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.

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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.

What A Game To Miss! – 8/5/16


I was fully prepared to get up at the crack of dawn yesterday and schlepp up the M1 to Huddersfield. Twelve-thirty is an ungodly hour to start a football match, particularly if it first necessitates a three hour crawl up a packed motorway riddled with a frustrating series of speed restrictions.

Dead rubber it might well have been, but it would also be the last opportunity for me to get my football fix for a couple of months or so as well as to pay my own personal homage to a team that had put so many seemingly insurmountable problems behind them and whose dedication, perseverance, commitment and no little skill, now looked likely to be rewarded with a top ten finish.

Everything changed on Thursday with my wife’s out-of-the-blue suggestion that we take advantage of the favourable weather forecast and go away for the weekend.

Football and Brentford’s irresistible siren song invariably take precedence over all other matters throughout the long and interminable Winter months and home games are sacrosanct, but given the circumstances, would it hurt so much, would it be such a bad thing to, just this once, put the wishes and considerations of my family first and make the supreme and ultimate sacrifice?

My answer to that interesting philosophical question can be ascertained by the fact that Saturday lunchtime found Miriam and I ensconced on the beach at Poole Harbour and my knowledge of events at Huddersfield was confined to listening to the silver tongue of Mark Burridge on Bees Player.

So what happens? We only go and score five times away from home for the first time since, I believe, Plymouth in 1994, earn our largest ever away victory in the second tier of English football, and the Bees put on a massively composed and vibrant performance that simply emphasised the confidence coursing through their veins, and the final five-one score line by no means flattered them. Indeed one of my spies at the match commented to me that we should have scored eight.

That’s just how it is and my missing this mauling is surely punishment enough for my obvious lack of dedication to the cause, although it must be said that our weekend has been as pleasant and relaxing as we expected, and one has simply to weigh up the benefits and advantages of both options!

So the season finally ended in triumph and many of us perhaps wish that it could go on for a few weeks yet given the incredible happenings of the past month, but legs and minds alike are weary and badly need a rest if they are to come back recharged and re-energised for the start of next season.

Let’s just take a moment to reflect on the immensity of our achievements:

  • Brentford have finished in ninth position in the Championship, our second best finish ever at this level after last year, and one previously matched only in 1950 and 1951
  • 2015/16 is therefore our equal third most successful season since the end of the Second World War
  • By ending the season as the form team in the league with an unparalleled run of seven wins and a draw in our last nine games we have risen nine places in the table and scored twenty-four times in that period
  • We ended up a mere ten points away from the playoffs, so keep thinking about Fulham away and Middlesbrough, Charlton and Blackburn at home and what might have been
  • With a highly creditable seventy-two goals we were equal top scorers in the Championship
  • We were top scorers away from home with thirty-nine goals, including fifteen in our last five matches
  • Brentford were the Kings of West London, finishing comfortably ahead of rivals Fulham and Queens Park Rangers for the first time since 1948/49
  • Scott Hogan is perhaps the most prolific Brentford marksman in living memory as he played a total of one hundred and seventy-one minutes of football all season and scored seven times, an average of less than twenty-five minutes per goal

As for yesterday’s game, the Bees always had far too much in their locker for a poor and dispirited home team who gifted Brentford a goal after twenty-one seconds when Cranie underhit his backpass and Sergi Canos was onto the error in a flash and finished perfectly past Steer, who then saved brilliantly from Barbet’s header before being forced off by injury as the Bees threatened to run riot.

For the second time in three away matches we were faced by a callow, young replacement keeper, this time in Lloyd Allinson, who was to make a torrid debut.

He started well by foiling Hogan who actually missed a presentable opportunity before shooting narrowly wide of the near post as Brentford went into the interval only one goal up having hardly been bothered at the back.

That was all to change when Huddersfield equalised straight after the break when a quickly taken short free kick caught our back line dozing and Jamie Paterson, reputedly a Brentford transfer target, danced through a static defence, left Harlee Dean, otherwise imperious on his two-hundredth appearance for the club, on his backside and scored calmly and efficiently.

Rather than demoralising the Bees, this unexpected and totally undeserved goal roused them to new heights and Brentford simply stepped up the pace and blew Huddersfield away, scoring five times for the first time this season.

Hogan scored twice, each time finishing simply and without any flourishes or fuss after Kerschbaumer put him clean through with astute through balls.

Hogan lasted sixty-four minutes before being replaced by Vibe and the watching Roy Keane left soon afterwards. Surely Scott’s fairytale month couldn’t end with an international call up, or could it? Stranger things have happened and in-form strikers are always in great demand.

Good management again by Dean Smith who has ensured that Hogan is being nursed back into action and also kept hungry for next season.

Vibe emphasised our amazing recent transformation in terms of our newfound confidence and capability upfront by scoring within three minutes of his arrival with a venemous shot perfectly drilled inside the hapless Allinson’s near post after an incisive pass from Canos, who departed soon after to a hero’s reception.

Lasse’s seventh goal in as many games ensured that he joined Alan Judge on fourteen goals and he finished an excellent first season in English football as our joint top scorer once we had finally learned how best to utilise his ability to run in behind opposition defences.

Vibe then became the provider when he set up late substitute John Swift for a comfortable close range finish which was his seventh goal of an eventful season. A more than creditable tally from a highly promising young player.

Swift barely celebrated his goal, which was scored right in front of the Brentford hordes and I wonder if his mind is already on his next move rather than contemplating a potential return to Griffin Park?

Five goals almost became six as Vibe went close right at the death, and the season ended on a massive high for everyone concerned with the club.

There has been a definite change of style lately as Dean Smith has made us far less gung-ho and we now sit back more often and attempt to pick teams off on the break.

I well remember the new Head Coach’s first two away games late last year at Fulham and Cardiff when we scored four times and yet only came away with one point owing to our own kamikaze approach and defensive shortcomings. It finally looks like we have learned our lesson.

Now we are far more solid and organised defensively with Colin, Dean, Barbet and Bidwell forming an impressive and cohesive back four which is well protected by the speedy, mobile and combative Woods and Yennaris.

Suddenly there is pace coursing throughout the team with the likes of Colin, Yennaris, Canos and Hogan, and we are a real force to be reckoned with.

Konstantin Kerschbaumer too has finally proved his worth with assists for three of Hogan’s last four goals and he showed an unsuspected strength and determination to shake off an opponent before setting up Scott’s opener yesterday.

What a rollercoaster and topsy-turvy season this has been for the Bees and their supporters and we can now all relax and take a break before the serious business starts again.

There will be much hard work taking place behind the scenes throughout the close season but the foundations are firmly in place for a successful campaign next season.

As for the squad, I am led to believe that their ninth place finish ensures that they qualify for a bonus payment and few would begrudge them their reward.

A Match Too Far – 27/4/16

This was the game that nobody really wanted to play. Brentford’s visit to Hull City had been put off for a seemingly interminable period of time owing to the apparent difficulties in scheduling the home team’s FA Cup replay with Arsenal what seems a lifetime ago.

Having played only three times in March this was to be Brentford’s seventh game of a ridiculously packed April schedule, a situation that should never have been allowed to occur and one that was to prove a match too far for a thin, exhausted and beleaguered squad.

Hull City had already safely secured their position in the playoffs and all they had to play for last night was to help ensure that they finish up in fourth place and therefore get to play their forthcoming playoff semifinal second-leg tie at home.

As for the Bees, it was simply a case of trying to continue their recent unbeaten run and ideally get through the match unscathed before Saturday’s massive and much anticipated local derby against Fulham.

Hull City are the moneybags of the Championship, a situation that I have previously written about with great envy when I outlined the eye-watering sums they received throughout their stay in the Premier League, figures that are now being boosted even more by an ongoing series of Parachute Payments following their recent relegation to the Championship.

Given their riches, resources and overall opulence which totally dwarf the likes of Brentford and are beyond our wildest dream, it would not be unreasonable to say that Hull have an unfair advantage over the rest of the division and in essence have totally underperformed this season as they really should have run away with the league title.

As it is, owing to their inconsistency and lack of goal threat their hopes of automatic promotion have long since disappeared and they will be forced to rely upon the lottery of the playoffs if they are to fulfill expectations by returning to the Premier League.

Steve Bruce was afforded the luxury, unheard of for Dean Smith, of making seven team changes last night whilst still being able to put out a starting eleven bristling with ability and experience, and as for his substitutes’ bench – words fail me and I am green with envy!

Just take a moment to examine the wealth of talent that Bruce could call on should the need arise:

  • Allan McGregor
  • Curtis Davies
  • Shaun Maloney
  • Ryan Taylor
  • Robert Snodgrass
  • Tom Huddlestone
  • Chuba Akpom

Seven players, four of them full internationals, worth millions of pounds and probably earning between them a sum close to Brentford’s entire playing budget.

That’s just the way it is in a league composed of the haves and have-nots and where there is a vast chasm between the top six teams and the remaining also-rans who are pretty much of a muchness in terms of the overall depth and quality of their squad.

Brentford had already learned to their cost about the strength and depth of the Hull squad in the previous meeting between the two clubs last year at Griffin Park when after the Bees had totally dominated the first half without reward and were still well in the game after the break, the visitors simply went to their bench and brought on two massively talented replacement players in Huddlestone and Diamé. They turned the game on its head and a brave and commited Brentford team which had finally run out of steam and imagination was unable to cope with their fresh legs and minds as Hull effortlessly went up a gear, and we were left trailing in their wake and subsided to an unfortunate defeat.

David versus Goliath with us facing their atomic weapons with peashooters.

Last night the Bees were again short of options and named in their squad pretty much every player who was anywhere near match fitness although given that this was their seventh game in less than four weeks they were running on empty with many of the players patched up, half fit and in desperate need of respite.

Colin, Kerschbaumer and Vibe were rested from Saturday’s team with Clarke, Swift, recovered from injury, and Djuricin starting in their place.

That is quite simply the way of the world when a small and overworked squad has been ravaged by a nonstop series of injuries throughout the entire season. Fixtures have to be fulfilled even though we are nowhere near being on an even playing field.

Despite these drawbacks Brentford had put together an amazing run of five wins in their last six games and had risen from the depths of the league to a highly commendable tenth place and shown grit, skill, organisation and determination in abundance but last night was simply a match too far and the Bees had nothing left in the tank and gently subsided to a two goal defeat.

Brentford played their normal neat brand of short passing football but shorn of Vibe’s pace and hard running and with Djuricin easily snuffed out by Maguire there was very little goal threat and Hull eventually seized control and were rewarded with two close-range goals after the Bees failed to prevent crosses coming in from either flank.

Harlee Dean, otherwise so impressive on the night, was aware of the threat behind him and stretched in vain to clear, but could only find the roof of his own net and Diamé bundled in the second right on halftime which totally ended the game as a contest.

In between Diomande missed a penalty which was most generously awarded by a referee in Darren Bond who barely gave the visitors a decision all night, not that Hull really needed his assistance.

The excellent David Button got down quickly and well to make the save but that was a rare high point for an outmatched and exhausted Brentford team who struggled to cope with Hull’s pace and power on the break.

The second half was played at exhibition pace and we were saved any more embarrassment and could even have scored when the impressive Josh Clarke was brought down a fraction outside the box according the referee – I wonder if he would have been as hawk-eyed if the incident had occurred down the other end, and Sam Saunders also curled a late free kick inches past the post.

Otherwise the sole entertainment was in watching home substitute Chuba Akpom doing his best to keep a wide berth and stay as far away as possible from the belligerent Alan McCormack who would have just loved to have been given the opportunity to teach the young upstart a much-needed lesson in manners after his behaviour during his unimpressive loan spell at Griffin Park back in 2014.

Worryingly, indestructible skipper Jake Bidwell limped off with a hamstring strain late on, thus ending his bid to play every minute of the season and hopefully both he and Vibe will be passed fit to face the challenge of local rivals Fulham on Saturday.

I am sure that given the magnitude of the occasion, tired bodies and minds will have recovered in time for the weekend and Scott Hogan will also be ready to be unleashed upon our unsuspecting neighbours.

Last night was an irrelevance and we move on.

Brentford’s Injury Hoodoo – 14/4/16

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Job Done? – Not Quite – 6/4/16

The league table is looking a lot more cheerful than was the case a mere four days ago as two wins, six goals and six points have taken the Bees up to the giddy heights of fourteenth place in the Championship, twelve points ahead of MK Dons who fill the final relegation position and I really cannot see them making up that gap, plus our massively superior goal difference, in the six games that remain to them.

Whilst we are now looking comfortable with forty-nine points safely stored in our locker and our supporters breathing far more easily there is still much to play for.

Dean Smith, understandably a much more cheerful figure of late rightly insists that a top ten finish remains the target and that would be a massive achievement given the topsy-turvy nature of the season as a whole.

We are currently seven points behind Preston who are in tenth place and we also have a game in hand so the target is tough but viable.

We now also trail Queens Park Rangers by three points and lead Fulham by five in the West London mini-league that is so important to our fans in terms of local bragging rights.

If you think that I am clutching at straws then perhaps you are correct as I am not used to Brentford reaching the business end of the season without having much to play for. The last four years have seen us challenging for promotion each time and it is strange to be in a situation in which we need to set our own goals in order to keep us interested and motivated, so hopefully the season will not be allowed to fizzle out and we will at least ensure that our safety margin is maintained if not even increased.

The recent International Break seems to have done the trick as the team appears to be re-energised and ever increasing in confidence.

The victory at Nottingham Forest, added to the three goals scored and clean sheet achieved had left the players with a extra spring in their step and Bolton Wanderers were on the receiving end in the first half last night.

Granted, the opposition, as good as doomed to relegation  were not up to much but that is not to take anything away from a resurgent Brentford team which purred into top gear with a magnificent first half display.

The football played was crisp, neat and incisive, players wanted the ball and made positive runs and three goals was scant reward for our domination and invention.

McCormack and Yennaris hoovered up every loose ball, rendering the combative Darren Pratley totally ineffective and Nico is fast developing into a Coquelin-like thoroughbred.

He scored for the first time at home, poking home from close range after an excellent four man move and more was to follow soon afterwards.

Woods played Vibe through and Lasse fought off the challenge of his marker and crossed low and hard towards Judge and when the ball rebounded back to him off a defender he took his time, waited patiently for the keeper to commit himself and rolled the ball home for a goal redolent of confidence if not arrogance.

Soon it was three when a flowing move saw Yennaris play the ball to Judge, who had earlier hit the bar with a cross, and this time his first time centre was perfectly placed for Vibe to glance the ball home with his head.

What a transformation there has been in Vibe with his three goals in the last game and a half taking him to a creditable ten goal tally for the season with hopefully even more to come.

It wouldn’t be Brentford if we didn’t do our best to self-destruct and we gifted Bolton three massive first half opportunities through our own carelessness and lack of concentration that a better team would surely have taken full advantage off.

As it was the closest they came to scoring was when Vela hit the outside of the post and shortly afterwards the impressive Clough could not benefit from Button over elaborating on the ball – not for the first time this season.

Thst being said the back four looked mean and confident and also used the ball well. Colin is nursing a injury and appears to be playing well within himself but Barbet is improving with every game.

Bolton went for damage limitation after the break and tightened up with the introduction of the experienced Wheater and Danns.

Poor Alex Finney a tall, young defender making his full debut was removed to save him further embarrassment after a ghastly first half display haunted by nerves and as Bolton improved, the Bees went down a couple of gears and apart from a hooked volley from the impressive Sam Saunders which went narrowly over the bar and a McCormack thunderbolt from nearly forty yards out which required an exceptional save from Amos, the Ealing Road faithful had little to cheer about.

We played the ball around but lacked our earlier pace and urgency and it came as no surprise when McCormack’s clumsy and unnecessary tackle was correctly punished with the award of a penalty kick which Clough easily converted.

The game drifted to its inevitable conclusion with Canos, Hogan and Clarke given brief run outs.

Given how far we have come in the last few days it is tough to carp and criticise but the second half inertia clearly demonstrated that there is still much work that is needed to be done and that we are still nowhere near the finished article.

The match clearly resembled the one back in December when we put Huddersfield to the sword with a rampant first half display which could not be matched after the break when the visitors roused themselves and fought their way back into the game.

That being said there was much to be optimistic about, not least the commitment shown by the entire team and their determination to ensure that they would pick up the points on offer as well as give their supporters something to cheer about.

We will shortly be facing tougher opposition in the shape of Ipswich Town and we will need to be at our best and most determined to cope with the massive physical challenge that they will provide.

Bentford have been feast or famine since the New Year began and we can only hope that they maintain the impetus from the past two matches and go into the Ipswich game full of confidence, as indeed they should.

I look forward with relish to the clash between Alan McCormack and Jonathan Douglas which might well go a long way towards settling the outcome.

Paul Grimes Has His Say – 16/3/16

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

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

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

Here is what Paul wrote:

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

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

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

Pause, take a deep breath and hit your mark!

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

Let’s break it down a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings me on to timing.

Why was this interview given BEFORE the game on Saturday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s now consider the Phil Giles interview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a great start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do we need?

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

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

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