What’s There To Look Forward To?

It’s the beginning of April and at the start of the season I, along with many other supporters, was hoping with no little justification that by this stage of the season we would be cheering our beloved Brentford team over the line as they looked to cement a Playoff place, or – heaven forbid – something even better. That being said as the winter nights drew in and after a listless performance and defeat at Hull City on 15th December the Bees had plummeted to 19th place in the table, and we were anxiously looking downwards rather than up. We now find ourselves safely anchored in mid table mediocrity, nine points from the Playoff zone – still tantalisingly close, but surely out of reach, but a massive fourteen points away from the dreaded bottom three.

Quite why the season has been such a topsy-turvy rollercoaster as we have oscillated from near the top of the league almost to the bottom and now halfway back again is surely a subject that will be discussed and analysed carefully at the end of the season and there is no need for me to rehash some of the reasons, justifications or even excuses at this juncture. What is more important is to look forward rather than back and highlight what we have to look forward to before the season draws to a close in just under five weeks’ time.

  1. At the time of writing we have eight games left to play, four at home and four away and with 24 points still to play for we can at least aim to finish in the top ten for the fifth season running which would be an incredible feat for a club of our size and standing, and highlight just how much we have been punching above our weight and making a little go a very long way indeed. The last year has seen a grudging acceptance and even appreciation of our methods, playing style, ethos and business strategy from many former sceptics from within all areas of the football world and a top ten finish would emphasise just how great our achievements have been and the progress we continue to make both on the field and off.
  2. We are just over a season away from the move to Lionel Road and the club is trying to attract a new generation of supporters to the club who will be attracted not just by the quality of the enhanced, updated and more modern facilities that they will find on offer at the new stadium but also by the evidence of a club on an upwards curve of achievement. This is why we must retain our focus even when we are playing what could be seen as a number of dead rubbers over the next month and ensure that matters are not allowed to drift.
  3. Experimentation in terms of lineups if not formations as we need to assess what works best for us and which players are up to the challenge and can remain with us and contribute fully on our journey and who is not quite good enough, as well as providing a first team opportunity to the most promising of the B Team squad whilst ensuring that the team put out on the field is always strong enough to compete in every game – a potentially tricky juggling act where the Directors of Football might conceivably want to see more experimentation than the Head Coach.
  4. To continue in the courtship and recruitment process for next season given that we are likely to require a large number of high quality reinforcements in almost all positions in order to ensure a squad good enough to compete next season. This season we have relied upon a strategy of quality over quantity and the depth of the squad has creaked ominously from time to time as we have struggled to cope with player losses through sales and injury.
  5. To come to some level of decision regarding the goalkeeping position. Daniel Bentley is an exceptional professional and talent who has endured a terrible season riddled with costly errors and now injury. Can he be rehabilitated for next season or will he be sold – probably at a figure far lower than we at one time anticipated? if so can we rely upon Patrick Gunnarsson or Ellery Balcombe as deputies? Surely they will both be properly blooded over the next eight games. We are well aware that Luke Daniels is a Steady Eddie number two – no more – no less.
  6. Can Rico Henry return to the team after yet another injury and, in a 3-4-3 system seemingly made for him, return to his previous high levels of performance and – most importantly – remain fit.
  7. To ensure that Lewis Macleod, Josh McEachran and Yoann Barbet are ushered off the premises at the end of the season with suitable thanks for past achievements and service whilst minimising their minutes on the pitch. McEachran has already been marginalised and the injury to Barbet at Wigan is perhaps a Godsend as it provides an opportunity for the massive hulk that is Mads Bech Sorensen to be given a run in the team and demonstrate his quality and promise for next season and beyond.
  8. Can Neal Maupay reach the rare and coveted 25 goal mark in the Championship? What an achievement that would be. Gary Blissett scored a remarkable 21 league goals in the 1992/93 First Divison relegation team and Neal trails him by a mere one goal at the moment. Maupay has been grossly overworked given the lack of other striker options – another deliberate policy that has merited much debate both pro and con, and can he retain the energy and drive to increase his goal tally over the matches that remain?
  9. The chance to derail the promotion hopes of both Leeds United and Derby County when they both visit Griffin Park.
  10. Attractive local(ish) derbies at Reading and Millwall.
  11. Seeing if Josh Dasilva, who enjoyed a promising full Championship debut at Wigan on Saturday, can be integrated into the team and prove to be a viable midfield option for next season.
  12. Giving Emiliano Marcondes, who has had nothing but bad luck since he joined the club, the chance to prove that he is a major talent and crowd pleaser who will enhance the team and prove to be a star next season.
  13. Enjoying the artistry and sheer brilliance of the likes of Said Benrahma and the peerless Romaine Sawyers, two of the most gifted players I can ever recall gracing the Griffin Park pitch (and I do remember Stan Bowles if not Johnny Brooks).
  14. Demonstrating to the likes of Henrik Dalsgaard, Kamo Mokotjo and Romaine Sawyers that our ambitions remain unchanged and convincing them to buy into our vision by extending their contracts with the club beyond 2020 as long as we do not receive attractive offers for them this Summer.
  15. Offering Chiedozie Ogbene and Marcus Forss a little light at the end of the tunnel by giving them some first team minutes too.
  16. Providing a carefully controlled first team opportunity to the vastly talented Jaakko Oksanen and Jan Zamburek and considering the same for the promising Kolbeinn Finnsson and Theo Archibald too if they merit their promotion.
  17. Cheering on the enormously successful Brentford B team as they seek double cup glory and the chance to put some silverware into our fairly barren trophy cabinet
  18. Saying goodbye and thank you to an exceptional coach and thoroughly decent man in Lars Friis.
  19. Seeing if we can hit the elusive fifty league goals at home mark. We need to score ten in our last four games.
  20. Hopefully saying good bye and good riddance to the dreaded and detested (by many) Jaffa Cakes away kit
  21. Appreciating just how much Head Coach Thomas Frank brings to the team and club. We are fortunate to have such a decent, grounded, intelligent and talented man at our helm – and apologies for ever doubting him!
  22. Rejoicing in the sheer quality of the football that we are privileged to enjoy at Griffin Park- we are the envy of so many other football fans forced to stomach and endure far thinner gruel.
  23. Hoping that we will find the mindset to become far less of a soft touch away from Griffin Park where we need to win at least ten away games if we are to challenge next season.
  24. Making the most of what little time remains at Griffin Park – my home from home and a ground which is seared into every pore of my being.