I spent some of yesterday afternoon relaxing on the sofa and perusing all the team lineups from Saturday’s first matches of the new season. I always enjoy looking at what has taken place at all ninety-two clubs over the summer and checking out who has joined them in the close season and who, indeed, has left. Time was when the same names reassuringly appeared on teamsheets year after year but things have changed as with freedom of contract, the influence of agents, cost cutting and natural wastage there now appears to be a much more rapid turnover of players at all levels of the game. There are also more and more unknown trialists from across the globe who seem to appear from out of the blue, have their brief moment in the sun and rapidly disappear without trace.
Brentford are a prime example, as ten players have left Griffin Park and eight have arrived since the end of last season. No wonder it is hard for supporters to keep up with all the comings and goings.
The Daily Telegraph used to publish a list of all the transfers in and out of each club which was regularly updated throughout the summer but it does not seem to have been published this year so it took me quite some time to discover more about some of the new names I unearthed during my research.
As is my custom, I was looking to see how many former Brentford players, both permanent and loanees I could find still plying their trade elsewhere in the football pyramid. Given the rapid recent turnover of players at the club I expected to find quite a few, and I wasn’t to be disappointed.
There were slim pickings in the Premier League and I was only able to unearth Lewis Grabban who missed an early open goal when playing for Norwich against his old club, Crystal Palace, former loanee Jeffrey Schlupp now a regular at Leicester City as a marauding left back and Steve Sidwell who came on as a late substitute for Stoke City and was turned with embarrassing ease by Philippe Coutinho before he smashed in the winning goal. I had been hopeful that Alex Pritchard would use his wonderful season at Brentford as a springboard to at least a place on the Spurs bench but injury has so far scuppered his chances. Hopefully Saido Berahino will play for West Brom tonight and bring the number up to four.
More and more former Brentford players are now at rival Championship clubs, proof indeed of our own rising standards, and yesterday’s live Championship bore draw at Preston saw Adam Forshaw dozing gently on the end of the Middlesbrough bench before he was roused from his torpor to play out the last few moments of a dreadfully uninspired match.
Clayton Donaldson helped Birmingham to a victory over Reading and it was his cross which led to a fine headed goal by debutant Jon Toral. I had hoped that we could entice Toral back to Brentford this season but he obviously felt that he would receive more opportunities at Birmingham. Simon Cox almost saved the day when he won a last minute penalty for Reading but it was squandered. Surprisingly, Jordan Rhodes is still at Blackburn Rovers despite several offers from Middlesbrough and Darren Pratley also started for Bolton Wanderers. Two very recent former Bees also featured, in Jonathan Douglas, a late Ipswich substitute at Griffin Park and Stuart Dallas who almost marked his debut for Leeds with goal with a brilliant effort that was pushed onto the crossbar by Burnley keeper Tom Heaton. Tom Adeyemi also made his debut for Leeds on Saturday.
Simon Moore flubbed his lines when given a rare chance to start for Cardiff City, misjudging a Ben Pringle cross which allowed Matt Smith to score a gift goal for Fulham. Dean Bowditch’s goal also helped MK Dons to a comfortable win at Rotherham watched by Lee Hodson on the bench.
Brentford were also well represented in League One. John Mousinho led Burton to an opening day victory over Scunthorpe but Alfie Mawson’s debut for Barnsley was less memorable as they subsided to defeat at Chesterfield. Harry Forrester scored for Doncaster with a perfectly judged thirty yard lob, but unfortunately his technique let him down as he had simply been trying to return the ball to the Bury keeper after an injury break and Doncaster manager Paul Dickov sportingly ordered his defence to allow Leon Clarke to walk through them for an immediate equaliser. Myles Weston also helped Southend to a point at Fleetwood. Million pound striker Will Grigg made his debut for Wigan but missed a good opportunity to equalise at Coventry.
Stuart Nelson was back in goal for Gillingham who hammered promotion favourite Sheffield United, aided and abetted by an early poacher’s goal from Luke Norris. Josh Wright also made a late appearance from the bench. Kyle Vassell was forced to endure Peterborough’s dismal defeat at Rochdale from the bench. Tony Craig skippered Millwall to an excellent win at Shrewsbury and Nathan Byrne was the star of the show with a sixteen minute hat trick for Swindon against Bradford City for whom Billy Clarke missed a vital penalty kick, and James Wilson played at centre half for Oldham Athletic.
In League Two Jake Reeves and Karleigh Osborne were unable to prevent AFC Wimbledon slumping to a home defeat by Plymouth Argyle. Nicky Adams helped Northampton to a win at Bristol Rovers and Leon Legge made his debut for a totally revamped Cambridge United team for whom Robbie Simpson scored a late goal. Craig Woodman is still at Exeter City, as is Clinton Morrison, and they beat a Yeovil team for whom Marc Laird and Ryan Dickson played and Ryan was tripped for a penalty kick.
Leyton Orient had Sammy Moore in midfield as they defeated Barnet for whom John Akinde led their attack. Matt Harrold is still at Crawley and came off the bench at Oxford United. Goalkeeper Liam O’Brien was an unused Dagenham substitute at Portsmouth. Dean Wells had a brief first team career at Brentford over a decade ago and remains a regular at Stevenage for whom Fraser Franks now plays.
Four former Brentford players remain at Wycombe and Aaron Pierre, Sam Wood, Marcus Bean and Paul Hayes all played against York City and James Spencer who had a brief loan spell for the Bees back in 2012 is still at Notts County.
I also must not forget the Scottish contingent in Shay Logan, Farid El Alagui and now Rob Kiernan.
One day I will try and repeat the exercise and identify as many ex-Bees as I can within the non league pyramid – if I can find enough hours in the day!