Kings Of West London! – 3/5/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brentford’s Injury Hoodoo – 14/4/16

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When Does Banter Become Abuse? – 15/3/16

There was so much that I didn’t enjoy about Saturday’s visit to Loftus Road. Firstly let’s get the obvious out of the way. Losing by three clear goals to your closest rivals after a performance that started well and deteriorated the longer the game went on made for a pretty gloomy and depressing afternoon’s viewing.

The fact that QPR were really no great shakes themselves and simply cashed in on our plethora of mistakes and inadequacies simply made matters worse and left me with a feeling of total frustration as well as one of impending doom unless serious steps are taken immediately to reverse our slide before it becomes terminal and irreversible.

The day started well when I found a free parking space ideally situated just a short hike from the ground but it was all downhill from there.

What struck me forcibly as soon as I took my seat half an hour before kickoff was the dark, aggressive and ugly mood amongst so many of the Brentford supporters. Rather than looking forward with relish and anticipation to the chance of completing a rare double over the old enemy, the packed School End was a cauldron of hate with far too many supporters totally out of control and resembling a baying mob of howling banshees.

Their songs and chants were inflammatory and obscene as well as boringly repetitive and unimaginative and the language foul in the extreme as quite appalling words and sentiments that could very easily see you facing a serious Public Order charge in different circumstances time after time poured out of the mouths of supporters of all ages, most of whom were quite old enough to know far better.

I am all for poking some gentle fun at our opponents and for making Griffin Park a fortress and an intimidating place to visit, but this went far beyond the pale as QPR, their players, supporters and anything and everything connected with that club were subjected to a fusillade of nonstop abuse and woe betide anybody who made any attempt, however futile to make our supporters behave themselves with some small element of decorum.

What is even worse is that as the game began to turn against the Bees, moods darkened even more, the wind changed and now it was the turn of our own players to become the whipping boys and the targets for abuse. They were assailed with moronic and vitriolic comments and insults both singularly and collectively, with poor, hapless John Swift a particular target. Fans also turned against fellow fans as any supporter who continued to cheer on his team also risked becoming a target. Just as had been the case against Charlton, the previous week, the final whistle saw more boos, catcalls and derogatory comments as the team slunk off.

I had a similarly unpleasant afternoon earlier this season at Derby when a large group of intimidating so-called Brentford supporters unfortunately seated right by me spent the entire match eyeballing rival home fans and singling them out for a nonstop torrent of vehement abuse. What happened on the pitch – nothing much if truth be told – was totally immaterial to them and I doubt if many of them could have told you the final score given that they had watched so little of the game. Again this sickened and quite frankly, frightened me and fortunately I managed to move to a slightly more salubrious spot at halftime but it ruined my afternoon and I could not wait to leave. The difference though was that the mindless abuse was aimed solely at the opposition whereas now it is the Brentford team and management that is more often than not being targeted.

Perhaps the solution is simple and a couple of good wins would end this nasty trend that seems to be becoming more and more prevalent but it is something that is making my visits to football less and less pleasant and I am sure that I am not alone in feeling this way.

I suspect that we have also picked up quite a few floating and glory hunting supporters attracted by our success of last season who have no sense or even interest in the history and tradition of the club and what it stands for and now when results are going against us are quick to criticise or worse without any understanding of the reasons why matters have deteriorated so quickly.

Just look at the Rotherham fans who have become their team’s twelfth man and have contributed so volubly to their recent success. Their sheer passion and nonstop roars of encouragement have helped to turn games in their favour and influence referees, as we learned to our cost. That is what we should be aiming for, a team and band of supporters united as one and working towards a common goal.

I can’t say that I am too thrilled either by a lot of the rubbish that is currently being spouted on social media sites where supporters seem to feel that it is open season on owners, players and managers alike who are subjected without a second thought to torrents of filthy abuse with Dean Smith, Matthew Benham and the Co-Directors of Football being particular recent victims.

Again, there seems to be no sense of tolerance or decency and boundaries of reasonable behaviour seem to have been ignored and overturned. Anyone appears to be fair game for an ever increasing phalanx of mindless keyboard warriors who feel that they have an inalienable right to make their opinions and feelings known however stridently or abusively they wish to express them.

Any criticism of them regarding the way in which they form their arguments and the actual words they have used is either ignored or more commonly results in a further tirade of splenetic abuse and strident claims that they are fully entitled to have their say however they choose to do so. So often they excuse their excesses by claiming that their comments are simply harmless banter but that explanation does not wash for me as anything said or written that is wounding, demeaning and insulting is totally inexcusable and they quite evidently do not know the real meaning of the word.

And that is where the problem lies as many people do not understand just how far they can go and where acceptable behaviour ends. I totally accept that nobody, however exalted should be above criticism but in my opinion it is how that criticism is couched that makes all the difference. Why should anybody read, take in, assimilate or even respond to torrents of crude and foulmouthed abuse? A more reasoned comment, opinion or argument might well generate some sort of answer but I suspect that the intent is generally to shock and mock and promote a sense of self rather than encourage a proper debate.

I am not going to run the risk of being called an old fogey by calling for the return of National Service or the stocks as I am a massive supporter of social media and instant access to the news agenda. Properly used it allows for an immediacy and an honesty, clarity and openness of communication that cannot be matched elsewhere. I just hate it when its powers are abused by mindless oafs who know no better and just spoil things for everyone else.

Bragging Rights – 9/3/16

I am fortunate enough to live in a pretty, leafy and quiet road tucked away in a beautiful backwater in North London where the days go by calmly and tranquilly without us being assailed by the constant irritating noise of passing traffic as thankfully it is neither a main road nor a cut through or rabbit run. Neighbours nod politely to each other as they pass each other on the street whilst walking to the nearby shops and tube station and always find the time to stop for a brief moment to enquire about the health of their respective offspring and how they are doing at school or university.

The odd creaking and arthritic labrador or relative bent with age is gently walked up and down the road to get some fresh air and exercise. Nobody pries or attempts to invade each other’s privacy and the nearest we have come to united action was when there was a dispute with the local council over rubbish collections and which of two neighbouring boroughs different parts of the road were situated in.

The residents are an eclectic bunch encompassing a variety of races, ages, backgrounds, creeds and religions, they keep themselves mostly to themselves and rarely reveal anything private or personal.

Imagine my amazement then when the peace was disturbed late in the afternoon of Saturday twenty-fourth of May 2014, a date now indelibly fixed in my fading memory.

I had been watching the Championship Playoff Final between Derby County and Queens Park Rangers and was left reeling from the shock of Bobby Zamora’s last gasp goal with the only shot on target that they managed all afternoon which somehow took the R’s to the Premier League on an afternoon where the Gods most certainly favoured them as they had been totally outplayed and the result was an aberration which quite frankly beggared belief.

The Bees had already secured their place in the Championship and whilst I knew that Fulham awaited us in 2014/15 the real prize was QPR and I was devastated that our prey had escaped us and had been snatched from our grasp in so unfortunate and unfair a manner and that the fates had yet again laughed in our face.

I needed to go for a walk around the block in order to calm down, get over my disappointment and settle my shattered nerves and as I passed a house no more than fifty yards from mine I saw something that still haunts me to this day.

Occasionally some of the local residents celebrate Christmas or Chanukah with a few muted and tasteful external decorations but this was different as the entire outside of this house was covered and daubed from roof to basement with Queens Park Rangers banners, scarves, posters and blue and white bunting. Lights flashed and music blared breaking the customary sepulchral calm and quiet of the neighbourhood and the drive was filled with cars full of raucous QPR supporters celebrating their unlikely achievement.

I had no idea that our street housed a rabid QPR supporter given that we are situated so far away from their heartland and whilst I am by nature a calm and totally law abiding individual my hackles rose and it was all that I could do to restrain myself from giving vent to my frustration and tearing down the decorations which so offended me.

Worse still, they remained in place, although thankfully fading, throughout that long hot Summer and it was not until the season began and it became obvious that Queens Park Rangers were in over their head and totally overmatched in the Premier League and were certain to return shortly from whence they came that they were dismantled at which point I calmed down and finally refrained from thinking poisonous and murderous thoughts every time that I walked past that house on my way home.

I wrote at great length about the longstanding rivalry and history between Brentford and QPR and the reason for the animus between both clubs before our first meeting last October and I was so delighted and proud to be present at what was our first victory over our bitter rivals for fifty years on an evening packed full of pride, effort, energy and passion – all of which was expended by the team wearing red and white stripes.

The entire Brentford team raised its game as every player was well aware of just how much the game meant to every home supporter. Beating QPR was everything to us all and the throaty roar of triumph at the final whistle almost raised the Ealing Road roof. We outplayed and outworked our opponents who strolled through the match and gave a limp and pallid display which seemed to imply that they felt that it was rather beneath them to be forced to sully their hands and share a pitch with a team and a club that was not on their radar and that they thought so little of and that aristocrats like themselves had no need to sweat.

Much has changed for the Bees in the months since that momentous victory. We were then in the midst of a brief but highly successful spell under Lee Carsley when the team seemed well organised, confident and extremely hard to beat. Everybody seemed to understand their role and there was a sense of togetherness with every player working hard to cover his team mates.

QPR rarely looked like scoring bar for two efforts from Luongo just before the break and once Marco Djuricin became an instant Bees legend by timing his run to perfection to convert Alan Judge’s incisive near post cross, our eventual victory barely seemed in doubt as we played out the remainder of the game with total confidence and determination.

This year has seen the Bees crumble and disintegrate and a weakened squad lacking so many of its best players and bereft of confidence and the apparent ability to either score goals or keep them out, is crawling and limping towards the finish line, praying that the games run out before they can be caught up and overtaken by the bottom three.

Despite their victory at Griffin Park last Saturday, Charlton Athletic as well as Bolton Wanderers appear to be beyond salvation but a resurgent Rotherham team, responding brilliantly to the management style of the inimitable Neil Warnock has now won three on the trot and we are beginning to look anxiously in our rear view mirror.

However insipid have been the team’s recent performances, the fans also need to do their bit, particularly on Saturday when just under three thousand Bees will face a hostile home crowd at Loftus Road. It was noticeable just how loud and intimidating the atmosphere was when we played at Rotherham recently as the home supporters provided unconditional support, forgave their heroes for all their mistakes and bayed for free kicks, real and imaginary. Brentford and, of course, the referee wilted under the relentless pressure as we eventually caved in for what could well turn out to be a damaging defeat.

Griffin Park has been like a morgue recently with the crowd seemingly stupefied and reduced to silence or at best groans of anger and disappointment given the horrendous lack of quality of so many of our recent performances.

We are now facing a drama which we can help become a crisis if we continue in the same vein. Of course the team needs to do its bit and at least show some effort, organisation, energy, bite, aggression and determination on Saturday – and some quality too would also not come amiss!

We supporters also have a job to do and we need to take on board the marvellous example of those long-suffering Rotherham fans just the other week. We have to provide a nonstop cauldron and cacophony of noise and simply exhort and encourage our team totally and unconditionally and for the entire duration of the game.

That is something that is well within our gift, everything else is out of our control and we can only hope and expect that Dean Smith selects the right team and game plan and that the players remember just how important this game is and perform accordingly both with and without the ball.

To beat QPR twice in a season, do the double over them and win for the first time at Loftus Road since the ninth of October 1964 would go quite some way towards ensuring that this season is remembered for far more than our recent fall from grace and nosedive towards the nether regions of the Championship table.

Saturday is a quite massive game for a variety of reasons, not least because I want to maintain and extend the bragging rights within my road and make sure that my misguided neighbour knows exactly who is the best Championship team in West London.

BFC Talk – A Manifesto – 4/3/16

I published a heartfelt, passionate yet extremely critical article by long-established Brentford supporter, Peter Lumley just the other day in which he made it quite clear that his most fervent wish is that he could put the clock back twelve months given that he vehemently disagrees with pretty much the whole ethos of the club and how it has been run since the departure of Mark Warburton was announced and given that I did not share his opinion, this has led me to rethink the purpose of my blog and the comments that my articles, as well as those provided by a variety of guest writers attract.

I started writing this blog in June 2014 as I felt that I had a lot to say about the club, my time supporting it, the way it had been run and often mismanaged and the games and players, good, bad and mediocre that I had watched over the years.

I simply wanted to pay homage to my favourite club, rejoice in the memories, and allow myself without any restrictions of time and space, bar self-imposed ones, to stretch out and write as much or as little as I wanted about any subject that took my fancy as long as there was some connection however tenuous, to Brentford.

There really did not seem to be any other vehicle out there in the ether that would have allowed me the self-indulgence to do so so I had to start my own, and much to my surprise and I have to say, delight, the tom toms seemed to sound almost immediately and pretty quickly I had built up a loyal following and an audience of seemingly like-minded supporters who appeared to enjoy, identify with and appreciate what I wrote and were not slow to add their own thoughts, comments, impressions and tales all of which added immeasurably to the overall look and feel of the blog.

There are now over one thousand people who automatically receive a copy of every article (not all of them read it though), some of whom I know in the real world, the others I feel as if I do even though we have never met and probably never will. It really does not matter as we share something precious and unique.

There has also been a spinoff book covering the momentous events of last season, Ahead Of The Game, which has sold remarkably well with a follow up title due this Summer – watch this space.

It has given me particular pleasure that a former Brentford footballer in Richard Poole has become a regular reader from his home in France and he often gives us all the massive benefit of his experiences as a player in the dark days of the early to mid 70s and it is good to remember and also ensure that we never forget the times in the not too distant past when the club struggled both on and off the pitch and its very survival was in question.

I have always made a point of encouraging contributions from readers of my blog as I feel that it is entirely appropriate and helpful for me to stimulate open debate on any subject related to Brentford FC past, present and future and to allow the blog to become a safe haven for informed discussion amongst Brentford supporters of all persuasions.

After all we are like minded individuals who share a passion for the Bees and desire nothing more than success and glory for our football team although we might well disagree over the optimum way to achieve it.

Some of us observe the world through red and white striped and rose tinted spectacles and can see no wrong and provide total and unconditional support, others identify, recognise and accept the club’s shortcomings, warts and all, and there are still others who find fault with practically everything that the club does.

My starting point is to allow everybody to have their say and to make themselves heard. This is a forum for everybody to express their opinion however left or right field and for others to comment accordingly. I might well not agree with what is being said, as was the case with Peter’s recent article but it is good to stimulate debate from across the entire spectrum of opinion.

My only caveat – I certainly do not want to use the word rule, is that everybody is treated with courtesy and respect however outlandish their views and that no personal or inappropriate comments are made. This is essentially an adult forum in the best sense of the word where there is no bullying or name calling and people are allowed the freedom to praise, grumble, reminisce or predict totally as they see fit.

That is not to say that should contributors put their head over the parapet they should not expect to face the rigorous scrutiny and analysis of everybody else who reads their words and it is entirely right and proper that they should expect comments, perhaps approval and agreement and maybe even mild criticism and opprobrium – but not ridicule, and they will then be able to defend and build upon their original position should they see fit to do so.

The key point is for us all to know just where the line is and when things have gone too far. We all know that there are vast swathes of the internet and social media where there are no checks and balances and anarchy can rule as there are no boundaries, moderators or manners.

BFC Talk is not one of those places, nor will I allow it to become one – nor I hope will all of you readers who play such a crucial role in its success and popularity.

I also do not want there to be a predictable house style or point of view.

Every opinion stated should be judged solely upon its merits although it is more than fair to say that I am a massive supporter of the Brentford revolution and what it stands for, as without Matthew Benham, his cash, fresh ideas, eagerness to take calculated risks and sheer chutzpah we would not be lingering down amongst the dead men in the nether regions of the third or fourth tier of the Football League, but we would have gone into freefall and it would be a certainty that our local derbies this season would be against Sutton United, Hayes & Yeading and Wealdstone in the Vanarama National League South rather than Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Charlton Athletic in the Championship.

That is how much we owe him and something that must never be forgotten and we therefore need to trust him and his management team implicitly without necessarily a slavish acceptance of everything he does – after all he is a mere mortal like all of us and mistakes have certainly be made. And this blog gives us all the opportunity to question what is happening, suggest alternatives but also to praise whenever our thanks and appreciation are due.

Last season set the bar impossibly high but it is pointless to continually hark backwards and talk about what might have been, for very good reasons those days have gone as have the management team and most of the players who made a near miracle possible.

That is simply the way of the world given the schism that arose between Matthew Benham and Mark Warburton that was totally beyond repair, the dictates of Financial Fair Play as well as the financial strength of our rivals who were able to induce our best players to leave but not without paying us for the privilege.

There is much to be happy about, so much more to look forward to and many lessons to learn from the marvellous ups and downs of the past year so let’s simply enjoy the ride, rollercoaster though it may be rather than nitpick to death.

BFC Talk is now the place for real Brentford fans to rejoice, carp, criticise, propose, suggest, celebrate, welcome and praise as we all see fit.

Let’s just do in the right way and remember who we could be playing tomorrow had things been done differently – and I am talking about Concord Rangers rather than Chelsea!

Dean Smith – Thumbs Up Or Down? – 1/3/16

Given the indisputable fact that the Bees are currently in the midst of an appalling run of results since the New Year with only two wins and a solitary draw to set against seven Championship defeats, plus of course suffering a painful FA Cup giant killing at the hands of Walsall, it is hardly surprising, given the fickle nature and impatience of football supporters, that there have been murmurings and rumblings and some questions and concerns have already been raised about the new Brentford manager, Dean Smith and whether he is up to the job.

The criticisms levelled against him can best be summarised as follows:

  • He is not getting the best out of the squad and is out of his depth
  • We are porous in defence and concede too many goals
  • We no longer come back and recover after going behind in a match
  • The quality of football is declining and we no longer play the Brentford way
  • He is unable to attract new players to come and play for the club
  • His substitutions are ill thought through and generally make things worse
  • He is not animated enough on the bench and appears to allow things to drift
  • He sometimes refrains from acknowledging the Brentford supporters
  • He is not Mark Warburton or Lee Carsley – delete where applicable

How fair are these accusations? Have we hired another dud or, in the interests of fairness, do we need to make allowances for circumstances totally beyond his control that have made the manager’s job difficult if not impossible for the time being?

I wanted to get an informed, objective and detached view about Dean Smith so I asked former Chronicle journalist and now PA Match Day reporter Jim Levack to give his own measured opinion on a man, who, given his midland base, he already knew extremely well from his successful spell in charge at Walsall.

Here is what Jim had to say, and it certainly makes interesting reading:

When the constant stress of the football season ends in May, chances are you will find Dean Smith settling back to take in a rather more sedate sport.

As an ardent cricket fan he’s adept at playing the longer, more tactical game.

He did so to impressive effect at Walsall, where he repeatedly contended with an annual summer break-up of his squad only to return the following season even stronger.

That his squads were repeatedly torn apart by predatory clubs looking to pick up exciting young talent speaks volumes for his gift of spotting promising youngsters, developing them and then selling them for a profit.

Presumably that is what brought him to the attention of Matthew Benham, who I’m sure – unless he is a fool – will listen very closely to Smith’s end of season shopping list.

The jury is out on the club’s Co-Directors of Football, whose track record, at Brentford anyway, has so far been patchy in the extreme.

The signing of Konstantin Kerschbaumer, for a reported seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds, is symptomatic of a system that, in my view, will only work with strong input from a footballing man with great knowledge of the English game.

That man is Smith, a bloke who will stand by his footballing principles come what may and who is, most importantly of all, a good man who has been plunged into a difficult situation.

Comments on websites – this one included – suggesting he is “not the man for the job” or “out of his depth” are, quite frankly, totally laughable.

Kerschbaumer, contrary to some of the unkind comments being levelled at him, will be a decent player with bags of energy, good legs and an eye for an incisive pass… but not for another season or so when he has bulked up and shaken off his lightweight tag.

The fact that he is still playing and has not been sent out on loan to a League One side says more about the paucity of the squad and limited options available to Smith. Well I hope that’s the case anyway and nothing more sinister.

Smith has inherited a squad bereft of its quality players who have all moved on for a profit that the club couldn’t say no to. And that will be the way of things until we move to Lionel Road.

The loss of defensive lynchpin Tarkowski and midfield protector Diagouraga since he took the job has turned Brentford into a side that, without the presence of Alan Judge, does not look consistently competitive in a league that demands that at the very least.

We have a soft underbelly and has been chronicled elsewhere, there doesn’t appear to be the same fight and desire that the Griffin Park crowd have always demanded as a bare minimum.

I posted recently on another site the list of players who have left and – in my opinion – not been replaced on a like for like or quality basis. It was met with the inevitable responses of “yawn” or “stop being negative.” Not negative. Just realistic.

Smith, like a footballing Mike Brearley, is playing a tactical game and deploys an impressive dead bat forward defensive shot every time he is questioned about personnel… or the lack of it.

He has clearly been told plans are afoot for the summer, which is good news. I’ve heard some deals are close to completion already and other quality signings are on the radar.

Great news and a cause for optimism if Messrs Ankersen and Giles find the right people this time round and the existing signings finally come good after a bedding in season.

But here’s the rub. When my son and others like him stumped up the increased season ticket price – student rates were scrapped in favour of a young person’s card – they did so on the premise of a Big New Ambitions advertising slogan.

The club’s failure to remain properly competitive after January will make him and others think twice in future. After all two hundred and thirty pounds plus is a lot to a teenager doing an apprenticeship.

Should the ad blurb have read – “Big New Ambitions until we decide to call it a day and watch the season peter out midway through the season?”

I think we’ll be safe – Charlton will be a big game – but I do hope that next season’s season ticket prices reflect the wasted four or five months of this.

One thing is certain though. Dean Smith is the right man for the job and once he’s allowed to put his mark on a depleted squad, any doubts currently held will evaporate leaving the cynics to turn their attention to something or someone else… probably me after this.

Just to sum up, Dean Smith’s treatment – so far at least – has been like asking journalist Tom Moore to go into the office and asking him to knock out a back page or web lead without a laptop, Mac, notebook or recording device.

Smith is working with one hand tied behind his back given the lack of numbers and quality in his squad. 

Smith is no fool, is the best man for the job, is a great fit for our club and will have us challenging and competitive next season – of that I have no doubt.

I just hope we’re not being too cocky thinking that safety is guaranteed because at the moment we look neither of those things.

I am sure that many supporters reading Jim’s words will have much to say about the sentiments expressed in them and I look forward to the debate which is certain to ensue.

Where do I stand on this issue?

I feel that Dean Smith was an excellent match for our specific needs and requirements as he understands our approach and buys into it. He is an eminently intelligent, pragmatic and sensible man who motivates and inspires footballers and he can also manage upwards as well as down.

I also suspect that given his knowledge and experience of the lower divisions we have moderated our modus operandi and Smith will be intrinsically involved in all decisions regarding recruitment and it would not surprise me if we bring in several promising young players already well known to the manager.

It would be very interesting to know what his terms of reference are for the remainder of the season. Probably no more than remaining as competitive as possible, picking up enough points to remain well clear of the scrum in and around the bottom of the league, playing high tempo attacking football and continuing to integrate and involve the foreign signings from last Summer so that we are in a position to make informed decisions on their future and as to whether they are able to cope with the demands of the Championship.

That means a hopefully temporary scaling down of our lofty ambitions and frankly we are currently struggling to achieve even these limited aspirations given the recent run of results and disappointing performances.

In his defence, there have been some excellent spells of football but a lack of consistency, Smith has seen the loss of three quality first team players in January without any hint of replacements, good fortune has not been on our side with a succession of contentious refereeing decisions and injuries continue to bite deep into our limited resources.

Perhaps yesterday’s welcome and long-awaited return of Scott Hogan who came back with a bang with a poacher’s goal and a spirited sixty-minute run out in the Development Squad match against Crystal Palace will provide a much needed boost and hopefully Alan McCormack will also be in line for a much needed return against Charlton on Saturday.

In truth, I was disappointed with the negative and pusillanimous way he set the team up against Derby County which totally ceded the initiative to a team also struggling for confidence and in my opinion, contributed to our eventual defeat in a match where we never attempted to play our customary style of football.

It is also very easy to look back with hindsight, however I wonder if he now regrets throwing away the chance of a morale boosting FA Cup run by fielding a weakened team against Walsall particularly given our subsequent defeats by Middlesbrough and Burnley in what turned out to be a totally dispiriting and demoralising week?

To lambast the manager given the obstacles he currently faces is patently unfair, unrealistic and absurd and he needs and deserves our total support at the moment.

The time to judge him will be next season assuming that, as expected, he is given the necessary tools to work with and the opportunity to rebuild the squad in conjunction with the Co-Directors of Football and we recruit players with the required level of ability and experience.

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?