Bragging Rights – 9/3/16

I am fortunate enough to live in a pretty, leafy and quiet road tucked away in a beautiful backwater in North London where the days go by calmly and tranquilly without us being assailed by the constant irritating noise of passing traffic as thankfully it is neither a main road nor a cut through or rabbit run. Neighbours nod politely to each other as they pass each other on the street whilst walking to the nearby shops and tube station and always find the time to stop for a brief moment to enquire about the health of their respective offspring and how they are doing at school or university.

The odd creaking and arthritic labrador or relative bent with age is gently walked up and down the road to get some fresh air and exercise. Nobody pries or attempts to invade each other’s privacy and the nearest we have come to united action was when there was a dispute with the local council over rubbish collections and which of two neighbouring boroughs different parts of the road were situated in.

The residents are an eclectic bunch encompassing a variety of races, ages, backgrounds, creeds and religions, they keep themselves mostly to themselves and rarely reveal anything private or personal.

Imagine my amazement then when the peace was disturbed late in the afternoon of Saturday twenty-fourth of May 2014, a date now indelibly fixed in my fading memory.

I had been watching the Championship Playoff Final between Derby County and Queens Park Rangers and was left reeling from the shock of Bobby Zamora’s last gasp goal with the only shot on target that they managed all afternoon which somehow took the R’s to the Premier League on an afternoon where the Gods most certainly favoured them as they had been totally outplayed and the result was an aberration which quite frankly beggared belief.

The Bees had already secured their place in the Championship and whilst I knew that Fulham awaited us in 2014/15 the real prize was QPR and I was devastated that our prey had escaped us and had been snatched from our grasp in so unfortunate and unfair a manner and that the fates had yet again laughed in our face.

I needed to go for a walk around the block in order to calm down, get over my disappointment and settle my shattered nerves and as I passed a house no more than fifty yards from mine I saw something that still haunts me to this day.

Occasionally some of the local residents celebrate Christmas or Chanukah with a few muted and tasteful external decorations but this was different as the entire outside of this house was covered and daubed from roof to basement with Queens Park Rangers banners, scarves, posters and blue and white bunting. Lights flashed and music blared breaking the customary sepulchral calm and quiet of the neighbourhood and the drive was filled with cars full of raucous QPR supporters celebrating their unlikely achievement.

I had no idea that our street housed a rabid QPR supporter given that we are situated so far away from their heartland and whilst I am by nature a calm and totally law abiding individual my hackles rose and it was all that I could do to restrain myself from giving vent to my frustration and tearing down the decorations which so offended me.

Worse still, they remained in place, although thankfully fading, throughout that long hot Summer and it was not until the season began and it became obvious that Queens Park Rangers were in over their head and totally overmatched in the Premier League and were certain to return shortly from whence they came that they were dismantled at which point I calmed down and finally refrained from thinking poisonous and murderous thoughts every time that I walked past that house on my way home.

I wrote at great length about the longstanding rivalry and history between Brentford and QPR and the reason for the animus between both clubs before our first meeting last October and I was so delighted and proud to be present at what was our first victory over our bitter rivals for fifty years on an evening packed full of pride, effort, energy and passion – all of which was expended by the team wearing red and white stripes.

The entire Brentford team raised its game as every player was well aware of just how much the game meant to every home supporter. Beating QPR was everything to us all and the throaty roar of triumph at the final whistle almost raised the Ealing Road roof. We outplayed and outworked our opponents who strolled through the match and gave a limp and pallid display which seemed to imply that they felt that it was rather beneath them to be forced to sully their hands and share a pitch with a team and a club that was not on their radar and that they thought so little of and that aristocrats like themselves had no need to sweat.

Much has changed for the Bees in the months since that momentous victory. We were then in the midst of a brief but highly successful spell under Lee Carsley when the team seemed well organised, confident and extremely hard to beat. Everybody seemed to understand their role and there was a sense of togetherness with every player working hard to cover his team mates.

QPR rarely looked like scoring bar for two efforts from Luongo just before the break and once Marco Djuricin became an instant Bees legend by timing his run to perfection to convert Alan Judge’s incisive near post cross, our eventual victory barely seemed in doubt as we played out the remainder of the game with total confidence and determination.

This year has seen the Bees crumble and disintegrate and a weakened squad lacking so many of its best players and bereft of confidence and the apparent ability to either score goals or keep them out, is crawling and limping towards the finish line, praying that the games run out before they can be caught up and overtaken by the bottom three.

Despite their victory at Griffin Park last Saturday, Charlton Athletic as well as Bolton Wanderers appear to be beyond salvation but a resurgent Rotherham team, responding brilliantly to the management style of the inimitable Neil Warnock has now won three on the trot and we are beginning to look anxiously in our rear view mirror.

However insipid have been the team’s recent performances, the fans also need to do their bit, particularly on Saturday when just under three thousand Bees will face a hostile home crowd at Loftus Road. It was noticeable just how loud and intimidating the atmosphere was when we played at Rotherham recently as the home supporters provided unconditional support, forgave their heroes for all their mistakes and bayed for free kicks, real and imaginary. Brentford and, of course, the referee wilted under the relentless pressure as we eventually caved in for what could well turn out to be a damaging defeat.

Griffin Park has been like a morgue recently with the crowd seemingly stupefied and reduced to silence or at best groans of anger and disappointment given the horrendous lack of quality of so many of our recent performances.

We are now facing a drama which we can help become a crisis if we continue in the same vein. Of course the team needs to do its bit and at least show some effort, organisation, energy, bite, aggression and determination on Saturday – and some quality too would also not come amiss!

We supporters also have a job to do and we need to take on board the marvellous example of those long-suffering Rotherham fans just the other week. We have to provide a nonstop cauldron and cacophony of noise and simply exhort and encourage our team totally and unconditionally and for the entire duration of the game.

That is something that is well within our gift, everything else is out of our control and we can only hope and expect that Dean Smith selects the right team and game plan and that the players remember just how important this game is and perform accordingly both with and without the ball.

To beat QPR twice in a season, do the double over them and win for the first time at Loftus Road since the ninth of October 1964 would go quite some way towards ensuring that this season is remembered for far more than our recent fall from grace and nosedive towards the nether regions of the Championship table.

Saturday is a quite massive game for a variety of reasons, not least because I want to maintain and extend the bragging rights within my road and make sure that my misguided neighbour knows exactly who is the best Championship team in West London.

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A View From Afar – 13/2/16

It is always wonderful to hear from a member of the Brentford family who lives far away from Griffin Park and Graham Tyrrell certainly qualifies as he has spent the last twenty years ensconsed in the United States of America.

Distance certainly seems to lend a sense of perspective and detachment and from what he has written below it is quite obvious that Graham is an astute, perceptive and knowledgeable supporter who maintains his love and passion for the club despite the thousands of miles that separate him from TW8.

Here are his memories of being a Brentford supporter for the last thirty years, and given that I found myself marooned in New York for three years in the mid 80s, far away from my beloved Brentford FC, I can quite empathise with the problems Graham also faced in doing his utmost to keep in touch with everything that was going on at the club as I shared the identical frustrations in those pre internet days of trying to work with all manner of obsolete technology that was patently not yet up to the job.

I’ve been a Bees supporter since the mid 80s.

One of my first games was the Freight Rover Trophy final against Wigan – a precursor to three decades of Wembley misery.

I moved to the US permanently in 1994. So that makes it one decade of living and breathing BFC at close hand and two decades of following their ups and downs from afar.

During this time I can safely say my loyalty to the club hasn’t wavered once. But it definitely requires a different type of loyalty compared to that exhibited by the amazing fans who spend serious amounts of time and money going to games home and away every week.

To begin with, following a club like Brentford required creativity and patience. In 1994, the internet barely existed and was certainly not the endless wealth of information it has become today. This meant that the primary sources of any Brentford news were the BBC World Service (on the elusive long wave) and Richmond & Twickenham Times clippings sent by my Mum (arriving about ten days after the games).

Over time the options to stay in touch with the Bees have grown massively. Initially, the internet at least provided live score updates of sorts but that was basically like watching teletext.

Eventually, once the BBC started putting all of their radio content online – I soon realized I could happily listen to BBC Radio London and the wonderful Billy Reeves. At first this entailed lugging my laptop around the house and hoping the wifi wouldn’t cut out just as the panic-inducing words “there’s been a goal at Griffin Park” were announced.

Today, by contrast I can get the whole thing on my phone whilst walking the dogs, cleaning the car, you name it. Then there’s BFC Talk, Beesotted and You Tube highlights providing a great insight into how the team are performing and what the fans are thinking.

The personal emotional roller coaster is much the same. Standing in stunned silence in my dining room after Trotta’s penalty miss unable to comprehend what just happened or showing up to a business meeting with a huge grin after the 4-1 demolition of Fulham last year, being just a couple of examples.

But the back to reality moment is definitely a whole lot quicker when you’re not surrounded by other football fans, let alone fellow Bees supporters.

In recent years, the US, which traditionally resisted the lure of soccer, has really started to embrace the game – at least in my experience living in a big east coast city.

However, the focus is well and truly on the Premier League. NBC has done a great job of promoting not only the matches but the whole narrative and back stories that make following English football so compelling. And a special mention to Michael Davies and Roger Bennett aka The Men in Blazers. Their podcast does an incredible job of taking the typical pub banter of football fans and making it accessible to expats and US fans alike. Even for people not in the US, it’s worth checking out some time (www.meninblazers.com).

Soccer fans in the US are now starting to better understand the English football culture and, for example, the fact that teams can move up and down through the leagues. This makes for an interesting dilemma as people with no connection to the UK and new to the sport essentially get to pick a team. But what happens when lots of Americans follow Fulham because Clint Dempsey plays for them and they then get relegated…

Last season of course elevated the Bees to the second tier and this made explaining which team I support a whole lot easier. “We’re in the league below the Premier League – you know, like Bournemouth were last year and Aston Villa will be next year”.

They’re also occasionally on TV – the Boro play-off games for example. So to me, as an exiled fan, this higher profile and media coverage is just another important element of having Brentford in the Championship (a bit like skipping the first two FA Cup rounds). And for that, a hearty thanks to Matthew Benham and Mark Warburton for getting us there.

As for debate on whether BFC are moving in the right direction this term, I would say, looking at it from distance, they are, given the highly competitive environment.

It’s an oddity in some ways that US sports leagues tend to be almost controlled economies with salary caps and drafts of new talent, whereas English football is capitalism at its finest – with one significant perversion.

The Premier League now pays off the losers who are relegated. As we all know, this means the teams dropping down have a huge financial advantage and can cherry pick players from the competition. Given that environment (and the fact Mr. Benham is wealthy but not an oligarch or a sovereign wealth fund) I feel the Bees are doing very well to compete with the big boys.

As has been stated in your blog, last year the stars aligned. In my mind Warburton deserves a huge portion of credit for this. He clearly has great man-management skills and works well with David Weir to get the best out of players. I think his background in business, as well as football, has given him a unique skill set and perhaps a model for others to follow?

However, in retrospect, it does seem that other teams figured us out after half a season and those with the cash started circling our best players (an issue Warburton would have faced also). A big disappointment is that they have all gone to other Championship clubs – but again that’s the harsh reality.

One thing that I didn’t see too much mention of is the fact that we have (potentially) two big players to come in next season before we ever spend a pound of the incoming transfer funds in Bjelland and Hogan. Admittedly both are unproven in this league and both had ACLs, which can sometimes never truly be recovered from, but let’s hope both guys prove to be great “new signings” next season along with the ever elusive Mr. Macleod.

So here’s hoping for a strong start to next year (in the Championship of course)!

Naturally, the single biggest challenge of being an overseas supporter is not being able see a live game and it’s too bad that I’ll probably never see Jota ply his trade in a Brentford shirt or a Dallas screamer.

I’m really hoping I can make it back for one more game at Griffin Park before it is torn down. And assuming I do, I know the other fans will welcome a guy with a funny Anglo-American accent – because it’s always been a great and friendly club with pubs on the corners.

Plus I’ll be wearing my 1985 Freight Rover Final scarf, so I must be legit!

Thank you Graham for your contribution which I hope that everyone enjoys as much as I did.

Let’s Wait Until The Summer – 11/2/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I both agree and disagree with everything I have read!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you all in advance.

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

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

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

Resilience! – 24/1/16

I tried to tell it just as it is in my article yesterday and I stand by every word that I wrote about the problems that we currently face in order to progress, but I also made it totally clear that for Brentford to maintain a top ten place in the Championship is a truly fantastic achievement given the fact that we are competing against far better funded teams pretty much with one hand tied behind our back.

Yesterday was a time for all the talking to stop and for actions to speak louder than words and the Bees stepped up to the plate and turned the form book on its head by ending a run of four consecutive defeats with an exceptional performance leading to a three – one victory at Preston.

Had we lost then the knives would have been out and confidence would have further drained away but a week is a long time in football and we can now forget about the last week or so from hell and concentrate on what lies ahead – firstly a mouthwatering home clash with Leeds United and then the end of the Transfer Window, which cannot close quickly enough for our liking.

There was further scandalous muckraking journalism on the Sky Sports website last night claiming how angry and upset Alan Judge was at our apparent reluctance to offer our star player a new contract commensurate with the eight million pound transfer value we have apparently put on his head. This drivel has surely emanated from an agent desperate to stir up some late interest in his client before the window clangs shut.

I suspect the truth might lie in the fact that Judge’s representative has apparently insisted on a ludicrously low buy out figure being inserted into any new contract offered by the club, thus making it impossible for a new extended deal to be agreed.

This one will run and run until the beginning of February and Judge’s wonderfully taken goal at Preston will obviously make scouts and managers take note of his quite obvious class but I remain hopeful that we will not receive an offer that meets our valuation of him and Alan remains a Bee until the end of the season and that we will enjoy the rare and wondrous sight of a Brentford player competing at Euro 2016 this Summer.

The Bees made four team changes at Preston with Barbet, McEachran, Saunders and Vibe replacing O’Connell, the soon to be departed Diagouraga, Canos and Djuricin, and Lewis Macleod was named in the travelling squad for the first time this season but did not make the final cut.

Brentford controlled long periods of the game and their slick, accurate pass and move style of play made Preston look clumsy and agricultural in comparison. The Bees comfortably out possessed and out passed the home team and scored with all three of their shots on target. Preston managed to outfoul the Bees and also had four players booked to our two.

They also somehow managed to retain a full complement of eleven players for the entire match despite the ghastly Garner and Gallagher giving the referee every opportunity to send them both off but what can you expect when the official is called David Webb?

Our performance was both controlled, disciplined and resilient with Colin the best player on the field and never losing his composure despite receiving a ridiculously soft booking. Barbet too more than justified his promotion and his wonderful long diagonal pass from left to right led to Judge’s instant control and incisive run inside from the wing, leaving his marker trailing behind him in his wake like a constipated camel before he finished clinically for our second goal.

Bidwell had given us the lead with a perfect angled free kick from the edge of the box which took a slight deflection but is surely his goal despite it currently being deemed an own goal, but we squandered our advantage immediately afterwards when a typical neanderthal long up and under was not dealt with by Dean, who had been forced to turn, and the loose ball was eventually poked in by Reach.

We recovered from that self inflicted setback with Woods and the immaculate McEachran seizing control of the midfield, Saunders playing his role as senior pro to perfection and Swift’s energy and trickery on the ball was also far too much for Preston to cope with and they were unable to catch him even to kick him as they chased shadows.

We fully earned our halftime lead which was almost stretched by Woods and Bidwell just before the break but the second half was a far less comfortable affair as we were pushed back and after Doyle and Vibe had both missed early chances at either end of the pitch, Preston took control and for fifteen minutes the home team laid siege to our goal.

Huntington’s header hit the bar, Garner had a goal disallowed for offside and Button made a stupendous save when Garner deflected a Johnson shot and the big keeper somehow changed direction in mid air to turn the ball onto the crossbar for a match winning save that totally beggared belief. His aberration against Middlesbrough is now totally forgotten and firmly put behind him!

Just when a equaliser seemed inevitable, the tide turned and we found our second wind. Kerschbaumer made a valuable contribution with his energy and running after replacing the exhausted McEachran and Canos, the destroyer of Preston at Grifin Park earlier this season, made a similar impact when his immaculate and audacious flick enabled Colin to run through a challenge into space and cross low for Swift to finish Preston off with a clinically taken low shot which also took a helpful deflection and beat the straining goalkeeper.

Brentford fully deserved and had totally earned that slight stroke of good fortune and this was a performance to be proud of as the players simply rolled up their sleeves, worked hard, silenced a vociferous crowd, ignored the intimidation they faced on the pitch as well as a weak and inept referee and played Preston off the park for large portions of the match with some eye catching football.

Suddenly the world seems a far happier place and let’s hope that we can put our recent poor spell of results behind us and that this victory will give us the impetus and confidence to maintain a challenge for the playoffs. And why not? Despite the unavoidable loss of some leading players, yesterday clearly demonstrated that there is still so much talent and ability in the squad and that they are certainly playing for each other and the team.

Colin is a star in the making and Barbet also made a positive impression. Josh McEachran faced a tough task in proving that he is fit, robust and resilient enough to play in the key holding role alongside Ryan Woods, particularly at a tough and unwelcoming bleak Northern outpost and he came through with flying colours. There is also the imminent prospect of Lewis Macleod being given the opportunity to show us what he can do.

There is an old and wise saying that patience is a virtue and yesterday showed that there is so much for us all to be proud about and that those in charge of our club understand far better than us supporters exactly what needs to be done in order to ensure that we maintain our progress and development as an established Championship club. We need to trust them more whilst still retaining the right to question where necessary.

We also have to repeat the mantra that margins are so narrow in this incredibly tight division. We could quite easily have lost at Reading and also picked up points against Birmingham and Middlesbrough. Such is the way of life in the Championship. Yesterday too, for all our dominance turned on one piece of magic from Button.

This was a good day for the club and everybody associated with it and we should all simply enjoy the moment, take a deep breath and look forward to the future with renewed vigour and confidence.

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.

 

Should We Change Our Approach? The Fans Speak – 5/1/16

I gave some grudging praise, as well as some deserved brickbats to Birmingham City after their late and extremely fortunate victory against us on Saturday and suggested that I would even draw the curtains if Birmingham were playing in my back garden so boring, negative and lacking in adventure and attacking ideas were our opponents.

I wanted to gauge the views of fellow Brentford supporters in terms of how they feel about our approach which is always to chase the win and never to settle for a draw even if we risk losing by doing so, as in fact has been the case in two of our last three away games when we have conceded late and crucial goals after fighting our way back to equality.

Should we always go hell for leather for the three points on offer or are there times when it would be more sensible and prudent to settle for one?

Michael Ohl was happy overall with our playing philosophy but pointed out some of our shortcomings:

I agree with you Greville about not settling for a draw – watching The Bees these days is not for the faint hearted. Also, it is a team game, so although Harlee made the original mistake, it was in their half – so where was the cover?

I think we could do with a couple of good defensive midfielders who also have a bit of flair. Clone McCormack? We ARE lightweight in that area.

For this season I am content to watch The Bees play entertaining football, knowing that our ambitions are to be in the Premier League. And when we get there I want us to stay there. That means a team with depth, experience and skill.

Unfortunately, players like the ones he mentioned – a Bradley Johnson, for example are few and far between at our level and also totally unaffordable given our current limited resources.

Peter Lumley was far more resigned and fatalistic about Saturday’s defeat:

Any long term supporters of Brentford could have forecast the inevitable defeat almost from the kick-off knowing Birmingham’s game plan. That is what sets us apart from the fans of the likes of Middlesbrough, Derby and Hull!

Rebel Bee also pointed to a weakness in midfield as well as the problems we face with three tough home games looming up over an intense six day period:

Birmingham certainly have the drop on us and that is a hugely disappointing fact, and whilst I agree with your sentiments regarding our playing style versus theirs, this feeling won’t last indefinitely. Three interesting games over the Christmas period, and a four point return felt just about right, although our best performance was at home to Brighton.

What is weird for me is that our gifted midfield has been a bit of a mess over the last games and that as more players become available Dean Smith needs to find his best combination from the array of options we have. And perhaps make some additions and changes.

Some of us crave a midfield enforcer, or to see more of Alan Mac ( the only squad player of this type) but sadly I’ve accepted the reality that we just won’t sign such players in the future, they are not part of our philosophy. We are only after ball players and try to pass around sides and play a slightly more industrial version of Barca’s wonderful football from a few years back.

We are patently some way off being promotion or playoff contenders, so for me the task now is to carefully secure and assemble a side that can really challenge next term. Finishing as strongly as possible of course, also try to go a few rounds in the FA Cup. We must try to avoid the huge churn of players seen last summer – that work starts now.

We have three really tough games to come, in six days and all at Griffin Park – whilst the spectre of the transfer window looms over us. It’s a real test for Dean Smith and the boys, but one that they need for us to see what we really have.

Former Brentford striker Richard Poole reminded us all of a much loved and feared Brentford midfield dynamo and enforcer from long ago and the influence that he had on friend and foe alike and how we could do with someone like him now:

All this is food for thought but it comes down for me that for the past two years we have needed a grafter in our side just like Brentford had in the seventies. Jackie Graham was the man and, yes, he was a talented footballer with an eye for a pass who could play football as well  as anyone else in the team but on top of that he could also destroy the opposition’s midfield. He was a winner even without the football and totally controlled the midfield area.

Look at the best teams around today. Even Arsenal who pride themselves upon maintaining possession feel the need for Flamini or Coquelin to protect their more delicate ball players. This is something that I feel Brentford are missing.

I totally agree with Richard and yearn for a Jackie Graham, Terry Hurlock or even Jonathan Douglas type figure who could fill that gap for us.

Mike Rice had to suffer in silence on Saturday:

A few points Greville, having experienced superb hospitality with my Blues-supporting in-laws. Interestingly, all of them were convinced that the referee was on our side, given the number of free kicks he gave us, particularly in the second half. They were getting quite incensed, but naturally I agreed with almost all of his decisions, except when he gave us a free kick from a breakaway, instead of playing an advantage. He couldn’t wait to brandish yet another yellow card!

I agree with all of your comments about Birmingham, good and bad, but want to add some context. The owner is in jail and the current manager inherited League One quality players (e.g. Donaldson and Cotterill) signed by Lee Clark, and some talented juniors and a few loanees (such as Toral who couldn’t get a regular game with us). He has done a superb job organising them into a team challenging for the playoffs.

We played the first half with all of the possession, but in front of their two banks of four. In the second half, they were told to close us down and give us less time on the ball and perhaps shake us up, which duly worked very well. They played like an away side and were very negative, but I would contend that Gary Rowett has little choice with the players at his disposal. They certainly know how to execute his game plan.

And as for watching Birmingham every week; you should have experienced the delight all around me when they scored their second goal. It may be about the glory, but winning when you know you’re second best (and the ref’s supposedly against you) can be very, very satisfying! There were a lot of smiling faces after the game.

I said after the game that I would not swap a single Birmingham player for a Brentford player with a view to improving our team. Birmingham are far more than the sum of their parts, but I do wonder with Financial Fair Play if our owner’s playing style aspirations currently far overreach our ability to achieve them successfully. Roll on Lionel Road!

Mike Lumley also has a reasonable point to make:

I agree with most of your comments and observations on what the Birmingham game ( and others like them) tell us. However, I am a bit perplexed by the implied assumption that we either have to be a devil may care collection of death or glory heroes or a bunch of faceless defensive drones .

The difference between the class of 2014/15 and our current squad is that last season’s group combined the best of both worlds – with the aggression and clatter of Dougie and Toums complemented perfectly by the flair and panache of Jota and Pritchard. I also believe that despite his alleged negativity and outspokenness, Dougie would still be a regular starter this season if he had not fallen out with the owner and opened his mouth once too often.

We are where we are – and despite my earlier views – I may have to accept that Alan McCormack may be a better option ( at least pro tem) alongside Toums and Ryan Woods than Josh McEachran who still seems to be struggling with the intensity and hurly burly of Championship football. I also believe that with the current set up – a playoff berth is already beyond us this season but add in a genuine box-to-box replacement for Douglas and additional cover for Djuricin/Hogan ( either now or in the summer) and we will be major contenders next season.

I will let Rebel Bee have the last word:

The choice isn’t about going for a win or parking the bus, it’s about sensible risk versus reward which doesn’t mean that you have to give soft goals away does it?

Bees fans I know assume that Josh McEachran will step into the side and be all the things we want him to be, for me he still has plenty to do and prove in order to be a starter at this level – maybe he’s one to come good next season?

And that is where we came in!

Something Special Times Two – 29/12/15

For most fans, watching your football team play can sometimes seem like a prison sentence without hope of parole, a hard and endless slog or even running through treacle in gumboots. Lots of hard work and running, effort, energy, but so little entertainment, reward or quality.

Perspiration but so little inspiration. It is a habit that is easy to get into but so hard to get out of once the routine has been established.

These words would sum up much of my experience watching Brentford over the past fifty years or so. Of course there are seasons and matches that stand out and are irrevocably engrained in my memory banks but in real terms they are few and far between and interspersed with so much that, looking back, can only and best be described as drab, boring, inept and instantly forgettable

Over that period there have been many memorable goals, an instant example would be Gary Blissett’s strike against Peterborough, that are totally unforgettable but more for what they meant to the team, club and us supporters rather for the actual quality of the goal.

Off the top of my head probably the best goal that I have ever seen Brentford score was Paul Brooker’s effort at Swindon in 2006 when he slalomed his way three quarters of the length of the pitch leaving seemingly half the Swindon team trailing helplessly in his wake. In that moment he was totally unstoppable and Messi and Maradona revisited and it stood out even more given the customary functional and plebeian style of football employed by Martin Allen’s team at that time.

All that changed yesterday afternoon when the Bees came away with a desperately hard-won and narrow victory at Reading. The performance was decent and organised if not inspired and for once Dame Fortune smiled down on us as we won a match that could quite easily have gone the other way had Reading made more of their possession.

A lot of credit for that must go down to the Bees who refused to be beaten and absorbed the pressure exerted on us by a home team that looked quick and innovative in midfield if insipid and wasteful up front.

We defended well and restricted Reading to very few clear chances and only conceded once when substitutes Vydra and McCleary combined beautifully with a series of one-twos to tear us open and create the space for the latter to score easily. In truth Button was forced into only one decent save and much of the credit is due to the back four of Colin, Dean, Tarkowski and Bidwell who simply rolled their sleeves up and presented an almost impassable barrier.

The midfield did not jell with Diagouraga and McEachran never really dominating or getting to grips with their task and sometimes chasing shadows with Toumani’s influence blunted by an early booking by Keith Stroud, a ticking time bomb of a referee who was, as ever, far too quick with his cards.

I wish he would adopt the following statement as his mantra: a foul is not necessarily a yellow card but Stroud seems programmed to blow his whistle and show a yellow card almost simultaneously without ever giving himself time to think and his looming presence cast a shadow over the entire proceedings with Button, Dean and Tarkowski also falling foul of the eccentric official. Judge too was strangely muted and Swift drifted in and out of the match stranded as he was out on the left flank.

For once we created very little with Vibe’s threat snuffed out but now I am coming to the real point of this article as we scored what were quite comfortably the best two goals that I have ever seen Brentford score in one match over all the years that I can remember.

For the first, which came at a time when Reading were well on top and looking likely to score at almost any time, Tarky strode imperiously out of defence, sold a perfect dummy and slid the ball to Swift in midfield. He laid the ball off to Woods just inside the home half of the field and he strode towards the Reading goal. On and on he dribbled as the defenders backed off complacent and secure in the knowledge that they were dealing with a man who is hardly prolific in front of goal as his record of only scoring one career goal in over one hundred and twenty games surely attests. Now he has doubled his tally!

With Vibe making a decoy run to the right and Swift trying to make a late run into the penalty area, there were few passing options available so Ryan let fly from twenty-five yards and the ball screamed towards the goal and was still rising as it hit the roof of the net with Bond a helpless bystander.

I am old enough to remember Bobby Charlton’s long range Exocet against Mexico in the 1966 World Cup and I can only say that Ryan’s goal yesterday was in the same class. It was a phenomenal effort that knocked the stuffing out of the home team and we were able to retain our lead until the interval largely untroubled.

Reading regrouped and dominated the early part of the second half, missed an open goal straight away and fully deserved their excellently worked and taken equaliser and looked by far the more likely team to earn the victory.

All that changed after seventy minutes when Judge found Woods who had now switched to a more central position where he was far more effective. His perfectly placed forty yard pass out to the right wing cleared the straining Quinn and found the ever willing substitute Sergi Canos who now produced seven seconds of pure magic as his first touch took the ball over his marker, Quinn, his second left Hector helpless as he moved into the penalty area and his third was a rasping and unstoppable left foot volley into the far corner of the net.

The youngster celebrated wildly in front of nearly three thousand adoring Brentford fans, as well he might, as this was a goal of true international class, executed instinctively and without fuss by a young player who has the football world at his feet.

What a way to celebrate his loan extension and his post match Bees Player interview clearly demonstrates just how committed he is to the Brentford cause. We are fortunate and blessed to have a young player with his ability, but just as crucially, his wonderfully positive and bubbly attitude, playing for us. He is a total breath of fresh air and a joy to watch and yesterday’s effort will never be forgotten by anybody who was privileged enough to witness it.

Reading huffed and puffed for the remainder of the match but their spirit had been broken by Sergi’s wonder goal and if anything Brentford looked the more likely to score a third than they were to equalise. The clumsy Hector saw red for a second yellow card after a pathetic and embarrassing dive and his side’s fortune plummeted with his unsolicited fall and we saw the game out with some degree of comfort.

2015 has seen Brentford play football of a standard unsurpassed in living memory and what a fitting way to see the old year out with two of the best goals that you could ever wish or hope to see. This has been a quite wonderful year for the Bees and who knows what riches 2016 will bring?

What is quite certain is that the goals scored yesterday by Woods and Canos have whetted our appetite for what is to come.