Hot Stuff At Griffin Park – 24/7/16

The new season is now only two weeks away and it was clear from yesterday’s friendly against tough and skilful foreign opposition in Kaiserslautern that the squad is progressing in terms of fitness, structure and organisation although there is still much work to be done.

The heat was on in more ways than one, given the scorching weather conditions which necessitated regular water breaks and perhaps explained why the Bees abandoned their normal pressing game and funnelled back rather than challenging the opposition deep in their own half.

The match was apparently arranged a part of the Philipp Hofmann transfer deal a year ago and you would have hoped that the German fans held fond memories of their former hero, but such was not the case if the opinions of the Kaiserslautern supporters who I canvassed on my way into the stadium are to be trusted.

Paraphrasing their comments in order to protect the guilty, it would be fair to say that he is not missed by them in the least and we were roundly thanked for taking him off their hands. The Hoff certainly looks the part this season in terms of his overall fitness and we can only hope that he does finally show us what he is capable of!

I really see little point in providing a long and detailed match report but, in brief, the first half was evenly matched but cautious as both teams felt each other out. The Bees went ahead with a comic cuts headed own goal from a Macleod corner but were soon pegged back when we were caught square at the back and short of numbers. Lasse Vibe and Ryan Woods came close late on but a draw was the fairest result.

What is more important is how we performed and there was much to be pleased about as well as a few warning bells jangling in the background.

This was the first sight for most of us of Daniel Bentley and he looked calm and confident in everything he did in terms of shot stopping and defensive organisation. He looked slightly lost and bemused, though, at the way we expect our keeper to distribute the ball – quickly and accurately and to throw the ball short at every opportunity and frankly, he struggled to do so. He sold Barbet horribly short early on with a kicked clearance and we were fortunate to survive the defensive mess that followed. I have no qualms about him though and he will prove to be an excellent successor to the departed Button.

Colin was his normal bubbly and effusive self, calm in defence and rampaging forward at every opportunity. He cost us serious money (for us at least) but at some point we will sell him for a massive fee. Dean and Egan were solid and unspectacular but looked worried when clever opponents ran at them. Tom Field was given a much-needed rest and Barbet filled in adequately at left back but did enough to convince us that this is not his preferred or best position. Chris Mepham came on towards the end and is clearly going to be a future first teamer, as will Tom Field.

Alan McCormack and Josh McEachran played in the holding role and left me totally unconvinced. Macca ratted around, left his mark, both physical and verbal on the opposition and made one brilliantly forceful forward run that ended with him shooting at the keeper when he should have scored but we desperately need better. Josh looked confident on the ball and pinged his passes sharply and with accuracy but he reacts rather than initiates, was far too easily knocked off the ball and lacked the strength to win it back.

Ryan Woods showed us how it should be done when he came on in the second half. Demanding the ball at every opportunity and driving us forward by sheer force of character as well as ability. He hammered a long-ranger inches over and his passing was crisp and accurate and always positive. Nico Yennaris is nursing a knock and at present I see him and Woods starting and I fear for Josh as he has not shown the leadership we require. I might be judging him harshly given his two serious injuries but we need to see far more from him. Unless we bring in a Kevin McDonald type of player we run the risk of being overrun from time to time. He will prove to be a decent signing for Fulham and again clearly demonstrates how we are outgunned financially as I am quite certain that we also expressed an interest in him.

There was much to admire in midfield where both Lewis Macleod and Romaine Sawyers drifted in and out of the game but from time to time clearly demonstrated their massive ability both on the ball and in dribbling past opponents. Macleod might well thrive in a more central role but he is a pure match winner and a certain starter. Sam Saunders did what Sam does, show calmness and quality on the ball but interestingly enough, gave up his set-piece duties to Macleod and Sawyers.

Scott Hogan has been nursing an ankle injury and played 45 minutes. he got into good positions and always found space in and around the box. If he gets the correct service he will score goals, it is as simple as that. Lasse Vibe is fit, sharp and raring to go and it is a real shame that we will lose him for the duration of the Olympics.

Hofmann came on against his old team mates and ambled around in the sunshine like a geriatric out for a brief stroll and did nothing to convince us of his potential worth to us.

We fielded a trialist in Manny Ledesma, an experienced Argentine winger with Championship experience at Middlesbrough and Rotherham. He has also played under Dean Smith at Walsall. It is unfair to judge someone on so brief an acquaintance and he showed some clever touches but I would hope that we are not in the market for a 28 year old journeyman.

A decent workout then which clearly showed that we have a more than decent young squad that still has gaps to fill at left back, defensive midfield, on the wing and up front. I am sure that there will be reinforcements coming in shortly and hopefully of the requisite standard and fitting the Brentford trademark in terms of being young, talented and with the potential to improve.

As always the first visit to Griffin Park for the new season was one to savour and the new season will, I am quite sure, also be one to relish.

Growing Pains – a four hundred page monster that covers all of the events both on and off the field from last season in my words and also those of the likes of Matthew Benham, Cliff Crown, Phil Giles, Billy Reeves and Phil Parry is now available in the BFC Superstore and via Amazon at

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

Please ignore what it says on Amazon – the book is available and in stock!

There is also an ebook version available for download to Kindle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Many Additions Needed – 11/7/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Football is Back – 9/7/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In no particular order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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 3 – 17/5/16

Here are my thoughts on the remaining members of the Brentford squad as well as the players who left us during the season :

21. Lasse Vibe. Danish international striker Lasse Vibe signed for the Bees for around one million pounds from IFK Göteborg shortly before the beginning of the season and went straight from playing in the Swedish Allsvenskan to the Championship without the benefit of any preseason break. He found a place in the team playing firstly on the right flank  where he was a peripheral influence but he scored his first goal with a stunning long-range curling effort against Reading when moved into a more central role. He played alongside Marco Djuricin but won a regular place in the team as the sole striker after Djuricin’s injury against Blackburn. From then on Vibe pretty much trod a lone furrow up front until Scott Hogan’s recovery from injury late on in the season and eventually the pressure told on him and his effectiveness greatly diminished as he was slowed down by the effects of fatigue and overwork. After scoring with a fulminating volley against Huddersfield in mid-December he went over three months without scoring and clearly demonstrated that he was not best suited to the physical demands of playing as a target man. Smash the ball at or over his head and he would always come off second best against giant central defenders who totally outmuscled him and invariably won the physical battle, and with his confidence shot to pieces, he went on a ghastly run of poor performances marked by a series of missed chances and scuffed shots. He had hit the wall and the Championship was proving a tough learning curve for him. No striker scored for the Bees from the second of January until the second of April, a run of twelve matches that saw only eleven goals scored by Brentford and the abyss was beckoning until everything changed in the March international break. Vibe went away with the Danish squad and returned a new man, apparently revitalised by his international recall. Suddenly there was a spring in his step and his luck finally turned. Firstly when loanee Leandro Rodríguez suffered a hamstring injury which necessitated his withdrawal from the fray at Nottingham Forest and his replacement by Vibe and then when home defender Kevin Wilson’s gaffe gifted him a goal. Finally the floodgates opened as with confidence restored he went on a wonderful run of seven goals in seven games, and what goals they were. Close range tap-ins, flying headers, sumptuous outside of the foot finishes and long-range rockets. Everything he touched flew in and he ended up as equal top scorer with the highly creditable total of fourteen goals. More importantly, we learned to play to his strengths as his pace and vision enabled him to time his runs and get in behind defenders and he looked twice the player he had been just weeks earlier. The fans took to him from the beginning because he never let his head go down even when things were not going well for him and he was always a chaser of lost causes. He played with a smile on his face and the crowd responded to him. How far has he come in so short a time? A few weeks ago and I would not have been too upset if he had decided to leave at the end of the season, now I can’t wait to see if he can improve even more next season.

22. Jack O’Connell. Jack had a frustrating season as he was never able to establish himself in the team but at times he certainly looked the part in our central defence. He twice enjoyed runs of four and then three consecutive matches after Dean and Barbet’s red cards but he was unable to keep his place given the strong competition he faced. He scored a goal from a corner against Fulham and, unlike our other central defenders, he always looked dangerous at set pieces, and but for a brilliant save he would have repeated the dose in the home match against our old rivals at Griffin Park. At twenty-two he is still a youngster and he could yet develop into an excellent defender and a real asset. He lacks pace but reads the game well, is strong in the air and is no mug with the ball at his feet. I hope that he is patient and that we find a role for him next season.

23. Jota. Who could ever have imagined Brentford doing so well despite Jota starting only one game all season? Jonathan Douglas’s rugged challenge cost Jota damaged ankle ligaments which required surgery to repair and he had barely returned to the substitutes’ bench in December when personal issues forced his return to Spain, initially on loan to Eibar. Brentford treated him with sensitivity and compassion given the circumstances and we will simply have to wait and see whether he will be in a position to return within the next year or if we have seen the last of the Spanish maestro. I personally doubt that he will play for us again and, if so, we will need to maximise our return for him which will not be easy given that he will, I am sure, only wish to sign for a Spanish team. As for replacing him, you can’t, as how do you find another genius?

24. Akaki (Andy) Gogia. Andy Gogia was another foreign prospect signed on a free transfer from the lower leagues in Germany. A quick and tricky winger, he impressed with his pace, skill and energy in the preseason friendly against Stoke and scored with a deflected long-range effort. He started the season in the first team but it soon became clear that he needed time to get used to the pace and physicality of the Championship and also become more accustomed and attuned to living and working in a foreign country. His cause was also hindered by some niggly injuries and he never started a match after the beginning of October. He impressed in the Development Squad and looked more direct and effective when coming off the bench late on in the season. Hopefully he will be one for next season and he will surely receive another opportunity given that we will be looking for a new winger.

27. David Button. At twenty-seven years of age, and coming off his second consecutive season as an everpresent in the Brentford team, David Button is probably not yet at his peak and might improve even more, but he has firmly established himself as one of the most consistent and talented goalkeepers in the Championship. What a bargain he has proved to be since we rescued him from the depths of the Charlton Athletic reserve team for a mere one hundred and fifty thousand pounds. He certainly received sufficient practice last season as he faced more shots on goal than any other keeper in the league and he invariably met and overcame the challenge. He was directly responsible for only two goals, at home to both Middlesbrough and Charlton but otherwise he was reliable, dependable, consistent and also inspired and brilliant on occasion. His save from Garner at Preston was stupendous and one of the moments of the season and at times he seemed to be playing Derby County on his own at Griffin Park. He can still sometimes be tentative and vulnerable when dealing with crosses but he is otherwise technically extremely sound and invariably gets the basics right. His use of the ball when in possession was as calm and accurate as ever and he started so many of our attacks as well as providing a wonderful assist for Alan Judge’s goal against Sheffield Wednesday. Button now has a tough decision to make given that his contract expires at the end of next season. Should he seek pastures new or extend his contract at the club? He is guaranteed first team football in a young and improving team at Griffin Park, but could he do better professionally and financially elsewhere? The latest indications are that he might well decide to stay and every Brentford fan will fervently hope that this is the case as we are very fortunate to have him.

28. Nico Yennaris. Last season was a coming of age for Nico whose career at Brentford had appeared to be drifting into oblivion and many were surprised when his loan move to Wycombe Wanderers was not made permanent. Maxime Colin’s injury changed everything and Lee Carsley gave him the opportunity to deputise for him. Nico played like a man inspired, tough, tenacious in the challenge and eager to overlap, he ensured that Colin was barely missed and Nico was unfortunate to lose his place when the Frenchman recovered. His consistency was rewarded with a new three year contract, a move that initially attracted much criticism from some Brentford supporters but Dean Smith knew exactly what he was doing and the decision is now looking an extremely good one. He believed in Nico who was converted into a highly effective defensive midfielder who played a massive part in our late season success. He was all-action and all-energy, relentless in his tackling and pressing but he also showed his great ability on the ball and he passed it quickly and accurately. Nico was ideally suited for Brentford’s pass and move approach and he also scored two well-taken goals. From a player who at one time seemed to be going nowhere except out of the exit door, Nico proved to be a revelation and ended the season as the most improved player in the team and enjoying life playing for the first time for a Head Coach who believed in him. Of all the stories of the season, Nico’s was perhaps the most positive, surprising and satisfying.

29. Yoann Barbet. The best that I can say about French central defender Yoann Barbet’s progress is that the departed James Tarkowski has barely been missed. Signed from Chamois Niortais for a fee of around half a million pounds he was another unknown player from abroad who was definitely seen as one for the future. He impressed in his initial first team appearances as he vied with Jack O’Connell to be the deputy for the first choice partnership of Dean and Tarkowski, but his big opportunity came with the departure of Tarkowski and he certainly seized it. He received a temporary setback after an unfortunate red card at Sheffield Wednesday but he learned from the experience and soon scored his first goal for the club against Charlton. He proved to be a rugged defender who loves a slide tackle and he showed a good turn of pace. He also demonstrated great skill on the ball and sprayed long and accurate passes out to the right wing, memorably assisting on a wonderful goal for Alan Judge at Preston. He has adapted quickly and well to his new surroundings and is another star in the making for the Bees.

36. Josh Clarke. Josh certainly made the most of the opportunity given him to develop his skills as a fast, overlapping fullback and fought his way into the first team. Everybody loves a local boy made good, and his pace, enthusiasm and attacking brio shone through. He obtained some valuable experience on loan at Barnet, started four matches for Brentford and also impressed when coming off the bench, helping to make Scott Hogan’s late equaliser against Bristol City. He has been offered a new contract for next season and I hope that he decides to remain at the club, as at only twenty-one years of age there is still time for Josh to emerge and develop into a regular first team player.

37. Courtney Senior. Still only eighteen, Courtney Senior impressed in the preseason friendly at Boreham Wood showing pace and skill on the right wing. He made his first team debut against Oxford United and twice was an unused substitute before returning to the Development Squad for the remainder of the season. His time has yet to come, but he is a real talent.

39. Tom Field. Tom made an assured and highly competent debut as a nineteen year-old deputy for the injured Jake Bidwell in the local derby against Fulham. He showed great composure and an excellent temperament. He was never overawed by the occasion, defended well and also swung in a perfect right wing corner which was thrashed into the net by Scott Hogan. Another one for the future, and better still, he comes from a Brentford supporting family.

47. Sergi Canos. A total breath of fresh air, Sergi arrived on loan as an unknown eighteen year-old from Liverpool via Barcelona’s academy. He left the club with his head held high as a firm fan favourite having scored seven times in thirty-eight games and he totally surpassed expectations and proved to be a massive success. He so obviously loved every minute of his stay and played with enthusiasm, a smile on his face and with a real joie de vivre. Given his age and lack of experience he was inconsistent but he possessed the ability to turn a game on its head as both Preston North End and Nottingham Forest discovered to their cost and he was always full of tricks. He worked hard and learned how to track back but he had the pace, dribbling ability and sheer ability to create havoc at the other end of the pitch, netting after a mere twenty-one seconds at Huddersfield and scoring unforgettable goals at Reading and MK Dons. He made a massive impression on everybody at the club and we all took great pride and joy in his achievement when he made his Premier League debut for Liverpool on the last day of the season. Have we seen the last of him? Maybe but perhaps not, as if he is not considered good enough for Liverpool’s squad next season or does not agree a new contract, then perhaps he might yet return to Griffin Park and thrill and inspire us once more?

Andre Gray, Toumani Diagouraga, James Tarkowski, Ryan Williams, Josh Laurent, Leandro Rodríguez and Jermaine Udumaga all made appearances for the Bees this season before leaving the club. It was a forgone conclusion that Gray would go elsewhere and move up the food chain as he was a star in the making andcoveted by clubs who could pay him far more than us and we also had to sell him in order not to fall foul of Financial Fair Play restrictions. He played twice for us, firstly as a late substitute against Ipswich where he helped turn the game in our favour and scored a well-taken goal bursting down the middle at pace to put us back into a game that seemed lost. He and Philipp Hofmann also played together at Bristol City and terrified the opposition with Gray scoring with a perfect half volley at the near post as well as contributing to two other Brentford goals. He clearly demonstrated that he was a man in form and one who would take the division by storm – but unfortunately it was for Burnley and not us. Toumani Diagouraga was a wonderful servant of the club but we did well to extract a half million pound fee from Leeds for a player whose performances had declined from their impossibly high level of the previous season. He was no longer such a dominating influence on proceedings and his game suffered from the absence of Douglas alongside him, which forced Toumani to attempt tackles far more often, something that was not one of his strengths. He left with our gratitude and best wishes. The same cannot be said for James Tarkowski who acted in a totally unprofessional manner by virtue of his decision to down tools before the Burnley home game. As with Gray, we extracted a high fee for him and the progress made by Barbet means that he has hardly been missed. Tarkowski was his normal frustrating self, combining moments of brilliance both in defending and on the ball with times when he lost concentration, over-reached himself and cost us dear. Leandro Rodríguez was a loan signing from Everton who was brought in to support the flagging Lasse Vibe. He pulled a hamstring in his second match before he really had the chance to show us anything and returned to his parent club. Laurent, Williams and Udumaga all made brief appearances without convincing the club that they had what it takes to merit further opportunities.