Who’s On First? – 10/8/15

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!

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Playoff Agony! – 12/5/15

I was watching a playoff semifinal second leg on television last night where a team in red was playing at home to a team wearing yellow. The reds went into their home game leading by two goals to one having scored an injury time winner against the run of play in the first leg away to the yellows, who had worn their normal colours of red and white stripes in their home game. The away team came into the second leg feeling cautiously optimistic given the narrowness of their defeat last week, however their hopes were totally and utterly shattered when the home team roared into a seemingly unassailable three goal lead within the first seventeen minutes.

Surely the tie was done and dusted, but the yellows doggedly fought back, scoring twice before the break, but they could never quite catch up and near the end were trailing by five goals to three on the night and by three goals overall, before two late goals by the brave and persistent visitors tied the score at five goals each. The yellows now only needed one more goal to force extra time and fate finally seemed on their side when the officials signalled an unlikely seven minutes of added time.

The force was with them as the yellows huffed and puffed and came close to a winner on the night with the home team paralysed by nerves and their supporters howling and shrieking for the final whistle, but, despite a few close shaves, their entreaties were finally heard and time eventually ran out for the brave visitors. The reds had triumphed by seven goals to six on aggregate after what was probably the most exciting playoff match I have ever seen, punctuated as it was by a series of great goals, goalmouth scrambles, near misses and some of the most abysmal defending that you could ever hope to see. In other words a coach’s total nightmare and a neutral’s delight.

In case anyone is a bit confused, I was of course referring to last night’s pulsating and unforgettable match between Swindon Town and Sheffield United and can anyone else see the connection and similarities to what happened in the first leg of our playoff semifinal last Friday at Griffin Park and the fact that Middlesbrough will be wearing their normal red shirts and the Bees will be in yellow when we meet again on Friday? Hopefully the only thing that we will have in common with the Yorkshiremen when we play Middlesbrough will be in our scoring five goals away from home although that would certainly be beyond our wildest dreams and an extremely tall order given how few goals Middlesbrough have conceded at home over the course of the Championship season just finished.

Certainly we will have to defend a darn sight better than United did and we certainly cannot expect or count on Boro to be as profligate in defence as Swindon were last night given how gritty, determined and organised they proved to be last week, not to say how dirty they were, fouling with impunity whenever they felt threatened by us. That is for the future as our fate will be decided on Friday and in the meantime we can but dream, count off the minutes, hours and days – and worry!

Given our involvement I have watched all the other playoff matches compulsively and with great interest and I can honestly say that I have yet to see any other team play football of a quality, panache, style and elegance anywhere near that displayed by Brentford. In the other Championship tie, Ipswich proved to be as obdurate and tough as we expected and Norwich too were well organised but possessed slightly more attacking flair. That tie too is poised on a knife edge and could go either way when the two bitter rivals meet again on Saturday.

Preston had a fairly comfortable passage against a Chesterfield team who flattered only to deceive and failed to take any of the chances that they created over the two matches. They could not match the threat of Beckford and Garner who scored all four of Preston’s goals between them. As Graham Westley said on Sunday, it is goals and attacking flair that win playoff games and Beckford proved the truth of that statement with an outrageous long-range effort that more than rivalled Paul Evans’s famous effort for the Bees at Burnley. In Division Two Stevenage and Southend have it all to play for after drawing a rough and tumble first leg which saw referee Keith Stroud’s trigger finger twitching on several occasions when matters threatened to get out of hand, but somehow he resisted the temptation, despite every encouragement given him by two enthusiastic sets of players, who at times lacked control and self-discipline, and restricted himself to awarding a series of yellow cards.

Wycombe Wanderers are, of course, close to our heart given that they are currently fielding no less than seven former or current Bees in their lineup. Sam Saunders, Nico Yennaris and their Player of the Season, Alfie Mawson, are all currently contracted to us however I suspect that only Mawson is seen as having a long term future with Brentford given that he has been offered a new two-year contract. He might decide, as did Luke Norris last year, that it is time for him to move on, but given that he is only twenty-one and is still seen as a potential first team prospect, perhaps he would be best served by extending his contract and having another loan spell away from Griffin Park next season and see how he progresses. It was so pleasing to see Sam Saunders totally dominate the first leg and pull all the strings in midfield, including a beautifully disguised free kick which set up the third Wycombe goal. He so deserves to play a full season in somebody’s first team next season even if it is unlikely to be at Brentford. Nico Yennaris also showed that there is clearly something about him and he has really impressed with his versatility and attacking forays. Maybe the chance could still come next season for a player whose career at Griffin Park has yet to get off the ground? Aaron Pierre, Sam Wood, Paul Hayes and Marcus Bean comprise the contingent of ex-Bees at the club and hopefully they will be able to cling onto, or even extend their narrow one goal lead against Plymouth and earn a richly deserved, if totally unexpected promotion.

What the last few days have demonstrated to me is just how compelling and fascinating the playoffs are to disinterested viewers totally unconnected to any of the competing teams. For supporters whose teams are participating, they are a total nightmare however much you pretend it doesn’t really matter whether your team wins or loses and have done well just to reach the playoffs. Whenever I have sat in front of the television set with my eyes glued to the action, I have tried to switch off and forget that my own team is involved, but I really cannot prevent myself from kicking every ball and putting myself in the place of the supporters of all the other teams I am watching. Well on Thursday night I will be watching the Division Two doubleheader but my mind will be firmly on the Riverside Stadium and our impending date with destiny.

Be Afraid – Be Very Afraid! – 6/4/15

deThere I was late yesterday afternoon having a quick lie down, reduced to a torpid stupor by the utterly appalling and unwatchable Sunderland versus Newcastle non-event, when through eyes half-closed and gummed with sleep I happened to glance at a preview of today’s clash against Nottingham Forest. And there it was, staring me in the face, the name of one of the Assistant Referees – Mathew Buonassisi. In an instant I was restored to a state of complete wakefulness and I discovered to my amazement that I was in a cold sweat.

Mathew Buonassisi – how can the mere sight and sound of that name reduce me to such a condition? Well the answer to that question is pretty obvious when you look back at his chequered history when officiating Brentford matches. I will refrain from describing his appearance but he bears an uncanny resemblance to a well known Hollywood actor, and no, I am afraid it certainly isn’t George Clooney! Anyway, looks are totally superficial, it is how you conduct yourself and do your job that really matters. My first sight of him was on Sky Sports in October 2011 when they covered our Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Charlton. We won comfortably by three goals to nil and Toumani Diagouraga scored our third goal, but then the assistant referee got involved, trying his best to get the referee to disallow it even though the ball clearly rebounded to Toumani off a home defender. Fortunately the referee had seen what had happened and correctly awarded the goal. Guess who that assistant referee was? The first time I saw him in the flesh was at the midweek match against Shrewsbury Town in October 2012. A match of stultifying boredom, ineptly controlled by referee Tim Robinson and enlivened only by two highly controversial incidents described below by Teamtalk.com:

Uwe Rosler’s side survived a late penalty scare. Defender Tony Craig was adjudged to have handled in the box and the referee pointed to the spot, only to reverse the decision after consulting his assistant. Seconds later Brentford’s Paul Hayes had the ball in the net after a Forshaw cross, but was denied by the offside flag.

buonoFor what it is worth Marvin Morgan blasted a shot against Tony Craig from point blank range and the referee, far from the action, nonsensically decided to award a penalty kick but was persuaded to consult an assistant referee (not MB!) before sanity prevailed and his original decision was changed to a corner kick. What I am referring to came at the other end late on in a match which saw a stuttering Brentford team barely threaten. With time running out, Adam Forshaw jinked inside from his position on the left wing (don’t ask me why he was playing there, ask Uwe) and from the edge of the area shot towards the goal through a crowd of players, and there was substitute Paul Hayes to cleverly divert the ball from close range into the opposite corner of the net for what we thought was a late and totally undeserved winner. We rose in celebration but our delight was quickly stifled by a late appearing flag from the assistant – Mathew Buonassisi, even though it was clear that Hayes had judged his run perfectly, but the decision stood and we were denied. Buonassisi had already irked us all night with a hapless performance when literally, and I do mean “literally” every time we got the ball into the Shrewsbury half after the break, according to him it was either a foul by Donaldson or offside, and this was the crowning glory.

I quickly marked him down in my mental notebook as one to watch, for all the wrong reasons, and thankfully we did not see him again until the FA Cup Third Round tie at Southend. We drew a tough match after leading at one stage by two clear goals and it was Barry Corr’s equalising goal that stuck in the craw, as the Brentford website recalls:

Kevan Hurst delivered a free kick from the right and Brentford stepped out en masse, leaving the Southend attackers offside, however, assistant referee Mathew Buonassisi kept his flag down and Corr headed home from 12 yards. Brentford appealed, justifiably claiming their move up had left the attackers offside, but the goal was given.

We can only assume that Buonassisi was sleeping on the job as the Brentford defence, expertly marshalled by Sam Saunders, appeared to time their advance perfectly, leaving Corr stranded and apparently yards offside, but the man who mattered disagreed and the goal was given. According to Uwe Rosler he apologised after the game but in the manager’s opinion this was not good enough. I share this viewpoint. What annoyed me more is that before the match, when the referee and his two assistants were warming up it was Buonassisi who engaged in some lively banter with the Brentford fans behind the goal, even kicking the ball into the goal and clapping and waving in response to some of their ribald chants. He was drawing attention to himself and I feared the worst, as here it seemed was an official who craved the spotlight, and my concerns were eventually justified when he made his fatal error in the second half.

3053104922The last time he appeared at Griffin Park was in late October last year when we played Sheffield Wednesday and my stomach lurched when I saw that familiar figure lurking on the Braemar Road touchline. This time he struck early:

The Bees thought they had taken the lead in the 10th minute but Andre Gray’s side-footed finish from Jota’s cross was ruled out for offside. Mark Warburton commented: “We believe Andre was onside when he scored and the video backs that up, but there is little we can do about it after the event.”

Jota had turned the Wednesday defence inside out and sold them an outrageous dummy that had the entire crowd on their feet before crossing low for Gray to surely run past the last defender to score, but Mathew Buonassisi knew better, the flag was raised triumphantly and we were denied yet again.

Perhaps I am bring unreasonable, perhaps he is simply doing his job to the best of his ability and I am certainly not so paranoid as to even suggest that he has something against Brentford, but he has proved to be totally inept and it is fair to say that he has a lot of previous with us and that we have never benefitted from one of his decisions. I will do my best to ignore him this afternoon and maybe, just maybe, the game will pass without incident, but somehow I doubt it!

Agent Lee As Fifth Columnist leaves for Fulham? – 28/3/15

lewisWell the loan window slammed shut on Thursday afternoon with barely a whimper from Griffin Park. As expected, no fresh blood arrived as Mark Warburton has made it patently clear on many occasions recently that he feels that his current squad is quite strong enough and fully capable of winning promotion from the Championship to the Premier League and deserves to be allowed to finish the job that has been started so effectively. There could still be an addition to our numbers given that finally after a three month injury hiatus, the so-called Invisible Man, Lewis Macleod, is expected to make his long-awaited debut for the club today in the Development Squad fixture against Nottingham Forest and if he can prove his fitness in that game as well as in a behind closed doors friendly arranged for early next week, he might yet come into contention for first team selection. Fresh legs, ideas and enthusiasm could prove vital at this crucial stage of the season when minds and bodies are feeling increasingly tired and jaded and he might just produce the spark that we require to climb back into, and then cement our position in the top six.

Alan Judge looked far more like his old self when he came on in the second half against Millwall last Saturday and he produced an outrageous piece of skill that brought about the penalty award for the first goal, and he revitalised us when it appeared as if we were bashing our heads against a brick wall and perhaps running out of ideas. Our form since Christmas has been patchy at best and there are many reasons for that, however the absence of Alan Judge who missed seven weeks of action through injury has perhaps been the biggest hurdle that we have had to overcome as he is the man who keeps Brentford playing, the inspiration for so much that is good about our play.

He is a total dynamo who combines energy and nonstop running with the vision and skill to both see and execute a long range pass and change the direction of the attack in an instant. I can still picture that rapier like thrust to the heart of the Brighton defence when he cut it open and sent Moses Odubajo darting inside their left back to score a sorely needed and confidence boosting opening goal. All the oles have understandably gone to Jota for that magnificent last minute, game winning finish against Fulham, but who was it who had the energy to win one final midfield battle and fight off the tired challenge from his opponent, bounce the ball seal-like on his head and then ping the ball unerringly fifty yards to Jota lurking unseen on the right wing – Alan Judge, of course? He was rushed back before he was fully recovered from his injury and we have had to nurse him carefully, and hopefully the international break will have enabled him to rest up as well as strengthen his knee, as a fit Alan Judge could be the difference between our gaining a Playoff spot or narrowly missing out. We also had a nasty shock when it was reported that Everton were considering recalling Chris Long, given injuries to two of their other strikers, but, thankfully, this has so far proved to be a false alarm and the Bees will rely on Long and Andre Gray to share the load upfront and hopefully score the goals that we need over the course of the next seven, or Please God, ten matches.

Our remaining conundrum is to decide the makeup of our preferred central defensive pairing, given that we have conceded six totally avoidable goals in our last three games and we cannot continue to donate goals as if we were a charitable foundation if we are to have any chance of gaining promotion.  Harlee Dean and James Tarkowski are the men in possession but Tony Craig is breathing down their neck and perhaps his experience and leadership might be just what we need to get us over this period of defensive instability? Liam Moore is off with the England Under 21 squad, played for them last night, and is not around at the moment to challenge for his place. He has pace in abundance, an asset that his rivals do not possess and I just wonder if his time will come again, as it seems really strange that a player considered good enough to start for his country cannot establish himself in the Brentford team. I fully accept that his performance at Ipswich was ghastly in the extreme and the manager was entirely correct to take him out of the firing line, but given how porous we have remained, perhaps we now need to reconsider? I’m glad that this is Mark Warburton’s decision and not mine as I am totally bemused and perplexed at this problem and really am not sure what the optimum solution is.

Whilst nobody arrived at the club, two more went out of the exit door to join the evergrowing phalanx of Brentford players plying their trade away from the club on loan. Manny Oyeleke has joined Lionel Stone at Woking where they will both benefit from facing the pressure of a Playoff assault. Oyeleke has impressed every time I have watched him play but I can honestly see no real future for him at Brentford and I just hope he can get himself fixed up for next season and beyond. The other move came out of the blue and surprised everyone. Richard Lee, who recently leeannounced his retirement at the end of the season has moved on loan to our neighbours and rivals, Fulham. His move was greeted by supporters with some degree of annoyance and disappointment on social media and he came in for some unnecessary criticism and personal abuse, but my view is totally different. You are a long time retired and if Richard sees this as a final chance to stay involved and maybe even play a last couple of first team matches before the curtain comes down on his long and distinguished career, then good luck to him. He cannot play against us and given that he was seemingly confined to Bees Player duties at Griffin Park, then how can anybody deny him this opportunity?  OK, I will also let you all into a closely guarded secret, Richard will be writing a chapter for my forthcoming book on the season at Brentford and he has made the move to Craven Cottage purely so that he can provide a Fulham-orientated and related viewpoint on next Friday’s match and add fresh colour and perspective to his writing! Seriously though, I wish Richard all good fortune, and hope that he will be seen on the pitch again this season.

Sam Saunders and Nico Yennaris have also extended their loan spells at Wycombe Wanderers until the end of the season. They can be recalled to Griffin Park should the need arise, although I samthink is highly unlikely that the services of either player will be required. I watched eight current and ex-Bees play in the televised clash between Luton and Wycombe on Tuesday night and it was a slightly surreal experience – the ghost of Christmas past. Saunders ran the whole game and always seemed to find time and space in what was otherwise a frenetic promotion clash. Yennaris was good on the ball but was often caught upfield and easily bypassed in defence. Another Brentford player, Alfie Mawson, has been at Wycombe all season and he scored a wonderfully inventive winning goal on Tuesday and also looked so comfortable on the ball. Whether he can defend to the standard required in the Championship is another question and a decision will shortly need to be made on his future given that his contract expires at the end of the season. Like Aaron Pierre who defended stoutly on the night, and Luke Norris, he might well hayesdecide that he needs to move on but I hope that we manage to persuade him to extend his contract so that we can send him out on loan again next season and see how good a player he can become. Former Bees Paul Hayes, Marcus Bean, Sam Wood and Fraser Franks were also involved in the match and Hayes and Bean in particular showed their experience and ability and were highly instrumental in Wycombe’s victory. Hayes even managed to score with a perfectly placed penalty kick!

Jack O’Connell has been quietly impressive since he rejoined Rochdale on loan in January and it is clear that we have a major asset in the tall, blond defender who has also proved to be a massive danger in the opposition area at set pieces, an attribute that our current incumbents would do well to copy. He too could be recalled if Mark Warburton feels that a fresh face is required but he is probably one for next season, when I fully expect him to make his mark. Nick Proschwitz remains at Coventry City but seems to have disappeared into a black hole as he has not been seen in recent games for the Sky Blues following an apparently gruesome open goal miss that cost his new team a crucial victory against Bradford City. Well the die is cast, there is no more room to manoeuvre and Mark Warburton now has to play with the cards that he currently holds. Will they be strong enough or will we fall just short? I can hardly wait to find out!

Statto’s Delight! -18/8/14

kePPI spent a wonderful hour or so last night indulging myself in one of my favourite winter pastimes.

Lying on the sofa with a glass of wine going through all the team line ups, counting how many former Bees were involved in Saturday’s matches in the Premier and Football Leagues and summoning up my memories of some of them.

There is also an added bonus for me at this early stage of the season – trying to recognise and identify some of the new names appearing for the first time in league football.

So, there I was, wine glass in one hand, iPad in the other as I checked out exactly who that new left sided midfielder was at Northampton, and rejoicing at old favourites like the indestructible Kevin Ellison of Morecambe, who at thirty five years of age and looking more like Pete Postlethwaite with every passing year, has survived the cull and lives to fight another day, and indeed scored two excellent goals on Saturday.

But I digress, as it was ex-Bees that I was hunting for – and I found an awful lot of them.

In all fifty eight of them were involved on Saturday afternoon, a figure that doesn’t include two current squad players out on loan in Will Grigg and Alfie Mawson.

If you really want to know, twenty seven players who have previously been loaned to Brentford and thirty one others who were permanent signings at the club were on display.

Wycombe Wanderers took the individual honours as their team against Carlisle included Paul Hayes, Aaron Pierre, both of whom scored, the ever popular Sam Wood plus the aforementioned Mawson.

The number of ex-Bees still plying their trade at a decent level has increased exponentially over the past two years as the Benham/Rosler/Warburton Revolution has taken shape and gathered momentum.

We have pretty much turned over our entire playing staff since Uwe Rosler arrived a mere three years ago, with only Richard Lee, Kevin O’Connor, Sam Saunders, Jake Reeves and Toumani Diagouraga surviving from the squad that he inherited.

None of them are first team regulars either, with Kevin more of a coach than a player nowadays.

llThe quality of the players who have arrived at Griffin Park over the last three years is highlighted by the fact that so many of the old guard, ousted by the new, continue to find employment and remain in demand.

Myles Weston has left Gillingham and now plays with Paul Smith at Southend United for whom he scored a well taken goal against Stevenage on Saturday.

He was rarely as composed in front of goal when he played for us!

Leon Legge remains the mainstay of the Gillingham defence however Stuart Nelson has just damaged his thumb and will be out of action for a couple of months.

Interestingly enough, Antonio German is still at the club and started the match on Saturday against Yeovil ahead of Luke Norris, who remained on the bench.

There are also three former Bees at Crawley, who have started the season really well with three straight wins.

Ryan Dickson and Lanre Oyebanjo are their new full back partnership and Gavin Tomlin is challenging for a place up front.

Tomlin was a Leroy Rosenoir signing who quickly faded out of the picture and never looked like making the grade, but all credit to him, he returned to the non league game with Fisher and scored enough goals to be granted a second chance which he has certainly taken.

cwCongratulations are also due to Academy product Michael Onuvwigun who made his Football League debut as a last minute substitute for his new team, Chesterfield.

Harry Forrester has started the new season like a man with a point to prove, as I am sure he is, but he blotted his copy book with a red card against Port Vale.

Reuben Reid did little at Brentford under Andy Scott and merely made up the numbers, but he has since proved himself to be an excellent lower league striker who could develop even further, and he too was on the mark against an Exeter team which included the evergreen Craig Woodman at left back.

Dean Wells has also experienced a long and tortuous journey since he made his one and only appearance for the Bees as a late substitute against Sheffield Wednesday over ten years ago, but his displays at Braintree earned him a move to Stevenage where he is now establishing himself in the team alongside Darius Charles, another former Bee who showed real promise and was dispensed with far too early for my liking.

Nicky Adams has rejoined Bury where he first made his name.

He was a curious one as Andy Scott, who seemed to make a habit of stockpiling right wingers, made herculean efforts to sign him from Leicester, but he soon fell out of favour and joined the Bermuda Triangle where I am sure other Scott signings such as Marvin Williams and Cleveland Taylor reside.

I was also delighted to see that Alan Bennett and Mark Phillips are both at AFC Wimbledon, along with the injured Andy Frampton and former loanee Sammy Moore.

Bennett and Gillingham loanee Adam Barrett formed an impassable if none too mobile barrier that earned a rare clean sheet at Luton Town on Saturday.

Will Grigg has started well for the MK Dons, with a goal and assist in his first two games.

The better he plays the more likely that we will get a reasonable transfer fee should he leave us on a permanent basis over the course of the season, as I suspect will be the case.

Clayton Donaldson impressed for Birmingham as they defeated Brighton and the former fan favourite returns to Griffin Park next Saturday.

I have already written extensively about my feelings regarding his disappointing departure and would just add that a few words of gratitude and thanks from him to Brentford and, indeed, us fans who gave him unconditional support for the past three years, would not have gone amiss.

At the other end of the scale former loanees such as two goal Saido Berahino, Wojciech Szczesny, Liam Moore, Jeffrey Schlupp and Steve Sidwell all featured in the Premier League and a brief shout out to Keith Millen too, manager for the day for Crystal Palace at Arsenal, after the sudden departure of Tony Pulis.

Lewis Grabban also notched his first goal for his new club, Norwich City, following his three million pound move from AFC Bournemouth.

Joao Carlos Teixeira made his debut for Brighton after his loan move from Liverpool and hopefully the talented youngster will be given more opportunity than he received at Brentford early last season.

So, an interesting hour or so was spent devouring the newspaper, and maybe there will be some new names for me to look out for, as Brentford might well be looking to loan out a couple of their surplus squad players over the next few weeks.

One Out Of Three IS Bad – 7/8/14

penWho can tell me what the following figures refer to?

Sorry there are no prizes on offer though!

  1. 33%
  2. 69%
  3. 54%
  4. 57%

No ideas?

OK, I will put you all out of your misery.

These figures represent the percentage of penalty kicks that we have actually managed to score over the past four seasons.

Woeful aren’t they?

To put a bit of flesh on the bones:

In 2010/11 we managed to score a princely three out of the nine penalties we were awarded.

I really cannot bring myself to say anything more about that pathetic record.

The following season we scored eight of our first nine, and even when Gary Alexander missed, Niall McGinn managed to score from the rebound away at Colchester.

trottaThen it all went pear shaped and we missed two of the next four kicks including the fiasco at Stevenage when we threw away our last chance to reach the Playoffs when Donaldson and Saunders both hit the woodwork rather than the back of the net.

All in all, though, nine out of thirteen (plus McGinn’s effort) represented an adequate, if not startling success rate.

The last two seasons have been appalling.

We managed to only score seven out of thirteen in 2012/13, culminating in Marcello Trotta’s epic failure in the promotion decider against Doncaster.

Last season we actually improved, and scored eight out of fourteen penalty kicks, a figure that was indelibly tarnished once Alan Judge took over the job late in the season and missed three out of his four efforts.

Confusingly enough what also has to be taken into consideration is our perfect record of six out of six successes in the promotion playoffs and shootout in 2013 – where we excelled in high pressure situations.

Go figure!

There really is no rational explanation.

JudgeWhat also is interesting is just how many penalty kicks we have been awarded since Uwe Rosler and Mark Warburton have taken charge at the club.

Forty penalty kicks coming our way in the past three seasons just highlights how attacking we are and the success we have in getting quick players to run at the opposition in their penalty area.

Some of the individual penalty records of our players also merit comment.

Kevin O’Connor has scored nineteen times in twenty-four attempts and has taken more penalties than any other Brentford player since 1970.

Pretty decent but still only a 79% success rate.

Stephen Hunt was very reliable and but for a great save from Kuipers would have notched an almost unprecedented hat trick of penalties against Brighton and in total scored twelve out of fifteen.

Steve Phillips started well but incredibly missed his last four kicks yet somehow managed to keep hold of the job until he left the club.

Paul Evans too only missed once and memorably scored an arrogant dinked “Panenka” kick against Oldham back in 2001.

Stan Bowles had the most casual approach, swaggering up to the spot, before dummying the keeper as well as the crowd behind the goal with nonchalant ease and rolling the ball into the corner.

I never worried when Stan took the kicks and what amazes me is that he actually missed one of his twelve kicks.

forshawClass, total class.

Back in the 70s Terry Johnson was a perfect seven out of seven and Roger Cross never missed either.

Bobby Ross, my first Brentford hero won us promotion in 1972 with a perfect penalty kick against Exeter.

I remember Bill Dodgin going ballistic on the touchline when Andy McCulloch was invited by his team mates to notch his hat trick with a late penalty kick against Tranmere.

Hubris triumphed as the keeper smothered his weak effort.

I remember Peter Gelson blasting a vital last minute spot kick against Aldershot into Brook Road and Steve Butler almost hitting the corner flag against Chesterfield.

Horrid, horrid memories!

How about Andy Sinton who was entrusted with a last minute penalty kick on his Brentford debut against Bury and showed nerves of steel by slotting in the winning goal?

In more recent times Adam Forshaw scored five out of six last season by varying his approach yet he always looked like missing his second attempt at Peterborough where it was patently obvious to all observers that he had no plan for how to take a second kick in the same game.

Clayton Donaldson started with a successful kick at Preston before his crucial miss at Stevenage.

He also totally failed to hit the target with his last two gruesome efforts at Scunthorpe and Crawley where his pathetic first minute attempt that skewed wide of Paul Jones’s post earned me an immediate red card from our living room as my barrage of choice epithets was not well received by my wife or, indeed, the dog.

One of them growled menacingly at me, and – no – it wasn’t the dog.

Some missed penalties have a knock-on effect on the player’s career.

Who can say how Will Grigg’s season would have gone if he had managed to mark his home debut with a hat trick against Sheffield United – maybe he would have scored twenty goals and would now be looking forward to starting a new season in the Championship at Griffin Park instead of slumming it at the Moo Camp?

What about Paul Hayes?

Would he have gained some much needed confidence had he scored that penalty he missed against Yeovil soon after he came on as a substitute on his debut?

Maybe he too would have gone on to justify Uwe Rosler’s faith in him?

griggThe margin between success and failure in football is so narrow.

In these cases no wider than the length of a goalkeeper’s arm.

Sam Saunders too, for all his dead ball prowess, obviously finds it easier to score from twenty-five yards out rather than twelve as his meagre 40% penalty kick success rate indicates.

His costly miss at Sheffield United in 2013 also seems to have slipped under the radar and escaped censure given the euphoria after our last minute equaliser.

I really do not know whether the best approach is the side foot, as exemplified by Bowles, or the Martin Grainger thunderbolt.

Both were pretty much equally successful.

As for why our recent record is so poor, heaven only knows as players like Trotta, Saunders, Forrester and Judge are all excellent strikers of a ball – sorry Clayton, but anyone on the Ealing Road terrace who was forced to spend much of the prematch shooting practice ducking Clayton’s misdirected slices as they screamed into the crowd would agree that he wasn’t the cleanest striker of  a football.

Maybe there is such a feeling of confidence that we believe that we are bound to score goals anyway and needn’t pay too much attention to penalty kicks?

Perhaps with forty such awards in the past three seasons there is a subconscious feeling that if we miss one there is bound to be another one coming our way fairly shortly?

Your guess is as good as mine.

I don’t want to hex the current Adam Forshaw saga but it would appear likely that we will be looking for a new penalty taker next season.

Allan McCormack and Andre Gray have both scored from the spot, as, more memorably, did Harlee Dean and Tony Craig in the Swindon Shootout.

Kevin O’Connor, I fear, is unlikely to figure enough in the first team to merit consideration.

Jonathan Douglas followed Leo Roget’s example by hitting his effort at Barnet into the stratosphere so is unlikely to figure high on Mark Warburton’s list.

My money is currently on Alex Pritchard unless we bring in a new striker who qualifies.

I predict that the number of penalty kicks we receive next season with be less than half that of last year, but given that I am sure that every goal will count next season, we will score a far higher proportion of them.

Let’s hope that this is not a jinx!

In passing many, many thanks to my friend and fellow Bees author, Mark Croxford for providing all the facts that I have mangled in this article!

Can We Take Any More Excitement? – 10/7/14

SergioSomewhere in the dark recesses of Youtube I am sure you can find some long-forgotten blurred and faded black and white footage of a Watney Cup tie forty-four years ago between Hull City and Manchester United.

That game in a short-lived preseason tournament, heralded the first ever penalty shoot-out in a professional match in England.

The first player to take a kick was George Best, and the first to miss was Denis Law.

Ian McKechnie, the rotund Hull goalkeeper who Brentford fans still have clear memories of from THAT Cup tie in 1971, saved Law’s kick, and was also the first goalkeeper to take a kick; but his shot hit the crossbar and deflected over, putting Hull City out of the Cup.

The penalty shootout has become recognised as perhaps the best, the fairest, the most heartbreaking and certainly the most exciting way to settle a drawn Cup tie and last night was no exception.

As always there was a hero and a goat.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the match winner plunging to make two decisive saves whilst Holland’s hapless Jasper Cillesen was unable to break his duck as four penalties whizzed past him. two of which looked eminently saveable.

As for Tim Krul, who had thwarted Costa Rica so effectively if controversially in the last round, he remained helpless on the bench as Louis van Gaal was unable to produce another rabbit from his hat, having already used all three of his substitutes.

Poetic justice perhaps as Krul’s gamesmanship in the previous shootout, aided and abetted by a weak referee had stuck in the craw of all but the most rabid Dutch fan.

Anyone wishing to understand more about the subject is recommended to read Ben Lyttleton’s new book “Twelve Yards”, a groundbreaking and fascinating exploration and explanation of the art, psychology, history and culture of the penalty kick – and how not to miss them.

Given that last night’s was the fourth match of the 2014 World Cup to be settled by a shootout then perhaps you feel that some of the teams could have done with an early sight of Ben’s book!

Brentford fans are no strangers to the horrors and delights of the penalty shootout and whilst it has been unpleasant, if perhaps cathartic, to dredge up some of the memories, there have also been some triumphs.

Perhaps the most painful shootout was in 1995 when a Brentford team finished second in the Second Division in the only season which saw only one automatic promotion place owing to Premier League restructuring – it’s Brentford Innit!

We should have won comfortably in the Playoff Semifinal at Huddersfield where Bob Taylor’s open goal miss still rankles and amazes and the referee missed Andy Booth’s climb all over Kevin Dearden for their equaliser at Griffin Park.

Penalties it was and Denny Mundee, who ironically had scored two penalties against Huddersfield in the League that season, managed to outguess himself and missed.

Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay showed how a centre half should take a penalty last night, driving an Exocet of a shot into the roof of the net, straight down the middle but unfortunately Jamie Bates did not follow his example and his weak effort was easily saved by Steve Francis and the Bees had lost.

I can still hear the eerie quiet that descended like a blanket of fog around Griffin Park as we filed out after the match struck dumb by shock and disbelief.

Richard Lee had a wonderful penalty shootout record for the club back in 2010/11.

He needed something to go right as his start at his new club had not gone well and he was out of favour with manager Andy Scott. A succession of loan keepers came in but Lee played in the Cup ties and his overall performance and then penalty save in the shootout from Jermaine Beckford won Brentford the tie against Eveton.

Better was to come in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as he masterminded an unprecedented three successive penalty shootout victories against Leyton Orient, Swindon and then Charlton, when touched by genius, Lee saved three successive spot kicks, a feat only previously achieved by Graham Benstead against Wrexham in 1991.

Richard’s account of how he prepared and psyched himself up for these shootouts richard leemakes for fascinating reading and I can highly recommend his book “Graduation” to all budding goalkeepers.

Brentford’s last penalty shootout remains fresh in the memory as victory over Swindon in the dreaded Playoffs was secured after five perfect penalties from Sam Saunders, Paul Hayes (yes, Paul Hayes!), Harlee Dean, an emphatic thump from skipper Tony Craig followed by a wild-eyed celebration and Adam Forshaw’s cool coup de grace.

Simon Moore too played a match winning role by saving Swindon’s fourth effort and the side taking their penalties second won the day, a feat only achieved in 40% of all penalty shootouts.

Love them or hate them penalty shootouts are here to stay but penalty kicks have proved to be Brentford’s nemesis on so many occasions recently and I am sure that we will return to this subject as soon as I can face it!