Meeting Phil Giles – 11/3/16

Good communication with your customers is paramount in any successful organisation and is something that should be a given in today’s world of social media and instant access to news and information and the near impossibility of keeping matters under wraps.

Unfortunately many football clubs have lagged far behind the times, seemingly taking the unquestioned loyalty of their fans for granted, smug and complacent in the knowledge that unlike consumers in practically any other sphere of business activity, real supporters are wedded to their team for life and would never contemplate changing their allegiance to a rival however much they are tempted to do so.

Brentford have always made a point of bucking the trend and in recent years there has been a succession of managers, chairmen, owners and chief executives willing to put their head over the parapet and engage with the supporters at a series of Fans’ Forums which have generally resulted in an exchange of views and in fans being kept in the loop.

Given the fact that the services of former Head Coach Marinus Dijkhuizen were disposed of immediately after the last such event when all had been made to appear in public to be sweetness and light between him and senior club management, there has been an urgent need to rebuild some bridges particularly given the rising concern over recent results as well as the sale of key players without the squad being replenished.

With the exception of an interview ten years ago and a quite brilliant and totally bizarre and left-field on line Q&A last season, both held on The Griffin Park Grapevine plus a few carefully crafted and placed articles within the national media, owner Matthew Benham has kept out of the spotlight and refrained from communicating with the Brentford fanbase given that to do so is not within his nature or something that he feels comfortable about doing.

That all changed the other day when he met with the crew at Beesotted and gave them a fascinating in-depth interview which I commend to you all and urge you to read if you have not already done so. He answered many key questions about the current situation and how he sees the future developing and his commitment and ambition thankfully cannot be doubted.

I therefore thought that it would, in tandem, be useful, interesting and illuminating to seek out the views of Co-Director of Football Phil Giles and he was kind enough to spare me the time to meet yesterday as well as answer many of the questions that Brentford supporters would hopefully like to ask him in order for him to clarify his role and how he operates.

Ideally his responses below should be read in conjunction with Matthew Benham’s Beesotted interview as hopefully the two complement each other and viewed together provide a thorough and contemporaneous insight into the thinking, approach and aspirations of the people who are running our club.

Here is what Phil had to say and I hope you find his answers as illuminating as I did:

Introduction

Greville, many thanks for inviting me to contribute to your blog. I’ve tried to address as many of your questions as possible – and it was quite a long list of questions!

Rather than answer each individually, I’ve broken down the questions into sections and written about each one in turn. Hopefully this gives a bit more insight into what we’re doing.

This Season And The Summer

I understand the current frustrations among our fans. Many of them made their feelings known at the end of the Charlton game. There have been lots of changes at the club in the last year, and we, collectively as a club, haven’t consistently reached the same levels of performance as last season. The league table will tell you as much.

However, there are still eleven games to go this season and here is what we want to achieve between now and the end of the season:

We want to finish the season as strongly as possible. We have a young team – three of our four defenders against Charlton are twenty-two years old. Harlee is only twenty-four. The midfield that started against Charlton are twenty-three, twenty, twenty-two, nineteen and twenty-seven (Judge). Djuricin is twenty-three. The experience the players gain over the coming weeks will serve us well next season. With experience will come consistency – we were very good against Wolves, but not so good four days later at Rotherham.

We will bring in a loan player if we feel we can improve the team and our long term prospects.

We are already planning our summer recruitment. We didn’t add anyone in January because the players we wanted were overpriced. As Matthew also said this week, we intend to add good players in the Summer.

We want to finish with some good performances by playing the Brentford way, and would like everyone associated with the club to be united in a positive outlook ahead of the summer.

Longer Term Ambitions For The Club

If we ranked all Championship clubs by revenue we’d be right at the bottom of the league. The new stadium is an important step to allowing us to compete on a more level playing field.

The long term ambition is to build a financially sustainable club that plays at the highest level possible. The quickest route to sustainability is to earn promotion. That is our ultimate target, but we’re not in a position to do what other clubs have done recently by investing huge sums in the team. We’ll have to find a different way of doing it and take a few risks along the way. Some of those risks will work, and some won’t, that is the nature of taking chances. It’s important that we learn from what works and what does not along the way – and we will do.

Football Staff – Roles And Responsibilities

I’ll try to set out the specific roles that Rasmus and I play at the Club here.

Let me begin by saying that whenever one of us gives and interview or makes a statement, we do so on behalf of both of us.

I have spent one hundred percent of my time on Brentford since I started in the job. Ras spends half of his time with Brentford and half with FC Midtjylland. We aren’t always visible but we are working hard to help build a long term sustainable and successful club.

Ras and I have different strengths so we dovetail quite well I think. He tends to focus on the big picture and thinks about things in the longer term. For example, he has been reviewing our Academy and considering how it can compete with every other club that wants to basically do exactly the same as us.

I am more focused on the details and making things work in practice on a day to day basis. We have put in place several management processes to improve the way we operate – it’s the sort of stuff that shouldn’t be noticed if it’s working properly. For example, I was keen to make sure that the football department gives every support needed to the Brentford Community Sports Trust, and we’ve reviewed the process to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligations in that respect.

I manage the recruitment process and negotiate the contracts, but I tend not to get too involved in watching or evaluating players. It’s important to realise your strengths and weaknesses, and I’m certainly not a qualified coach or scout. My strengths are more on the management and organisational side – making sure we build a club with strong foundations for the future.

There’s room for all types of backgrounds in football I think. Accountants and lawyers are prevalent in football and involved in all transfers, although their work tends to be in the background. Part of my job is making sure that the relevant skills are brought into play at the right stage of the recruitment and negotiation process.

The “football man” is essential in identifying a player and creating a development plan for that player, but the “executives” are needed to make sure that any deal makes legal and financial sense for the club, and that proper processes and protocols are followed.

We set out the qualities that Dean Smith brings to the role of Head Coach when he joined us – he is experienced, has good leadership skills, wants to play in the Brentford way and has an excellent track record of developing young players. He has had to deal with both the Jota and Tarky situations, and we weren’t able to add players in January which was the first opportunity he had to influence our transfer policy. We are working very closely together both on current projects and longer term planning, including our recruitment plans for the summer.

Relationships With Other Clubs.

I’d like to think that our relationships with other clubs are very good, in particular with some of the top Premier League clubs. That is a continuation of some of the efforts put in during previous seasons which allowed us to loan Pritchard and Toral last year, and Swift and Canos this season.

We tend to spread the load of building relationships with other clubs across several of the staff, rather than relying on one or two people to be solely responsible, since if those one or two people leave then the club can’t build and grow optimally in the long term. For example, Dean has pre-existing contacts which we’ve made use of, as does Ras, Rob Rowan and others including myself.

In terms of the rest of the football world, I’d like to think most people see Brentford as a well regarded Championship club that goes about things in the right way. I think we look after our players very well. We’ve had some good meetings with other clubs about how we do things and whether there are some mutually beneficial things that we can work on together.

If there is an opportunity to sign a loan player permanently then we will consider taking that opportunity – the policy hasn’t changed from that which brought Bidwell and Forshaw to the club.

Players And Recruitment

I will try to set out the general process by which we identify and sign players.

Ras and I have regular meetings with the coaching staff. At those meetings we will go through the squad and discuss our key requirements. That information will be passed to the scouting team, along with profiles of the type of players we’re looking for. The scouting team will use every available resource to identify players – they watch games, they speak to contacts and agents, and they use data where appropriate. We will do as much research into the character and personality of each player as possible. A selection of potential targets will be fed back to the coaches, who will review the options and prioritise targets.

From there we will decide on which players to target, approach the clubs and finally speak to the players. This is predominantly my responsibility, as described above. Dean and Richard have a huge input into the type of players we want to target, and who we eventually try to sign or sell. Their input is the most important part of the whole process.

In my experience there hasn’t been a single occasion where we’ve not been able to reach a collective agreement on a transfer. Sometimes we all need to compromise a bit to get things done, but that is a normal part of the management process as far as I’m concerned.

I suspect that this process isn’t too different from other clubs, although perhaps we place greater emphasis on certain elements than others. It is essential that we do this however, since we aren’t in a position to employ a large team of scouts who can be at every game. This goes back to the idea that we need to take some risks in order to compete with clubs that have greater income. If we scout in exactly the same way as other teams, then most likely our results will be defined by our budget in the long term.

The data that we have access to isn’t too different to many other clubs, but it’s what you do with it that’s the important thing. I think that the background of some of the management team allows us to do some interesting and sometimes complicated proprietorial stuff with that data. Statistics and data analysis is my background although I don’t do so much of it these days. In reality it’s only one of the tools we have, complementing the more traditional approaches where it makes sense.

Sometimes we fail to sign players that we target. I think it’s healthy to sometimes miss out on players – if we always signed every player that we targeted then it probably means that we’re either overpaying or that no other clubs want to sign our targets. We always have an up to date list of other potential and viable targets so there is always a next player on the list.

Disclosing transfer fees and alerting other clubs to how much we can afford to pay for players, or how much income we receive from sales, doesn’t offer us any competitive advantage over those teams, which is why the terms are normally undisclosed.

Were we in a stronger position on the pitch after January 2016? As I said in an interview for the club website in February, it is impossible for me to state that the squad was stronger having sold two players and Jota having left on loan. However, we took all those decisions with the long term interests of the club at heart.

I understand that this is frustrating for fans, especially in the light of recent results. However, I am absolutely determined that we’ll be in a stronger position in the long term for having taken the difficult decisions now regarding players who, ultimately, didn’t see themselves as a long term part of Brentford’s plans.

The strategy for the summer is simple – we’ll try to sign good players who improve the squad and who ultimately win us football matches and move us up the table. We’ve signed good players in the past, and we’ll do so in the future.

Miscellaneous

Here is one example of how we’ve found the link with FC Midtjylland useful. They played Manchester United twice recently. It was a perfect opportunity for people associated with both Brentford and FC Midtjylland to meet the key Manchester United staff and continue the process of developing relationships, which as I discussed earlier is an important part of what we do.

I think we’ve been very unlucky this season with injuries but we don’t think that is anything other than bad luck. Some of the injuries have been quite freakish. Hopefully we’ll get more luck next season.

With regards to the cup competitions, we underestimated the strength of Oxford in the League Cup. In the FA Cup, we had three games in six days and the Walsall game was the first of those. We fielded a team that we believed should be able to beat Walsall, but didn’t. It was a match worth winning in hindsight and otherwise. We don’t ever field a team not intending to win the match, and we’ll continue to look to win every cup game that we play.

I enjoyed the couple of hours that I spent with Phil and found him to be pleasant, bright, thoughtful, open minded and good company. He takes his time and thinks before he speaks and his words are clipped and carefully chosen. He was certainly polite and endlessly patient given the voluminous number of questions that I had posed him in advance but he shirked no issue, he neither prevaricated nor refrained from answering anything that I asked him although some matters were only discussed on an off the record basis which I have respected given his reasonable concerns about commercial confidentiality and the disclosure of proprietary information.

That being said his answers were controlled, carefully composed and organised and I am quite certain that he revealed nothing to me other than what he had originally intended to do – and why, indeed, should he to a total stranger who he knew was intending to go public with what he had heard?

Pleasingly, he is also a true soccer aficionado and finally came alive when discussing the fortunes of his beloved Newcastle United and he exhibited an encyclopaedic knowledge of their marvellously exciting squad of the mid to late 90s and could see the clear parallel with the Brentford of last season when I described them as everybody’s favourite second team.

Phil is well aware of his strengths and weaknesses, what he has yet to learn and the need to be part of a team ethos where between them all necessary skills and expertise are provided.

He is a highly impressive young man thankfully devoid of arrogance with a bright and enquiring mind who will push boundaries, innovate and explore new options.

We are in good hands.

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19 thoughts on “Meeting Phil Giles – 11/3/16

  1. Well done Greville for getting this far and thabk you.
    Fairly frank and forthright which is good to hear.
    The optimist in me says i will see how things pan out knowing the club is in safe hands which is what we all want.
    The pessimist says,if we cannot afford extra scouts,but can afford 850k on Lewis Macleod then surely something should be addressed there.
    I do not know how many scouts we employ,but you can never have enough.
    How Lewis passed a medical is beyond me,but i guess this is where “risk” is more genuine.
    Great read Greville and thank you.

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  2. Greville
    Excellent piece. Good to know that we are in good and “intelligent” hands

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  3. I feel reassured & more optimistic following details of both interviews.The fact that both PG & MB are prepared to have dialogue in this way is what Brentford is all about.
    Like any relationship in life there will always be ups & downs & in the case of football “our” team winning more than they lose & playing well into the bargain is what matters most to all concerned.
    Having cleared the air it is now important that we start to “walk the walk” on the pitch.Starting at Loftus Rd this Saturday is as good a place as I could think of for it to happen!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for requesting and sharing the details of your meeting Greville. This along with the piece from Beesotted has served to settle things down somewhat – it was necessary and overdue though. We are lucky to have such a great owner – I may have had the odd slip, but I do see that he truly has our best interests at heart – and this is reinforced by what he says. The acceptance that mistakes have been made goes a long way to justify the questions being asked in the first place. And there are more questions that could have been asked. Regardless of the incredible support given by MB, and the challenges faced, this is a results business and we must ensure our place in this division – starting tomorrow. Time for the talking to end and for us all to step up.

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  5. Hat is off to you Greville.
    Last couple of days have reinforced my belief,fantastic interviews from Mr Benham and Mr Giles.
    It is what makes our club different,we are all like one big family,happy one day and then argumentative the next,but all pulling in the same direction.
    I genuinely thank yourself and the guys at Beesotted for being able to spend the time bringing the inside info to ourselves.
    Great reads and both articles compliment each other……………Come on you Bee’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An excellent standalone article Greville, not to mention a decent companion to Beesotted’s interview with Benham. I’ve always held onto the idea that the club have got a grand plan, however it certainly doesn’t hurt to share this again with the fans. Hopefully this is a well-timed fillip before tomorrow’s game!

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  7. Spending a Friday night trying to get home, waiting for yet another flight with a creeping delay … but cheered up no end reading this & the Beesotted articles!

    Once again, a big thank you Greville for your continued efforts. As you can see, much appreciated by many!

    These pieces deserve to be widely read & re-read – I feel we cannot be in better hands & surely this comes at the best time to motivate us for the necessary performance to get back to winning ways tomorrow.

    Win, lose or draw though – the bottom 3 is now too close for comfort and so the team absolutely requires fan unity & us all to remember the “support” part of being “supporters” for the remainder of this season

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  8. Thank you Greville for taking the time and trouble to talk to PG, and to share it with us. It’s quite clear that this plus the Beesotted interview with MB has calmed things down.

    My only comment is that, as welcome and praiseworthy it is that these two gentlemen talk publicly to us, it seems a shame that the fans have to be tearing their hair out before it happens. How much better if it had happened a couple of weeks ago, or even earlier.

    Hopefully this might be added to the lessons learned. I don’t know if the acrimony and poor results have caused us to lose a few fans, but eventually, one day maybe, we are going to have to fill a 20,000+ capacity stadium. I can understand that with all that has happened this season, PG has been pretty busy, but he needs to move fan relations further up his priority list, or at least somebody’s list.

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    • I don’t think the club can be blamed in any way for some fans tearing their hair out.
      As for ‘fan relations’, you get what you give – it’s a two-way relationship – and a significant number of our supporters deserve absolutely nothing for the way they have ‘supported’ the club, this season.

      Cheers for the interview, Greville.

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  9. I don’t understand how Phil Giles expresses an opinion on the fact that our team is very young, stating that we are a bit inexperienced in all areas of the pitch! We don’t have to be and surely that is partly his responsibility? It all seems a bit naïve in a footballing sense?

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  10. You might want to reconsider those comments biliiam whatever you’re name is. If we go down it’ll be apologists like you who are to blame more than those with genuine concerns – the white flag was was waved by the coach & team today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Spot on, as usual. The fact is that things have been going pear-shaped ever since Warburton was allowed to leave the club. But if we are seen to question MB in any way we are accused of being disloyal. I feel for Dean Smith but I honestly do believe that if we don’t get one or two in on loan this week (including a striker) we will go down. #sleepwalkingtorelegation

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    • Why should I reconsider my comments?

      I will accept none of the blame for relegation, should it happen.

      Do you think I am doing something wrong by turning up to games and supporting the team?

      Do you really believe that the fact that I don’t revel in over-analysing and criticising every thing that happens at the Football Club makes me a bad supporter, and will have any affect on where we finish, this season?

      You’re crazy, man…

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  11. Greville – I’m sure my comments will go down really badly but I’m not sure I care about the backlash any more.

    Phil Giles might be a charming, intelligent, articulate individual, but does that make him the ideal man for the job? In my view, no. From what he says, he’s working in areas in which he is totally inexperienced. This cannot be good.

    His sidekick? Even less. The sooner he goes, the better.

    Why? Neither of them are able attract players of decent enough calibre to our club as we did in the previous two years.

    We can’t even get anyone on loan at the moment. We are crying out for loan signings to bolster our flimsy squad but what do we get ? Nothing.

    What do we need? Director(s) of football wth an encyclopaedic knowledge of the English leagues, anything beyond that is a bonus. I don’t have confidence in either of them,.

    The end of the season is going to be interesting. Maybe it will bring the best out of the much- maligned fans, who knows?

    One way or the other, we are in trouble.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. For all the warm words, Greville, it just isn’t working. The DoFs can talk the talk, but before coming here neither had much experience of football, and none of English football. We cannot keep good managers or players, or replace the ones that don’t want to be part of the’ project’. The whole thing is developing an aura of unworldliness. All of which shouldn’t matter very much, as long as the players are motivated and giving 100 per cent effort. But that’s not happening either. Really it is time for a re-think. Not least all the back room staff, their roles and responsibilities.

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  13. I suppose that if I was an agent of a player who had been targeted, and identified by The ‘Bees’, then at the contractual negotiations stage, when face to face in the office, who would I want to be there facing me.
    OK! Phil Giles would be there negotiating away, but would the players agent be impressed by dealing with just a ‘suit’ on the other side of the desk.
    Is Dean Smith there imparting his football knowledge and ‘interest’ of that player, to the agent concerned?
    I hope so!
    Sometimes a genuine desire to ‘really want’ a player can clinch the deal. It’s not always just about the bottom line!
    Dean Smith has not got his own team at this moment in time, and is on a hiding to nothing.
    The Walsall man that went to Reading is a good case in point. What happened there?
    Dean Smith had worked with the player, and knew him inside out , but for whatever reason we failed to get the deal over the line.
    Was Dean Smith at the negotiating table, kicking Phil Giles under that same table to offer a better deal. Or was Smith’s genuine desire to land his man for footballing reasons excluded from the final decision making process.
    Roll on the Summer! There is a long road ahead, let’s hope we don’t trip and break our neck first!

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