The Inside Track – Football & The Media – 26/2/16

Peter Lumley has been a regular contributor to this column recently and his razor sharp reminiscences of over seventy years of watching the Bees are always welcome and of great interest.

Today he has used the knowledge gained from his professional experience of being a local journalist covering the club and then a public relations practitioner to provide his viewpoint on Brentford’s current PR stance and approach.

Peter, as always, holds strong opinions and trenchant views, and it is perfectly obvious that there is much that has happened at the club over the last twelve traumatic months that has certainly not been to his liking and which has left him feeling angry, concerned and confused.

There has been much debate recently regarding Brentford’s expertise (or lack of it) in communicating with various media outlets – newspapers, radio, television and social media in general. It is a subject that is close to my heart in that I have had the privilege of working on both sides of the fence, so to speak.

My first job on leaving school at the age of sixteen was to join the Middlesex County Times at Ealing as a trainee cub reporter with a special interest in sport. At that age I had already been a Griffin Park regular for six years since my first visit in 1942.

I should point out that the newspaper had a weekly circulation of over fifty thousand copies and covered an area embracing Ealing, West Ealing, Hanwell, Greenford and Northolt – a very fertile catchment area for Brentford fans at a time when the club encountered so many severe financial problems.

One of my primary objectives was to help the club by trying to expand the coverage and gain greater support. I also wrote a weekly column covering a range of local sports activities – similar to a blog in modern parlance. One regular feature of that column was references to Brentford of which at least ninety percent could fairly be described as more than favourable or positive.

Among my many sources of information were a number of players with whom I formed a friendship and who were always interested in what I had written about their performances and those of their team mates. And I can honestly claim that I never betrayed a confidence nor did I compromise their relationship with Griffin Park officials.

For all these reasons I looked forward to establishing a close working relationship with senior club officials to share in a common cause. But subsequent events proved otherwise. There were two local newspaper rivals at that time. One was the iconic George Sands, of the “Middlesex Chronicle” a lifelong bachelor who devoted much of his life to Brentford and covered every Bees game, home and away for season after season. The other was Ernie Gifford, of the “Brentford and Chiswick Times”. Both gave the impression that they watched Brentford through red-and-white tinted spectacles.

This quite naturally endeared them to the Brentford management, particularly the club’s General Secretary, the late Denis Piggott, who was also General Manager/Secretary for a brief period. And it was this fact that led me into my first confrontation with club officialdom. Regularly on Thursday mornings I phoned Mr. Piggott to try and glean any information of potential interest to my readers before going to press later on in the day.

Invariably Mr. Piggott was less than enthusiastic about giving any information away even though he was well aware that my intention was to try and whip up interest among potential supporters for the next match.

Mr. Piggott seemed much more interested in complaining about any criticisms I had levelled against Brentford performances in the previous week’s edition. The fact that I had significantly extended the coverage of Brentford games went utterly unappreciated.

On one very memorable occasion, when I had written an article that club officials took particular exception to, I walked across the Braemar Road forecourt to be confronted by the then manager, Malcolm MacDonald, who threatened to punch me on the nose if I ever repeated the perceived offence.

And my alleged criticism that caused so much consternation would look like praise compared to some of Greville’s critiques of recent Brentford performances, particularly the one at Brighton!

But one Brentford Official who did appreciate the extra coverage given to the Bees, warts and all, was the late, great, Eric White who for a number of years acted as the club’s Press Officer. We became firm friends right up until his sudden and untimely death.

Another was no less than Mr. Jack Dunnett, who as Club Chairman invited me and other journalists to his luxury home for a pre-Christmas party for players and club officials. Mr. Dunnett was later to become a villain among Griffin Park fans as he prepared to sanction a takeover by West London arch rivals, Queens Park Rangers.

Fortunately the club was saved from extinction by another wealthy benefactor, Mr. Ron Blindell who succeeded Mr. Dunnett as Club Chairman. Mr. Dunnett later moved to Nottingham on becoming their Member of Parliament.

My years covering Brentford games spanned the years 1948/64. It was a period that produced an exciting but nerve-racking roller coaster of a ride but was also dramatically newsworthy for a young local journalist.

1) There were two relegations from the Second Division to the Fourth and promotion back to the Third.

2) The retirement of that great manager, Mr. Harry Curtis, who in the pre-war days took Brentford from the Third Division to the First.

3) England international Leslie Smith, hero of Brentford’s two-nil victory over Portsmouth in the London War Cup Final at Wembley in 1942, returned to Griffin Park for a short spell on being released by Aston Villa.

4) Perhaps my favourite player of all time, Ken Coote, completed more than 500 appearances for the club.

5) The defection of two of the stars of that wonderful half-back line of Tony Harper, Ron Greenwood and Jimmy Hill.

6) The great Tommy Lawton was Player/Manager for a brief period.

7) The skill and artistry of wonderful players like Johnny Brooks, Peter McKennan, Johnny Rainford, Dai Ward and John Dick.

8) Starlets Peter Broadbent and Jimmy Bloomfield, plus the Terrible Twins Jim Towers and George Francis, who were both so deadly in front of goal were all transferred, much to the dismay of every Griffin Park fan. How we could do with two strikers of their calibre today?

All these events – good and bad – were the subject of detailed analyses in my reports and personal weekly column. But it was my reporting of the various setbacks that befell the club that caused me the greatest heartache in terms of my relationship with the club’s management who appeared to perceive any criticism in a local paper as an act of disloyalty.

As an aside, it was my experience as a journalist that led me to encourage a school friend of one of my stepsons to follow his dream of becoming a sports journalist. He is none other than Neil Ashton, the Daily Mail’s brilliant award winning soccer correspondent, who also has his own regular Sunday morning slot on Sky TV.

Back to the debate on how the club should handle criticism from the Press.

A number of contributors urge the club to hire the services of a professional PR practitioner with the specific responsibility to improve the image of Brentford among the various Press outlets and to the UK football community at large.

I take a contrary view based on my experience spanning some twenty years of working for an organisation that represented multi-national companies in an industry that has been regularly been under the media spotlight and has been the target of much criticism – the pharmaceutical industry.

I make these points to put into some sort of perspective the demands placed on such organisations to represent themselves to the press in the same way that football clubs, in general and Brentford in particular seek to influence media and public opinion.

My experiences convinced me that while PR practitioners have a role to play in routine press relations activities, organisations should always seek to rely on a chief or senior executive to step up to the plate and appear on television or radio to put the case on behalf of their club or company. They will always command more authority and credibility than is possible with a slick smooth-talking PR man or woman.

A good example of this was when Brentford’s joint Co-Director of Football, Phil Giles, gave an interview to explain the club’s position on bringing in new players (or not!) during the recent January transfer window.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone agreed with me but, on balance, I believe his contribution was appreciated by a majority of those who saw it.

In conclusion, I would like to mention a particular hobby horse of mine. I fully appreciate that benevolent club owner, Matthew Benham, has always pursued a policy of staying out of the limelight so far as his role is concerned. And, of course, no one should criticise him for that. It is clearly his right to do so.

But I sincerely believe that the so-called “sacking” of Mark Warburton just over a year ago was so controversial that it demanded a much more forthright explanation than was offered at the time by the club chairman on behalf of the owner. And who better to give that explanation to the media, and to thousands of loyal but baffled supporters, like myself, than the man who was the driving force behind the intended change of direction?

With the benefit of hindsight I hope he might be persuaded to give an update on what he, and members of the Board of Directors, believe has been achieved in the last twelve months towards the stated aim of improving the recruitment of better players and coaches.

Another Fans’ Forum could certainly provide an appropriate platform!

Thank you, Peter, for your fascinating insight into the paternalistic way in which football clubs viewed their local paper and the cosy relationship that existed far too often between them.

As for his suggestion and exhortation for better, more open and regular communication between club and supporters, I really do not see how anybody can disagree with him.

From my perspective I always feel that it is fascinating and instructive to hear it from the horse’s mouth from club officials as well as the players, past and present when they are contributing to Bees Player, and it is always illuminating to be made privy to the inside track on what is really going on in and around the club and to how footballers think.

What does everybody else have to say on this subject which is totally relevant given the current circumstances?

A View From Afar – 13/2/16

It is always wonderful to hear from a member of the Brentford family who lives far away from Griffin Park and Graham Tyrrell certainly qualifies as he has spent the last twenty years ensconsed in the United States of America.

Distance certainly seems to lend a sense of perspective and detachment and from what he has written below it is quite obvious that Graham is an astute, perceptive and knowledgeable supporter who maintains his love and passion for the club despite the thousands of miles that separate him from TW8.

Here are his memories of being a Brentford supporter for the last thirty years, and given that I found myself marooned in New York for three years in the mid 80s, far away from my beloved Brentford FC, I can quite empathise with the problems Graham also faced in doing his utmost to keep in touch with everything that was going on at the club as I shared the identical frustrations in those pre internet days of trying to work with all manner of obsolete technology that was patently not yet up to the job.

I’ve been a Bees supporter since the mid 80s.

One of my first games was the Freight Rover Trophy final against Wigan – a precursor to three decades of Wembley misery.

I moved to the US permanently in 1994. So that makes it one decade of living and breathing BFC at close hand and two decades of following their ups and downs from afar.

During this time I can safely say my loyalty to the club hasn’t wavered once. But it definitely requires a different type of loyalty compared to that exhibited by the amazing fans who spend serious amounts of time and money going to games home and away every week.

To begin with, following a club like Brentford required creativity and patience. In 1994, the internet barely existed and was certainly not the endless wealth of information it has become today. This meant that the primary sources of any Brentford news were the BBC World Service (on the elusive long wave) and Richmond & Twickenham Times clippings sent by my Mum (arriving about ten days after the games).

Over time the options to stay in touch with the Bees have grown massively. Initially, the internet at least provided live score updates of sorts but that was basically like watching teletext.

Eventually, once the BBC started putting all of their radio content online – I soon realized I could happily listen to BBC Radio London and the wonderful Billy Reeves. At first this entailed lugging my laptop around the house and hoping the wifi wouldn’t cut out just as the panic-inducing words “there’s been a goal at Griffin Park” were announced.

Today, by contrast I can get the whole thing on my phone whilst walking the dogs, cleaning the car, you name it. Then there’s BFC Talk, Beesotted and You Tube highlights providing a great insight into how the team are performing and what the fans are thinking.

The personal emotional roller coaster is much the same. Standing in stunned silence in my dining room after Trotta’s penalty miss unable to comprehend what just happened or showing up to a business meeting with a huge grin after the 4-1 demolition of Fulham last year, being just a couple of examples.

But the back to reality moment is definitely a whole lot quicker when you’re not surrounded by other football fans, let alone fellow Bees supporters.

In recent years, the US, which traditionally resisted the lure of soccer, has really started to embrace the game – at least in my experience living in a big east coast city.

However, the focus is well and truly on the Premier League. NBC has done a great job of promoting not only the matches but the whole narrative and back stories that make following English football so compelling. And a special mention to Michael Davies and Roger Bennett aka The Men in Blazers. Their podcast does an incredible job of taking the typical pub banter of football fans and making it accessible to expats and US fans alike. Even for people not in the US, it’s worth checking out some time (www.meninblazers.com).

Soccer fans in the US are now starting to better understand the English football culture and, for example, the fact that teams can move up and down through the leagues. This makes for an interesting dilemma as people with no connection to the UK and new to the sport essentially get to pick a team. But what happens when lots of Americans follow Fulham because Clint Dempsey plays for them and they then get relegated…

Last season of course elevated the Bees to the second tier and this made explaining which team I support a whole lot easier. “We’re in the league below the Premier League – you know, like Bournemouth were last year and Aston Villa will be next year”.

They’re also occasionally on TV – the Boro play-off games for example. So to me, as an exiled fan, this higher profile and media coverage is just another important element of having Brentford in the Championship (a bit like skipping the first two FA Cup rounds). And for that, a hearty thanks to Matthew Benham and Mark Warburton for getting us there.

As for debate on whether BFC are moving in the right direction this term, I would say, looking at it from distance, they are, given the highly competitive environment.

It’s an oddity in some ways that US sports leagues tend to be almost controlled economies with salary caps and drafts of new talent, whereas English football is capitalism at its finest – with one significant perversion.

The Premier League now pays off the losers who are relegated. As we all know, this means the teams dropping down have a huge financial advantage and can cherry pick players from the competition. Given that environment (and the fact Mr. Benham is wealthy but not an oligarch or a sovereign wealth fund) I feel the Bees are doing very well to compete with the big boys.

As has been stated in your blog, last year the stars aligned. In my mind Warburton deserves a huge portion of credit for this. He clearly has great man-management skills and works well with David Weir to get the best out of players. I think his background in business, as well as football, has given him a unique skill set and perhaps a model for others to follow?

However, in retrospect, it does seem that other teams figured us out after half a season and those with the cash started circling our best players (an issue Warburton would have faced also). A big disappointment is that they have all gone to other Championship clubs – but again that’s the harsh reality.

One thing that I didn’t see too much mention of is the fact that we have (potentially) two big players to come in next season before we ever spend a pound of the incoming transfer funds in Bjelland and Hogan. Admittedly both are unproven in this league and both had ACLs, which can sometimes never truly be recovered from, but let’s hope both guys prove to be great “new signings” next season along with the ever elusive Mr. Macleod.

So here’s hoping for a strong start to next year (in the Championship of course)!

Naturally, the single biggest challenge of being an overseas supporter is not being able see a live game and it’s too bad that I’ll probably never see Jota ply his trade in a Brentford shirt or a Dallas screamer.

I’m really hoping I can make it back for one more game at Griffin Park before it is torn down. And assuming I do, I know the other fans will welcome a guy with a funny Anglo-American accent – because it’s always been a great and friendly club with pubs on the corners.

Plus I’ll be wearing my 1985 Freight Rover Final scarf, so I must be legit!

Thank you Graham for your contribution which I hope that everyone enjoys as much as I did.

Bees Top Fan – Barr-None? – 15/12/15

Brentford supporter Peter Lumley’s literary contributions have previously graced this column and today I am proud and delighted to say that he wants to pay tribute to a dear friend of his who is a fellow Brentford fanatic and someone that he believes is also the top Bees fan, Barr-none!

During my seventy-three years as a Brentford supporter I have naturally chosen my ‘heroes’ from the scores of talented players, managers and now coaches. But I do not want to overlook the thousands of supporters I have met on the terraces and in the stands over the years. So I have chosen one who, for me, has a record of support that is second to none and which epitomises the loyalty of a legion of fans.

He is John Barr, known by his friends as head of a clan calling themselves the ‘Barr Boys’.

Before going any further I should declare an interest. John and I have led ‘parallel lives’ that were described in the Brentford programme some months ago. First things first:

1) We were both born in the month of September; myself in 1932 and John a year later.
2) We both went to primary schools in Heston about the same time.
3) We both served two years of National Service with the RAF in the early 1950s.
4) We both embarked on careers in local newspaper journalism, firstly in Ealing, Southall and Hayes areas where we first met reporting on inquests at the West Middlesex Coroners’ Court at Ealing Town Hall.
5) We then both worked eventually for the pharmaceutical company, Glaxo (now GSK at Brentford), in the Press and Public Relations Department. John remained with the expanding global company for the rest of his working life while I moved to the industry’s trade association on which Glaxo was the leading British-owned company.
6) We both share a love of golf as a recreation, but our enthusiasm for the game outshines our competence.
7) And for the past 50 years or so we have, for much of the time, occupied adjoining season ticket seats in D Block, immediately in front of the Press Box.

I have encouraged my two sons, Nick and Mike, and two of my five grandsons, James and Matthew, to become Bees fans. Mike is a season ticket holder and the two grandsons have, in turn, been Junior Season Ticket holders.

But that ‘family achievement’ pales into insignificance when compared to John’s family record of memberships. So here it is:

1) Three brothers, Dennis, Brian and Cliff, of whom Dennis and Brian are sadly no long with us;
2) Two grandsons, John and Peter;
3) Two great-grandsons, Joshua, aged 7 and an established Junior Season Ticket holder, and Jasper (just five months at Christmas) has recently been enlisted in the BaBees.

Brother Cliff, retired journalist and ex-Middlesex Chronicle reporter in the era of legendary Bees scribe George Sands, has lived in Florida for many years but on his rare visits to the UK insists on seeing every game possible and otherwise maintains an active interest in the team’s performances through the internet and televised games.

John was one of the founder members of the Brentford Lifeline initiative some 30 years ago, a member of Bees United, a holder of the fund-raising Loan Bond (now donated back to BU), a subscriber to the Goalden Goals lottery and, with his ‘clan’ has sponsored home kits for many players including, most recently, Stuart Dallas and Alan McCormack. He has been a regular at end-of-season dinners and other social events, usually with family and friends.

It was his late older brother, Dennis, who introduced him to Griffin Park in the 1946-47 season and one of his early memories was seeing Bees beat Wolves by 4 – 1 in the old First Division. Sadly, the Bees were relegated soon after, and not for the first time!

Dennis had a son, David, who coincidentally was a friend of another David, the son of the late Eric White, the Bees press officer for many years and a pioneer of match day programmes.

Over the past 68 years, John has missed only a handful of home games and, at the age of eighty-two, still travels to all points of the UK to watch as many away games as possible. He is invariably accompanied by his fire officer grandson, also John Barr and affectionately known as ‘Little John’, a nickname bestowed on him when he first came to Griffin Park at the age of eight. ‘Little John’ is now over 6-feet tall. And has already been a season ticket holder for about 20 years.

There was a period of time in the 1960s when John worked for a newspaper group in North London and was ‘forced’ to report on teams such as Arsenal at Highbury, and semi-pros such as Enfield. He recalls that one of the consolations at Arsenal were the half-time refreshments and being in the press box with the famous Compton brothers, Denis and Leslie. But claims that most of the time he was thinking about how Brentford were performing.

These days, and for many decades, John has been sitting outside the press box at Griffin Park immediately in front of Bees Player commentator Mark Burridge. And John can often be ‘overheard’ on match commentaries urging the Bees to ‘get forward’ or for goal-keeper David Button to release the ball earlier.

He is not a great fan of the disciplined, but somewhat overdone, strategy of defenders passing the ball across the face of goal and then back to the keeper. In our days of schoolboy football and immediate post-war soccer, passing the ball across the face of goal was regarded as a cardinal sin! How times have changed.

John moved to the Thames-side village of Laleham from his family home in Heston some 21 years ago to find that one of his near neighbours was the iconic Peter Gelson who he sees regularly at football or shops and has a quick chat. (What they find to talk about I cannot possibly hazard a guess!).

When not able to follow Brentford away, John’s passion for football is met by visits to Staines Town who in recent times have been managed by Marcus Gayle and currently Nicky Forster. Their fixtures, and other non-league matches, often provides John with glimpses of former young Bees players.

We have discussed Brentford performances ‘ad infinitum’ over the years, but I can recall only one real difference of opinion and that was over the club’s shock decision to part with the services of manager Mark Warburton.

As former journalists and professional PR advisors, we agreed that the Board’s initial statement, responding to media leaks, was a communications disaster. But on the decision itself I was a severe critic, but John’s deep loyalty to the club led him to taking a much more conciliatory approach. So we had to agree to differ on that one.

I have to note that in recent weeks the club’s top management team has displayed a vast improvement in terms of PR/Communications, but not before time.

Finally, like me, one of John’s remaining ambitions is to see Brentford playing Premier League football at the new Lionel Road stadium.

If that ambition is fulfilled it is nothing less that John (and so many loyal fans) deserves for his dedication to the sporting love of his life.

Thank you Peter for this wonderful tribute to a very special man who I am also privileged to have met.

I wrote about Bob Spicer last year, the much missed veteran Brentford supporter whom I confess I still think about to this day and I am sure that there are many others out there like the two of them.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to write about other similar long-serving and loyal Brentford supporters as I am sure that they all have a great story to tell.

Over to all of you!

Damned If You Do… – 28/11/15

The airwaves and social media channels alike have been red hot with activity and comment, most of it negative, exasperated, mocking and even vituperative in tone, in response to Brentford Co-Director of Football Phil Giles’s statement last night updating the supporters on the current state of play regarding the head coaching position at the club.

This is what he had to say:

In Lee’s last post-match press conference, he discussed the possibility that the Nottingham Forest game would be his last in charge. This was the expectation of both Rasmus Ankersen and myself. Lee’s comments were made in good faith based on the conversations we held last week.

Circumstances this week have meant that we haven’t been able to make the change as originally anticipated. We will continue with our process to find the right long term Head Coach for Brentford, rather than make a hasty appointment.

Lee has done a superb job since taking charge in September and we look forward to our game with Bolton on Monday evening.

This has been enough to rouse much of the fanbase to fury.

Now before everyone starts with the accusation that I am merely a mouthpiece, shill, or an apologist for the club I will make the point that the purpose of these articles is simply for me to spout off and give my opinion about anything and everything that is happening in and around Brentford FC both on and off the pitch.

I try to avoid unnecessary knee-jerk reactions and, unlike Keith Stroud and Brendan Malone, allow myself time to think before making a final decision. I try as hard as I can to avoid factual errors by taking soundings from friends and contacts in and around – and sometimes well outside – the club and I always endeavour to check my sources before rushing into print. I also take the laws of libel very seriously indeed.

Of course I am probably proved wrong as often – or even more so, than I am correct in my musings, but that is just the luck of the draw. I welcome, publish and respond to any and all feedback and comments to what I write and I am quite used and inured to readers telling me that I am deluded in what I have to say.

I have also not held back in heavily criticising the club over its actions whenever I feel that it is justified. Just to give a couple of examples: I felt that certain individuals were naive in the extreme not to anticipate that ongoing behind closed doors negotiations with potential replacements for Mark Warburton would not leak out into the media and cause the horrendous destabilisation that threatened to jeopardise our promotion push last February. I also felt strongly that the club’s initial crisis management was inept and poorly executed in the extreme.

The appointment of Marinus Dijkhuizen was also totally bungled and we do not know yet how much its impact will eventually influence the outcome of this season given that we have been forced onto the back foot ever since.

I have given a great deal of thought to the current managerial or head coaching hiatus and as far as I am concerned the club cannot and should not be criticised in any way, shape or form for how it has managed and continues to deal with a difficult and complex situation.

Here is my reading of affairs and how they have developed since the end of September and the sacking of Marinus. I fully expect however that much of what I set down is not totally accurate but it is as close to the truth that I can get:

  1. An interim Head Coach is needed at short notice and Lee Carsley is the obvious immediate candidate given his previous, albeit limited, managerial experience and the respect he has gained from the entire squad since his arrival last season
  2. Lee is persuaded to sign on for the rest of the season despite his misgivings, possible concerns about the necessary commitment owing to his family situation and preference to remain as a development coach but he is assuaged by the knowledge that the club will be looking for a permanent replacement from the outset
  3. After two initial defeats, Lee Carsley, aided by the invaluable Paul Williams and Flemming Pedersen is able to put his stamp on affairs and the seemingly terminal decline is arrested and reversed. Not only that, the dramatic improvement in results leads to Lee winning a fully deserved Manager of the Month Award for October
  4. Lee remains entirely consistent and honest in all his public statements reiterating his preference for youth coaching and that he feels that he is not ready for a job of this magnitude which requires a far more experienced pair of hands
  5. Efforts are being made behind the scenes to identify and verify potential candidates for the permanent role but Carsley’s success means that he has bought us sufficient time to ensure that a panic or rushed appointment does not have to be made and that the optimum candidate can be sourced and ideally hired
  6. Given his success I would expect that efforts were made to persuade Lee to change his mind and take on the role on a permanent basis. Maybe he even prevaricated and considered the option too, but the end result remains the same. He does not want to continue in his post any longer than is strictly necessary
  7. A short list is being considered and soundings taken and three names appear in the media: Pep Clotet, Dean Smith and Justin Edinburgh
  8. There is no smoke without fire and it soon becomes evident that Clotet is the preferred candidate. He has limited managerial experience but is an acclaimed coach with an excellent track record, particularly for a man of his relative youth, and Swansea, where he is currently employed, would appear to be a benchmark and exemplar for how Matthew Benham wants his club to set up and play in terms of the quality and style of its football
  9. The situation at Swansea, however is complex, confused and ever changing. Will the manager stay, will he be sacked? Is he being pressurised to make changes in his coaching staff? Will the status quo finally prevail? Is the Chairman willing to allow Clotet to leave or does he want him to stay? Is he looking to extract compensation for him? To a large degree these questions remain unanswered and I am certain that there have been shifting sands over the past couple of weeks
  10. Assuming that Clotet is the man and that he has passed our due diligence (it is of course entirely possible that we have changed our mind too), then it must be a difficult, longwinded and frustrating challenge to firstly persuade him to leave the Premier League and take up the job at Griffin Park and then extract him from his current situation
  11. It would appear that last weekend Brentford believed that this interminable process was near to completion and that we were on the verge of announcing an appointment
  12. Lee Carsley was obviously kept fully updated on the progress of all negotiations and therefore quite reasonably made it clear in his post match interview that he fully expected that the Nottingham Forest match would be his last match in charge
  13. Unfortunately the goalposts changed and what we thought was almost a done deal is no longer the case. Has the change of heart come from Clotet? Has his club decided to hang onto him? Are agents muddying the water? Does his family prefer to stay put rather than move to London? Can we keep compensation and salary costs down to a manageable level and remain within our budgetary constraints? I cannot provide any firm answers to these or any other relevant questions
  14. The bottom line is that what we thought and honestly believed would happen has not yet taken place. Maybe the Clotet deal is dead. Perhaps there will, even now, be a change of heart from whoever is holding things up and he will still be appointed. Highly doubtful, in my opinion
  15. More likely we are on to our next preferred candidate who apparently is the Walsall manager, Dean Smith, and hopefully we will have better luck with him
  16. Second choice does not mean second best. I fully expect that we have identified at least two excellent and ideal candidates for the job either of whom the club would be happy to appoint. For my part I would have liked Clotet for the reasons previously expressed and feel that Smith also has the experience at the coalface to do well and has a football philosophy in line with our own
  17. The only consideration is to get things right this time. We cannot afford another poor appointment if the club is to continue to progress as we fully intend. Thankfully we do not have to make an appointment simply for the sake of doing so and can within reason, take whatever time is necessary
  18. As long, of course, as Lee Carsley continues to play ball and is prepared to hold the fort until the new man is in place. I have no idea if he has set a deadline or if he is willing to remain in charge for an indefinite period as necessary. My gut feeling regarding Lee’s state of mind is that the sooner we are in a position to appoint a new Head Coach the better
  19. I would also add that we are only one of three attractive managerial/head coaching vacancies in West London and it does not appear that either Fulham or Queens Park Rangers are having any more success in getting a deal over the line than we are

I feel that the club has acted entirely responsibly in this entire process and does not deserve the flack that it is receiving from all quarters. Hiring a new manager or head coach is an extremely complex and crucial undertaking. There are so many variables that can change or go wrong. You are dealing with a plethora of individuals, from the candidates themselves, to their agents and representatives. You then have to negotiate with the club and cope with family interests as well. In other words there is a lot of juggling that needs to be done and so much is totally out of your own hands.

I am happy and content that Lee Carsley will remain in charge on Monday and know that he will be fully focused on the task ahead. I also know that the massive amount of work being conducted by the club behind the scenes and under the radar will continue until we are ready to announce the identity of our new Head Coach and I am fully confident that this time it will be the right choice.

Normal Service Resumed – 8/11/15

It is always interesting and illuminating to read what the opposition fans have to say about us and the Blackburn supporters were in full voice both before and after yesterday’s draw at Ewood Park.

There had been several patronising comments beforehand from various ignoramuses who belittled us and felt that a long-overdue home victory was assured given that they were playing what they felt was a smaller and less established team like Brentford who they still thought should be confined to the lower divisions – shades of last season when many clubs felt that they were demeaning themselves and sullying their hands by playing us and that they had a divine right to the three points on offer. We are going to totally hammer them summed up the general smug tone of the prematch assessments and score predictions.

Their tone had changed when they came to review a game in which the Bees played most of the football and dominated for long stretches and were extremely unlucky not to have come away with a victory. Finally there was a grudging respect for the quality of Brentford’s display coupled with tons of vitriol aimed at the home team and their manager Gary Bowyer, in particular. Here are a cross-section of the comments that were made by some seriously fed up and disillusioned home supporters:

For me Brentford were by far the best team to visit Ewood Park this season. They reminded me of Bournemouth over the last couple of seasons.

We were second best today.

A fair point won against a decent and very much in-form Brentford side.

Brentford played us off the park.

It was probably a fair result. If anything Brentford were slightly the better team. Lee Carsley has done a good job as Brentford were well organised and very energetic.

Brentford played simple touch and move football and carved through our midfield at will.

Brentford harried us all over the pitch. In all reality, Brentford had the better chances and should have won.

As for Brentford, by far the best team I’ve seen at Ewood Park this season (far better than Burnley). They pass and move the ball really well and in the end I was pretty happy with the result.

I felt pleased and proud when I read these words as they reinforced what we already know, that we have witnessed a massive renaissance and change in the Bees over the past four weeks or so and that opposing supporters can also clearly recognise our quality.

We are no longer a soft touch or bear any resemblance to that fairly disorganised rabble which earlier this season customarily ran out of steam long before the end of every match and were an easy prey for the predators who inhabit the Championship.

Lee Carsley and Paul Williams have stripped us bare, taken us back to basics and then put us back together again and we are slowly but surely regaining our touch and are going some way towards repeating our role as the surprise packet that we were for so much of last season.

We are trying to replicate what worked so well for us last season and are now pressing far higher up the pitch and playing simple and accurate pass and move football with the ball being moved quickly and slickly between a five man midfield who rotate their positions at will.

We are retaining possession but also looking to do something with the ball and create chances in the final third as possession for possession’s sake is a total waste of time. In that respect we are also getting the ball forward quicker than we have been accustomed to and there is also some pace in the team which helps us turn defence into attack.

We haven’t got everything right yet as our lone striker is still far too isolated as we sometimes struggle to get sufficient midfielders into the box quickly enough to support him but chances are now being created far more regularly even though too many of them are being spurned.

Yesterday was a case in point as we let a poor Rovers team off the hook. Djuricin was lost to injury early on and as of yet there is no news about his prognosis. Vibe was moved upfield and he bothered the giant but clumsy and immobile home central defenders with his sharpness, pace and movement.

Swift’s incisive and perceptive through ball gave him the chance to bundle the ball past Steele to open the score and we then took total command of the game and were never in any trouble until Lawrence’s low, angled cross from way out on the left wing squirmed through a packed penalty area and somehow ended up in the corner of the net for an undeserved equaliser that came totally out of the blue.

Button was forced to turn a Marshall drive onto the post but Woods shot wide and McCormack almost restored our lead when Steele saved well from his effort.

Brentford dominated the second half with Diagouraga running the show in midfield but were unable to turn their possession into goals with Vibe and Kerschbaumer both missing excellent opportunities to regain the lead. Sam Saunders also made an effective cameo performance as a late substitute and his energy and excellent use of the ball auger well for the future.

Blackburn finally roused themselves out of their lethargy when Ben Marshall moved forward to support the attack and Button made a phenomenal late save to push his late rasping long range effort past the post and preserve our point.

So a point it was when three were really well within our grasp and we can also bemoan the absence of Alan Judge, still recovering from his tight hamstring, as his energy, vision and effervescence might well have made all the difference and helped us to the victory that we fully deserved.

The international break comes at a good time as we now have a fortnight in which a lot of tired bodies will have the chance to recover from their recent exertions. Carsley has relied upon the same bunch of players with changes kept to a minimum and he has been rewarded with a series of excellent and fully committed performances.

It is noticeable that our improvement in results and performance has coincided with Lee Carsley restoring the rump of our homegrown players with all but one of the foreign newcomers relegated to the substitutes’ bench. This has allowed them some breathing space in which they can gradually acclimatise themselves to the demands of the Championship, and it was illuminating to listen to Lasse Vibe’s post match interview in which he admitted that he was still coming to terms with what was required of him in what he now realised was a higher and far tougher standard of football than he had been accustomed to before he joined the club.

The spirit might well be willing, but the flesh is weak and the bruised and battered squad will benefit from a rest. Hopefully Judge and Djuricin will be fully fit in time for the Nottingham Forest match and ideally there will also be some good news about poor Lewis Macleod who suffered yet another injury setback in the Development Squad’s win at Reading on Friday.

Sam Saunders can also work on his fitness and perhaps the likes of Jota, Colin and McEachran will also be inching their way closer to a return to full fitness.

It has been a roller coaster ride for every Brentford fan but the tide seems to have turned in our favour recently as we have gone back to the future in our approach and, as is demonstrated by the comments of the Blackburn supporters, it is evident that normal service is gradually being resumed.

The Bees are currently the Kings of Championship football in West London as we are ahead of our deadly rivals QPR and Fulham who have both responded to the indignity and shame of the situation by sacking their manager.

Brentford are back!

Grudging Praise – 20/10/15

There was a bit of a mixed reaction to Brentford’s win over Rotherham on Saturday. Everybody seemed to share my feeling of utter relief that we had beaten a team likely to be fighting for their life at the bottom of the league at the end of the season but there was also a fairly widespread sense of disappointment and let down at our performance and the lack of quality on display.

Many seemed to feel that the match was more akin to a League One tussle rather than a Championship match and whilst I can see their point of view I stand by my opinion that it is no use crying over spilt milk.

I am certainly not too happy about where we are and how poorly we compare in so many ways with last season but I am also under no illusions and fully expect our recovery to be gradual and tortuous and it was totally unrealistic to expect a display of total football played with freedom and abandon given the nerves, lack of confidence and gloomy atmosphere that pervaded Griffin Park before Saturday’s match.

Michael Ohl had also managed his expectations:

As you rightly said Greville it was a win. Also, we didn’t have majority possession, yet still won, and I’ll settle for that. Yennaris, Swift and Woods impressed. We didn’t give away goals – their equaliser was unstoppable, although we did rely on Button, yet again.

There was more passion from most of the team. What mostly annoys me about some of the new signings, such as Hofmann, is not so much that I think they are poor buys, but more his visibly giving up, when the ball isn’t just at his feet. At least make the effort. We are also missing that spark of quality which can turn a game. Toumani can do that sometimes . . . Jota, I really can’t wait for his return.

Still it’s a start. But as Lee Carsley said – there is no time to sit back, Wolves are next.

Alan Dally was more sceptical and scathing:

Yes Greville the win was so important, but the first shoots of recovery? I have grave doubts. As you say Rotherham are more than likely going to be fighting an uphill battle against relegation, yet they were more than a match for the Bees.

I walked out of Griffin Park just shaking my head in disbelief, that how such a vibrant Bees side of a few months ago has turned into the rabble of a team that was on display on Saturday.

We are a mere shadow of the team of last season and unless something unique happens soon, we are surely set for relegation this season. Yes I know we have injuries and have lost a few players, but whatever happened to the proud boast that all the departing players will be replaced by somebody better? The evidence so far suggests exactly the opposite.

If we have to rely on the same people who brought these new players in again, then I have little faith in their ability to get it right the second time around; As they say those who got you into the mess, are unlikely to be the ones to get you out of it.

It is so depressing specially when you think to build on the last three years, we just needed a bit of fine tuning. Instead of that we have opted for wholesale change and are paying a heavy price. To me it is stupidity beyond belief. Still we live in hope that things will change for the better, but I wouldn’t bet much money on that happening.

Richard Poole was just happy with the win and the makeup of our team:

Well a win under the belt is all that matters to me and I am glad that finally we put a few youngesters into the team. We might not have had much choice but they did their bit and now is the time to progress from here. Last season has gone.

As you know football changes very quickly and I am looking forward to our next game. COME ON YOU BEES

beesyellow22 was cautiously optimistic but also bemoaned how far we have fallen:

Another great article which sums up pretty much the debacle of our performance yesterday and the key thing being the fact that after three defeats we finally got a much needed win. As you say Greville, there is no point constantly going over the same old thing week after week, game after game. What’s happened has happened and this is now where we find ourselves.

However, I do have to concur entirely with what Alan says in terms of walking out of Griffin Park after the match, shaking my head and wondering whether I’d somehow entered some kind of parallel universe, such is the difference between the Brentford side that finished last season and the current team we are watching at the moment.

Let’s look at the positives (apart from the win). Our reluctant manager had the wherewithal to revert to the successful 4-1-4-1 formation that served us so well last season. Also, he ditched the Ankersen/Giles Moneyball flops (Kershbaumer, Gogia, Hofmann, etc.) and gave youth a chance in the shape of Woods and Swift with the exciting Canos out wide. And possibly most importantly of all, he had the players psyched up from the first minute, with a level of pressing and desire that I have certainly not seen before this season.

Unfortunately however, that really is where the positives stop. Judge’s two goals aside, we were absolutely awful. For pretty much the majority of the game, it really did look like a poor League One side taking on another poor League One side. Lots of long balls from us, very little in the way of free-flowing possession football and a performance that at times resembled more of a Sunday morning game down at the local rec than a Championship-quality league match. But…

It was a win. And I actually thought that Carsley’s comments post-match were both refreshingly honest and totally accurate. We really did only play decent possession football for perhaps twenty of the ninety-six minutes. We did look jittery. But we did grind out the result, regardless of the fact that it was against possibly the division’s poorest side. We have the victory we needed, we now move onto Wednesday and we hope we can build on the positives of a rare victory.

For me, as we now look forward to going to Molineux, there are three things to ponder on. Firstly, as Alan (and Michael) touch on above, the Moneyball signings are extremely worrying. Yes, they need time to settle into Championship football, but that is quite simply time we no longer have! As has been discussed, Kerschbaumer looks utterly clueless, Hofmann is unimposing and Gogia is no Stuart Dallas. Barbet I like but Carsley apparently does not, whilst Vibe does, I think, offer some quality but could now find it difficult to work his way into a system that now employs only one striker. The point I am somewhat laboriously making is that these players were supposed to be the great new hopes for this season; players to replace the likes of Dallas, Pritchard, Douglas, etc. The paucity of quality shown by many of them surely has to give all of us cause for concern when it comes to the ability of Ankersen and Giles to get decent signings in.

The second thing is far more positive and touches on something you mention, Greville – namely we are inching ever closer to the likes of Macleod, Jota, Colin and McEachran finally coming back into contention. Outstanding players that will hopefully make all the difference to us and finally see us start to play the kind of football we were all so used to (and possibly spoiled by) last season.

And thirdly I go back to my prediction chart that you so kindly published a week or so ago. I know they are only predictions, but I said we’d lose at Derby and beat Rotherham, and so it turned out! I now believe we will lose at Wolves and Charlton, get a draw against QPR, then lose the next two to Hull and Blackburn! Defeatist talk? I don’t look at it that way! Even saying that we will lose all of those games, as long as we can then pick up eight points from twelve against MK Dons, Nottingham Forest, Bolton and Fulham, we will go into the home game against Huddersfield pre-Christmas on twenty points – just ten behind my thirty point mid-season safety target! And by then, we will hopefully have the likes of Jota, Colin, McEachran and Macleod back playing for us again.

So overall, a bit of a mixed bag. A poor performance but a great result. Messi-like brilliance from Judge, but still defensive question marks hanging over Harlee Dean (sorry Greville, I don’t think he’s the player he was last season, which may or may not have something to do with his current contractual situation). An encouraging show from Yennaris (I can’t believe I actually just typed that, but credit where it’s due – he played pretty well) but practically zero service to the forlorn-looking Djuricin (who I still think had as good a game as he could have done under the circumstances).

Let’s celebrate the positives, seek to eradicate the negatives and focus on the fact that things might, very, very, very slowly, be starting to get slightly better. Or not.

Rebel Bee also was not too impressed with what he had seen:

Relief is the definitely the word I’d use to describe my feelings coming out of Griffin Park on Saturday.

The main piece and other comments have covered most of the key points well, so all I can add today are some random observations.

Make no mistake that was a relegation battle, our results against the other strugglers are key.

Thank God for Judgey, and Button – we urgently need to sort out new deals for these two, plus the other key players – Tarks, Harlee etc.

With Woods in the side we did at least have a pass into midfield, and someone who can move it about.

All the coaching and improved fitness training from Lee Carsley can’t hide the backwards steps taken in squad quality and the level of many of the new signings. We got through on Saturday without the stats influenced newcomers who have all been flops so far.

Ankersen’s post match comments were optimistic in the extreme!

We need a striker (again). And if we’d only kept Dallas this side would look a whole lot better.

The division seems more even than last year with no real outstanding sides emerging yet, this gives us some hope that we can stay up.

Over ten thousand fans at the match – that is impressive, just imagine what we could achieve if we had got this season right.

I was pleased with the tribute to Martin Lange, which was nicely observed by the Rotherham fans too. Can somebody tell me if the current Chairman has said anything on his passing as I didn’t see a programme?

Captain Colon remarked upon our toughness – not a word often used about the Bees:

It certainly was an ugly but much needed win. I can’t remember a Bees team at home conceding so many fouls. Beautiful football it most certainly wasn’t but if that is what is needed, then so be it.

In passing, I was sad to see Uwe Rosler lose his job again yesterday but he must have gone into the Elland Road hot seat with his eyes open and well aware that Cellini’s itchy trigger finger would ensure that he needed to be an instant success if he was going to remain in his post beyond the short term. Quite what is next for him I am not totally sure, but it has been a horrible year for Uwe, and one that I would not wish upon anybody. I wonder if he now bitterly regrets his decision to leave Brentford as it has been nothing but failure for him ever since

On a happier note, the Development Squad won at Crystal Palace thanks to two late goals by Sam Saunders including a trademark free kick. Montell Moore also scored a cracker and Lewis Macleod got another ninety minutes under his belt, this time as a holding midfielder. Good news at last!

Maybe he and Sam will shortly be in contention for selection. What a pleasant thought to end upon.