The airwaves have been buzzing with activity since I wrote an article the other day suggesting that it was now Time For Some Answers from senior staff at Brentford FC given the current run of poor results and performances and the resulting uncertainty and concern at how matters have been deteriorating on the pitch since the turn of the year and a Transfer Window which saw the club further weaken its squad without bringing in any reinforcements .
I fully understand and buy into the financial and practical reasons why the club has taken some of the decisions that it has but did not expect that they would result in quite such a massive and immediate deterioration both in results and, just as crucially, the quality of our performances. Losing at home to the bottom team in the Championship on Saturday certainly did not help improve matters and some supporters are also beginning to lose patience regarding what is going on and, as our slump continues, are now openly questioning our strategy as well as the impact that manager Dean Smith is having on the team.
I will continue to support the club in all its actions and for its current business model as I quite frankly can see no alternative way forward for us given our financial constraints and our need to compete on an even playing field with teams whose resources totally dwarf our own, and buttressed by income levels we can only dream about and massive parachute payments, can spend millions of pounds on strengthening their squad and seemingly with a mere snap of their fingers can also entice our best players to leave us, even though they have to pay us handsomely for the privilege.
Last season massively raised expectations and I still feel that a huge opportunity was lost when we did not strengthen a squad in January that looked as if it might continue on its triumphant and seemingly unstoppable path to the Premier League. Had things turned out differently in January, who knows, maybe even the divorce between Matthew Benham and Mark Warburton might have been avoided although I suspect that I am clutching at straws as it would appear that there might well have already been a breakdown in trust as well as fundamental differences between them that would inevitably lead to a parting of the ways.
It is pointless now to look backwards although last season plainly showed what is possible, even against all the odds, for the club in terms of results, performances, style of play, quality of recruitment and overall sense of togetherness and we can only aspire to what was achieved and do our utmost to replicate and even surpass it in the future.
This season has seen us facing an ongoing and relentless series of obstacles, barriers, setbacks and problems, some of them of our own making, others largely unforeseen and unfortunate and should we finish the season somewhere around halfway up the Championship then I for one would see this as a successful season given all the circumstances and such a final placing would be something that I could barely have dreamed about only a couple of years ago.
The problem is managing supporter expectations that quite frankly have been raised unrealistically by some ill-judged comments from within the club as well as a natural sense of optimism and anticipation, if not entitlement amongst supporters, created by the triumphs of last season.
I also revealed that I am meeting Phil Giles later this week when he has agreed to answer some of the supporters’ current concerns and I am hoping for reassurances regarding the way forward and how we expect to plan for next season and beyond.
A busy close season culminating in the club retrenching and recruiting cleverly, creatively and effectively from both home and abroad would certainly help to turn things around and bring about a renewed sense of optimism.
In the meantime I have been overwhelmed by the response to my article which included a list of the questions that I have sent to Mr. Giles, and I have heard from many Bees supporters who share my love and support for the club as well as varying degrees of concern about the current situation.
Former player Richard Poole is worried that our slide could continue until we go into freefall:
Great questions Greville, I just hope they provide the answers as the fans have a right to know. I was not there on Saturday but the players should at least try in respect of the shirt and the fans too as relegation could creep up on us more quickly than we think
Red Rose Bee also helped to put matters into context in terms of fan satisfaction:
I am a season ticket holder living in Lancashire. Every home match is a five hundred mile round journey and costs me around ninety pounds. I first went in September 1961 and have been through all the many bad times as well as the few good. I was at Birmingham, Rotherham and SheffieldWednesday recently. I made the decision not to go on Saturday because watching this team is so depressing at the moment. If the players cannot be bothered, why should I? I predicted that we would lose to Charlton. Like many others who watch us play I am not a football expert but every week we see the same players make the same mistakes as well as the lack of urgency and pride.
I don’t blame Dean Smith for this as he has been handed a very difficult situation, it is the Co-Directors of Football who must answer the questions. I cannot imagine that Matthew Benham is happy with what is happening now.Without him we have no future though.
I just hope that Saturday will focus minds and will represent the lowest point of a forgettable season, if not, and if we carry on like this, we are definitely in a relegation scrap.
Rob is concerned about the current makeup of the squad:
Another great incisive article, Greville – and I look forward to some of the questions you have asked getting answered honestly and fully. Yes, last season was a brilliant one for us, and I fully accept after fifty-two years of supporting the Bees that we cannot have it like that every year. However, there is still the expectation that life will not always be going from high peaks to low troughs. A few weeks ago I thought that we had enough points to stay safe for this year but after Saturday’s performance, I’m not quite so confident.
It is not just the persistence in playing the lone striker that concerns me, there is the lack of an effective midfield. Whilst I was never the biggest fan of Douglas, and obviously he is approaching the twilight of his career, he has not been replaced.
Equally, Toumani’s departure has left a gap in the defensive midfield and it was interesting to hear comments in the stand about how much we miss him coming from people who were often vociferous critics of him in the past – you don’t know how good someone is until they go. I fully appreciate that players will come and players will go, but I feel that far too many have gone without adequate replacement – and that is one of my biggest concerns.
Rebel Bee gave his analysis of the current situation:
Something is very wrong at Brentford, and without taking any pleasure in it, some of us have felt this for a long while now. An air of complacency set in at the turn of the year, leaving the squad short in strength, character, quality in this unforgiving division – which is relentless right up to the last game. We could yet pay a very heavy price for this complacency – our predicament is that serious.
You’d have to write a book to pick over that performance on Saturday – it was that bad – Smith’s pre match “start on the front foot” quote in tatters after twenty seconds. Even our superb keeper has got the yips, gifting their winner with a soft punch – we are unable to dig in and take a few scruffy draws and that is what alarms me most in this bad run. A glaring problem for us is the lack of pace in the squad – it’s a big part of why we lost yesterday.
My questions to Phil Giles would be all about the balance of the squad and the rationale behind the signings made this season. Why sign three forwards who are unable to play in our lone striker role? Why have we lost and not replaced our powerful, pacy players? We have no width or an outlet, even hapless Charlton had this. I’d also ask how the summer recruitment process will be handled, assuming we stay up, is Dean Smith being given more input and say on this than Marinus was?
Saturday was the day that even some of the most positive people I know are starting to accept that we’ve made a real mess of things, and wonder where our next point will come from. It’s backs against the wall time – all we can do is to get to QPR and try to do our bit, all of the staff need to respond this week and man up a bit.
I fear something has seriously gone awry at Brentford, complete supposition on my part but all is not well and it goes far deeper than the on pitch issues. Clearly the frustrating delays to the Lionel Road project are part of this, maybe a bigger part than I imagined.
Within reason the senior figures at the club need to come out and communicate – tell the truth and try to pull everyone together – otherwise our golden moment getting to and competing in the championship will be a fleeting memory.
Iain is also looking forward to hearing some answers:
Thanks for another good blog Greville. Quite a list of questions! If these will be properly dealt with, then you’ll have a fairly lengthy meeting.
Clearly Saturday was as bad as it can get right now. You can do no worse in a league game than lose at home to the team occupying bottom place. However, whether we’re on a downward spiral will tell how much worse it can get.
Not a specific question but one troubling observation which you might be able to build into your discussion. Did you look at the players before kick off yesterday? My friend remarked that their body language was all wrong and that they didn’t look like they were up for the challenge.
You know, he was right, it was definitely visible. The contrast with the Charlton players was there to see.
Surely the players should at least come out looking like they can’t wait for the game to start? You can have the worst group of players, with a bad owner but still come onto the field highly energised.
So the events of the first minute only seemed to verify all was absolutely not well in how the players were prepared. I am still very reluctant to become too critical of our Head Coach – but when this is coupled with the obviously ineffective substitutions and too many long balls, which we invariably lose, there are more serious concerns now.
None of us wants to see much more of this. We have no divine right to win but we expect the team to come out, champing at the bit to go and players to know how the team is expected to play and how they are meant to be a part of that.
Maybe what we need to get things going again is a local derby against a team which fires everyone up? Perhaps we have one of those soon.
John Hirdle would prefer a public forum:
Good luck in trying to get some answers from Giles. It is long overdue for him and Ankersen to break their wall of silence and front up with some explanations on the current state we find the club in and their proposed actions to improve things both short term and long term. I can’t help feeling though that instead of a private meeting with yourself they should be addressing these concerns to all of us publicly at a Fans’ Forum. I have little confidence in either of them to be honest.
dwp26 added a few extra questions:
Excellent post. I always come here to get a more balanced view, and I often find that it helps me realise things are not as bad as the post match trauma would suggest.
Some questions to pass on:
Is the overall target of Premier League football in five years still feasible?
Why should I and many others renew season tickets for next season, given that the football we play currently resembles nothing like last season’s quality?
Will we see that exciting brand of high intensity attacking football again at Brentford, or are we now condemned to sideways passing and long balls to players who have a poor first touch and can’t head it?
Chris White wants better and more frequent communication from the club:
Regular communication from the powers to be acknowledging the good and what needs to be improved and what the club intends to do about it would be a good start. I think this would be good for the standing of the club as there are many within the game who because of what happened last February, really want us to fail. We need to acknowledge this and re-emphasise that we have to do things differently if we want to be successful with our resources. But the silence has become deafening.
Lastly, we’re all in despair because we were actually given that most precious thing – hope. We hoped that we could be successful and last year we saw that it could be done, which has given us belief. There’s no way we can allow that to disappear now – it’s already rooted and mediocrity is only making matters worse. The fact that the mediocrity is now within a Championship setting show how far we have come but also what our current expectations now are.
Good luck with the meeting, Greville, and I cant wait for the feedback.
Let’s end with the thoughts of Jim Levack who, as normal, succinctly summed things up:
Greville… your article and questions are absolutely on the button. It has spawned some intelligent and reasoned responses too.
Just one thought though – Should it not be Matthew Benham answering those questions as he hired both Giles and Ankersen? It is not really fair on Giles to take the flak alone, just as it’s unfair for people to judge Dean Smith on a side that he has had no say in developing.
To those who say Carsley got more out of the same players, that is selective thinking. Carsley had a quality centre back in Tarkowski and an effective, gangly pain in the backside play-breaker in Diagouraga.
I’m not going to rant on but to my mind failing to sign any replacements in January has created a destructive mindset at the club. If you tell your office profits don’t matter until the next financial year, the team will cruise.
Interesting thoughts from all of them and many others too. It is good to offload as well as express your concerns. Let’s just wait for some of the answers and hope that I am not fobbed off with platitudes and that they allay concerns and reunite us all.