End Of Term Report – Part 2 – 16/5/16

Here is the second part of my end of season report on every Brentford player:

12. Alan McCormack. The departure of Moses Odubajo saw McCormack given an immediate opportunity to replace him, and he started the season at right back where lack of any defensive cover from Andre Gray saw him given the runaround at Bristol City. The arrival of Max Colin saw him moving back into midfield where he remained an integral part of the team until he suffered niggling groin and calf injuries. Alan provided a much-needed calming influence and he cajoled and encouraged his less experienced teammates and ensured that they showed the necessary organisation and commitment. His passing also improved and became more subtle and we missed him badly during his injury absences. A goal proved elusive although he came desperately close against both Charlton and Bristol City. We keep writing him off and he stubbornly keeps proving us wrong and Alan’s performances totally warranted his contract extension until the end of next season. Despite his ten bookings, he always knew exactly just how far he could go and he has still to see red whilst playing for the Bees. In an inordinately quiet, small and well-behaved team, McCormack was one of the few to speak up on behalf of his teammates and attempt to manage referees.

13. Ryan Woods. Woods first caught my eye as a skilful and tenacious right back playing for Shrewsbury at Griffin Park in 2013 and quickly developed into one of the best midfielders in the lower divisions. I was delighted when The Ginger Pirlo signed for us for one million pounds at the end of the August Transfer Window, a fee that looks an absolute bargain now. He took a few games to settle down and force his way into the starting eleven and was caught in possession on his debut, a costly error that denied us a victory against Leeds, but he is now an automatic choice. He is still developing as a player and possesses all the qualities required to become a complete midfield player. He can spray the ball around and I can still picture that long pass over the defender dropping perfectly into the stride of Sergi Canos before he scored the Goal of the Season at Reading. Ryan also scored a wonderful long-range goal in the same game and matched it at MK Dons. He can tackle, press and dribble and never stops running. What a player he is already, and there is so much more to come from him as he gains further experience in the Championship.

16. Jack Bonham. Another year of treading water for the reserve goalkeeper who sat on the bench undisturbed for every match apart from the Capital One Cup disaster against a rampant Oxford United. Marooned behind an experimental defence, a drastically weakened team subsided to an embarrassing four-goal defeat that could and should have been more. Bonham hardly shone on the night and looked a nervous presence in goal and was beaten by Roofe’s exquisite forty yard lob. He has obviously learned a lot from training with David Button and Simon Royce and at twenty-two is still very young for a goalkeeper. As things currently stand, he is there simply to sit on the bench and replace Button in an emergency with, in all honesty, little chance of being named to start a Championship match if Button was unavailable. That might suit Brentford, who, of course, pay his wages, but the situation is of no benefit at all to Bonham if he is to develop as a footballer. Nobody knows if he has what it takes to have a successful career and nobody will really know until he sees regular action at a lower level of the game. He has two more seasons on his contract but desperately needs to go out and play some football next season and demonstrate his worth.

17. Konstantin Kerschbaumer. Nobody I knew had ever heard of the Austrian midfielder when he signed for us from Admira Wacker Mödling for a reported quarter of a million pound fee, but then again we had known absolutely nothing about Jota either! He was reputed to be a speedy and tenacious box-to-box player and he made a massive first impression when he dominated the midfield in the preseason friendly match against Stoke City. The departure of Jonathan Douglas opened the door for him but the Championship was another matter and he struggled from the off to cope with its pace and physicality and was a peripheral influence, easily knocked off the ball, regularly caught in possession and tentative with his passing. He never hid and joined in where he could but he was totally out of his depth and sometimes I got the unworthy impression that his teammates were loath to pass the ball to him in tight situations. Lee Carsley mercifully took him put of the firing line as soon as he took charge, commenting: He needs a lot of coaching. He runs as fast as he can everywhere without being effective which was a tough but accurate assessment of his initial contribution. He gradually improved in short spells coming off the bench and soon there were small shoots of recovery, an excellent shot against the top of the post against Hull, an effort cleared off the line by a desperate MK Dons defence and a decent hustling performance at Craven Cottage. He featured in every match day squad from the end of January as he slowly came to terms with what was required of him, and by the end of the season he had shown such improvement that he fully deserved his starting role. With growing confidence and time on the ball he started to reveal his true ability, in particular his energy and effortless close control and he combined brilliantly with Scott Hogan as his defence-splitting through balls led to three goals for the striker and the award of a penalty kick. Konstantin is proof of the strength and weakness of our stats and analysis based system. We certainly used our data to identify a promising young player who was not on the radar of our competition, and signed him for a relatively low sum, but he was thrown in far too soon owing to the prevailing circumstances and not given the time he needed to adapt to his new surroundings. He suffered unfairly and cruelly at the hands of the boo-boys who are only now beginning to recognise his undoubted ability, and I fully expect that his second season at the club will be far more productive for him.

18. Alan Judge. It is impossible to write about Alan Judge without feeling a combined sense of anger, frustration, disappointment and sadness at how the season ended for him, and how cruelly he was denied the opportunity to showcase his formidable talent on a global stage at Euro 2016 thanks to the unforgivable actions of an Ipswich Town player whose name I will not deign to mention here. At twenty-seven, Alan was approaching his peak and was in the form of his life all season, scoring fourteen times and assisting on eleven more goals and he was our main source of inspiration. His achievements were marked by his being shortlisted in the top three for Championship Player of the Year and also being named in the Football League Team of the Year and the Championship Team of the Year. He was also the Championship Player of the Month for October, a month in which his form touched previously unseen heights. With the loss of the likes of Gray, Pritchard and Jota, Alan almost singlehandedly took over the mantle of providing our creativity and goal threat and he was more than up to the task. He generally played in a free role as a Number Ten behind the main striker, but he also drifted wide and on one bizarre afternoon at Loftus Road, of all places, played as our lone striker. After only scoring three times in 2014/15, the goals flowed this season – and what brilliant goals they were. A curling effort from a seemingly impossible angle against Sheffield Wednesday, a looping twenty-yard volley and rare header to beat Rotherham, a stupendous shot arrogantly bent into the far top corner in front of the worshipping Brentford supporters at Charlton, instantaneously and effortlessly controlling a long pass from Barbet before slotting the ball home at Preston, a goal which even drew applause from the home fans, and an amazing solo goal when he ran half the length of the field against Derby before scoring from way out on the right flank. He was quite simply touched by genius, and even managed to convert all three of his penalty kicks after his adventures of the previous season when he missed three out of his four attempts! It was no surprise that he was coveted by other clubs, but unlike a certain former teammate of his, he simply got his head down and did not allow the constant speculation to affect his performances. He was deservedly rewarded with his first international cap for Eire and was well in the frame for inclusion in their final squad for Euro 2016 when tragedy befell him with his double leg break. What happens now is anybody’s guess. It was expected that with only one year remaining on his contract and it being highly unlikely that Alan would sign an extension, that he would be sold this Summer, and no Brentford fan would have begrudged him leaving for bigger and better things, such has been his brilliance, commitment and dedication to the Brentford cause. The club too might well have been banking on the anticipated fee in order to subsidise our own transfer budget. Now, all bets are off until we find out how long Judge will take to return to action. I would not expect that we will see him much before Christmas and it will then take him time to regain both form and sharpness. Perhaps he will be sold in the January Transfer Window, maybe he will stay for the entire season, hopefully play well for us, and then leave on a Bosman free? Could he even sign a new contract? Who knows, and all will be revealed over the coming months. In the meantime the memories are still totally clear in my mind of his brilliance, tirelessness and consistency and the sheer joy and bubbly effervescence he demonstrated in playing the game of football – the effortless dribbles past opponents, his non-stop energy and commitment, the quality of his passing, both long and short and his shoot-on-sight policy. He was the complete player for Brentford last season and we were privileged and fortunate to be able to enjoy performances of such quality, and he was by some distance the best player that I have ever seen perform in a Brentford shirt. Praise indeed, but fully merited in my opinion.

19. John Swift. You are just twenty years of age, on loan from a Premier League team with minimal experience of the Championship. You muck in, play twenty-seven games in all, score seven goals from midfield and also get picked for the England Under 21 team. Not bad, and surely the fans will be purring with delight at your contribution, chanting your name and begging you to join the club on a permanent basis next season? You would have thought that would have been the case, but unfortunately John Swift totally polarised opinions amongst Brentford supporters and was the recipient of much unwarranted, unpleasant and totally unnecessary and unjustified abuse from some quarters. He was too languid and lazy, they said, he went missing from time to time, he did not do his fair share of defensive donkey work, and tackling and pressing were an anathema to him. Maybe some of these criticisms had credence but better that they had made some allowances for his youth, immaturity and inexperience and instead given credit to him for, and taken pleasure from, his many very real attributes. He had the natural ability to glide past opponents at will and was a wonderful exponent of the lost art of dribbling. He moved the ball quickly and accurately and specialised in making late runs into the box which led to his most of his goals, and he also scored with a perfectly executed long-range curler at Bolton which was much admired by the Sky Sports commentary team. Swift also had to cope with the difficulty and upheaval of learning a new role as he was often played on the left side of midfield rather than in his more accustomed central position. There was so much to admire in his ability and in many of his performances, and yet he failed to connect with many of the supporters who treated him appallingly and cut him no slack, and I would be surprised if John will wish to return to Griffin Park next season even should the opportunity arise, which is a terrible shame as he would add immeasurably to our midfield resources.

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The Lowlights Of The Season – 13/5/16

What a strange, but in the end, extremely positive season for which the term rollercoaster could have been invented. There were so many ups and perhaps an equal number of downs too and here are my personal lowlights, many of which it must be said were cancelled out by equally positive events. Please feel free to add your own to the list if you can bear to recall them.

  • Losing so many key players so late in the preseason after the new Head Coach had almost finalised his preparations
  • Realising the realities of our financial situation and where we sit in the food chain
  • Player power and accepting that is not worth keeping unsettled players
  • The unsettling situation of not knowing anything about our new foreign signings
  • Having to throw so many of them into the Championship before they were ready or acclimatised
  • Allowing Jonathan Douglas to leave with no obvious replacement
  • The frustration of losing our record signing Andreas Bjelland to serious injury before he could make his league debut
  • The total embarrassment of Pitchgate
  • Injuries, more injuries and yet more injuries – a constant theme throughout the season
  • Being unable to develop a settled team on account of so many serious injuries
  • Josh McEachran’s training ground injury
  • Losing Jota in the season opener to a poor tackle from ex-Bee, Douglas
  • Marinus Dijkhuizen struggling to make his mark
  • Totally underestimating Oxford United and deservedly paying the price
  • Jack Bonham’s struggles against Oxford United and the lack of sympathy from the supporters
  • Throwing Clarke, Senior, Udumaga and Laurent to the wolves against Oxford United
  • Getting hit by the ball again at halftime against Oxford – thanks Alan McCormack
  • Realising that we were not as good as we either hoped or expected
  • Newly promoted Bristol City taking us apart until Freeman’s red card
  • The unrealistically raised expectations after the far too positive messages emanating from the club
  • The horrific elbow on Tarkowski at Bristol City
  • Andre Gray finally leaving the club and joining Burnley
  • The lack of strength and experience of our substitutes’ bench at Burnley
  • Lasse Vibe proving that he should not play marooned out on the right wing
  • The continued absence of Lewis Macleod
  • Being totally outplayed by Reading at Griffin Park despite constant changes of formation
  • Throwing away a victory at Elland Road through a careless Ryan Woods error in the dying minutes
  • Having to put goalkeeper Mark Smith on the substitutes’ bench at Middlesbrough and only being able to name six subs
  • Throwing away the chance to allay our Middlesbrough bogey through profligate finishing
  • Our terrible start at home to Preston
  • Lasse Vibe missing a great chance to win the home match against Sheffield Wednesday
  • Losing in the last minute to Sheffield Wednesday after a rebound off Jack O’Connell’s backside
  • The Fans’ Forum Fiasco
  • Having to sack our new Head Coach Marinus Dijkhuizen after only nine matches
  • Losing a goal to a free header at a corner against Birmingham City after we had over five minutes to prepare for it given Alan McCormack’s injury
  • The appalling performance against Birmingham City which lacked any energy or ambition
  • Alan Judge’s brilliant late effort against Birmingham clanging off the crossbar to safety
  • Lee Carsley’s unsettling post match revelations after losing his first game to Birmingham City
  • Being overpowered and outclassed by Derby County
  • Lasse Vibe still lying on the pitch screaming for a foul when the ball entered our net for Derby’s second goal
  • The abusive and aggressive behaviour of some Brentford fans at Derby
  • Dropping my car keys out of my pocket and fearing I would be stuck in Derby
  • Alan McCormack’s rasping twenty-five yard effort coming back off the bar at Charlton Athletic
  • Getting stuck in appalling traffic on the North Circular Road on my way to the QPR local derby and worrying that I would not arrive in time
  • Marco Djuricin’s injury at Blackburn – he was never the same player afterwards
  • The death of Martin Lange
  • The Pep Clotet will he, won’t he saga
  • Lee Carsley and Paul Williams leaving the club
  • John Swift’s booking for an alleged dive at Bolton
  • Alan Judge’s one-on-one miss against MK Dons
  • James Tarkowski’s needless own goal at Fulham which revived the home team when we were totally dominating
  • Jota’s contentiously disallowed goal at Fulham
  • Allowing a last minute sloppy winner at Cardiff after recovering from a two-goal deficit
  • The second half non-display against Huddersfield
  • Allowing yet another sloppy last minute winner at Birmingham City after fighting back to equalise
  • Jota’s personal problems forcing his return to Spain
  • The frustration that is Philipp Hofmann – so much ability but so little end product  to date
  • The week from hell when we lost three home games and our season began to fall apart
  • Not taking the FA Cup seriously
  • Button Fingers against Middlesbrough – losing a game we should have won
  • James Tarkowski’s behaviour before the Burnley game and the effect it had on us
  • Our first half non-performance against Burnley
  • Allowing a late and daft equaliser against Leeds when we needed another victory to help boost flagging confidence
  • Losing George Evans to Reading – he would have suited us
  • Losing Tarkowski, Diagouraga and Jota in January without bringing in any replacements
  • The Sky Sports team putting the boot in during their live coverage of the defeat at Brighton
  • Lewis Macleod falling foul of the injury hoodoo yet again after finally making his debut for the club
  • The capitulation at Sheffield Wednesday after Yoann Barbet’s early red card
  • Missing Alan McCormack through injury just when his influence was most needed
  • Our appalling run of results from January until the beginning of April when we won two, drew one and lost ten of our thirteen games
  • Waiting for our luck to change
  • The schism between different groups of supporters and the incessant bickering and arguing that further drained morale
  • The constant and unfair criticism of Konstantin Kerschbaumer
  • Capitulating late on against Derby County when an unlikely win seemed on the cards
  • Losing to two relegation threatened teams in Rotherham and Charlton Athletic
  • David Button’s hesitation gifting Charlton the winning goal at Griffin Park
  • The strange formation against QPR with no striker in the starting eleven
  • Everything that happened both on and off the pitch at Loftus Road
  • The unconscionable abuse directed at young loanee, John Swift
  • Finally bringing in a loanee in Everton’s Leandro Rodríguez and losing him to a hamstring injury in only his second game
  • Not taking advantage of Blackburn Rovers going down to ten men and losing to a late sucker punch
  • Josh McEachran’s second fractured foot of the season
  • Worrying all the way through the March international break about the possibility of dropping into the relegation zone
  • Willing Rotherham to start losing after their amazing run of victories under Neil Warnock
  • Alan Judge’s broken leg at Ipswich
  • Luke Hyam’s appalling challenge on Judge and the unsympathetic and unfeeling post match reaction of Mick McCarthy
  • Alan Judge missing the chance to play at Euro 2016 after so deserving to be selected for the Eire squad
  • Scott Hogan missing his late penalty kick against Bristol City and fearing that we would have to wait until next season for him to score his first goal for the club
  • Losing at Hull City with a weakened and exhausted team
  • Jake Bidwell missing his first game of the season against Fulham through injury
  • The closing of the Academy
  • Martin Samuel’s ignorant and uncalled for criticism of the club in The Daily Mail

What Might Have Been – 19/4/15

Just imagine how Brentford supporters would have felt way back in August last year if they had been able to look into a crystal ball and read the three names nominated last week on the shortlist for the 2016 Championship Player of the Year award.

Judge, Gray and McCormack were the three names announced and whilst few of us would have been surprised to see the first two on the list, McCormack’s would have been an entirely different matter and surely nobody would have anticipated Alan having a career year that enabled him to scale such heights of achievement!

Doubtless, we would also have felt that retaining the services of Andre Gray and his mounting goal threat, watching live wire and spark plug Alan Judge taking the league by storm and seeing Alan McCormack play his role to perfection as the minder and protector of the more skilful and less physical members of the team, meant that Brentford would have succeeded in building upon the success of last season when they reached the playoffs and perhaps come even closer to achieving their seemingly impossible dream of reaching the Premier League.

Taking that thought just a step further, I wonder just how far last season’s team could have progressed in the highly unlikely circumstances that we had been able to ignore the dictates of Financial Fair Play, the hungry predators waiting to pounce and the economic realities of our situation and managed to keep them all together for another year?

Who knows what the answer would be but that side contained so much burgeoning talent and it is a fair bet that with a couple of additions the team would have threatened to take the division by storm.

Let us now take a brief look at how the players who have left us have fared and examine whether they have furthered their career by leaving Griffin Park for pastures anew, and also how we have coped with their loss.

Moses Odubajo’s departure left a slightly bad taste in the mouth as we had no option but to comply with his release clause which totally undervalued him given the massive progress he had made since moving to fullback after Alan McCormack’s injury at Bolton. It is easy to complain though with the benefit of hindsight!

Moses impressed when playing for England Under 20s last Summer and there is every chance that he will have an International future ahead of him.

He has established himself in a Hull City team that looks as if it is playoff bound and has had a consistent season if not quite matching the heights of last year.

You always miss players of his calibre but Max Colin has proved to be an exceptional replacement who can defend and attack with equal dexterity and Nico Yennaris has also taken his opportunity well at fullback. We are more than covered for his loss.

James Tarkowski left under a cloud in January and is currently waiting patiently for his chance in a Burnley team that is on the verge of returning to the Premier League.

Any judgement on him is still clouded by the unpleasant and unprofessional way that he helped engineer his transfer through his controversial refusal to play against Burnley and the problems that it caused us in its wake.

He remains a genius in embryo, a frustrating combination of superlatives and pratfalls where he is just as likely to glide past three opponents as he is to overreach himself through overconfidence and lack of concentration and set up a soft goal for the opposition.

Yoann Barbet has settled down well as his replacement and is rapidly learning on the job. He has the ability to hit accurate long passes as Preston and Bristol City found out to their cost but shares his predecessor’s penchant for overplaying at times. Tarky is currently a far better bet given his extra experience but Barbet is fast improving, is a potential star, and we have certainly looked more balanced playing a left footer on his natural side.

There is not much more to write about Jonathan Douglas than has already been remarked about at great length here and elsewhere. He had a massively impressive first half of last season but his performances gradually tailed off as he was grossly overplayed by Mark Warburton. Even so he was highly influential and provided a shield for the back four as well as making effective late runs in to the area and scoring a career high eight goals.

He has done enough at Ipswich this season to earn a contract extension but his overall influence is waning and I believe that we are missing a similar type of player rather than the man himself and I have no regrets at his having left. Konstantin Kerschbaumer and Josh McEachran have both attempted to take over the mantle of being the all action box-to-box midfielder we crave but neither has really fitted the bill and there is a yawning chasm still waiting to be filled, perhaps by Yennaris. The biggest influence Douglas has had on our season was in injuring the majestic Jota, an action which cost us his services for the first four months of the season.

Toumani Diagouraga is another whose departure has hurt us more in the short term given his obvious ability and more unexpectedly his newfound goal scoring prowess that has emerged since he joined Leeds! Nico Yennaris has emerged as an unexpected hidden talent now that he has been given his belated opportunity to cement his place in midfield but I expect at least one new face to arrive in the Summer who will challenge for a place as a covering midfielder. As for Toumani, it was the right decision to allow an unhappy player to leave the club for a more than realistic transfer fee.

Stuart Dallas might possibly have jumped ship a bit early as he would surely have been a near automatic choice for us this season had he remained. He might well retort that he is now earning more money playing for a bigger club than Brentford, but with a mere four goals and five assists he has not really pulled up any trees at Elland Road and I am not convinced that their style of play really suits him. We have lacked a goalscoring winger all season and his directness and readiness to shoot on sight have been sorely missed. He has been a real loss.

Alex Pritchard’s brilliance in the second half of last season made it a total certainty that he would not be returning to Brentford and indeed, he was expected to be challenging for a place in the Spurs team of all stars however a serious ankle injury sustained when playing for the England Under 21 team has ensured that a season that promised so much has instead become a total write off as he has barely featured for either Spurs or West Brom.

Alan Judge took over his mantle as playmaker at Brentford and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams with a massive return of fourteen goals and eleven assists but we have come nowhere near replacing the skill, effervescence and goal threat of last season’s midfield. How could we?

John Swift has enjoyed a tough baptism of fire but has shown signs of developing into a real talent and his tally of six goals is highly impressive for one so inexperienced. He, Judge, McCormack, Saunders, McEachran, Kerschbaumer, Yennaris and the highly promising Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos have all ensured that our midfield remains the strongest part of the current squad but in Jota, Pritchard, Judge, Douglas, Diagouraga, backed up by Dallas and Toral we possessed perhaps the finest midfield at the club in living memory.

At first sight, Andre Gray has been perhaps our biggest loss given the twenty-two goals he has added to the two he scored for the Bees right at the start of the season. He has developed into the most dangerous striker in the division and there are no limits to the heights that he can achieve given his improvement this season since he joined Burnley.

Of course we have missed his eager running and predatory instincts in front of goal but between them Vibe, Hofmann, Djuricin and Hogan have almost matched him as they have scored twenty-one times between the four of them – a really impressive total, and proof that we have managed pretty well without Gray even if none of our current strikers can compare with him in terms of individual quality.

That is a trend that in my view has been repeated throughout the squad. We have without doubt lost the services of a large number of exceptionally talented players who blended together so well to form last season’s wonderful team, but when you look more closely you can quite clearly see that whilst some have been missed more than others, most of their replacements have stepped up to the mark and have been hits  rather than misses and they are all still improving as they gradually acclimatise to a new situation.

The overall success of last season has not, of course, been equalled and perhaps never could be given our current resources but the reality of our performances this season on both a team and individual basis is far more impressive than the myth.

Finally my apologies for my really poor and obvious Alan McCormack joke at the beginning of this article and many congratulations to Andre Gray, the Championship Player of the Year as well as to the runners up, Alan Judge and of course ROSS McCormack of Fulham!

Mixed Blessings – 10/4/16

On the surface this has probably been the best week of the season for Brentford with three consecutive wins over former Premier League teams, nine points gained that have seen us shoot up the table into thirteenth position, our Championship place as good as guaranteed for next season, and nine goals scored, five of them by Lasse Vibe who has suddenly and not before time emerged as the prolific and deadly marksman we thought we were buying and who has now scored a more than creditable twelve goals this season.

Ipswich Town became our latest victims and lambs to the slaughter as a determined and well organised Brentford team which broke forward with purpose and menace comfortably took the points and thus gained their first ever victory at Portman Road.

Every silver lining has a cloud and the gloss was taken off the victory and totally overshadowed by the awful injury sustained by Alan Judge who has suffered a broken leg after an horrendous challenge by Luke Hyam. There is much that I want to say about the circumstances relating to this injury as well as its ramifications for the player and his current club.

My blood is also boiling at the crass, one-eyed and indefensible comments expressed immediately after the match by the Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy, a man whom I had up until now held in high esteem, but no longer do so. Given how spitting mad, upset and concerned I am feeling, along I am sure with every Brentford supporter I am delighted that Stephen Burke had already kindly offered to provide me with a match report from yesterday’s game, just as he did for the same match last season.

He did a fine job then and I hope you share my opinion that he has surpassed himself today. By publishing his excellent work now it also allows me a day or so in which to cool off and gather my thoughts about the Alan Judge situation on which I will write very shortly, hopefully in a calmer, more objective and less emotional frame of mind, as if I put pen to paper today I believe that the libel lawyers might well be combing through my words and that they would find much to interest them.

Here is what Stephen had to say and many thanks to him yet again for his perceptive contribution:

It was quite a remarkable afternoon at Ipswich for Brentford FC.

It was our third victory in a row in just a week, with nine goals scored and Lasse Vibe responsible for five of them, after fans despaired about our lack of a striker. Our future in the Championship was also secured for another season.

It was our first ever victory at Portman Road against Ipswich – and our first win against “The Tractor Boys” since 1955.

And the three-one victory looked a very distant dream just couple of minutes into the game when Alan Judge lay on the ground in extreme pain after an awful tackle. With our best player taken out and replaced by Konstantin Kerschbaumer, who has consistently disappointed, it seemed like Brentford would be in for a long and difficult afternoon.

But the nine minute break as Judgey was treated and then carried from the pitch in obvious distress seemed to motivate and unify Brentford and shock Ipswich.

The home team had started on the front foot, pushing high up the pitch and causing jitters around several hurried clearances by David Button. Then came the terrible tackle on Judge which surely merited a red not yellow card for Luke Hyam.

But the Bees regrouped and started pressing themselves, forcing mistakes from a vulnerable Ipswich defence. Brentford looked much more like scoring, which was not surprising given that Ipswich had not scored in their last three matches. Their hopes of a play-off place this season were hanging by a thread. But they failed to compete with a buzzing Brentford.

The home crowd were clearly nervous too. Apart from the Bees fans, Portman Road was near silent. “Is this a library?” sang the Bees fans, who booed Hyam every time he touched the ball.

Vibe had already forced errors in the home defence and Kerschbaumer also missed a chance, before he redeemed himself by winning possession from Skuse, who claimed a foul, driving towards the byline and pulling the ball back to Sam Saunders. His neat and instant curling finish put the Bees a goal up just before the half hour.

The Bees kept pushing forward and could have had a second goal. Instead just before the end of the first half, Hyam tangled with Ryan Woods and was given a second yellow card for retaliation and dismissed – belated justice had been served but far too late.

This seemed to spur Ipswich on. They forced a couple of corners and Button saved well as added time amounted to nine minutes for the Judge injury.

Ipswich made two changes at half-time. On came Jonathan Douglas, the former Bees skipper, and veteran striker, David McGoldrick, as Ipswich tried to regain the initiative.

Douglas’s appearance was one of a number of sub-plots in the afternoon. It was odd that he hadn’t started the match but perhaps he had paid the price for missing a clear chance in the previous Ipswich home game. Douglas was on the front cover of the programme which featured an interview with the Irishman. Still, he was jeered by Brentford fans whenever he got the ball and looked a shadow of the player we saw at Griffin Park last season. Douglas has now earned a contract extension for next season given the appearances he has made in the current campaign but he looks like a player way past his best. There was also no sign of two other former Bees – Jay Tabb and Tommy Smith.

Ipswich started the second half on the front foot but after twenty minutes Brentford took control against the ten men. The second goal on sixty-four minutes was exceptionally well-worked. Ryan Woods who had a good afternoon in the heart of midfield played an excellent ball through to Colin, wide on the right. His perfect cross was headed deftly in by Vibe who perfectly concertinaed his body shape to meet a ball that appeared to be behind him. Just four minutes later Vibe dispossessed Berra from a home throw-in and raced towards goal before placing the ball perfectly past the Ipswich keeper with a perfect outside of the right foot finish.

When was the last time a Brentford player scored a brace in two consecutive games and five in a week? Vibe seems like a player transformed since the international break. His confidence is high and he ran all over the pitch, making life very difficult for Ipswich’s defence. he has now scored twelve goals this season, a more than decent tally.

At three-nil it was job done for the Bees. It could have been more, not least when Sergi Canos capped a good game with a stunning, dipping, deflected shot that hit the bar.

Inevitably it was a mistake – by Alan McCormack – that allowed Ipswich in for a late consolation goal. Until then, every time an Ipswich player had sight of goal in the second half, they shot over or wide, clearly lacking in confidence. Dean and Barbet had been immense in defence, snuffing out any opportunities.

Make no mistake, Ipswich were very poor. They didn’t look like a team on the edge of the playoffs. They relied too often on the long ball and were weak defensively, particularly down the Brentford right. Their fans started leaving after the  third goal went in and a flypast by a flock of seagulls was probably their most entertaining part of the match.  

What a difference a year makes. Just over twelve months ago, Ipswich and Brentford played out a hard-fought draw as they competed for what seemed then like the last playoff place.

A year on, the future looks far brighter for Brentford. A top ten place is again a real possibility for the Bees, with Kerschbaumer, Gogia and Hogan getting a chance to show what they can do. Ipswich are simply a neanderthal team led by a dinosaur of a manager, full of experienced players well past their best playing a horrible, outmoded and dated brand of football.

All of which is remarkable given the injuries that Brentford have endured this season. Let’s hope Alan Judge recovers as quickly as possible. A fully fit and functioning squad would make 2016/17 very exciting indeed. Bring on Aston Villa – and Ipswich!  

Pointing The Finger! – 22/3/16

Immediately after the disappointment of the Blackburn Rovers defeat on Saturday I gave my suggestions concerning what we should do next and how the team and management should use the International Break productively in order to both rest up and also prepare for the next crucial batch of eight matches in April which will decide our immediate fate.

I also suggested that a change of formation as well as approach would probably serve us well as if the way we are playing at the moment continually fails to provide results, as has been the case, then you need to change it or risk more failure.

Rightly or wrongly it has always been my stated policy to provide Brentford supporters of all persuasions with the platform within this column to express their own opinions. Sometimes I agree with them to a greater or lesser extent, more often I do not, but despite our differences we all share a passion for the Bees and are in awe of what Matthew Benham has done to revitalise our club, and it also provides a catalyst for other supporters to respond and have their say.

Lately emotions and tempers have been rising and patience and tolerance are in short supply, hardly surprising given the events since the turn of the year and I can well understand why people feel the way that they do.

By sharing conflicting opinions on the club I am not trying to rebel rouse, neither am I aiming to cause mischief or gain attention for myself and I have urged us supporters many times to unite and get behind our team at such a crucial time when perhaps our ambitious plans for the immediate future are at risk should we return to the lower divisions. Inquests and recriminations can wait until later.

I fully intend to continue as I have done and today welcome back Jim Levack who has been a regular contributor to this column and he now shares his view about what is happening at the club, how we have allowed ourselves to get into this mess and what can be done to improve matters and I concur with some but not all of what he has to say:

In almost half a century of watching Brentford I can’t recall a time when the club has been more riven by division than now. Fans fighting fans, terrace arguments, acrimonious and frequently personal internet battles, the current situation is sad beyond belief.

Not even during the dark days of Webb and Noades were the fans so divided over the right way to take the club forward. I have my own personal view of where the blame lies for this rift but it’s an opinion far too unpopular and incendiary to ever share.

Irrespective of what I think, one message board has almost four thousand posts on the subject of Dean Smith and a relatively low thirteen hundred on the subject of the Co-Directors of Football.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.

Because Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen are Matthew Benham’s right hand men, they have inexplicably escaped much of the criticism for the current slide towards the trapdoor.

Why? Their job is, as the club widely and foolishly proclaimed last season, to identify undiscovered talent with potential to avoid paying the ludicrous transfer fees and wages that make other clubs financially unstable.

I say foolishly because the second we did so and effectively got rid of Mark Warburton – no, he wasn’t sacked but we made his position untenable – the whole football world turned against us to the extent that if we now move for a player it sets alarm bells ringing.

No problem with the concept though. The strategy makes perfect sense for a club with limited revenue streams like Brentford. But why did we feel the need to shout about it?

Strip the whole thing down and the players we’ve brought in – Woods and Colin being notable exceptions – are patently not ready to play in a thriving Championship side, let alone one fighting for survival.

Last season’s side had a great balance, strong competition for places and a ruthless edge.

If Pritchard got knocked about, Douglas was there to drag him to his feet and snarl at the bloke who did it.

Diagouraga, if the ball did get past the midfield, mopped up the bits and pieces and gave it away simply and accurately, a fulcrum if you like.

Tarkowski and Dean were a peerless combination, Gray was powerful, quick and usually clinical, the likes of McCormack couldn’t get a start.

When Pritchard wasn’t doing it we had Jota, Dallas, Toral, or even Odubajo bombing on as well as Judge, all capable of producing a moment of magic.

We effectively had a four-pronged attack as well as creative, vibrant, skilful, quick options on the bench who could change a game that was drifting away from us.

Saunders and Yennaris were plying their trade in League Two. Now they are pivotal to our survival.

Don’t think for a second I’m denigrating the current squad in any way. They are, mostly, technically strong with huge potential, but are being asked to do the job of seasoned professionals with several years knowledge of the Championship. That’s not fair or sensible.

Josh McEachran is a case in point. We were told that he was the Douglas replacement. Don’t make me laugh!

Skilful yes, intelligent occasionally, but a ball winner? I’m sorry. The sooner he casts off the Chelsea starlet tag and starts bossing games as his talent suggests he surely can, the better. He was given the opportunity when Blackburn went down to ten men and singularly failed to take it.

Now we have a midfield lacking steel and stature that is overrun on a weekly basis.

McEachran and Woods are so similar it’s painful to watch, Judge has drifted into an I’ll play where I want thanks mentality to the side’s detriment, and Canos and Swift are young lads with huge potential who would benefit from a protector alongside them.

The best football teams are combinations of different characters, personalities, types of players, but if I had to pick one word to describe the current Brentford side, it would be lightweight.

Dean Smith must go posts and worse have littered social media whilst Rasmus and Phil have got off relatively lightly.

Grossly unfair in my view as they have effectively assembled this squad for Smith whose use of the word “finally” on bringing in Leandro last week was perhaps the first public hint of his frustration.

It’s far too easy to go to the other extreme and actually blame the Co-Directors of Football for everything too, as I’m sure they are moving heaven and earth to bring in loanees. Their reputations are, after all, on the line here.

I know that several quality players have been lined up for the Summer, but I’m guessing they won’t want to play in League One so we need to sort out this mess soon or I fear for our immediate future.

As Greville confirmed in his interview recently, Phil Giles comes across as a likeable, thoughtful and decent bloke doing his best and I’m sure he’s crunching the numbers to get it right, but sometimes football is – as I said at the time of Warburton’s exit – about far more than numbers.

As far Rasmus, I’m not entirely sure what his role is or the extent of his involvement at Brentford so it’s probably unfair to comment. Suffice to say that I’m sure he’s feeling the pain the same as Giles.

What I will say though is that the signings of Gogia – remember him? – and Kerschbaumer epitomise the malaise surrounding our new system.

I’ve watched Kerschbaumer closely when he’s played and although he may well become a decent player in the future, his positional awareness is poor. The best players have an unerring ability to be in the right place at the right time and if I’m honest it’s an innate ability and not one easily learned.

The ball never breaks to him because he’s constantly out of position. When it does, he’s brushed off it far too easily at the moment.

Now, after all the carefully placed pro-pieces in the media surrounding our strategy, whenever we approach a club or agent they think one of three things:

  • This lad must be better than we think if Brentford are in for him.
  • We can get more money for him if Brentford think he’s good.
  • If Brentford want him and see something in him, then bigger clubs will too so I can get him more money in wages.

Last season I read somewhere that Matthew Benham’s theory meant that a side near the bottom wasn’t necessarily bad because over the course of a campaign things even themselves out as luck plays its part. Right now though I’m reminded of the saying “you make your own luck in this game.”

The bottom line is that most Brentford fans with a brain have seen for many months that we lack steel, guile, bottle, balls, size, strength or whatever you want to call it. So why couldn’t Giles and Ankersen when the window was open?

If it’s because we don’t want to play that way and won’t abandon our principles then that’s arrant nonsense and, I hate to say it, arrogant in the extreme.

We also lack quality where it matters, but I accept that only comes at a price and, if rumours of a sudden cash squeeze are to be believed, it’s one we’re not prepared to pay whatever the outcome.

However, and here’s the stark truth, we are now staring trips to Northampton and Oxford in the face unless the squad is strengthened fast or the approach or pattern of play changes.

My fear is that a refusal to stray from the principles of finding young fringe Premier League players – unless they are exceptional talents – will not help our cause at a time when we currently need people with knowledge of this league.

To bleat on about Smith not being able to motivate the same side Lee Carsley had at his disposal is a red herring.

Carsley had Tarkowski and Diagouraga, two key players who both, in differing ways, played their part in ensuring the back four didn’t look vulnerable.

Importantly he was also given a short-term brief by Matthew Benham to steady the ship, stop the rot and stabilise by whatever means possible after the Dijkhuizen departure.

By contrast Smith has been told to work towards a longer term project with far less quality to call on. I might be wrong but I’d put a few bob on the fact that in confidential company, he isn’t happy at having his reputation put on the line by the club’s lack of activity in January, however valid the reasons for doing so.

That same lack of activity and dare I say it Big New Ambitions will, I hope, be reflected in season ticket prices for next season when people will adopt a once bitten, twice shy approach.

So what is the solution? To stick or twist? It’s a dilemma that Matthew Benham, as a gambling man, may well be relishing but I for one am not.

It’s fairly obvious to me – bring in a quick, pacy young winger on the fringes of a Premier League start and a mid-twenties defensive midfielder with a bit of bite and Championship know-how because a youngster in that role simply won’t do given our current predicament.

Maybe easier said than done at this stage of the campaign given our cash constraints, but the financial ramifications of relegation will be far more damaging than a few extra quid shelled out now.

I’ll leave the final word to this probably over long ramble to Jeff Stelling, whose stunning on screen analysis of Aston Villa’s season and predicament made me sit up with a start.

Without detriment to our new signings – some of whom may well go on to be real assets to the club IN TIME – or our scapegoat manager, there are clear parallels to be drawn.

If you haven’t seen it take a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL_zCdeIyQ8

Meeting Phil Giles – 11/3/16

Good communication with your customers is paramount in any successful organisation and is something that should be a given in today’s world of social media and instant access to news and information and the near impossibility of keeping matters under wraps.

Unfortunately many football clubs have lagged far behind the times, seemingly taking the unquestioned loyalty of their fans for granted, smug and complacent in the knowledge that unlike consumers in practically any other sphere of business activity, real supporters are wedded to their team for life and would never contemplate changing their allegiance to a rival however much they are tempted to do so.

Brentford have always made a point of bucking the trend and in recent years there has been a succession of managers, chairmen, owners and chief executives willing to put their head over the parapet and engage with the supporters at a series of Fans’ Forums which have generally resulted in an exchange of views and in fans being kept in the loop.

Given the fact that the services of former Head Coach Marinus Dijkhuizen were disposed of immediately after the last such event when all had been made to appear in public to be sweetness and light between him and senior club management, there has been an urgent need to rebuild some bridges particularly given the rising concern over recent results as well as the sale of key players without the squad being replenished.

With the exception of an interview ten years ago and a quite brilliant and totally bizarre and left-field on line Q&A last season, both held on The Griffin Park Grapevine plus a few carefully crafted and placed articles within the national media, owner Matthew Benham has kept out of the spotlight and refrained from communicating with the Brentford fanbase given that to do so is not within his nature or something that he feels comfortable about doing.

That all changed the other day when he met with the crew at Beesotted and gave them a fascinating in-depth interview which I commend to you all and urge you to read if you have not already done so. He answered many key questions about the current situation and how he sees the future developing and his commitment and ambition thankfully cannot be doubted.

I therefore thought that it would, in tandem, be useful, interesting and illuminating to seek out the views of Co-Director of Football Phil Giles and he was kind enough to spare me the time to meet yesterday as well as answer many of the questions that Brentford supporters would hopefully like to ask him in order for him to clarify his role and how he operates.

Ideally his responses below should be read in conjunction with Matthew Benham’s Beesotted interview as hopefully the two complement each other and viewed together provide a thorough and contemporaneous insight into the thinking, approach and aspirations of the people who are running our club.

Here is what Phil had to say and I hope you find his answers as illuminating as I did:

Introduction

Greville, many thanks for inviting me to contribute to your blog. I’ve tried to address as many of your questions as possible – and it was quite a long list of questions!

Rather than answer each individually, I’ve broken down the questions into sections and written about each one in turn. Hopefully this gives a bit more insight into what we’re doing.

This Season And The Summer

I understand the current frustrations among our fans. Many of them made their feelings known at the end of the Charlton game. There have been lots of changes at the club in the last year, and we, collectively as a club, haven’t consistently reached the same levels of performance as last season. The league table will tell you as much.

However, there are still eleven games to go this season and here is what we want to achieve between now and the end of the season:

We want to finish the season as strongly as possible. We have a young team – three of our four defenders against Charlton are twenty-two years old. Harlee is only twenty-four. The midfield that started against Charlton are twenty-three, twenty, twenty-two, nineteen and twenty-seven (Judge). Djuricin is twenty-three. The experience the players gain over the coming weeks will serve us well next season. With experience will come consistency – we were very good against Wolves, but not so good four days later at Rotherham.

We will bring in a loan player if we feel we can improve the team and our long term prospects.

We are already planning our summer recruitment. We didn’t add anyone in January because the players we wanted were overpriced. As Matthew also said this week, we intend to add good players in the Summer.

We want to finish with some good performances by playing the Brentford way, and would like everyone associated with the club to be united in a positive outlook ahead of the summer.

Longer Term Ambitions For The Club

If we ranked all Championship clubs by revenue we’d be right at the bottom of the league. The new stadium is an important step to allowing us to compete on a more level playing field.

The long term ambition is to build a financially sustainable club that plays at the highest level possible. The quickest route to sustainability is to earn promotion. That is our ultimate target, but we’re not in a position to do what other clubs have done recently by investing huge sums in the team. We’ll have to find a different way of doing it and take a few risks along the way. Some of those risks will work, and some won’t, that is the nature of taking chances. It’s important that we learn from what works and what does not along the way – and we will do.

Football Staff – Roles And Responsibilities

I’ll try to set out the specific roles that Rasmus and I play at the Club here.

Let me begin by saying that whenever one of us gives and interview or makes a statement, we do so on behalf of both of us.

I have spent one hundred percent of my time on Brentford since I started in the job. Ras spends half of his time with Brentford and half with FC Midtjylland. We aren’t always visible but we are working hard to help build a long term sustainable and successful club.

Ras and I have different strengths so we dovetail quite well I think. He tends to focus on the big picture and thinks about things in the longer term. For example, he has been reviewing our Academy and considering how it can compete with every other club that wants to basically do exactly the same as us.

I am more focused on the details and making things work in practice on a day to day basis. We have put in place several management processes to improve the way we operate – it’s the sort of stuff that shouldn’t be noticed if it’s working properly. For example, I was keen to make sure that the football department gives every support needed to the Brentford Community Sports Trust, and we’ve reviewed the process to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligations in that respect.

I manage the recruitment process and negotiate the contracts, but I tend not to get too involved in watching or evaluating players. It’s important to realise your strengths and weaknesses, and I’m certainly not a qualified coach or scout. My strengths are more on the management and organisational side – making sure we build a club with strong foundations for the future.

There’s room for all types of backgrounds in football I think. Accountants and lawyers are prevalent in football and involved in all transfers, although their work tends to be in the background. Part of my job is making sure that the relevant skills are brought into play at the right stage of the recruitment and negotiation process.

The “football man” is essential in identifying a player and creating a development plan for that player, but the “executives” are needed to make sure that any deal makes legal and financial sense for the club, and that proper processes and protocols are followed.

We set out the qualities that Dean Smith brings to the role of Head Coach when he joined us – he is experienced, has good leadership skills, wants to play in the Brentford way and has an excellent track record of developing young players. He has had to deal with both the Jota and Tarky situations, and we weren’t able to add players in January which was the first opportunity he had to influence our transfer policy. We are working very closely together both on current projects and longer term planning, including our recruitment plans for the summer.

Relationships With Other Clubs.

I’d like to think that our relationships with other clubs are very good, in particular with some of the top Premier League clubs. That is a continuation of some of the efforts put in during previous seasons which allowed us to loan Pritchard and Toral last year, and Swift and Canos this season.

We tend to spread the load of building relationships with other clubs across several of the staff, rather than relying on one or two people to be solely responsible, since if those one or two people leave then the club can’t build and grow optimally in the long term. For example, Dean has pre-existing contacts which we’ve made use of, as does Ras, Rob Rowan and others including myself.

In terms of the rest of the football world, I’d like to think most people see Brentford as a well regarded Championship club that goes about things in the right way. I think we look after our players very well. We’ve had some good meetings with other clubs about how we do things and whether there are some mutually beneficial things that we can work on together.

If there is an opportunity to sign a loan player permanently then we will consider taking that opportunity – the policy hasn’t changed from that which brought Bidwell and Forshaw to the club.

Players And Recruitment

I will try to set out the general process by which we identify and sign players.

Ras and I have regular meetings with the coaching staff. At those meetings we will go through the squad and discuss our key requirements. That information will be passed to the scouting team, along with profiles of the type of players we’re looking for. The scouting team will use every available resource to identify players – they watch games, they speak to contacts and agents, and they use data where appropriate. We will do as much research into the character and personality of each player as possible. A selection of potential targets will be fed back to the coaches, who will review the options and prioritise targets.

From there we will decide on which players to target, approach the clubs and finally speak to the players. This is predominantly my responsibility, as described above. Dean and Richard have a huge input into the type of players we want to target, and who we eventually try to sign or sell. Their input is the most important part of the whole process.

In my experience there hasn’t been a single occasion where we’ve not been able to reach a collective agreement on a transfer. Sometimes we all need to compromise a bit to get things done, but that is a normal part of the management process as far as I’m concerned.

I suspect that this process isn’t too different from other clubs, although perhaps we place greater emphasis on certain elements than others. It is essential that we do this however, since we aren’t in a position to employ a large team of scouts who can be at every game. This goes back to the idea that we need to take some risks in order to compete with clubs that have greater income. If we scout in exactly the same way as other teams, then most likely our results will be defined by our budget in the long term.

The data that we have access to isn’t too different to many other clubs, but it’s what you do with it that’s the important thing. I think that the background of some of the management team allows us to do some interesting and sometimes complicated proprietorial stuff with that data. Statistics and data analysis is my background although I don’t do so much of it these days. In reality it’s only one of the tools we have, complementing the more traditional approaches where it makes sense.

Sometimes we fail to sign players that we target. I think it’s healthy to sometimes miss out on players – if we always signed every player that we targeted then it probably means that we’re either overpaying or that no other clubs want to sign our targets. We always have an up to date list of other potential and viable targets so there is always a next player on the list.

Disclosing transfer fees and alerting other clubs to how much we can afford to pay for players, or how much income we receive from sales, doesn’t offer us any competitive advantage over those teams, which is why the terms are normally undisclosed.

Were we in a stronger position on the pitch after January 2016? As I said in an interview for the club website in February, it is impossible for me to state that the squad was stronger having sold two players and Jota having left on loan. However, we took all those decisions with the long term interests of the club at heart.

I understand that this is frustrating for fans, especially in the light of recent results. However, I am absolutely determined that we’ll be in a stronger position in the long term for having taken the difficult decisions now regarding players who, ultimately, didn’t see themselves as a long term part of Brentford’s plans.

The strategy for the summer is simple – we’ll try to sign good players who improve the squad and who ultimately win us football matches and move us up the table. We’ve signed good players in the past, and we’ll do so in the future.

Miscellaneous

Here is one example of how we’ve found the link with FC Midtjylland useful. They played Manchester United twice recently. It was a perfect opportunity for people associated with both Brentford and FC Midtjylland to meet the key Manchester United staff and continue the process of developing relationships, which as I discussed earlier is an important part of what we do.

I think we’ve been very unlucky this season with injuries but we don’t think that is anything other than bad luck. Some of the injuries have been quite freakish. Hopefully we’ll get more luck next season.

With regards to the cup competitions, we underestimated the strength of Oxford in the League Cup. In the FA Cup, we had three games in six days and the Walsall game was the first of those. We fielded a team that we believed should be able to beat Walsall, but didn’t. It was a match worth winning in hindsight and otherwise. We don’t ever field a team not intending to win the match, and we’ll continue to look to win every cup game that we play.

I enjoyed the couple of hours that I spent with Phil and found him to be pleasant, bright, thoughtful, open minded and good company. He takes his time and thinks before he speaks and his words are clipped and carefully chosen. He was certainly polite and endlessly patient given the voluminous number of questions that I had posed him in advance but he shirked no issue, he neither prevaricated nor refrained from answering anything that I asked him although some matters were only discussed on an off the record basis which I have respected given his reasonable concerns about commercial confidentiality and the disclosure of proprietary information.

That being said his answers were controlled, carefully composed and organised and I am quite certain that he revealed nothing to me other than what he had originally intended to do – and why, indeed, should he to a total stranger who he knew was intending to go public with what he had heard?

Pleasingly, he is also a true soccer aficionado and finally came alive when discussing the fortunes of his beloved Newcastle United and he exhibited an encyclopaedic knowledge of their marvellously exciting squad of the mid to late 90s and could see the clear parallel with the Brentford of last season when I described them as everybody’s favourite second team.

Phil is well aware of his strengths and weaknesses, what he has yet to learn and the need to be part of a team ethos where between them all necessary skills and expertise are provided.

He is a highly impressive young man thankfully devoid of arrogance with a bright and enquiring mind who will push boundaries, innovate and explore new options.

We are in good hands.

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!