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.

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Pure Gold Dust – Peter Lumley’s Brentford Memories – 9/10/15

For the last couple of seasons I have sat in the same row in D Block in the Braemar Road stand as a wonderful hale and hearty, friendly gentleman who has entertained me with many stories of his long years supporting the Bees. Peter Lumley is a man of modesty, charm and obvious intellect and lucidity and it took quite a while before he let slip that he had been for many years a well known and regarded local journalist who covered Brentford on his regular sports beat.

The opportunity was far too good for me to miss and I asked Peter if he would pen some of his memories of his time spent following the club as both writer and supporter, and here is what he has to say:

I am grateful to Greville for inviting me to write this article on some of my memories spanning seventy-three years as a Brentford supporter.

What are my credentials for taking on such a task?  

Firstly, my ambition as a teenager was to become a sports journalist and as a stepping stone, my first job on leaving school was as a cub reporter on the Middlesex County Times at Ealing, a local paper that I believe is now more generally known as the Ealing Gazette.

For most of the 1950s and early 1960s I was Sports Editor of that newspaper and covered virtually every Brentford home game during that period, and many away games into the bargain.  I spent many happy days in the Griffin Park Press Box and fondly recall a delightful couple in the late Bob Parkes who acted as the club’s Press Steward and his wife who provided cups of tea and sandwiches for the starving hordes of journalists at half time.

I also have fond memories of the late Eric White, who was for many years the inspiration behind the Brentford programme and, of course, two iconic local newspaper colleagues in George Sands of the Middlesex Chronicle and Ernie Gifford of the Richmond and Twickenham Times.

My credentials as a player were modest to say the least. My best days were as a reasonably talented schoolboy performer with two special highlights to recall. I played against George Robb, a Spurs and England amateur and full international winger as well as on a separate occasion the great Johnny Haynes of England and Fulham fame, too.

My first introduction to Griffin Park was in 1942 at the age of ten and in my first season my Father and elder brother took me to Wembley for the  London War Cup Final  in which the Bees beat Portsmouth by two goals to nil with two superb goals by Leslie Smith, an England international left winger. On the right wing was Welsh international Dai Hopkins and other Brentford players from that period who I recall most vividly are goalkeeper Joe Crozier, centre half Joe James, right half Ernie Muttitt and full back Billy Gorman.

Mentioning Dai Hopkins reminds me of an extraordinary incident when the Bees met Wolves in the first full First Division season after the Second World War. Hopkins was lying prostrate on the turf on the extreme right wing touchline and he was obviously injured. Wolves centre half Stan Cullis, the England captain, ran towards the injured Hopkins and I was convinced that he was about to express his concern for a fellow professional and international player. Instead he appeared to aim a kick at the stricken winger. I may have been mistaken but I do not think so! Incidentally Brentford were relegated at the end of the season and have yet to win back a place in the top division, but I still live in hope!

Greville claims that he has been a Brentford fan for over fifty years – well I can top that claim by another twenty-three years!

That brings me onto something of a gripe about those who supported club owner Matthew Benham in his spat with Mark Warburton in February. I was repeatedly told that Mr. Benham had invested millions of pounds in the club and had been its financial saviour. In my seventy-three years as a Brentford supporter I calculated that relative to our respective incomes I must have have invested an equal proportion of my income in the purchase of season tickets, match tickets, programmes, club purchases et cetera for myself, my two sons and two grandsons too. Many thousands of other long-serving fans who also wanted Mark to stay as manager would’ve done the same, yet our voices were seemingly completely ignored.

I wrote a number of protest letters to the Chairman of the Board of Directors with copies to Mr Warburton and others at the time. I received a delightful personal response from Mark which I will treasure for the rest of my life.

From Mr Cliff Crown I received a stereotyped letter some months later in which he managed to address me as “Dear Mr King” – I threw the letter away in disgust!

That is now water under the bridge but I’m sure we have not seen the last of the repercussions and the Chairman and his fellow directors may end up with considerable egg on their faces in the weeks and months ahead. I sincerely hope that this will not be the case.

Having got that grievance off my chest I will now return to the substantive task in hand. One of Greville’s suggestions was for me to name the best Brentford players or team I had witnessed over all those years, or perhaps even the worst.

On further consideration I felt that this was a virtually impossible task so I’ve opted for a safer solution.

I will mention the players that have impressed me the most and whose names come readily to mind. I will classify them within the old-fashioned positions that I have become familiar with from the beginning of my Griffin Park journey.

So here goes :

GOALKEEPERS

  • Joe Crozier
  • Alf Jefferies
  • Gerry Cakebread
  • Chic Brodie
  • Len Bond
  • David McKellar
  • Gary Phillips
  • Stuart Nelson
  • Ben Hamer
  • David Button

FULLBACKS

  • Billy Gorman
  • George Poyser
  • Ken Horne
  • Ken Coote
  • Billy Manuel
  • John Fraser
  • Alan Hawley
  • Alan Nelmes
  • Roger Stanislaus
  • Martin Grainger
  • Kevin O’Connor
  • Alan McCormack
  • Jake Bidwell
  • Moses Odubajo

CENTRE HALVES

  • Joe James
  • Ron Greenwood
  • Jack Chisholm
  • Mel Scott
  • Peter Gelson
  • Stewart Houston
  • Pat Kruse
  • Terry Evans
  • Jamie Bates
  • Tony Craig
  • Harlee Dean
  • James Tarkowski

INSIDE FORWARDS

  • George Wilkins
  • Peter Broadbent
  • Jimmy Bloomfield
  • Johnny Brooks
  • Jim Towers
  • Jackie Graham
  • John Dick
  • Bobby Ross
  • Chris Kamara
  • Alan Judge
  • Alex Pritchard

CENTRE FORWARDS

  • Jack Holliday
  • Dave McCulloch
  • Len Townsend
  • Billy Dare
  • Tommy Lawton
  • George Francis
  • A.H. (Jackie) Gibbons
  • Ian Lawther
  • Billy McAdams
  • John O’Mara
  • Carl Asaba
  • Steve Phillips
  • Francis Joseph
  • Gary Blissett
  • Gordon Sweetzer
  • Dai Ward
  • Nicky Forster
  • Roger Cross
  • Andy McCulloch
  • Robert Taylor
  • Andre Gray

WINGERS

  • Leslie Smith
  • Dai Hopkins
  • Dennis Heath
  • John Docherty
  • Gary Roberts
  • Marcus Gayle
  • Alex Rhodes
  • Stuart Dallas
  • Jota

MANAGERS

  • Harry Curtis
  • Malcolm MacDonald
  • Jackie Gibbons
  • Bill Dodgin Jr.
  • Tommy Lawton
  • Frank Blunstone
  • John Docherty
  • Phil Holder
  • Martin Allen
  • Micky Adams
  • Ron Noades
  • Steve Perryman
  • Uwe Rosler
  • Frank McLintock
  • Mark Warburton

OWNERS

  • Fred & Harry Davis
  • Jack Dunnett
  • Dan Tana
  • Martin Lange
  • Ron Noades
  • Matthew Benham

Many thanks to Peter for his reminiscences which are highly evocative and pure gold dust.

Hopefully I can inveigle him to write some more and tease some additional gems out of him as he is a repository of wonderful stories about our great club’s past.

No Cheering In The Press Box! – Tom Moore Speaks – 27/8/15

sandsoftime-image-1-779168834I grew up relishing and poring over the words of the late, great, legendary George Sands, the writer sans pareil for The Middlesex Chronicle. Those were gentler, less hurried and frenetic times when he could spin out an elegant, witty and erudite match report to at least a couple of thousand words and he had the time and opportunity to do so given that he had pretty much the whole week to hone and refine his words until the publication of the one weekly edition.  He was not required or expected to interview players, or ferret out stories regarding transfer rumours or behind the scenes manoeuvrings – only the games mattered with perhaps a brief respectful comment from the team manager of the time.

George held the title of Sports Editor at the newspaper for thirty-five years and is best remembered for attending a total of one thousand one hundred and twenty-six consecutive Brentford games between December 1953 and May 1976, and his incredible achievement is listed in The Guinness Book of Records. He was so well regarded within the local community that he served so wonderfully that a testimonial match was held for him in 1980, surely an unparalleled mark of respect for a journalist. One day perhaps The Chronicle will mark his memory by publishing an anthology of his columns which have easily stood the test of time and remain a wonderful read to this day.

The life of a journalist today has totally changed given the ever-changing and evolving media landscape, the emergence of social media and the overwhelming need for immediacy with news having to be disseminated instantly and Tom picaccurately before it passes its sell-by date. I therefore went to one of the best and most popular local exponents of this art, Tom Moore, and asked him to describe the role of a local football reporter in 2015.

1. Please describe you current role and job

My current role is sports writer for GetWestLondon and our local papers. My main tasks are to cover Brentford, Barnet and Wealdstone as well as local sport in Hounslow but, depending on what the team needs, I will help out regarding covering our other clubs (Chelsea, Fulham, QPR, AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe). I also report on Middlesex CCC. 

When it comes to reporting on Brentford, I see my role as someone who is a bridge between the fans and the club. On press conference day, I’ll always put out question suggestions for Marinus Dijkhuizen on my Twitter page (@TomMooreJourno), which is why I end up asking about Lewis Macleod most weeks. He won’t be fit before the international break so forgive me if I don’t ask about him this week!

I also report on local sport in the borough of Hounslow. If you have a sports story, please email me (tom.moore@trinitymirror.com).

2. How did you get there? Were did you work previously?

I studied English at the University of Salford before enrolling in News Associates’ journalism course. After passing my exams and gaining experience, I started at London24 and worked there between October 2011 and December 2014 before taking on a role at GetWestLondon in February.

3. Did you always want to become a journalist? Any unrequited ambitions?

Everything from my A-Level choices onwards was geared to becoming a journalist.

4. Are you a Brentford fan? If not who do you support? If so is supporting Brentford a help or a hindrance?

I am a Brentford fan. It is a help in that I know where the club has come from, having stood on the terraces for ninety long minutes to watch us suffer a 7-0 defeat and I know all about the players of different eras. It is also a hindrance when you have to remain professional after tough defeats (Doncaster, Yeovil) or the great moments (Preston).

5. No cheering in the press box! Do you remain impartial and is it easy to do so?

I will talk to other journalists and offer my opinion about the performance. Cheering in the press box – as a rule, no (it may have failed on certain occasions – Chelsea). Normally a smile. When it comes to copy, I believe honesty is the best policy, whether people like it or not.

6. What are you favourite and worst memories of following Brentford?

My favourite memories as a fan normally revolve around the day out. Walsall in 2010 was a dire game but I had a great day with a mate. Leeds away last season was special. My favourite away day as a fan remains Darlington in 2009. The worst has to be losing 7-0 at Peterborough – a seven hour round trip and a lot of money spent for a disgraceful showing. Barrow away in the cup was also grim.

7. Any favourite players – or ones you hated?

I’m not going to reveal my favourites in the current squad. My first favourite player was Jay Tabb; the last one was Tony Craig. My least favourite player was Thomas Pinault. I wasn’t a fan of Sam Sodje by the end. I thought the hype had gone to his head.

8. Talk us through a week in the life of Tom Moore

Monday – Send a fair few emails regarding the previous weekend and produce stories from whom I have spoken to the previous weekend. Have a think about print coverage.
Tuesday – The paper takes more priority as I compile the local sport content for print. I’ll keep an eye on what’s going on at the Football League clubs I specialise in.
Wednesday – Finish off the paper and prepare web copy.
Thursday – Ring managers and attend Brentford’s media day, typing up stories from them ahead of the weekend.
Friday – Day Off (or help out colleagues if needed)
Saturday – Game
Sunday – Day Off (it can include a swim to provide me with some me relaxation time, alternatively I’ll try and get ahead for the following week)

9. How much pressure are you under to get scoops and unearth your own stories?

I put pressure on myself to do that.

10. How hard is it to get information from the new regime at the club? Was it easier in the past?

Not dramatically different.

11. How would you describe the attitude towards the club now from the national media? Are they hoping our new approach totally succeeds or fails?

It depends on the person.

12. Can you compare your dealings with the current Head Coach and previous managers?

The first manager I dealt with was Uwe Rosler. It took time to build a relationship with him but we got on well by the time he left for Wigan. I had plenty of time for Mark Warburton and spoke to him regularly. He’d always pick up the phone when I needed to ring him. As for Marinus Dijkhuizen, it’s early days so it’s just a case of working out how he ticks.

13. Do you have much contact with the players and how easy are they to deal with? Most/least helpful?

I speak to a player or two at least once a week on Thursdays and after games. Most are easy to deal with. George Saville was not always the most forthcoming. Compared to other clubs I’ve reported on it is easy.

14. No names but do you have your sources within the club who give you off the record information?

Yes.

15. Are you aware of any of the greats who came before you like George Sands?

I’m aware of George Sands. My direct predecessor, Jake Murtagh, did an exceptional job covering the club so I know I have big shoes to fill.

16. How do you feel about Brentford’s raised profile in the national media?

A raised profile means an increase in competition for stories etc. Reporting on the club in the League One/League Two days had its advantages.

17. Your favourite football journalist?

I’ll always read Jonathan Liew’s articles. I’ll also make sure I read stuff by people I get on with, whether football or not. Tim Wigmore is an excellent cricket/politics journalist.

18. How would you describe Brentford’s current strategy?

If Brentford tried to do what every other club did we’d lose out every time. It’s a novel approach. Whether it works, time will tell.

19. How would you describe Brentford’s playing style?

I loved the Mark Warburton style of football of just pure ‘all out attack’ but I do feel it went slightly too far at times. I want to see positive football as in every decision made is a positive one.

20. How do you feel about all the changes in personnel on and off the field and the recent spate of player sales?

I view Brentford players and staff in a different way to supporters; namely on how good an interviewee they are. Some players, not naming names, are better talkers than others.
I had a good relationship with Mark Warburton. I interviewed him over the phone soon after the announcement was made that he was going to leave the club. So, from that perspective, it was sad to see him leave. I knew how to work with him. Others were less helpful so it didn’t matter to me on that score that they left.

21. Are the foreign players different/easier to deal with than the English ones? How do they differ in approach or professionalism?

It all depends on the player. Jota’s English, for example, is not at ‘interview standard’ so I’ve yet to speak to him since his arrival. Others know English so can talk. Lasse Vibe and Marcos Tebar speak excellent English.

Thanks again, Tom, for providing all of us with such a detailed insight into your work and explaining so cogently how you operate and what is expected of you every week.