Football has a way of taking you to the heights and then allowing you to plummet to the depths and as good as Saturday was, with our triumphant day out at Leeds, Tuesday was ten times worse, in fact I would go as far as saying that I cannot remember a day as depressing to be a Brentford fan since – I really do not know when, but I am sure another disaster will eventually come to mind.
The day started with the massive shock of experienced journalist Matt Hughes’s exclusive story in The Times claiming that Matthew Benham has already made the decision to dispense with manager Mark Warburton’s services at the end of the season and that clandestine talks were held in Spain last week with Paco Jémez, the Rayo Vallecano coach with a view to him taking over the reins at Griffin Park next season.
The former Deportivo La Coruña, Real Zaragoza and Spanish International centre back has impressed as a manager with an attacking, positive and progressive bent but no more so than Warburton, a true diamond in the rough who has led the Bees to promotion and a totally unexpected position in the Championship playoff zone and established a justified reputation as one of a new breed of modern forward looking managers.
He has operated on a rolling twelve-month contract since succeeding Uwe Rösler, and according to the article, he has apparently been told that it will not be renewed at the end of the campaign irrespective of what he achieves for the remainder of the season. The club issued a verbose, vague and wooly statement that in essence did nothing to allay the supporters’ fears and merely confirmed that Warburton will remain in charge for the remainder of the season, that his abundant qualities have been noticed by other clubs and that Brentford FC is simply keeping its options open should the need arise given that we are a progressive club who do talk to other people within the game to learn about other ways of doing things, and to consider novel strategic approaches to the game.
What on earth are we supposed to make of that tortuous gobbledegook? Who on earth knows and only time will tell, but like many other supporters I felt that New Brentford were not like other clubs and did not shoot themselves in the foot nor wash their dirty linen in public. The statement begs more question than it provides answers and leaves me with the firm belief that the original article is pretty close to the truth and that our current manager’s days at the club are indeed numbered.
Who can tell who leaked the story to the journalist and I would only assume that nobody at the club intended for it to break at such a sensitive time in the season when we are poised to make our promotion push and that our statement is merely a quick response to a story that has broken unexpectedly. From Mark Warburton’s point of view, if the bad news has in fact now been confirmed to him by the owner, does he stick or twist? Will yesterday’s events make him even more keen to remain in situ until the end of the season when his contract expires and simply try and see the job through and lead Brentford to promotion, or will he seek to jump ship and find long term stability should another opportunity immediately present itself, and thus leave us totally high and dry?
No employee can be blamed for looking after his own interests and ensuring his own and his family’s future. I think it will be the former and he will be more steely-eyed and determined than ever to leave at the apex of his success if his contract is indeed not going to be renewed.
As for an explanation for this shock decision, should indeed there be truth in it, I can only assume that Matthew Benham is looking to accelerate the development of the club which is already running far ahead of schedule and believes that just as Uwe Rosler was an improvement over Andy Scott and Mark Warburton, a far better bet than Rosler, he simply wishes to upgrade yet again and is already looking to the future and has made the cold and dispassionate decision that by bringing in a foreign coach and allowing him to invest he will be in a better position than Warburton to attract high quality players from around Europe and build a truly cosmopolitain team that can sustain a place in the Premier League and allow Brentford to sup at the top table.
Benham has both the funds and the single-minded focus, drive and ambition to make his plans come to fruition and he is not renowned for making either hasty or irrational decisions or ones unsubstantiated by facts. His data and statistical driven approach has been an unqualified success and I suspect that he sees himself playing a key role in shaping the club’s overall strategy, recruitment policy and playing approach.
What about the club’s fantastic and highly qualified back room staff? Will men of the calibre of David Weir, Frank McParland and the array of analysts and fitness coaches also be swept away with the bathwater and will any new arrival have to rebuild from scratch?
There is only one person qualified to answer such questions and our reclusive owner is not speaking. As the sole owner of the club what Matthew Benham wants, Matthew Benham gets and so far he has made very few mistakes.
Do I want a foreign manager and a team packed with continental imports – no, not really. I would ideally like a blend of foreign and home grown talent as Spaniards such as Jota and Toral have made a fantastic impact and I certainly want us to continue improving, but not at the cost of losing our West London identity. I am certainly not a Little Englander but I want a sense of balance and proportion to reign and I hope that Matthew Benham bears that in mind when deciding how best to progress.
As if that was not unsettling enough, just to pile Pelion on Ossa, Brentford came across referee Keith Stroud at his enigmatic worst on Tuesday night as every major decision went against the Bees and led to an unlucky and contentious home defeat to promotion rivals Watford. Jake Bidwell’s one-footed challenge was late and slightly high but the red card was instantaneous as was the decision to penalise Jonathan Douglas when the ball bounced off his shoulder, although the brilliant Button saved Troy Deeney’s spot kick.
Stroud has so much previous against Brentford it is hard and pretty pointless to know where to start and I do not want to demean myself by resorting to pointless personal abuse. Just as Leeds moaned about Graham Salisbury on Saturday we are doing the same about Stroud last night as he choked the life out of us and we finally subsided to a late and totally dispiriting defeat after fighting so hard and even having the temerity to take the lead when Andre Gray, a colossus throughout, ran onto David Button’s perfectly placed long clearance, shrugged off his marker, hanging onto him like a limpet and hammered an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. Brentford scoring a Route One goal is almost beyond belief but it inspired us and we so nearly hung on for a well deserved point, but it wasn’t to be as a last minute goal brought Watford the points and an unmerited double over the Bees.
But it gets still worse. James Tarkowski, so impeccable in everything he did, suffered at the hands of Deeney and limped off soon after half time. Let’s hope that it is nothing more than a dead leg and that he will recover quickly. Barring the miracle of a successful appeal (although we did get Ricky Newman’s Stroud inflicted red card against Huddersfield rescinded back in 2006) we are struggling for a left back for the next three games. Stuart Dallas deputised valiantly tonight and Tony Craig, Nico Yennaris and Alan McCormack will all come into consideration at Charlton on Saturday particularly as new signing Jack O’Connell, who has extensive experience at left back was yesterday loaned back to Rochdale for the remainder of the season. Maybe a decision that is now looking a little shortsighted and premature.
The season has been one of total pleasure and progress and yesterday was undoubtedly a major setback. What happens now is totally up to our owner and I suspect that Matthew Benham is not a man for turning.