Brentford’s January Transfer Window – Much Ado About Nothing?

Brentford supporters have come to regard the January transfer window with something approaching dread as they are well aware that given its status as a stepping stone club, Brentford prefers to sell rather than buy at a time when prices are inflated and skewed by desperation and it is therefore far harder to find value and bargains.

Perhaps it is worth investigating whether their pessimism is justified? Has a pattern emerged over the last four January transfer windows since the Bees were promoted to the Championship?

The beginning of 2015 saw the upstarts from Brentford unexpectedly challenging for honours and with their star players still massively under the radar, owner Matthew Benham was apparently keen for the squad to be strengthened for the final promotion push, however the story goes that manager Mark Warburton was not keen to risk upsetting the applecart in a happy dressing room by bringing in newcomers and the likes of Bernardo and Marco Djuricin remained unsigned. Three signings were however made with the future in mind in Jack O’Connell, Josh Laurent and the seemingly injury jinxed Lewis Macleod, a semi-permanent sicknote ever since.

January 2016 saw the calculated decision made that the club was unlikely to either challenge for the top or fall into a relegation tailspin so nobody new arrived and Toumani Diagouraga, Laurent and James Tarkowski were allowed to leave. The former for a grossly inflated sum after it was clear that he had jumped the shark, the latter for top dollar after forcing the issue by virtue of his appalling strike action. A ghastly run in the new year of 10 defeats in 13 matches at one time made it seem more than possible that the gamble had not come off but Brentford recovered to finish ninth.

January 2017 again saw the likelihood of midfield stasis and with Scott Hogan in scorching goalscoring form Aston Villa signed the predatory marksman for a fee rising to a club record £12 million. Lasse Vibe seamlessly took up the goalscoring mantle and excellent additions were also made in two wingers in former loanee Sergi Canos for a club record £2.5 million and Florian Jozefzoon. The talismanic figure of Jota also returned from his exile in Spain and Hogan was barely missed. This was a brilliant transfer window for the club with a star player sold for a massive sum and two excellent players brought in at reasonable cost and performances actually improved in the latter part of the season.

Lasse Vibe was the only departure in January 2018 leaving for a huge fee to China – great business for a player approaching the end of his contract, and the Directors of Football decided to rely upon the improving Neil Maupay supported by Ollie Watkins to lead the attack, a gamble that did not totally backfire although there were times when the Bees lacked firepower and strength in depth. The Bees fell narrowly short of the Playoffs and the nagging thought remains that extra strike power might have enabled them to do so. Most of the action had already taken place near the end of the previous August’s transfer window with the “Birmingham Three” of Max Colin, Harlee Dean and Jota departing for St Andrew’s in a triple deal worth the best part of £11 million but all three had already been replaced in typical Brentford fashion at far less than half the cost by Henrik Dalsgaard, John Egan and Ollie Watkins.

Four consecutive top ten finishes would tend to suggest that Brentford’s transfer window decisions have more than paid off to date but a recent perfect storm of injuries, poor form, off field problems, Robert Rowan’s tragic death, the loss of Dean Smith and bedding in a new Head Coach in Thomas Frank all contributed to a miserable first half of the season and the gamble on relying upon a smaller but ostensibly higher quality squad has certainly not paid dividends so far. The Bees have recently recovered some of their form and confidence after an excellent unbeaten run of six games and whilst it would still be tempting fate to say that they are completely safe, we are beginning to look up the table rather than down.

Traditionally Brentford only sell when they are offered their valuation (including a January premium) for any of their star players, or when somebody is approaching the end of their contract. Andreas Bjelland and Alan McCormack are the only players I can remember leaving on a Bosman free transfer in recent years. This month the Bees will have some interesting and difficult decisions to make as they have a plethora of players who have attracted the attention of bigger clubs higher up the food chain. That is something they are quite accustomed to and indeed, relish, but what is much more surprising is that they also have five players who will be out of contact at the end of this season and several more who could potentially leave on a free transfer at the end of next season. Added to that is a squad that is lacking in numbers and strength in depth with two long-term injuries in Emiliano Marcondes and Lewis Macleod.

The club’s strategy at this time of the year is normally to be totally reactive and respond to any offers that might come in for star players and it is interesting to note that of the key players who have previously left in January – Tarkowski, Hogan and Vibe, none of them were actually directly replaced in the same window given that Dean, Barbet and O’Connell, Vibe and Maupay were already in the building and took up the mantle.

As has been noted, Brentford do not like buying in January however given that there could well be, for a variety of reasons, more than half a team that needs to be replaced before the beginning of next season, should they in this instance be looking to bring in some new players this month? The club learned the hard way at the start of the 2015/16 season that new players, particularly those arriving from abroad, need a lot of time to settle down and it is difficult to bed a large number of new arrivals into the team simultaneously, so apart from the undeniable fact that signings will cost less in the close season rather than January, should Brentford be looking to bring in some high quality replacements now rather than wait to do all their business in the Summer and risk jeopardising the start of next season?

It is also important to note that Brentford have absolutely no problems with Financial Fair Play and have already brought in significant sums this season through the sale of several players considered to be non-essential in John Egan, Florian Josefzoon, Ryan Woods and Konstantin Kerschbaumer. The imminent sale of Nico Yennaris to China where he has enhanced value as a homegrown player will further boost our income by an eye watering sum and ensure that the club’s losses for this season have been more than covered. There is therefore no pressing need to sell anybody in the January Transfer Window.

In order to examine the club’s options this month more thoroughly it might be worthwhile to specify which players are out of contract at the end of each of the next few seasons and consider what plans the club might have for some of them in the next few months:

2018/19

Yoann Barbet

Alan Judge

Lewis Macleod

Josh McEachran

Moses Odubajo

2019/20

Theo Archibald

Dan Bentley

Canice Carroll

Josh Clarke

Reece Cole

Henrik Dalsgaard

Luke Daniels

Tom Field

Kamo Mokotjo

Romaine Sawyers

Justin Shaibu

2020/21

Sergi Canos

Marcus Forss

Rico Henry

Ezri Konsa

Emiliano Marcondes

Neil Maupay

Chiedozie Ogbene

Mads Bech Sorensen

Ollie Watkins

Nico Yennaris

2021/22

Said Benrahma

Josh Dasilva

Julian Jeanvier

Chris Mepham

Of the players out of contract at the end of this season the club retains an option on Moses Odubajo which will surely be taken up should he remain injury free. He took time to regain fitness and sharpness after a two-year hiatus but managed to play three times over a crowded Christmas schedule and has really benefited from the change in system to attacking wing backs. The Directors of Football should be congratulated on taking a gamble on him when nobody else was willing to do so.

Given that the club rarely allows players to run down their contracts one can only assume that none of the other players out of contract shortly are currently in the club’s future plans.

Alan Judge has cut a frustrating and frustrated figure as he has been unable to cement a regular starting position. He has been used regularly by Thomas Frank as a late substitute predominantly out of position on the wing where he has been at best a peripheral figure. For those of us who remember just how exceptionally good he was before his sickening injury it has been desperately hard and even upsetting to watch him struggling to recover some semblance of form and fitness Sadly, given how talented he is and the horrendous ill fortune he has suffered, his time at Brentford is up. He quite simply needs regular football and whilst the Head Coach might like to keep him around as a comfort blanket there is now serious talk of Ipswich (how ironic is that?) coming in for him. I expect that any such deal will initially be on a loan basis as the stumbling block will be his high wages and Brentford will surely need to pay a chunk of his salary if a move is to happen.

Lewis MacLeod’s stay at Brentford has been dogged by injury and I had to remind myself that he has been here for four years now so peripheral a figure has he become. This season has been no different and immediately after his late and unexpected headed equaliser at West Bromwich Albion he suffered yet another in a constant and seemingly never ending series of hamstring injuries that has rendered him hors de combat for the foreseeable future.

Lewis started the season well as a midfielder making late runs into the box and provided a real goal threat but his performances declined dramatically and he apparently showed no inclination to extend his contract. I suspect that had he been fit strenuous efforts would have been made to sell him this month, perhaps back to Glasgow Rangers, but given his injury he will almost certainly leave on a free transfer at the end of the season. The move just has not worked out for either party and he needs a fresh start and a change of luck somewhere else.

Josh McEachran is a Marmite figure who totally divides the fan base. To some he is a misunderstood genius who has been totally let down by the shortcomings of his team mates who fail to read his mind and intentions, create space or make the correct runs for our playmaker to find them. To others he is a frustrating, peripheral and oft-injured figure who coasts through games with a series of backwards and sideways passes and is playing totally within his comfort zone and not pushing himself to excel or maximise his undoubted talent.

The truth lies somewhere between these two contrasting viewpoints, however what is certain is that for whatever reason Josh has not provided anywhere near the impact that was expected when he arrived with a fanfare and became one of our highest paid players an apparent age ago back in 2015. He has shown no evidence of wanting to extend his stay and I’m sure that no real efforts have been made by the club to persuade him to do so. Barring unforeseen circumstances he will leave the club at the end of the season with his potential still unfulfilled and the clock ticking on a career that has so far flattered to deceive. He appears unsuited to the hurly-burly of the Championship, no Premier League team would take a chance on him and he might well need to contemplate a future abroad in a country such as Holland where the physical pressure is less relentless.

A month ago I would have said with certainty that Yoann Barbet would leave on a Bosman free unless we were able to sell him in the January Transfer Window. He was then languishing on the bench, his stint at left back over given the return to fitness of Rico Henry, and not considered a starter in his preferred position as a central defender. However football is a game of ever changing fortunes and someone’s snake is another player’s ladder. The change in formation to three central defenders allied to the recent injury to Chris Mepham has meant a recall for the Frenchman who has really impressed and come into his own as a left sided centre half and has benefited from having two other defenders around him to provide additional cover.

Most fans saw the formation change to 3-4-3 as a last throw of the dice by beleaguered new Head Coach Thomas Frank as he attempted to save his job amidst a torrent of defeats and soft goals conceded. The change has worked like a dream with the Bees currently on a run of six games undefeated which has seen them keep three clean sheets and concede only three goals and turn a defence that previously resembled a sieve into one of the tightest and meanest in the league. The latest defeat of Stoke City saw the visitors confined to a measly two attempts on goal, but, more importantly, Brentford played like Brentford should, producing a wonderful brand of free flowing football which saw them tear the visitors apart seemingly at will and create a plethora of chances – and this time take three of them. Why change what is now working so well. The 3-4-3 formation is here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future.

That means that Barbet suddenly is a far more valuable asset. He has undoubtedly been frustrated by his lack of playing time at the club and was probably looking to run his contract down after four seasons at the club and Brentford similarly were unlikely to offer him a new contract lucrative enough to persuade him to stay. I now begin to wonder if the club might change its mind and make an attempt to keep the ever popular Barbet at the club rather than allow him to depart for first team football and a larger paycheque elsewhere?

Assuming that all four players leave the club then they will all need to be replaced however Brentford face an even bigger rebuilding job in the near future when you consider the likely fate of the key players who will be out of contract at the end of the 2019/20 season given the club’s understandable aversion to allowing valuable assets to depreciate. Romaine Sawyers tore Stoke apart with his vision and ability to see passes that others cannot and has established himself as one of the most skilful and intelligent midfielders in the league despite some fans still refusing to acknowledge what he brings to the team and instead obsessing upon his languid style of play. He has gathered a host of admirers and will most likely be sold for around £5 million at the end of the season particularly as Emiliano Marcondes, another gifted footballer who we have barely seen owing to a series of injuries since he joined us a year ago will probably be tasked with the job of succeeding him. Sawyers will be yet another prime example of the Brentford business model working perfectly – arriving on a free transfer, providing three years of exemplary service, improving markedly as a player in the meantime and then being sold for a large profit.

The future of goalkeeper Dan Bentley is more problematical as a season littered with errors led to him being dropped from the team and the large transfer fee that was expected at the end of the season is currently in jeopardy. He will need to recover form and confidence and perhaps given the circumstances now might be a good time to offer him an extension to his contract. He is quite simply an excellent goalkeeper going through a torrid spell and he will recover.

Henrik Dalsgaard and Kamo Mokotjo are two other regular first teamers whose futures will need to be sorted at the end of this season. Neither has perhaps been quite as successful as had been anticipated. Dalsgaard will always be a footnote in Brentford’s history as their first ever current player to play in the World Cup finals but his form has been patchy in the extreme this season and his temperament also open to question. Kamo’s influence has been growing significantly lately and it might well be that no decision has yet been made as to whether they will be offered new deals.

That leaves the elephants in the room. Brentford’s star players who will be on the shopping list of so many predators, and there were many scouts at Saturday’s game. I put the likes of Chris Mepham, Ezri Konsa, Rico Henry, Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay in this category with Julian Jeanvier and Said Benrahma bubbling under. All of them are surely destined to play at a higher and perhaps even the highest level of the game – the question is when and for whom? The goodish news for all Brentford fans is that all bar Mepham are in contract until the end of the 2020/21 season with the club also holding an additional year option on Konsa and Watkins, and Mepham’s contract does not expire until the end of the 2021/22 season.

That means that there is no immediate need to sell any of them immediately, although Maupay and Henry would probably peak in value at the end of this season when they have two more years left on their contract. Will any of them go now? That totally depends upon what offers the club receives and whether their predetermined value is met, if the club feels that they can or already have been replaced.

Neither Mepham nor Konsa, who for a time formed the youngest central defensive partnership in the EFL, have had the most consistent of seasons, both being guilty of careless errors at times whilst impressing at others, but their talent is obvious for all to see. Mepham is also currently out of the side following his hamstring injury. Frankly he is probably the most expendable of our high ticket items on account of the cover we currently possess at centre half given the emergence of the powerful Julian Jeanvier, yet another wonderfully talented capture from the French second division who is now the bastion of the defence and surely destined to become one of next season’s most coveted players. Should a Premier League team offer us the near £20 million package that we are seeking then I think Mepham will go, if not now then in the Summer.

Goal scorers are always in demand, particularly in January, and Neal Maupay has enjoyed an incredible first half of the season in which he has scored sixteen goals and assisted on six more. He is reaping the rewards for working incredibly hard, is sharp, energetic, creates space for others and never gives his opponents a moment’s peace. He is aggressive and sometimes crosses the mythical line but he is coveted by many teams. At the moment there is no need to sell him and the club has put a £20 million price tag on his head and can afford to wait and see if anyone is brave or indeed desperate enough to offer anywhere near that figure. Personally I doubt if that will happen and I believe that he will remain at the club until the end of the season by which time he will probably have raised his tally to around 25 goals which will ensure an auction for his services in the close season. That would also give Brentford some time and breathing space in which to replace him.

Marcus Forss, his young intended deputy, has been injured for several months and is only now back in full training. Ollie Watkins did score a winning goal against Nottingham Forest when deputising for the suspended Maupay but has clearly demonstrated that he is far more productive playing off a striker or preferably down the flanks. If Maupay were to leave this month then there would be a massive hole to fill and one that the club would definitely prefer to fill in the close season. Even with Maupay in situ there is a view that a loanee should be brought in now to help take the weight off him and provide cover if he is suspended – perhaps even someone who could initially be signed on loan but with the intention of becoming a full transfer at the end of the season, a strategy previously employed highly successfully by the Bees but one that has been surprisingly ignored for several years now.

Rico Henry has barely returned from his long term injury torment but is already reminding everyone just how good he is and in my hopefully unbiased opinion is a full international fullback in the making. Again, there is no immediate need to sell him particularly as he has barely played since Brentford signed him owing to injury, and his value can only appreciate. Ollie Watkins is also a wonderful talent who is slowly regaining his Mojo after a poor spell exacerbated by a lingering toe injury, but still requires more seasoning. The club apparently rejected a £12 million offer for him from Southampton last Summer and there is newspaper talk that they are still monitoring him as well as Mepham however I would be surprised if anything materialises with Watkins this month given his lack of form.

So it is finally time for me to come off the fence and predict what will happen between now and the end of the month.

Josh Clarke, a forgotten man lately, has already left to join Burton Albion on loan and I wonder if we will ever see him back at Griffin Park. He is talented and versatile, quick and enthusiastic and deserves to play regular EFL football but I doubt if it will be at Brentford. Judge and Yennaris will surely join him through the exit door very shortly. Youngster Canice Carroll has also joined Swindon Town on loan and other B Teamers such as Reece Cole, Theo Archibald and Tom Field might also be farmed out, but not the explosive Chiedozie Ogbene who has a bit part to play from the bench for the remainder of this season.

It may well be that there are no more departures in January, however if pushed I am predicting that Chris Mepham will leave for the Premier League for a club record fee. There will probably also be some speculation over Neal Maupay without a move being finalised.

As for incomings, obviously should Maupay leave then a replacement would be imperative, and one who can hit the ground running – a terribly difficult ask. I believe we have enough cover to cope with the potential loss of Mepham until the end of the season given the emergence of Mads Bech Sorensen and Luka Racic. Otherwise I predict that the Bees will leave much of their rebuilding and replenishment until the close season. This will also give the club time to hopefully replace Robert Rowan who played such a crucial role in the identification and signing of young prospects.

It is possible that some of the available budget is put into re-signing one or more of the players out of contract in 2020 and perhaps even Barbet. Given Brentford’s attitude towards the January Transfer Window it could well be that despite the squad being very tight for numbers, the club feels that we can compete as we are until the end of the season, perhaps utilising some talent from the B Team, and nobody new arrives. The most I expect is a loanee striker to support Maupay, ideally someone who we could potentially sign permanently at the end of the season.

I fully expect to have the contents of this article thrown back in my face at the start of February if and when it proves to be totally inaccurate, so, apologies in advance!

Kings Of West London! – 3/5/16

i would like to start today’s article by expressing my heartfelt congratulations to Burnley who sealed their fully deserved promotion to the giddy heights of the Premier League by narrowly defeating Queens Park Rangers in a tense encounter at Turf Moor yesterday afternoon.

Burnley possess the perfect blueprint for what is required to achieve success in the Championship, a mean defence which has conceded only thirty-five goals, experience throughout the squad exemplified by the enigmatic Joey Barton, who has proved to be an absolute inspiration, a hard working midfield which never allows opponents any time to settle on the ball, the inventiveness and trickery of George Boyd and of course the unselfishness of the battering ram Sam Vokes and the predatory instincts of Ande Gray upfront. All in all a winning combination which has now received its just reward.

Brentford have made a massive contribution to their success through providing them with Andre Gray scorer of twenty-two goals for his new club in forty matches, and James Tarkowski who only appeared four times but provided additional strength in depth.

At first sight it would appear that Burnley obviously got the better end of both deals given their promotion and the undisputed fact that they now possess two appreciating assets who could both flourish next season in the Premier League.

Close examination of the facts from a Brentford perspective, however, tells a different story.

Neither player wanted to remain at Griffin Park once their head had been turned by the siren song emanating from the lips of their potential new employers and Tarkowski, in particular made it totally impossible for the Bees to keep him after his toxic and inexcusable behaviour resulting in his downing tools and refusing to play against Burnley in a televised Championship encounter in January, something that I have never seen before and hope very much never to experience again as it left an extremely sour taste in the mouth.

Our hands were tied and we had no option but to sell particularly given the need to remain Financial Fair Play compliant and it was therefore simply a matter of extracting as much money as possible for the pair of them and in my opinion we certainly did so.

At the time of his leaving Burnley fans were stunned and bemused and openly carped at the size of the fee that their team was reported to have paid for Gray which will now increase to around nine million pounds given their ultimate success. I suspect that they are feeling somewhat different now.

Given that Tarkowski was definitely damaged goods, only wished to return to his native North West which narrowed his options, and that there did not appear to be a queue of teams competing for his signature, to receive an initial fee of around three million pounds from Burnley represented exceptional business on the part of the Bees.

As if that was not enough we will now be receiving another three and a half million pounds in additional bonus payments given Burnley’s promotion. And it does not end there as there will be even more money owing should Burnley avoid immediate relegation back to the Championship as well as generous sell-on fees if either player is sold at a profit as Gray assuredly will be at some point in the future should he maintain his massive progress.

Both Gray and Tarkowski perfectly exemplify the Brentford strategy and approach – in other words, identify young talent ahead of our rivals, buy low, give them an opportunity as well as the platform, support, coaching and encouragement to improve and then, when the time comes, sell them on at the top of the market given that for the time being at least we are unable to hold onto them given our lack of financial clout.

The missing part of the equation is how well we replace our departing stars as for our business model to succeed and for us to maintain our place at the top end of the Championship we need to keep replenishing our talent pool, and again, I believe that we have not missed either Gray or Tarkowski nearly as much as I am sure most supporters would have either feared or expected.

A few weeks ago I would have conceded that we did not possess any player with the potential to replace Gray but now with the emergence of Scott Hogan who has made a totally stunning and barely believable return from his two career threatening injuries with five goals in barely a full game’s worth of action but has also demonstrated a clinical ability to take chances in the six yard box the situation has certainly changed.

Hogan is a year younger than Gray, possesses similar strength, energy and running ability and is perhaps a more composed finisher in front of goal. Assuming that he completes his recovery as anticipated, and much praise is due to the Brentford medical team for their dedication, we will see a talented and hungry young player who will be determined to make his mark next season.

Brentford are to be congratulated for extending his contract by a further year before he made his comeback and their loyalty appears certain to receive its reward. Now might not be a bad time to try and persuade Scott to sign on for yet another year before his value rockets sky-high.

As previously mentioned, Gray has scored twenty-two times for Burnley but our strikers have more than matched his total with Lasse Vibe finally proving his international ability by scoring six goals in April and surely being a serious candidate for Player of the Month. Throughout the season Lasse has notched thirteen goals, a more than reasonable total for somebody new to the English game, and Philipp Hofmann and Marco Djuricin, four each. Scott Hogan’s five, all in April too, makes a total of twenty-six goals scored by our current strikers, not including the two that Andre managed at the start of the season for us before he left.

James Tarkowski was the epitome of Longfellow’s Little Girl With The Curl: She was very, very good, But when she was bad she was horrid. At times his play was sublime as he showed the genius of a thoroughbred, winning the ball in the air or on the ground and then he would effortlessly stride away from his opponents and set the Bees on the attack.

Unfortunately there were times when he overreached himself and took unnecessary risks and the cost would be immense with the ball invariably ending up in our net. But this was how he was encouraged to play and you cannot praise him when things work out and excoriate him when they don’t, you have to take the rough with the smooth.

It will be fascinating to see how he adapts to the Premier League, if he indeed manages to win a place in the starting eleven and I suspect that his seemingly casual style of play will probably prove to be a success at the highest level.

His lack of respect towards his head coach, teammates and supporters makes it impossible for me to mourn his departure and the emergence of Yoann Barbet has also meant that we have replaced him with a young player who possesses the potential to become even better than his predecessor.

Since receiving his opportunity Barbet has rapidly gained in confidence, has pace and aggression, reads the game well, loves a slide tackle and possesses a wand of a left foot which can ping the ball fifty yards directly to the feet of a waiting teammate.

He cost around half a million pounds from the lower divisions in France and has already proved to be a marvellous signing. He, Jota and Maxime Colin are three players who perfectly personify our use of proprietary stats and analytics as we plucked all three of them from abroad without a whisper of interest from any other English club. Brentford at its best!

So thank you and well done to Burnley and also many, many congratulations to Brentford who last night sealed their position as the Kings of West London given that QPR are now five points behind us with one game to go and Fulham are trailing eleven places beneath us and have obtained fourteen points less than us.

Another amazing achievement by the Bees who are dwarfed by both of their rivals in terms of income and turnover but we totally outclass them both on and off the pitch and our success is a confirmation of just how far you can go on hard work, creativity, original thinking, teamwork and planning plus a course the ability shown by a talented and committed group of young players.

I did some research this morning and this is only the sixth season ever when all three West London teams have been competing against each other in the same division, and it is the first time since 1948/49. This is now the third time in those six seasons that the Bees have come out on top, a feat that they also achieved in 1930 and 1931 and the Bees went on to win promotion to the top division a mere four years later. Hopefully a precedent for us to follow.

What a great time it is to be a Brentford supporter!

Who Wants A New Book? – 31/3/16

Today I need to ask everybody a question – how many of you would be prepared to buy a new book by me should I be able to publish one at the end of this season?

Firstly I would just like to thank everybody who was kind or daft enough to purchase a copy of Ahead Of The Game. I am eternally grateful to all of you and only hope that you enjoyed it and were happy with your purchase.

My publisher, James Lumsden-Cook, the owner of Bennion Kearny was brave enough to take a real chance on me and probably against his better judgement decided to go ahead with the last book which thankfully received some fantastic reviews and has exceeded all expectations by selling the best part of one thousand copies.

Now the time has almost come when we need to decide how best to proceed regarding its potential successor.

The last book was pretty straightforward as it catalogued an unexpected but quite wonderful series of triumphs interspersed with the massive trauma of Warburtongate but this time it is likely to be a very different story given all the happenings and ups and downs both on and off the field since last July.

What the publisher quite understandably wants to know is how many Brentford supporters will really want to buy a book that is more concerned with lost opportunities, over expectations, defeats, disappointments plus a few massive high points too as well as an inquest and analysis into the many things that have gone wrong plus of course those that went right and an explanation as to why certain actions had to be taken?

I have already written the best part of a quarter of a million words regarding all the events of this season, both good and bad, and the book will be fair, balanced and objective and will look forward as well as back, rather than just being a moan-fest.

Hopefully there will also be a few unexpected guest writers who will provide their own perspective on all things Brentford.

For those who like their nostalgia, there will also be several more esoteric pieces on players and events from the recent and more distant past which I hope will be evocative and stir a few memories from all fans of a certain vintage.

The new book has provisionally been titled Growing Pains, which I think is a fair summation of where we currently find ourselves in the Brentford Project.

Like the first book it would be around four hundred pages in length, contain some fantastic action photographs from this season and retail at around sixteen pounds.

The BFC Talk blog has been going from strength to strength and the readership levels have risen dramatically this season and particularly over the past three months, so the key question is how many of you who either bought the first book or who read my blog either regularly or from time to time are going to be interested or likely to buy a copy of Growing Pains if and when it is published in June?

My publisher and I have spoken at length about this subject and he wants to guage likely levels of interest in the new book before he gives the project his final go ahead.

I am therefore going to ask if anyone with an interest in buying the book could please email BFC@BennionKearny.com and confirm that they are more than likely to buy the new book should it come out in June.

Reading between the lines we need to know that a minimum of three hundred people are likely to buy the book in order to make it a viable proposition.

Should the publisher receive significantly less than that number of emails expressing interest then the project could well be mothballed and the book not be published.

That is the situation in a nutshell, if enough supporters confirm their interest in buying a copy then it will be published – even, perish the thought, if we are relegated, unlikely though that prospect is.

I am desperately keen for all my work to see the light of day and very much hope that as many of you as possible will send an email to BFC@BennionKearny.com within the next couple of weeks as we need to make a final decision by the end of April.

Please don’t just leave a comment on Facebook or Twitter or on the blog itself, please send your email to the publisher.

Obviously sending an email does not commit you to buying a copy (and please also let us know if you might even be interested in buying an extra copy or two as a present for someone else) but it will certainly give us a reasonable idea of whether the book is likely to be a success or not.

Apologies for having to make this request but I am sure you can all see why I have to do so and hopefully you will all respond accordingly and send in your emails.

Thank you for all your interest and support.

Best wishes

Greville

 

Why Peter Lumley Loves The Bees – 8/1/16

Peter Lumley has already provided some wonderful memories of his many years watching the Bees and I am delighted to say that he was written another wonderful and evocative article which explains and expands upon his passion for the club.

I hope that you all enjoy it as much as I did:

Watching Gary Blissett receive his Hall of Fame accolade on the pitch ahead of the boxing day game against Brighton reminded me of one of my previous communications in which I named a Brentford team compromised solely of players with a surname beginning with “B”.

The players spanned the seventy-three years since 1942 when I first paid a visit to Griffin Park.

My Dream Team selection was as follows:

  • Chic Brodie
  • Paul Bence
  • Jake Bidwell
  • Jamie Bates
  • Wally Bragg
  • Bob Booker
  • Stan Bowles
  • Jimmy Bloomfield
  • Johnny Brooks
  • Gary Blissett
  • Peter Broadbent

I challenge anyone to name a more talented team compromising players sharing the same first letter in the remainder of the alphabet.

I am appending a brief note about each of my selections:

Chic Brodie: Perhaps the most reliable goalkeeper to don a Brentford green jersey. His all too short career was blighted by a bizarre incident at Colchester when a stray dog ran on to the pitch and in a “one on one” situation almost broke the keepers leg above the knee cap.

It left him with an injury that had a detrimental effect on the remainder of his career. His selection was marginal due to the excellence of three other contenders, Len Bond, Graham Benstead and David Button, who now has the potential to reach the very top.

Paul Bence: Loyal, versatile and reliable defender who was equally at home in the old fashioned right back or right half positions and you could count his off-days on one hand. A true Griffin Park servant and a wonderful example to aspiring young players at the time.

Jake Bidwell: There is nothing I can write about Jake that current Brentford fans do not already know. As the captain of the team he leads by example and his charges down the left with the consequential crosses into the box are a feature of virtually every Brentford performance. And now he has broken his duck as a goal scorer, let us hope there are many more to come.

Jamie Bates: Another long serving Griffin Park favourite and a natural successor to the iconic Terry Evans in the Bees defence. Like Terry, a great header of the ball both in attack and defence. Few strikers got the better of him in Fifty-Fifty situations but he was always resolutely strong but fair in a tackle. A possible candidate for future Hall of Fame recognition.

Wally Bragg: One of a long line of outstanding centre halves and in the same league as, for example, Joe James, Ron Greenwood, Jack Chisholm, Mel Scott, Stewart Houston, Pat Kruse, Peter Gelson and Leon Legge.

Bob Booker: There is nothing I can write about Bob that has not already attracted the attention of those with far mightier pens than mine. One of my all time favourites.

Stan Bowles: Another outstanding performer who came to Griffin Park quite late on his illustrious career but was an absolute joy to watch. Falls into that category of players who could be regarded as the most talented of all time.

Jimmy Bloomfield: I can remember a very young Jimmy coming to Griffin Park as an extremely talented inside forward who possessed exquisite skills on the ball. His play was as smooth as silk and I was desperately sorry when he left us for pastures new and subsequently I was saddened to learn of his death at a relatively young age.

Johnny Brooks: Came to Brentford after an illustrious career with Tottenham and England. In many ways he was an older version of the aforementioned Jimmy Bloomfield. His skill on the ball had to be seen to be believed and he possessed one of the most powerful shots in the game. A pity he did not join Brentford some seasons earlier.

Gary Blissett: Yet again another player to fall into that category where it is difficult to find words to add to those already written about him. Arguably the best out and out striker Brentford have ever had, certainly in the modern era.

My own personal highlight was to see him scoring the winning goal in that never to be forgotten promotion-clinching win at Peterborough. With members of the family I had to drive, somewhat hastily, back to Griffin Park to greet the team as they arrived back to a very noisy reception in Braemar Road. As mentioned earlier, Gary’s recognition as a newcomer to the Hall of Fame was the event that encouraged me to write this particular article.

Peter Broadbent: As the then Sports Editor of the local newspaper, now known as the “Ealing Gazette”, I struck up a friendship with Peter shortly following his debut as a Brentford player.

In fact I recall that the two of us as young unattached lads, going to Saturday night dances at Ealing Town Hall after a game on a number of occasions.

Again I was extremely sorry to see him move on to Wolverhampton Wanderers where he subsequently won a number of caps with the England team.

Another of my all time favourites who I was privileged to know as a friend. Other Brentford players who fell into the same category were Ken Horne, Tom Higginson, Jimmy Towers and George Francis.

My substitutes in this team would be a selection of seven from the following candidates:

Goalkeepers: Len Bond, Graham Benstead, David Button and Jack Bonham. ( With difficulty I have left out Ashley Bayes!)

Defenders: Billy Brown, Danny Boxall, John Buttigieg, George Bristow and Paul Brooker.

Forwards: Mickey Bennett, Mike Block, Micky Ball, Deon Burton and Willy Brown.

Quite apart from the players, I wish to extend the “B” theme to include other Griffin Park heroes. This is my list for starters:

Chairmen: Ron Blindell and Matthew Benham.

Managers: Jimmy Bain, Frank Blunstone and reluctantly, Terry Butcher.

Supporters: John Barr and his fire officer grandson, also named John Barr or “Little John” as we nicknamed him when he first visited Griffin Park as an eight year old.
Last, but by no means least, I nominate the incomparable Mark Burridge as my favourite Bees Player commentator.

Mentioning Len Bond earlier leads me into a postscript to this communication. My wife has a habit of waking up in the unearthly hours of five or six most mornings. She then trawls through the various early morning TV channels to ensure that I wake up at about the same time.

But one morning over the Christmas holiday, I could not believe my ears, or my eyes, when I heard the names of Len Bond, Danis Salman, Barry Tucker Jim McNichol, Paul Shrubb, Dean Smith and Steve Phillips beaming out from the TV set.

Quite by chance my wife had hit upon an ITV4 program entitled “Big Match Revisited”. The featured match was a 1970’s Third Division clash at Griffin Park between Brentford and Watford. The result was a thrilling 3-3 draw with Dean Smith and Steve Phillips (Twice) scoring for the Bees, his second goal from the penalty spot to earn a point. The scoring went as follows: 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 2-3, 3-3).

The respective managers that day were Bill Dodgin and Graham Taylor. One of the Watford goals was scored by Luther Blissett!

My Final thought, I am confident we will Be in the mix for a top six place By May.

And MayBe we could win promotion!

Thank you Peter and I hope some of you will rise to his challenge and name your own favourite teams comprising players with a surname beginning with the same letter.

Over to you!

Ahead Of The Game – Book Signing And Review 12/12/15

I just wanted to provide everyone with some advance notice of a special pre-Christmas book signing next weekend.

Brentford Chairman Cliff Crown has kindly agreed to meet and chat to supporters and also sign copies of Ahead Of The Game between 2 – 2.30 pm next Saturday, December 19th, in the BFC Superstore before the Huddersfield Town match.

Cliff very kindly contributed an excellent, erudite and insightful Foreword to the book and he has always been extremely supportive of all my efforts, and I am very grateful to him.

Hopefully some of you will take the time and trouble to come and talk to us both next Saturday, and we very much look forward to seeing as many of you as possible.

In passing, I would also like to thank Dan Williamson, author of the excellent Open Veins of Football website for his enthusiastic and perceptive review of Ahead Of The Game.

Here is what he had to say about the book:

For Brentford fans this book will act as a Bible of what was one of their most successful seasons of recent years. Ahead of the Game is a fans-perspective diary of blog entries of the 2014/15 season by hardcore fan Greville Waterman.

The author has an admirable dedication to, and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of, the Bees, having been a match-goer since he was young and even completing a short stint on the club’s board.

As a neutral I must admit to knowing very little about Brentford FC before reading Ahead of the Game. It was refreshing not being familiar with all of the players involved, or the results of that season.

It gave the book an almost novel feel, like it was sports fiction. I personally enjoyed the off-the-field passages more than the detailed match reports, like a real-life version of the Sky television show Dream Team.

The book begins in pre-season, with the author sharing his dismay at the exit of fans’ favourite Clayton Donaldson to Birmingham City. Greville’s joy at visiting Griffin Park for the first game of the season was palpable, and some of the away-day stories were brilliant.

Often the result pales into insignificance against the enjoyment of a “day out” and as a reader these anecdotes were the most pleasurable to read. One of the highlights was a chance meeting with a Burger King-munching Oldham player at an M6 service station.

The author’s match day experiences with his kids were great too, including when he coincided an away trip to Forest with seeing his daughter who was studying at Nottingham University.

The will-he-won’t-he Mark Warburton saga made February one of the most page-turning months, but perhaps the most excruciating for Brentford fans.

I also really enjoyed learning more about the mysterious presence of Matthew Benham. The media-shy owner and his “moneyball” approach have been covered in the press but it was great to learn more about the man who has transformed the club in recent years.

The diary-format meant that the book could be easily digested in small, bitesize chunks, but at 400-odd pages it is a mammoth read. Some of the passages seemed a little forced and could have been reduced or even removed to make for a more fluid read, but the detail may appeal to certain Brentford fans.

Brentford are currently in mid-table of the Championship, having recently appointed former Walsall boss Dean Smith as the manager, the second since Mark Warburton’s exit to Ibrox.

The ups-and-downs such as these are what makes being a football fan so great, and why it’s so fascinating to keep reading about the sport.

A must read for all Bees fans and recommended for football fans looking for a detailed insight into another club.

Ahead of the Game: Brentford FCs 2014/2015 Season by Greville Waterman (Bennion Kearney, 2015)

They Played For Brentford And Fulham – Part Two 11/12/15

Today I am going to conclude my overview of the footballers who have played for both Fulham and Brentford. We had not yet reached the turn of the new century yesterday and yet the list was already pretty long and comprehensive.

Bees manager, Micky Adams, a former Fulham player and manager himself, made one forgettable appearance for the club as a substitute in the Auto Windscreens Shield match at Luton but thankfully concentrated more on his thankless task of attempting to save the club from relegation to the bottom division in 1997/98. He brought in several of his old boys to assist him and Paul Watson was one of his more successful imports. A right footed left back who excelled in swinging in dangerous curling corners and free kicks, he soon became a fan favourite but he was replaced by the quicker Ijah Anderson and left for a successful stay at Brighton.

Danny Cullip was a no-nonsense bullet headed centre half who took no prisoners but he lost his place after damaging his knee and, like Watson, moved on to help Brighton to promotion.

Darren Freeman of the long curly mane, was an effective if inconsistent winger or striker who was surprisingly released by Fulham and had a free scoring start to his Brentford career under Ron Noades before joining the exodus to Brighton.

Steve Sidwell proved to be one of Brentford’s most effective loan signings. Despite his youth and total inexperience, Arsenal entrusted him into the care of Steve Coppell and he quickly flourished into a wonderfully skilful midfielder with a eye for goal and the ability to open up a defence with a single pass. He was far too good to join us on a permanent basis, particularly when we failed to gain promotion in 2002 and he eventually made his mark in the Premier League with the likes of Reading and AstonVilla before providing excellent service to Fulham too.

John Salako made his name as a two footed winger with electric pace at Crystal Palace and later enjoyed a short spell at Fulham under Kevin Keegan. he was thirty-five when Martin Allen signed him but he found a new lease of life and produced some excellent spells on the left wing and some less good ones as an emergency left back. He was deadly from the penalty spot too – except when it mattered in front of the television cameras at Hinckley.

Michael Turner was a wonderfully strong and elegant centre half for the Bees and gave us wonderful service for two seasons before being spirited away by Hull City. He became a Premier League regular and last season he played against the Bees for both Norwich City and Fulham.

Darren Pratley continues in his career as combative midfielder who caused us many problems a week or so back when playing for Bolton Wanderers. He began his career at Fulham but made only a single appearance for them as a substitute before he had two successful loan spells at Griffin Park under Martin Allen before joining Swansea. He was hard running and strong with an excellent shot on him and did well for us until he fell out with some of the supporters after a mad and chaotic night at Gillingham in 2006.

Paul Brooker deserves an article all to himself! He was a tricky winger who was predominantly a super sub at Craven Cottage before establishing himself at Brighton. He joined the Bees on a free transfer but despite his obvious talent he never produced or did his ability justice on a regular basis despite scoring a solo goal of utter world class at Swindon and his spell at the club ended in acrimony after he fell out with supporters and management alike.

Junior Lewis drifted from club to club after making his debut for Fulham before making his mark at Gillingham. He joined the Bees as a non-contract player in 2005 and played an immense part in a Boxing Day victory over promotion rivals Swansea City when he totally controlled the midfield. An true on-field leader, he has since become a coach and manager.

Calum Willock was a total waste of over fifty thousand pounds when he signed from Peterborough as the last gasp replacement for DJ Campbell. It is really hard to understand quite why he was so inept given his previous track record as a regular goalscorer for Posh, whom he joined after unsuccessful spells at Fulham, QPR and Bristol Rovers. He scored a mere three goals for the Bees and never looked likely to become the player that was required to spearhead our promotion push. The one abiding memory of him was his farcical and appalling air shot against Barnsley that a naive referee embarrassingly interpreted as having been caused by an opponent’s trip and he awarded us the softest penalty kick imaginable.

Jamie Smith had a good spell as an attacking fullback at Crystal Palace and enjoyed a loan spell at Craven Cottage. He joined the Bees on loan from Bristol City in 2006 but never really impressed and missed a very presentable goalscoring opportunity in the playoff defeat by Swansea.

Robert Milson was a young red headed midfielder who along with his colleague Wayne Brown, a small but tricky right winger, joined the Bees on loan in 2008. Milson could certainly play and split the Accrington defence with a perfect through pass for Alan Connell to score an excellent goal and Brown too played an effective role in an improving team before they both returned from when they had come.

Richard Lee was an all-time Brentford favourite for his ability in goal allied to his sunny temperament and I have already written many times about him. He had fallen out of contention at Griffin Park initially through injury and made a surprise loan move to Fulham as injury cover late last season but never played a game. Despite that we still remember him with great fondness!

Pacy fullback or winger, Ryan Fredericks had a spell at Griffin Park on loan from Spurs but barely played a game. He is now at Fulham after a short stay at Bristol City.

We will end, appropriately enough, with Marcello Trotta who is written indelibly in Brentford’s history for what transpired deep into injury time against Doncaster back in 2013. He was brave and confident enough in his own ability to venture back to the club for a second loan spell from Fulham and he helped lead us to promotion and more than vindicated himself. He is now making a great success of his career back in his native Italy.

There are so many close links between the two clubs, so many shared hero and villains, and we have not even taken into account the careers of Brentford managers such as Bill Dodgin, Fred Callaghan, Micky Adams and Leroy Rosenior who all cut their teeth at Craven Cottage.

Roll on Saturday!

They Played For Brentford And Fulham – Part One 10/12/15

The sense of anticipation and sheer excitement is mounting as we start to count down the days, hours and even minutes until Saturday’s massive clash at Craven Cottage where local bragging rights are once again up for grabs.

It is notoriously hard, if not impossible, to predict the outcome of local derbies as form so often seems to go out of the window and matches can be decided on one incident, a referee’s whim or a lucky bounce so I shan’t even try to do so at this juncture.

Instead I shall try my hardest to alleviate some of the tension that we are all surely beginning to feel by reminiscing about some of the footballers who have played for both the Bees and Fulham over the years.

Starting way back in the mists of time with a remarkable man in Tom Wilson who was hardly an archetypical footballer as he was also a qualified surveyor who played with distinction for both clubs throughput the 50s as a sturdy and reliable right back.

After retirement he returned to Fulham as a director of the club where he worked closely with his former team mate Jimmy Hill to negotiate the purchase of Craven Cottage from the Bank of England which saved the club from being merged with Queens Park Rangers and Craven Cottage from being sold for development.

John Richardson is a name that should have become well known throughout the football world as he seemed certain to become a star but it somehow didn’t happen for him and his career never reached the heights that at one time seemed likely. He followed his Uncle, Billy Gray, from Millwall to Brentford as a seventeen year-old and soon broke into the first team at a time when the Bees were concentrating on youth as they could not afford to pay older and more expensive players. Some, like Eddie Reeve, Phil Basey and Mike Ogburn soon fell by the wayside but Richardson was an exciting prospect who, despite his youth, dominated games from his berth at inside left until he broke his ankle in three places soon after scoring at Port Vale. He recovered but was never really the same and was moved to a more defensive role and the crowd were not the most patient with him either. He was sold to Fulham when still only twenty but his career fizzled out at Aldershot after a spell playing in America.

I have written many times about the late, great, Allan Mansley and I mourn him still as watching him sprint down the left wing leaving a trail of beaten opponents in his wake was one of the wonders and delights of my youth. Injury cruelly halted his career in its tracks when greatness beckoned and he had a brief and unsuccessful loan spell at Craven Cottage, playing once in a heavy defeat at Swansea before his career ended so sadly and prematurely.

Roger Cross is another who is pretty high up on my list of boyhood heroes. He of the flowing locks, white boots, long throw and howitzer left foot shot. He oozed elegance and class after his move from West Ham United and it was no surprise when after scoring fourteen times in his first full season he moved on to Fulham for a thirty thousand pound fee when the directors kept their word to allow him to return to a higher level if the opportunity ever arose.

He looked a different and lesser player in the Second Division, more cumbersome and less prone to take a match by the scruff of its neck and he soon returned to his natural home where he sparkled for another four years before making a surprise move to Millwall which never worked out for him. He is still involved with the game as a scout at Charlton and has enjoyed a long and illustrious career.

Barry Salvage forged an excellent career for himself as a quick winger with an eye for goal. He never left London and played for five local clubs, starting with a brief spell at Fulham before moving to Millwall and Queens Park Rangers. He enjoyed a productive stay at Brentford, often cutting in for a shot and I remember his winning goal after a mere twenty-four seconds against Charlton. He had a second spell at The Den and then moved to play in America and Norway before tragically dying very young.

Dave Metchick was a small and skilful ball playing midfielder whose career never quite took off. He started off at Fulham but failed to establish himself in the First Division and drifted from club to club before making a surprise move to Arsenal where he never played in the first team. He joined the Bees in 1973 on his return from playing in the North American Soccer League and made an immediate impact, pulling the strings in midfield and using the ball neatly and effectively. A really good player for us who shone in a mediocre team.

John Fraser joined the Bees after a decent spell at Fulham which included him playing in the 1975 FA Cup Final out of position at left back when Les Strong, also to play for Brentford later in his career, was forced to pull out through injury. He transformed himself from a fullback into an excellent ball winning midfielder who was a mainstay of the team until, like several others, he apparently fell out with a former Fulham colleague in Brentford manager, Fred Callaghan and ended up as a taxi driver.

Dave Carlton was a bargain signing by Bill Dodgin – another ex-Fulham stalwart – who gave us excellent service for four years. He had a wonderful eye for a pass and often switched the point of attack. He created many goals but could sometimes lose his head on the pitch and incur the wrath of referees.Fulham left him go as a youngster but Carlton established himself at Northampton Town before a mere three thousand pound transfer fee brought him to Griffin Park.

Steve Scrivens is another footballer who bemuses me to this day. A lithe and quick left winger who played a few games for Fulham as a teenager, he joined Brentford on loan in December 1976 and impressed everyone with his ability. Despite all our efforts, Fulham would not allow us to sign him on permanent basis and he returned to Craven Cottage – and never played for them, or any other Football League club again. Can anybody please explain why as it appeared to be a total waste of an exceptionally talented young player?

Paul Shrubb is quite simply one of the bravest men it has been my honour and privilege to meet. Rejected by Fulham after one measly appearance, he made a name for himself in South Africa before joining Brentford where he sparkled for five seasons and played nearly two hundred games for us in a variety of positions. He was consistent, honest, versatile and skilful whether he played as a central defender, midfielder, striker or even as an emergency goalkeeper. He gave everything to the team and was a wonderful clubman. He then gave equally good service to Aldershot where he also became a local hero and to this day he continues to be an inspiration to everyone as he fights Motor Neurone Disease. Shrubby, every Brentford supporter salutes you.

Barry Lloyd is one of the rare players who had spells at all three West London clubs as he started at Chelsea before making over two hundred and fifty appearances for Fulham and was on the bench for the 1975 FA Cup Final. He also captained the club and is best remembered for a superlative volleyed FA Cup goal against Leicester City’s Peter Shilton which wowed the Match of the Day viewers. For some reason he never captured the hearts and minds of Brentford fans and was subjected to some unpleasant barracking. He did decent enough job in midfield and contributed to our promotion push but his stay was short and he moved to America before a long and successful career as a manager and scout.

Most goalkeepers count the number of clean sheets but for Trevor Porter it was clean windows. He was Peter Mellor’s understudy at Fulham and did a good unassuming and unspectacular job when he signed for Brentford after Len Bond’s injuries sustained in a car crash. He remained at the club for a couple of seasons combining the role of reserve goalkeeper with his window cleaning.

Terry Hurlock is best remembered for his swashbuckling and rumbunctious performances for Brentford. A terrifying and unforgettable sight with his long flowing hair, beard and gold earring twinkling in the sunshine, he combined aggressive tackles with an unexpected range of more subtle skills and enjoyed a long and illustrious career which was finished off with a short spell at Craven Cottage where at the age of thirty-seven he retired after he suffered a broken leg after a tackle by Martin Grainger, ironically enough in a friendly match against the Bees.

Francis Joseph is another near-legend at Brentford who played a few games for Fulham in his swan song. He promised so much but never fully recovered from a badly broken leg, lost his greatest asset in his pace and was never the same player again. A terrible waste of an exceptional talent.

His partner during his golden spell at Griffin Park was Tony Mahoney. He was discarded by Fulham like an unwanted old sock after his early promise evaporated but he was revitalised after Fred Callaghan signed him for the Bees. He proved to be an exceptional target man who scored fifteen goals in only twenty-eight games before tragedy struck and he suffered a broken leg on an icy pitch against Swindon Town. And that was pretty much that for him as he never fully recovered form or fitness.

Left back, Les Strong was a Fulham stalwart for many years and is best remembered for missing the 1975 FA Cup Final through injury. He had a brief loan spell at Brentford near the end of his career but retired soon afterwards.

Terry Bullivant was another Barry Lloyd in that he did well at Craven Cottage as a midfield player who earned a big money move to Aston Villa but he never really impressed at Griffin Park where his over-aggressive style and inconsistent form ensured that his stay was short. He later returned to Griffin Park more successfully as part of Ron Noades’s coaching team and later became Assistant Manager to Andy Scott.

Tony Parks also had a loan spell at Fulham after he lost his place in goal at Brentford to Graham Benstead and he eventually joined Fulham on a permanent basis but he only played twice for them.

Striker Tony Sealey had two loan spells at Fulham before joining them on a permanent basis and was a regular goalscorer. Small, nippy and sharp, he made his debut for Brentford at Anfield in the FA Cup before scoring memorably after just thirteen seconds against Bristol City.

Striker Kelly Haag scored prolifically in the reserves and youth team but he found the step up to first team football a bit too steep and never managed a league goal for the Bees but scored a few times for both Fulham and Barnet.

Tony Finnigan was another player who never really settled down anywhere after leaving Crystal Palace and had brief spells at both Brentford and Fulham without much effect.

Gerry Peyton was a Fulham goalkeeping legend who played nearly four hundred games for the club. Despite being thirty-six years of age he was wonderfully calm and consistent when he had two spells at Griffin Park in our ill-fated relegation season of 1992/93.

Gus Hurdle never managed a first team appearance at Fulham but he was rescued from a career on the buses when he walked in unannounced to the Brentford training ground and had a decent career as an attacking fullback.

Glen Cockerill joined the Bees from Fulham as Micky Adams’s assistant manager but he played an important role on the field as a solid defensive midfield player despite being nearly forty years of age. He had enjoyed an illustrious career but still had something left in the tank.

As you can see there are so many links between the two clubs and I will finish my list of players who enjoyed spells at both clubs tomorrow.

Blazing Meteors – Part Two – 24/11/15

A couple of  months ago I began to tell the story of some of the Brentford players who began their career at the club so well but merely flattered to deceive and who all fizzled out for a variety of reasons without fulfilling their seemingly once abundant promise.

I ended the last article in the early 90s and will pick up the narrative with Lee Luscombe. He joined the club from Southampton and in fact cost us a fee of up to fifteen thousand pounds predicated totally on appearances. He was clumsy and ungainly but when he occasionally managed to get every part of his body working in unison he could be devastating and he scored some incredible goals including a soaring header in a vital promotion clash against Stoke City and a wonderful angled volley against Charlton. He was plagued by inconsistency and was released after our relegation in 1993 and soon faded out of the game. A waste of an excellent talent.

Mickey Bennett was a makeweight in the Dean Holdsworth deal but for a short while it looking like we had signed a gem as he initially showed directness on the right wing and an eye for goal, but his impact was to be short-lived and he was slowed down by a chronic injury. He missed a crucial penalty at Bristol Rovers when his weak shot was saved easily by a goalkeeper in Brian Parkin who should never have been on the pitch after rugby tackling Bennett in front of a gaping goal and escaping with a yellow card when a red seemed inevitable. David Webb played him as a striker but with little effect and his Brentford career ended in ignominy after Joe Allen was left with a broken jaw after a notorious training ground incident.

Grant Chalmers should have been a star and I still do not understand why he did not have a long and successful career in the Football League. He made an immediate impact as a ball playing midfielder on his arrival from Guernsey and made a massively impressive debut at Peterborough where he ran the entire game before being one of the best players on the pitch against Spurs in the Coca-Cola Cup. He scored a well taken goal in the five-one romp against Bristol City but soon faded out of contention.

Famously he was dragged out of the club bar just before the kick off against Derby County on Boxing Day when Chris Hughton was injured in the warm-up but he was himself substituted after apparently suffering from the effects of a now unwanted pre-match pie! Phil Holder, ironically a skilful midfielder himself, never seemed to trust Chalmers and he lost confidence, drifted away and out of the game before returning to Guernsey.

Craig Ravenscroft was another home grown player who started well with a goal at Huddersfield but he could never quite overcome the handicap of his lack of height and strength and dropped into Non League.

Scott Canham looked a world beater throughout his loan spell from West Ham in 1996 and he was massively influential in leading us to safety when a relegation battle looked far more likely. He was small and compact but played with his head up, put his foot in and showed vision in his passing.

He returned to Upton Park but unexpectedly signed for the Bees at the beginning of the following season for twenty-five thousand pounds. I had tried to get my client Ericsson, the club sponsor to help underwrite the move but their assistance wasn’t necessary. He looked a totally different player on his return and failed to secure a regular place in the first team before joining Orient where he also struggled to establish himself.

Allan Glover, Lee Frost and Pim Balkestein are three other players who similarly enjoyed wonderful loan spells at the club but singularly failed to impress when signed on a permanent basis. I am sure that we will never be able to fathom out the reason why!

Kevin Rapley was asked to shoulder too much responsibility too soon and I believe that this hindered his future development. He scored eleven goals in his first full season when he was our main striker and one of the few successes in an awful season that ended up in relegation. Who can ever forget his brilliant last minute winner against Burnley from a dramatic scissors kick and the wild celebration that followed with his manic run half the length of the pitch triumphantly waving his shirt above his head?

The following season he fell out of favour with Ron Noades and was loaned to Southend before leaving for Notts County for whom he scored on his return to Griffin Park in the game made infamous by the exploits of Gary Owers. For a striker of his quality and potential to score a mere thirty-three goals in his entire career was a major surprise and disappointment given how well he had started.

Tony Folan should now be enjoying his retirement after a glittering career and at least one hundred Republic of Ireland caps under his belt, such was his outrageous ability. As it was his career was beset by a constant stream of niggling injuries and he was never able to make the impact that he promised after his series of outstanding displays when he joined the Bees from Crystal Palace in 1998.

I can still picture that mesmerising dribble and goal against Peterborough and the Folan From The Halfway Line effort against Cambridge United. He had so much time on the ball and he possessed elegance and grace and opponents just could not get close enough to tackle him. Unfortunately he was unable to overcome the injury jinx and off field problems and his career simply petered out far too soon and well short of what he could and should have achieved had he been granted a modicum of good fortune.

Mark Williams was another local boy who almost made good and for a time it looked as if he might establish himself as a speedy winger but he became typecast as a Super Sub and set a new club record for substitute appearances with seventy-one in total.

Striker Mark Peters arrived at the club with a great fanfare and a glowing reputation from Southampton. He soon proved his ability in front of goal and he scored twenty-one times in thirty-two reserve team matches. He even scored for the first team against QPR, a sure fire way to gain instant hero status but it never happened for him with stories of off field and attitude problems.

Martin Allen soon cancelled his contract and he then played for a plethora of local teams without ever making the impact he should have done in the Football League. Football is not just about ability but also about hard work and dedication.

A nodding mention here to Alex Rhodes, of whom I have already written elsewhere at great length. It was a real tragedy that his career was blighted by injury and misfortune as he was such a promising talent and will always be remembered for scoring the solo goal against AFC Bournemouth that secured The Great Escape from relegation in 1994.

Karleigh Osborne has made a decent career for himself and is still playing well for AFC Wimbledon but somehow you feel that it might have gone even better for him given his ability. Perhaps he was promoted to the first team a bit too quickly and I remember Andy Booth giving him a fearful bashing but he persevered and established himself in the team as a powerful and pacy central defender who surprisingly failed to flourish at either Millwall and Bristol City.

Remarkably, Charlie Ide is still only twenty-seven years of age and is playing at a level of the game far below his true ability. He started off so well for the Bees and shone in that dreadful relegation season of 2006/07 as well as scoring some valuable goals. He never appeared to show the dedication necessary to make the grade and his career disappeared as rapidly as it had flourished.

Sam Tillen established himself in the first team as an exciting attacking left back and scored a great equalising goal at Leyton Orient with a perfect angled volley. He was even selected for a Football League Under-21 match against Italy but he went backwards rather than developing and he was released by Andy Scott and is still playing in Iceland.

Ross Montague had his embryonic career wrecked by a stress fracture in his back and a torn cruciate knee ligament otherwise he might still be our current first team centre forward, so talented did he appear to be when he broke into the team as an eighteen year old.

Gary Smith looked like he was the answer to our midfield problems after he joined in 2007 and he blossomed under Andy Scott but the injury jinx hit and he was never the same player again.

I am not sure if Nathan Elder deserves to be mentioned in this context given the tragic nature of his injury at Rotherham but until that terrible collision with Pablo Mills which I can still clearly recall with horror and which left him with a double fracture of the cheekbone, fractured jaw, triple fracture of the nose and impaired vision, he was a bustling centre forward and a clear crowd favourite.

He had been sent off twice that season at Gillingham when he defended Marvin Williams and far more contentiously by Stuart Attwell against Notts County and he was totally devoid of luck and good fortune. He never played for the Bees again and his career never recovered. A tragic loss.

Thinking about some of these players and how fate conspired against them has deeply saddened me, others have nobody else to blame but themselves for not making the most of their ability. Let’s just hope that there are not many names to add to this list in the near future and that our players all fully realise their potential.

Peter Lumley’s Best Ever Brentford Players – 12/11/15

Last month I was both delighted and honoured to be able to publish some fascinating and evocative memories of watching the Bees from Peter Lumley, who has been supporting Brentford FC for more years than he cares to remember.

Peter was delighted with the many appreciative responses he received from the readers of his article and I am pleased to say that he has just sent me some follow-up information which I am sure that you will all enjoy:

In my recent guest contribution to Greville’s blog I ducked an invitation to name the best team drawn from all the Brentford players I have watched during my seventy-three years as a  fan at Griffin Park.

On reflection I have decided to take on Greville’s challenge but with one proviso – that I can name more than one team.

Team A will be made up of players blessed with great technical ability.

Team B will feature those more aptly described as robust or physical.

I will then take on the almost impossible task of naming a best eleven made up from both categories as Team C.

Finally I have also selected a team of eleven players – Team D who, in my opinion, were exceptionally loyal to the club over a number of years and also demonstrated great enthusiasm and commitment whilst on the pitch.

I am sure that everyone will appreciate that the selected players span seven decades and that, inevitably, there will be those who rightly point out some glaring omissions.

Also, assessing the ability of players is, by definition, highly subjective. One man’s hero can be another man’s Nick Proschwitz or Murray Jones!

So here we go!

TEAM A

Joe Crozier

Alan Hawley

Ken Coote

Jim McNichol

Mel Scott

Jonathan Douglas

Stan Bowles

Johnny Brooks

Dean Holdsworth

Jimmy Bloomfield

Leslie Smith

Subs: Chic Brodie, Moses Odubajo, Stewart Houston, Peter Broadbent, Neil Smillie, Roger Cross, Alex Pritchard

TEAM B

Alf Jefferies

Billy Gorman

Martin Grainger

Tom Higginson

Terry Evans

Jamie Bates

Terry Hurlock

Gary Blissett

George Francis

Jim Towers

Gary Roberts

Subs: Len Bond, George Poyser, Jack Chisholm, Ron Harris, Dai Hopkins, Andre Gray

TEAM C

Joe Crozier

Billy Gorman

Ken Coote

Jim McNichol

Mel Scott

Terry Hurlock

Stan Bowles

Jimmy Bloomfield

Dean Holdsworth

Jim Towers

Leslie Smith

Subs: Chic Brodie, George Poyser, Stewart Houston, Billy McAdams, Roger Cross, John Dick, George Francis

TEAM D

Gerry Cakebread

Kevin O’Connor

Ken Coote

Tom Higginson

Terry Evans

Keith Millen

Billy Dare

Francis Joseph

Dave McCulloch

Bobby Ross

Jackie Graham

Subs: Alan Nelmes, Alan Hawley, Joe James, Sam Saunders, Jamie Bates, Alan Judge, Robert Taylor

I am quite certain that you will all take great pleasure in pointing out lots of glaring omissions, so I will list just a few more players who, if numbers permitted, would have graced one or more of my selected teams:

Dave McKellar

Andy Sinton

Billy Scott

Ernie Muttitt

George Wilkins

Len Townsend

Clayton Donaldson

Steve Phillips

Ken Horne

Nicky Forster

Jimmy Hill

Ron Greenwood

Tony Harper

Barry Silkman

Alan Cockram

Barry Asby

Leon Legge

Harlee Dean

Jota

Jake Bidwell

Stuart Dallas

Roger Joseph

Ben Hamer

Stuart Nelson

Richard Lee

Dai Ward

Keith Jones

Danis Salman

Wally Bragg

Barry Tucker

Gordon Phillips

Kevin Dearden

Graham Benstead

Steve Sherwood

Toumani Diagouraga

Adam Forshaw

james Tarkowski

D J Campbell

Danis Salman

Roger Joseph

I have also listed Brentford managers in a somewhat haphazard order of preference apart from the top two who in my opinion stand head and shoulders above the rest:

Harry Curtis

Mark Warburton

Steve Coppell

Martin Allen

Phil Holder

Steve Perryman

Frank Blunstone

Jimmy Sirrell

Bill Dodgin Junior

Jackie Gibbons

John Docherty

Uwe Rosler

Frank McLintock

Fred Callaghan

Malcolm MacDonald

Wally Downes

Micky Adams

Ron Noades

David Webb

Nicky Forster

I very much look forward to reading all the comments that we are certain to receive once everybody has read Peter’s interesting and thought provoking list.

I will start the debate off by mentioning a name that despite my reading through Peter’s note to me three times I was still unable to find – Peter Gelson. An accidental or deliberate omission on his part?

What do you think?

David Carpenter’s Bees Memories – 15/10/15

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I am sure that David Carpenter would not mind my referring to him as a Brentford fan of deep experience and long vintage given that he has been coming to Griffin Park for over seventy years, and despite all the bad times he has witnessed he still retains his enthusiasm and optimism for the future. He possesses a sharp eye for cant and hypocrisy and not much escapes his scrutiny and he is quick to express his sometimes trenchant opinions, but what shines through is his deep love for a football club which has played such an important part in his life. Here are his memories of supporting the Bees:

I’m pretty sure it was 1942 when I first came to Griffin Park. My Dad used to take me on the crossbar of his old Hercules bike from Chiswick and we parked in the garden of my mother’s Aunt Hetty’s house in New Road. Not a freebie, though. We paid our penny, or was it tuppence, like everyone else. In those days all the houses around the ground took in bikes, and there were so many, literally thousands, that if you were late you struggled to find a space. Front gardens, back yards, even hallways were full.

In those days of low footballers’ wages, top players in leading teams like Brentford in those days, like Leslie Smith and Ernie Muttitt, and probably others, didn’t live in mansions like today’s stars. They lived in Braemar Road. Handy for the ground!

Looking back, getting there was quite an adventure. The war was on and my Dad was just too old to go back into the army. He had been in the First World War and had had a bad time. But West London was a bit of a war zone, anyway. Now and again you could be lucky enough to find a bit of prized shrapnel in the back garden. Air raids were common and later the dreaded doodle bugs – cruise missiles to younger folk – were a terrifying threat. You did not want to hear that Ram Jet cut out! All these years later the sound of a siren on an old film clip still has the ability to send a shiver down my spine.

Looking back, it was a bit crazy to go to Griffin Park by bike, dodging doodle bugs. But that was the draw of Brentford Football Club. Incidentally, we stopped going by bike after being stopped by a policeman. Riding on the crossbar was deemed dangerous. Never mind the high explosives going off!

Once through those wicked turnstiles, and on to the terrace, what excitement! Maybe a military band marching up and down, or the Dagenham Girl Pipers. And then the cheering when the players came out.

An old lawyer friend had a wonderful homily: “Recollection improves as memory fades.” So it may be a case of rose-tinted spectacles, but the crowd was very good natured in those days. The referee was fair game, of course, but the players were treated with respect. I really don’t understand why some spectators feel that they have to hurl abuse even at their own players, even if they are having an off game – especially if they are having an off game. I do think it has got better just lately, but so has the football.

In those days Brentford were a top team. They were in the First Division, now Premier League, albeit interrupted by the war. We enjoyed all the greats coming to Griffin Park – Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Burnley, Chelsea, Charlton, Preston, Sheffield United, and so on. Great clubs of the day, but not all so great today with many of them with us in the lower leagues.

A great memory was coming early to a match to see the “Busby Babes” play our juniors before the senior game. It would be good to see that sort of thing again. Or perhaps our junior/development squad matches being shown on live feeds.

Another was a testimonial game when Stanley Matthews and other top stars appeared. An abiding memory from that game was to see Raich Carter, long retired, standing in the centre circle, never taking more than a gentle step or two before making a series of inch-perfect passes.

After the war and relegation to the Second Division, it was still a busy place. We could still attract crowds of seven thousand – for reserve games! And between twenty-five to thirty thousand for league games. Who could forget days like the sixth Round FA Cup Tie with Leicester City with thirty-nine thousand  jammed into Griffin Park, and all us kids were passed over heads down to the railing and allowed to sit at the edge of the pitch. That was possible in the days before the New Road stand was reduced and the old shed or Spion Kop at the Brook Road end was still large. Everywhere was standing, the only seats being in the Braemar Road stand behind the paddock. Sadly part of the Brook Road end was sold off for re-development. But for that the club might not have to be moving to Lionel Road.

While I’m not old enough to remember the glory days of the 30s, this was still a major club in the 40s and 50s. We had so many great players like Tommy Lawton, Ron Greenwood, Dai Hopkins, Jackie Gibbons and many, many more too. Lots about them in books on the club’s history by Greville and others for a nice wallow in nostalgia. You can see a lot of them on the DVD of the film, “The Great Game”, also featuring the delightful Diana Dors. In that film she gets passed over heads behind the Ealing Road goal. Apparently her boy friend tried to punch the lights out of someone who goosed her.

Later we had super players like Francis and Towers, Kenny Coote and one I will never forget, Ken Horne who sadly died very recently. He was an excellent full back and perhaps the fastest ever to bathe and dress after every game  Once we went to the Boleyn for a memorable game with West Ham. As a kid collecting autographs, we went straight to the dressing room exit just in time to see Ken come out shiny as a new pin. He kindly took my book into the West Ham dressing room and got the whole team to sign. It was wonderful to see him at Griffin Park again before he died.
I finally got to meet George Francis too just before he died. He was a delightful man who was a hero to me. He had a wonderful technique of being able to get some part of his body between the defender and the ball. Worked a treat.

It has not all been great. There was the aborted QPR take-over. Not surprising that feelings there still go beyond local rivalry. There was the awful moment in the last game of 1947 when we were relegated, and not quite going straight back up the following year. If only…

There have been other things to forget, like two of our players I can remember being booed off by their own fans, one a thug and the other who just didn’t want to be there.

Some of the highs and lows have been combined, like our appearances at Wembley (apart from 1942) and Cardiff.

I only decided once to stop going to Griffin Park and that was in the Webb era. Otherwise, it’s been a pleasure from the top division to the bottom. It’s been a place for heroes if not a whole lot of success.

For the future I hope we have some success. But I do hope that it does not change the character of the club too much, and that after seventy-odd years my Grandson, too will feel part of Brentford FC.

When I retired (for the second time) I said that only two things would tempt me back to work. One was to work for a magazine for a long term hobby interest, and the other, something to do with the club. My early career was as a journalist with national daily and weekly newspapers and I returned to edit my favourite magazine a year after retiring.

Later, I joined the board of Bees United at a most interesting time, the lead up to the sale of the majority share in the football club and the start of the project proper for Lionel Road. The decision to sell to Matthew Benham was a no-brainer really. By the time of the sale he was putting in so much money (but only a fraction of the amount today) that there was no alternative. I took on the role of devil’s advocate in all this, which did not always go down well!

But I was happy to leave after the sale with safeguards in place to ensure that Brentford Football Club would continue in the event of the “unthinkable” happening. One of the Bees United directors has recently stated that is still the case. Excellent!

It is the one thing they have to keep on top of. Especially now that all the independent directors have been moved off the main club Board.

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.”

George Bernard Shaw

Thank you David for your wise and evocative words which I hope that everybody enjoys a much as I have.