Not Many Additions Needed – 11/7/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Football is Back – 9/7/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In no particular order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

That’s It For Now – 25/5/16

It has certainly been a long, hard season jammed full of ups and downs.

We have been taken to the heights and also plummeted to the depths.

I cannot think of another season in which our fortunes have fluctuated so much, so wildly and to so great an extent.

Thankfully we ended on a real high and we are now all looking forward to the next season with a real sense of anticipation and excitement.

I fully expect that the close season will also be jam-packed with activity as some players arrive and perhaps others will leave.

Maybe there will also be more positive news about progress on the new stadium at Lionel Road?

In any case I am sure that there will be much to ponder on and write about.

That leads me onto this blog.

I wasn’t sure if there was the overall interest in my continuing to write it throughout last season or if I could also summon up the energy and enthusiasm to keep it going.

My ego also demanded that if I did, then it would have to be good enough in terms of its content and style to ensure that it was up to scratch.

I am glad that I did carry on as there was always something new to write about – some good – some bad, and I have really enjoyed myself and I hope that you all have too.

It has been worth the late nights and early mornings and staring at a empty computer screen willing my brain into action.

After writing the best part of three hundred thousand words, I am now going to have my own break, firstly to have a rest and recharge my batteries and also to finish off my next book.

Growing Pains will feature the best/worst of the blog and will cover in detail all of the key events of last season, both on and off the field.

For those fed up with me, it will also include lots of fantastic and illuminating specially commissioned articles and forewords from insiders and experts such as:

  • Matthew Benham
  • Cliff Crown
  • Phil Giles
  • Tom Moore
  • Billy Reeves
  • Phil Parry
  • Jim Levack

They, and several others will be providing their own thoughts and assessment on what happened last season and, more importantly, how we will do next season.

There will also be a fascinating update on how Mark Warburton has been doing in his new role at Glasgow Rangers.

Hopefully there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

The book will be published within the next six weeks or so and I will provide you all with updates as soon as I have more news.

As for next season… Who knows? Again I feel a bit conflicted as I do not want simply to produce more of the same.

I am not sure if I have anything new to say although I’m certain that what transpires at Griffin Park will provide me with lots of fresh ammunition.

That is a decision for another day assuming that some of you actually want to keep reading what I write.

In the meantime thank you to everyone of you who has read what I have written or posted a comment or even provided an article.

I am eternally grateful to all of you.

Have a good Summer!

Shopping List – 23/5/16

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My Not So Beautiful Laundrette – 19/5/16

Ian Westbrook is an old friend of mine and we have been exchanging Brentford memories and war stories for more years than I, and I suspect he, would like to remember. He and his brother Hugh, as well as their late father, David, have been fervent Brentford supporters for decades now and the baton has also been passed down to the next generation with Ian and Hugh’s children too. Ian has provided today’s article which deftly provides his answer to the difficult problem I am sure most of us have faced at some point. How are you supposed to keep in touch with the Bees when you are not at the match and marooned abroad? I hope you enjoy reading about his adventures which clearly demonstrate his ingenuity and determination not to miss out:

Where is the weirdest place you have been to follow a Brentford game that you were unable to attend?

I have kept in touch with the Bees’ progress in all the usual spots when I have had to miss a game – listening to Bees Player at home or at work, following scores on BBC Radio London and Beesotted’s excellent Twitter service while on the move, via Soccer Saturday or thanks to text updates from friends who had been there.

But the start of this season provided me with a new dilemma because we had to take our family holiday straight after the opening match against Ipswich. Our two weeks in the USA, split between New York and Boston, covered the away games at Bristol City and Burnley, both due to start at ten o’clock local time, and, at a quarter to three, our time, the home matches with Oxford and Birmingham and I was the only person who wasn’t too unhappy when that one was called off.

Clearly we weren’t going to be sitting in our hotel room until midday waiting for the Saturday matches to finish, or staying in all afternoon for the evening games, so I accepted that we would have to wait to learn the scores while out and about. First up was the Capital One Cup tie with Oxford. As the game kicked off, my wife, son and I were enjoying one of the best tourist things we did on our holiday – walking across the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan. My son and I noted that the match was under way, but didn’t worry ourselves too much while we enjoyed the skyscrapers becoming ever bigger as we approached one of the main parts of the Big Apple in hot sunshine.

Once over the bridge and around half an hour into the game, we spotted a Starbucks and nipped in to use the Wi-Fi to check up on our progress. The first score we saw was three-nil to the visitors and I was relieved we hadn’t known that while halfway across the bridge, or who knows what we may have done!

Next up Bristol City – and a relaxed start to the day meant that we could enjoy the kick-off and dulcet tones of Mark Burridge in our New York hotel room. We went out after that to a street festival and were out of touch with proceedings in the West Country until around twenty minutes from time when my son and I persuaded my wife and daughter that it would be good to spend some time in a café, which just happened to have Wi-Fi. We were inside in time to hear Philipp Hofmann seal the points and celebrated with iced coffee!

A week later we were in Boston – and following the match at Turf Moor proved a whole lot harder. We managed to grab an early update, including Burnley’s goal, while in a shop but a tram journey and walk through the boiling hot streets were enjoyable but football-free. The match was well into the second half by this stage and we had no way of knowing whether we had got back into the match as we strolled through a suburb. But suddenly we found a small parade of shops and on closer inspection one had Wi-Fi – not the lovely baker with the smell of fresh bread wafting out on to the pavement, but the laundrette next door. Unattractive it may have been but it had the connection I needed – and it worked too, and I settled down to watch other people’s clothes spin round in the massive machines as Mark Burridge’s voice finally filled my headphones.

It was a frustrating final fifteen minutes as Brentford tried and failed to snatch a point and my emotions as Konstantin Kerschbaumer shot over the bar and then a Harlee Dean header was blocked must have looked very strange to the woman emptying clothes into a basket, and even stranger when I showed my disappointment as Burnley cleaned up to take the points.

There were a couple of other matches during 2015/16 that I followed from afar. At the end of October, my son did his now annual race in the junior Great South Run in Portsmouth. We have been to this event on numerous occasions, usually having to miss a Bees home game in the process. We had never been able to get our football fix as Pompey had always been away – but as luck would have it, this year they were due to play at home to Mansfield. With my son’s race finishing at two – far too late to get to The Valley to cheer on the Bees – we walked over to Fratton Park, had the luxury of paying on the day and found ourselves in the end split between home and away fans. The game finished goalless but on at least a couple of occasions, we drew odd glances as we started celebrating when not much was going on in front of us – because we’d found out that Brentford had scored at Charlton!

More recently, I had to follow some of the Huddersfield game on the final day of the season via London Underground Wi-Fi on the way to work. The Wi-Fi works at lots of the stations on the tube – but it disappears in tunnels so it needs firing up each time the train is at a platform. I’d followed the first half and early stages of the second with Bees Player at home – and on my five-minute walk to our local tube station heard both the Terriers’ equaliser and then Scott Hogan restoring our lead. As the reception cut out when we moved into our first underground tunnel – the commentary remarkably kept on going, so while I was a long way under the city itself I heard Hogan making it 3-1 as it happened! I also heard Lasse Vibe’s goal while connected at another station but missed John Swift’s effort.

Our USA trip wasn’t the first time we had been away during the football season. In December 2002, we made a trip to Australia to visit family – missing several Brentford games. I can remember receiving a phone call from a now dearly departed friend with the result of our LDV Vans Trophy match against Kidderminster whilst in view of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
But the strangest way, in the pre-Bees Player and Wi-Fi days, we found out a result during the holiday occurred on the weekend before Christmas. We had driven halfway along the famous Great Ocean Road and were spending the night in an amazing bungalow close to a town called Apollo Bay. The accommodation was a long way up a hill – so high in fact that when a mist rolled in across the ocean at a rapid rate, we were above the band of cloud which appeared. Family at home knew that I, together with my Leyton Orient-supporting father-in-law, were keen to find out our Saturday results so had arranged to have them phoned through to the complex. First thing Sunday morning, we had a knock on the door from a member of hotel staff clutching a piece of paper in her hand with a message that meant absolutely nothing to her – but everything to us! It was from that handwritten note that we learned the Bees had drawn at Loftus Road and Orient had won at Swansea’s Vetch Field.

Novel as all these result-finding methods are – I can honestly say that I still prefer actually being at the game itself!

End Of Term Report – Part 2 – 16/5/16

Here is the second part of my end of season report on every Brentford player:

12. Alan McCormack. The departure of Moses Odubajo saw McCormack given an immediate opportunity to replace him, and he started the season at right back where lack of any defensive cover from Andre Gray saw him given the runaround at Bristol City. The arrival of Max Colin saw him moving back into midfield where he remained an integral part of the team until he suffered niggling groin and calf injuries. Alan provided a much-needed calming influence and he cajoled and encouraged his less experienced teammates and ensured that they showed the necessary organisation and commitment. His passing also improved and became more subtle and we missed him badly during his injury absences. A goal proved elusive although he came desperately close against both Charlton and Bristol City. We keep writing him off and he stubbornly keeps proving us wrong and Alan’s performances totally warranted his contract extension until the end of next season. Despite his ten bookings, he always knew exactly just how far he could go and he has still to see red whilst playing for the Bees. In an inordinately quiet, small and well-behaved team, McCormack was one of the few to speak up on behalf of his teammates and attempt to manage referees.

13. Ryan Woods. Woods first caught my eye as a skilful and tenacious right back playing for Shrewsbury at Griffin Park in 2013 and quickly developed into one of the best midfielders in the lower divisions. I was delighted when The Ginger Pirlo signed for us for one million pounds at the end of the August Transfer Window, a fee that looks an absolute bargain now. He took a few games to settle down and force his way into the starting eleven and was caught in possession on his debut, a costly error that denied us a victory against Leeds, but he is now an automatic choice. He is still developing as a player and possesses all the qualities required to become a complete midfield player. He can spray the ball around and I can still picture that long pass over the defender dropping perfectly into the stride of Sergi Canos before he scored the Goal of the Season at Reading. Ryan also scored a wonderful long-range goal in the same game and matched it at MK Dons. He can tackle, press and dribble and never stops running. What a player he is already, and there is so much more to come from him as he gains further experience in the Championship.

16. Jack Bonham. Another year of treading water for the reserve goalkeeper who sat on the bench undisturbed for every match apart from the Capital One Cup disaster against a rampant Oxford United. Marooned behind an experimental defence, a drastically weakened team subsided to an embarrassing four-goal defeat that could and should have been more. Bonham hardly shone on the night and looked a nervous presence in goal and was beaten by Roofe’s exquisite forty yard lob. He has obviously learned a lot from training with David Button and Simon Royce and at twenty-two is still very young for a goalkeeper. As things currently stand, he is there simply to sit on the bench and replace Button in an emergency with, in all honesty, little chance of being named to start a Championship match if Button was unavailable. That might suit Brentford, who, of course, pay his wages, but the situation is of no benefit at all to Bonham if he is to develop as a footballer. Nobody knows if he has what it takes to have a successful career and nobody will really know until he sees regular action at a lower level of the game. He has two more seasons on his contract but desperately needs to go out and play some football next season and demonstrate his worth.

17. Konstantin Kerschbaumer. Nobody I knew had ever heard of the Austrian midfielder when he signed for us from Admira Wacker Mödling for a reported quarter of a million pound fee, but then again we had known absolutely nothing about Jota either! He was reputed to be a speedy and tenacious box-to-box player and he made a massive first impression when he dominated the midfield in the preseason friendly match against Stoke City. The departure of Jonathan Douglas opened the door for him but the Championship was another matter and he struggled from the off to cope with its pace and physicality and was a peripheral influence, easily knocked off the ball, regularly caught in possession and tentative with his passing. He never hid and joined in where he could but he was totally out of his depth and sometimes I got the unworthy impression that his teammates were loath to pass the ball to him in tight situations. Lee Carsley mercifully took him put of the firing line as soon as he took charge, commenting: He needs a lot of coaching. He runs as fast as he can everywhere without being effective which was a tough but accurate assessment of his initial contribution. He gradually improved in short spells coming off the bench and soon there were small shoots of recovery, an excellent shot against the top of the post against Hull, an effort cleared off the line by a desperate MK Dons defence and a decent hustling performance at Craven Cottage. He featured in every match day squad from the end of January as he slowly came to terms with what was required of him, and by the end of the season he had shown such improvement that he fully deserved his starting role. With growing confidence and time on the ball he started to reveal his true ability, in particular his energy and effortless close control and he combined brilliantly with Scott Hogan as his defence-splitting through balls led to three goals for the striker and the award of a penalty kick. Konstantin is proof of the strength and weakness of our stats and analysis based system. We certainly used our data to identify a promising young player who was not on the radar of our competition, and signed him for a relatively low sum, but he was thrown in far too soon owing to the prevailing circumstances and not given the time he needed to adapt to his new surroundings. He suffered unfairly and cruelly at the hands of the boo-boys who are only now beginning to recognise his undoubted ability, and I fully expect that his second season at the club will be far more productive for him.

18. Alan Judge. It is impossible to write about Alan Judge without feeling a combined sense of anger, frustration, disappointment and sadness at how the season ended for him, and how cruelly he was denied the opportunity to showcase his formidable talent on a global stage at Euro 2016 thanks to the unforgivable actions of an Ipswich Town player whose name I will not deign to mention here. At twenty-seven, Alan was approaching his peak and was in the form of his life all season, scoring fourteen times and assisting on eleven more goals and he was our main source of inspiration. His achievements were marked by his being shortlisted in the top three for Championship Player of the Year and also being named in the Football League Team of the Year and the Championship Team of the Year. He was also the Championship Player of the Month for October, a month in which his form touched previously unseen heights. With the loss of the likes of Gray, Pritchard and Jota, Alan almost singlehandedly took over the mantle of providing our creativity and goal threat and he was more than up to the task. He generally played in a free role as a Number Ten behind the main striker, but he also drifted wide and on one bizarre afternoon at Loftus Road, of all places, played as our lone striker. After only scoring three times in 2014/15, the goals flowed this season – and what brilliant goals they were. A curling effort from a seemingly impossible angle against Sheffield Wednesday, a looping twenty-yard volley and rare header to beat Rotherham, a stupendous shot arrogantly bent into the far top corner in front of the worshipping Brentford supporters at Charlton, instantaneously and effortlessly controlling a long pass from Barbet before slotting the ball home at Preston, a goal which even drew applause from the home fans, and an amazing solo goal when he ran half the length of the field against Derby before scoring from way out on the right flank. He was quite simply touched by genius, and even managed to convert all three of his penalty kicks after his adventures of the previous season when he missed three out of his four attempts! It was no surprise that he was coveted by other clubs, but unlike a certain former teammate of his, he simply got his head down and did not allow the constant speculation to affect his performances. He was deservedly rewarded with his first international cap for Eire and was well in the frame for inclusion in their final squad for Euro 2016 when tragedy befell him with his double leg break. What happens now is anybody’s guess. It was expected that with only one year remaining on his contract and it being highly unlikely that Alan would sign an extension, that he would be sold this Summer, and no Brentford fan would have begrudged him leaving for bigger and better things, such has been his brilliance, commitment and dedication to the Brentford cause. The club too might well have been banking on the anticipated fee in order to subsidise our own transfer budget. Now, all bets are off until we find out how long Judge will take to return to action. I would not expect that we will see him much before Christmas and it will then take him time to regain both form and sharpness. Perhaps he will be sold in the January Transfer Window, maybe he will stay for the entire season, hopefully play well for us, and then leave on a Bosman free? Could he even sign a new contract? Who knows, and all will be revealed over the coming months. In the meantime the memories are still totally clear in my mind of his brilliance, tirelessness and consistency and the sheer joy and bubbly effervescence he demonstrated in playing the game of football – the effortless dribbles past opponents, his non-stop energy and commitment, the quality of his passing, both long and short and his shoot-on-sight policy. He was the complete player for Brentford last season and we were privileged and fortunate to be able to enjoy performances of such quality, and he was by some distance the best player that I have ever seen perform in a Brentford shirt. Praise indeed, but fully merited in my opinion.

19. John Swift. You are just twenty years of age, on loan from a Premier League team with minimal experience of the Championship. You muck in, play twenty-seven games in all, score seven goals from midfield and also get picked for the England Under 21 team. Not bad, and surely the fans will be purring with delight at your contribution, chanting your name and begging you to join the club on a permanent basis next season? You would have thought that would have been the case, but unfortunately John Swift totally polarised opinions amongst Brentford supporters and was the recipient of much unwarranted, unpleasant and totally unnecessary and unjustified abuse from some quarters. He was too languid and lazy, they said, he went missing from time to time, he did not do his fair share of defensive donkey work, and tackling and pressing were an anathema to him. Maybe some of these criticisms had credence but better that they had made some allowances for his youth, immaturity and inexperience and instead given credit to him for, and taken pleasure from, his many very real attributes. He had the natural ability to glide past opponents at will and was a wonderful exponent of the lost art of dribbling. He moved the ball quickly and accurately and specialised in making late runs into the box which led to his most of his goals, and he also scored with a perfectly executed long-range curler at Bolton which was much admired by the Sky Sports commentary team. Swift also had to cope with the difficulty and upheaval of learning a new role as he was often played on the left side of midfield rather than in his more accustomed central position. There was so much to admire in his ability and in many of his performances, and yet he failed to connect with many of the supporters who treated him appallingly and cut him no slack, and I would be surprised if John will wish to return to Griffin Park next season even should the opportunity arise, which is a terrible shame as he would add immeasurably to our midfield resources.

End Of Term Report – Part 1 – 14/5/16

Now that the season is finally over the time has come for me to give my brief verdict on every player and how they each performed last season. Here is the first part with, of course, more to follow:

2. Maxime Colin. We were all concerned about how well we would be able to replace the talented Moses Odubajo and the biggest compliment that I can give Max Colin is to state that Moses’s name has barely been mentioned for many months now, so well has the newcomer done. Signed in mid-August from Anderlecht for nine hundred thousand pounds, he impressed on his debut as a substitute at Burnley and just got better with every game. Strong in the tackle and good in the air, his defensive positioning improved with experience and he was only given the runaround by Brighton’s Jamie Murphy and Josh Murphy at MK Dons. He had the pace and ability to rampage forward and dribble past opponents at will and his cross led to a classic headed goal by Lasse Vibe at Ipswich. Knee ligament and groin injuries cost him nearly half the season and led to the threat of an operation. Hopefully he will return for the new season fit and ready to go as he is an exceptional player who has already proved to be a bargain signing.

3. Jake Bidwell. At only twenty-three years of age Jake has already made over two hundred appearances for the club and proved to be a popular team captain. He is so unobtrusive it is easy to take him for granted and fail to recognise just how good he is. Unfortunately he suffered a hamstring strain at Hull and lost his ever-present status, missing the local derby win over Fulham. He also finally broke his scoring duck in his one hundred and eighty-sixth game for the Bees and obviously enjoyed the feeling so much that he scored twice more before the end of the season. He was cool, calm and collected and very tough to beat and when he did make a mistake against Leeds which cost a late equaliser it stood out all the more because of its rarity. He was always eager to overlap and his accurate crosses led to four assists and his left footed curling corners and free kicks also improved throughout the season. The only problem with Jake is persuading him to sign a new contract as his current agreement expires at the end of next season.

4. Lewis Macleod. Another injury-wrecked season for Lewis and we still remain totally in the dark about his capabilities. His deep-rooted hamstring injury finally cleared up in late 2015 and allowed him to show his ability in the Development Squad and score eye-catching goals against QPR and Bristol City which clearly demonstrated his quality and whetted our appetite for more. He finally made his long awaited and much-delayed debut for the Bees with an eight minute runout at Brighton before succumbing to the injury hoodoo yet again, suffering a medial ligament injury in training. Next season perhaps? Surely he deserves some luck and the chance to show us what he can do?

5. Andreas Bjelland. There was palpable excitement and perhaps some disbelief amongst the Brentford supporters when the club smashed their transfer record by paying two million three hundred thousand pounds to sign Danish international central defender Andreas Bjelland from FC Twente. His preseason was hampered by a groin injury and he was given a runout on a terrible Griffin Park pitch in the Capital One Cup tie against Oxford United and must have wished he hadn’t as he suffered a serious knee ligament injury and missed the entire season. A terrible blow for the club and player alike. He is now back in training and hopefully will be fit for selection at the beginning of next season. But where will he play given the recent success of the Dean/Barbet partnership? What a wonderful problem for Dean Smith to have.

6. Harlee Dean. What a turnaround for the defender who ends the season with two hundred appearances for Brentford under his belt and a new two-year contract safely signed. How things have changed for the central defender who at one time looked certain to walk away on a Bosman free transfer at the end of the season. He came of age throughout the season and allowed his feet to do the talking rather than behave like a loose cannon, ever-ready to shoot off at the mouth if something upset him. He visibly matured, got a lot fitter, benefited from the long-term injury to Andreas Bjelland and the transfer of James Tarkowski, to become an automatic selection, a team leader and a tower of strength. He would not have been Harlee if there had not been one faux pas, in his case, the ridiculous red card he brought upon himself against Nottingham Forest. He read the game well and the blend of a tough traditional defender like Dean alongside a ballplayer like Tarkowski and subsequently Barbet, worked a treat. He won most of his challenges both in the air and on the ground, rarely dived in, showed far more mobility and also demonstrated an unexpected ability to play the ball accurately out of defence. His main weakness was in the opposition penalty area where he showed an infallible tendency to misfire or head the ball wide of the goal. At twenty-four his best is yet to come and he is finally playing for a Head Coach who believes in him and that has made a real difference to him.

7. Sam Saunders. After two injury-wrecked seasons it seemed that Sam might well be on his way out of the club and indeed it appeared likely at one time that he would move to America and play for Tampa Bay. Fortunately Sam chose to remain at Brentford and he more than justified his contract extension with a series of exceptional performances which ensured that he is about to enter his eighth season at Griffin Park. Dean Smith rightly valued his experience and leadership plus his ability to help his less experienced teammates and Sam rose to the challenge as well as scoring three beautifully taken goals against Leeds, Ipswich and, most memorably, his lob against Fulham, which highlighted his talent and growing confidence. He reads the game so well and finds time and space in the crowded midfield area and his bubbly enthusiasm, knowledge of the game and ability to keep possession is of massive value to the team.

8. Marco Djuricin. But for an ill-timed injury at Blackburn a mere eight days after his goal won the long-awaited West London derby against QPR and gave us our first win over the old enemy for fifty years, Marco Djuricin might have ended up as one of the stars of the team, but fate was against him and his season, and almost certainly his Brentford career fizzled out in frustration and disappointment. The Austrian international striker signed on loan from Red Bull Salzburg in late August although his arrival had been rumoured in January 2015. He made an excellent initial impression, scoring a cooly taken goal within twenty-nine minutes of his debut against Leeds United and made it two goals in three games when he scored the winner against Preston a week later. Another goal arrived soon afterwards at Wolves and when he scored the winner against QPR, running adroitly to the near post to convert a Judge cross, it appeared that we had a new hero in our midst. He played on the shoulder of the last defender, was sharp in front of goal and was eager to shoot rather than pass and was beginning to adapt to an unfamiliar role as a lone striker. A serious ankle ligament injury was the beginning the end for him as he was forced to miss two months of action and never regained his fitness or sharpness on his return and drifted out of contention. A real shame, as Marco possesses a striker’s instinct, something instinctive that cannot be taught, and will certainly come again, but surely not at Griffin Park, although his status as a Brentford legend is assured.

9. Scott Hogan. Sometimes people do get what they deserve and receive due reward for all their effort, dedication and determination not to give in when everything appears to be against them. Finally the Gods are smiling down upon Scott Hogan after he suffered and then overcame two career-threatening cruciate injuries and missed the best part of two season’s worth of football. Much was expected of Hogan when he was brought in to play ahead of Andre Gray at the beginning of the 2014/15 season and now he finally has the opportunity to show us why we signed him. He has certainly been a man on a mission since he was introduced as a late substitute on the nineteenth of March against Blackburn Rovers. Further short run-outs followed against Bolton and Ipswich before he finally made his mark by winning and then missing a penalty kick against Bristol City, before netting his first goal for the Bees with a last-gasp predator’s header which earned us a point. Two more clinical finishes against Cardiff made us realise that this was a really special player who was single-mindedly determined to make up for lost time. He was being carefully managed by the medical team and his time on the pitch was strictly rationed, but Lasse Vibe’s injury meant that Scott was named in the starting eleven against both Fulham and Huddersfield and he rewarded Dean Smith’s faith in him with four more goals. He ended up playing less than two full matches, one hundred and seventy-two minutes in all, and yet he scored an incredible total of seven goals and clearly demonstrated that he is a cool, calm and deadly finisher who has the rare ability to ghost in behind defenders and find time and space within crowded penalty areas. He has been compared in style and approach to Jamie Vardy and has already attracted the attention of the Eire selectors. Brentford have certainly been rewarded for their faith in Scott and for extending his contract for another year before he made his comeback and next season cannot come soon enough for him. What a prospect he is and if he can stay fit we will have a magnificent striker on our hands.

10. Josh McEachran. There was much excitement when we signed Josh McEachran from Chelsea for seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds. He seems to have been around for ever but is still only twenty-three years old. But scratch beneath the surface and his CV was slightly concerning as he had had five loan spells at clubs like Middlesbrough and Watford without establishing himself and he desperately needed a home and a role as his career appeared to be drifting. Unfortunately nothing has gone right for him since he joined Brentford. The first half of his season was ruined by a training ground collision with Toumani Diagouraga which resulted in a fractured foot, and, incredibly, he suffered a similar injury in March which ended his season. In between he managed fifteen appearances without really making too much of an impact. He describes himself as a holder and a passer, dictating play and his approach should have suited our play given the manner in which we always try to play through the midfield, but despite showing glimmers of his ability with a dummy here and a perceptive pass there, it never really happened for him and his passing generally lacked incision or penetration and was too often sideways or backwards and he generally hung out a foot rather than tackle properly. Perhaps it is simply a case that he was simply lacking in match fitness and confidence? We can only hope that he recovers in time for the start of next season and that he can then show us what he is capable of.

11. Philipp Hofmann. The enigma that is Hofmann. So much ability but so little end result to date. Expectations were high when we signed the massive German Under 21 international striker and it was hoped that he could provide us with a different type of option upfront given his size and strength. His progress was hindered by a series of niggling injuries and he seemed to find the Championship a massive learning curve and did not appear ideally suited to the lone striker system employed by the club. He did not have the pace or mobility to run the channels and, despite his height, he was not strong in the air. What he did have, though, was an unsuspected ability, strength and trickery on the ball and a real subtlety of pass. He only started six games all season but still managed to score four goals, including a wonderful finish at Bristol City, a calm dribble around a stranded goalkeeper at Wolves and the triple-ricochet winner at home to Nottingham Forest. He also missed a simple headed chance to win the home game against Brighton. I hope that next season he proves that he has a real future with us and that he relishes the challenge of adapting to the Championship. The jury is out.