It’s Academic Mr Reeves – 30/8/14

So it’s farewell to Jake Reeves who has just had his contract terminated by mutual consent after making forty-seven appearances for the club.

Personally I think that this is the correct decision as at twenty one years of age Jake needs to play every week in order to continue his development and prove himself as a football league calibre player.

Unfortunately our progress has left him behind and he was highly unlikely to be anything other than an emergency replacement given our strength in midfield.

Taking into account the still awaited departure of Adam Forshaw, Jake was probably our eighth choice central midfielder behind Douglas, Tebar, Toral, Jota, Judge, Pritchard and Diagouraga.

The competition for places is fearsome and he has lost out in the battle.

But that is not to say that he has been a failure.

Perish the thought!

For any youngster to come through the Academy system, sign a professional contract and actually get to play in the Football League is a massive achievement and not one to be denigrated.

No more than ten percent of all youngsters who join Academies get to the point where they are offered professional terms, and of those lucky ones, only a tiny fraction ever make it to the First Team.

Jake arrived at Brentford at the age of sixteen from the Tottenham system and found a great supporter in Uwe Rosler.

He played well against Stoke City in a preseason friendly back in 2011 and was in the First Team squad for three years.

The weight of expectation was on him and he often delivered.

Supporters did not take into account his tender years and lack of experience and perhaps expected too much of him too soon. 

He needed to get into the rhythm of first team football but was rarely given the opportunity of a run in the team when he might have gained in confidence and been able to fully express himself and demonstrate his burgeoning talent. 

He sometimes looked like he was trying too hard and forcing things in an attempt to influence the game and make an immediate impression when he came on as a substitute.

Jonathan Douglas too, a formidable performer, occupied his preferred spot in front of the back four, and was not to be moved or swept aside.

Jake, though, more than held his own when given the opportunity.

I well remember his wonderful performance at Sheffield United in that crazy match at the end of the 2012/13 season where he dominated proceedings and pinged any number of defence splitting passes.

He was a true quarterback that evening and he looked like an experienced and battle hardened veteran rather than the inexperienced tyro he really was.

He made a memorable cameo appearance as a substitute against MK Dons in 2012 and played one of the passes of the season – a perfect slide rule effort that put Harry Forrester directly in on goal.

Sometimes, though, he looked like a little boy lost.

Rosler hung him out to dry by playing him against Stevenage in the land of the giants one miserable Tuesday night and he disappeared without trace as the ball was bashed without purpose from one end of the field to the other.

Last season he managed a well taken, crisply finished goal against Staines, impressed as a late substitute on many occasions and ended his Brentford career perfectly when his incisive, perfectly disguised pass inside the defender, laid on Alan Judge’s goal against Stevenage in the last minute of Jake’s last game.

The iconic image of Jonathan Douglas placing a protective arm tenderly around Jake after David Luiz’s cowardly assault is one that is also etched indelibly in my memory and demonstrates how highly Jake was regarded by his team mates.

Jake goes to Swindon with the good wishes of all Brentford supporters ringing in his ears.

He was one of ours and almost made it with us, but our progress was too much for him to keep up with and the time had come for us to part.

Our standards have risen exponentially over the past three years and only the cream of the crop will now have the ability to make it at Griffin Park.

Given the boost of regular first team football, Jake could still develop further but Swindon’s style and approach will suit him and he could well become more than a First Division player.

As we cancelled his contract, it is unlikely that we have negotiated a sell on clause to reward us for the part we played in his growth and development as a player but even so he represents another real success for the Brentford Academy system.

Ideally we will develop players who become regulars for our own team and Montell Moore, Josh Clarke and Alfie Mawson show every sign of doing so in the years to come.

There are also some wonderful prospects coming through at some of the younger age groups and I anticipate a conveyor belt of talent emerging over the next few years. 

But we should also take pride in the likes of Luke Norris and Aaron Pierre who are now trying to make their way elsewhere having received an excellent grounding at Brentford.

The other week, Michael Onuvwigun, a tall, leggy, young midfielder emerged as a substitute for the Chesterfield First Team, and I well suspect that this was a source of great delight to his former coaches at Brentford.

As I outlined earlier, the road to success in football is a long and tortuous one, and for a young prospect to rise to the level of the Football League at any club, even if not at Brentford, is a worthy achievement and one not be be sneezed at.

Jake Reeves has already proved to be a success and there is far more to come from him, and from others like him too.

There is now an established development pathway for young players at Brentford, and having had the pleasure of watching some of the talented youngsters in both the Under 18 and Under 16 teams play last Saturday, I am confident that there are many players already within the system who will have a successful career within the game, ideally at Brentford.

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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!