Hot Stuff At Griffin Park – 24/7/16

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

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Growing-Pains-Brentford-2015-Season/dp/1910515159/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468052450&sr=8-1&keywords=greville+waterman

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.

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Let’s Cheer on Brand Brentford – 20/7/16

One of the most illuminating statistics of the 2014/15 season was the fact that no less than thirteen of the eighteen players in the Brentford squad on the opening day of the season on the ninth of August were still involved when the season finally drew to a close on the fifteenth of May at Middlesbrough. Mark Warburton was a massive fan of stability and avoided change whenever possible. His trust and loyalty in the squad was fully repaid by the players who came within a whisker of reaching the promised land of the Premier League.

Let’s just remind us of our lineup in Mark Warburton’s last match in charge:

Button
Odubajo
Dean
Tarkowski
Bidwell
Diagouraga
Douglas
Jota
Pritchard
Judge
Gray
Substitutes
Craig
McCormack
Dallas
Bonham
Toral
Smith
Long

Of those eighteen players only five still remain at the club as the last year has seen a huge turnover in players both in and out of the club. Pritchard, Long and Toral were loanees who returned to their parent club and Smith and Craig were gently pensioned off when it became apparent that they were no longer capable of competing at the Championship level. Brentford also made it perfectly obvious to Jonathan Douglas that his time had come and gone and he departed to Ipswich where he was a waning influence last season, if still not properly replaced by the Bees.

Harlee Dean, Jota, Alan Judge, Alan McCormack and Jack Bonham are still Brentford players although given his difficult personal circumstances it is doubtful whether Jota will ever be seen in a Brentford shirt again. Alan Judge would also surely have left by now, probably for a huge transfer fee, had it not been for his appalling injury at Ipswich late last season. That is also a tricky situation that will have to be sorted out as the season and his fitness progresses. That leaves loyal retainer Alan McCormack who fully earned his new contract and will be an important influence in the dressing room next season if not so much on the pitch. Jack Bonham remains as a largely untested, untried and indeed, untrusted reserve goalkeeper and of the eleven starters at Middlesbrough only Harlee Dean is in line to retain his first team place at Griffin Park when the new season comes around in a couple of weeks’ time and his position is also under serious threat from newcomer John Egan.

It is when you come to examine what has happened to the remaining players, David Button, Moses Odubajo, Jake Bidwell, James Tarkowski, Toumani Diagouraga, Andre Gray and Stuart Dallas that it becomes apparent how Brentford have had to adapt to changing circumstances in order to survive and even thrive in the Championship. The sale of these seven players (plus more recent signing Jack O’Connell) has brought in a sum of around £22 million, a quite staggering figure and one totally unparalleled in the club’s history.

Before anyone accuses the club of asset stripping I would immediately retort with the fact that perhaps £10 million of that sum has since been re-invested and spent on acquiring the likes of Barbet, Bjelland, Colin, Kerschbaumer, Woods, McEachran, Vibe, Hofmann, Egan and Bentley. That figure also does not take into account that we earlier spent around £3.5-4 million on Gray, Odubajo, Hogan and Jota in 2014.

The point in common for each one of the departing seven is that they were all new to the Championship and proved that they belonged at that level and once other teams made it clear that they coveted them, they all wanted to move on to better themselves both on and off the pitch and they saw Brentford as a stepping stone to help them meet their ambitions. Odubajo, Tarkowski and Gray would certainly say that they accomplished their mission given that they are all now playing for Premier League clubs with a salary massively enhanced from what they were in receipt of at Brentford and commensurate with their new enhanced place in the football food chain.

Diagouraga and Dallas exchanged the stability of Brentford for the veritable madhouse that is Leeds but might feel that their larger wage packets are sufficient compensation. As for Bidwell and Button, it is of course far too soon to say of they will benefit from their move professionally as well as financially.

There are of course previous precedents. Simon Moore and Harry Forrester both disappeared into a black hole and their career has yet to recover, Adam Forshaw will also find himself in the Premier League this season although it is doubtful if he will be a regular starter, and Clayton Donaldson will be commencing his third season at Birmingham and has done well since leaving us.

Until our revenue streams increase and we move to Lionel Road, a prospect that still remains a chimera with the opening date remaining unconfirmed, we are totally and utterly unable to compete with our larger, rich and better established brethren, replete as they are with war chests buttressed and bloated by Premier League television rights fees and then Parachute Payments to reward their eventual failure.

Of course every self-respecting footballer wants to get on the gravy train and I do not blame any of our former stars for one moment for deciding to move on. We simply cannot match the salaries offered by our competitors and I am delighted that a policy of fiscal responsibility reigns at the club and we are not trying to equal or better the unsustainable fees and salaries paid by our less wary rivals.

Of course we would have loved to have signed Sergi Canos or Kemar Roofe, or others like them, but we are unable to get anywhere close to meeting the exorbitant transfer fees and salaries that they have been offered elsewhere.

That is why we have tried to use our analytics and data to prospect cleverly and below the radar and outsmart the competition as we cannot outspend them. Romaine Sawyers, John Egan and Daniel Bentley are all exceptional young talents who will probably grace our team for a couple of years or so and then, should they progress and improve as we hope and expect, they will become targets for the predators who are happy for us to do the hard work in terms of player development and growth and then take them off our hands when the time is right.

That is the way of life and as long as we extract top dollar for all of them, as indeed we most certainly have, and continue to replace them with younger, cheaper versions with even more potential, then we shall continue to do just fine.

David Button is a case in point. We have received over ten times what we paid for him and replaced him with an exceptional young talent who will probably cost less than half the money we received for Button. Of course we would rather he had re-signed for us but he chose not to so we had to move on and do the best possible deal for the club and this is a really excellent one.

We thank him for his services because he was exceptional for us, we cheer on and encourage his replacement and we hopefully use some of the money to strengthen what is already an excellent squad. As for Bentley, he is a totally different character as he is loud, brash, positive and confident and once he settles down will provide us with a new and improved dimension in goal.

Last season was a learning curve as we tried to introduce too many new players too quickly, many of them from abroad with no experience of English conditions and we suffered the early consequences for our actions. However by May it was job done yet again as we were proudly looking at the likes of Colin, Barbet, Woods, Vibe and Hogan as real prospects with massive scope for improvement and a rapidly growing transfer value.

Even the much maligned and derided Konstantin Kerschbaumer, a misfit and so out of place early on, had finally developed into a confident and skilful performer and is likely to provide massive value for us given the paltry fee we paid for him. Lewis Macleod is also going to become the player we all hoped for as he recovers in fitness and confidence and has already demonstrated his ability this preseason.

So we have so much to look forward to as long as we keep our sense of perspective and do not get too disappointed when our best players and favourites leave us for pastures anew. Of course I am not too happy when the likes of Bidwell and Button join our local rivals, but that is the way of life, and footballers cannot be expected to be Brentford supporters and they will go where they feel the best opportunity and the highest salary lie. As long as we get the going rate – or even higher, we cannot complain, particularly as we know that the lion’s share of all transfer revenues will be reinvested in new talent. And so the process continues.

We just need to believe in the Brentford brand and simply cheer on the shirts, even if the wearers of them change, as they will, with great regularity. Players come and go, Brentford FC continues unabashed and will go from strength to strength.

Not Many Additions Needed – 11/7/16

Now that the Brentford squad is safely ensconced at its training camp in Germany it seems like a reasonable time to look at its current make-up and strength, comment on the new arrivals and outline where strengthening might still be necessary.

There are currently three new faces in Romaine Sawyers, John Egan and Dan Bentley and all three conform to the Brentford blueprint and stereotype in terms of being young, talented, untested in the Championship and with massive development potential.

All three were out of contract with their former teams, Walsall, Gillingham and Southend respectively and had starred in Division One. Sawyers will come on a Bosman free and fees have yet to be agreed for the other two with a Transfer Tribunal likely to be required.

Sawyers has been coveted by many teams for a couple of seasons and he is a real footballer, tall, strong and talented on the ball, seemingly languid but quicker than he looks and he possesses the ability to play the defence splitting pass. Ignoring the easily forgotten loanee Leandro Rodríguez, Sawyers is Dean Smith’s first signing for the club, always an important milestone, and the two worked extremely well together at Walsall with many expressions of mutual respect and I am really excited at what he is likely to bring us.

He could play on the right hand side of midfield or as a Number Ten, directly behind Scott Hogan.

John Egan is quite simply a player who loves to defend. Strong in the air, powerful in the tackle he is a formidable barrier for strikers to overcome. He also uses the ball well and will fit into our system of passing the ball out from the back. He scored six times for Gillingham last season and demonstrated at Boreham Wood that he will provide a massive threat at set pieces, something than none of our defenders have really managed since the days of Leon Legge. He and Harlee Dean will have a real battle to secure the first team spot and I have no idea who will come out on top.

Dan Bentley is a big, brash, loud and dominating goalkeeper who has starred for Southend and now looks more than ready for the challenge of the Championship.

He, like the other two new arrivals, fully realises just how good Brentford can be in terms of improving him and helping to develop him into the finished article.

Brentford is clearly recognised and acknowledged by promising players and their agents as a stepping stone club where they can hone their talents and hopefully eventually move onto bigger and better placed clubs when the time is right.

Galling though this is for all Brentford supporters given our current financial constraints and stadium size there is very little that we can do to change this situation until we move to Lionel Road.

At least it means that we are still able to sign a conveyor belt’s worth of exceptional young talent and I can only look forward to and hope for the time when we can hang onto them all for much longer a period and that they will be able to achieve all their ambitions without leaving the club.

So, three potentially good and exciting new signings are already in the bag. What else do we need in order to ensure that we have a squad that contains options in every position and has the quality and strength in depth in order to compete at the top end of the table and perhaps even challenge for the playoffs?

Bentley and Egan together are certain to cost us well in excess of a million pounds and given the lack of the expected transfer funds for Alan Judge after his serious injury it is likely that money will be tight and perhaps we will only spend what we bring in.

In that regard Jake Bidwell’s initial fee of £1.3 million will be split with Everton and when our share is added to the undisclosed six-figure fee received for Jack O’Connell it is clear that there will not be too much extra cash floating around for investment in players at this stage unless some of the additional £3.5 million in fees received from Burnley is added to the kitty rather than put into the bottom line.

That is probably the explanation why we were not really in a position to compete for the signing of enticing prospects such as Kemar Roofe and Sergi Canos and that Rico Henry might well also be well out of our price bracket, assuming that Walsall are prepared to sell him during this Transfer Window.

Thankfully the squad appears to be much more settled than this time last year when for a variety of reasons we lost the likes of Douglas, Dallas, Gray and Odubajo shortly before the season began, a situation that caused chaos and was largely responsible for our appalling start.

You can never say never but I would be very surprised if we lose any of our emerging stars such as Colin, Barbet, Woods or Hogan for the time being and the squad is already looking strong and almost complete.

The only additional transfer out that I am expecting is one that will cause me some sadness given how well he has performed, but David Button decided not to sign a new contract when he clearly had the option to do so and as soon as it became clear that he was unlikely to do so the club acted quickly to bring in a replacement in the shape of Bentley.

Given the change in the loan regulations next season and in particular those pertaining to goalkeepers, in that emergency loans will only be allowed if there is no available goalkeeper who has played five competitive game for the club, there is likely to be a move by the better heeled clubs to ensure that they have two experienced goalkeepers on hand. This would explain the recent move of Rob Green to Leeds where he will act as an emergency backup.

I suspect that Button has been offered a couple of similar roles for himself but given his age and quality he is correctly waiting for a first team spot to open up for him as I expect that it will do over the next few weeks.

What is certain is that he has made his bed and must lie in it. Even if he were having second thoughts about leaving the club we cannot afford to carry two first team calibre goalkeepers, Bentley will only have joined us on the clear understanding that he will be the starting keeper at the beginning of the season and, most importantly, we cannot afford to lose the transfer fee of perhaps £1.5 million that Button would likely command. That sum would help enhance our transfer war chest and subsidise any additional incomings.

Given that Jack Bonham has played five times for us, and with the greatest respect to him I doubt if there is anyone who would like to see him start a Championship match for us, I would expect that he will be loaned out, a situation that will benefit his development and also allow us to bring in a loanee should Bentley miss a match and assuming Button has left the club.

The key vacancy is at left back where Jake Bidwell has filled the position impeccably for the past few years. Of course I would have preferred that he’d gone almost anywhere other than QPR but that’s life!

Rico Henry is acknowledged as one of the best young players in the division but I would be amazed if we are able to afford him or prise him away from the clutches of Walsall who have lost enough talent to us recently.

I would not be surprised if we bring in a young Premier League loanee to fill the gap. This might also be the case on the wing where currently we can only boast the talent of Andy Gogia. Sullay Kaikai has sparkled on loan at Shrewsbury showing trickery, pace and a keen eye in front of goal and the Crystal Palace winger would be an excellent addition as a loanee.

Philipp Hofmann has slimmed down and looks sleek and fit and we need him to perform. If not we will need another striking option.

I really feel that the squad is in pretty good shape and barring unforeseen departures or injuries we really only need to fill a few spots.

I am hopefully being pragmatic rather than complacent but let’s see how the situation has changed in a week or so and perhaps I can then think again.

Football is Back – 9/7/16

It still seemed a bit soon to be be fighting my way through the horrendous late Friday afternoon traffic on the A1 towards Boreham Wood and I quite honestly cannot remember seeing Brentford play in a friendly match this early in July.

The match was scheduled for the eighth of July to fit in with the timing of Brentford’s training camp and as I write these words they are on their way to Germany for a week of hard work and team bonding.

I noted with despair but not too much surprise some wittering and moaning on The Griffin Park Grapevine last night from one-eyed supporters angry at the fact that we lost the match to a non-league team by two goals to one.

How could we have allowed ourselves to be defeated by such a scratch outfit? The players should be reminded of their responsibilities and given double training sessions as a punishment. And as for that Dean Smith – he needs a severe talking to.

The best way to deal with such inane nonsense is simply to bite your tongue and let it pass unchallenged. If you engage and remind the idiots that this was no more than a training exercise designed merely to get some much needed match practice and minutes into the legs of the entire squad and help get the cobwebs out of their system then it is likely that your words will fall on deaf and unsympathetic ears.

Yes of course I would have preferred that we had won last night as a victory, however hollow, fills the mind with confidence but I well remember many false dawns when we roared unbeaten through the preseason, hammering the might of Yeading and Hampton and their like before falling into mediocrity when the serious business began in August.

Better we play ourselves into form gradually and ideally peak at the beginning of August rather than July!

Just to remind everyone that there is still a whole month to go before we start our Championship campaign, time enough for the squad to settle down and for Dean Smith to decide upon his starting eleven and favoured formation.

Last night was about experimentation with two separate mix and match elevens playing each half and two formations adopted. The customary 4-2-3-1 before the break and a 3-5-1-1 for much of the second half.

It has to be said that Boreham Wood looked a decent outfit. They narrowly escaped relegation from the National League last season and lessons seem to have been learned and they have recruited well and there was some real quality on show with the likes of former QPR winger Bruno Andrade, ex-Braintree skipper Kenny Davis and new keeper Grant Smith who proved to be unbeatable on the night.

As for the Bees, they played patient and precise passing football which was easy on the eye but ultimately lacked pace and penetration. They were never put under too much pressure but creaked ominously when conceding two poorly defended goals.

They fell asleep from a throw in and allowed a cross from the left to be played back to Andrade and his instant volley from a tight angle was brilliant and unstoppable.

As for the second, Gogia, playing in an unfamiliar wingback role sold Bonham horribly short with a headed back pass, ex-Bee Ricky Shakes nipped in and collided with the keeper who was perhaps harshly adjudged to have fouled the striker. A penalty it was and Bonham partially redeemed himself with a cracking save from Conor Clifford’s spot kick but the ball fell loose and the rebound was easily converted by the kicker.

Brentford created a plethora of chances, particularly in the first half, but they went begging. Bradley Clayton played wide out on the right but he has an instinct for goals and was only foiled by a wonderful save from Smith as was John Egan from a close-range diving header. Barbet went close from long-range and after the break Gogia was also foiled by the keeper and then shot over from a free kick on the edge of the box. Holldack too came close from twenty-five yards before the Bees scored a late consolation goal from a short corner.

The ball was worked from left to right and eventually fell to Harlee Dean in an unfamiliar position out on the right wing. His cross was perfectly measured for Lewis Macleod who stole in on the back post and headed home. Too little too late and the home team held on amid much local jubilation.

So what did we learn? Not too much given the nature of the evening and the make-up of the squads employed by the Bees.

In no particular order:

  • Tom Field looked solid and overlapped well
  • Barbet and Egan looked dominant and Egan is a real beast, totally committed in everything he does. He won everything both in the air and on the ground and looked a massive danger in the opposition penalty area too. It is going to be a fascinating tussle for the shirt between him and Harlee Dean who also was composed on the night
  • Max Colin looked nimble and quick and free from injury worries
  • KK has filled out and looked keen and eager on the ball and used it well. He is going to be a real player as is Ryan Woods who played in a deep holding role which does not best utilise his massive talent
  • Philipp Hofmann looks a new man and has shed a ton of weight. He looked lean and mean but did not see too much of the ball
  • Chris Mepham is a major find and did not look out of place alongside Dean and Andreas Bjelland.
  • Bjelland was careful in his first game for almost  year but looked comfortable on the ball and cruised through the half
  • Josh Clarke did show some pace but was crowded out whenever he came forward
  • Lewis Macleod was the best player on the pitch and we hopefully have a match winner on our hands at last. He has an eye for a pass, makes late runs into the box and was full of energy. What a prospect he is
  • Scott Hogan did not really get into the game and suffered a knee in his back which forced his early withdrawal
  • Sawyers and Vibe had been given extra time off to recover from their international exertions and Yennaris, Saunders and McEachran were not to be seen

There is not much more to say, we came, we played, we experimented and we lost. As far as the result is concerned – so what? We now move on with fitness enhanced and the preseason campaign continues as planned.

Igrowingpainst was also good to see so many familiar faces and exchange news and gossip. The season is not yet really back but it is getting closer.

Just to let everyone know that my new book Growing Pains – a four hundred page monster that covers all of the events both on and off the field from last season is now available in the BFC Superstore and via Amazon at

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Growing-Pains-Brentford-2015-Season/dp/1910515159/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468052450&sr=8-1&keywords=greville+waterman

I really hope that you seek it out and enjoy it. Any feedback and reviews would be really welcomed.

I will do my best to keep my blog updated as often as I can given that my main endeavour this season is to write a biography of Bees legend Bob Booker.

In that regard I would welcome any stories, memorabilia or clippings relating to him.

Thank you.

Brentford’s Injury Hoodoo – 14/4/16

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Mind Games – 29/3/16

It’s been a really strange and frustrating Easter weekend as, like I am sure so many others, I have been feeling lost and bereft without my customary football fix. I am sure that I will soon be corrected but I cannot for the life of me remember any other Easter in recent years which has coincided with yet another International Break and resulted in my having to find other ways to amuse myself.

I can still vividly remember Good Friday and Easter Monday last year which saw the nonstop excitement and adrenalin rush of those two unforgettable clashes against Fulham and Nottingham Forest. Hammering Fulham on their own turf will naturally go down as one of my best ever Brentford matches and I can still easily summon up all four of our goals on my personal memory bank and mental tape loop of great Brentford moments, but our late recovery from a seemingly insurmountable two goal deficit against Forest was perhaps just as massive an achievement as it simply exemplified everything good about us at that time and highlighted our relentlessness, never-say-die attitude and total refusal to give any game up for lost as Andre Gray’s clever turn and instant shot put us right back in the game and then deep into injury time Tommy Smith stood his cross up just above the straining hands of Karl Darlow where it was met by the bouffant hairstyle of Jota for a wildly celebrated equaliser.

Where has that spirit gone now, as we appear to have had the stuffing knocked out of us by a seemingly never ending series of body blows, some coming from out of the blue, others quite frankly self-inflicted, that have punctuated a season which promised so much but has ended up being such a cruel reality check to all of us, management, players and supporters alike. This season has been death by a thousand cuts and is still delicately poised and can go one of two ways as we now face a crucial nine match mini-season which will have so many repercussions for the club depending upon where we finish up after our final game at Huddersfield in less than six weeks’ time.

In that respect perhaps we all desperately needed and will greatly benefit from a two week break which ideally will enable us all to catch our breath, gird our loins and get ourselves ready for the struggle and potential torments or even triumphs that lie ahead as the Bees prepare to fight for their very Championship life.

We should all take some degree of comfort by recalling that we went into the last International Break in early October in total disarray on the back of three consecutive defeats, the loss of a Head Coach, the shocking and demoralising foot-in-mouth announcement by Lee Carsley that he had no desire to become the permanent replacement as well as sinking like a stone into a sorry twentieth place in the league table.

We only looked like going in one direction but Carsley apparently put his squad through a mini preseason bootcamp which addressed our lack of fitness and sharpness and we came out of the traps recharged and re-energised, a totally different team in every way, shape and form which won its next four games and went on to take twenty-eight points from fourteen games and ended the year in eighth place just outside the playoff positions. Promotion form indeed and an amazing turnaround which unfortunately has not been maintained since the new year began.

So we know that we can do it and let’s face it, depending on the results of the other strugglers, our minimum requirement for safety is probably a mere seven points from nine matches. Surely not too much to ask for? Given the run that we have been on since early January even that paltry target might seem a tough ask but hopefully Dean Smith will have used the time afforded him by the International Break productively and his ministrations and perhaps tweaking of his resources will hopefully produce the same effect as Carsley had in October.

There must be much for him to ponder on. Does he keep things as they were and hope that our luck will turn and we recover some form or will he freshen things up by changing the way that we play? He will also have to cope with an injury list that now has the names of Josh McEachran and John Swift added to it and we are all waiting anxiously for news about their potential availability for the run in. Given a likely shortage of midfielders will he decide to gamble by naming two forwards, not a formation that he has utilised previously either at Brentford or Walsall? Hopefully we’ll be able to glean some information as the week develops but we might have to wait until just before kickoff next Saturday before his intentions are finally revealed.

Our squad has looked mentally and physically exhausted and slowed down by a total loss of confidence which is hardly surprising as defeats beget more defeats and with every loss the pressure increases and self-belief withers on the vine. Players stop acting instinctively and instead start thinking about what once came naturally and they become afraid of taking chances and running the risk of making mistakes and having the crowd get on their back. As was clearly seen against Blackburn this results in a pallid and listless performance with the safe option taken at every opportunity and the ball being passed endlessly sideways and backwards with nobody prepared to put his head over the parapet and use his undoubted ability to try and make something happen for fear of failure.

There is one positive to consider in that Alan Judge and Lasse Vibe will both hopefully return to the club on a high and full of beans from their full international appearances for Eire and Denmark respectively over the past few days and that they might help raise the spirits of their team mates.

Reading the above which I believe succinctly sums up our current situation, perhaps the most important person at the club throughout this International Break is not Dean Smith but instead, Tom Bates. Who is he I hear some of you ask, did we manage to make a last minute loan signing before the loan window shut last week that has somehow remained unremarked upon? Unfortunately that is not the case, but that is another story given the injuries suffered in the last few days by Josh McEachran and John Swift which might yet rob us of their valuable services and reduce our selection options even further.

No, Tom Bates is a Performance Psychologist at the club who over the past ten years has worked with youth and senior domestic international athletes, coaches, managers and teams helping them to perform under pressure and be at their best when it matters the most. In his own words, Tom specialises in enhancing athletes’ mental and emotional performance states through creating, sustaining and improving supreme optimistic spirit and self belief.

That might all sound like gobbledygook, jargon and management speak but he has an excellent track record and if he can help revive the spirits of a dispirited squad that doesn’t seem to know where its next win is coming from then we will all owe him a massive debt.

Most Premier League footballers use sports psychology as a matter of course as it can help players to maintain or rebuild confidence, deal with anxiety or anger and keep their focus. Players are encouraged to try positive self-talk and convert their negative thoughts and fears into more positive ones. There is a sound scientific basis behind this as ideally thinking positively releases dopamine into the bloodstream which is linked to feelings of certainty and confidence and helps reduce cortisol levels, a hormone linked to stress and physiological reactions related to potentially harmful feelings and sensations of fight and flight.

Visualisation is another technique commonly used whereby players are encouraged to imagine and picture themselves succeeding in their specific tasks such as scoring from free kicks or saving penalty kicks and focusing on positive memories and recollections of doing the same on previous occasions.

Players might also be encouraged to repeat key words or phrases to themselves in an attempt to help regain focus when things go wrong or if the red mist comes down during a game.

I am barely scratching the surface as this is now a sophisticated science that has progressed way past early attempts in this field which included the notorious Romark, or Ronald Markham, to give him his real name, a hypnotist who was used by Malcolm Allison to assist Third Division Crystal Palace on their unlikely run to the 1975/76 FA Cup semifinal. Unfortunately it all ended in tears when he claimed that he had not been paid for his services and promptly put a curse on the club which apparently remains in force to this day.

Hopefully Tom Bates will be more successful in his efforts on our behalf. In the meantime I just have one question for him, can he please suggest something that will help keep all us fans calm, measured, united, supportive, positive, patient and stress free?

Too Soon To Tell – 31/8/15

I  thought long and hard before writing yesterday’s article.

Saturday’s match left me as angry, bemused, disappointed and concerned as I am sure it did every other Brentford supporter.

The easy option would have been to give in to my emotions and vent my spleen and write something highly negative and critical about what is currently happening both on and off the pitch at Griffin Park.

That would most certainly have been the easy option and knee jerk reaction but I resisted the temptation, not without some difficulty, and instead I wrote the quickest and shortest article of my life, only twenty-eight words in length, that took me all of thirty seconds to compose and yet it was read by more people than anything else that I have written for the last few months – indeed since news of the Mark Warburton crisis broke in February!

Maybe there is a lesson in that fact for me too! Perhaps less is more and the least time I take and the shorter the article the more popular it will be! Maybe that is something for me to ponder and deliberate about for the future! Believe me anything that reduces the amount of time I generally spend most days thinking through, researching, analysing and finally writing each article would be greatly welcomed by me!

I received several replies from readers who were far less restrained than me

Michael Ohl was brief and brutal:

Very disappointing. My expectations have been adjusted to staying up. Terrible ref. Ugly opponents. Vibe looks like he might be a god signing. Clarke may develop into something useful. Button was outstanding. At least the pitch gave a good account of itself.

Rebel Bee gave a more studied, if sardonic view of the situation:

Totally inept from all involved perhaps bar Button, and it was a game with no redeeming features at all. Good to see all the new coaches are working their magic! Maybe the sleep coach is doing his thing – most of the players and crowd seemed to be having a nap in a shambolic first half where we could have been four down. As poor a midfield quartet as I’ve seen since the days of Butcher.

This is exactly what happens when good players leave, to be replaced by inadequate cover from lower levels across Europe. There are huge questions over the competency of Marinus Dijkhuizen with his big decisions all going badly wrong for him.

We have huge problems – and it is time to face facts.

That is fairly close to what I might well have written immediately after the match if I had given way to temptation and it is quite natural to let off steam after what was, in truth, a totally inept performance but, as I will say later, I think it might well be more reasonable, fair, accurate and beneficial if we wait for a little while longer before we come to any firm decision and pronounce our verdict.

Steve Houlihan was also not too impressed with what he had seen:

Marinus has to work with what he is given and on yesterday’s show that will not be enough. The game reminded me of a League Two performance when MK Dons beat us 3-0 at Griffin Park. On that day a faster and stronger team made us look like a development squad.

We are simply not at Championship level at the moment. I fear for the team with two tough northern away days coming up.

Gary Manning was disappointed that I had not given my immediate viewpoint:



Well Greville sometimes one word is too many and a thousand not enough. I was hoping for some comforting words today to cheer me up! Did you ghost write Len Shackleton’s chapter on football directors, in his autobiography?

No I didn’t, I am not nearly that old and plead not guilty to writing that famous blank page which provided chapter and verse on Shackleton’s opinion on the average football director’s knowledge of the game.

Dave Hodson also had a gentle dig at me:

Come on Greville I don’t expect sulky heads-dropped performances from the players and I certainly don’t expect one from our mercurial correspondent. I expect you in early tomorrow and want those fingers clattering away at the keyboard until there’s smoke coming out of them. Keep the faith.



Well Dave, I hope you are feeling a bit better now.

Alan Dally was also concerned at the current state of affairs:



Greville, you are right. Least said soonest forgotton, as my old Granny use to say.One observation from me is that, despite what many think, we miss Dougie big time. Or at least Toums does. He is a mere shadow of the player who played alongside Douglas.
 The worrying thing from my point of view is that the togetherness that was apparent under Warbs has disappeared out of the window. Maybe that should not surprise me as the massive changes since May seem to have torn the place apart.


It is still very early days, but nevertheless the warning signs are there. My initial thoughts on Marinus are not totally positive, but I’ll be the first to admit he has been dealt a tough hand up until now. As I said, it is still very early days, but my Bournemouth mate who took a 20/1 bet on us being relegated is smiling at the moment. He took this bet as he was convinced that the Bees totally lost the plot in February and will pay a heavy price for their stupidity. Personally I think we will still finish around midtable, but the doubts are now creeping in.

Gary Hennell was  more positive in his comments:

I am from a family that goes back over a hundred years supporting Brentford, we all live in Kettering these days but travel as much as possible to Griffin Park when we can afford to. Me, Dad and my sons were there yesterday and I can’t help feeling that Marinus hasn’t figured his system out yet for the players he has. Diagouraga will never be a centre midfield distributor in a 4-3-3 formation, Warbs knew this, I think we all know McCormack is better equipped for that role all day long. However, what I really liked was that he spotted it and had no hesitation in taking him off, just a shame we were 2-0 down before he acted.

As soon as we switched to 4-4-2 Brentford were transformed and Vibe came alive – he needs to be in the middle not out on the wing, he has a great attitude, works hard and produced some fantastic flick-ons and clinical finishing – he will be a great buy!
 Sadly, my view is that Brentford look totally disorganised this year and lack pace in transistion to attack, Hoff looks out of his depth and lacked any support. I liked Colin a lot, he looked composed, quick and with good distribution – an upgrade in my opinion, so I think Benham and his statto’s are getting it right on the whole.

I just wish we had more time to get this system sorted and not have sold our only natural left winger, which I put money on will cost us big time against Leeds. Anyway, fingers crossed for Jota, McEachran, Judge & Vibe – now there’s a Championship attacking front line I cant wait to see in action. 
Will we go down? No, not with these all fit, only if Marinus takes too long to figure out 4-3-1-2 is the only system he can play at the moment and I would shove Judge in the middle to create the lovely passing moves we saw at Griffin Park last year. Up the Bees!

There are some conflicting opinions there and the message boards and social media have also been red hot with vituperative comments, in-depth questioning of our approach and expressions of doom and gloom leavened with some isolated pleas for more patience and understanding.

So where do I stand?

I really do not want to regurgitate what I have already written at great length over the past few weeks, but the key points and questions that are flashing repeatedly through my mind are as follows:

  1. Brentford are and will remain a selling club until our income levels increase and are more in line with the requirements of a competitive Championship team
  2. Without the largesse and continued support of Matthew Benham we would have a National League budget at best if we were forced to live within our means
  3. We are also hindered by the need to adhere to the stringent Financial Fair Play restrictions
  4. Players follow the money and there is very little you can do about it particularly if they have release clauses in their contract
  5. They also get distracted when they learn what the market rate is as well as how much their former colleagues are earning elsewhere
  6. All players have their price and if another club meets our valuation then they will be sold
  7. All players who are sold will be quickly and adequately replaced
  8. Have we sold too many players too quickly and allowed evolution to become revolution through trying to integrate too many new players at one time
  9. Marinus Dijkhuizen’s plan have been totally stymied and hamstrung by having his squad decimated by injuries to key players and late sales
  10. It seems ridiculous for him to have taken one squad to Portugal, bedded them down and then pretty much having to start again given the loss of so many players
  11. Homegrown players are proving to be too expensive, however is the squad blend correct or are we now relying on too many new foreign players who have no experience of the daunting requirements of the Championship
  12. Are we in desperate need of leaders both in the dressing room and on the pitch
  13. Will our analytics and stats based player recruitment prove to be successful and will our new players prove to be up to the required standard once they have settled in to their new surroundings
  14. How many of our new recruits will blossom and become saleable assets in the near future as we need to keep selling players at a massive profit to afford better replacements
  15. Have our new Co-Directors of Football enough experience and suitable contacts to ensure that, as has been the case for the past couple of years, we obtain privileged access to Premier League loanees of massive talent and potential a la Pritchard
  16. We pride ourselves in thinking outside the box but do we we have enough basic football experience and contacts in the boardroom and behind the scenes.
  17. Given that our playing budget has surely been increased substantially from last season’s figure, has this extra money been well spent
  18. Have current prime assets such as Button and Judge, whose departure would be massively harmful to us, been offered enhanced contracts commensurate with their value, given that they are obviously now well aware of what they could perhaps earn elsewhere
  19. We have now lost more than enough of last season’s squad and cannot afford to lose any more key starters particularly given the current injury jinx
  20. We were promised a squad enhanced both in quantity and quality. Injuries have taken their toll and the jury is out about the quality of all our newcomers but to be reduced to a situation where we have untried youngsters on the bench, no spare forwards, McCormack as our midfield playmaker and Harlee Dean playing an an auxiliary striker is unacceptable and hard to accept
  21. We need at least two more strikers, a playmaker, a midfield enforcer and perhaps even another centre half
  22. Is the dressing room a happy place and are the players buying into the new methods
  23. The Head Coach has received a baptism of fire and I hope that there is no disconnect between him and the recruitment side of the back room team and that he is being given a reasonable say in player movements both in and out
  24. It must be particularly galling for Marinus to receive constant questions about ins and outs when neither are his responsibility
  25. The new pitch played perfectly on Saturday, but did the previous abomination provide further problems for the squad and backroom staff
  26. Have we been too zealous in adhering to a totally new way of running the club rather than trying to combine the best of the old with the best of the new
  27. There were articles in the match programme from the Chairman and Chief Executive who both made excellent points regarding the problems we have faced and they tried to manage expectations and urge a sense of realism towards the outcome of this season
  28. They may well be correct but their comments do beg the question that given the enhanced budget is it reasonable for us to spend far more money to at best stand still but more likely go a fair way backwards when it might be thought that Matthew Benham was perhaps looking for us to kick on this season
  29. There is also talk that Miguel Rios has left the club which is also worrying news given how well he is regarded in academy and youth circles

Dijkhuizen’s comments after Saturday’s game were telling, honest in the extreme and extremely concerning and they pretty much sum up what every Brentford supporter is thinking:

I didn’t recognise my team in the first half. There was no organisation and we were poor on the ball. We are not the strongest and most physical side so if you are bad on the ball then we have no chance. But I know we have to be patient because some of our players are only having their second game in the Championship.

It is difficult to adapt but we need to get used to the tempo because players coming from Germany and Holland are not ready. We have had too many changes in the preseason and now have had some big injuries to players. We also have a bench with no strikers on it and the side looks to be lacking leadership. Hopefully we will be able to bring one or two more players in before the window closes.

He actually expressed himself far more clearly and cogently than any supporter and given his position and insider’s view, it is obvious that he feels that matters are serious and need immediate attention. Perhaps he has been more far more open and honest than his superiors would have liked!

Marinus has also received a lot of flack – totally unjustified in my opinion, for his apparent detachment and lack of emotion on the bench during matches. If that is your opinion of him then perhaps you should take note of this quotation from the excellent and thoughtful Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale which comes from Michael Calvin’s wonderful new book on the psyche of football managers – Living on The Volcano:

I was criticised for about a year at Exeter for not having any passion, because they expected something different. I live this. I’m consumed by it. Try thinking about a really important decision and screaming at the same time. It doesn’t work, does it? 

Keep quiet, think clearly. I’m taking everything out of my mind and concentrating on one big decision, the thirty seconds out of ninety minutes when I have to get everything right.

There are a lot of questions that still need to be asked about the situation at Brentford, both on and off the pitch, and quite frankly there are still very few answers yet to be had. The transfer window closes tomorrow night and we need to see what strengthening has taken place before that time, given the two exciting arrivals today, and indeed if we lose any more of our assets too, and we should not discount that possibility either.

Of course I am concerned. I had hoped that with our new mould-breaking strategy and increased investment we would progress even from last season’s miraculous achievements but I remain fully realistic and aware of the time it takes for new systems, approaches and, indeed, players to settle down and bed in ,and we now have a welcome and much needed gap of a fortnight before our next game where a lot of hard work will doubtless be carried out.

Let us see where we are at the beginning of October when we go into the next international break and I am sure that the situation will look a lot clearer by that time.