Turf Wars: A History of London Football – 6/9/16

Pretty much every major football club boasts a book or two recording its history from formation until the present day. Given the growing number of statisticians and frustrated writers out there for whom this is a real labour of love, many of them are of a truly exceptional standard and boast a combination of deep and painstaking research, well chosen words that paint striking verbal pictures and startling photographs which bring so many previously half forgotten episodes back to life.

Given the size and stature of our club we Brentford fans have certainly been well served in this area and I doubt if there are many serious fans of the club who do not possess a copy of the unparalleled and inimitable 100 Years of Brentford, a true treasure and cornucopia of riches from start to finish.

The 125th Anniversary book was also a massively impressive work of art incorporating as it did so many wonderfully evocative press clippings from days of yore.

The 70s, 80s and 90s have all been celebrated recently with their own comprehensive Big Brentford Book and there is also a serviceable Who’s Who edition.

I am really not sure if there are many gaps remaining to be filled for Bees fans who have already been so well catered for.

I hope and expect that work has already started on an oral history celebrating Griffin Park our home for 112 years now and one that will be sorely missed when the long awaited and much anticipated Lionel Road stadium finally comes to fruition.

There has also been thought given to a Harry Curtis Years book commemorating the club’s glory days when the legendary Secretary/Manager took them from the depths of the Third Division to near the top of the First.

This would be my personal favourite and I am aware that Dave Lane, author of the two excellent Cult Bees and Legends interview books has been researching Harry Curtis and so far without success attempting to locate some of his descendants.

Hopefully this book will become a reality rather than a pipe dream as I never tire of being reminded of the times when the mighty Bees were a team to be feared and Arsenal in particular fell foul of us on many occasions in the few years leading up to the Second World War.

Maybe Mark Croxford will also be tempted to publish an updated Who’s Who book given his painstaking levels of research and knowledge and perhaps one day we will finally be treated to the long awaited and anticipated anthology of the writings of the much admired Middlesex Chronicle journalist George Sands who watched the Bees play over one thousand times without missing a match.

I make a point of seeking out other historical books that I feel have special merit and my efforts were certainly rewarded very recently.

Many years ago as a young child I read and relished David Prole’s Football in London and I have been waiting in vain ever since for it to be updated or replaced. It provided an indepth analysis and history of the main protagonists in the London football scene up until the mid 60s.

My eternal gratitude now goes to Steve Tongue who has used his experience and knowledge of the London football scene gained over many years as a leading football journalist to provide a well organised, fascinating and comprehensive history of all the London football clubs, amateur and professional alike.

I have long enjoyed and admired his erudite and pithy match reports in a variety of publications and if I recall correctly I was once a teammate of his on a dank and gloomy Sunday morning at Wormwood Scrubs many, many years ago when we both played for Brian Glanville’s Chelsea Casuals team.

Tongue has sensibly and cleverly divided the book into eras and writes about each club forensically and with humour and knowledge with a keen eye for spotting patterns and trends and, most impressively not for one moment does he let slip any evidence of personal bias or self interest. A casual reader of this book would have no idea about his long and deeply held passion for Leyton Orient.

The book is short in pages but long in information and has been beautifully produced with loving care by the admirable Pitch Publishing who have been responsible for so many exceptional sports books recently.

It is a real gem and sensibly priced at a mere £9.99. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to all students of London football and as far as I am concerned, it was well worth the wait.

Turf Wars: A History of London Football by Steve Tongue. Pitch Publishing. £9.99.

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How Good Are We? – 1/9/16

There have been a lot of questions raised over the last few weeks about the relative strength of the Brentford squad and how well we are equipped to face the challenges that doubtless lie ahead in what is likely to be the strongest Championship in living memory given the quite ridiculous sums of money sloshing around and the size of the fees already invested in players by the likes of Newcastle, Aston VIlla, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday.

How on earth can a Brentford team hamstrung by the fact that the club has almost the smallest attendances and lowest revenue in the division compete on a level playing field with its richer brethren?

Well the truth of course is that the playing field is far from level or even and the Bees quite simply have to do everything different, better and smarter if they are not to be left trailing in the wake of their opponents.

Their strategy is clear and uncompromising – buy cheap and sell dear and concentrate almost exclusively on signing talented young players from both home and abroad with development potential and when the time is right, sell them at the top of the market and start the entire process again.

So far this policy has worked like a dream and will continue to do so as long as we continue to recruit well and persuade players and their agents that Brentford is a perfect steppingstone club which will put young players in the spotlight and provide them with the framework in which to improve and shine before eventually moving on.

Given the vast sums being spent on transfers in the Championship and the undisputed fact that many clubs are recruiting better and smarter, it has become harder and harder for Brentford to maintain their competitive advantage and stay ahead. Barnsley in particular are using analytics very cleverly and signing some interesting players from all levels of the game.

Whenever asked I stated quite firmly that no judgements on this season’s activity and strength of squad should be made until 1st September once the Transfer Window had closed until next January.

So here we are in September and how well do I think we have done?

Pretty damn well is my verdict, particularly given the problems we faced, but I suspect it was a close run thing as matters went pretty much to the wire and could quite easily have gone differently, in which case we’d have had quite a different tale to tell today.

From the squad that finished last season we have lost all three loanees in Djuricin, Swift and Canos, Button and Bidwell made it clear that they would not extend their contracts and therefore needed to be sold and O’Connell departed for Shffield United.

Judge too remains on the long term injured list and it is doubtful if he will be seen much before Christmas and a difficult decision will need to be made about him in January given that his contract ends next Summer.

Have we adequately replaced the players we have lost and perhaps even strengthened?

Button was a marvellously consistent goalkeeper but on early evidence Bentley is sublime and is surely earmarked for greater things. Hopefully we can get the tribunal with Southend sorted as soon as possible as I suspect that he will be in great demand perhaps as soon as January.

Bidwell was a mainstay of the team – Mr Reliable – but signing Rico Henry is a massive coup.

Injured he may be now but in Bentley and Henry we now possess two potential full international footballers, and I am not exaggerating when I say that. The fee for Henry is substantial and could reach eye watering proportions but we are likely to benefit greatly from his services before he leaves us at some point for a huge profit.

Our policy of protecting the future also paid dividends with Alfie Mawson whose move to Swansea for a fee of around £5 million, a sum that highlights the madhouse that football has become, has led to us benefiting from a sell-on clause reputed to be around 40%.

If that figure is accurate then Mawson, a youngster who never played a league game for us, has paid for Rico Henry. Good business indeed!

Kaikai finally arrived yesterday not without some mishaps and he has the potential to replace Canos whose pace, cutting edge and enthusiasm have been sorely missed.

Since last season ended the Bees have signed four top quality players from the Third Division in Bentley, Egan, Sawyers and Henry, indeed with the exception of Gillingham’s Bradley Dack, probably the best players in that division.

Two talented Premier League quality  loanees in Elder and Kaikai complete our recruitment which has been totally exceptional and well in line with the club’s ethos.

Analyst Ted Knutson recently highlighted Henry as the top prospect in the lower leagues and also mentioned Colin and Barbet as likely Premier League players in the making and the Bees now have a whole raft of promising young players whose value can only appreciate as they continue to improve.

Therevis also much talent bubbling under in the newly formed B team who can fill in if necessary.

The other exceptional news was that of Ryan Woods extending his contract for four more years  and that means that the majority of their best players are now on long contracts and the club’s position is therefore protected for the midterm.

Of course we could have hoped for more, another striker or winger, or that long awaited tough tackling defensive midfielder but the club has to work within its limitations and I believe that we are now well equipped to face the challenge of the Championship with equanimity and we should be one of the division’s better teams.

 I expect further tweeking to the squad in January by which time we should know far more about whether Josh McEachran can establish himself, if KK’s excellent late season form was a flash in the pan and if Lasse Vibe and Philipp Hofmann can provide Hogan with the support he needs.

Kaikai will score goals but Sawyers and Macleod will also need to step up to the plate and score regularly.

We will have bad days too but in essence we have put together a decent squad that should ensure that we are defensively sound, competitive, attractive and good to watch.

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