Tony Craig – An Appreciation – 30/7/16

Here is an article I wrote this time last year when our former hero Tony Craig left us to return to his first love, Millwall.

Give that the Bees travel to the New Den today to pay homage to TC and play against The Lions in his testimonial match I hope nobody minds my putting this blog up again as nothing has really changed in the year since I wrote it and we still feel exactly the same about Tony Craig. He gave us everything and we are totally indebted to him for what he did for us.

There was a universal reaction amongst all Brentford supporters to the news that broke yesterday that captain and inspiration Tony Craig had left the club and returned for yet another spell – his fourth including an earlier loan, to Millwall where he will become team captain. It was simply one of thanks and gratitude to TC for the three years of exceptional service he gave us, as well as pleasure and delight that he will now be given the opportunity to play every week, a privilege that would surely have been denied him if he had remained at Griffin Park.

Tony made his reputation at Millwall as a tough and committed central defender or left back and he led his team to promotion to the Championship. His arrival at Griffin Park in the summer of 2012 for a fee reputed to be around one hundred and fifty thousand pounds was seen as a real coup for the club and Uwe Rösler soon recognised his leadership ability and named him as captain. Tony played a prominent part in our success over the past three years. He was a real and visible presence on the field – you knew that he was in charge and he set a wonderful example as he never knew when he was beaten.

I will always remember him in the prematch huddle, with jaw set, eyes blazing and with his head bobbing up and down like a metronome as he exhorted his team mates to greater efforts and forcefully reminded them of their personal responsibilities. He made it perfectly clear who was in charge on the pitch and what winning the match meant to the club. Woe betide anyone caught shirking or falling short in his task.

Once the whistle went he was a human dynamo and set a massive personal example. He never gave up and that long left leg would sneak out to save the day when all otherwise looked lost. Not the tallest of defenders, he timed his leaps well and won more than his fair share of aerial challenges. Most importantly, he read the game brilliantly and could anticipate potential danger and snuff it out before any serious damage occurred. He was indestructible and was rarely injured and shrugged off fearsome assaults that left him covered in blood or cinder rash and would have resulted in lesser men leaving the field. He was our bionic man and a total inspiration.

No wonder that his three seasons saw the club rise to almost unprecedented heights of achievement with a promotion and two appearances in the playoffs to add to his already impressive CV. This was no accident and TC played a massive part in ensuring our promotion to the Championship and his central defensive partnership with either Harlee Dean and James Tarkowski was mean and effective.

Tony had played previously in the Championship with Millwall and initially he made a seamless transition to the higher level. He also embraced the club’s new found patient and short passing approach to the game and demonstrated calmness and a previously unsuspected and unseen skill on the ball. His left-footedness provided a much needed balance to the back four and he changed the direction of our attack by pinging any number of accurate long range passes to an appreciative and generally unmarked Jota or Odubajo on the right wing.

Tony started last season well and was consistent and competent and fully earned his contract extension. He made an inspirational return to his old stamping ground where he received a rapturous welcome from the otherwise subdued Millwall fans and he stood up bravely and brilliantly to Millwall’s aerial bombardment and helped steady the ship and cement our victory after we had conceded two quick goals.

However as the season progressed a few chinks began to appear in Tony’s armour as he came up against a seemingly never-ending series of canny, strong and experienced strikers. He struggled and came out second best in his personal battles against exceptionally talented players like Danny Graham, Grant Holt, Rudy Gestede and Daryl Murphy, looked vulnerable to balls played over the top which forced him to turn and Mark Warburton began to rotate his three central defenders as he sought to establish his best pairing. Tony finally lost his place and fittingly made his last appearance for the club in a thrilling victory over eventual Champions, AFC Bournemouth before being forced to settle for a cheerleader’s role on the bench.

This was no place for such a legend and with two new central defenders already having arrived at the club in the last couple of weeks, it was obviously best for all concerned that he was allowed to move on and it remains to be seen whether similar experienced players like Alan McCormack, Sam Saunders and Jonathan Douglas, like Craig, mainstays of the promotion team, decide to remain at the club and fight for the opportunity to play against increasingly strong competition, or also recognise that their time has time and that our levels of success and progress have overtaken them.

Tony’s disciplinary record was also good although he saw red three times during his spell at the club. An assistant referee bizarrely concluded that he had struck Dave Kitson at a crucial stage in that momentous match at Sheffield United, a decision endorsed by our old friend Keith Stroud. Despite video evidence that seemed to exonerate him, Craig received a devastating three match ban and missed the last two league matches as well as the first playoff game against Swindon. Had he been on the pitch I wonder whether we might have got over the line without recourse to the dreaded playoffs and I am certain that he would have had something to say about Marcello Trotta’s fateful decision to take that penalty kick against Doncaster Rovers!

He took one for the team with a last man red card card against Carlisle and then fell foul of Mad Madley when he got on the wrong side of Clayton Donaldson and compounded his error by clutching at his former colleague, conceding a penalty kick and earning an early bath.

The most amazing statistic about Tony is that he never scored – and barely looked like doing so in his three seasons at the club. He came the closest when his memorable rasping long-range effort was brilliantly saved by the Peterborough keeper and his header from a corner against Leyton Orient was blocked on the line. He was also clumsily pulled down by Adam Barrett, earning us a spot kick against Gillingham, otherwise his efforts were invariably high, wide and not very handsome.

He will best be remembered for his heroic defending against Oldham Athletic in Mark Warburton’s first match as manager when a swift breakaway left him alone facing five opponents as they bore down on the home goal, but Tony was calmness personified and saved the day against seemingly insurmountable odds.

Then there was his wide-eyed celebration in front of a jubilant Ealing Road terrace after scoring a perfectly taken and utterly crucial penalty kick thrashed high into the roof of the net in the Swindon playoff second leg shootout, a feat he repeated in a less frenetic atmosphere last season at Dagenham & Redbridge!

We forgave him for his lack of prowess and threat in front of the opposition goal, we even overlooked the three own goals he scored in his first season at the club, one of them a perfectly placed unstoppable header from a corner which arched beyond the reach of the helpless Simon Moore and gifted Hartlepool an unlikely last minute equaliser at Griffin Park.

Tony Craig epitomises all that is good about professional football. He gave us everything throughout his three years at the club and inspired his team mates to greater heights of achievement. He has returned to his first love and I suspect that he will lead Millwall to promotion – and I will celebrate and raise a glass to him if he does so.

Tony Craig will live long in our memory and I thank him and wish him nothing but joy and success in the future.

 

Advertisements

Thanks Tim! – 26/7/16

Thanks to Tim Street for this more than generous article and review of my new book, Growing Pains which he published on Get West London yesterday.

http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/sport/football/brentford-2015-16-new-book-11658681

I am glad that he enjoyed it and hope that you all will too and the book can be found in the BFC Superstore as well as on Amazon at

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Growing-Pains-Brentford-2015-Season/dp/1910515159/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468052450&sr=8-1&keywords=greville+waterman

I had the pleasure of meeting Rebel Bee on Saturday before the Kaiserslautern match and a jolly fine and interesting chap he turned out to be too. We had a good chat about all things Brentford and it was great, finally, to be able to put a face to a name – or even a pen name in his case! Hopefully I can get together with lots of other readers of this blog at some point during what is certain to be an exciting, if stressful season.

I say stressful as I still find it hard to accept or even believe that the Little Old Brentford that we all knew so well over so many years has transformed itself into a well-run, groundbreaking and innovative club that has set the standard and benchmark for others to follow and is more than holding its own in the Championship, one of the toughest leagues in Europe.

Tonight is simply one more step on the journey as we prepare ourselves to meet the challenge of Huddersfield on Saturday week and I will be interested to see how we shape up against a good footballing team in Peterborough.

On the face of it not the most attractive or enticing of opponents and I suspect that proposed matches against more vaunted and higher ranked opposition fell through at the last minute. So the Posh it is and anyway, preseason friendlies are all about ourselves rather than the opposition and I am really looking forward to tonight’s action.

Oh, in case anyone asks – yes, I do like the new shirts – very nostalgic and once they do something about the illegible numbers I will be more than happy.

See you there!

Hot Stuff At Griffin Park – 24/7/16

The new season is now only two weeks away and it was clear from yesterday’s friendly against tough and skilful foreign opposition in Kaiserslautern that the squad is progressing in terms of fitness, structure and organisation although there is still much work to be done.

The heat was on in more ways than one, given the scorching weather conditions which necessitated regular water breaks and perhaps explained why the Bees abandoned their normal pressing game and funnelled back rather than challenging the opposition deep in their own half.

The match was apparently arranged a part of the Philipp Hofmann transfer deal a year ago and you would have hoped that the German fans held fond memories of their former hero, but such was not the case if the opinions of the Kaiserslautern supporters who I canvassed on my way into the stadium are to be trusted.

Paraphrasing their comments in order to protect the guilty, it would be fair to say that he is not missed by them in the least and we were roundly thanked for taking him off their hands. The Hoff certainly looks the part this season in terms of his overall fitness and we can only hope that he does finally show us what he is capable of!

I really see little point in providing a long and detailed match report but, in brief, the first half was evenly matched but cautious as both teams felt each other out. The Bees went ahead with a comic cuts headed own goal from a Macleod corner but were soon pegged back when we were caught square at the back and short of numbers. Lasse Vibe and Ryan Woods came close late on but a draw was the fairest result.

What is more important is how we performed and there was much to be pleased about as well as a few warning bells jangling in the background.

This was the first sight for most of us of Daniel Bentley and he looked calm and confident in everything he did in terms of shot stopping and defensive organisation. He looked slightly lost and bemused, though, at the way we expect our keeper to distribute the ball – quickly and accurately and to throw the ball short at every opportunity and frankly, he struggled to do so. He sold Barbet horribly short early on with a kicked clearance and we were fortunate to survive the defensive mess that followed. I have no qualms about him though and he will prove to be an excellent successor to the departed Button.

Colin was his normal bubbly and effusive self, calm in defence and rampaging forward at every opportunity. He cost us serious money (for us at least) but at some point we will sell him for a massive fee. Dean and Egan were solid and unspectacular but looked worried when clever opponents ran at them. Tom Field was given a much-needed rest and Barbet filled in adequately at left back but did enough to convince us that this is not his preferred or best position. Chris Mepham came on towards the end and is clearly going to be a future first teamer, as will Tom Field.

Alan McCormack and Josh McEachran played in the holding role and left me totally unconvinced. Macca ratted around, left his mark, both physical and verbal on the opposition and made one brilliantly forceful forward run that ended with him shooting at the keeper when he should have scored but we desperately need better. Josh looked confident on the ball and pinged his passes sharply and with accuracy but he reacts rather than initiates, was far too easily knocked off the ball and lacked the strength to win it back.

Ryan Woods showed us how it should be done when he came on in the second half. Demanding the ball at every opportunity and driving us forward by sheer force of character as well as ability. He hammered a long-ranger inches over and his passing was crisp and accurate and always positive. Nico Yennaris is nursing a knock and at present I see him and Woods starting and I fear for Josh as he has not shown the leadership we require. I might be judging him harshly given his two serious injuries but we need to see far more from him. Unless we bring in a Kevin McDonald type of player we run the risk of being overrun from time to time. He will prove to be a decent signing for Fulham and again clearly demonstrates how we are outgunned financially as I am quite certain that we also expressed an interest in him.

There was much to admire in midfield where both Lewis Macleod and Romaine Sawyers drifted in and out of the game but from time to time clearly demonstrated their massive ability both on the ball and in dribbling past opponents. Macleod might well thrive in a more central role but he is a pure match winner and a certain starter. Sam Saunders did what Sam does, show calmness and quality on the ball but interestingly enough, gave up his set-piece duties to Macleod and Sawyers.

Scott Hogan has been nursing an ankle injury and played 45 minutes. he got into good positions and always found space in and around the box. If he gets the correct service he will score goals, it is as simple as that. Lasse Vibe is fit, sharp and raring to go and it is a real shame that we will lose him for the duration of the Olympics.

Hofmann came on against his old team mates and ambled around in the sunshine like a geriatric out for a brief stroll and did nothing to convince us of his potential worth to us.

We fielded a trialist in Manny Ledesma, an experienced Argentine winger with Championship experience at Middlesbrough and Rotherham. He has also played under Dean Smith at Walsall. It is unfair to judge someone on so brief an acquaintance and he showed some clever touches but I would hope that we are not in the market for a 28 year old journeyman.

A decent workout then which clearly showed that we have a more than decent young squad that still has gaps to fill at left back, defensive midfield, on the wing and up front. I am sure that there will be reinforcements coming in shortly and hopefully of the requisite standard and fitting the Brentford trademark in terms of being young, talented and with the potential to improve.

As always the first visit to Griffin Park for the new season was one to savour and the new season will, I am quite sure, also be one to relish.

Growing Pains – a four hundred page monster that covers all of the events both on and off the field from last season in my words and also those of the likes of Matthew Benham, Cliff Crown, Phil Giles, Billy Reeves and Phil Parry is now available in the BFC Superstore and via Amazon at

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Growing-Pains-Brentford-2015-Season/dp/1910515159/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468052450&sr=8-1&keywords=greville+waterman

Please ignore what it says on Amazon – the book is available and in stock!

There is also an ebook version available for download to Kindle.

A Barefaced Commercial Plug! – 22/7/16

My apologies if you have heard all this already but given that we have two home matches coming up in the next few days I just wanted to remind everybody that my new book, Growing Pains 

Growing Pains image – a four hundred page monster that covers all of the events both on and off the field from last season in my words and also those of the likes of Matthew Benham, Cliff Crown, Phil Giles, Billy Reeves and Phil Parry is now available in the BFC Superstore and via Amazon at

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Growing-Pains-Brentford-2015-Season/dp/1910515159/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468052450&sr=8-1&keywords=greville+waterman

Please ignore what it says on Amazon – the book is available and in stock!

There is also an ebook version available for download to Kindle.

I really hope that you seek it out and enjoy it. Any feedback and reviews on Anazon would also be really welcomed.

Thanks to the two readers who have already reviewed and apparently enjoyed it. It really helps and makes it all worthwhile when you get some feedback – positive or otherwise!

 

I will do my best to keep my blog updated as often as I can given that my main endeavour this season is to write a biography of Bees legend Bob Booker.

In that regard I would welcome any stories, memorabilia or clippings relating to him.

Thanks again

Best wishes

Greville

Let’s Cheer on Brand Brentford – 20/7/16

One of the most illuminating statistics of the 2014/15 season was the fact that no less than thirteen of the eighteen players in the Brentford squad on the opening day of the season on the ninth of August were still involved when the season finally drew to a close on the fifteenth of May at Middlesbrough. Mark Warburton was a massive fan of stability and avoided change whenever possible. His trust and loyalty in the squad was fully repaid by the players who came within a whisker of reaching the promised land of the Premier League.

Let’s just remind us of our lineup in Mark Warburton’s last match in charge:

Button
Odubajo
Dean
Tarkowski
Bidwell
Diagouraga
Douglas
Jota
Pritchard
Judge
Gray
Substitutes
Craig
McCormack
Dallas
Bonham
Toral
Smith
Long

Of those eighteen players only five still remain at the club as the last year has seen a huge turnover in players both in and out of the club. Pritchard, Long and Toral were loanees who returned to their parent club and Smith and Craig were gently pensioned off when it became apparent that they were no longer capable of competing at the Championship level. Brentford also made it perfectly obvious to Jonathan Douglas that his time had come and gone and he departed to Ipswich where he was a waning influence last season, if still not properly replaced by the Bees.

Harlee Dean, Jota, Alan Judge, Alan McCormack and Jack Bonham are still Brentford players although given his difficult personal circumstances it is doubtful whether Jota will ever be seen in a Brentford shirt again. Alan Judge would also surely have left by now, probably for a huge transfer fee, had it not been for his appalling injury at Ipswich late last season. That is also a tricky situation that will have to be sorted out as the season and his fitness progresses. That leaves loyal retainer Alan McCormack who fully earned his new contract and will be an important influence in the dressing room next season if not so much on the pitch. Jack Bonham remains as a largely untested, untried and indeed, untrusted reserve goalkeeper and of the eleven starters at Middlesbrough only Harlee Dean is in line to retain his first team place at Griffin Park when the new season comes around in a couple of weeks’ time and his position is also under serious threat from newcomer John Egan.

It is when you come to examine what has happened to the remaining players, David Button, Moses Odubajo, Jake Bidwell, James Tarkowski, Toumani Diagouraga, Andre Gray and Stuart Dallas that it becomes apparent how Brentford have had to adapt to changing circumstances in order to survive and even thrive in the Championship. The sale of these seven players (plus more recent signing Jack O’Connell) has brought in a sum of around £22 million, a quite staggering figure and one totally unparalleled in the club’s history.

Before anyone accuses the club of asset stripping I would immediately retort with the fact that perhaps £10 million of that sum has since been re-invested and spent on acquiring the likes of Barbet, Bjelland, Colin, Kerschbaumer, Woods, McEachran, Vibe, Hofmann, Egan and Bentley. That figure also does not take into account that we earlier spent around £3.5-4 million on Gray, Odubajo, Hogan and Jota in 2014.

The point in common for each one of the departing seven is that they were all new to the Championship and proved that they belonged at that level and once other teams made it clear that they coveted them, they all wanted to move on to better themselves both on and off the pitch and they saw Brentford as a stepping stone to help them meet their ambitions. Odubajo, Tarkowski and Gray would certainly say that they accomplished their mission given that they are all now playing for Premier League clubs with a salary massively enhanced from what they were in receipt of at Brentford and commensurate with their new enhanced place in the football food chain.

Diagouraga and Dallas exchanged the stability of Brentford for the veritable madhouse that is Leeds but might feel that their larger wage packets are sufficient compensation. As for Bidwell and Button, it is of course far too soon to say of they will benefit from their move professionally as well as financially.

There are of course previous precedents. Simon Moore and Harry Forrester both disappeared into a black hole and their career has yet to recover, Adam Forshaw will also find himself in the Premier League this season although it is doubtful if he will be a regular starter, and Clayton Donaldson will be commencing his third season at Birmingham and has done well since leaving us.

Until our revenue streams increase and we move to Lionel Road, a prospect that still remains a chimera with the opening date remaining unconfirmed, we are totally and utterly unable to compete with our larger, rich and better established brethren, replete as they are with war chests buttressed and bloated by Premier League television rights fees and then Parachute Payments to reward their eventual failure.

Of course every self-respecting footballer wants to get on the gravy train and I do not blame any of our former stars for one moment for deciding to move on. We simply cannot match the salaries offered by our competitors and I am delighted that a policy of fiscal responsibility reigns at the club and we are not trying to equal or better the unsustainable fees and salaries paid by our less wary rivals.

Of course we would have loved to have signed Sergi Canos or Kemar Roofe, or others like them, but we are unable to get anywhere close to meeting the exorbitant transfer fees and salaries that they have been offered elsewhere.

That is why we have tried to use our analytics and data to prospect cleverly and below the radar and outsmart the competition as we cannot outspend them. Romaine Sawyers, John Egan and Daniel Bentley are all exceptional young talents who will probably grace our team for a couple of years or so and then, should they progress and improve as we hope and expect, they will become targets for the predators who are happy for us to do the hard work in terms of player development and growth and then take them off our hands when the time is right.

That is the way of life and as long as we extract top dollar for all of them, as indeed we most certainly have, and continue to replace them with younger, cheaper versions with even more potential, then we shall continue to do just fine.

David Button is a case in point. We have received over ten times what we paid for him and replaced him with an exceptional young talent who will probably cost less than half the money we received for Button. Of course we would rather he had re-signed for us but he chose not to so we had to move on and do the best possible deal for the club and this is a really excellent one.

We thank him for his services because he was exceptional for us, we cheer on and encourage his replacement and we hopefully use some of the money to strengthen what is already an excellent squad. As for Bentley, he is a totally different character as he is loud, brash, positive and confident and once he settles down will provide us with a new and improved dimension in goal.

Last season was a learning curve as we tried to introduce too many new players too quickly, many of them from abroad with no experience of English conditions and we suffered the early consequences for our actions. However by May it was job done yet again as we were proudly looking at the likes of Colin, Barbet, Woods, Vibe and Hogan as real prospects with massive scope for improvement and a rapidly growing transfer value.

Even the much maligned and derided Konstantin Kerschbaumer, a misfit and so out of place early on, had finally developed into a confident and skilful performer and is likely to provide massive value for us given the paltry fee we paid for him. Lewis Macleod is also going to become the player we all hoped for as he recovers in fitness and confidence and has already demonstrated his ability this preseason.

So we have so much to look forward to as long as we keep our sense of perspective and do not get too disappointed when our best players and favourites leave us for pastures anew. Of course I am not too happy when the likes of Bidwell and Button join our local rivals, but that is the way of life, and footballers cannot be expected to be Brentford supporters and they will go where they feel the best opportunity and the highest salary lie. As long as we get the going rate – or even higher, we cannot complain, particularly as we know that the lion’s share of all transfer revenues will be reinvested in new talent. And so the process continues.

We just need to believe in the Brentford brand and simply cheer on the shirts, even if the wearers of them change, as they will, with great regularity. Players come and go, Brentford FC continues unabashed and will go from strength to strength.

Not Many Additions Needed – 11/7/16

Now that the Brentford squad is safely ensconced at its training camp in Germany it seems like a reasonable time to look at its current make-up and strength, comment on the new arrivals and outline where strengthening might still be necessary.

There are currently three new faces in Romaine Sawyers, John Egan and Dan Bentley and all three conform to the Brentford blueprint and stereotype in terms of being young, talented, untested in the Championship and with massive development potential.

All three were out of contract with their former teams, Walsall, Gillingham and Southend respectively and had starred in Division One. Sawyers will come on a Bosman free and fees have yet to be agreed for the other two with a Transfer Tribunal likely to be required.

Sawyers has been coveted by many teams for a couple of seasons and he is a real footballer, tall, strong and talented on the ball, seemingly languid but quicker than he looks and he possesses the ability to play the defence splitting pass. Ignoring the easily forgotten loanee Leandro Rodríguez, Sawyers is Dean Smith’s first signing for the club, always an important milestone, and the two worked extremely well together at Walsall with many expressions of mutual respect and I am really excited at what he is likely to bring us.

He could play on the right hand side of midfield or as a Number Ten, directly behind Scott Hogan.

John Egan is quite simply a player who loves to defend. Strong in the air, powerful in the tackle he is a formidable barrier for strikers to overcome. He also uses the ball well and will fit into our system of passing the ball out from the back. He scored six times for Gillingham last season and demonstrated at Boreham Wood that he will provide a massive threat at set pieces, something than none of our defenders have really managed since the days of Leon Legge. He and Harlee Dean will have a real battle to secure the first team spot and I have no idea who will come out on top.

Dan Bentley is a big, brash, loud and dominating goalkeeper who has starred for Southend and now looks more than ready for the challenge of the Championship.

He, like the other two new arrivals, fully realises just how good Brentford can be in terms of improving him and helping to develop him into the finished article.

Brentford is clearly recognised and acknowledged by promising players and their agents as a stepping stone club where they can hone their talents and hopefully eventually move onto bigger and better placed clubs when the time is right.

Galling though this is for all Brentford supporters given our current financial constraints and stadium size there is very little that we can do to change this situation until we move to Lionel Road.

At least it means that we are still able to sign a conveyor belt’s worth of exceptional young talent and I can only look forward to and hope for the time when we can hang onto them all for much longer a period and that they will be able to achieve all their ambitions without leaving the club.

So, three potentially good and exciting new signings are already in the bag. What else do we need in order to ensure that we have a squad that contains options in every position and has the quality and strength in depth in order to compete at the top end of the table and perhaps even challenge for the playoffs?

Bentley and Egan together are certain to cost us well in excess of a million pounds and given the lack of the expected transfer funds for Alan Judge after his serious injury it is likely that money will be tight and perhaps we will only spend what we bring in.

In that regard Jake Bidwell’s initial fee of £1.3 million will be split with Everton and when our share is added to the undisclosed six-figure fee received for Jack O’Connell it is clear that there will not be too much extra cash floating around for investment in players at this stage unless some of the additional £3.5 million in fees received from Burnley is added to the kitty rather than put into the bottom line.

That is probably the explanation why we were not really in a position to compete for the signing of enticing prospects such as Kemar Roofe and Sergi Canos and that Rico Henry might well also be well out of our price bracket, assuming that Walsall are prepared to sell him during this Transfer Window.

Thankfully the squad appears to be much more settled than this time last year when for a variety of reasons we lost the likes of Douglas, Dallas, Gray and Odubajo shortly before the season began, a situation that caused chaos and was largely responsible for our appalling start.

You can never say never but I would be very surprised if we lose any of our emerging stars such as Colin, Barbet, Woods or Hogan for the time being and the squad is already looking strong and almost complete.

The only additional transfer out that I am expecting is one that will cause me some sadness given how well he has performed, but David Button decided not to sign a new contract when he clearly had the option to do so and as soon as it became clear that he was unlikely to do so the club acted quickly to bring in a replacement in the shape of Bentley.

Given the change in the loan regulations next season and in particular those pertaining to goalkeepers, in that emergency loans will only be allowed if there is no available goalkeeper who has played five competitive game for the club, there is likely to be a move by the better heeled clubs to ensure that they have two experienced goalkeepers on hand. This would explain the recent move of Rob Green to Leeds where he will act as an emergency backup.

I suspect that Button has been offered a couple of similar roles for himself but given his age and quality he is correctly waiting for a first team spot to open up for him as I expect that it will do over the next few weeks.

What is certain is that he has made his bed and must lie in it. Even if he were having second thoughts about leaving the club we cannot afford to carry two first team calibre goalkeepers, Bentley will only have joined us on the clear understanding that he will be the starting keeper at the beginning of the season and, most importantly, we cannot afford to lose the transfer fee of perhaps £1.5 million that Button would likely command. That sum would help enhance our transfer war chest and subsidise any additional incomings.

Given that Jack Bonham has played five times for us, and with the greatest respect to him I doubt if there is anyone who would like to see him start a Championship match for us, I would expect that he will be loaned out, a situation that will benefit his development and also allow us to bring in a loanee should Bentley miss a match and assuming Button has left the club.

The key vacancy is at left back where Jake Bidwell has filled the position impeccably for the past few years. Of course I would have preferred that he’d gone almost anywhere other than QPR but that’s life!

Rico Henry is acknowledged as one of the best young players in the division but I would be amazed if we are able to afford him or prise him away from the clutches of Walsall who have lost enough talent to us recently.

I would not be surprised if we bring in a young Premier League loanee to fill the gap. This might also be the case on the wing where currently we can only boast the talent of Andy Gogia. Sullay Kaikai has sparkled on loan at Shrewsbury showing trickery, pace and a keen eye in front of goal and the Crystal Palace winger would be an excellent addition as a loanee.

Philipp Hofmann has slimmed down and looks sleek and fit and we need him to perform. If not we will need another striking option.

I really feel that the squad is in pretty good shape and barring unforeseen departures or injuries we really only need to fill a few spots.

I am hopefully being pragmatic rather than complacent but let’s see how the situation has changed in a week or so and perhaps I can then think again.

Football is Back – 9/7/16

It still seemed a bit soon to be be fighting my way through the horrendous late Friday afternoon traffic on the A1 towards Boreham Wood and I quite honestly cannot remember seeing Brentford play in a friendly match this early in July.

The match was scheduled for the eighth of July to fit in with the timing of Brentford’s training camp and as I write these words they are on their way to Germany for a week of hard work and team bonding.

I noted with despair but not too much surprise some wittering and moaning on The Griffin Park Grapevine last night from one-eyed supporters angry at the fact that we lost the match to a non-league team by two goals to one.

How could we have allowed ourselves to be defeated by such a scratch outfit? The players should be reminded of their responsibilities and given double training sessions as a punishment. And as for that Dean Smith – he needs a severe talking to.

The best way to deal with such inane nonsense is simply to bite your tongue and let it pass unchallenged. If you engage and remind the idiots that this was no more than a training exercise designed merely to get some much needed match practice and minutes into the legs of the entire squad and help get the cobwebs out of their system then it is likely that your words will fall on deaf and unsympathetic ears.

Yes of course I would have preferred that we had won last night as a victory, however hollow, fills the mind with confidence but I well remember many false dawns when we roared unbeaten through the preseason, hammering the might of Yeading and Hampton and their like before falling into mediocrity when the serious business began in August.

Better we play ourselves into form gradually and ideally peak at the beginning of August rather than July!

Just to remind everyone that there is still a whole month to go before we start our Championship campaign, time enough for the squad to settle down and for Dean Smith to decide upon his starting eleven and favoured formation.

Last night was about experimentation with two separate mix and match elevens playing each half and two formations adopted. The customary 4-2-3-1 before the break and a 3-5-1-1 for much of the second half.

It has to be said that Boreham Wood looked a decent outfit. They narrowly escaped relegation from the National League last season and lessons seem to have been learned and they have recruited well and there was some real quality on show with the likes of former QPR winger Bruno Andrade, ex-Braintree skipper Kenny Davis and new keeper Grant Smith who proved to be unbeatable on the night.

As for the Bees, they played patient and precise passing football which was easy on the eye but ultimately lacked pace and penetration. They were never put under too much pressure but creaked ominously when conceding two poorly defended goals.

They fell asleep from a throw in and allowed a cross from the left to be played back to Andrade and his instant volley from a tight angle was brilliant and unstoppable.

As for the second, Gogia, playing in an unfamiliar wingback role sold Bonham horribly short with a headed back pass, ex-Bee Ricky Shakes nipped in and collided with the keeper who was perhaps harshly adjudged to have fouled the striker. A penalty it was and Bonham partially redeemed himself with a cracking save from Conor Clifford’s spot kick but the ball fell loose and the rebound was easily converted by the kicker.

Brentford created a plethora of chances, particularly in the first half, but they went begging. Bradley Clayton played wide out on the right but he has an instinct for goals and was only foiled by a wonderful save from Smith as was John Egan from a close-range diving header. Barbet went close from long-range and after the break Gogia was also foiled by the keeper and then shot over from a free kick on the edge of the box. Holldack too came close from twenty-five yards before the Bees scored a late consolation goal from a short corner.

The ball was worked from left to right and eventually fell to Harlee Dean in an unfamiliar position out on the right wing. His cross was perfectly measured for Lewis Macleod who stole in on the back post and headed home. Too little too late and the home team held on amid much local jubilation.

So what did we learn? Not too much given the nature of the evening and the make-up of the squads employed by the Bees.

In no particular order:

  • Tom Field looked solid and overlapped well
  • Barbet and Egan looked dominant and Egan is a real beast, totally committed in everything he does. He won everything both in the air and on the ground and looked a massive danger in the opposition penalty area too. It is going to be a fascinating tussle for the shirt between him and Harlee Dean who also was composed on the night
  • Max Colin looked nimble and quick and free from injury worries
  • KK has filled out and looked keen and eager on the ball and used it well. He is going to be a real player as is Ryan Woods who played in a deep holding role which does not best utilise his massive talent
  • Philipp Hofmann looks a new man and has shed a ton of weight. He looked lean and mean but did not see too much of the ball
  • Chris Mepham is a major find and did not look out of place alongside Dean and Andreas Bjelland.
  • Bjelland was careful in his first game for almost  year but looked comfortable on the ball and cruised through the half
  • Josh Clarke did show some pace but was crowded out whenever he came forward
  • Lewis Macleod was the best player on the pitch and we hopefully have a match winner on our hands at last. He has an eye for a pass, makes late runs into the box and was full of energy. What a prospect he is
  • Scott Hogan did not really get into the game and suffered a knee in his back which forced his early withdrawal
  • Sawyers and Vibe had been given extra time off to recover from their international exertions and Yennaris, Saunders and McEachran were not to be seen

There is not much more to say, we came, we played, we experimented and we lost. As far as the result is concerned – so what? We now move on with fitness enhanced and the preseason campaign continues as planned.

Igrowingpainst was also good to see so many familiar faces and exchange news and gossip. The season is not yet really back but it is getting closer.

Just to let everyone know that my new book Growing Pains – a four hundred page monster that covers all of the events both on and off the field from last season is now available in the BFC Superstore and via Amazon at

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Growing-Pains-Brentford-2015-Season/dp/1910515159/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468052450&sr=8-1&keywords=greville+waterman

I really hope that you seek it out and enjoy it. Any feedback and reviews would be really welcomed.

I will do my best to keep my blog updated as often as I can given that my main endeavour this season is to write a biography of Bees legend Bob Booker.

In that regard I would welcome any stories, memorabilia or clippings relating to him.

Thank you.