The new season is now only two weeks away and it was clear from yesterday’s friendly against tough and skilful foreign opposition in Kaiserslautern that the squad is progressing in terms of fitness, structure and organisation although there is still much work to be done.
The heat was on in more ways than one, given the scorching weather conditions which necessitated regular water breaks and perhaps explained why the Bees abandoned their normal pressing game and funnelled back rather than challenging the opposition deep in their own half.
The match was apparently arranged a part of the Philipp Hofmann transfer deal a year ago and you would have hoped that the German fans held fond memories of their former hero, but such was not the case if the opinions of the Kaiserslautern supporters who I canvassed on my way into the stadium are to be trusted.
Paraphrasing their comments in order to protect the guilty, it would be fair to say that he is not missed by them in the least and we were roundly thanked for taking him off their hands. The Hoff certainly looks the part this season in terms of his overall fitness and we can only hope that he does finally show us what he is capable of!
I really see little point in providing a long and detailed match report but, in brief, the first half was evenly matched but cautious as both teams felt each other out. The Bees went ahead with a comic cuts headed own goal from a Macleod corner but were soon pegged back when we were caught square at the back and short of numbers. Lasse Vibe and Ryan Woods came close late on but a draw was the fairest result.
What is more important is how we performed and there was much to be pleased about as well as a few warning bells jangling in the background.
This was the first sight for most of us of Daniel Bentley and he looked calm and confident in everything he did in terms of shot stopping and defensive organisation. He looked slightly lost and bemused, though, at the way we expect our keeper to distribute the ball – quickly and accurately and to throw the ball short at every opportunity and frankly, he struggled to do so. He sold Barbet horribly short early on with a kicked clearance and we were fortunate to survive the defensive mess that followed. I have no qualms about him though and he will prove to be an excellent successor to the departed Button.
Colin was his normal bubbly and effusive self, calm in defence and rampaging forward at every opportunity. He cost us serious money (for us at least) but at some point we will sell him for a massive fee. Dean and Egan were solid and unspectacular but looked worried when clever opponents ran at them. Tom Field was given a much-needed rest and Barbet filled in adequately at left back but did enough to convince us that this is not his preferred or best position. Chris Mepham came on towards the end and is clearly going to be a future first teamer, as will Tom Field.
Alan McCormack and Josh McEachran played in the holding role and left me totally unconvinced. Macca ratted around, left his mark, both physical and verbal on the opposition and made one brilliantly forceful forward run that ended with him shooting at the keeper when he should have scored but we desperately need better. Josh looked confident on the ball and pinged his passes sharply and with accuracy but he reacts rather than initiates, was far too easily knocked off the ball and lacked the strength to win it back.
Ryan Woods showed us how it should be done when he came on in the second half. Demanding the ball at every opportunity and driving us forward by sheer force of character as well as ability. He hammered a long-ranger inches over and his passing was crisp and accurate and always positive. Nico Yennaris is nursing a knock and at present I see him and Woods starting and I fear for Josh as he has not shown the leadership we require. I might be judging him harshly given his two serious injuries but we need to see far more from him. Unless we bring in a Kevin McDonald type of player we run the risk of being overrun from time to time. He will prove to be a decent signing for Fulham and again clearly demonstrates how we are outgunned financially as I am quite certain that we also expressed an interest in him.
There was much to admire in midfield where both Lewis Macleod and Romaine Sawyers drifted in and out of the game but from time to time clearly demonstrated their massive ability both on the ball and in dribbling past opponents. Macleod might well thrive in a more central role but he is a pure match winner and a certain starter. Sam Saunders did what Sam does, show calmness and quality on the ball but interestingly enough, gave up his set-piece duties to Macleod and Sawyers.
Scott Hogan has been nursing an ankle injury and played 45 minutes. he got into good positions and always found space in and around the box. If he gets the correct service he will score goals, it is as simple as that. Lasse Vibe is fit, sharp and raring to go and it is a real shame that we will lose him for the duration of the Olympics.
Hofmann came on against his old team mates and ambled around in the sunshine like a geriatric out for a brief stroll and did nothing to convince us of his potential worth to us.
We fielded a trialist in Manny Ledesma, an experienced Argentine winger with Championship experience at Middlesbrough and Rotherham. He has also played under Dean Smith at Walsall. It is unfair to judge someone on so brief an acquaintance and he showed some clever touches but I would hope that we are not in the market for a 28 year old journeyman.
A decent workout then which clearly showed that we have a more than decent young squad that still has gaps to fill at left back, defensive midfield, on the wing and up front. I am sure that there will be reinforcements coming in shortly and hopefully of the requisite standard and fitting the Brentford trademark in terms of being young, talented and with the potential to improve.
As always the first visit to Griffin Park for the new season was one to savour and the new season will, I am quite sure, also be one to relish.
Growing Pains – a four hundred page monster that covers all of the events both on and off the field from last season in my words and also those of the likes of Matthew Benham, Cliff Crown, Phil Giles, Billy Reeves and Phil Parry is now available in the BFC Superstore and via Amazon at
Please ignore what it says on Amazon – the book is available and in stock!
There is also an ebook version available for download to Kindle.