Reasons To Be Cheerful – 25/8/15

Queens Park Rangers – Nil, Brentford – Three. Doesn’t that scoreline have a lovely ring to it? It slides off the tongue so smoothly and perfectly. Just try saying it for yourself and see!

No matter that the victory came in a Development Squad tussle rather than in a first team match. Any victory over the old enemy at whatever level, and yes, despite any suggestions to the contrary regarding the likes of Fulham or even Birmingham City, QPR are certainly Brentford’s traditional rival and bête noire, must be savoured and luxuriated over.

Just in case our friends from Shepherd’s Bush think that yesterday’s result was an aberration, fluke or anomaly let me just remind them that we did the double over them last season too, scoring six times in the two matches and dominating proceedings to such an extent that even The Invisible Man, the immortal Betinho, managed to get himself on the scoreboard.

Oh, and if that still isn’t enough we also beat the Ra Ra’s by four goals to two last Saturday in the Under 18 Youth League.

Have I done enough gloating. No, not yet by a long chalk. I’ve barely got started.

My good friend, Mark Croxford, watched yesterday’s match which was dominated from start to finish by a young, vibrant, confident, exciting and talented Brentford team who could and should have scored at least six times and afterwards he spoke to a Rangers fan who ruefully and despondently admitted that it was the second time in only a couple of days that his team had been totally outplayed by a Brentford team. What wonderful words and doesn’t it make you feel good to read them particularly given the source of the comment?

There were lots of noteworthy performances and Lee Carsley and his coaches must have been purring with a mixture of pride and pleasure given how well the team had played on the day.

I also suspect that he was feeling a lot more sanguine than he was a couple of weeks ago after the Capital One Cup hammering by Oxford United. On the one hand he must have been proud at the fact that so many of his best prospects were named in the Brentford first team, but on the other, he would not have been happy at the way in which Josh Clarke, Josh Laurent, Courtney Senior and Jermaine Udumaga were thrown to the wolves and hung out to dry by being totally exposed in an horrendously weak team that lacked any real first team experience or seemingly even the will to compete.

Jack Bonham had the confidence boost of a long awaited clean sheet yesterday which included an excellent penalty save. He had an awful night against Oxford United when he could do little to prevent a torrent of goals and also fell foul of a fickle crowd who treated him appallingly, but hopefully he is now well on the road to recovery. He has all the ability in the world and he has been well coached, but success as a goalkeeper at Football League level is as much about intangibles such as sound judgement, good temperament and the ability to make instantaneous and correct decisions. I have long held the view that Bonham needs to gain experience by means of a loan spell away from Griffin Park and from playing games every week in which there are points and bonuses at stake rather than withering on the bench and playing Development squad matches which generally lack the necessary bite and passion.

Josh Clarke has also managed to rehabilitate himself from being a winger whose career was stalling to becoming an exciting attacking right back who now looks as if he could make a name for himself. He was one of the few players who enhanced his reputation against Oxford United and he must surely have taken inspiration from the example of Moses Odubajo who set such high standards last season.

Aaron Greene has pace, height, power and dribbling ability and was deeply impressive throughout the preseason period. He too has a real chance of making the grade.

Josh Laurent had a brief taste of first team football against Oxford and has now also made his Football League debut whilst on loan at Newport County. He too has much to learn and will certainly have his eyes opened throughout his loan spell but he has real ability and could go far. As an ex-QPR prospect whose departure from the club was greeted by massive outpourings of anger and frustration on QPR message boards, he must have been upset to have missed yesterday’s thrashing of his old team but I am sure he is happy to be where he is for the time being.

Daniel O’Shaughnessy is also finally settling down and developing into an effective central defender who might soon benefit from a loan spell and first team football elsewhere.

Midfielder Jan Holldack has also caught the eye with some encouraging midfield performances playing just behind the main striker in which he has demonstrated a real eye for goal from long range.

We are also blessed with real talent up front with Jermaine Udumaga, who made his Championship debut at Turf Moor last weekend and by no means looked out of place, Courtney Senior who has already made his first team debut whilst on loan for Wycombe Wanderers last season and Montell Moore who has much to prove after last season’s off-field indiscretions but is blessed with massive ability.

There is also a plethora of players coming through at an even younger age group and the likes of Tom Field, James Ferry, Zain Westbrooke and Gradi Milenge are all expected to improve further this season.

Brentford have gained much publicity and even notoriety over the last few months from their oft-stated policy of using a statistically based approach towards player identification and recruitment.

That is all very well but unless that strategy is underpinned and supported by a successful Academy system that also produces players who come into first team contention then all our efforts are likely to end in failure. We have lavished care, attention and monetary support into a Category Two Academy and hopefully it will start to bear fruit shortly.

We also need to ensure that there is a tried and tested pathway from the Academy however, first team places have to be earned on merit and the Oxford United experience when far too many youngsters were thrown together at one time clearly demonstrated that young players, however promising they are, need to be eased into the first team gently and in small numbers and also surrounded, encouraged and supported by more experienced team mates.

That being said, I would love us to be in a position before the end of this current season to introduce a policy or protocol whereby there has to be at least one Academy or Development Squad product on the bench for every first team game, with every effort, if not a directive, to be made to ensure that some of them actually play in the Championship and that we continue to give them pitch experience in all cup matches.

Yesterday was good news, firstly for the boost that any victory over QPR brings us, but, just as importantly because it provided further firm evidence that we are a long way ahead of our rivals in terms of our youth development – and that is really a reason to be cheerful.

Warburton’s Words – 21/4/15

I do so enjoy reading Manager Mark Warburton’s regular article in the Bees Review match day programme. They are invariably measured, thoughtful, pithy and to the point, just like the man himself and are quite evidently self-penned and not the work of some anonymous hack or ghost in the media department. He takes the time and trouble to open the dressing room door ajar and allow supporters to sneak inside the secretive, arcane and cloistered world of professional football, and he generally provides a deep and personal insight into some fascinating aspect of the club, playing squad or, indeed, the team behind the team.

I particularly like the courteous way he welcomes the opposition manager by name and remarks how much he is looking forward to sharing a drink with him after the game. For me, at least, his words conjure up vivid images of a convivial gathering with the two of them sitting down at a table covered with a spotless white starched tablecloth, napkins around their neck, with David Weir serving a selection of carefully sliced triangular cucumber sandwiches and cutting up the Battenberg, and Kevin O’Connor pouring cups of tea all around. I am sure that the reality is somewhat different and far more akin to the Liverpool Boot Room with the two managers drinking a can of beer together and quietly reflecting on their respective fortunes in the hard fought game recently finished. Just in passing I must try and unearth my dog-eared copy of the Rotherham programme from January 10th and see if Warburton extended the same hospitality to Steve Evans as not only would he undoubtedly hog all the food on offer but also Evans in his customary full-on post-match hectoring and hyperbolic rant mode would surely turn out to be a most unwelcome, loudmouthed and unsavoury guest!

I read Mark’s article in Saturday’s programme with particular interest as he took the belated opportunity to look back three months in time and comment in great detail about his perspective on what happened, or perhaps more specifically what didn’t, in the January transfer window. Firstly let’s review the facts. We managed to bring in four players and, perhaps just as crucially, we lost nobody from our squad. We signed a promising young midfielder, Josh Laurent, from QPR, spent heavily on one of Scotland’s top prospects in Rangers starlet Lewis Macleod, bought highly rated left-sided defender Jack O’Connell from Blackburn Rovers for a reported quarter of a million pounds and signed England Under-20 international striker Chris Long on loan from Everton.

Our three permanent signings share similar characteristics in being young, inexperienced and highly talented and they all appear to have the potential to develop into exceptionally valuable long-term assets for the club. Unfortunately what is far more pertinent at the present time is that between them none of them have contributed in the slightest for us yet at first team level or have even played one minute’s football in the Championship. We did have high hopes and expectations for Macleod but he arrived as damaged goods and has been a permanent sick note ever since, managing a grand total of forty-five eminently forgettable minutes for the Development Squad a few weeks back. He has now been put back into cold storage for next season when we can but hope that he manages to get himself fully fit and earns a place in our revamped midfield.

O’Connnell was sent straight back on loan to Rochdale where he really impressed in a team challenging for the Division One playoffs and justifiably earned a recall to his parent club. Despite our continued problems and adventures in central defence he has yet to be given his opportunity, although he has looked the part sitting on the bench! Next season perhaps? Laurent has no Football League pedigree but is an educated gamble for the future. Long is also short on experience but has impressed with his enthusiasm and eye for goal when given an opportunity, however he has been plagued with injuries and illness and has only made ten appearances including a mere two starts. Four goals is a more than decent return, but the overall feeling about our January signings is one of frustration and disappointment at their overall lack of contribution. Frankly they looked more like signings for January 2016 rather than this year and have done little or nothing to either strengthen or assist us in our promotion push.

One possible inference from the lack of immediate impact of our new arrivals in January is that they really were intended for the future rather than the present and that the management were more than content with what they already had in terms of the strength, make-up and chemistry of the squad and were simply looking to tinker rather than make radical improvements.

Warburton’s explanation is totally different in that he claims that key players were targeted both at home and abroad who would have added quality and depth to the squad, but for a variety of reasons every deal fell through. He mentioned player or agent financial demands that did not represent good value for Brentford or the requirement that potential loanees had to be automatic starters. Warburton categorically denied turning down any high quality players who were within our grasp and who would also have improved us.

Certainly it was rumoured at the time that funds were available and that strenuous efforts were being made to sign players of the calibre of giant Colombian central defender Bernardo from Sporting Gijon and top Austrian striker Marco Djuricin from Sturm Graz. Despite our apparent efforts, Bernardo remained at his present club and Djuricin allegedly snubbed us in favour of a move to Red Bull Saltzburg where he gone on to win a full international cap for Austria. Whilst it is impossible to be categoric, given their quality, they or their ilk, would probably have made a massive difference to our fortunes had they arrived at Griffin Park and settled down to life in London.

“Hindsight is always twenty-twenty” as Billy Wilder so memorably stated and it is very easy to look back from our position today, outside the Playoff positions and anticipating the increasing possibility of a massive missed opportunity, and assert that we made a massive error in not strengthening in January, but if we are to take Warburton’s words at face value, which of course I do, then it wasn’t for the want of trying.

What really surprised me was the timing of his remarks and that Warburton chose to raise this subject now, months after the event, when the season is approaching its climax, rather than wait until the postmortem after the season ends next month. Conspiracy theorists have been hard at work with their convoluted explanations for why we failed to bring home the bacon in January so perhaps Warburton simply wished to rebut them, but it is difficult to reconcile oneself to the sight of Harlee Dean acting as our sole emergency striker in a “must-win” game on Saturday after the withdrawal of Andre Gray. A promotion chasing team should not have allowed itself to be reduced to such straits at this crucial stage of the season.

I have invariably found Mark Warburton to be open and honest in words and deeds alike, and this article is no exception, but the fact remains that our promotion rivals succeeded in January where we failed and the cost is likely to be high.

No Complaints At All – 4/2/15

I wrote yesterday in order to review the transfer window and the fact that over the course of the month Brentford had succeeded in bringing in four players and losing nobody. They had also resisted the temptation to bring in an experienced striker to support Andre Gray and instead decided to keep their powder dry should a short term addition be required once the loan window reopens shortly. I felt that the club had acted carefully and responsibly and simply kept to their tried and tested blueprint of improving the squad slowly but surely and concentrating on bringing in young players with huge development potential.

I waited for the fallout but I was gratified to discover that the overwhelming majority of the comments I received totally agreed with the club’s actions.

David Carney just seemed to wonder what all the fuss was about:

Spot on, of course, but far too much analysis by just about every Brentford Supporter. The simple fact is that Matthew Benham has a clear vision for success and the creation of a dynasty. In setting out to achieve that vision, he has seen the absolute necessity to have the very best mix of minds that create an outstanding football club. Benham knew Mark Warburton before he worked at Brentford and knew exactly how his mind ticked AND what a wonderful technical football and people motivating mind it is, alongside his understanding of Team Environment.

Add into the mix David Weir, Frank McParland, Mark Devlin, the other coaches, medico’s, academy, etc, and there is a unit that is the equal to, if not better than, any other Football Club in the UK.
 Everyone outside that select group running Brentford FC is unaware of the detailed planning and strategies being implemented, cost pressures, personal player issues, competition from other clubs, etc. All we know is that this is one hell of a trip and very few football supporters at any club experience the development of a dynasty on their doorstep as we are witnessing now.
 I first saw Brentford in 1954 and there has never been anything like what is happening now – so just enjoy the ride, enjoy the wins and do not become an instant expert. We have Benham, Warbs and the rest of the team to do all that for us. Our role is simply to support and enjoy.

I wish it was so simple David and that all of us were as phlegmatic as you appear to be! We all live and breath Brentford FC and it is hard not to scrutinise, kibitz and even criticise simply because we care so much and are desperate for things to work out as we believe they can and will.

Mike Rice also felt strongly that we need to remember how far we have come in so short a time and that we have kept to our pre-planned strategy without attempting to “live the dream” or run before we can walk:

Your remarks got me musing on when exactly did the change take place? Mark Warburton’s arrival at the club was clearly highly influential, but my trip to Wembley, when he was assisting Nicky Forster, did little to change my “stated hope”. Uwe Rosler also represented a sea change in attitude at the club, but as you say, there were still the “Stevenage talks”.
 I have trouble with the chronology, of who arrived when and before whom, but I think two factors have played an enormous part: our ability to attract the likes of Adam Forshaw and Jake Bidwell on loan, and Matthew Benham’s reticence to ‘splash the cash’. Ever since he has arrived at the club he has matched his generosity to the position of the club, and the ability of those running it to spend his money wisely.
 Nobody knows how much he is worth, but the money has always been there in sufficient quantities, but never more than necessary.

When Bees United took over, he stood back and injected the bare minimum to get by. That clearly wasn’t going to work, so he took more of a stake in the club and spent a bit more money. Andy Scott was given just enough cash to get us out of League Two. We have never been at the top of the pile in terms of playing budget, but have had enough for an astute manager (and director of football) to bring in players, set up loans, adopt a playing style and achieve success.


Not for Matthew Benham the Chelsea or Man City approach. He has never flung money at the problem. He has shown admirable restraint. How easy would it have been for him after the Doncaster/Yeovil season to throw money at the problem? And when we did get into the Championship, he increased the budget enough to make a few key acquisitions, all young and good investments for the future, but not enough to attract the attention of the media or our ‘biggers and betters’ with their parachute payments. Of course, the FFP regs now come into the equation, but I bet Brentford, with some of the smallest gates in the league, do not fall foul of it.

Similarly, I bet Brentford’s playing budget (and player expenditure) may put us in the top half of the money table, but by no means matches our league position. At this moment in time, I believe Brentford has the perfect combination of wise owner and loyal lieutenants in Mark Warburton, David Weir, Mark Devlin and Frank McParland, who all share the same vision for the club and fully agree the means of achieving it.


This combination has worked so well that we are now ahead of the timetable. But that is no reason not to believe that all that has been achieved won’t last. Indeed, while many including me scoffed at the idea of an Academy as being above our station or a bottomless money pit, I can now see it is all part of Matthew Benham’s long-term plan. It will hopefully provide a steady stream of the kind of players we now take on loan or buy for £1 million.
 So getting back to when the change in my “stated hope” happened. I think it was the moment – after a first half in which we were the total underdogs – Stuart Dallas connected with the thunderbolt that put Derby firmly in their place.

Luis Adriano was far more vehement and bullish in his comments about how happy he is with how the club is being run and that we managed to keep hold of our prime assets:

Seriously, anybody whinging about our business in the transfer window needs to have a visit from the Ghost of Transfer Deadlines Past… Remember Nicky Forster? Remember DJ?… Some of the best business in these times is in simply keeping hold of the talent you already have.

How would you feel if Harry Redknapp actually knew his stuff and spent his time on Monday chasing our talented youngsters rather than his usual preference for has beens like Adebayor? Or he wasn’t too busy trying to get an exchange on his duff Christmas present from West Ham?

Just imagine that Crystal Palace had taken Andre Gray off our hands giving us a quick profit… Or if Jota had been snapped up by a Premier League or La Liga club willing to invest in his potential.

We have KEPT HOLD OF OUR VALUABLE ASSETS. HOOBLOODYRAH.

We got Long in on loan and he is clearly a talented boy. There’s our cover up front in addition to ‘Big Nick’ who actually scored a goal on Monday night. Some people don’t know how good we’ve got it right now.

Also, would you rather we bought a modern day equivalent of Neil Shipperley? I’m sure there are plenty out there. That is NOT how we do things now.

Honestly, I read/hear people moan and can’t help shaking my head.

It is also important that we don’t just become satisfied with where we are. When we see the Ghost of Transfer Deadlines Future, I don’t want it to be saying, “ah yes, 2015, that’s the best you’ll ever have it”.

I think we need to get the balance right of understanding where we came from and enjoying careful, steady progress.

I have every faith that there won’t be a second season syndrome struggle if we don’t go up this year.

Just consider how much losing a Play Off Final can muck teams up. Look at Orient as the most recent of many examples. When I came away from our Yeovil game though, I knew we’d go up the following season.

Don’t underestimate the intelligence of the people we have in charge and generally around the place these days. We have brought in players, staff with the correct mentality (as well as knowledge of the game) to succeed. This is why if we get close but no cigar again (I can’t see us/anyone ever getting as close as a crossbar away), I’m sure we’ll just continue to come back stronger.

If we do go up to the Premier League, there is every possibility we’d come straight back down. Not a guarantee, just a fact of financial life. If we did, I’m sure we’d rebuild and just go up even tougher next time round.

So basically, enjoy where we are right now. There shouldn’t really be any true Bees fan whinging these days. It’s not been better in most of our life times. We just haven’t reached our pinnacle yet.

TRUST the people in charge. They know what they are doing and they will continue driving us on this wonderful journey. 

There is absolutely nothing that I can add to those wonderful words. Thank you everyone – and thank you Brentford FC too!

Half Term Report – Part 1 – 17/1/15

tatI have been putting this article off for a couple of weeks or more but the penny finally dropped that if I didn’t get it done this week then there really wouldn’t be any point in writing a half term report on every Brentford player given that the second half of the season would already be well under way.

As it is, we have now played twenty-six of our forty-six league matches so I can probably still just about sneak this in under the radar without many complaints about it being too late.

I am sure that you will all be relieved that I am not going to use any of those hackneyed school report type expressions so beloved of similar review articles, but I will simply tell you how I think each player has performed to date and what I believe might be in store for them for the remainder of the season.

1. Richard Lee

The mystery is why at the age of thirty-two, Richard Lee, a goalkeeper of proven ability who is also a great student of the game, has made less than two hundred first team appearances in his entire career. The answer is that he has been plagued by bad luck and a series of long-term injuries, generally at the wrong time, and has also had to deputise for keepers of the calibre of Ben Foster. This season has been no different. His chronic shoulder injury has prevented him mounting a serious challenge to David Button and his lack of fitness has meant that he has also been overtaken in the pecking order by Jack Bonham. His decision to retire at the end of the season is as measured and thoughtful as everything that he does and has come as no real surprise. Given his personality, drive, intelligence and enquiring mind he will have no problem in finding fresh challenges beyond football and it was fitting that his last appearance in a Brentford shirt, assuming there is no farewell cameo later in the season, saw him make two trademark swooping penalty saves to win the Dagenham & Redbridge shootout.

2. Kevin O’Connor

Kevin’s influence has moved from the pitch to the dugout and training ground as he has grown into his new role as Player/Coach and succeeded in gaining his B License. He made what is almost certainly his farewell appearance in a Brentford shirt at Dagenham and signed off perfectly with the winning penalty in the shoot out, taken without fuss and with metronomic accuracy into the bottom corner – as he would doubtless have done had fate not intervened and he had taken the crucial spot kick against Doncaster. Kevin has now made five hundred and one first team appearances for the club and is fourth in the all-time appearance chart, a mere fifteen matches behind Peter Gelson, in third place. His place in the Brentford pantheon is assured and he hopefully still has much to offer as a coach given the respect he engendered as a player.

3. Jake Bidwell

What’s there not to like about Jake Bidwell? At twenty-one he has played over a hundred games for the club, is an ever present this season, doesn’t get injured or suspended and simply goes about his business efficiently and without fuss. I feel that sometimes he is taken for granted and supporters don’t realise just how far he has come so quickly, and quite how good he really is. He is cool and calm in defence, does not make expensive errors, uses the ball simply and accurately and his ability to overlap and cross is crucial to the team’s shape and pattern of play. He has assisted on three goals so far and I am surprised that he hasn’t tried to claim that goal at Wolves when his deflected cross arched over Carl Ikeme. Perhaps he is waiting to break his duck with a real thunderbolt. He isn’t blessed with lightening pace and he was shown up by Scannell at Huddersfield, no disgrace there as he is a fast and tricky customer, but it is rare that he gets the runaround, he has never looked out of place in the Championship, and he still has much improving to do. Jake has had an exceptional first half of the season with the best still to come and he is an appreciating asset for us.

4. Lewis Macleod

The arrival of the Rangers wunderkind is a signal of pure intent and heralds our ambition to climb even further towards the top of the football tree. The tide has finally turned as it was ever the case that clubs further up the food chain cherry picked our best prospects and signed them for peanuts with us seemingly doffing our caps and proffering our thanks for the crumbs off the rich man’s table. Andy Sinton, Paul Smith and DJ Campbell anyone? Now the boot is firmly on the other foot as Little Old Brentford just waltzed into Glasgow Rangers, one of the most famous teams in the United Kingdom, took advantage of their straitened circumstances and divested them of their jewel in the crown, as is confirmed by the following comment on a Rangers message board: “twenty years ago we were buying players from Barcelona, now we’re selling them to Brentford!” At twenty years of age the whole world lies before him and we await his debut with baited breath. I fully expect that he will be given the time he needs to regain full fitness and settle down in a strange new city far away from home and I have no doubt that he will make an enormous impact before the end of the season. Class will out.

5. Tony Craig

TC has had a slightly inconsistent and up and down campaign to date. On the one hand his coolness, anticipation and ability to read the game and leadership ability has shone through, his left-footedness helps brings balance to the team and he has also developed an accurate long pass to switch the play to the right wing, however he has also been caught out from time to time on the wrong side of attackers, which has proved costly. His red card against Birmingham and Daryl Murphy’s second goal for Ipswich are prime examples of this worrying trait and he has also been bullied and overwhelmed by the likes of Grant Holt, Danny Graham and Murphy. Tony has fully earned his contract extension and he has the experience we need at this level but I do wonder if we will need someone with a little bit more power, height and strength as we continue to improve and upgrade our squad.

6. Harlee Dean

Harlee has been in and out of the starting line-up as we are still searching for our best central defensive partnership. He replaced Tony Craig after his red card against Birmingham and immediately impressed, but lost his place after the insipid display at Middlesbrough where he was by no means the only player to disappoint. His next opportunity arrived after James Tarkowski’s suspension kicked in and Harlee more than seized his chance. His confidence on the ball and willingness to adapt to our new system of playing from the back was evident. He made a costly error against Fulham through overplaying, but had the character and determination to recover and made amends with a glorious buccaneering equalising goal. He has shown signs of increasing maturity both on and off the pitch and his strength and aerial ability is more than welcome, but the jury is still out as to whether he will remain as first choice given the challenge he faces from Craig and Tarkowski and any potential new arrival.

7. Sam Saunders

Sam’s 2014 provides a great example of the topsy-turvy life of a professional footballer. Riding high as League One Player of the Month for December 2013 and fresh from a spell of four goals in as many games, Sam was struck down with a serious knee injury which, after a couple of false starts, kept him out until early November when he returned to the side with a cameo appearance at Millwall, where he managed to calm the nerves and help the team hold out for a hard fought victory. He has sat on on the bench since then and shown his threat with two well-taken, if fairly meaningless late goals against Ipswich. What reassured me more about his potential value to the team was that wonderful swerving cross from wide out on the left which Andre Gray should surely have converted for an injury time equaliser at Wolves. Sam definitely retains his magic with the ball at his feet and it did not come as a shock when he was offered an extension to his contract, but I was certainly surprised that he accepted it given that he could certainly take his pick of pretty much every leading Division One team and play every week for them. I suspect that Sam realises that it has been a long haul for him to reach the Championship from his humble beginnings in the Southern League and Conference South and he intends to relish this opportunity for as long as possible. He is a good influence in the dressing room and Sam will also pay Mark Warburton back for his continued faith in him.

8. Jonathan Douglas

Something amazing happened soon after halftime in the preseason friendly match against Crystal Palace. Marcos Tebar took possession from a throw in and slipped the ball to Jonathan Douglas who ran into the penalty area, dribbled past a lunging defender and then curled a gorgeous shot way beyond Speroni into the far corner of the net for a sublimely well taken goal which demonstrated that given self-belief and good coaching it is possible for a footballer to continue to improve even at the advanced age of thirty-three. JD is the heart and soul of the Brentford team, stationed just in front of the back four, he anticipates and snuffs out danger before it can threaten our goal. But that isn’t all, as Douglas has licence to roam and he has also developed the ability to make devastating late runs and sneak unseen into the opposition penalty area where he already scored five valuable goals as well as setting up a couple more. He has only missed one league match so far this season and Toumani Diagouraga ensured that he wasn’t missed too much that day, but he is a massive influence and he remains the most important player yet to sign a new contract for next season and beyond. He has been one of our most consistent players so far this season and I fully expect that he will maintain his sharpness. Hopefully he will get a new deal that is acceptable to him and also realise that he is unlikely to find as good a situation elsewhere as he has at Griffin Park..

9. Scott Hogan

The one major disappointment of the season was Scott Hogan’s season-ending anterior cruciate injury sustained totally accidentally and innocuously on his league debut as a late substitute at Rotherham when he went down as if shot with nobody near him. I was very excited when we signed Scott as he had scored nineteen goals for Rochdale last season and appeared to be a real footballer as well as a natural goalscorer. Scott was given the coveted number nine shirt too and was expected to become our first choice striker until fate intervened before he was able to get started. As of yet he has not been replaced and we remain shorthanded in attack, and we live in hope that a white puff of smoke will signal the arrival of a new striker any day now before the transfer window closes. Scott has been rehabilitating in America and will hopefully recover in time for the start of next season. We has all our best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.

10. Moses Odubajo

Moses was probably Leyton Orient’s best player last season and scored a goal in the playoff final at Wembley that simply oozed class. There seemed to be a lot of competition for his signature and it came as a bit of a surprise when Brentford managed to capture him for what was rumoured to be our first ever seven figure transfer fee. Moses took a few games to settle but offered us pace and width on the right flank. He became an almost instant hero when he scored a massively important late equaliser against Birmingham and also impressed when he took Alan Judge’s wonderfully weighted long pass into his stride to score emphatically against Brighton. For the most part, though, he flattered to deceive with insufficient end result for all his trickery. His season turned on its head when Alan McCormack suffered a long term injury at Bolton and Moses looked a different player when he was moved back to play as an attacking right back. Not only has he defended well but he has provided far more of an attacking threat when running from deep as he terrifies defenders and seems far more comfortable when he is facing the play and he provided a memorable assist for Andre Gray’s equalising goal against Derby County as well creating chances in almost every game he plays. It will be interesting to see what happens when Alan McCormack returns to fitness in the next month or so as Moses has added a new dimension to our game when attacking from deep.

12. Alan McCormack

Moving Alan from midfield to right back proved to be a masterstroke early last season and his defensive calmness and solidity as well as his excellent use of the ball played a key role in our successful promotion campaign, but despite that, some supporters were concerned that he might not have the pace or know-how to cope with the Championship. Opponents too seemed to target him as a potential weakness but Alan has proved as indomitable as ever. No winger gave him the run around, he scored an excellent goal against Leeds and his curling crosses proved to be a constant threat. His only aberration was a ridiculously wayward throw in which almost set up Andrew Crofts of Brighton for an early gift goal. He also looked totally his old combative self when given a rare start in midfield against Norwich where he would have scored but for the brilliance of Ruddy. Alan received an ankle ligament injury at Bolton but is now back in light training after his operation and should be challenging for his place within another month or so, and his return will provide us with another option and could allow us to move Moses Odubajo back to the wing. This will be another welcome selection headache for Mark Warburton.

14. Marcos Tebar

The Summer arrival of an established La Liga midfielder from Almeria excited most Brentford supporters and his performances in pre-season highlighted his skill on the ball and the way in which he seemed always to find time and space. He played alongside Jonathan Douglas and the two of them formed an instant partnership and dovetailed to perfection with one sitting and the other venturing forward. However when the league began in earnest Tebar did not look quite so unflustered and the games seemed to pass him by. He soon dropped out of contention despite impressing in a late run out as a substitute against Leeds United. He then suffered an injury and has only just regained his place on the substitutes’ bench. Hopefully there is far more to come from him as the jury is still out as to whether or not he can cut it in the Championship.

My player review will continue as soon as I can get it completed!