would be a good start.

As we have seen, our lack of confidence has drained our energy and imagination away and helped make our legs leaden and apart from Judge nobody will take any responsibility. Yesterday the players appeared to be paralysed by nerves and indecision. McCormack is now doing his best to offer some leadership and fill this void but we desperately need width and pace down the wings. Money is tight and I doubt if there are many options out there available at a price that we can afford but I would hope that one more fresh face comes in this week, either a winger or a midfielder with bite and presence.

The next two weeks require a mixture of rest, recuperation, self-examination and hard work. We have eight matches to play in April, a month that will decide our future and a combination of fresh legs and fresh minds and a fresh approach are needed from management, squad and supporters alike.

We have to start again after the International Break with a clean slate. Let’s look on the bright side, there is still a long way to go and we aren’t in the bottom three and our fate lies entirely in our own hands.

The season starts now!

It’s Time For Our Luck To Change! – 18/3/16

Mark Warburton was always one to say that matches in the Championship were invariably closely fought, tightly contested and generally turned on a mistake, a moment of genius or the whim of a referee’s decision.

In other words the result hinged on a hairsbreadth and narrow margins prevailed.

Who can recall the home game against Norwich last season which to a disinterested observer appeared to end in a conclusive and comprehensive three goal victory for the visitors?

Brentford fans knew far better, as a contest totally dominated by the Bees was decided by a series of outstanding saves by the unbeatable John Ruddy, a momentary loss of concentration by James Tarkowski which led to the crucial opening goal and the referee’s incomprehensible decision not to award a seemingly stonewall penalty when Alex Pritchard was clearly sawn off at the knees a few moments later.

Brentford go into tomorrow’s match after a run of three demoralising defeats to Rotherham, Charlton and, most upsettingly, local rivals Queens Park Rangers.

On the face of it, losing to three teams who can hardly be described as Championship powerhouses is worrying and does not bode well for the immediate future.

Confidence both on the pitch and the terraces is quite naturally at a low ebb at tthe moment and the season is now poised on a knife edge.

Will the team belatedly recover its poise and with one bound be free of the looming threat of a relegation dog fight or will we all be in for an exhausting, stressful and nerve shattering last ten games of the season?

A closer examination of the key moments in each of the last three games should provide some crumbs of comfort for supporters whose nails are bitten to the quick, whose nerves are clanging and who are quick now to remonstrate and express disapproval when things go wrong on and off the pitch.

John Swift and Philipp Hofmann both missed glaring chances to equalise late on at Rotherham when scoring seemed by far the easiest option.

Who knows how the home team would have responded to such a mortal blow so soon after they had gone ahead in the match for the second time?

Maybe heads would have gone down and a revitalised and re-energised Brentford team would have gone onto an unlikely victory?

Having recovered from conceding a daft goal within the opening twenty seconds Brentford were dominating proceedings against Charlton and having deservedly equalised were pressing hard for the go ahead goal.

The opportunity came early in the second half when Josh McEachran saw a gap in the leaden footed Charlton defence and his perfectly weighted pass sent Sergi Canos streaking through on goal but unfortunately he pulled his effort narrowly wide and the chance had gone.

A goal then, and the Bees would probably have scored at least once more afterwards and gained a morale boosting victory.

Even at Loftus Road last weekend there was a massive turning point almost immediately after QPR had taken the lead when Ryan Woods pinged a twenty-five yard effort off the post and it bounced out instead of in. An equaliser right before the break would surely have deflated the home team and then, who knows what might have happened?

Narrow margins indeed and maybe it is finally time for the fickle finger of fate to point in our direction and for the ball to start running in our favour after so long a period when we have been totally starved of good fortune?

There has already been some very good news this week which hopefully we can build upon with the long overdue signing of a new loan striker in Uruguayan forward Leandro Rodríguez from Everton.

He is largely untried in this country but comes with a good reputation and a decent goal scoring record for River Plate and at twenty-three he is hopefully mature enough to take this opportunity in his stride and if he is as successful as our previous loanees from Everton we will have nothing to complain about.

Scott Hogan also came through another Development Squad outing on Monday and clearly demonstrated his disappointment when taken off near the end. Perhaps a good sign and maybe he will be considered fit enough to take his place on the bench tomorrow?

Given the lack of bite and incision this year from any of our three strikers and their overall impotence, the arrival of Rodríguez and the possible presence of Hogan will give us a huge boost as we face a massive and tough tackling Blackburn defence which takes no prisoners, as Marco Djuricin can surely attest given the serious injury he suffered after a horror-show challenge in the first meeting between the two teams.

Encouragingly, Max Colin is also back in training and contention for selection and will hopefully come through the match without breaking down as his steadiness and attacking forays have been sorely missed and his return will provide us with an additional potent weapon in our armoury.

Alan Judge will certainly return to his best position behind the striker after last week’s failed experiment at Loftus Road and he will want to impress against his former team as well as try to catch the eye of the Eire team management, given that he hopes to make his full international debut in the next couple of weeks.

News also broke yesterday of a players-only behind closed doors meeting which was held earlier this week when some home truths were undoubtedly spoken and individuals reminded of their respective responsibilities and how much is currently at stake.

A similar such inquest after the Stevenage debacle in 2013 had a massively beneficial effect as the Bees immediately went on a long and uninterrupted run of victories.

Would that there is an identical reaction starting tomorrow afternoon!

Our recent record against our visitors is excellent with two wins and a draw in our last three meetings.

We scored six times in our two encounters last season, marked by Jota’s magnificent solo effort at Ewood Park and given that our goals were scored by Jota twice, Gray twice, Douglas and Long someone else will need to step up to the plate tomorrow.

It doesn’t necessarily take much to change a seemingly never ending run of poor results and performances and tomorrow would certainly be a perfect time for the Gods to smile down upon us.

All we can do as fans is unite as one and provide loud and unconditional support throughout the entire game.

Beyond that matters are totally out of our hands, but let’s keep our fingers crossed!