Please Do Your Homework Mr. Samuel! – 11/5/16


I had not planned to write anything today as I had work to do and a book to finish but that all changed when I opened a copy of The Daily Mail at my breakfast table and my blood immediately started boiling to the extent that I wished the cover of the newspaper had contained a health warning.

Martin Samuel is an extremely well-regarded and deservedly much-lauded journalist who writes a column every Monday and Wednesday giving his take on the latest major happenings within the world of sport. I have to make a confession and say that I generally look forward to and enjoy his work as he certainly has a way with words, can turn an elegant and pithy phrase and enjoys exposing cant and hypocrisy wherever he finds it, as well as puncturing inflated egos and unjustified feelings of self-regard.

Given his exalted and rarified position and consequent concentration on the bigger fish, Brentford rarely come within his purview as we are far too insignificant and down the food chain to catch his regular attention. Today though was different as he let fly with a broadside that was as ill-conceived as it was ignorant and as lacking in logic as it was inaccurate. He really let us have it with both barrels and here is what he had to say:

As everything at Brentford is put through the analytics wringer, one presumes statistics do not just govern recruitment, but player sales. So it must have been some set of numbers that persuaded them to sell Andre Gray to Burnley – even for a club record six million pounds. Gray has scored twenty-three goals in forty-one league games as Burnley returned to the Premier League.

Brentford, meanwhile, have fallen from fifth to ninth, collecting thirteen points fewer than last season. With promotion worth in excess of one hundred million pounds, Brentford’s computer might need a reset.

Brentford first caught the eye of the national media late in 2014 as a team of plucky underdogs who were over performing to challenge at the top of the Championship, and had came from nowhere to compete with fellow blue-eyed boys, AFC Bournemouth, for a most unlikely promotion to the Premier League.

Timesgate and the botched announcement of the parting of the ways with Mark Warburton last February put us on the back foot and changed matters totally as the media unsurprisingly turned on us and then tried to devour us whole given our stated strategy of relying on statistical analysis and mathematical modelling.

Nobody bothered to take the time to discover what that really meant and we were convicted out of hand and perhaps out of our own mouth as faceless robots and automatons who would make every major recruitment decision on the basis of Computer Says, and were no longer relying in any way, shape or form upon the human element.

As we all know there is nothing that makes people feel more uneasy than new thinking and ideas and doing things differently to the norm, and the natural and default reaction is to mock, jeer, find fun and criticise rather than examine and analyse what is being mooted in a deep, thorough and analytical manner. That would be boring and require some effort, something nobody has the time to do, and journalists would far prefer the cheap headline and easy dig. And boy did we suffer, and continue to do so, as everyone from Martin Samuel, Daniel Taylor, Adrian Durham, Tony Cottee and pretty much the entire team of Sky Sports analysts has lined up to take cheap potshots at us and our approach.

What is so galling is that we are really doing nothing very different to the overwhelming majority of Premier League and Championship teams who rely to a great extent upon the use of statistics and data.

Where we differ is that in the normal Brentford manner, we are putting our own unique spin on things rather than just subscribing to the plethora of scouting databases that are readily available. We have also developed our own proprietary systems for how we both analyse and use the raw data, developed by Matthew Benham’s Smartodds company.

Analytics are used to identify and shortlist potential transfer targets but this is combined with physical scouting which also plays a crucial role in the recruitment process as former manager Andy Scott oversees a number of scouts who watch prospects in the flesh before any decision is made, and the recruitment process for a new Head Scout is also currently underway.

Given the tone and tenet of Mr. Samuel’s article it is both interesting and relevant to consider the words of Stats Guru Ted Knutson, until recently employed by Brentford, who wrote about his experience on his acclaimed StatsBomb website, and I hope he doesn’t mind my reproducing his words:

With a small recruitment team of two stats and six part-time scouts, we evaluated over one thousand players in a year for the first teams of Brentford and Midtjylland.

Yes, but were you successful? This is the most important factor, and obviously it depends on how you look at it.

After a disastrous start in the first nine games due to a poor manager choice, Brentford earned points at nearly a playoff pace, despite awful injuries in the first half of the season. The team also lead the league in goals scored and avoided an FFP-related transfer embargo.

And most importantly, they did it with one of the lowest wage budgets in the league and my estimate of a ten to eleven million pound transfer fee surplus in the year we were involved in recruitment.

I’m going to notch that up as success, while admitting that at the start of the season, I was hoping for promotion just like the owner and every other Brentford fan out there.

I wonder what Martin Samuel would make of that response as I feel strongly that he has been totally simplistic and superficial in his mocking words about the club?

Without wanting to repeat my normal mantra I would state that it was not Brentford’s desire or wish to sell Andre Gray to Burnley or indeed anybody else. We had no option but to sell him as well as other leading players such as Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas and James Tarkowski because they all wanted to leave the club.

Their heads had been turned by bigger and richer clubs generally swollen and inflated with massive Parachute Payments who were able to offer our best players mind-blowing salaries in a totally different stratosphere to what we could possibly afford. Odubajo also had a contractual release clause which was met by Hull City.

There is absolutely no point in keeping an unhappy, unsettled and dissatisfied player and Brentford have simply had to accept that for the foreseeable future that they are a stepping stone club which has to sell its best players whenever the predators come bashing at the door.

The club’s turnover and attendances are in the bottom three of the Championship and they are therefore competing with one hand tied behind their back. The dictates of Financial Fair Play has also necessitated the sale of players such as Gray who has now earned us the best part of nine millions pounds rather than the six erroneously mentioned by Mr. Samuel in his column.

To finish fifth and then ninth in such a competitive division which is otherwise awash with money is surely an incredible achievement given the restrictions and handicaps that we currently face?

Brantford were well aware of Andre Gray’s potential but had to sell him and could only ensure that they received their full valuation for him, which they did. Burnley have also just had to stump up a further promotion bonus payment with additional monies due should they survive next season in the Premier League, as well as a handsome sell-on percentage.

That has to be the Brentford way of doing business given a stadium that barely holds twelve thousand spectators. We buy low and sell high whilst punching way above our weight and playing attractive pass and move attacking football. There are already several other players in the squad from both at home and abroad identified through our combination of stats and physical scouting with as much potential or more than Gray.

As expected, Gray scored freely for his new club and his goals led them to promotion, but we replaced him with Lasse Vibe for a mere fraction of the cost and he scored fourteen times as we finished with seventy-two goals, equal top scorers in the division, ironically enough alongside Burnley.

All in all our four strikers scored twenty-nine times between them (more than Gray managed) with the amazing Scott Hogan returning from two serious cruciate injuries to score seven goals in less than two full matches.

Of course a player of Gray’s calibre was missed but we did a pretty good job of replacing him whilst still living within our means and finishing in a highly creditable position in the table with which every Brentford fan is delighted considering from whence we came.

Please Mr.Samuel do your homework next time and give some credit where it is due rather than take cheap shots which are totally unmerited. You are far better than that.

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Let’s Get Behind The Team! – 17/3/16

I wrote an article just the other day about my growing concerns about the increasing amount of foulmouthed abuse that the team and individual players and indeed the Brentford management are increasingly being subjected to both at matches as well as on social media.

It is a subject that I feel extremely strongly about as I fully support the right of all people to express their opinion but only if it is done in a reasonable manner, and I think that most sane and sensible people fully understand and realise when the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour has been crossed.

I also fully accept that football is a passionate game that stirs the emotions and fans can quite easily lose momentary control in the heat of the moment particularly when, as is the case at the moment, the team is neither playing well nor winning games.

Frustration, fear, confusion, disappointment and anger are an intoxicating brew indeed and can well lead to behaviour that in the cold light of day would be deemed well out of character.

That though is not to excuse it and some of the aggression and comments that I have either witnessed or read recently are, in my opinion, totally beyond the pale and serve only to further break the crucial bond between the team and the fans, and indeed create divisions between different factions of supporter at a time when we all desperately need to be pulling together.

The time for inquests is surely at the end of the season, or when our fate is finally sealed, and not now at a key point in the season when we need to be united and act in concert to support the team unconditionally and do whatever we can to help ensure that we get over the line unscathed by obtaining the points required to ensure our Championship survival.

I was not sure what reaction my initial comments would receive and whether I would simply be seen as out of touch and a dinosaur but the article seems to have touched a cord amongst many Brentford supporters, young and old who all contributed their views on this difficult and emotive subject.

Edward Coleman also had an upsetting experience at Loftus Road last Saturday:

I was sitting in the lower stand with my fifteen year old daughter and was appalled. When I have been at previous way games it has been noisy but with an element of humour. This was just nasty. It was reminiscent of an English Defence League rally (I am not saying this flippantly as I was caught up in one several years ago.)

I live in South Ealing where Fulham and QPR fans are mixed in with Bees and I do not hate my neighbours. Whilst I am a newish fan (I got back into football because my daughter is football mad) I am not some sort of prude. I have worked in nightshelters and used to work in adult mental health. We sit at home in Braemar Road because both of us enjoy the adult repartee. I met another local fan who was at the match with her daughter and she also found it very frightening.

Steve was far more succinct and forthright in his comments:

Well said Greville. Keep this blog as a beacon of sense as elsewhere there is madness.

Regarding the insults, seeing men in their forties screaming abuse at teenagers playing football does make me wince. How do they think it is either acceptable or likely to help the players?

More of the same from Lew:

You’ve touched upon something that’s been aggravating me for a while but I’ve not fully been able to vocalise it. As a group we’ve been split into two rough groups for ages: keep the faith or go back to how things were, we’ve stopped getting behind the team and started looking for excuses. But that lack of unity in the stands is just as important a factor as the lack of consistency on the pitch. It would be excellent if everybody modified their opinions and just cheered as one on Saturday.

Wise words indeed and I totally endorse his analysis of the situation.

Simon Pitt took a different stance:

Last season we finished fifth and were told by Matthew Benham that the club needs to be taken in a different direction to make us more competitive with big clubs with more resources in the championship. Finishing fifth to me suggest we are going in the right direction and so (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it) why the need for change? If we finished in the bottom half or survived a relegation battle then fair enough.Every player and athletes in general thrive to reach the top of their sport and those players of last season must have known how close they were to achieving their goal of playing in the Premier League.

Matthew Benham’s vision should have been put on hold and encouraged the players and manager to give us one more year. I fully respect Matthew Benham and understand his philosophy, but he got the timing wrong. Mark Warburton obviously had huge respect from the players and I’m sure that if he had stayed so too would have the players. A couple more signings and I’m sure we could have done it this year. This is why the fans are so angry, frustrated and mystified as to what has been going on and so normal placid fans are making there feelings known.

When I asked Simon if he felt that the manner and way in which disappointed and disgruntled supporters are currently making their views known is acceptable and if he agreed that it was just making things far worse rather than helping as the extreme negativity being expressed so unpleasantly is driving us all further apart and polarising us rather than bringing us all together, he replied:

No I don’t think it’s acceptable but it goes on at most grounds up and down the country and will never change and there is very little that can be done about it. If people are offended then stop going and choose a different sport to follow.

I understand his frustration but cannot accept that the end justifies the means and that we should simply ignore the problem, put our head in the sand or simply stop attending matches and let the idiots win.

Rob shared my view:

Greville, great blog as always and I totally agree one hundred percent. Although we qualified for tickets quite early in the process we as a family passed up on the QPR game. My eleven year old hates football at the best of times but surrounded by a Bees mad Father, Mother and elder brother he has to put up with it. However various away games this season (and last) really have put him off away games. The vile verbal abuse seems the best we can resort to rather than creative singing and chanting to try and raise the team.

I recently attended the Brighton versus Sheffield Wednesday game, midweek, rubbish weather and to be honest very poor football. But over fifteen hundred Wednesday fans, no matter how poorly they were playing, not only stood as one throughout, but sang their hearts out in encouragement – even when the simplest and most basics of mistakes were being made by their team. Compare that, and I do understand we are at the other end of the table, to the abuse dished out not just at away but also home game to individuals in our team.

For thirty-nine years I have watched good and bad performances and players (more bad than good I’m afraid) but never feel it is either our right, nor correct that players should be abused or booed. The trouble it would seem is with the relative success over the last few years or so, those thirteen to fifteen year olds who started with their fathers as supporters are now sixteen to eighteen year olds who believe in a culture where they feel through social media it is their right to verbally abuse and insult not just the players, but management, coaches and owners.

They spout off  regarding team selections, who should be sold and who should be sacked all in the strongest terms and yet then in the next sentence complain how tough their A-Level homework is! They have no experience of life and yet feel they know all there is to know about running a football club (and much more!) and engage their brains without any due consideration to the impact of where they are saying.

The next best thing in their mind is launch into vile, personal and disgusting abuse. Those older should know better, but they are role models for those younger who without any consideration to their actions don’t really care about much else than themselves.

It is not my intention to point the finger at all within their age bracket, but the same bunch that demand immediate gratification and believe it is our God given right to win promotion season after season are the same ones who sometimes make me ashamed to be a Bees fan.

John Hirdle has also seen and heard more than enough:

An excellent article as ever and something that i think has been waiting to be said by somebody for a while now. It is the way of the world these days though and sadly I don’t see it changing any time soon. I am old school like yourself and do find some of the vitriolic stuff rather distasteful I must say. We are all frustrated and angry at what has happened over the last year and our current spectacular nosedive. None of us, including myself, are exempt from letting our frustrations boil over from time to time, but there is a fine line between momentary passion-led shows of disappointment and personal targeted vile abuse which gets us all nowhere.

I used to love standing amongst the younger lads at away games and having a good sing song. But in recent seasons I must say I deliberately make sure I book seats well clear of the back of the stands and most of the smoke bomb idiots. It was the main reason I chose the Upper Tier at Loftus Road on Saturday as I knew I would be amongst more reasoned people.

I don’t by any means label all of our younger lads with the same tag as I personally know many and they are good guys, and indeed some of my own generation and older are just as culpable of foulmouthed and offensive behaviour. Maybe it is just bigger crowds brought about by the success of recent seasons and you notice it more, but I, like you, have become more aware of the less than savoury minority element of support we now have both at games and across social media. Or maybe I am just getting old?

Rebel Bee was characteristically hard hitting and forceful in his comments:

Some of the stuff that went on on Saturday really wasn’t good and it is completely right and fair to raise it in your fine blog. But with huge respect to you and other posters I am going to try to offer some mitigation and push back a touch. Rangers fans were dishing it out to us all day and it wound a few Bees up before and during the game – getting spanked by them brings out the worst in people, and I too had to walk out before the end to avoid losing the plot. Is it right – no, but we are watching football not rugby – football people and its culture is different – warts and all.

As to aggression between Bees fans, I’ve seen this a few times and it is sad to see, trust me it is coming from both sides of the argument over the club’s deteriorating fortunes. People have invested in our big new ambitions massively, many are confused, anxious and angry at the way this season has been conducted. 

By the way this part of a far wider football issue than you may think, I’ve heard of Arsenal fans turning on each other recently – and the same at many other clubs. We invest more than ever in support of our team and I don’t just mean in monetary terms. 

You reference Rotherham – sure, but they are as mean and hostile a bunch of fans as you’ll find on their day, this has been lacking at Griffin Park this season because we don’t have a unified cause or purpose and aren’t pulling together – but they are not a group of librarians – trust me.

Where I strongly agree is the use / misuse of social media. It is easy to be really offensive when you are anonymous or don’t face your victim. It is a societal problem though, often football fans get blamed for things that go on and are worse in wider society – it’s always been that way since I’ve been around. We all used to go to the pub to let off steam and say what we needed to say in a confined space. Now people jump on to Twitter and most regret if afterwards.

Whilst it may not be ideal, football fans come from all backgrounds and types of upbringing, some are more articulate than others. It doesn’t mean that really bad behaviour should be blindly tolerated, but it should also not be forgotten that it has always been the game of the working class. Fan culture and tribalism are aspects of all that we love, some times it boils over and is ugly.

Finally there is a risk that we allow the narrative to shift over our club’s failings this season, and move the root cause so that it becomes the fans’ fault for being so negative. I see this happening already, those that have backed all the big decisions said we’d be fine, and they aren’t so sure now, fair enough but please let’s not put this on our brilliant fans – regardless of their point of view on the big topics. Football fans are always such an easy target.

Saturday was a bad day all round – we move on and hopefully can pull together to get the wins we need to all be able to leave this season behind us – united again.

Red Rose Bee blames matters on the new batch of so-called supporters:

Empty vessels make the most noise and drunken empty vessels desperate to impress their equally empty-headed mates make a great deal of noise. One of the problems of our great success of the past five years is that we have attracted some idiots who have jumped onto the band wagon and who lack the intelligence and maturity to realise that supporting a team like Brentford will inevitably have more downs than ups.

I never saw these characters at places like Scunthorpe, Rochdale, Macclesfield and Morecambe in the very recent past.The only bright side to our present plight and possible relegation is that they will take themselves elsewhere and go and pollute a different club.

Spanish Bee agrees with him:

I think Rebel Bee is making a very valid point here. There is no justification for the behaviour you criticise and from a practical point of view, it doesn’t help the team, so it is self-defeating or to put it another way just stupid. However, changing everything so radically when we had had our most successful season for decades was a very risky thing to do and it has not turned out well. Without going into details, Brentford Football Club has significantly raised expectations and then has fallen very short. We should not blame the fans for this.

Lawrence Bending also puts the blame on raised expectations and the presence of glory hunters:

The sort of bilious hatred on view by some supporters leaves a sour taste regardless of the outcome of the match. I first watched the Bees regularly in 1967 so QPR will never be favourites of mine – but funnily enough – their fans and players are just other human beings. The atmosphere has changed recently due to our relative success, and probably huge disappointment at seemingly throwing this away, has contributed I believe to most of these excesses – it is ironic that if God forbid we are relegated it will largely disappear. For goodness sake lets pull together and concentrate on supporting the team and not abusing the opposition.

beesyellow22 tried to take a balanced view:

I’m sure we would all like for us to beat Blackburn and come together as supporters and a club. Unfortunately I don’t think it will be as easy as that. Yes, a win on Saturday will help, but until survival is guaranteed and there is something positive to look towards next season I think that many will continue to share the philosophy of Simon Pitt (one I don’t completely disagree with myself) and question where the club is actually going and why Matthew was so happy to dispense with the services of our greatest manager in the modern era.

Of course it does not excuse the kind of behaviour that Greville is talking about – but at the same time there is an enormous amount of frustration amongst supporters, surely borne out of a perception that so much of what we have witnessed this season has been self-inflicted.

Yes, it is up to the fans to continue to get behind the team and the manager – but it is also up to the powers that be to give the fans a reason to keep believing. Is blind faith the answer? Sometimes – particularly when you love your club. However, blind faith after ten defeats out of the last thirteen games is a hard thing to muster.

Jim Levack is also fed up with the behaviour he has witnessed:

I totally agree with Greville’s take on the unfortunate civil war that seems to be enveloping the club and its supporters.

I have had, at times, quite heated disagreements with some close Brentford supporting friends since Mark Warburton left the club so I know how easy it is to become embroiled in an exchange of views.

The common theme among these rows is passion, we are all passionate about our club and passionate about how we feel the current slide can be arrested.

Last week against Charlton I watched one player – I think it was Sergi Canos – chase a lost cause. He didn’t win the ball but was roundly applauded. If Brentford fans see total effort they respond. if they don’t they won’t.

We want the people running the club to be as passionate as we are, but currently the lack of action in strengthening the squad gives the impression – most likely a false one – that they don’t share our passion. To my mind they have forty-eight hours to allay fears by bringing in at least two loan players to freshen things up and give Dean Smith a fighting chance of putting his mark on the side. If they don’t their actions could be considered as bordering on negligent.

Whatever happens though, in-fighting – however satisfying it might be in the short term – will do more harm than good to our chances of staying up.

Bernard Quackenbush made a pithy comment:

One of the things I hate about the modern game is this practice of abusing others quite mindlessly and then excusing it by referring to it as banter.

Finally, Garry Smith gave his measured view from afar:

I have been moved to contribute by the current situation and the very raw tones of all your contributors of late (dare I say many of them in panic at the potential loss of a league status that all but the most recent of supporter recruits have yearned for, for a long peiod of time.)

I will re-iterate my previous assertion that whilst used by many generations, social media is the younger person’s preferred (if not only) avenue of communication and that a fair amount of these critics are the very same recently attracted supporters that only know the successful Brentford, we need these young blood supporters as they are the future, but we must understand they are trying to compete with their peers who support Premier League teams who they can support via television and the internet and therefore these supporters are far more frustrated with their first period of hardship than us who have seen it all before.

I am not sure what the driving force behind the older generation of critics is, maybe they have always been critics (and maybe always had poor performances as a reason to be) or maybe they too are recent recruits. Maybe the in-fighting is an attempt by the hardened critics (who are really loyal supporters) not liking the attitude of recent critics, I don’t get it anyway, because a supporter is allowed to moan but should never be in a big enough minority to actually affect everybody else!

Here is the nub of why I wanted to contribute again, I am sure that a conscious decision was made by senior management (once the Marinus experiment failed) to bring in a proven English style manager (who likes to play a passing game) with a view of building for next season, it was felt that enough points (no small thanks to Lee Carsley) and enough good players had been accumulated for us to survive and at the same time gain premium prices for players we were never going to find it easy to hold onto, so we could hoard our resources for a real go again next season.

I have always been fully behind this approach, this is the first time we have been in the second flight for two successive seasons in all my fifty-three years of supporting and I KNOW we have Matthew Benham to thank for this, I am sure recent supporter recruits will not fully understand this for the reasons given above.

Unfortunately it has probably been underestimated how quickly and vehemently the fans would turn on senior management, coaches and players. This is contributing to an undermining of confidence in players and coaches alike, which cannot fail to translate itself onto the pitch. Yes I know our current squad has nowhere near as much skill and quality as last season, but I am sure they are a lot better than they are appearing at present.

This is where I would like to make my big plea, please can all supporters reading this, or being influenced by fans reading this, realise we will be in serious trouble if we do not all pull together very soon. I will harp back to Martin Allen again, whose contribution I will never forget, One man pulled everybody together by being positive. We can only pull this around by being together – the negativity, in-fighting, criticism of players, coaching Staff and management, can only harm our chance of remaining in this division until we restrengthen our squad.

Please, please, all pull together and encourage the players, staff and each other, even (or maybe especially) when we don’t always do things well, this is real and it is now. We have enough winable games left if we all get together and pull in the same direction.

Go On You Bees !!

I cannot end this article on a better note than with Garry’s rousing rallying call.

Paul Grimes Has His Say – 16/3/16

Paul Grimes was not entirely convinced by what both Matthew Benham and Phil Giles said in their recent interviews with Beesotted and myself and given that he remains angry and frustrated about the current situation he has given vent to his feelings and sent me a long and emotive article which clearly sets out his concerns and what he feels must be done in order to improve matters and get us back on track.

I would just like to remind everybody of the immortal comment of Evelyn Beatrice Hall:

I do not agree with what you have to say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

Here is what Paul wrote:

My old drama teacher used to say to me that comedy was all about timing! I then had to take his comments on board and present them and one week as I enacted the role of the drama teacher talking to a pupil I chose my lines carefully;

” Comedy young man is all about t-t-t-t-t-timing”. A little stutter added and then, hey presto, laughter.

As I observed last week’s jousting between BIAS and this blog to get interviews with Matthew Benham and Phil Giles out to the public before the big derby I felt an uplifting chuckle amongst my pre-match nerves. Having read both articles and other social media feedback I found myself thinking about my drama teacher again. 

Pause, take a deep breath and hit your mark!

So that’s what I did and to be fair I needed to because the outpouring of love from the rose tinted brigade and those that can’t bear to read any negative opinions about the club almost had me reaching for the sick bucket.

Let’s break it down a bit.

It was a fantastic article from Besotted first and a great coup for Billy and Dave to get an interview with the usually publicity shy Matthew Benham.

Good set of questions and forthright answers from the owner. But was I happy with what the owner replied? Not really.

Firstly there seems to be this yes men mentality around the club this season and none of the questions really challenged Matthew in my opinion. 

One wonders if there was a remit before the interview such to only ask the type of questions that he was prepared to answer? 

There are no follow up questions to the crucial answers Matthew gives.

On Smith for example, Matthew is very happy with Dean. That’s it? What about the long term plan and Dean’s understanding of it?

What about asking him to elaborate o his win record and underachievement as a lot of the supporters are now doubting him.

Then there is this clamour that Smith has to be given the chance to build his own team. I am not so sure about that!

Isn’t Dean in the Head Coach role? Wasn’t one of the reasons for having a Head Coach to prevent any Manager using the players at his disposal as an excuse for poor performance?

Lee Carsley coached this same set of players to better performances than Smith has done. 

Which brings me on to timing.

Why was this interview given BEFORE the game on Saturday?

The result of the four local derbies and bragging rights amongst friends is all we are clinging onto this season so Saturday’s performance and result was always going to have great significance. 

I can’t comment on the performance as my leg is in plaster so I wasn’t there but I was glued to the live text commentary and the all important stats and my blood was boiling as Smith pondered his next move after the second goal. That had come soon after sending on Vibe and dispensing with the false nine set up. Then it hit him, Saunders and Kerschbaumer! 

Not Djuricin? Not two up top? After all we are two down. Now we are three down and no surprise because we had gone from playing a false nine to playing with only nine because Vibe is knackered according to Smith and Kerschbaumer is contributing absolutely nothing.

Anyway I digress, but that is what this match in particular does to Bees fans of a certain age. 

Back to the article, and in particular the public backing of Smith. It made me wonder if Matthew has decided enough is enough and by hook or by crook we are sticking with this because there is no more money being thrown at it this season.

I have had my Eureka moment and I have just realised This is not a Comedy and nobody is laughing!

Let’s now consider the Phil Giles interview.

Before I do that I wanted to start by reminding the readers that Greville came in for a bit of personal stick from one fan who likened his style of questioning to perhaps that of a blunt instrument and as unfair as that was I have to say that my first thoughts on that matter was to sympathise with the fan’s comment. I think that as Greville is a well respected Bees United Director I think its fair to say that he would not be seen by many fans as a boat rocker and thus I guess the fear was that the questions would not represent the animosity that is felt by many to the job being done by Giles and Ankersen.

So maybe on  behalf of some of those fans that perhaps have a different and in this writer’s case certainly, a less informed opinion to that which Greville has of the club and how this season is panning out here is my thoughts on them both.

To start with I was disappointed that the Beesotted lads gave Matthew just one short question about the supposed alienation of his Co-Directors of Football from fans like me and his answer to me smacks of a pre-interview agreement not to press him on this subject.

So Let me take it apart. and maybe ask some probing questions that maybe the Beesotted boys might have done.

 It’s a team effort. So that is Giles, Ankersen and yourself Matthew? Was Marinus appointed by this team? The mistake that was made by not following up on the poor reference, whose decision was that Matthew?

Was Marinus involved in signing Kerschbaumer, Gogia, Vibe, Bjelland, Barbet, Colin? What did he know about any of them except Bjelland ? What stats were compiled about these players and were these stats put to Marinus to consider or did one of the team take a more proactive lead in this area?

So are we laying the failure of any of these to make any kind of first season impact at the feet of Marinus or are the Directors of Football to blame? Or is it a collective failure?

When were concerns first raised about Marinus and Roy and their training sessions and the ability of the new players within the management team or squad? Was it in Portugal? How were the comments made and to whom? Were those comments passed onto the rest of the team?

Was the whistleblower encouraged to communicate with the executive management team or was he singled out as a troublemaker? Any regrets over that part of this new transition period, Matthew?

I think I have tried to show how the interview could have expanded and I don’t think Billy or Dave who both know me will say I have done them a disservice by making the points I have because they speak to fans every week and they know that some of us want the same thing they do but we have the luxury of not having to take such a soft stance with the questions we would like answered.

So onto the Giles interview and his opening gambit is and I quote

” I understand the current frustration among our fans”. Well without being too disrespectful Phil I don’t think you do.

So let me put it to you straight, The Co-Directors of Football along with the owner selected Marinus and he turned out be a mistake.

Not a great start.

Then there was your colleague’s comments about our short term ambitions. Naïve but once it was out there expectation levels amongst our fans went haywire and on the back of last season’s success we all looked forward to seeing the new look team.  A new look squad signed by the executive team based on the same identification process that had been available to Warburton. So here is a question Phil, were those first seven signings the same seven players that were offered to Warburton that he turned down in January?

If so, on whose expert opinion was that decision made?

Add in Pitchgate, losing to Oxford, losing Bjelland none of which that you can be blamed for and then we lose Jota as well and things are not going well at all.

Then the ineffectiveness of Kerschbaumer, Gogia, Vibe, Djuricin, Hofmann, Barbet and to a lesser extent Colin, and the poor start, and now Phil you might finally be getting an understanding of the frustrations of the fans.

In comes Lee Carsley who starts by contradicting the statement given by the club regarding his appointment and then with the help of an International Break gets the team behind him and the recovery begins. But due to his unwillingness to do the job the executive team are looking for a new man to come in. Paul Williams comes in and Carsley talks him up but he also leaves and is now in caretaker charge at Forest and the executive team settle on Dean Smith as the new man to take us forward.

A centre half in lower league football with a win percentage of thirty-two percent in his managerial career who if he maintains only that form would give us between fifty-eight and sixty-two points in a season with draws thrown in. Inspired choice or just the most cost effective?

Are you getting a sense of the frustration Phil? I hope so and maybe now that you may understand the concerns of Brentford fans perhaps you might want to revisit your answers because had you have been interviewed by me and not Greville you would not be getting off so lightly.

Then to set the tone properly I want to mention George Evans. Smith gave the lad a platform at Walsall and he had been mentioned way back in December as being our first Smith signing so why was he not tied up Macleod style on the first of January before the FA Cup game where he demonstrated clearly what a good player he is going to be? Quite frankly Phil, who bodged this signing, You or Rasmus?

When you are done and you have answered the questions then do I think you are in position to make your opening statement and then you can answer the softly put questions that Greville has compiled and then and only then will I want the chance to re-read your answers.

Ok,  so what next? Well I believe Smith is a short term, cost-effective appointment with poor tactical awareness as was demonstrated on Saturday, not for the first time. The improvement required by him alone in his ability to affect positively his win percentage just does not seem to me to be forthcoming nor likely.

So now or in May he has to go. Sorry if you disagree but the stats don’t lie. He is another mistake by the Co-Directors of Football and (if you like) by the owner if he wants to be seen as in that executive team.

Benham is not shy to address mistakes as proven with Marinus and I expected that decision to be made in the fullness of time right upto that interview last week. Sadly I think results will continue to go against Smith and Matthew Benham will have to take his medicine once more.

Giles makes a point of stating how young our team is and right now this team needs a Darron Gibson type or perhaps come the end of the season we could highjack Tom Adeyemi who will be available from Cardiff, is the right age, ability and who seems to have lost his place at Leeds to Toumani.

Then there is the forward line which can only be described as a complete failure. Short term we need a striker with either pace and/or strength who can play up top alone so Glenn Murray springs to mind short term with maybe Hogan adding the pace very soon off the bench at least. Hofmann needs to learn how to play as a back post striker so I would call up Crawley or Oldham and find a way to tempt them to take him on loan as he might find an ex-Bee or a youth team coach at those clubs who might just be able to bring out the player that lots of fans think could be in there.

Vibe needs a rest so he would be on the bench at best from now until end of season. Djuricin then has a ten match trial to ensure the option is taken up in May albeit for me off the bench.

At the back I think it’s time to add a loanee centre half, yes that’s right five at the back. Macca at Right back. Woods in front.

On the other side Bidwell and McEachran with Judge a loanee midfielder and possibly a loanee centre forward. Quite simply a new spine that in old money has a spine.

Hogan and Djuricin off the bench if we get a Murray in along with Yennaris, Swift, Canos, O’Connell and Bonham.

If I never see Kerschbaumer in a Brentford shirt again it will be too soon.

So what do we need?

Well I think we need three loan signings, yes three, and the reason is not to avoid relegation, it’s to ensure this club remains attractive to the players who the owner wants to target in the Summer and thus the message to Giles and Ankersen would be if you two want another stab at this in the summer right now before the loan window closes, show us you have the ability to get the right short term players in as after a week of interviews and following eight defeats in eleven games right now, actions speak louder than words!

I could go though Paul’s words line by line and try and rebut much of what he says but as I stated the other week I feel that it is important for me from time to time to allow Brentford supporters to have their say whatever their views, as long as they are expressed decently and without abuse. That being said, there are certainly points that Paul makes that will have many supporters nodding in agreement as well as others reeling in horror.

So I have published it pretty much as it was submitted and now it is up to you to comment, agree or disagree according to your own opinion.

More Questions And Concerns – 8/3/16

The airwaves have been buzzing with activity since I wrote an article the other day suggesting that it was now Time For Some Answers from senior staff at Brentford FC given the current run of poor results and performances and the resulting uncertainty and concern at how matters have been deteriorating on the pitch since the turn of the year and a Transfer Window which saw the club further weaken its squad without bringing in any reinforcements .

I fully understand and buy into the financial and practical reasons why the club has taken some of the decisions that it has but did not expect that they would result in quite such a massive and immediate deterioration both in results and, just as crucially, the quality of our performances. Losing at home to the bottom team in the Championship on Saturday certainly did not help improve matters and some supporters are also beginning to lose patience regarding what is going on and, as our slump continues, are now openly questioning our strategy as well as the impact that manager Dean Smith is having on the team.

I will continue to support the club in all its actions and for its current business model as I quite frankly can see no alternative way forward for us given our financial constraints and our need to compete on an even playing field with teams whose resources totally dwarf our own, and buttressed by income levels we can only dream about and massive parachute payments, can spend millions of pounds on strengthening their squad and seemingly with a mere snap of their fingers can also entice our best players to leave us, even though they have to pay us handsomely for the privilege.

Last season massively raised expectations and I still feel that a huge opportunity was lost when we did not strengthen a squad in January that looked as if it might continue on its triumphant and seemingly unstoppable path to the Premier League. Had things turned out differently in January, who knows, maybe even the divorce between Matthew Benham and Mark Warburton might have been avoided although I suspect that I am clutching at straws as it would appear that there might well have already been a breakdown in trust as well as fundamental differences between them that would inevitably lead to a parting of the ways.

It is pointless now to look backwards although last season plainly showed what is possible, even against all the odds, for the club in terms of results, performances, style of play, quality of recruitment and overall sense of togetherness and we can only aspire to what was achieved and do our utmost to replicate and even surpass it in the future.

This season has seen us facing an ongoing and relentless series of obstacles, barriers, setbacks and problems, some of them of our own making, others largely unforeseen and unfortunate and should we finish the season somewhere around halfway up the Championship then I for one would see this as a successful season given all the circumstances and such a final placing would be something that I could barely have dreamed about only a couple of years ago.

The problem is managing supporter expectations that quite frankly have been raised unrealistically by some ill-judged comments from within the club as well as a natural sense of optimism and anticipation, if not entitlement amongst supporters, created by the triumphs of last season.

I also revealed that I am meeting Phil Giles later this week when he has agreed to answer some of the supporters’ current concerns and I am hoping for reassurances regarding the way forward and how we expect to plan for next season and beyond.

A busy close season culminating in the club retrenching and recruiting cleverly, creatively and effectively from both home and abroad would certainly help to turn things around and bring about a renewed sense of optimism.

In the meantime I have been overwhelmed by the response to my article which included a list of the questions that I have sent to Mr. Giles, and I have heard from many Bees supporters who share my love and support for the club as well as varying degrees of concern about the current situation.

Former player Richard Poole is worried that our slide could continue until we go into freefall:

Great questions Greville, I just hope they provide the answers as the fans have a right to know. I was not there on Saturday but the players should at least try in respect of the shirt and the fans too as relegation could creep up on us more quickly than we think

Red Rose Bee also helped to put matters into context in terms of fan satisfaction:

I am a season ticket holder living in Lancashire. Every home match is a five hundred mile round journey and costs me around ninety pounds. I first went in September 1961 and have been through all the many bad times as well as the few good. I was at Birmingham, Rotherham and SheffieldWednesday recently. I made the decision not to go on Saturday because watching this team is so depressing at the moment. If the players cannot be bothered, why should I? I predicted that we would lose to Charlton. Like many others who watch us play I am not a football expert but every week we see the same players make the same mistakes as well as the lack of urgency and pride.

I don’t blame Dean Smith for this as he has been handed a very difficult situation, it is the Co-Directors of Football who must answer the questions. I cannot imagine that Matthew Benham is happy with what is happening now.Without him we have no future though.

I just hope that Saturday will focus minds and will represent the lowest point of a forgettable season, if not, and if we carry on like this, we are definitely in a relegation scrap.

Rob is concerned about the current makeup of the squad:

Another great incisive article, Greville – and I look forward to some of the questions you have asked getting answered honestly and fully. Yes, last season was a brilliant one for us, and I fully accept after fifty-two years of supporting the Bees that we cannot have it like that every year. However, there is still the expectation that life will not always be going from high peaks to low troughs. A few weeks ago I thought that we had enough points to stay safe for this year but after Saturday’s performance, I’m not quite so confident. 

It is not just the persistence in playing the lone striker that concerns me, there is the lack of an effective midfield. Whilst I was never the biggest fan of Douglas, and obviously he is approaching the twilight of his career, he has not been replaced.

Equally, Toumani’s departure has left a gap in the defensive midfield and it was interesting to hear comments in the stand about how much we miss him coming from people who were often vociferous critics of him in the past – you don’t know how good someone is until they go. I fully appreciate that players will come and players will go, but I feel that far too many have gone without adequate replacement – and that is one of my biggest concerns.

Rebel Bee gave his analysis of the current situation:

Something is very wrong at Brentford, and without taking any pleasure in it, some of us have felt this for a long while now. An air of complacency set in at the turn of the year, leaving the squad short in strength, character, quality in this unforgiving division – which is relentless right up to the last game. We could yet pay a very heavy price for this complacency – our predicament is that serious.

You’d have to write a book to pick over that performance on Saturday – it was that bad – Smith’s pre match “start on the front foot” quote in tatters after twenty seconds. Even our superb keeper has got the yips, gifting their winner with a soft punch – we are unable to dig in and take a few scruffy draws and that is what alarms me most in this bad run. A glaring problem for us is the lack of pace in the squad – it’s a big part of why we lost yesterday.

My questions to Phil Giles would be all about the balance of the squad and the rationale behind the signings made this season. Why sign three forwards who are unable to play in our lone striker role? Why have we lost and not replaced our powerful, pacy players? We have no width or an outlet, even hapless Charlton had this. I’d also ask how the summer recruitment process will be handled, assuming we stay up, is Dean Smith being given more input and say on this than Marinus was?

Saturday was the day that even some of the most positive people I know are starting to accept that we’ve made a real mess of things, and wonder where our next point will come from. It’s backs against the wall time – all we can do is to get to QPR and try to do our bit, all of the staff need to respond this week and man up a bit.

I fear something has seriously gone awry at Brentford, complete supposition on my part but all is not well and it goes far deeper than the on pitch issues. Clearly the frustrating delays to the Lionel Road project are part of this, maybe a bigger part than I imagined.

Within reason the senior figures at the club need to come out and communicate – tell the truth and try to pull everyone together – otherwise our golden moment getting to and competing in the championship will be a fleeting memory.

Iain is also looking forward to hearing some answers:

Thanks for another good blog Greville. Quite a list of questions! If these will be properly dealt with, then you’ll have a fairly lengthy meeting.

Clearly Saturday was as bad as it can get right now. You can do no worse in a league game than lose at home to the team occupying bottom place. However, whether we’re on a downward spiral will tell how much worse it can get.

Not a specific question but one troubling observation which you might be able to build into your discussion. Did you look at the players before kick off yesterday? My friend remarked that their body language was all wrong and that they didn’t look like they were up for the challenge.

You know, he was right, it was definitely visible. The contrast with the Charlton players was there to see. 

Surely the players should at least come out looking like they can’t wait for the game to start? You can have the worst group of players, with a bad owner but still come onto the field highly energised.

So the events of the first minute only seemed to verify all was absolutely not well in how the players were prepared. I am still very reluctant to become too critical of our Head Coach – but when this is coupled with the obviously ineffective substitutions and too many long balls, which we invariably lose, there are more serious concerns now.

None of us wants to see much more of this. We have no divine right to win but we expect the team to come out, champing at the bit to go and players to know how the team is expected to play and how they are meant to be a part of that.

Maybe what we need to get things going again is a local derby against a team which fires everyone up? Perhaps we have one of those soon.

John Hirdle would prefer a public forum:

Good luck in trying to get some answers from Giles. It is long overdue for him and Ankersen to break their wall of silence and front up with some explanations on the current state we find the club in and their proposed actions to improve things both short term and long term. I can’t help feeling though that instead of a private meeting with yourself they should be addressing these concerns to all of us publicly at a Fans’ Forum. I have little confidence in either of them to be honest.

dwp26 added a few extra questions:

Excellent post. I always come here to get a more balanced view, and I often find that it helps me realise things are not as bad as the post match trauma would suggest.

Some questions to pass on:

Is the overall target of Premier League football in five years still feasible?

Why should I and many others renew season tickets for next season, given that the football we play currently resembles nothing like last season’s quality?

Will we see that exciting brand of high intensity attacking football again at Brentford, or are we now condemned to sideways passing and long balls to players who have a poor first touch and can’t head it?

Chris White wants better and more frequent communication from the club:

Regular communication from the powers to be acknowledging the good and what needs to be improved and what the club intends to do about it would be a good start. I think this would be good for the standing of the club as there are many within the game who because of what happened last February, really want us to fail. We need to acknowledge this and re-emphasise that we have to do things differently if we want to be successful with our resources. But the silence has become deafening.

Lastly, we’re all in despair because we were actually given that most precious thing – hope. We hoped that we could be successful and last year we saw that it could be done, which has given us belief. There’s no way we can allow that to disappear now – it’s already rooted and mediocrity is only making matters worse. The fact that the mediocrity is now within a Championship setting show how far we have come but also what our current expectations now are.

Good luck with the meeting, Greville, and I cant wait for the feedback.

Let’s end with the thoughts of Jim Levack who, as normal, succinctly summed things up:

Greville… your article and questions are absolutely on the button. It has spawned some intelligent and reasoned responses too.

Just one thought though – Should it not be Matthew Benham answering those questions as he hired both Giles and Ankersen? It is not really fair on Giles to take the flak alone, just as it’s unfair for people to judge Dean Smith on a side that he has had no say in developing.

To those who say Carsley got more out of the same players, that is selective thinking. Carsley had a quality centre back in Tarkowski and an effective, gangly pain in the backside play-breaker in Diagouraga.

I’m not going to rant on but to my mind failing to sign any replacements in January has created a destructive mindset at the club. If you tell your office profits don’t matter until the next financial year, the team will cruise.

Interesting thoughts from all of them and many others too. It is good to offload as well as express your concerns. Let’s just wait for some of the answers and hope that I am not fobbed off with platitudes and that they allay concerns and reunite us all.

 

A Good Night – 24/2/16

What a difference a few days make.

On Saturday Brentford were clearly second best to Derby County but still managed to throw away an unexpected opportunity to win the game and we left the ground morose and concerned.

Last night I floated on air to my car, my face wreathed with smiles, both from pleasure and also, it has to be said, a fair bit of relief after the Bees totally outplayed Wolverhampton Wanderers and coasted to a three goal victory, their first at home this year.

Make no mistake about it, Brentford were very, very good in the night and ran rings round a Wolves team which was totally unable to cope with our pace, poise, invention and attacking incision.

Wolves, it must be said were totally inept and wandered round the pitch in a trance, as if mesmerised by the sheer quality of our performance.

I well remember a Walsall team similarly going through the motions at Griffin Park way back in January 2006 when it was patently obvious that they were not playing for their then manager, Paul Merson, who was swiftly jettisoned and quite frankly I fear for the future of the esteemed Kenny Jackett if last night is anything to go by, as his team appeared uninterested, disorganised and disinclined to get out of first gear.

Brentford scented blood and started out on the front foot and soon forced their opponents back.

Dean Smith had learned his lesson from Saturday and chose a far more balanced and attacking team with Judge, Swift and Canos all given license to get forward and down the flanks to run at a slow and porous defence that was swiftly overrun.

The visitors had chances on the break and Button made two early, but comfortable saves but it was predominantly one way traffic with Swift gliding past opponents at will and Canos destroying them with his pace.

A young colt brimming with energy and enthusiasm, he roamed both flanks and was a constant source of danger, heading just over and twice forcing saves from Ikeme.

Unlike Derby, who pressed us relentlessly and never gave us a moment’s peace on the ball, Wolves gave us the room, space and time to play, and without having to deal with massive opponents right in their face, Woods and McEachran took full advantage and pulled all the strings in midfield, driving us forward relentlessly.

Woods was a terrier, snapping at the ankles of his opponents and demonstrating his entire range of passes, both long and short.

Josh too showed that when given room he is a match winner and he both sees and finds passes that are totally beyond the wit, vision and imagination of most players at this level of the game.

The first goal was crucial as you felt that our confidence was only skin deep and would quickly evaporate if we fell behind particularly after playing so well.

Chances came and went with Judge cracking a shot onto the outside of the post, Swift forcing a flying save from Ikeme and Djuricin finding ever more inventive ways to miss, but our fears were unfounded as Wolves finally capitulated.

Brentford have only had the merest nodding acquaintance with good fortune lately but finally the Gods smiled down upon us, and not before time.

Judge put on the afterburners and roared into the area where he seemed to have been brought down but the ball fell perfectly for Swift right in front of a yawning goal. His instant shot was blocked by Ikeme but rebounded straight back to him, bounced off some part of his anatomy and dribbled into the corner of the net.

Not a goal to live long in the memory but priceless nevertheless as it was no more than Brentford deserved.

Button made a crucial save early in the second half, spooning McDonald’s effort around the post but Wolves soon returned to their torpor and the one way traffic resumed with the Bees totally on top.

Their dominance was duly rewarded by two quite excellently worked and taken goals.

McEachran spotted Bidwell’s run and threaded the ball to him through the eye of a needle. Judge returned the instant cross to Canos who controlled the ball and almost in the same movement thrashed it into the corner of the net.

Canos was a man inspired and shortly afterwards he twisted past two defenders before his low cross gave Swift a tap in.

It was now a question of how many as a rampant Brentford team with the shackles off played with a confidence and freedom seldom seen since the halcyon days of last season.

It was time for party tricks and Dean, a hero all night, rampaged down the middle like a modern day Nat Lofthouse before finally being overpowered on the edge of the area.

Vibe set up Bidwell whose effort was blocked by the overworked Ikeme who saved his best to the last when he somehow tipped O’Connell’s header away when a fourth goal seemed certain.

Brentford’s display ticked all the boxes last night:

  • The first home win of the year
  • Three goals scored, and it could quite easily have been six
  • A confident, pacy and vibrant performance
  • Our trademark short passing game returned with a vengeance
  • A much needed and long awaited clean sheet

The match statistics confirmed just how good a performance this was as Brentford dominated with fifty-eight per cent possession, had twenty shots on goal and made over five hundred passes, a much more Brentford-like figure, with a seventy-six per cent success rate.

Even more encouragingly, Josh McEachran, much maligned for his supposed defensive inadequacies, made seven tackles, more than anyone else on the pitch.

Everyone played their part in what was a real team victory, but Swift, Canos, Woods, Dean and Yennaris were particularly impressive and the injured Colin was barely missed.

Only Marco Djuricin was slightly off the pace but he still managed six efforts on goal and there is surely far better to come from him as he slowly regains fitness and sharpness.

Neutral observers were also greatly impressed by Brentford’s performance.

BBC reporter Jacqui Oatley commented:

Brentford lovely to watch. Passing and moving with pace, always an option. Teamwork, cohesion. Hope Alan Judge gets his chance with Ireland.

Nectar to our ears and totally merited and deserved praise given the overall quality of our display.

Dean Smith also deserves great credit for his bravery in the way he set us up as well as his positive team selection.

The team responded perfectly and will now be full of confidence before two tough matches against Rotherham and Charlton teams both fighting for their life at the bottom of the table.

Brentford are unlikely to be given as much space and time as they were last night but have the strength of character and sufficient skill on the ball to prevail.

Isn’t life beautiful when your team wins and plays well?

A View From The Swimming Pool – 14/2/16

Well it all started so well, as I managed to grab a sun lounger right by the side of the pool and listened with relish to QPR’s humiliation at the hands of their near neighbours, Fulham.

If truth be told I was slightly conflicted about that one but felt on reflection that Fulham’s victory was probably the best possible result overall given that the rules didn’t allow both teams to lose.

Now it was Brentford’s turn and everything was going like clockwork as Mark Burridge’s dulcet tones came over loud and clear and I looked forward to listening to a description of an improved display after the capitulation at Brighton.

I couldn’t really question the team selection. Hofmann deserved his opportunity after neither Vibe nor Djuricin had fully convinced lately and Yennaris and Canos would ideally provide us with legs and enthusiasm and some support for a striker who is not the most mobile.

It all started well with early chances for Yennaris, one that he should surely have taken, and Judge, before disaster struck after a mere five minutes with a long ball over the top being chased by Hooper with Barbet trailing in his wake.

The ball ran through harmlessly to Button but the coming together of Hooper and Barbet on the edge of be area was instantly adjudged a red card offence by a referee still in the Brentford half with no apparent clear view of the incident and who made an instantaneous and game changing decision without feeling the need to consult his assistant who was up with play and had not signalled for a foul.

A red card it was and as Barbet reluctantly dragged himself off the pitch, Dean Smith’s carefully worked game plan was in tatters almost before the game had started.

The Bees switched to a 4-4-1 formation which in reality meant 4-4-0 as Hofmann, isolated and outnumbered, disappeared from sight and left us without any real attacking outlet.

More crucially, Brentford no longer had an out ball or anyone capable of holding the ball up and giving a beleaguered defence some respite or any much needed time to reorganise or take a breather.

In retrospect I wonder if it would have been better had we withdrawn Hofmann rather than the unfortunate Kerschbaumer and concentrated on packing the midfield?

Sheffield Wednesday smelled blood and attacked relentlessly and it was now simply a question of whether a revamped Brentford back four with substitute Jack O’Connell now partnering Harlee Dean, could defend properly and keep them at bay.

Well the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak as it quickly became obvious that it was a merely a matter of how soon and how many.

Brentford shipped three soft goals before halftime and they all owed as much to muddled and inept defending as they did to attacking brilliance.

The second half was a damp squib as we concentrated upon damage limitation and the Bees avoided further embarrassment until the last minute when David Button conceded a fourth goal from an eminently saveable effort.

Our Man of the Match was Mark Burridge who played an absolute blinder. He succeeded in describing the shambles on the pitch without either gilding the lily or indulging in destructive criticism. He simply told it as it was and did an expert and professional job.

What is quite apparent is that this is now a team increasingly bereft of confidence, shorn of some of its best players, that is simply trying to limp through the remainder of the season unscathed until major squad surgery can be scheduled in the Summer.

I have already written at length about the rationale for such a reactive and seemingly unambitious strategy and I am not about to change my tune and criticise it as I well understand and accept why we are now in this position.

What I find of more concern is whether the players that currently remain available to us are fully capable of achieving what I feel are the two minimum requirements for the remainder of the season of keeping us competitive and maintaining interest and excitement amongst an increasingly concerned, demanding and critical fan base.

I am firmly of the view that sometimes it is necessary to take a backwards step in order to progress and now is certainly a case in point.

Our future progress is predicated totally on a combination of how well we clean the stables and how effectively we recruit fresh blood in the close season.

The last third of the current campaign is far too long to stand still and simply tread water and ideally we should be using the time to test out new formations, discover more about the players that remain and whether we should maintain faith in them, and ideally concentrate on improving them and eradicating some of the careless errors that punctuate our play from week to week.

All that in conjunction with winning some matches and keeping the fans interested, entertained and involved rather than counting off the days until the end of the season and looking over our shoulder at the teams below us.

It is unfair to read too much into a match where we went a key man down so early on and it is not so long ago that we comprehensively outplayed Preston on their own patch, so it is premature to panic but it cannot be denied that there are some worrying signs and that the warning bells are beginning to jangle.

What is particularly concerning is that the same worrying traits reoccur with monotonous regularity week after week and we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes or show many signs of improvement.

We have now conceded nine goals in the last four games and it would be hard to credit our opponents for any of them as they were all caused to a greater or lesser extent by avoidable individual errors.

We are a soft touch and have not kept a clean sheet since Boxing Day and have never really looked like doing so. We lack pace in central defence and are horribly vulnerable to long balls over the top as was clearly demonstrated by the horror show of a second goal yesterday which came from a long, straight goal kick which was criminally allowed to bounce before Hooper showed great skill and anticipation to score with an instant volley.

I would have thought that defensive solidity would have been a coaching priority in training and I’m sure that it is, but our efforts do not seem to be having much effect where it matters, out on the pitch.

There seems to be a lack of cohesion and we do not have mini partnerships developing on the pitch similar to the one for example between Odubajo and Jota last season and it would be so helpful if Colin and Bidwell could develop a similar relationship with a wide midfielder as it all looks so disjointed at the moment.

Dean Smith is beginning to take on a haunted look and I feel sorry for him as he can only work with what he has got.

Hopefully he can entice some pace, tempo and brio from a midfield quintet that looks slow, weak, small and overmatched.

Personally I believe that much of the problem stems from a lack of confidence which will only be restored by a win or two.

I am not so sure though if we can either rehabilitate or get much more out of our three ailing strikers, none of whom has contributed a jot since the turn of the year.

Leaving aside the screamingly obvious fact that our favoured 4-2-3-1 formation suits none of them, Vibe is shattered after a year of nonstop activity, Djuricin has shown nothing since his return from injury and Hofmann has much to do to prove himself after a performance of appalling sloth and ineptitude yesterday.

Unless Dean Smith or Richard O’Kelly are miracle workers I honestly have no idea how we can squeeze some performances, let alone goals, out of any of them.

Maybe the answer is to attempt to shake things up by bringing in a couple of short term loanees who can ideally plug a few gaps and provide a fresh impetus or something different?

Perhaps Alan McCormack will return from injury and add some steel and competitive edge?

Forgive me for even mentioning this but I also feel that we are too naive and nice. Every team we play seems to make a habit of committing strategic fouls which frustratingly nip our threat in the bud. Alan Judge has been a particular victim of this practice recently, and perhaps we need to follow suit where necessary.

As you all can see, all I have are questions and concerns and no real answers, and maybe we simply have to accept the situation for what it is and just do our best to be patient and fight our way out of it.

I have been supporting Brentford long enough to be more than grateful for our place in the Championship and am happy for us to consolidate slowly and gradually.

What does worry me is if we are not competitive.

We now have two eminently winnable home games coming up against a Derby County team in free fall and Wolves.

Let’s see where we are after these two matches before we get too concerned.

Two good performances and a minimum of four points gained would go a long way towards restoring our faith as well as a sense of calm, trust and patience.

Let’s Wait Until The Summer – 11/2/16

There have been so many comments sent to me over the past few days by Brentford fans eager to give their opinion on the current stasis at Griffin Park and thankfully there is a great deal of consensus in terms of an overall sense of understanding about the current lack of transfer activity and the need for the club to husband its relatively limited resources very carefully.

Our supporters are fully prepared to give the Co-Directors of Football the benefit of the doubt and wait until the Summer for the necessary recruitment to take place, however the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and what the club does or, indeed, doesn’t do in the close season in terms of replacing the star players who have already left, and any more who are about to follow in their wake, will speak volumes about the reality of our ambitions and how we are likely to perform in the short term.

That is for the future and in the meantime I am simply going to repeat the words of Phil Giles from his interview last week when he set the scene for what we can expect to see happen in the Summer:

We have identified players that we would like to bring in during the Summer. Having signed none this window we will look to do more business in the Summer.

Some of the players that we would like to bring in are the better players at teams near the top of their divisions. It would be hard for clubs who are currently in promotion battles to countenance selling their best players and we would be the same.

In order for a club to sell in January the value would have to be very high and we are not in a position where we can spend huge money on players. A better strategy is to wait for the Summer where better value will be available.

Let’s leave it at that for the time being and we will doubtless return to this topic and his words in the light of what actually transpires in the close season.

Garry Smith is a supporter who has been watching the Bees for even longer than I have and he sent me his thoughts on where he believes we are and the journey we are on, and I commend his words to you all.

I don’t agree with all of his conclusions but he has certainly written passionately and from the heart about his beloved Brentford and he deserves our attention and respect for doing so:

Thanks for providing this forum. This is a first time contribution to any media site for me and sorry if it is a bit long.

I both agree and disagree with everything I have read!

Maybe I am long in the tooth as my first Bees game was in 1963. Younger as well as an increased number of fans are desperately needed by the club given its fairly recent success and the club’s efforts and initiatives and exciting play have been great for an increased fanbase.

I sincerely appreciate the enthusiasm of youth and accept that social media is their forum of today. Because of this I fully understand their instantly voiced displeasure when standards dip, however these same fans have not experienced the pain of older supporters who not suprisingly voice their opinions by means of more historical detail. The answer is surely a balance between the enthusiasm of youth and the obvious reality.

Absolutely, I am delighted with our current standing and absolutely, I would have died for this for the last fifty plus years.

Additionally, I do agree that recruitment has been poor this year and yes the worse the season goes, the less that young and more talented players will find us an attractive proposition.

However I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to Matthew Benham, trust me, no-one in my lifetime has given us more other than possibly the exception of those who saved the club back in the sixties and Bees United.

I truly thank Matthew Benham in the same way that I did Martin Allen when he single-handedly dragged us up from the depths of absolute despair!

This is our unique club, incomparable fans (who remembers the nonstop singing and support the night we lost in the play-offs to Sheffield Wednesday in 2005?) but we are all naturally negative after years of disappointment, occasionally dragged up into positivity and then seeing our hopes so often dashed.

My views on the topics that seem high on the agenda of most of your respondents are as follows:

Mark Warburton and the best players from last year were never going to stay, even if it happened a season later than it did. Last year was a freak and raised all expectation of our rise to fame, far too early. Remember that at the beginning of the season we were all talking about survival. Again I feel that recently recruited, younger supporters were spoiled too soon and are the most active on social media.

For my money Dougie’s leadership is something we have not replaced and because of that, all the responsibility has fallen on Alan Judge, he has always been an exciting player but should not be the fulcrum upon which we totally rely, teams will try to negate him and it is far too much to ask of one player.

Last season, in a team of great ball players, he was not regarded as our most important player (although I for one thought our form dipped when he got injured). This year, despite a series of magnificent performances from him, we should have had more creative options to support him and thank God he hasn’t got injured because then the threat of relegation would have been a reality.

I am actually disappointed in how much we are congratulating ourselves on merely keeping him as he will go at the end of the season and we really should have been recruiting to augment and then even replace his contribution, also we should have been preparing for what will happen next season although I for one am hopeful that Lewis Macleod may help here.

Dean Smith has been in a thankless situation, his record shows he can make the most of what he has, given time. I think he took the job knowing he was moving from one small budget club to another but at a higher level. Again, post Marinus, younger supporters expected an instant improvement (not helped by the run of fixtures and players willing to try harder for Lee Carsley when he took over) but this was never going to happen with the players available (and can I add here I am in no way underestimating Lee Carsley’s contribution, what a great job with the hand he was dealt!) and Dean was never going to carry this on to another season of pressing on for the Premier League.

I couldn’t agree more that what happens this close season will be vital to us consolidating a Championship position, what concerns me a lot more is the perception that getting to Lionel Road is going to be the answer to everything, I truly hope that Matthew Benham and the rest of the management team are not thinking likewise!!

I shouldn’t need to list teams (Wigan, Bolton, Reading, MK Dons, Huddersfield, Brighton etc.) to prove that newer, bigger, better stadiums don’t necessarily ensure better performances, bigger crowds or promotion.

I agree from a perception perspective that the new ground will help our profile and unlike the other teams cited, it could mean higher crowds, increased revenue and better players, however I have been at Griffin Park on so many occasions when it wasn’t full with its then available capacity.

I must indulge in a quick bit of nostalgia here though for us oldies, remembering a really happy memory, queueing for an hour and not being able to move in the ground in the one-nil Boxing Day victory over Crewe in the old Fourth Division – “Go Big John” – audaciously described by the club as an eighteen thousand crowd!

Yes, playing with a good team against famous teams will help, but this needs player investment and a consistent competitive league position attained before the anticipated return will follow.

I am going to join the positive crowd here and put my faith in Matthew Benham, but this was a disappointing transfer window, although I think we, whilst missing him for the remainder of the season, made a good call in getting some dosh for Toumani.

Also against the weight of opinion I have not been a Tarkowski fan, good on the ball, yes, defensively prone to errors though, mainly through over-adventurousness and an excess of confidence – definitely a problem alongside a player I like, but who is also prone to mistakes in Harlee. This partnership has been a mystery to me for some time now, they are right for a team that wants to play out from the back, but also a definite problem for a team that wants to play with its full backs way up the pitch as I believe that we need fast, intelligent central defenders, who react quickly and know when to use the long ball or hit Row Z if exposed to danger.

I am convinced that Matthew Benham thinks that we have enough points and good enough players to stay in the Championship this season, he has a potentially good Manager, some returning players, and good amount in the war chest without wasting it on over priced players in the January window.

Sadly and hopefully there will be a good transfer fee coming for Alan Judge and we all hope that there will be plenty of time and cash to allow us to build for the start of next season.

Let’s hope we make a bold but balanced impression in the transfer and loan market next season like we did last season.

To finish on this subject it would have been nice to have seen a mid season punt on a Sam Winnall, Nahki Wells, Fox in the Box type player to get on the end of the numerous crosses we keep sending into the area with nobody near them. Here’s hoping for next season.

Thanks again Garry and I would really welcome contributions from anybody else who feels that he or she has something to say and share about any aspect of Brentford FC.

Thank you all in advance.

Just to let you all know that I am going away tomorrow for a week and will do my best to keep in touch with all the happenings in and around Griffin Park.

I will therefore not be behind the goal at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday which is no great loss given the prohibitive cost of match tickets.

I will try and write something whilst I am abroad but please excuse me if I don’t and I am sure that the overwhelming majority of you will welcome the respite from my inconsequential ramblings!