Easy Pickings! – 1/5/16

I took my Fulham supporting friend, Phil, to the local derby at Griffin Park yesterday afternoon and warned him not to make an exhibition of himself when seated in the Braemar Road stand, wear black and white or do anything else that might out him and reveal his true allegiance. If truth be told, the only time he became animated during what turned out to be a long and trying afternoon for him was when he heard his fellow Fulham fans jeering their team with an heartfelt and scornful chorus of you’re not fit to wear the shirt and it was only with difficulty that he managed to restrain himself from joining in, and I honestly could not have blamed him if he had.

I am reliably informed that back in the day, the Fulham programme used to include a prominently placed advertisement for The Samaritans and given their abject surrender and total lack of fight I suspect that it will not be too long before it reappears, and I can certainly think of one angry and sadly disillusioned supporter who might well avail himself of their services.

Fulham were a total disgrace on the day, lacking drive, positivity and commitment and really were not at all up for the fight. The fact that it was supposed to be a keenly contested local derby with West London bragging rights up for grabs barely seemed to have registered with them and they ran up the white flag and surrendered from the moment when Brentford hit them hard and early and scored two goals within the first seven minutes of the game.

Their highly paid team of mercenaries capitulated without a struggle or a whimper and for all their possession and neat football they barely threatened and apart from Ross McCormack who drifted in and out of the game but struck the woodwork twice and forced David Button into his only action of what was perhaps one of his easiest afternoons of the season, Brentford were the only team who looked as if they had any interest in either competing or scoring goals.

The Bees, by contrast were fully aware of how much this match meant for their supporters and how poorly they had played at QPR recently abd put in a massive shift in order to ensure that we all went home happy.

The quality of their performance was all the more praiseworthy and meritorious given how ludicrously stretched were our resources and our eighteen-man squad included two Academy products in Reece Cole, who spent the match on the bench and young left back Tom Field who made a remarkably composed and assured debut when surprisingly given the nod to replace the injured Jake Bidwell, who missed his first match of the season.

Lasse Vibe, Marco Djuricin and Alan McCormack were also late injury absentees and our selection problems for this match simply mirrored what has invariably been the case pretty much every week since last August as there has been a nonstop and seemingly ever-growing procession of players who have missed large chunks of the season, and yesterday was no different with the likes of Macleod, Bjelland, McEachran and Judge joining Bidwell, Vibe, Djuricin and McCormack on the injured list.

Hopefully we have now used up all our bad luck and next season will see us have a near full strength squad from which to choose. Scott Hogan, as last man standing, made his first ever Championship start for the Bees and Sam Saunders joined Woods, Yennaris, Canos and Kerschbaumer in a small but mobile midfield quintet.

Any nerves were settled within the opening seven minutes which saw the Bees take the game to their opponents who could not cope with their energy, drive, pressing, direct running and movement off the ball.

The appalling Ashley Richards, a total liability at right back where he proved to be a one-man fifth column before his merciful substitution at the interval, was forced back towards his own goal by Field and was robbed of the ball on halfway by Canos, perhaps illegally, but Mr.Haywood who let the game flow admirably all afternoon, saw no evil and Sam Saunders made a lung-bursting break from his own half and was criminally allowed to run opposed towards the edge of the Fulham penalty area. Canos picked him out perfectly and Sam’s finish was audacious, instantaneous and immaculate as he flicked the ball perfectly over the advancing Bettinelli with his first touch.

Fulham resorted to bickering amongst themselves and Parker and Ince gave their hapless teammate a real mouthful and the game was won and lost in that instant. Even better was to come when Yennaris and Woods combined to win the ball back in midfield, and Kerschbaumer played a perfect first time through ball in between the two slow and lumbering central defenders Ream and Stearman who were dozing in the sunshine blithely unaware of the danger, like a pair of wildebeest in the Serengeti totally oblivious to the presence of a lioness lurking in the long grass. Scott Hogan was too quick in both thought and action for both of them, he was switched on and alert and ran on unopposed and finished perfectly and without fuss into the corner.

Fulham were stunned and out for the count and spent the remainder of the half passing the ball sideways and backwards, going absolutely nowhere. Brentford pressed, harried and defended in numbers and never gave an inch and it came as little surprise when they stretched their lead from their first corner when Field’s perfect inswinger was thrashed into the roof of the net by the predatory Hogan – who else?

McCormack might have made a game of it right on halftime but squandered an excellent opportunity, hitting Button’s post when given a clear sight of goal and Fulham heads went down even further and team left the field to a deafening crescendo of boos and jeers.

Hogan had taken some knocks and sensibly was not risked after the break and he has now scored an impressive and unlikely five goals from eight attempts at goal in little more than ninety minutes of action and yet despite his absence there was no respite for Fulham who were as yellow as their shirts, as Canos went up top and ran his opponents ragged.

Fulham had most of the possession as the home team invited them onto them, but it was the Bees who created the best chances when they repeatedly used their pace and cohesion to create havoc in a demoralised defence. Kerschbaumer and Canos both might have scored twice but for Bettinelli who also saved brilliantly from O’Connell’s rising effort.

All three substitutes, Jack O’Connell, Andy Gogia and Josh Clarke played a full part in the victory and Gogia joined Kerschbaumer in coming so close to his first ever Brentford goal when he curled an exquisite late effort inches wide.

All fourteen Bees were heroes with Field making an exceptional debut before suffering a calf injury and he was given support and encouragement by all his teammates who talked him through the game. Both Dean and Barbet were peerless and largely snuffed out the threat of McCormack and second half substitute Dembele and Max Colin was also back to his imperious best. Woods, Saunders and Yennaris dominated the midfield and Alan McCormack’s physicality was barely missed.

Unfortunately this might well be the last that we see of Sergi Canos at Griffin Park and if so, he will have left on a high as he has been wonderful for us and we have been equally good for him. He can hardly have expected to have played thirty-seven times in the Championship as a nineteen year old and with six goals, including that incredible effort at Reading, his contribution has been immense and he has lifted everyone with his coltish enthusiasm and all he lacks is a tail to wag.

Fulham were rightly described as an embarrassment and shameful by their manager, Slaviša Jokanović and I suspect that there will be a clear-out at Craven Cottage given how narrow has been their escape from relegation to League One. In contrast, Brentford played as a team and this was their sixth win in a magical month that has seen them gain the incredible tally of nineteen points and score the same number of goals and rise from the edge of the relegation zone to the dizzy heights of tenth place in the Championship.

This is an incredible achievement which I will dissect in much more depth after our final game next weekend but so much credit is due to everyone at the club as well as the fans for the way in which we have all pulled together and this unity has been rewarded with a resurgence in results, performances and confidence despite the nagging and ever-present  problems caused by injuries and exhaustion.

The squad has been tested to its fullest extent and every player has responded brilliantly and risen to the challenge, and nobody has been found wanting, and despite the recent loss of one of the best players in the Championship in Alan Judge we have clearly demonstrated a grim determination to succeed and have fully deserved to rise up eight places in the league table.

We cannot match the likes of Fulham for the time being in terms of our income, squad numbers and, indeed, overall quality but where we leave them trailing far behind us in our wake is in terms of our spirit, shape, effort, planning, organisation, energy, ethos and determination never to give in, plus of course our exceptional team behind the team..

Brentford are a club to be proud of and Fulham, for all their riches, heritage and tradition could not live with us.

Something Special Times Two – 29/12/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Good Day – And Almost A Perfect One – 1/12/15

A day jam packed with action and activity has left every Brentford supporter exhausted and exhilarated and extremely excited about the future prospects for the club.

As expected Walsall manager Dean Smith was named as Head Coach after a compensation deal was agreed with his former club, whom he served with distinction for almost five years.

He will be joined by his assistant, Richard O’Kelly, which as far as I am concerned is almost as good news as the appointment of Smith as they work hand in glove and O’Kelly has gained an exceptional reputation as a gifted and innovative coach.

Lee Carsley will remain until the end of the year to help in the transition process however it is expected that he will then leave the club with our thanks and gratitude ringing in his ears for a difficult job wonderfully well done.

Just to recap, when he took over as interim Head Coach the Bees were languishing in nineteenth place and were on the road to nowhere. Impeccably assisted by the popular Paul Williams, they worked in tandem to turn the situation around and his back to basics approach worked a treat and restored belief to what was a faltering squad and his achievements were deservedly recognised with the award of the Manager of the Month Trophy for October.

He was in charge for ten games which produced a total of five wins and seventeen points and he relinquishes control with Brentford a mere three points shy of the playoffs and looking firmly upwards rather than down.

Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly were amongst the crowd at Bolton last night but they will take charge today and they both must be delighted with the quality of the material they have been left to work with and further develop.

Paul Williams is away on England duty at the present time and ideally his future will also be decided shortly and we all hope that there will be a role for him at the club within the new management structure given his popularity with the players and the beneficial affect he has had on them.

Brentford came away from the Macron Stadium with one point when three really beckoned had good chances not been squandered by Lasse Vibe on two occasions and John Swift. Jake Bidwell too came within inches of scoring that long awaited and elusive first goal when his header drifted just wide after he was found quite brilliantly by Alan Judge, as usual the best and most inventive player on the pitch.

In truth this was a frustrating game for the Bees who interspersed some breathtaking one touch football which had the commentators on Sky Sports purring with appreciation, with a lot of careless passing and squandering of possession which allowed a limited but forceful and committed Bolton team back into a match which the Bees should have put firmly beyond them. We really let them off the hook and have only ourselves to blame.

As is customary, some of the defending was casual in the extreme with Tarkowski doing his best to gift Bolton another goal from a short back pass with barely a minute on the clock. He and O’Connell defended manfully but this was a match for the suspended Harlee Dean, and the home team outmuscled us at set pieces and always looked dangerous when the ball was in the air and won far too many second balls with Woods, in particular being regularly muscled off the ball. The equaliser was soft with a cross half cleared by Woods and returned with interest by Danns with a bouncing volley through a crowd of players from just outside the penalty area which squeezed in off the post.

John Swift scored with a Premier League quality curling effort from long range after he and Judge had combined beautifully and he was booked for diving on the stroke of halftime when a penalty kick could just as easily have been given – another major turning point.

Pretty much every fifty:fifty decision went the way of Bolton but they also had more possession than us, a measure of how careless we were with the ball, with possession conceded with monotonous regularity.

And yet from time to time we got it right and tore holes in a porous home defence as we broke with pace and menace. Vibe worked hard but missed his two chances. He had too much time when sent clear before the break by Bidwell and Amos stretched out a long leg to save, and then, near the end, after some scintillating one touch play had torn the defence wide open, Vibe could not beat the keeper who saved well at full stretch.

Button too made a crucial point blank save from the lurking Ameobi when a loose ball fell his way and a game that we could have won comfortably had we scored that elusive second goal ended all square.

We are so close to being an exceptionally good team as our vision and skill on the ball is often of Premier League class. Judge and Swift were always on the same wavelength and worked well together and Diagouraga won every loose ball and also survived a horror challenge from Mark Davies that surely merited a red card from a benign referee who totally shirked his duty.

Yes of course we have weaknesses and shortcomings. We are susceptible to high balls and set pieces and teams that try and overpower us, but try and play football with us and we are likely to come out on top.

We are also profligate in front of goal and miss far too many chances and let teams off the hook. We are lacking in quality up front until Djuricin returns and rely far too much on our midfield to score goals.

That being said McEachran, Colin and Jota are close to returning to fitness and might be followed soon after by Djuricin and even Lewis Macleod so we are going to get even stronger as the months progress.

A mere two months ago we were looking down the barrel of a gun with the bottom three beckoning and the locals muttering and beginning to fear the worst. Changes were needed and they were made and the team now is fitter, far more solid and confident, moves the ball from back to front far quicker and is much better equipped for the demands of the Championship.

Maybe another playoff campaign is going to be a step too far this season, but who knows? Dean Smith will be sure to want to make his mark and put his own stamp on things, but I suspect that he will not make too many fundamental changes as the way that we set up and play totally suits the players that we currently possess, as is evidenced by the quality of our football, the results that we are achieving and the fact that this is patently a happy camp at the present time.

Three points tonight would have made this a perfect day but despite the two dropped points, things are going remarkably well at the moment and I fully believe that they will be getting even better quite soon once Messrs Smith and O’Kelly get to work.

Relief! – 18/10/15

The overriding emotion after yesterday’s narrow and hard fought two-one victory over Rotherham was simply one of relief.

Relief that we had arrested the rot of three successive defeats, relief that we had beaten a team likely to be in the relegation zone, perhaps alongside us, and relief that Lee Carsley had finally broken his duck as a Head Coach and led us to our first victory under his charge.

This was a game where, in all honesty, very little mattered beyond the result. A defeat would have seem morale and confidence amongst players and supporters alike plummet to new depths and the Bees would have dropped into the relegation zone for the first time this season.

Going into the game it hadn’t helped to watch a confident and revitalised Bristol City team totally outplay and pulverise a poor and dispirited Nottingham Forest on Friday night and to see them play the ball around with such precision and accuracy and a certain joie de vivre just emphasised how much the Bees needed to improve in order to get their season back on track and escape from the pack stuck around the bottom of the Championship table.

The three points that we eventually won, not without a desperate struggle, were the absolute priority and I believe that given the fillip of yesterday’s much needed victory, we will now improve slowly and gradually as we regain some confidence and cohesion.

It will also help if we can get some high quality reinforcements into the squad either from outside, during the January transfer window, or hopefully well in advance of then when the likes of Jota, Macleod, McEachran and Colin report back for duty as soon as they have recovered from long term injury.

I therefore do not intend to dwell too much upon the myriad shortcomings that were exposed yet again yesterday afternoon.

We know that the players currently available to us have not proved to be of sufficient quality or experience to get us to where we want to be in the Championship and to carp and criticise them might be good for the soul but is hardly likely to be productive in the great scheme of things.

To emphasise where we are at the moment, we were outpassed and out-possessed yesterday by Rotherham. Nothing really more needs to be said as there is really very little point in doing so.

We all know that our visitors are a set of decent, honest journeymen, toiling hard at a level that is probably just a little bit beyond them and we recognise and appreciate that they do their utmost to make up for their deficiencies in terms of class and ability through the virtues of organisation, effort and sheer hard work.

Please do not think that I am trying to patronise or denigrate them or minimise their achievements as I greatly admire Rotherham as a club for more than making the most of what they have, and it is fair to say that they played as much football as we did, if not more, and probably just had the edge in terms of creating opportunities.

Brentford had forty-seven percent possession of the ball and attempted three hundred and eighty-four passes of which sixty-seven per cent found their target.

Rotherham had fifty-three per cent possession and attempted fifty-two more passes than us with a slightly higher rate of accuracy.

In the corresponding match last season Brentford enjoyed sixty-six per cent possession and whilst comparisons are both pointless and invidious you can see how far things have changed in the interim period.

There is really no possible benefit in wailing, gnashing our teeth and bemoaning the fact that we have fallen so far from grace since the high points of last season and have also massively declined in terms of the quality of our squad and footballing ability – that is simply a fact that we have to accept and get beyond at the moment if we are to retain our sanity and sense of proportion.

The time for recriminations will come later on if the season ends in disaster. Now is simply a time for all hands at the pumps and for us to work together to help ensure our survival at Championship level as it would be a disaster of massive proportions if we allow our hard won Championship status to be surrendered come next May.

Apart from the victory there were many other positives to come out of yesterday’s match:

  • A five-figure crowd that, whilst quiet and muted at times, got behind their team and appreciated their efforts.
  • A positive up-and-at-’em start culminating in a quite brilliantly taken early goal from Alan Judge
  • Scoring the opening goal for the first time this season at home
  • A solid defensive display with Dean and Tarkowski particularly impressing
  • Nico Yennaris making the opening goal and playing his best ever game for the club
  • Ryan Woods playing in a holding role alongside Alan McCormack and looking calm and composed on the ball, winning his challenges and rarely conceding possession
  • Young guns Sergi Canos and John Swift justifying the faith shown in them and demonstrating their ability and youthful enthusiasm on their first start for the club
  • The imperious Alan Judge, scorer of two quite beautifully taken goals, including a rare header, and running the game from start to finish
  • Brentford scoring two excellently worked, constructed and taken goals
  • A recognisable and effective team shape being employed in the 4-2-3-1 formation that worked so well last season
  • A determination and will to win, evidenced by the Brentford players putting their body on the line and defending desperately during the six interminable minutes of injury time when Rotherham threw the kitchen sink at us
  • A team selection which ignored the claims of all our fit if underperforming preseason foreign signings in Barbet, Kerschbaumer, Vibe, Hofmann and Gogia and contained seven of last season’s tried and tested squad, plus Woods and recent loanees, Canos, Swift and Djuricin

I fully recognise the lack of quality on display at times yesterday, our inability to keep possession, the lack of incision, the paucity of attempts on target, the fact that Djuricin must surely have been suffering from a communicable disease, so isolated was he upfront, the languid start to the second half that cost us so dear and our appalling marking at opposition set pieces where we relied far too much upon David Button’s brilliance to save the day.

I would also hope that somebody introduced Philipp Hofmann after the game to returning legend Robert Taylor as I think that they could have had a most productive conversation on centre forward play that would have greatly benefitted our new German striker who still has so much to learn about the demands of English football.

Yesterday was still an improvement on what we have seen recently and you can only beat the opposition that is facing you on the day.

We now have two tough away games in the next week at Wolves and Charlton and I will withhold any judgement until after we have played both of these matches. I would hope and expect that we improve gradually from game to game but I have no real expectations of a massive change in our fortunes until the injured players return.

But hey – WE WON!

A Real Dilemma! – 26/9/15

I really wasn’t too sure who I wanted to win last night’s West London derby between our two hated rivals Fulham and Queens Park Rangers. Unfortunately Football League regulations do not yet allow for a verdict of nul points to be awarded so I was feeling utterly conflicted about the eventual outcome.

Perhaps I would settle for a nil-nil draw with lots of injuries – nothing too painful but certainly lingering and long-term to be suffered by the likes of star players Ross McCormack and Charlie Austin and the game to be refereed by Keith Stroud at his enigmatic best and be littered with a series of red and yellow cards which would leave the two teams seriously weakened for the challenges that lie ahead throughout the remainder of the season.

The outcome was a surprise as Fulham pulverised QPR by four goals to nil and the score could easily have been doubled had they taken more of the clear chances that they created on the night. French teenager Moussa Dembele was a towering target man who combined pace and power in abundance and proved a handful for the Rangers defence. Hopefully he will not remain for too much longer at Craven Cottage before a Premiership team snatches him away.

The aforementioned McCormack was far too clever for the visitors with his movement and scored twice and O’Hara and Pringle dovetailed beautifully in midfield. Fulham it has to be said looked like a team bursting with purpose, poise and confidence and their previously porous defence was barely tested on what turned out to be a night of shame and humiliation for the visitors.

Rangers barely mounted a challenge, ran up the white flag from the early moments when they conceded a ludicrously soft opening goal and after they eventually managed to carve open the Fulham defence with an admittedly lovely move which ended with Luongo spurning a golden chance to equalise by firing carelessly wide, their heads went down and they allowed Fulham to take total control.

Success in the Championship is obtained by a winning combination of perspiration and inspiration and you have to demonstrate both qualities if you are to prevail. On the night Fulham, to their credit, certainly did so and the entire team, apart from the totally unworked Andy Lonergan in goal sweated buckets as well as playing some beautiful one touch football but their task was made far easier by the fact that Rangers were not prepared to press or challenge or do any of the unseen and nasty work off the ball that is necessary if you are to ensure that possession is won back after it is conceded. Rangers never really appeared to want to break sweat on the night and their lack of commitment is highlighted by their only committing ten fouls throughout the game and barely putting in a tackle worthy of the name.

The question has to be asked if Fulham were simply unstoppable on a night when everything came off for them and they performed to their full capability, or if they were in truth made to look far better than they really are by a totally inept and craven display by QPR? The jury is out on that matter, but last night’s match certainly reinforced the fact that the overall quality of Championship players is exceptionally high and the majority of teams possess game changers – players who have the ability to take a game by the scruff of its neck and turn it in favour of their team by virtue of one moment of brilliance.

By the end of the evening QPR had degenerated into an ill-disciplined shambles exemplified by the totally inept Chery stalking straight off to the dressing room in an apparent hissy fit after being dragged off and substituted before the interval and top scorer Charlie Austin limped off on the hour with what appeared to be a hamstring injury which hopefully will be a serious one and take quite a while – ideally over a month – to heal!

Their supporters were reduced to silence by their team’s pathetic display and it is also interesting to note that there was much made of the fact that they brought 4,000 fans to Craven Cottage – over two thousand less than we took to our match there last season!

I have a rather annoying acquaintance who is as fanatical about his beloved Queens Park Rangers as I am about the Bees and he persists in sending me a series of taunting texts and tweets whenever his team wins or we loses. Interestingly enough he seems to have gone very quiet over the past few hours and I wonder if I will hear from him today? I somehow think not!

The humiliation of QPR has certainly brought about a more than decent start to the weekend, ignoring of course the necessary but unpalatable fact that as a result Fulham took the three points on offer. What would top things off perfectly would be for Brentford to do the business this afternoon against a tough and resourceful Sheffield Wednesday team that will be bursting with confidence after beating Fulham and then Newcastle United in their last two matches.

They had the better of us last season with a fairly even goalless draw at Griffin Park followed by a totally self-inflicted one-nil defeat in the return match when we conspired to miss a plethora of gilt-edged chances and then set up the winning goal for our opponents on a plate after yet again overplaying at the back and losing possession in a dangerous area of the pitch.

Our confidence will have been boosted by last weekend’s much needed victory over Preston North End and the defence will also be strengthened by the return of James Tarkowski who has recovered from his calf injury. There are some selection dilemmas for Marinus Dijkhuizen today in terms of whether he retains Josh Clarke at right back and who he selects to play in midfield. Will Ryan Woods get his long awaited first start for the club? Marinus will also have to decide whether Sergi Canos merits a start or if his flair is best used as a substitute when he can come on and ideally wreak havoc against a tiring defence.

Wednesday carry a real threat up front where they combine strength and flair in abundance and today would be an ideal time for that long awaited first clean sheet of the season to arrive.

These are interesting and challenging times for a Brentford squad that remains seriously depleted in both numbers and quality. Our fighting spirit however is not in any doubt and if we can somehow find a way to overcome adversity and obtain at least four and ideally six points from today and next Tuesday’s home game against a revitalised Birmingham team then the season might be on the verge of taking off.

A View From A Blazing Meteor – 23/9/15

I wrote an article the other day inspired by Sergi Canos’s blistering home debut, about other young players who started off like a house on fire at Griffin Park and then fizzled out for a variety of reasons and never really made their mark.

One of the players I mentioned was 70s striker Richard Poole who has strong views on the subject:

Well Greville your list could go on and on. At the time when I was promoted into the First team I was playing for Brentford FC in the South East Counties Under 18 League against the likes of Chelsea, QPR and Fulham and we always tried our utmost to ensure that those  bigger teams knew that they had been in a game when they came up against the Bees!

As you know I came into the side as a sixteen year old apprentice in February 1974 and just a week later my friend Kevin Harding followed me into the first team. We were coming straight from junior football into a team that had just been relegated to the bottom division the year before and we were fighting a desperate battle to avoid the need to seek re-election. You must remember at that time in the Fourth Division there was no automatic relegation but the bottom club had to be re-elected by its peers and although I do not know the political ins and outs and how the system worked, I still wonder to this day what would had happened to us if we had needed to seek re-election to the Football League. How would our arch enemies QPR and Fulham have voted? Would they have done their best to see us kicked out of the League?

We could not take the chance of that happening so we just did our best to ensure that we finished out of the danger zone. So here we were like new born babies coming into a team that still boasted inspirational veterans like Peter Gelson and Jackie Graham. Kevin and I trained each day with our boyhood idols and we were welcomed with open arms and treated so well along with Roy Cotton, another promising player from the Under 18 team.

Having avoided the threat of re-election we all started the new season with fresh hope and enthusiasm but alas, things did not work out and John Docherty replaced Mike Everitt as manager midway through the season. So here I was with a new manager who had been my team mate when I made my first team debut and who now would sign me as a professional footballer on my eighteenth birthday.

Although I have made it clear previously that I seemed to fall out with him, it was only later on in my life that I realised certain things about that difficult time that I am still unable to put into words even to this day over forty years on.

Yes I did play a few games for him generally in midweek at the likes of places like Tranmere and Northampton and I always tried my best but I feel even now that I was not given a proper or decent chance.

The tipping point came in April 1975 after I came on as a substitute and helped the team to a good result at Lincoln. I was delighted to be named in the team the following week against Southport but was surprised to see that both Roger Cross and Micky French were in the team too. I must confess that I thought that having three centre forwards in the starting line up was bizarre in the extreme.

I did not see much of the ball in the first half and at half time I was replaced by Alan Nelmes – a striker replaced at home by a defender in a match that was still goalless. What did that say about my prospects at the club? No wonder I left soon afterwards! But I still treasure to this day the fact that I played in the red and white stripes of my beloved Brentford and no one can take that away from me.

Anyway before that fiasco, about half way through that season I came to a very difficult decision and asked to be put on the transfer list or even loaned to a non-league side as I just wanted to play first team football somewhere!

We had a reserve team that year and I always gave my best when I played for them but I simply needed to stretch myself and progress. Maybe I was not good enough but I thought I could do somebody a service if they gave me a chance!

Anyway John Docherty refused to let me go and said he needed me. And yet he barely played me and I was frozen out of the reckoning.

Nothing had changed at the end of the season and I was given a free transfer. We played an end of season game against Hounslow and several clubs approached me directly and said that they would come and watch me play as they knew I would be a free agent. This was an opportunity for me to put myself in the shop window and earn myself a decent move.

Little did I know what was in store for me! John Docherty announced the team just before the match and amazingly I was the only one of all the players who had been released not to be given a game. I wasn’t even put on the bench.

I could not believe it and when I spoke to the manager afterwards and told him that there had been clubs there to watch me play all he said was “You should have told me beforehand.”

To this day I do not know if he was scared that I might go to another club and do well and make him look bad, or if he thought I was not good enough to play in the Football League. Eventually I joined Watford although I was also asked to sign for SC Toulon, one of the top teams in France so I must have had something about me!

I still look back at the Brentford Junior team I played in and in my opinion it contained so much ability in the year I made my first team debut but none were retained apart from me and I can tell you I was by no means the best player in that talented side.

When John Docherty arrived we were swamped by a lot of fairly decent young players who he knew from his previous club, QPR, but not many of them lasted long or made any impact at Brentford.

It is a shame that I fell out with the manager and at the time I was a starry eyed kid who was living the dream but I think that today’s young players are not as naive as I was but despite everything I regret nothing and would not change a moment of those incredible five years I spent at Brentford as both an apprentice and as a professional footballer.

When John Docherty became manager I think he had the choice of running either a Youth or a Reserve side and even though I came straight into the First Team from the Juniors i think that not having an Under 18 team was a big mistake. Most of the time we had first team players coming back from injury, some of whom even refused to play in Reserve games.

We were in the Midweek League and going to places like Peterborough or Southend I think was not too enticing a prospect for some First Team players! We also had lots of trialists as well so you never knew who was playing with you from week to week whereas we knew each other in the Youth Team and could develop partnerships on the pitch.

I really think that the club wasted a massive opportunity as there were several talented youngsters who were not really given a chance to impress. Brentford and the management did not know how to bring these players into  the First Team.

John Docherty preferred skilful ball playing players but in the Fourth Division you needed more than that. Just look at some of the players he brought in. Some of the youngsters like Danis Salman did work out but not too many others did.

In my first year as a apprentice with Frank Blunstone in charge the Youth Team felt part of something great in the making and this even continued under Mike Everitt but I think when John Docherty took charge, and do not forget he inherited quite a few players he had played with and others who were brought in by Mike Everitt too, I really think that things did not go as well as they should have done.

Trenchant views and plenty of food for thought from Richard Poole who felt totally frustrated and stifled as he was forced to leave the club he loved and where he still thought he could have made the grade had he been given a decent chance to establish himself.

I will try and finish the article covering lots of other blazing meteors who promised so much over the years at Brentford but who never fulfilled their potential in the next few days.

I will end on a lighter note.

I was reading a programme from January 1987 today and my eyes were drawn to a letter from a certain Mr. R. P. Marsh from Ealing who ccould barely contain his excitement:

It made a nice change to hear that we had secured the services of David Geddis on a month’s loan with a view to a permanent transfer. I have long been an admirer of Geddis and the prospect of him playing up front with Robbie Cooke is the sort of Christmas present I could really enjoy.

Here’s hoping that Geddis and Cooke can give the new Brook Road stand the send off it deserves against Middlesbrough.

Oh dear!!

Geddis was a total disaster – a damp squib rather than a blazing meteor who missed at least three sitters in that aforementioned Middlesbrough game, was dragged off at the interval and his services were swiftly dispensed with – if not swiftly enough for most Brentford supporters!

Blazing Meteors – Part One – 22/9/15

Young Liverpool loanee Sergi Canos’s mesmerising and eye-catching home debut as a second half substitute last Saturday who turned the game on its head and inspired the Bees to victory has persuaded me to recall some other youngsters who made an immediate impact for Brentford.

I missed John Bostock’s memorable debut against Millwall when he took the game by the scruff of its neck and scored twice from a clinical volley and then direct from a corner. I had a bad back, my Achilles’ heel for anyone interested, and it’s lucky that I was safely tucked up at home in bed as I suspect that all the excitement would have given me a relapse and put me into spasm!

Unfortunately Bostock flattered only to deceive and could not maintain his form and he soon fell out of contention and eventually drifted into obscurity in Belgium where he remains to this day.

Being a half-empty kind of guy I’m going to concentrate on some other eventual failures – players who began like worldbeaters and blazing meteors but for a variety of reasons soon blew themselves out and became damp squibs who never really made the impact that had at one time had looked likely or even inevitable.

So where shall we start?

How about with Andy Woon, a tall, powerful and raw long-haired striker who arrived from non-league Bognor Regis and was soon thrown into the deep end and asked to inspire and reinvigorate a toothless Brentford team on its inevitable and irrevocable journey towards relegation. Stan Webb had already proved beyond doubt that he was not an adequate replacement for the departed John O’Mara, and Woon made history and an instant impact when he became the first Brentford player to score a hat trick on his debut in a totally out of the blue five-goal thrashing of a listless Port Vale team.

Nobody could be expected to keep up that type of form and Woon inevitably suffered from unreasonably raised expectations. Andy hung around for a couple of seasons, even scored a few more goals but he never threatened to repeat the magic he displayed on that unforgettable afternoon in February 1973 when he looked like an absolute world beater and everything he hit went in.

Richard Poole became the second youngest ever Brentford player when he made his debut at the age of sixteen years and five months. The crowd took to him straight away as he was a local boy who was playing for the team he had always supported and his coltish enthusiasm did much to inspire the Bees to pull away from the bottom of Division Four.

The future looked bright for the tall, rangy target man but it just never happened for him. He fell out with the new manager, John Docherty, and disappeared from the scene. He had a short spell at Watford where he played against us in the unforgettable Paul Priddy double penalty save match before moving to France where injury sadly brought a halt to a once promising career.

Paul Walker captained the England schoolboy international team and a glittering future was predicted for the diminutive midfielder. He made his first team debut as a fifteen year old schoolboy but despite his obvious ability it just never happened for him.

He had great vision and passing ability and could ghost past players but he never looked fully fit or a well honed athlete and his early promise was never fulfilled. Fred Callaghan seemed to believe in him and he scored a memorable volleyed goal at Walsall in Terry Hurlock’s televised debut match but he eventually ended up playing in South Africa.

I watched sixteen year old striker Gary Rolph made a massively impressive debut in the FA Cup at Colchester where he showed a maturity well beyond his tender years and scored a coolly taken goal, but that was as good as it got for him and he soon fell away.

Willie Graham arrived as an unheralded trialist from Northampton Town but Bill Dodgin saw something in him and he slotted in perfectly in midfield alongside his namesake Jackie Graham and David Carlton as the Bees won promotion from the bottom tier. The magic only lasted a season as he was unable to cope with the demands of the higher division and he was never a major influence again.

Billy Eames was a diminutive winger who scored on his debut and was man of the match on his debut as a trialist against Lincoln City. Surely Bill Dodgin would offer him a contract, but for some reason he didn’t and Eames retired and became a teacher.

Lee Frost took Griffin Park by storm as a marauding winger during a productive loan spell from Chelsea but he was a totally different player when he joined us on a permanent basis two years later. He was moved inside to partner Gary Johnson where he totally failed to impress and looked lightweight and he soon left the club and the professional game.

Tony Spencer was another who lost a promising career to injury. A composed young defender who was on the verge of establishing himself in the team, he suffered a serious knee injury from which he never fully recovered and he was forced to retire before his twentieth birthday.

Tony Lynch was a speedy winger who promised far more than he ultimately delivered before Frank McLintock released him. All credit to Lynch as he fought his way back to the Football League with Barnet for whom he played against Brentford.

Robbie Carroll was an underrated striker who scored regularly when given a chance but couldn’t manage to establish himself in the team. He never appeared to be particularly valued by the management and rejected the offer of a monthly contract and signed for Fareham Town.

The immortal Steve Thorne of fanzine fame scored a long range thunderbolt on his debut at Gillingham and ended up scoring the winning goal in his one and only Football League appearance.

Paul Birch cost ten thousand pounds from Portsmouth and scored an excellent goal at Fulham. He looked full of promise and hard running but surprisingly retired from football when barely twenty years old and became a successful businessman.

Andy Driscoll made an immediate impact with a wonderful solo goal against Blackpool as an eighteen year old winger of immense potential. His promise was never to be fulfilled as he never recovered from a serious knee injury and he eventually became a personal trainer. A  tragic loss as he could have been a star.

Kelly Haag was a prolific scorer at junior level notching fifty goals in a season but he was unable to make the step-up to senior football with Brentford but played for Fulham and Barnet with more success.

Winger Rob Peters is best remembered for a free kick goal at Huddersfield that helped us earn a playoff berth in 1991 but he never really made the grade.

I will try and complete this list in a day or so.