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


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.

Martin Lange – RIP – 14/10/15

01ASWTTZ; MARTIN LANGE Chairman, Brentford FC. COMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot Photo URM 010092/B-12 08.08.1995

Martin Lange, the former Brentford Chairman died on Monday after a long illness. He was only seventy-one, no age at all in the grand scheme of things and he died long before his time.

He was also a man who was ahead of his time as he was rightly recognised for his innovative and original ideas and approach throughout his long career in football. He owned the majority shareholding at the club for a sixteen-year period, between 1981 and 1997 and also served as the Third Division representative on the Football League Board.

Like our current owner, Matthew Benham, Martin Lange was no outsider as he was Brentford through and through and he was first taken to Griffin Park as a small boy by his father.

His hobby soon became an obsession and after he became a successful property developer he was invited onto the club board at the early age of thirty-seven by the club’s then chairman, Dan Tana and soon afterwards he took over the reins for what turned out to be a real rollercoaster ride.

His new position was rather a poisoned chalice as he took over a club saddled with debt and his first task was to stump up the ludicrous seventy thousand pound fee decided by the transfer tribunal for Alan Whitehead’s purchase from Bury.

A salutary lesson for him about the economies of the madhouse that so often prevailed in football given how poorly the central defender was to perform and the size of the loss we incurred on him when we were finally able to offload him.

Lange wasn’t afraid to take tough decisions and one of his first was to replace the loyal and long serving Denis Piggott, who had become part of the furniture at the club but was soon swept out by the new broom.

He surrounded himself with exceptional people such as Keith Loring, Christine Mathews and Polly Kates but there was never any doubt who was in charge.

Just as the Roman Emperors ensured their popularity by giving their citizens games and circuses, so too did Martin Lange guarantee his place in Brentford folklore by coming up with the idea of signing Stan Bowles, a man who became a Brentford legend and singlehandedly revived the spirits of a supporter base who had had very little to get excited about in recent years.

Brentford were a middle of the road third tier club going nowhere, attracting small gates and Lange had to balance ambition with pragmatism and reality as he fought a constant and losing battle to balance the books.

Lange inherited Fred Callaghan as manager who was a terrific judge of a player and knew the lower leagues well. He bought players of the calibre of Terry Hurlock, Gary Roberts, Chris Kamara and David Crown and Martin also gained respect by always being approachable and he handled Terry Hurlock brilliantly as a combination of Father Figure and Dutch Uncle who ensured that the sometimes hothead always toed the line but was also persuaded to invest his money wisely in bricks and mortar rather than fritter it away.

Lange eventually decided to replace Callaghan – in retrospect a bit too quickly, as he gave in to the entreaties of the fans to make a change and his first appointment was Frank McLintock who proved to be a far better player and captain than he did a manager. John Docherty, a former Bees manager, surprisingly reversed roles and became Frank’s assistant but despite an abortive trip to Wembley and a Freight Rover Trophy Final defeat to Wigan in 1985, the combination did not gel and Steve Perryman was promoted from within.

Lange had got it right this time as Perryman proved to be a success both on and off the field and together they slowly improved the playing fortunes and infrastructure of the club. The team ran out of steam in 1989 and missed out on promotion when it looked within their grasp after an incredible run to the sixth round of the FA Cup with famous victories over Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers before bowing out with pride and dignity at Anfield.

Lange and Perryman fell out spectacularly apparently over the abortive signing of Gary Elkins and it appeared that the club would go downhill again but Phil Holder seized the opportunity as caretaker, and Lange was brave and astute enough to appoint him and recognise that very little needed changing. Holder was perhaps more chirpy and streetwise than Perryman and the team responded well to his promptings and after an abortive playoff campaign (now where have we heard that before) he led the Bees to the title and promotion in 1992.

Amazingly at the time of his greatest triumph Martin Lange was not there to share in the glory. As he said in his interview in The Big Brentford Book Of The 80s:

The sad thing was that I had to go over to America to oversee a big, four hundred acre development – it’s been well documented, but I simply had to be there, but I never actually saw Brentford get promoted!

It was sod’s law, as a lad I’d seen Brentford in the old Second Division when my dad brought me down in the early-Fifties, so I knew all too well how important it was to finally escape from the third tier again, so to miss the Peterborough match was devastating. Then to add to my frustration, the only two matches I was able to see in the 1992/93 Division One season were at West Ham and Bristol City!

Without his steady hand on the tiller, Brentford imploded. Dean Holdsworth was sold badly to Wimbledon, incredibly without a sell-on clause being included in the deal – total madness and poor business practise which cost the Bees dear when he made a big money move to Bolton Wanderers.

Money was squandered on a series of poor signings – Joe Allon and Murray Jones anybody? Relegation was confirmed after a disgraceful last day of the season surrender at Bristol City and the Bees were back from whence they came.

Phil Holder – perhaps unfairly, also did not survive relegation and Lange’s return to take day control of the club.

But things were never the same again and Lange admitted that the blow of relegation was the beginning of the end as far as I was concerned I think.

David Webb was rapturously received as the new manager and he embarked on a cost-cutting exercise, weeding out the older players and building a team in his own image that was tough, gritty and hard to beat but always had some inspiration and goals up front given the likes of Nicky Forster, Bob Taylor and Carl Asaba.

Promotion eluded the Bees cruelly in 1995 when they finished second in the one year when only the top team gained automatic promotion – its Brentford innit?

And two years later they collapsed spectacularly as they neared the finishing line in a manner that almost begged a Stewards’ Enquiry.

Exhausted and frustrated after the best part of twenty years in charge without being able to lead the club to the promised land, Lange decided to sell up and a consortium fronted by Webb and including Tony Swaisland and John Herting, bought fifty-one percent of his shares for the same price that he had paid for them so many years earlier.

There is no escaping the fact that Martin Lange was also responsible for pulling down the famed Royal Oak Stand and he admits to regretting his decision but he gave the following explanation:

The truth is that the back of the stand was condemned and the cost of repairing it was phenomenal. The combination of the dilapidated conditions and the club debt, plus me being a property developer, meant that redevelopment just had to be considered to clear the debts. And once the bank was off the club’s back, running the club certainly became a lot easier.

I understand passions still run high over the demolition of the Royal Oak, and in hindsight it has restricted Brentford’s scope to develop Griffin Park, but it was the right decision at the time, especially as I was constantly looking for a site to build Brentford a state-of-the-art new stadium at Western International.

Even if we’d decided to pull the Royal Oak down, rebuild it just as big, but with executive boxes etc, the council wouldn’t have let us.

Hindsight is easy but at the time, rightly or wrongly, it seemed the most sensible thing for him to do.

After selling the club Martin remained on the board until 2002 before withdrawing from the spotlight but he always remained a good friend of the club and was keen to do whatever he could to ensure its future success and he was highly supportive of Matthew Benham and his plans for Brentford.

Martin’s influence within the game spread far beyond the boundaries of Griffin Park and he proposed a number of changes to tackle falling attendances and hooliganism, including introducing the end of season playoffs in 1986 as well as supporting the introduction of individual squad numbers and names on each player’s shirt.

When asked to assess his time at the club, Martin Lange responded with characteristic modesty and self-effacement:

Looking back at my time as Chairman, in hindsight maybe I would have done a few things differently, some people, rightly or wrongly, have suggested I could have been more adventurous and spent big trying to get Brentford to the promised land, but as a custodian I think fans can look back and say that, when I was there, there was never a survival threat, there was never any real crisis to deal with, and I was a safe, stable and genuinely caring chairman.

That is not a bad epitaph and way to be remembered even if for the time being no Brentford fan can yet look kindly upon the introduction of the dreaded playoffs.

Martin Lange though was a thoroughly decent, pleasant and talented man who achieved so much that was good during his time at the club and we should all give thanks to him for everything he did for us, celebrate his life and mourn his premature passing.


Ten Games In – The Verdict! – 4/10/15

For once the M1 was kind to us and the drive to and from Derby was swift, incident free and almost pleasant. If only we could have said the same about what came between both journeys and totally spoiled the day.

To develop the travel theme a bit more, apparently Derby striker Darren Bent was caught in traffic and was left out of the squad after his late arrival, not that his team needed him on the day. As for the Brentford team – they never turned up.

The Bees were second best from the first whistle and subsided without much of a fight to a two-nil defeat by a Derby County team that despite three consecutive away victories were still searching for their first victory in front of their own supporters.

Had the Bees even tried to start the game on the front foot and put the home team under any sort of pressure then they might well have caused problems and quieted a slightly nervous and apprehensive home crowd but as it was they were forced back from the opening whistle and the only surprise was that it took almost twenty minutes for Chris Martin to score.

A second followed just before the interval from Tom Ince and with better finishing and a more measured final pass Derby might well have run up a cricket score as they found space and time on both flanks and tore us open on numerous occasions and were in total control for the overwhelming majority of the match.

David Button was his customary heroic self and Dean and Tarkowski did their level best to make up for the myriad deficiencies exhibited by those in front of them although Dean was caught ball-watching for the first goal and he was left marking fresh air as Martin’s well-timed run gave him an easy chance to score.

Brentford were slow on the ball, timid and lethargic in their general approach, showed little or no incision and lost possession with monotonous regularity.

The lower than normal possession stat of a mere forty-six percent highlighted their main problem and weakness on the day. This really did not look like a Brentford team as we know it out there but eleven ill-matched strangers who had been cobbled together at the last minute.

As is now customary the midfield was neither fish nor fowl, providing little protection for the beleaguered defence and creating nothing of substance for the isolated Vibe and Djuricin who were forced to feed off scraps.

Vibe barely touched the ball in a performance of shocking ineptitude and his only real contribution apart from shooting wastefully wide early on was to shriek in vain for a foul when dispossessed deep in home territory when cleanly tackled and twenty seconds later he was still on the ground and the ball was in the back of our net as Derby broke from defence with with pace, intent and incision.

Woods worked hard and kept going to the end without much end result but Diagouraga was submerged as we were outgunned and outfought in the middle of the field. Swift came on for the last quarter and showed that he has skill on the ball and can see a pass and he will be an asset to us when he settles in.

For the home team, Bradley Johnson and George Thorne combined size and strength with footballing ability that we could not match. In comparison, we looked small, weak and frail and lacking in overall stamina and fitness without the skill to compensate, and were knocked off the ball far too easily and barely won a challenge or second ball all afternoon.

Last season we were similarly lacking in strength and brute force but it hardly mattered as you have to catch somebody before you are able to kick them up in the air and we possessed far too much pace and pure ability for most teams to bully us. Now the situation has changed as we are slow and ponderous and are being outplayed as well as outfought week after week.

Gogia and Judge started the match on the wings but were starved of possession and this was surely a day for a 4-3-3 formation as we were far too open and outnumbered in midfield.

Canos flitted in and out of the match when he replaced Gogia after the break but we only threatened – and spasmodically at that – when Hofmann replaced Vibe. He did well, held the ball up, even won the odd aerial challenge and at last gave us a target to aim at upfront. He came close twice, forcing Carson into a plunging save and seeing a late effort hacked off the line but we were well beaten on a day when we again resembled an overmatched and outclassed lower division team.

This was a terrible, spineless and abject performance against a decent team who were made to look far better than they really are by our disorganisation, failure to get the basics right and total ineptitude.

It is only a few short months ago since we played pretty much the same Derby team off the pitch in a performance packed full of confidence and brio but we are now a mere shadow of that team and those days are sadly long since gone and show no sign of returning in the immediate future.

Ten matches in is quite long enough for us to have a fair idea of how the season is likely to turn out and there is absolutely no point in my mincing my words.

We are currently in free fall and on the evidence of the last couple of games there is every chance of us plummeting straight back to Division Two unless the slide is reversed – and quickly, before what little confidence that remains drains away.

It does not take much to pinpoint what is going wrong both on and off the pitch but it is far harder to understand how to turn things around.

I have no intention of repeating the words that I have written so often over the last couple of months – words that come so easily now that they almost seem to write themselves. We all know about the ravages of Financial Fair Play, our lack of resources in comparison with the rest of the league and our utterly ridiculous injury list but despite all of these obstacles we are beginning to look a shambles of a club.

We botched the recruitment process for the Head Coach in the Summer and the club has at least held its hand up and rectified the problem before it got out of control. Then came the short term appointment of Lee Carsley and his unfortunate post match interview on Tuesday that further put the cat amongst the pigeons.

That being said our two worst performances have come since the departure of Duikhuizen, two defeats where we have barely looked like scoring and the body language of the players today spoke volumes.

It is trite and far too easy to say that matters will improve when we get our long-term injured players back. I am now not so sure as only Jota, who will take time to regain match fitness, and McEachran have any experience of this level of the game.

Our new foreign players resemble nothing more than rabbits caught in headlights as they have been thrown in and are currently well out of their depth and struggling to cope with the relentless mental and physical demands of the Championship. Are they good enough? Well the jury is still out and whilst Colin, Barbet, Vibe and Djuricin have all flickered into life spasmodically, far too much is being asked of them too soon and it is quite frankly unfair to expect too much of any of them.

We now have a welcome respite and a break of two weeks before what is now turning into a massively important match against Rotherham, a team that currently looks as if it will be competing with us to fill one of the three dreaded relegation spots.

So what do we do in the next fortnight or so to ensure that we arrest the slump?

Here are my suggestions, none of which are likely to make me popular with the powers that be at the club:

  1. Look to bring in an older head to mentor and support Lee Carsley. Somebody like Steve Coppell would be ideal for the role. He would command instant respect and be able to provide a wealth of experience and football knowledge that is sadly lacking throughout the club at the moment. Steve Perryman fulfils a similar position with Paul Tisdale at Exeter City and adds massive value. In truth I would really welcome a new Head Coach from outside to provide a fresh voice, outlook and perspective but I fear and suspect that is a step too far at the moment despite it being a seemingly obvious move
  2. I would offer our two Co-Directors of Football some external assistance too. Someone similar to Andrew Mills (now working at Millwall) who knows the English game inside out and has extensive contacts with agents, managers and coaches and can ensure that we are offered the right players and that we get the deals done for the right price without waste or extravagance. It might also be that come January we could be looking to move some players on too and we need someone experienced in handling such a difficult situation and getting players out of the door
  3. Compromise our ideals a little bit given our current circumstances and try and find, hard though it will be, a couple of battle hardened, wizened veterans who can become teachers and leaders, things that we currently lack both on the pitch and at the training ground. I can still remember a gnarled Jimmy Gabriel coming to us back in 1974. He could barely run or move around the pitch but he inspired a young team to play above themselves and avoid the threat of re-election
  4. More controversially, find a couple of independent non-executive directors, men of substance and experience who are not beholden to Matthew Benham, who will have the forcefulness of character and the strength of mind to make their opinions heard at Board Meetings so that the Owner’s wishes are not just nodded through but their implications are discussed and fully thought through before a decision is made. Sometimes the word no has to be heard

I spoke at length tonight with my friend and fellow Brentford fanatic Gary Marson and he summed up the situation far better than I ever could and I totally concur with his wise words and opinion so eloquently expressed:

The vast majority of Bees fans recognise that Matthew Benham’s philosophy is the only game in town. His approach of securing competitive advantage through innovation and risk has already secured us success beyond our wildest dreams and in the long term is the only realistic way in which we can hope to continue to punch so far above our weight in a stale and rigid footballing hierarchy where there is normally such a stifling correlation between financial resource and performance.

The present crisis therefore need not, indeed must not, mark the end of the Benham project. But in order to preserve the long term strategic vision, not to mention his enormous investment, he may be well advised to consider a short term tactical retreat and re-think the approach for the remainder of the season. This means supplementing the playing squad and management team, both of which appear to be desperately naive at the rarefied level of the English second tier, with the type of solid if unexciting domestic experience and organisational knowhow that we might have previously disregarded.

We have attempted open heart surgery to cure a minor ailment and as a result found ourselves in intensive care. Before we can begin to think about a healthy and sustainable return to full fitness we must do everything that it takes to ensure that the patient survives.

The future can still be ours, but for now it must wait.

Why Marinus Has Gone – 28/9/15

Today’s news that Brentford Head Coach Marinus Dijkhuizen and his assistant, Roy Hendriksen have both left Griffin Park frankly comes as little surprise. The official statements from the club and Chairman Cliff Crown are brief, carefully worded and they take pains not to use the word. Parted company is the bland and anodyne expression used to explain their departure but let’s make no bones about it – the two of them have been sacked.

Dijkhuizen lasted a mere one hundred and twenty days in his post. Appointed on the first of June he departed on the twenty-eighth of September having presided over a mere nine competitive matches. Whilst he was officially titled Head Coach, he was team manager in everything bar name and should therefore be compared against previous occupants of that position.

Let’s get the history out of the way first. In modern times the previous shortest managerial tenure at the club was Eddie May’s who lasted nineteen games in his three months in charge followed by Leroy Rosenior and Terry Butcher who was in charge for twenty-three games and Scott Fitzgerald who managed one more match.

Eddie May potentially presents an interesting parallel for those of us who are conspiracy theorists. An unknown appointed out of left field from Dundalk with indecent haste by David Webb in August 1997 at a time when the club was in total disarray with a squad that had been decimated by the sale of players and the arrival of unknown journeymen replacements, he quite understandably struggled to get results and when the repeated promises of funds to improve the team failed to materialise he was sacked along with his assistant Clive Walker in November 1997, after just four league wins had left the club embroiled in a relegation battle which they ultimately lost on the last day of a quite dreadful season.

May was perceived as Webb’s dupe, the fall guy for the previous manager who had taken over as Chief Executive with the prime intention of ensuring that funds were brought in so that the club was debt free before it was sold to Ron Noades the following year.

Are there any similarities when we come to consider the reasons and rationale for the change in management that took place today?

I have thought long and hard about matters and whilst the start we have made to the season has been horrible there have certainly been extenuating circumstances. Let’s get the hard facts out of the way:

  • Brentford have gained only eight points from their first eight Championship matches and find themselves in nineteenth place, only two points off the bottom of the league
  • We have conceded the first goal in every match bar one and have yet to keep a clean sheet
  • The Bees have won only two matches, both against teams just promoted from Division One
  • We have lost two of our first four home games, could quite easily have lost all four and have trailed at half time in every game
  • A weakened team lost by four clear goals to Second Division Oxford United in the Capital One Cup
  • Performances have been stuttering and inconsistent, we find it hard to start matches on the front foot and there is no settled pattern of play

That is the prosecution case but there is an equally strong case for the defence that more than explains away our less then impressive start to the season:

  • Let’s try and keep a sense of perspective and simply take stock and recognise just how far we have come in such a short space of time particularly given our lack of resources compared to the overwhelming majority of our Championship rivals
  • The enforced sale and departure of five leading players from last season’s squad in Andre Gray, Jonathan Douglas, Moses Odubajo, Alex Pritchard and Stuart Dallas which rendered Dijkhuizen’s preseason preparations almost meaningless
  • Last season’s team included five potential match winners and game changers in Jota, Alan Judge, Odubajo, Pritchard and Gray – a figure currently reduced to one
  • A relentless and seemingly ever-increasing long-term injury list that has rendered key players such as Jota, Andreas Bjelland, Max Colin, Philipp Hofmann, Lewis Macleod and Josh McEachran hors de combat
  • The consequent need to blood members of the Development Squad who will certainly all benefit from the experience but for them to compete in the Championship at this stage of their career is a tough ask
  • Being forced to name only six substitutes including two goalkeepers at the strongest team in the league in Middlesbrough
  • The need to bed in simultaneously nearly half a team of newcomers from around Europe who have no knowledge of English conditions and The Championship and are not being buttressed by more experienced players around them
  • PitchGate – a total embarrassment for the club which necessitated the re-turfing of Griffin Park and the cancellation of the Birmingham home game
  • The scandalous situation at Jersey Road where the main training pitches are still unusable

Whilst there have been some rumblings and murmurings from supporters spoiled by the constant stream of success over the past three seasons and used to the wonderful attacking flair of Mark Warburton’s playoff team last season, the overwhelming majority of Brentford supporters are extremely patient and fair minded and were prepared to give Marinus more time, particularly given the almost insuperable problems he faced that were totally out of his control.

That being said there were growing concerns about his commitment to an impotent and restrictive 4-3-3 formation that patently wasn’t working given the limited resources he had and required constant changes on the hoof when we were chasing games that were already slipping away from us. Lasse Vibe, a proven international striker was hamstrung from being forced to play out wide on the right wing where he has been an isolated figure, rather than more centrally where he and Marco Djuricin looked a highly potent threat when they were finally allowed to play closer together.

Konstantin Kerschbaumer was an ever present in the team despite seemingly overwhelming evidence that he was unable to cope with the physicality of The Championship and the presence of expensive new signing Ryan Woods on the bench who has been clamouring for a start.

I have spoken to many of the key protagonists over the past few weeks and I have found absolutely no evidence that Marinus was in any way shape or form, overruled, instructed, hamstrung, restricted or second guessed in any of his key responsibilities in terms of picking the team, training and preparing them for action and most crucially in terms of game management, tactics and substitutions. He was given an entirely free hand and the freedom to act as he best saw fit. So any comparisons to Eddie May are totally inaccurate and invidious. Marinus was no puppet and was allowed to be his own man.

He had bought into the Brentford project and was happy with the new management structure. He was consulted on all player moves both in and out and whilst he would have liked some additional loan signings to cover for the current injury crisis, Marinus was content with the quality and calibre of the new signings.

So why then did he leave if he was not being made the scapegoat for a series of poor results that were to a large degree out of his control? Now this is where I have to resort to speculation and informed guesswork.

Perhaps the alarm bells were beginning to ring with the powers that be because of some of the onfield tactical and selection problems that I have previously mentioned earlier in this article as well as exploring in depth yesterday.

He also suffered in comparison with his predecessor. Mark Warburton was certainly a hard act to follow and his successor needed to get off to a flying start, something that was denied Marinus.

Warburton was also a workaholic control freak, in the nicest sense of the words. He arrived early at the training ground and left extremely late. Training routines were meticulously planned and organised well in advance and the players knew exactly where they stood and how they were going to spend their days.

It would appear that Marinus and Roy Hendriksen did not run such a tight ship in terms of either time keeping and preparation and a far more laissez faire atmosphere prevailed. This apparently did not go down well with either players or management.

I believe that today’s action has been taken by Matthew Benham on the recommendation of the Co-Directors of Football in order to nip matters in the bud before they can be allowed to get out of hand and beyond control.

It cannot be denied that this is an enormous blow to the credibility of the new regime at the club and I am sure that the media will not be slow to point fingers and make fun at our expense. Such are the vicissitudes of life and we will just have to cope with this opprobrium as best we can.

Brentford pride themselves on doing things differently to other clubs, thinking out of the box and acting far smarter than their rivals.  An enormous amount of due diligence was done before Marinus was hired and he interviewed exceptionally well and seemed to tick all the boxes. However the fact remains that actions speak louder than words and apparently he has not convinced the powers that be since he arrived and drastic action has been taken sooner rather than later to avert the slump before too much damage is done.

It could reasonably be argued that this is an extremely brave move rather than a panicked knee jerk reaction and this could even be a turning point for us in what is developing into a tough season and one where consolidation is perhaps the best we can hope for rather than pushing on from last season’s massive and incredible achievements. As they say – one step backwards – two steps forward!

Lee Carsley is an excellent choice to take over the mantle as Head Coach. Supported by Paul Williams he is a known entity who has already gained the unconditional respect of the entire squad. He is an experienced and proven international footballer who can put his caps on the table and he has previous managerial experience at Coventry City. Most importantly he has a deep working knowledge of The Championship and he will be keen to put one over one of his old clubs, Birmingham City, at Griffin Park tomorrow night.

So on the surface this has not been a good day for the club, but when you drill down deeper and think matters through, then perhaps it has been a brave and correct decision to relieve Marinus and Roy of their jobs.

All will surely be revealed and become apparent over the coming weeks and months.

Splashing The Cash – Part One – 7/7/15

The news that Brentford had broken the two million pound transfer fee barrier when they signed Danish international defender Andreas Bjelland from FC Twente last week shook me to the core, as I am sure it did every other long-established Bees fan, brought up as I was supporting a club with a well deserved reputation for caution and parsimony in the transfer market.

This is the club that in recent times eagerly snatched the money on offer for star strikers such as John O’Mara, Andy McCulloch, Dean Holdsworth, Nicky Forster and DJ Campbell and replaced them instead with cheap nonentities and journeymen like Stan Webb, Lee Holmes, Murray Jones and Calum Willock. Oh, and in Nicky Forster’s case the stupendously idiotic decision was taken not to replace him at all.

That was then and this is now as the Bees have now paid three transfer fees in excess of a million pounds in the last year for Moses Odubajo, Jota and the aforementioned Bjelland and I suspect that there are more to come too.

In order to highlight just how much our approach towards investing in emerging young talent has changed since Matthew Benham took over control of the club, it is illuminating to look back over the past century and see how our record transfer fee gradually and slowly increased in value with a few blips along the way.

Middlesborough were the first club to pay a four figure sum for a player in 1905 when they signed Alf Common from Sunderland. Brentford took twenty years to match them when they invested one thousand pounds, or forty thousand pounds at today’s equivalent value, on centre forward Ernie Watkins from Southend. This was rightly seen as a massive sum for an impoverished and struggling club, but the gamble paid of as the threat of re-election was averted and he scored a club record twenty-four goals in the following season.

The wonderfully named fullback, Baden Herod, cost fifteen hundred pounds from Charlton three years later but Harry Curtis quickly cashed in on him when Spurs offered four thousand pounds for him in 1929, or one hundred and seventy-seven thousand pounds at today’s value.

Despite Brentford’s meteoric rise in the mid to late 30s the highest fee paid at that time by Harry Curtis was a mere six thousand pounds to Hearts for star striker Dave McCulloch, or just under three hundred thousand pounds in today’s figures. He also provided massive value for money, scoring ninety times for the club in three years and playing for Scotland, before surprisingly being sold to Derby County for a fee of nine and a half thousand pounds – a sum not far short of the then British record transfer fee.

So even at the time of Brentford’s greatest success, money still talked and our star asset was sold and then not properly replaced. How many times since then have we seen that self-same scenario repeat itself?

Jackie Gibbons and Ron Greenwood were brought in soon after the Second World War for eight and nine thousand pounds respectively and both were fine players, and the five-figure barrier was finally broken in 1952 with the astonishing signing of the legendary centre forward Tommy Lawton for an eye watering sixteen thousand pounds from Notts County. Lawton had scored almost a goal per game in twenty-three England internationals, but at thirty-two years of age he was well past his best. He was still a massive attraction though and the chance to watch a fully fledged star saw gates soar, with thirty-one thousand watching his home debut against Swansea. He performed decently on the pitch and became player-manager before a decline set in and he resigned before making a surprise return to the First Division with Arsenal.

Relegation back to the Third Division in 1954 saw the beginning of a near-decade of austerity where the club, particularly under the astute management of Malcolm MacDonald relied upon a conveyor belt of local youngsters and cheap imports from junior football in MacDonald’s native Scotland and transfer fees were a rarity. Despite the lack of investment he twice almost led his team back into the Second Division but fell just short, and with the end of the maximum wage and money in short supply a weakened and depleted squad dropped into the bottom division in 1962.

New Chairman Jack Dunnett blew out the cobwebs around Griffin Park and determined to spend in order to buy the club back to respectability. An all international forward trio of Johnny Brooks, Billy McAdams and John Dick supported by other expensive purchases in John Fielding, Matt Crowe and Mel Scott, reversed the slump and saw the Fourth Division title won in 1963 with a massive ninety-eight goals scored.

John Dick became Brentford’s record signing when we splurged seventeen thousand five hundred pounds on the experienced thirty-two year old Scotland international forward who had been West Ham’s top scorer in Division One just the year before. The football world was bemused at how the Bees had managed to persuade Ron Greenwood to sell him and suspected that the old boys’ network had come into play, but the West Ham manager knew that he had a young converted wing half called Geoff Hurst ready and waiting in the reserves to fill the vacancy upfront!

Over sixty thousand pounds had been spent in the transfer market in order to build a team that won promotion back to the Third Division and the spending did not end there, as within the next eighteen months additional major signings such as Dai Ward, Mark Lazarus, Allan Jones, Chic Brodie, George Thomson, Jimmy Bloomfield, Joe Bonson, Billy Cobb and Ian Lawther took the total expenditure on players since Dunnett took over to a sum in excess of one hundred and fifty-thousand pounds, a figure that would have been significantly increased if an audacious forty thousand pound bid for former international striker Gerry Hitchens, now playing for Torino, had been accepted.

Brentford had gone from famine to feast and to put all this expenditure into context, Dunnett spent the equivalent at today’s prices of over two million pounds on transfer fees, predominantly on a series of undoubtedly talented but in the main, experienced players whose best days had long since gone and who had little or no resale value. Indeed we did not recoup our investment on any of the players who he brought into the club. He gambled on getting the club back into the Second Division but after a narrow miss in 1965 an appalling turnaround saw the Bees back in the bottom division in 1966.

These were the economics of the madhouse and it was a policy that came within a whisker of destroying the club in 1967 when, scenting blood, QPR mounted an abortive takeover bid. Disaster was narrowly averted but we were holed beneath the water line and the next few years after Dunnett decamped to Notts County saw budgets slashed, squad numbers reduced and austerity rule. With priority naturally given to paying off the now massive debt, transfer fees would become a distant memory for the foreseeable future.

Final Cover 020615



For anyone interested in reading my take on everything that happened both on and off the pitch last season, as well as the odd diversion into nostalgia, player profiles and club history, leavened with some (hopefully) pertinent and amusing comments, my new book Ahead Of The Game is available now.

Here are the Links to where the book can be purchased:




Published 17 June 2015 | 978-1-910515-14-3 | 408 pages | Print and Kindle | £15.99, £8.99

Hopeless! – 15/2/15

Over two thousand Brentford supporters travelled to The Valley on Saturday afternoon by car, bus, train and boat all full of hope, if not expectation, that the Bees could put the troubles of the past week behind them and turn on a morale boosting display. But the only team whose confidence was boosted was Charlton who ended their long run without a win and strolled to an easy and comfortable three goal victory against a lethargic, dispirited and well under-par Brentford team.

Before the game the talk was that the mood in the camp was positive and confident and that the team was both determined and well prepared to put on a performance that would demonstrate their support for beleaguered manager Mark Warburton and ensure that their playoff charge was not derailed. So much for good intentions and brave words. The body language did not look right from the off and a well below strength team lacking the presence of Jake Bidwell, James Tarkowski and of course, Alan Judge, started slowly and soon got worse.

Brentford’s success this season has been based on a high tempo pressing game with the ball moved quickly and accurately from side to side of the pitch, maintaining possession for long periods whilst probing for an opening and when one appears for the pace to be increased suddenly so that we can take advantage. What we saw today was a team playing without belief and seemingly going through the motions. Their confidence and pace had been sapped as if by an unseen force as the ball was turned over with monotonous regularity, Gray was starved of support and resorted to niggly fouls, Pritchard and Jota were peripheral influences and Douglas and Toumani probed but to little effect. But for Button Charlton would have scored  far more than their one first half effort as the defence in front of him creaked ominously. Moses seemed to be wearing lead boots so seldom did he forage forward and he was often left trailing and left gaps in defence, Craig and Dean were willing but porous and poor Nico Yennaris was the sacrificial lamb at left back where he was hung out to dry with little support either in front or beside him.

No shots on target was a fair end result for an anaemic and witless first half performance and thankfully the tempo increased after the interval but although we maintained possession better and even ventured into the final third more often, we never threatened and Charlton scored another soft goal on the first occasion they threatened. Jota and Douglas seemed to bicker as we prepared to kick off and the heads went down even further. We huffed and puffed and improved significantly when the invisible Jota as well as Diagouraga and Dallas were replaced by Long, Toral and the excellent Tommy Smith in a rare triple substitution which demonstrated the manager’s displeasure with what he was watching on the pitch.

Charlton panicked when they realised that they were on the verge of their first win for three months and did their best to help us by funnelling back into two banks of four and invited us onto them. Douglas and Pritchard forced comfortable saves from Henderson before we gave away a comic cuts goal in injury time which simply highlighted how poor we were on the day. All three goals were totally preventable and the defence hardly covered themselves in glory, Dean in particular being responsible for two of the goals with Craig running him close in ineptitude. This was not a Brentford performance that we witnessed yesterday – or certainly not one that I had seen since the dog days of the Andy Scott regime. We looked listless, rudderless and played without passion, desire or organisation and our customary sense of togetherness seemed to have disappeared as players did not run to support each other, create space or help their colleagues out.

Charlton are to be congratulated as they fully deserved their win but it is not sour grapes when I say that they were a poor team who we made look far better than they are. What does that make us then? Hopefully a good team having a bad day at the office, weakened by injuries and suspensions and a lack of depth in the squad rather than a team whose spirit has been broken by the undercurrents and uncertainty that has reigned at the club since Tuesday when The Times broke the news of Matthew Benham’s supposed decision to replace Mark Warburton at the end of the season. Hopefully this was a one-off rather than conclusive evidence that things are broken beyond repair.

So where do we go from here? That depends totally on what is said in the club statement that is expected to be released on Monday. Clarity, certainty, harmony and closure are needed if the club is not to be torn apart by the confusion and feeling of total negativity that currently reigns. Nobody at the club has covered himself in glory if the media stories, rumours and scuttlebutt circulating throughout the ground yesterday are correct. As sole owner, Matthew Benham is fully entitled to to change the management structure as, when and how he wants, however he was surely totally naive or badly advised if he expected his alleged exploratory and preliminary discussions with potential replacements for Warburton to remain confidential. Whoever leaked the story to The Times has also succeeded in totally destabilising the club and holing it beneath the waterline. As that infamous statement asserted on Tuesday, football is a village and it is very hard to keep matters secret, as has been proved this week.

As for Mark Warburton, given what he has achieved since he took charge, it is harsh indeed that it would appear that his contract is not going to be renewed, but there has to be a reason for this decision that on the face of it appears to be bizarre in the extreme. Has there been a breakdown in the trust and mutuality that seemed to mark his relationship with Benham? Who knows if Warburton flouted the owner’s instructions and refused to rubber stamp the signing of a number of foreign imports during the transfer window or why deals seemed to go sour at the last moment. He should know by now that Matthew Benham expects to get his own way and can generally back up his decisions with the statistics to prove his case. Did he also reject the offer of additional specialised coaching assistance? That is yet another relevant and unanswered question given how poor our set piece delivery was at Charlton.

The facts though speak for themselves. We are on the slide and the squad is currently weakened by fatigue, injuries and suspension and is sorely stretched. Yesterday the acknowledged achilles heel of lack of cover or enhanced quality at left back, centre half and striker came back to haunt us as Dean and Craig played as if running through treacle wearing gumboots, Yennaris was out of his depth and Gray, surly and isolated. If every Brentford supporter, and, it would seem, the owner can see where the problems lies and the funds exist to bring in quality rather than quantity and the right players were available and willing to come to Brentford, why spurn the opportunity? Another question that needs answering.

We brought in four players in the transfer window, but none of them have helped us, Laurent is one for the future, O’Connell has been sent out on loan when perhaps he might well have been better served remaining at the club, Macleod has not even trained with the squad yet through injury and Long is really not the answer. I am excited by all three of our permanent new additions but they all appear to have been signed with next season in mind when we desperately need new blood now.

I fully understand when Warburton states that McCormack, Bidwell, Macleod, Judge and Tarkowski will all soon be available for selection but the squad also needs enhancing with more quality as well as more numbers if we are to maintain our challenge. The loan window is now open and perhaps we will look to reinforce central defence and up front over the next few weeks but the question then has to be asked who will be in charge?

There are, as far as I can, see five possible outcomes which could be announced next week in a statement which obviously needs to come jointly from Benham and Warburton:

  1. Matthew Benham changes his mind and declares that he is going to renew Mark Warburton’s contract
  2. Benham and Warburton state that no decision about the manager will be made until the end of the season
  3. Mark Warburton will be staying at the club when his contract expires but in another capacity
  4. It is announced that Mark Warburton will be leaving when his contract expires but everyone remains fully committed to working together until the end of the season
  5. An agreement has been made to settle Mark Warburton’s contract and he is leaving immediately

Please let me know if I have missed something out but I have sat on the sofa with a glass of Pinot Noir racking my brains throughout most of Saturday evening trying to come up with every possible permutation and nothing else presented itself to me.

Numbers one and two are total non-starters and three seems highly unlikely, all for reasons that I have given at length in previous articles over the past few days. That leaves numbers four and five. Leaving The Valley today in the slough of despond, I was certain that it would be better for everyone if there was an immediate parting of the way as, cruel though it would be, that might well be the only way to bring club, owner, players, management and supporters back onto the same page. Now having listened to Mark Warburton’s positive and eminently sensible post match interview, I am not so sure.

Frankly I do not believe that anyone at the club yet knows what will be the outcome and I fully suspect that there will be talks and negotiations going on throughout the day when emotions have hopefully cooled after Saturday’s fiasco. Hopefully Saturday saw the nadir of our fortunes and our reputation, both of which have taken a massive battering over the past few days. I am totally sanguine about our mid and long term future, but it is the next few weeks and months that worry me, and I am sure, every other Brentford supporter. When fans are arguing vehemently with each other over the best way forward and some are even openly questioning Benham’s bona fides it is time to draw a line and end this madness.

A Director’s Role – Part 2 – 15/1/15

joshBrentford Vice Chairman Donald Kerr today continues his explanation of what a Brentford director actually does and starts by talking about some of his experiences visiting other teams on Brentford away days:

Like visiting someone’s home, spending the match in the board room occasionally gives you an insight into how things are going on behind the scenes, how united the other club appears to be, or how genuinely supportive they are of the team management or style of play. As a result, the subsequent news of a takeover or of a team manager’s departure is sometimes slightly less of a shock.

If I was asked for my biggest surprise as a visiting director it would be the trip to MK Dons last Easter Monday. When we arrived, as usual about 1.30pm, I met their manager, Karl Robinson, as I was picking up my ticket from reception. He overheard me announce that I was a visiting director and spent ten minutes congratulating me on Brentford’s promotion the previous Friday and discussing the prospect of our new stadium. He confessed that Griffin Park was a extremely horrible place for visiting teams and managers to visit (he didn’t say extremely!) and that he hoped we retained that aura when we finally moved. When I finally reached the boardroom, their Chairman, Pete Winkelman was standing there, complete with a tray of champagne, demanding that everyone toasted our success. He also spent some time addressing the room, singing our praises as a club that was doing things the right way and one that deserved the promotion we had just achieved. I know that as a Trust Director I should perhaps take a different view of MK Dons but it was difficult not to admire the style with which they accepted another disappointing season for them, and by contrast our success.

I remember only too vividly the last season we spent in the Championship, and to my shame recall setting off for Bristol City on the last day of that awful campaign and then, not far from home, turning back because I sensed we had no chance of getting the win we needed, and I couldn’t face the prospect of another and final miserable defeat. I never envisaged that we would struggle in the same way this season, and, having the privilege of inside knowledge of our pre-season planning, which started well before the end of last season, I was confident we would do more than just survive. However, even if I was allowed to place a bet, I couldn’t have guessed that we would be in the top six at Christmas or that we would be playing the sort of football we are seeing home and away almost every week. Thinking back to the game at Middlesborough, I feel that their dominance of that game was what I expected we might experience much more often than has been the case. And, with the exception of the Ipswich game on Boxing Day, we haven’t since repeated that experience of being well beaten.

As directors, we generally don’t hear about players being scouted or potential transfer targets until shortly before names are more generally known, and that I feel is exactly as it should be. We have enough off field matters to deal with, and that is where our expertise, such as it is, is best exercised.. But we are keenly aware of the work being done by Frank McParland and those who support him, and the extent and reach of the scouting system. And, long before the season started, we knew that the players being signed had been subject to close scrutiny, and that the club’s ambition was to compete rather than simply to consolidate. Notwithstanding that, I think it is astonishing how quickly Andre, Moses and Jota have adapted to the demands of the Championship, and to how our own League One promotion winners have also thrived at the new level. Toumani has been like a new signing, and Stuart Dallas is developing exactly as we were promised when we first signed him. Of course, the worst moment of the season so far was the terrible injury to Scott Hogan at Rotherham.

Beyond the first team, I have tried to see a couple of youth and development squad matches this season and there are some encouraging signs of players finally breaking through from our own academy. We are investing a lot of time and money in that area and, as directors, we are constantly looking at the timescale of potential return on that investment. The recruitment of Lee Carsley is a real coup in this respect and I know he feels there are one or two stars in the ranks below the first team squad. There can’t be any fans that don’t want to see Montell Moore make that final step up, and it is great to see Alfie Mawson doing so well at Wycombe too. One of the clues to the potential in the Academy is the selection of players for teams above their natural age group and we have several earning that right at the moment. Maybe we’ll see them in pre-season games next summer.

It is so encouraging to hear from Donald that things are going so swimmingly off the pitch as well as on it. The club is in good and safe hands, and there appears to be a well thought through and realistic strategy being applied and followed.

My own brief experience of the Brentford board was totally different. I was invited to join it by Eddie Rogers shortly after the Southampton FA Cup tickets fiasco in 2005 with the specific remit of trying to improve the professionalism of the club’s communication with the supporters and media alike. This shouldn’t have been too difficult a task given the low base from which I was starting, as the club was rarely either positive or proactive in this crucial area. I was then asked to liaise with the team manager at the time as well as pave the way for the recruitment of a new Chief Executive.

For various reasons all of my plans were stymied and the goalposts changed completely, and I felt it impossible to remain a member of the board as it was organised at the time. This was a terrible shame as it had long been my ambition to become a member of the BFC Board and ideally use what knowledge and expertise that I had for the benefit of the club and its supporters, but it wasn’t meant to be and that is something that still causes me some sadness and regret nearly a decade later.

That is quite enough of my self-indulgence, and I am simply delighted that the club I love so much is now in such safe yet knowledgeable and ambitious hands.

And finally, Brentford signed a nineteen year old midfielder Josh Laurent to a Development Squad contract yesterday. So what, you might say, just another young hopeful trying to make his way, but I think this time things might be different. Josh comes from QPR and turned down a new contract with our old rivals to sign for us. Perhaps he realises which of the two clubs is on the rise?

He also has some experience of playing in the Conference on loan to Braintree, so he can obviously look after himself. Having listened to his Bees Player interview, he is certainly not lacking in confidence and he has come to Brentford because he feels he can play first team football for us in the near future. Ambition and self-belief are all important to young footballers and let’s just hope that he can walk the walk as well as talk the talk. What makes his capture even more pleasing is the gnashing of teeth and vitriol being spouted on the QPR message boards as their supporters bemoan the loss of one of their most promising youngsters to a club that even they have to acknowledge is better run and has a more focused and developed strategy than their own. Happy Days!