More Questions And Concerns – 8/3/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob is concerned about the current makeup of the squad:

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

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

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

Rebel Bee gave his analysis of the current situation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iain is also looking forward to hearing some answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Hirdle would prefer a public forum:

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

dwp26 added a few extra questions:

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

Some questions to pass on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Brickbats and Bouquets – 17/1/16

Just as my article yesterday castigated James Tarkowski for his utter stupidity and selfishness, it is only right and proper that I give praise too whenever and wherever it is justified.

So will the Brentford Media Department please stand up and take a bow – yes that is you Chris Wickham and you too, Mark Chapman whom I am referring to.

The club’s statement regarding Tarkowski was a perfect example of less is more as it provided a clear but brief and unemotional description of his behaviour and its natural consequence without labouring the fact, elaborating on matters or going into unnecessary detail.

Yesterday they surpassed themselves when the club announced the sad departure of Jota on loan to Eibar on loan until the Summer of 2017 after agreeing an option to extend his Brentford contract for a further season and gave a full and frank explanation for his having no option but to leave the club while he works through some personal issues that require him to be in Spain rather than West London.

There is a crumb of hope and comfort for us as we are told that we have the option to recall the Spanish maestro during the next two Transfer Windows – this Summer and in January 2017 although quite frankly, I am not holding my breath.

In PR circles there are two schools of thought regarding the announcement and dissemination of bad news: You either bury it in and amongst other less contentious announcements and hope that you get away with it without the public noticing or cottoning on, something that is particularly prevalent in government circles, or, as Brentford have done, you provide full disclosure as well as a detailed and compelling explanation of the facts.

In my view, honesty is always the best policy and now every Brentford supporter is totally aware of what has been going on and should understand why, given the circumstances, the club had absolutely no option but to act in the way that they did and allow him to return home in order to sort out his personal life.

The club should be congratulated for acting in such an honourable and farsighted manner.

Jota too earned full marks by releasing a statement to the Brentford fans which made it abundantly clear just how difficult the last few months have been for him and how happy and content he has been at the club and if it had not been for his difficult personal circumstances he would not have been going anywhere.

The letter is heartfelt, open, honest and emotional and he memorably and evocatively states that my children will grow up listening to Jota in the last minute which I have saved forever in my heart as well as constantly in my head.

He ends by simply stating, I won’t say goodbye, just see you soon, so we will all just have to wish him well and wait and see how things turn out for him and his family.

In the meantime we will just have to make do with our abundant memories of the little genius and keep ourselves warm on cold nights by thinking about his twinkling toes and mesmerising dribbling and the incredible goals he scored against the likes of Leeds, Cardiff and Blackburn.

In truth it has been an horrendous week for the Bees and a real eye opener and possibly reality check for all of us supporters. I cannot recall the last time we ever lost three home games in a six day period and maybe Mark Croxford or Paul Briers or somebody else better informed than I can tell us if this sad state of affairs has ever happened before?

Losing to Middlesbrough and Burnley was bad enough if not totally unexpected, and whilst I realise that we had to husband our limited resources and rest players, in retrospect the FA Cup defeat to Walsall was just as damaging. Given where we are in the league a cup run would have ensured that we remain in the public eye and provided a real boost and fillip to our supporters in a season that now looks unlikely to end in a charge for the playoffs.

The Tarkowski and Jota situations just piled further upset and frustration on everybody and we now have to reassess where we are and what happens for the remainder of the season.

It is important to keep a sense of perspective and recognise that a position in the upper mid table of the Championship given everything that has happened to date this season both on and off the field is no mean achievement.

We were spoiled by last season’s top five finish and some senior representatives of the club were perhaps misguided in allowing us to think or expect that further progress and improvement was anticipated.

Frankly you are only as good as the players you are able to put out onto the pitch and we have been hamstrung by our massive and long lasting injury list as well as the loss of so many talented players mainly for reasons well out of our control.

The damage might not yet be over as we face losing more players before the end of the Transfer Window. Tarkowski moving on is surely a given and Toumani might well follow him out of the door, this time with our heartfelt thanks and best wishes. The Alan Judge situation remains totally open and up in the air and we just have to hope that no other club meets our valuation of the player.

There is also wide speculation that Sam Saunders will have his contract cancelled and leave for Tampa Bay Rowdies in the MSL. Should that be the case we cannot begrudge him his opportunity given his loyal service to the club and we can only wish him well. He has returned to the first team reckoning recently given the quality of his displays in training , but also because of our lack of resources and other options.

The loss of Jota is particularly damaging as he would have given Judge additional support and taken some of the pressure off him and revitalised our midfield.

Sergi Canos and John Swift have also shown that they have the potential to more than contribute at Championship level, however I have felt in recent games that they have both hit the wall and need to be taken out of the firing line for a while given their youth and relative inexperience. Swift too is learning how to play a new position and adjust to a role out wide on the left hand side of midfield.

This means that reinforcements are urgently needed and there was talk yesterday that George Evans was on the verge of joining us but that he had decided to join Reading instead. This is potentially disappointing news, given that he is a very talented young player, well known to Dean Smith from his recent loan spell at Walsall who would have been an ideal replacement for Toumani as a box to box midfielder. Evans also has an eye for goal, something that is lacking with Toums and it appears that we will now have to look elsewhere.

It is hard to argue with the view that so far many of our summer recruits have failed to step up to the plate and contribute to the level anticipated and even expected. Gogia has suffered from niggling injuries and not established himself and Kerschbaumer has not been able to cope yet with the pace and physicality of the Championship. Williams has disappeared without trace but he was simply a project anyway. Bjelland, a man of whom we had such high hopes has barely kicked a ball due to long term injury and Barbet has shown great promise but is probably seen as a player for next year rather than this.

As for the three strikers, if you could combine all of their best assets you would have a fantastic player indeed but none of them has totally convinced or demonstrated that they are the real answer to our problem. Andre Gray was certainly a hard act to follow and it is probably unfair to expect a foreign player to step in and find his feet at once but neither Vibe, Hofmann or Djuricin look like they enjoy or are best suited to playing as a lone striker and perhaps they should simply be congratulated for having done as well as they have given that they have scored fifteen goals between them, far more than Gray had managed at this stage of last season.

I cannot see this situation changing at the moment and we will simply have to get on with things as best we can until the close season when we can reassess matters.

McEachran is still regaining form and fitness and of the newcomers only Colin and Woods can be said to have been total successes at the present time although hopefully that situation will change .

I would be more than happy if we remain where we are in the league and start building for the future. What is certain is that we will remain easy on the eye and play exciting and vibrant attacking football whilst retaining a slightly soft underbelly.

I hope that we are able to bring in some new permanent rather than loan players either from abroad or the lower divisions who will be part of our future rather than just short term solutions brought in to plug up some immediate holes.

We now have a week to recover and take stock and hopefully we will not overreact to the setbacks of the last week, after all, Reading lost six games out of seven recently but have recovered as will we.

Player Power – 16/1/16

I was doing some research in the early hours of this morning and chanced upon the wording of a standard footballer’s contract which I found particularly fascinating reading given the remarkable happenings at Griffin Park over the last twenty-four hours.

I have highlighted a couple of relevant clauses:

Duties and Obligations of the Player

The Player agrees:

 when directed by an authorised official of the Club

1. to attend matches in which the Club is engaged in

2. to participate in any matches in which he is selected to play for the Club

3. to play to the best of his skill and ability at all times

4. to undertake such other duties and to participate in such other activities as are consistent with the performance of his duties and as are reasonably required of the Player

Well it would appear that Brentford defender James Tarkowski must be suffering from dyslexia or a reading disorder given his recent behaviour when he informed his manager, Dean Smith that he did not wish to play against Burnley in last night’s Sky Bet Championship match and declared himself unavailable for the fixture despite being selected in the starting line-up.

The net result of his action was to bring about unspecified disciplinary action from the club but also to wreak havoc on team morale and organisation which surely played a major part in explaining Brentford’s spineless first half surrender to a rampant Burnley team which took full advantage of the home team’s ineptitude and total lack of fight, spirit, organisation or apparent ability to win any challenges for first and second balls.

It is all very well partially excusing the player for his actions by claiming that he was poorly advised and was perhaps misguidedly following his agent’s instructions but for me that does not wash. He is not a child but a twenty-three year old man who has shown a total lack of judgement and should surely know better and be able to know his own mind and make more reasoned and sensible decisions. As it is he has painted himself into a corner and made himself a total pariah in the eyes of all Brentford supporters who were previously great admirers of his on-field ability.

Apart from breaking the terms of his contract, Tarkowski’s strategy is incredibly dumb and ill thought through and will have totally the opposite effect to the one desired by him as all it will do is harden attitudes towards him from club officials and make them even more determined that he will not succeed in his effort to leave on his terms.

He has made it patently clear that he wishes to leave the club and ideally return nearer to his roots in the North West of England with last night’s opponents, Burnley, rumoured to be his preferred destination. He would also surely have noted the seriously enhanced wages that his former team mates are now earning higher up the food chain.

Well every player has his price, a statement that is particularly apposite and appropriate at Griffin Park where it has always been made quite clear that we cannot compete with the budgets and deeper pockets of our better heeled competitors and will sell our players should they wish to leave and if, and only if, our valuations are met by the potential buying club.

An offer of around four million pounds plus lucrative add ons from Fulham was apparently turned down for the player right at the end of the August Transfer Window, more I suspect because the club did not want to be seen to be selling yet another major asset at a time when the likes of Moses Odubajo and Andre Gray had already left the club rather than because the sum offered was unacceptable.

That has set the benchmark for him and it is understood that Burnley’s recent offer for Tarkowski is for far less than half that sum and is therefore nowhere near the figure that is being sought by the club.

By refusing to play he is now trying to force Brentford’s hand and stampede them into accepting a low ball offer for his services rather than wait for full market value to be offered by either Burnley or another of several clubs also rumoured to be sniffing around him.

His approach is totally doomed to failure as it is patently obvious that he has neither really thought matters through nor has he properly considered who he is dealing with. In a game of poker I would not expect Matthew Benham or his Co-Directors of Football to be the first to blink.

I fully expect that Tarkowski has bitten off far more than he can chew and that he is certain to follow the fate of Adam Forshaw who also made it clear at the beginning of last season that he wanted to leave the club and was promptly put on gardening leave and not selected again, and crucially was not allowed to leave the club until Wigan finally came up with the goods and offered us near what we were looking for in terms of his value.

A similar fate is surely certain to befall Tarkowski as he has totally burned his bridges and it is now quite impossible for him to play for the club again as the fans would not countenance his doing so and to allow him to win and force a bargain basement transfer would be scandalous and demonstrate that the players rule the roost and that by behaving badly and unconscionably they can force the issue.

Brentford are far stronger and more resolute than that and Tarkowski will now be left to kick his heels, ideally train on his own and, at best, play in the Development Squad until Brentford receive an offer that reflects his full value – however long it takes.

His agent would now be far better employed in drumming up further interest for his client, ideally at a fee level that will be acceptable to Brentford FC.

The current situation, which has been brought about totally by the player’s actions (or perhaps inaction might be a better description) is frankly of no benefit or use to anyone and the sooner it can be resolved the better it will be for all parties, but there is only one way out of this impasse which is for the club to be offered an acceptable amount for him and hopefully that is what will happen within the next fortnight.

Tarkowski’s character is now stained and blemished indelibly and he follows the likes of Gary Alexander into our personal Rogues Gallery and Hall of Shame for his pathetic and unacceptable behaviour.

What he should have done is quite simply follow the example of Alan Judge. He too is rumoured to be the target for several clubs in the Transfer Window, so what did he do and how did he respond?

Well rather than behave in the same puerile, selfish and blinkered manner as Tarkowski, he simply played his heart out and used the televised match against Burnley as a national showcase for his talent and total commitment to the cause. He was Brentford’s best player by a mile, scored a good goal and spearheaded a second half revival that at least regained a semblance of pride for a team that had been totally overrun before the interval and could easily have been trailing by five or six goals rather than just three.

Any managers and scouts watching the match cannot fail to have been impressed by his performance and attitude and we can only hope that he remains at the club until at least the end of the season.

That is how to do it and Alan Judge went up in the estimation of every Brentford supporter for the way he handled the situation last night.

As for the match itself, well there really is not too much to say as Brentford came up against an excellent team that smelled blood, went for our jugular from the first whistle and we were never allowed to settle down into our normal rhythm. Brentford chased shadows and made football seem like a non contact sport given the time and space they granted their visitors who were allowed to show off their ability and run rings around us in the first half.

The second half was a different affair and had the excellent Sam Saunders scored with an unlikely header or Maxime Colin’s shot have brushed the net on the inside rather than the outside of the post then who knows what might have happened as the comeback would really have been on but Burnley were streets ahead of us and fully deserved their comfortable victory.

We have now lost four games in a row and three home matches in less than a week. There is much work to be done as we have performed for only around half of each of our last three games and scored only once.

How we should go about that is for another day. For now I just hope that James Tarkowski is already reflecting upon his behaviour and has already realised that he has totally let his team mates, the Brentford staff and supporters and of course, himself, down by his selfish and inappropriate behaviour – and more importantly, that it will not succeed or get him the result that he desires.

 

So Who’s Leaving Brentford This Transfer Window? – 9/1/16

I wanted to write some original and perceptive comments about what Brentford should be looking to achieve in the current Transfer Window but we seem to be on ever shifting sands with the situation seemingly changing every day and what I write now might well be totally out of date by the time that you read it.

All my conversations and soundings over the last week or so seemed to reinforce the view that this would be a quiet month for the Bees with a minimum of activity. In other words we would be reactive rather than proactive, not seeking to strengthen or change the squad too much, or even at all, unless our hand was forced by enemy action with players leaving the building.

Now things are completely different with rumours abounding about the likes of Alan Judge, James Tarkowski, Jota, Harlee Dean and Toumani Diagouraga and the prospect of some or all of them finding new homes before the end of the month.

As Phil Giles stated in his excellent interview with Beesotted, we would certainly struggle to cope with all of them going at the same time but he felt that it is very unlikely that all of them would be on the move.

I have already written about our philosophy and how, whilst we are not looking to sell our best players, everybody has his price and if we receive an acceptable offer and can replace the player properly then we will do so assuming that the player wishes to leave the club.

I do not intend to bore you by repeating why in my opinion we are for the time being a stepping stone club, vulnerable to approaches by our richer rivals, but the fact remains that contracts are often not worth the paper they are written on and if a footballer becomes disaffected and decides for whatever reason that the grass is greener elsewhere then it is almost invariably the best policy to allow him to leave as long as it is on our terms rather than his.

Adam Forshaw is a perfect example of this policy as he was made to kick his heels on gardening leave until Wigan finally and belatedly coughed up a high enough fee to persuade us to sell a player who had made it perfectly clear that he wanted to leave.

Footballers are well aware from the grapevine and the bush telegraph just how much other clubs are paying in terms of salaries and given the uncertain nature of their career which can end at any time and is highly unlikely to last for more than eight years, they cannot be blamed for chasing the money and seeking to maximise their earnings.

Sometimes you feel that money is the overriding priority and that ambition and career development can take a back seat.

Only Andre Gray and Moses Odubajo of our recent departures can really be said to have bettered themselves as they are both currently starring in teams challenging for promotion to the Premier League as well as earning sums that they could only have dreamed about at Brentford.

Adam Forshaw has criminally allowed a burgeoning career to at least temporarily wither on the vine as he sits gathering splinters on the Middlesbrough bench instead of playing every week and proving himself as one of the best midfielders in the Championship.

Stuart Dallas has had an in and out season for a massively unpredictable and inconsistent team in Leeds United, Clayton Donaldson plies a lonely furrow as Birmingham’s lone striker and Simon Moore has disappeared almost without trace as he waits patiently for David Marshall to leave Cardiff City. Harry Forrester has had a couple of years in the wasteland at Doncaster – what an appalling career decision he made when he decided to jump ship, and might now finally be on the road to resurrection at Glasgow Rangers.

The point I am making is that sometimes chasing the money does not bring guaranteed career progress and success, a message that some of our current squad might benefit from taking into consideration.

What happens next is to a large degree out of our own hands and we simply have to wait and see if any of the clubs rumoured to be interested in our players step up to the plate and meet our asking price.

Even should that be the case the player will need to decide if he wishes to remain within the positive and nurturing environment at Griffin Park where everybody mucks in and there are no cliques or rampant troublemakers amongst what is a young and dedicated squad.

Looking at the situation with each of the five Brentford players who are rumoured to be attracting external interest, my view is as follows:

Alan Judge has quite simply been the best player in the Championship throughout the first half of the season as his highly impressive tally of goals and assists clearly testifies. No wonder there is serious interest in him from the likes of Sheffield Wednesday who are rumoured to have offered to triple his wages. I also wonder if a Premier League team might yet come in for him.

On the one hand Alan is the man at Griffin Park, everything revolves around him and he is the catalyst and fulcrum for most of the good things that we do. He is the conductor who sets the tempo and the rest dance around him feeding off his magic and inspiration.

He is in an ideal situation to show off his talent and earn a place in the Eire squad for the European Championship tournament this Summer.

But, money talks, and at twenty-seven, he is not getting any younger and might never again recapture his current form. Maybe he should strike while the iron is hot and take the money that will surely be on offer before the end of January.

He needs to play every week and as long as he does not become a bit part player and fall out of the spotlight then I could understand him deciding to move to a bigger club, even in the Championship, despite the fact that he and his family seem settled and happy – such is the nature of football. Opportunities do not come along very often and need to be carefully considered whenever they do and not frittered away.

The situation from Brentford’s perspective is also very interesting. Ideally he will either sign an improved contract, something that I feel is highly unlikely to happen, or we will keep hold of him unless our valuation, and I hear figures of between six to eight million pounds being bandied around, is reached. As for Sheffield Wednesday, they seem to be bidding for all number of players so who knows how serious they are about signing Judge.

We are obviously a far better team with Judge than without him but I can also understand the viewpoint that he is at the absolute peak of his game and is unlikely to improve much or any more and perhaps we should take the money if it is on offer, particularly bearing in mind that promotion is far less likely a prospect this season than it was last, his contract expires at the end of next season and he will soon become a depreciating asset.

Personally I hope that he remains at least until the end of the season as it would be wonderful to see a Brentford player competing at the Euro’s but I think that we will probably have a difficult decision to make about him in the next few weeks.

James Tarkowski is a different kettle of fish as at twenty-three he is still improving and is nowhere near the finished article and given hard work, dedication, good coaching and the right attitude, he could turn out to be pretty much anything he wants to be. He really has the potential to be that good and if he progresses as I hope then I see him developing into a Premier League regular at the very least.

There was talk of interest from Fulham in the last Transfer Window and now Burnley are reputed to be making overtures for him with a fee of around four to five million pounds being mooted on social media. Tarky can be infuriatingly casual and inconsistent and make schoolboy howlers in defence, but he also has games when he resembles a reincarnation of Alan Hansen, winning the ball, selling an impudent dummy and striding imperiously into the opposition half. Of all the players in the current squad I believe that Tarky could go the furthest given his youth and relative inexperience.

I would go so far as to say that given the choice of keeping Tarkowski or Judge then I would choose to sell Alan Judge – as long as Tarky is not allowed anywhere near penalty taking duties at any time in the future.

The Jota situation is totally unexpected and has come as a bolt out of the blue. Unfortunately it appears that he has a serious personal family issue which makes it almost impossible for him to remain in this country if he is to maintain a family unit. This will almost certainly result in his being loaned back to a club in La Liga, perhaps Eibar, where he had a massively successful loan spell a couple of years ago.

This would enable us to keep Jota prominently in the shop window and give us the best chance of making a decent return on him should his situation not change and we are eventually forced to sell him. This is doubly frustrating for us given that we have waited so patiently and with such a sense of anticipation and expectation for Jota to recover from his long term injury and we were all looking forward so much to watching him play every week and entertain us with his genius and magic wand of a left foot.

We will simply have to wait and see what happens over the coming months but if we are forced to sell him to a Spanish club, given the financial constraints of all but a minority of teams, it is very unlikely that we will be able to obtain anywhere near the level of fee for him that at one time looked likely. That is just how it is and we simply have to accept a difficult situation and wish him and his family all the best.

As for Harlee Dean, I feel that there is definitely some brinksmanship being played on both sides. Will the club make him a contract renewal offer that the player deems acceptable or will Harlee allow his existing deal to expire so that he can leave on a Bosman free at the end of the season? Are the club happy to allow him to leave for nothing or will they even try and sell him in the current Transfer Window and get some sort of return for him?

It is almost impossible to answer any of these questions with any degree of certainty and Harlee’s future could also be tied in with whatever happens to James Tarkowski as I cannot see the club allowing both of them to leave this month.

Harlee presents a bit of a conundrum as he is a complete enigma. There are times when he is able to add concentration and discipline to his total commitment and he looks the real deal – a polished mid to high level Championship calibre central defender. At others he lets himself down both on and off the pitch with a combination of sloppy play and thinking and he looks out of his depth.

He is a valued member of the old guard and continuity is precious but I think there also comes a time when every player has had his day and in my heart of hearts I do not believe that Harlee is good enough to help us progress much further than where we currently find ourselves.

The same could be said for Toumani Diagouraga, a veteran of over two hundred games for the club. His play last season was truly astonishing as he raised his game several notches and dominated the midfield. This season has been different and more difficult for him and I think that he has missed the presence of the combative Jonathan Douglas alongside him as he has been forced to forage for the ball and tackling is not one of his strong points.

Toumani has been no better than average this season and has not really stamped his presence on games as was the case throughout last year, and with Ryan Woods and Josh McEachran breathing down his neck and challenging for his position in the team I would not be too surprised if Mark Warburton succeeds in prising him away from Griffin Park either this month or perhaps at the end of the season.

Toumani has been a loyal servant of the club and is quite deservedly a massive fan favourite but I believe that he has jumped the shark and at twenty-eight it is time for him to be rewarded by earning another payday elsewhere at a level where he can shine and become a greater influence on proceedings.

Bill Shankly and Arsène Wenger are both managers renowned for knowing exactly when to sell a player by identifying before any opposition scouts and managers that he is just slightly past his best and I think that Toumani might well fit into this category and that his time might have come.

Hopefully other major influences on the team such as David Button and Jake Bidwell will remain well under the radar and not be subject to any unwelcome bids.

As it is I am feeling a bit conflicted as I am both concerned and yet pretty sanguine about matters at the moment and I would urge others to do the same.

As I stated right at the beginning of this article, things change on a regular basis and I might well be setting off a false alarm, and most importantly, I have learned a couple of things from observing affairs at Brentford since the start of the Benham regime, firstly that nobody is irreplaceable and finally, whoever does leave the club will be replaced, and replaced by somebody who is just as good if not even better.

Brentford’s Top Eighty Goals – 1/1/16

Firstly I would like to wish everybody a very happy and healthy New Year and today I am going to set you all a poser as you gaze weary and bleary eyed at the computer screen and do your best to recover from an evening of excess and a lack of sleep.

We were graced with two goals of pure brilliance from Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos at Reading on Monday afternoon and I am therefore going to ask you all to nominate the best goals you have ever seen Brentford score.

The one ground rule to remember is that we are only talking about quality here and not the importance of the occasion so, for example, a certain Gary Blissett strike at Peterborough in 1992 might not necessarily qualify despite what the goal actually meant for the club.

Given my rapidly failing memory I have only gone back to 1970 so apologies to my older readers although I am happy to consider any nominations for goals scored before that date.

Please can you all provide me with your own favourites and I will put the names of everybody who replies into a draw for a signed copy of my Brentford book, Ahead Of The Game.

So here we go and the goals are all in date order rather than being ranked in terms of actual quality as that would be a mammoth task which perhaps we can all share in the very near future.

  1. John O’Mara’s second goal v Darlington in 1971/72 when he finished off a wonderful flowing move by smashing home a long range effort from a cross from Paul Bence.
  2. Paul Bence’s thirty yard screamer at home to Rotherham in September 1974
  3. An acrobatic overhead kick by Mickey French against Barnsley on his debut in February 1975
  4. Bob Booker curling the ball into the Gillingham net from twenty yards in April 1980
  5. Paul Walker scoring from a well-worked short corner routine at Walsall in August 1980
  6. David Crown’s second goal against Oxford United in November 1980 when he beat three defenders before scoring
  7. Chris Kamara’s looping twenty yard header at Swindon in November 1981
  8. An unstoppable curling free kick by Stan Bowles against Wimbledon in April 1982
  9. Gary Roberts’s thunderous goal against Swansea in the Milk Cup n October 1983
  10. Robbie Cooke’s turn and shot at Bournemouth in the Freight Rover trophy in April 1985
  11. Andy Sinton’s winner against Port Vale in October 1987 when he beat two men, cut in from the left and buried the ball into the top corner
  12. Roger Stanislaus running from the halfway line and scoring from thirty yards (not fifty as popular legend has it) at Fulham in the Littlewoods Cup in August 1988
  13. Roger Stanislaus against Northampton in January 1989 when he combined brilliantly with Andy Sinton and Kevin Godfrey before scoring emphatically
  14. Dean Holdsworth turning on the edge of the box and rifling home an unstoppable drive into the roof of the Walsall net in January 1990
  15. Neil Smillie’s solo goal against Shrewsbury in March 1990 when he ran from inside his own half, jinked past a defender and hit a thirty-yarder into the roof of the net
  16. Dean Holdsworth finishing off a slick four man move with a fantastic volley against Bolton Wanderers in September 1990
  17. Marcus Gayle’s first senior goal with a turn and long range thunderbolt into the roof of the Reading net in October 1990
  18. Marcus Gayle almost breaking the Bradford City net in March 1991 with a thirty yard Exocet after a powerful run
  19. Lee Luscombe’s debut goal against Barnet in the Autoglass Trophy in December 1991 after a slick move which went from one end of the pitch to the other
  20. Lee Luscombe’s solo run and finish at Leyton Orient in December 1991
  21. Lee Luscombe’s outrageous swerving volley from way out on the left wing against Charlton Athletic in November 1992
  22. Gary Blissett’s curler at Derby County in the Anglo-Italian Cup in February 1993
  23. Denny Mundee’s hat trick goal against Bristol Rovers in January 1994 when he hammered home from an acute angle after a mazy run
  24. Robert Taylor’s long range lob against Cambridge United in January 1995
  25. Paul Abrahams running from the halfway line and lobbing the Gillingham keeper from twenty yards in August 1996
  26. Carl Asaba’s winner at Gillingham in March 1997 when he picked the ball up on the left touchline, knocked it over a defender’s head and allowed it to bounce before unleashing a rocket from a tight angle into the roof of the net
  27. Tony Folan’s solo goal at Peterborough in October 1998 when he went on a mazy run, cut in from the wing, left several defenders with twisted blood as he dribbled past them before floating a perfect chip over the keeper
  28. Tony Folan from the halfway line in December 1998 after he picked the ball up on the edge of his own penalty area before lobbing the Cambridge United keeper from fully forty-five yards
  29. A Paul Evans thirty yard angled screamer against Swansea City in May 1999
  30. Martin Rowlands’s solo goal at Bury in August 1999 when he ran forty yards and beat several defenders before scoring emphatically
  31. Paul Evans from behind the halfway line, scoring from sixty-two yards, inside the Brentford half in September 1999 straight from our kickoff against Preston North End with the ball travelling like a shell and still rising as it hit the net
  32. Paul Evans scoring two games later in October 1999 at Burnley from a mere forty yards, taking his effort on the run
  33. Martin Rowlands scoring against Bristol City in December 1999 when he ran thirty yards, beat three players before curling home an exquisite shot
  34. Gavin Mahon’s thirty yard rocket at Bristol City in December 2000
  35. Paul Evans’s chipped Panenka-like penalty kick against Oldham Athletic in September 2001 – pure class
  36. The Ben Burgess swivel and volley from the edge of the area against Brighton in January 2002
  37. Lloyd Owusus’s spectacular volley at Blackpool in March 2002
  38. Steve Sidwell’s perfectly placed lob from thirty-five yards against Stoke City in March 2002
  39. Stephen Hunt’s weaving run and curler against Northampton Town in March 2003
  40. Jay Tabb’s fifty yard solo run at Barnsley in April 2004
  41. The Alex Rhodes solo effort against Bournemouth in May 2004
  42. A searing volley from Kevin O’Connor against Wrexham in August 2004
  43. Deon Burton’s flick over a defender and wonderful finish against Luton Town in December 2004
  44. Deon Burton’s cool finish at Sheffield Wednesday in December 2004 after Alex Rhodes’s solo run
  45. Isaiah Rankin’s thunderous twenty yard volley at Bournemouth in January 2005
  46. Deon Burton’s thirty yard volley against Sheffield Wednesday in February 2005
  47. Michael Turner’s spectacular long range effort against Tranmere Rovers in April 2005
  48. Jay Tabb’s solo run and shot against Hull City in May 2005
  49. Isaiah Rankin’s curling effort at Chesterfield in August 2005
  50. Sam Sodje’s defence slitting pass to Kevin O’Connor who scored against Chesterfield in December 2005
  51. DJ Campbell’s superlative flick up and volley at Southend United in January 2006
  52. Paul Brooker’s outrageous solo goal at Swindon in April 2006 when he ran seventy yards before scoring
  53. Jo Kuffour’s scissor kick against Bradford City in September 2006
  54. Glenn Poole’s swerving volley at Rochdale in October 2007
  55. Glenn Poole’s fantastic volley from a Ryan Dickson corner against Wycombe Wanderers in December 2007
  56. A three man breakaway against Macclesfield in October 2008 which led to a Charlie MacDonald goal
  57. Ryan Dickson’s trickery on the ball before scoring against Accrington Stanley in April 2009
  58. Cleveland Taylor’s headed goal at Southampton in August 2009 after a beautiful dribble and cross by Ryan Dickson
  59. Charlie MacDonald’s midair volley at Oldham Athletic in March 2009
  60. Clayton Donaldson’s goal against Colchester United in September 2011 when he was set free by Myles Weston and scored clinically
  61. Clayton Donaldson’s thirty yard volley at Notts County in October 2011
  62. Saido Berahino’s unstoppable curling effort against Carlisle United in February 2012
  63. Clayton Donaldson’s solo effort against MK Dons in March 2012
  64. Clayton Donaldson’s left foot volley at Swindon from Paul Hayes’s flick on in November 2012
  65. Harry Forrester’s solo run and long ranger against Sheffield United in November 2012
  66. Bradley Wright-Phillips’s header at Crewe Alexandra in April 2013 after a lovely flowing four man move
  67. Shaleum Logan’s cut inside and long range left footed curler at Port Vale in August 2013
  68. The Sam Saunders falling over free kick routine against Swindon Town in December 2013
  69. Adam Forshaw’s instant thirty-five yarder at Crewe Alexandra in February 2014
  70. Moses Odubajo’s goal against Brighton in September 2014 after a perfect Alan Judge through pass
  71. Andre Gray’s powerful run and clinical finish against Wolverhampton Wanderers in November 2014
  72. Jota’s unstoppable angled effort at Cardiff City in December 2014
  73. Jota’s breakaway goal at Norwich City in January 2015
  74. Jota’s pitch length run at Blackburn Rovers in March 2015
  75. Stuart Dallas’s thirty yarder at Fulham in April 2015
  76. Alex Pritchard’s clinical finish at Derby County after a wonderful breakaway move in April 2015
  77. David Button’s perfect assist for Alan Judge to score with an angled shot against Sheffield Wednesday in September 2015
  78. Alan Judge’s breakaway goal at Charlton Athletic in October 2015
  79. Ryan Woods’s long range screamer at Reading in December 2015
  80. Sergi Canos’s trickery and sheer brilliance at Reading in December 2015

Patience Is A Virtue – 27/12/15

One should always strive for continuous improvement whatever your endeavour, hobby or line of work and I greatly admire people who set themselves challenges and push themselves as much as they possibly can.

Sometimes however a dose of realism is called for and I think that now is the time to look back calmly, objectively and rationally on Brentford’s nil-nil draw with Brighton yesterday.

Our visitors came into the match boasting a quite amazing record of only suffering one defeat in their opening twenty-two matches and whilst last season was an aberration for them as they were down amongst the dead men clustered around the bottom of the Championship table, there were good reasons for their temporary fall from grace and the current campaign sees them in their customary position of challenging for promotion, either automatically or through the playoffs.

Led by the astute and understated Chris Hughton, Brighton fielded a team jam packed with a Championship experience with the likes of Stockdale, Bruno, Greer, Dunk, Stephens and Calderon as well as the massive emerging talent of Manchester United’s Jamie Wilson.

Owned by another betting magnate in Tony Bloom, there are definitely similarities between the two clubs but, buttressed by their magnificent new stadium and near capacity attendances, as well as this being their fifth season in the Championship, it should be recognised and accepted that Brighton are well ahead of us at this point in time on their potential journey to the top.

Brentford, on the other hand are still learning and inexperienced at this level. Last season our wonderful brand of passing football, movement and high pressing took everybody by surprise and we came so close to making the seemingly impossible dream come true.

I might be alone in my opinion, but quite frankly I consider our current achievement this season of reaching the halfway stage of the season established in the top ten and within touching distance of the top six to be far more meritorious.

Consider the circumstances: for a variety of reasons we lost some of the backbone of our squad when the likes of Odubajo, Douglas, Dallas, Pritchard and Gray left the club and our recruitment in terms of both management and players left a lot to be desired with far too many foreign players untested in the Championship, and understandably struggling initially to come to terms with its relentlessness and its physical and mental challenges.

The appointment of Marinus Dijkhuizen as Head Coach also proved to be a failure

We suffered a quite ridiculous number of injuries and not just the normal run of the mill knocks and bruises but serious problems that affected players such as Bjelland, Colin, McEachran, Macleod, Jota and Djuricin who were expected to become mainstays of the team. Only now are we getting close to putting the majority of these players back to full fitness.

There have been massive changes behind the scenes with two new Co-Directors of Football settling into a new job and the players have had to listen to a variety of different voices and approaches in terms of their training and coaching give that we are now onto our third management team of the season.

There was also the fiasco of the Griffin Park pitch which caused more early season problems, hiatus and embarrassment.

No wonder we got off to a slow start as we were basically competing with one hand tied behind our back. Thanks to Lee Carsley and Paul Williams who reverted to basics and what had worked so well last season, benched many of the newcomers and established a settled team and pattern of play, we arrested what was looking like it might become an irreversible slide and fall from grace and turned the season around.

Carsley turned down the opportunity of taking the Head Coach position on a permanent basis which caused more uncertainty and upheaval, but his success bought us the time to make a measured appointment and the new duo of Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly has settled down quickly and made an immediate impact.

I am sure that we have made an exceptional appointment in Smith and I was even more reassured when I read these comments from one of his former players at Walsall, Romaine Sawyers:

He created a great environment to work in. Everybody seemed to learn. Everybody has the right to an opinion. He’d speak to every single player, before and after training.

I’d say his greatest feature was his honesty. He’d never tell you something you wanted to hear or say something just to provoke a response. He was straight down the line and I’m sure that the Brentford players will love him.

I hope that makes you all feel as good as it did me when I read it.

We are continuing to improve and progress and have established a fully deserved reputation for being one of the best and most attractive footballing teams in the division.

Given the level of backing we receive from Matthew Benham and our justified reputation for off field innovation and excellence, it is a good bet, if not a sure fire certainty that within a short period of time, maybe even before we move into Lionel Road in 2018, that we will be knocking at the door of the Premier League.

Our last two home performances against MK Dons and Huddersfield were both excellent and we blew both teams away, scored six times and could quite easily have doubled that total.

The mood was therefore optimistic with real hope and maybe even a sense of expectation that we could also defeat Brighton.

In the end we didn’t but we should have done so, as but for three exceptional saves from Stockdale from Judge twice and then a phenomenal full length dive to push away a header from Tarkowski that looked a certain goal , a poor late miss from Hofmann and a lack of penetration in the final third where the final pass too often went astray, we would have scored the goal that would have settled the game which ended up as an exciting nil-nil draw.

As I left the ground and when I read the comments on social media from other Bees supporters I felt that far too many fans were feeling not just slightly disappointed at what they saw as the Bees dropping two points but also even a bit let down.

Remember, this is Brighton we are talking about, not Championship lightweights like MK Dons or Huddersfield. We have no divine right to beat teams of that calibre and in my opinion given all the problems that we have had to overcome this season we are still punching way above our weight.

That is not to say that I do not feel that we can make a challenge for the final playoff position should we maintain our form, not lose key players in January and maybe even strengthen the squad particularly up front where we are not yet firing on all cylinders.

We cannot yet compete on an even playing field with the big boys in this league although given time, a new stadium and more experience at this level there is no reason why this situation cannot change but at present we should simply take pride and pleasure from the quality of our displays and the effervescent football that we play realising that we still cannot match many other teams in terms of resources and size and experience of squad.

That being said we possess so many real footballers who are so comfortable on the ball and provide us with so much pleasure and excitement.

We dominated proceedings yesterday, with fifty-nine per cent possession, twenty shots at goal and ten corners and out-passed our visitors, who pride themselves on maintaining possession for long spells by a vast margin – five hundred and fifty seven to three hundred and ninety.

Perhaps the most telling comment about our quality and the journey that we have come on came from Brighton manager Chris Hughton – a former Bee, after his team had clung on for a barely deserved point:

There are lots of exciting games at Brentford at the moment. They play a brand of football which revolves around a lot of sharp players good on the ball, and they will test any opposition.

As a team we had to dig deep because Brentford are a good team. 

There is so much to take pride and pleasure in at Griffin Park, and as I keep saying, we are so nearly a really excellent team – and there is still plenty of room for a massive improvement far beyond the levels that we have reached now, which are way above what I ever really believed I would be watching from a Brentford team.

I am just tickled pink and more than content with the fact that we will end 2015 as the best placed West London team in the Championship in our private battle with Fulham and Queens Park Rangers! I know that there is far more to come but that will do me nicely for now.

I would simply urge a little bit more patience and and understanding about the situation we currently find ourselves in. We are well on the road to success, it might just take slightly longer than some supporters expect.

The Reasons Why I Love Brentford FC – 23/12/15

  1. The indestructible Peter Gilham’s banshee cries of encouragement as the Brentford players take to the field
  2. Meeting up and kibitzing with my football friends at every home game and the sense of continuity it provides
  3. Having a prematch drink in The Griffin or a meal in The Weir
  4. The long post match telephone calls to friends and fellow supporters where we dissect and analyse every kick
  5. Endeavouring to guess the identity of players who we will sign
  6. Seeing the Griffin Park floodlights for the first time when I am driving down Ealing Road never fails to excite and re-energise me
  7. Griffin Park. It is old and obsolete but it makes my heart sing every time I go through the Braemar Road turnstiles
  8. Having my favourite secret hideaways where I know that I can still park my car before matches
  9. The imminent prospect of Lionel Road and knowing that it will also have style, class and a sense of identity and not just be another faceless cooky cutter stadium
  10. The red and white striped home shirt that symbolises perfectly who we are and what we stand for
  11. Bumping into Brentford legends like Peter Gelson in the Braemar Road forecourt and knowing that they are still part of the club and will always be made welcome
  12. Seeing so many new faces at every home game and realising that the secret is out – Brentford are on the rise and are a team well worth watching
  13. Watching us play away from home. All united in a common purpose
  14. Hearing the cries of appreciation mingled with lingering feelings of disbelief at the quality of the football we now play
  15. Knowing that the heritage and tradition of the club is recognised, appreciated and respected by everybody involved with Brentford FC
  16. The sense of innovation, originality and ambition that permeates our thinking and everything that we do
  17. The intoxicating prospect of being a supporter at a time when we are potentially writing a new chapter in the club’s history
  18. The reassurance of knowing that the club is in safe hands and is owned and run by people have have its best interests at heart
  19. The fact that the supporters are close to the pitch, feel part of the game and create a supportive yet intimidating atmosphere at every game which is second to none
  20. Evening matches under the floodlights at Griffin Park  – pure magic
  21. The Ealing Road Terrace  – a wonderful anachronism
  22. It’s All Your Fault! being sung at opposition goalkeepers who often shrivel under the verbal pressure
  23. Worrying before every Championship game that we will get hammered and totally outclassed but being reassured by realising just how good we are
  24. The sense of freedom, positivity and adventure with which we play and running rings around teams packed with lumbering giants
  25. Knowing that you will almost never see a poor game of football at Griffin Park and that the entertainment levels will be extremely high
  26. The look of amazement on the face of smug Premier League supporting fans who I bring to matches and are without exception stunned at the incredible quality of the football we play
  27. The sense of community that is engendered particularly thanks to the efforts of the Community Sports Trust team. We are all in this together and the involvement of the local people really matters
  28. The friendliness and efficiency of the management, marketing and media teams who are never too busy to have a chat or reply to an email
  29. The fact that the players are without exception decent young men who are committed to the cause and give everything both on and off the pitch – there are no prima donnas here
  30. The massive increase in the quality of our squad and the intoxicating blend of foreign talent and promising youngsters from the lower leagues
  31. Having an ever increasing number of current international footballers in our squad
  32. Seeing more and more young Academy players being encouraged and nurtured and getting closer to the First Team squad
  33. Watching the Development and Academy teams play the same brand of skilful, attacking football as the First Team as our philosophy is embraced throughout the club at all levels
  34. That I can now proudly state in wider company that I am a Brentford fan and no longer receive a barrage of smug, pitying and patronising looks and comments – the worm has turned. It is our time now
  35. Historians and authors like David Lane, Mark Croxford and Paul Briers who have a massive respect for the club’s heritage and are determined to preserve it for future generations
  36. The Hall of Fame which will ensure that the exploits of past club heroes will never be forgotten
  37. The Brentford Programme Shop, hidden under the Braemar Road stand, the best kept secret in the ground and packed full of wonderful memories
  38. Seeing more and more of the media’s big names, like the immortal Brian Glanville at Griffin Park and the professionalism and friendliness of Dave and Ian in the Press Lounge
  39. Mark Burridge and his wonderful Bees Player team who provide so much comfort and joy
  40. The enthusiasm, passion and erudition of Billy Reeves and the glorious word pictures that he paints when describing his favourite club
  41. The match programme and fanzines – more high quality publications disseminating the Brentford message

These are just my quick, initial thoughts and I hope to add to them very soon. In the meantime I would be really grateful if any other fans would like to provide their own reasons why they love Brentford FC and I will publish them over the next few days.

Thank you and happy Christmas to everybody.