We Have Come A Long Way – 19/10/14

A mere couple of years ago it would have been hard to imagine Brentford playing a competitive match against Wigan, separated as they were by the chasm of two divisions.

Our paths had last crossed in 2003, and in the years since then Wigan had climbed to the heights of the Premier League where they seemed to have established themselves, won the FA Cup and also competed in Europe.

Yesterday saw the two teams meet at the DW Stadium on equal terms and it is testimony to how far we have come that the general mood in the Brentford camp is one of acute disappointment that we came away with only one point after a nil – nil draw rather than the three that our performance probably merited.

wiFootball people are generally pretty guarded in their post match interviews, particularly if they have been given time to allow their emotions to calm down, but it is easy to read between the lines when listening to the thoughts of Mark Warburton, Tony Craig and David Button to understand that there was more than normal riding on yesterday’s match, and that the Bees felt that they had let their illustrious hosts off the hook.

As it is Brentford remain firmly ensconced in tenth position and Uwe Rosler’s Wigan are hovering uneasily just one point above the relegation zone and the knives are now out for the Wigan manager.

There was a marvellous turnout of well over a thousand Bees fans at the game, some of whom, no doubt, adopting the role of tricotteuses revelling in the problems that Uwe is currently facing.

I wish him no ill and wrote in great detail the other day (http://tinyurl.com/ozjh9y2) about Uwe and how much he achieved at Griffin Park.

We were good for him as we gave him the platform, infrastructure and support to act as the stepping stone to the prime job he eventually earned back home in the North West, and he helped to lay the foundations that allowed Mark Warburton to step in and take us to our current position, something that the majority of Brentford fans feel would probably not have taken place had Rosler remained in charge.

Rosler had an immediate impact at Wigan, leading his new team to the Playoffs and FA Cup semi Final but last season ended in heartache for him and his expensively assembled squad are now struggling to keep their head above water.

Yesterday was their seventh match without a win, and for all their possession Wigan barely made David Button break into a sweat.

Of course exceptional players like Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman and James McClean don’t become bad ones overnight and they did cause Brentford some problems with their ability and movement, but tactically Brentford did a job on their opponents and stifled their threat.

Wigan too were boring and negative in the extreme, totally lacking in confidence and relying alarmingly on a strange hybrid quasi long ball approach which saw a plethora of sideways and backwards passes at the back being followed by a series of aimless thumps upfield which were easily dealt with by an organised and largely untroubled Bees back line.

Adam Forshaw was totally wasted playing in a deep defensive role in front of his back four and the threat of two reputed Brentford preseason transfer targets in Oriol Riera and Andy Delort was easily snuffed out.

Ironically it was Forshaw who almost cost his new team the match when, dawdling on the ball, he slipped and was robbed by the marauding Jonathan Douglas who sent Andre Gray away with a clear run in on goal, but his lob, greeted with a banshee howl by the effervescent Billy Reeves on Bees Player, landed on top of the unguarded net rather than in it.

I read two comments this morning that rather sum up the view of many of the Wigan faithful on their message boards today.

One said that Forshaw was supposed to be Brentford’s best midfield player whereas he saw three far better ones out on the pitch yesterday wearing the yellow shirt of Brentford.

There was also bemused admiration for our always keeping three men upfield at Wigan corners in comparison with Uwe’s customary all eleven men back policy.

Yes, we were also patronised by the Wigan fans who felt that it was a bit beneath their dignity to be playing a team as small as Brentford, and that they should only need to turn up to beat us, but there was also some grudging acknowledgment of the quality of our football on the day.

Moses, Jota, Douglas and Pritchard also went close, but not close enough, and one point was our reward when perhaps three were within our grasp.

The fact that Scott Carson, the Wigan goalkeeper was by far and away their best player also speaks volumes of how well we performed.

We were a team, Wigan a disorganised and demoralised shambles that, like Leeds United, are going nowhere at present.

I have no wish for Uwe to lose his job, but perhaps it is time for another behind closed doors meeting, similar to the one at Stevenage last season, so that some home truths can be discussed and perhaps the air cleared, as it is plainly obvious that they are not a happy camp.

So there were a lot of positives again yesterday as confidence must now be sky high throughout the entire Brentford team.

The quality and depth of the squad will surely be tested over the coming six days, with two more tough tests in store for us against Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers.

Sheffield Wednesday have a decent away record, and Bolton will be revitalised by the appointment of Neil Lennon who led them to a rare away win at Birmingham yesterday.

The Championship is relentless and Brentford will also have to deal with the numbing and exhausting effect of the travelling involved over the week, with two long journeys to the North West of England.

There were also five bookings yesterday meted out by an inconsistent referee in Tony Harrington, and James Tarkowski will have to sit Tuesday out whilst he serves a one game suspension.

Harlee Dean will step in seamlessly, and he will surely prove highly effective in terms of countering the height, strength and aerial ability of the opposition.

Jota played his first full ninety minutes yesterday and is proving to be a valuable acquisition whose influence is growing with every game as he gains in confidence and match fitness.

Can he, Douglas, Pritchard, Odebajo and Judge manage another two gruelling games over the next few days or will we see more of Diagouraga, Tebar, Toral and Dallas?

Who knows, but I do expect to see some players rested or rotated.

There is also the perpetual ongoing situation upfront where Gray runs his socks off for an hour or so and is then replaced by the willing Nick Proschwitz who offers a totally different type of threat.

Betinho remains on the bench where he has sat untested since his brief run out in the dying minutes of the Norwich defeat last month.

Surely that situation must change soon, ideally over the next few days.

I appreciate the difficulties for a young man of settling into a new, unfamiliar and confusing environment, with the problems of language, diet, loneliness and climate, as well as having to grasp and assimilate a different way of playing the game which requires him to provide more to the team than just being an explosive goal threat.

The bottom line, however, is that we need a minimum of three functioning strikers and hopefully his period of settling in and adjustment is coming to a close as it is surely time for him to be given his opportunity and play his part.

Other than that there is, of course, nothing to quibble about as the Bees march on.

We are beginning to establish ourselves in this tough division.

We have certainly come a long way and I feel that the journey has barely begun.

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Uwe Rosler – 16/10/14

rosWe are now coming towards the end of the International Break and our thoughts are naturally turning towards Saturday’s match when the Bees return to the fray, hopefully refreshed and reinvigorated after a fortnight’s rest and recuperation.

Brentford will be playing away to a Wigan Athletic team which is stuttering, not firing on full cylinders and appears to be still suffering from a hangover after the disappointment of falling at the final hurdle in last season’s Playoffs.

Wigan are currently down amongst the dead men in twenty-first position, a mere three points away from the dreaded relegation zone, a position which comes as a total surprise given that they were fully expected to challenge for honours again this season, and have a large and expensive playing squad oozing with Premier League and International experience.

The natives are getting pretty restless and there are already murmurings, which are rapidly growing in intensity, about the future of their manager, Uwe Rosler, who has presided over a run of only six victories in his last twenty-six matches despite spending expansively on recent signings such as Oriol Riera, Adam Forshaw and Andy Delort.

And yet it all started so well for Rosler last December after he took over from the busted flush in Owen Coyle.

Rosler provided the impetus and leadership that saw Wigan not only reach the Playoffs but also come within a hairsbreadth of beating Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi-Final.

He rightly received broad recognition for his achievements which were truly excellent but, in my view, should have been even better.

I watched him put out a team  that contained only one striker in their home Playoff match against Queens Park Rangers, and it certainly appeared that the summit of his ambition was the nil-nil draw he ended up with.

Wigan came out of the traps quickly in the Second Leg at Loftus Road, went a goal up but then sat back, totally gave the initiative to the home team, attempted to soak up their pressure and rely on breakaways, and eventually lost the game and the tie.

More Playoff heartbreak for Rosler to follow on from the previous season’s excruciating defeat for Brentford in the Wembley Final against Yeovil.

Now Rosler is no longer the fans’ favourite at the DW Stadium.

Their complaints center upon his perceived lack of consistency in team selection, regular changes in formation, his innate caution, negativity and over-analysis, and  his overriding reluctance to take the handbrake off.

warbNow where have we heard some of those accusations before?

We would be lying if we just said that this was merely another match for Brentford, as there is obviously added spice to the proceedings on Saturday given the presence in the Wigan ranks of Uwe Rosler as well as Adam Forshaw and our former Head of Performance, Chris Haslam.

All three of them formed the Brain Drain from Griffin Park as they left Brentford to supposedly better themselves in their new home in the North West of England.

Whilst it is easy to be objective  and open minded, and acknowledge that Rosler and Forshaw were joining a club that were FA Cup winners and in the Premier League less than two years ago, and that they were both returning to their stamping grounds nearby, that does not make their loss any more palatable to Brentford supporters.

It will certainly be a fascinating tussle on Saturday, if not a grudge match, as Rosler and his former Sporting Director, Mark Warburton, go head to head.

They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses inside out.

Will one of them surprise and perhaps out smart the other or might they even cancel each other out?

I see no reason for Brentford to change anything in either their approach or style of play.

Warburton gives due attention to his opponents and how they are likely to set up against him but is far more concerned about what damage his Brentford team can inflict upon the opposition, rather than vice versa.

Surely a healthier and more positive approach than Rosler’s cat and mouse efforts to out think and perhaps over analyse the other team?

Warburton’s Brentford are proactive and dynamic and are always looking to seize the initiative, Rosler’s Brentford were reactive, constrained and cautious.

Perhaps I am over generalising but I think I have assessed the two mens’ style pretty accurately.

That is not to rewrite history or diminish Rosler’s achievements at Brentford.

His overall record was truly exceptional.

fans-forum-14.11.13-uwe-and-mw-4x3277-1181421_478x359He oversaw one hundred and thirty-six competitive games in all during his two and a half seasons at the club, was unbeaten in seventy-three per cent of them and had a forty-three per cent win ratio.

Impressive figures indeed, but the feeling persists that it could and perhaps should, have been even better.

So many away games saw a similar pattern emerge.

Brentford would dominate possession, play pretty and intricate football with very little or no end product and then attempt to hold on to what they had for the last quarter of the game.

So many memories remain, so many opportunities missed:

We played Doncaster Rovers, the eventual Champions, off the park one October Saturday, but failed to put them away and lost ridiculously to two late goals having dominated the entire proceedings.

A defeat that ultimately had a massive effect on the final league table.

The same thing happened at Orient on a match shown live on Sky Television.

Total domination in possession, no penetration and a loss to a spawny, late and offside goal.

Playing three centre halves on the opening day of the season at Bury and allowing a poor team to escape with a draw.

A late concession to Scunthorpe after running the entire game and missing yet another penalty.

And please do not get me started on penalty kicks and the opportunities we threw away from them over his entire period at the club.

Rosler was an out of left field appointment by Matthew Benham, which nobody saw coming, and he certainly laid impressive foundations at the club and instigated a revolution in terms of the off field support team who were second to none at our level of the game.

He improved our football, and with the help of Warburton and an enhanced playing budget, brought in far better players and almost took us to the Playoffs in his first season, until we blew it on a ridiculous afternoon of low comedy and frustration at Stevenage.

But never mind, everything was in place for a promotion charge the following season.

As you all know, despite all of us doing our best to forget, it finally ended in tears.

Last season saw a poor start culminating in the defeat at Stevenage and the now famous behind closed doors meeting in which a lot of home truths were apparently expressed on a variety of concerns, including Uwe’s insistence on rotating his players and his overall management and tactical approach.

With the air cleared and a far more consistent selection policy employed, the Bees went on a long unbeaten run that continued until the point when Rosler was approached by Wigan and decided to jump ship.

His relationship with the Brentford fans had deteriorated after a couple of intemperate outbursts after victories against Colchester and Bristol City, and the feeling persisted that perhaps the time had come for a parting of the ways.

A point of view heightened by the success achieved by Mark Warburton once he succeeded Rosler and managed to put his own stamp on the team, and changed their approach towards the game.

Rosler too seemed to be revitalised and reinvigorated by his new challenge at Wigan, which brings us back to where we started.

I wish Uwe well and thank him for taking Matthew Benham’s vision for the club on board and coming so close to finishing the task of getting Brentford into the Championship.

Uwe’s alleged actions since he joined his new club and appeared to want to spirit away a succession of players and back room staff from Brentford, whilst a real compliment to our quality, have further hardened attitudes towards him.

I hope he learns from his roller coaster experiences over the past couple of years and that he makes an ultimate success of his managerial  career.

Ideally he will adapt his approach, become more positive and less analytical and far less fearful of the opposition.

If he manages to do so then he will throw off the “Nearly Man” tag that is beginning to follow him around.

As for Saturday, let’s just play the team and not the man and in that case there is every chance that the Bees will not return home empty handed.

No Longer A Soft Touch! – 26/8/14

Adam-ForshawSo Adam Forshaw is about to leave us, which means that we can finally put all this distraction behind us and move onto other matters.

Wherever you stand on this issue what cannot be denied is that the Forshaw saga has dragged on interminably for the best part of a month and has undoubtedly proved to be a distraction to everybody and, despite the club’s best efforts, may well even have had a detrimental effect on our preparation and unity.

The fee will doubtless be “undisclosed” at the request of one or both of the clubs concerned.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes before the actual figure leaks out and I can only assume that we have smashed our previous transfer record when we received two and a half million pounds from Wimbledon for Hermann Hreidarsson in October 1999.

Wigan fans on social media are already suggesting that we have received an initial fee of three million pounds with another million pounds contingent on performance, plus a large sell on percentage.

Inside knowledge or guesswork?

Mark Warburton stated yesterday that Wigan had finally met our valuation of the player and if these figures are anywhere near correct then I believe that we have received a realistic figure for someone who was a class above his peers and was deservedly voted Player of the Year in Division One last season.

We also handled a difficult situation perfectly in my opinion and proved that we are no longer going to be a pushover and simply lie down when so called “bigger” teams come calling coveting our stars.

Warburton treated Forshaw sympathetically and with respect but basically set a boundary by putting him on gardening leave and also making it clear that he was going nowhere unless our terms were met and that only players who were fully committed to the club would be selected in the First Team.

In the past our straightened financial circumstances, combined with our naivety in negotiating, allied to an apparently obscene eagerness to sell our players at the earliest opportunity, frequently resulted in our being short changed and receiving very little or well under market value for our prize assets.

Our attitude towards player sales in the 1970s can best be summarised by these telling if resigned comments from former Brentford manager, Frank Blunstone.

Brentford would sell anyone.

Ken Furphy was manager at Blackburn  Rovers at the time and straight after we’d beaten them four nil at Griffin Park he came up to me and asked if I’d sell them John O’Mara.

I laughed and said knowing the Chairman, I expect so.

He rang back on the Monday morning and offered £30,000 for John and off he went.

One day Bill Dodgin rang me up and asked if I’d sell Roger Cross, so I had to say those words again, “I expect so, Brentford will sell anybody!”

There is also the apocryphal story that Sheffield Wednesday manager, Jack Charlton, who coveted our star striker Andy McCulloch, made an initial bid of £60,000 for him, purely as an opening gambit, fully expecting that it would be laughed off but he was amazed when it was accepted with alacrity by the bumbling Brentford board of directors.

The list of players sold at apparent knock down fees is endless with Paul Smith and DJ Campbell being just two of the more recent examples.

forshaw2Times have changed, we are no longer a soft touch and we are now fortunate to have the financial clout not to be in a position to have to sell anyone.

We will not allow ourselves to be pushed around, and if and when we sell anyone it will be on our terms and our terms only.

Adam Forshaw is simply a case in point.

We spotted him in Everton Reserves and took a chance on him when nobody else was prepared to do so.

Through the quality of our coaching and training regime and the faith we have placed in him we have helped develop him into the jewel that he has undoubtedly become.

Adam will be a star and a likely Premier League starter and the only pity is that he was not prepared to stay another year with us in order to develop his game further.

On the face of it his joining Wigan appears to make sense.

Wigan is a club who were recently in the Premier League and are based near to his family and friends in the North West.

They can afford to pay him an eye watering salary, bolstered as they are by their Premier League Parachute Payments.

He will also be reunited with Uwe Rosler who was his first manager at Brentford.

In my view, however, he is taking a risk on the Rosler regime bearing fruit and restoring Wigan to the promised land of the Premier League.

Given their resources his gamble should pay off, but there is the nagging doubt that it could all go pear-shaped and Wigan might not prove to be the stepping stone that he undoubtedly wants it to be.

He will also be subject to Uwe’s strict rotation policy and for a player who wants and expects to play every week, he might find this frustrating.

Maybe if he had been prepared to give us another year he might well have progressed sufficiently to join a Premier League club directly without the need to take this interim step.

I am disappointed about his leaving and at the decision that he has made but you can’t take away the fact that Brentford have played a key role in his development and I will watch his career with pride.

In financial terms we have done really well out of Adam Forshaw.

He came on a free transfer and whatever the percentage of the fee Everton ultimately receive, and in similar situations it is commonplace for the potential selling club to attempt to renegotiate the previously agreed sell on percentage in order to help grease the wheels for a deal to be completed, we will have made a handsome profit on him.

What is more we have done what all sensible and forward thinking clubs do in similar situations and replaced him before we actually sold him.

My guess is that Jon Toral will be the eventual Forshaw replacement and we will probably start to see him being eased into the team in the very near future.

We also have the enticing prospect of Jota who has already impressed in his two short cameo appearances.

Forshaw is undoubtedly a massive loss to us but we have obviously planned for his departure and have not been left exposed and scrambling around for a replacement, more evidence of how far we have progressed in as a club.

We remain formidably strong in the midfield department and still have both the numbers and quality to cope with Adam’s imminent departure.

So, farewell Adam and we hope that you retain as many pleasant and positive memories of Brentford as we will of you.

Oh, and there is just the small matter of a Capital One Cup match tonight against the old enemy in Fulham to whet our appetite, and help us move on and put a line under the Forshaw situation.

Life goes on – and how!