Normally the blog seems to write itself. I just sit down at the computer and the words generally flow without too much effort but today was totally different as I vacillated endlessly over the most suitable subject matter and how best to express my feelings.
My first reaction after Brentford’s inept, shambolic, disjointed and passionless performance as they stumbled to an appalling defeat against an equally poor Charlton team was to assert that since the entire Brentford team seemed to have gone on their holidays a couple of months too early then perhaps the blog should do the same and that I would make as much effort as the team had done yesterday and simply refrain from making any comment at all.
I then thought about giving vent to my feelings and forensically dissecting each player’s myriad shortcomings but that was far too depressing a prospect and quite frankly I would simply be repeating so much of what I have already written after previous unacceptable performances. After much thought I have therefore decided to give a brief summary of Saturday’s non-event and then look at highlighting some of the broader issues that now face us and attempting to find some solutions.
Facing a relegation haunted team sorely lacking in confidence we all hoped for a precious early goal that would ideally settle our nerves both on and off the pitch and that is exactly what happened and our prayers were answered as the ball hit the net less than twenty seconds after the opening whistle – unfortunately at the wrong end, as a Brentford team which still looked as though it was in its prematch huddle got into a mess at the back as a left wing cross was allowed to reach the unmarked Harriott who found space in a packed penalty area and easily slotted home.
Dean Smith said that our game plan had gone out of the window after such an appalling start, but surely we still had well over ninety minutes to put things right and address matters?
The Bees eventually clawed their way back into the match and played some reasonable football for the majority of the first half without showing much spark or invention. Swift and Canos shone spasmodically and the Chelsea youngster headed a glaring chance well wide of a gaping goal from a similar opportunity to the one he scored from at The Valley before refusing to fall down when clearly clipped and a penalty kick seemed inevitable.
Frankly it is unfair and unrealistic to put so much pressure on two such talented but inexperienced teenagers and expect them to pull a rabbit out of the hat more than occasionally.
As has happened far too often, Judge was left to forage alone and cut in from the wing to force a brilliant plunging save from Pope. Canos then slipped Djuricin clean through a square defence as the applause rang out in the twenty-fourth minute for the sadly departed Dean Langford but he showed his total lack of confidence and sharpness by allowing the keeper to block his shot when a goal seemed inevitable before Barbet marked a memorable God-given minute by heading home Judge’s corner kick when left totally unmarked and he scored his first ever goal for the club.
Surely the Bees would now take control, but we never found that extra gear nor succeeded in putting a wilting defence under any real pressure. Early in the second half Canos was sent away by McEachran’s exquisite pass but from an identical position from where he rippled the net against Wolves, he could only shoot wide of the post and quite frankly, that was that as we barely created another chance for the remainder of the match, and that miss was to come and haunt us when Charlton realised just how poor we were and finally awoke from their torpor, broke away down their left flank, and the totally unemployed Button could only paw a cross straight to Harriott who made a difficult chance look easy. A ghastly error from a goalkeeper playing against his former team.
The game drifted away from us as we gently subsided to defeat without making much apparent effort to recover as we lacked any shape, invention or frankly, passion. As has happened far too often lately our three substitutions seemed only to weaken us even more. Saunders replaced Canos who seemed to be our main threat although perhaps the fact that he had been booked and subsequently warned for a dive helped make Dean Smith’s mind up for him. Sam barely touched the ball and never played a dangerous pass or cross into the penalty area.
Djuricin gave perhaps the worst and most pathetic performance I have seen from a Brentford striker since the days when the likes of Joe Omigie and Neil Shipperley provided a non-existent goal threat and his replacement, Vibe, who at least gave the impression of breaking sweat, was easily smothered by the Charlton defence. Hofmann came on near the end for McEachran and lumbered around without noticeable effect and it was quite impossible to detect our formation as we degenerated into a hapless and shapeless rabble and we were fortunate not to concede a third as we were cut open repeatedly on the break.
Not for the first time this season the patience of the Brentford supporters was sorely tested and they made their displeasure known at the final whistle.
Charlton came expecting to be defeated but they were let off the hook as they out battled and outfought a Brentford team that was in reality anything but and fully deserved their ultimate victory.
Quite frankly we played with one hand tied behind our back given the lack of incision from our midfield where Woods and McEachran duplicated each other and never gelled as a partnership and Judge provided our only consistent threat but cannot always be expected to do everything on his own.
As has been the case for several months now we do not possess a forward worthy of the name and the Charlton penalty area resembled a cordon sanitaire so seldom did we get players into it.
This sad and sorry state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue, nor can the remainder of the season be allowed to drift away. Not only is this situation patently unfair and unacceptable to supporters who pay good money and quite reasonably expect some level of entertainment and effort in return, and are now justifiably feeling shortchanged, we are also beginning look at the clubs below us with apprehensive looks.
When we lost last month to the likes of Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday and Derby, the exhortation was for patience until we played Wolves, Rotherham and Charlton and then the points and performances would follow. Well those games have now come and gone and bar one bright spark when we hammered a Wolves team which played as if it was tranquillised, we have now lost comfortably and deservedly to two of the relegation favourites without putting up much of a fight. This is not how we expect a Brentford team to perform.
What happens now and where do we go from here? We all deserve some answers. Not because we are spoiled and have massive expectations but quite simply because the squad is patently far too weak and thin and with injuries again biting is now struggling to hold its head above water.
We all know and mostly accept the reasons why the squad has been diminished and denuded without any replacements, but we expected the remaining players at least to be competitive and to provide a reasonable and realistic level of competence, entertainment, effort and results for the remainder of the season before the necessary squad strengthening can take place, not too much to ask for, surely, but the wheels have now come off and Dean Smith is, perhaps unfairly, coming under growing pressure from supporters who are now losing patience and looking for a scapegoat.
That being said he appeared to be be a man in despair in his post match interview and one who was struggling to find the answers to the multitude of problems that currently face him.
Rather than play the blame game I would rather be constructive and look for answers, explanations and firm promises for the immediate and mid-term future as I am extremely concerned at the moment.
I have therefore contacted the Brentford Co-Director of Football, Phil Giles, who responded quickly and courteously and has agreed to meet me next week when I hope to get the answers to some of the questions that we would all like to ask him.
In that regard I have already sent him a comprehensive and voluminous list of question, not that I expect the answers to all of them given the limitations of time and the dictates of commercial confidentiality, but I shall report back on what I am told at our meeting and Phil has also agreed to provide some written answers which will be published as an article as soon as I receive it.
Here are the questions that I have posed and please let me know if there is anything else that you would like me to put to him when we meet:
- How did a Maths & Stats graduate and a PhD from the University of Newcastle end up as Co-Director of Football at Brentford FC?
- How much of your time is spent working with the club as opposed to Smartodds?
- What is the division of roles between yourself & Rasmus Ankersen?
- Roughly what proportion of his time is spent working for Brentford FC?
- The role of the new breed of executive versus the traditional “football man” – discuss
- Dealing with agents and rapacious clubs – are Brentford considered a soft touch or worthy adversaries?
- How much contact do you have with your peers at other clubs?
- How is the club now regarded by the rest of the football world?
- “We look to be stronger after every Transfer Window” – please discuss with reference to the January 2016 Transfer Window?
- How do you manage expectations amongst supporters who were told that any finish below fifth would be a comedown from last season?
- What would be realistic expectations for the club until we move to Lionel Road
- In retrospect was 2015 an annus mirabilis or a massive missed opportunity?
- How can we possibly hold onto our prime assets when they are offered more money elsewhere or persuade the likes of Button and Bidwell to buy into us and resign?
- Try before you buy a la Bidwell & Forshaw. Why have we stopped using this successful policy re loanees?
- What is our relationship like with the top Premier League clubs?
- What is your strategy for recruitment for the summer (within reason!)?
- How much say will Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly have in player recruitment both in terms of identifying targets and wanting to sign them?
- Who has the final say?
- FFP and its effect on us
- How can a team with our financial constraints find and afford flair players who can make and/or score goals?
- Please discuss our three strikers and how they fit into the current style of play?
- Jota – discuss
- How much of a gamble is it signing players from lower divisions at home and abroad e.g. Woods & Gogia
- How attractive a proposition is Brentford FC for
- Young players from lower divisions
- Experienced Championship players
- Players from the EEC & beyond
- What are the minimum expectations and KPIs for you and the club for the remainder of the season?
- Win as many matches as you lose
- Remain competitive
- Stay out of the relegation dog fight
- Continue to play the Brentford Way
- Bed in the new signings from abroad
- Persuade Button and Bidwell to resign
- Complete a recruitment list for next season
- How would you respond to supporters who are feeling let down, confused & disappointed at the moment & will soon be asked to buy season tickets for next season?
- Getting transfers over the line – discuss
- Undisclosed fees. I understand why you favour them but they are the bane of our lives – discuss
- What will it take to bring about a change in policy and for you to bring in loanees this month?
- Where can you find loan players now who can add value to the team?
- I appreciate that there is a review being conducted, but why has the Academy so far failed to produce a home-grown first team squad player?
- Has the loss of some well-regarded Academy coaches had a detrimental effect?
- Why do non-playing first team squad players rarely play in Development Squad fixtures?
- Can you talk us through the process from acknowledging a need to signing a player i.e. how did we go from knowing we would lose Odubajo to signing Colin?
- How advanced and complex is the proprietorial analytical data we use to identify and recruit players compared to the likes of Wyscout & Opta etc?
- In reality how much does our approach really differ from most other clubs nowadays?
- Can you explain the process by which we combine analytical and physical scouting?
- Matthew Benham has stated that a player should be watched 100 times. How often do we watch potential players as opposed to watching DVDs and film clips?
- What sort of physical scouting network do we possess or plug into?
- How many analysts support yourself and Rasmus?
- How do you evaluate players in terms of their character and likelihood to settle in the UK?
- Do we have a constantly updated list of potential and VIABLE prospects from around the world?
- How far down the pyramid do we analyse players and teams?
- How happy are you with the 2015 batch of signings in terms of their current performance levels and were some thrown in prematurely?
- Is it getting more difficult every year to recruit well?
- What signing and sale have given you the most satisfaction?
- What lessons were learned from the Marinus recruitment process when it came to appoint Dean Smith?
- What qualities does Dean Smith possess that makes him the ideal manager for Brentford FC?
- What are the benefits to Brentford of the association with FC Midtjylland?
- We have sent them Moore and O’Shaugnessy, when will we receive one of their players on loan or a permanent basis?
- Why so many injuries this season – coincidence or happenstance?
- Scott Hogan – what can or should we expect or hope for?
- When will we take the Cup competitions more seriously?
- Is a box-to-box player with footballing and tackling ability on the agenda for next season?