End Of Term Report – Part 1 – 14/5/16

Now that the season is finally over the time has come for me to give my brief verdict on every player and how they each performed last season. Here is the first part with, of course, more to follow:

2. Maxime Colin. We were all concerned about how well we would be able to replace the talented Moses Odubajo and the biggest compliment that I can give Max Colin is to state that Moses’s name has barely been mentioned for many months now, so well has the newcomer done. Signed in mid-August from Anderlecht for nine hundred thousand pounds, he impressed on his debut as a substitute at Burnley and just got better with every game. Strong in the tackle and good in the air, his defensive positioning improved with experience and he was only given the runaround by Brighton’s Jamie Murphy and Josh Murphy at MK Dons. He had the pace and ability to rampage forward and dribble past opponents at will and his cross led to a classic headed goal by Lasse Vibe at Ipswich. Knee ligament and groin injuries cost him nearly half the season and led to the threat of an operation. Hopefully he will return for the new season fit and ready to go as he is an exceptional player who has already proved to be a bargain signing.

3. Jake Bidwell. At only twenty-three years of age Jake has already made over two hundred appearances for the club and proved to be a popular team captain. He is so unobtrusive it is easy to take him for granted and fail to recognise just how good he is. Unfortunately he suffered a hamstring strain at Hull and lost his ever-present status, missing the local derby win over Fulham. He also finally broke his scoring duck in his one hundred and eighty-sixth game for the Bees and obviously enjoyed the feeling so much that he scored twice more before the end of the season. He was cool, calm and collected and very tough to beat and when he did make a mistake against Leeds which cost a late equaliser it stood out all the more because of its rarity. He was always eager to overlap and his accurate crosses led to four assists and his left footed curling corners and free kicks also improved throughout the season. The only problem with Jake is persuading him to sign a new contract as his current agreement expires at the end of next season.

4. Lewis Macleod. Another injury-wrecked season for Lewis and we still remain totally in the dark about his capabilities. His deep-rooted hamstring injury finally cleared up in late 2015 and allowed him to show his ability in the Development Squad and score eye-catching goals against QPR and Bristol City which clearly demonstrated his quality and whetted our appetite for more. He finally made his long awaited and much-delayed debut for the Bees with an eight minute runout at Brighton before succumbing to the injury hoodoo yet again, suffering a medial ligament injury in training. Next season perhaps? Surely he deserves some luck and the chance to show us what he can do?

5. Andreas Bjelland. There was palpable excitement and perhaps some disbelief amongst the Brentford supporters when the club smashed their transfer record by paying two million three hundred thousand pounds to sign Danish international central defender Andreas Bjelland from FC Twente. His preseason was hampered by a groin injury and he was given a runout on a terrible Griffin Park pitch in the Capital One Cup tie against Oxford United and must have wished he hadn’t as he suffered a serious knee ligament injury and missed the entire season. A terrible blow for the club and player alike. He is now back in training and hopefully will be fit for selection at the beginning of next season. But where will he play given the recent success of the Dean/Barbet partnership? What a wonderful problem for Dean Smith to have.

6. Harlee Dean. What a turnaround for the defender who ends the season with two hundred appearances for Brentford under his belt and a new two-year contract safely signed. How things have changed for the central defender who at one time looked certain to walk away on a Bosman free transfer at the end of the season. He came of age throughout the season and allowed his feet to do the talking rather than behave like a loose cannon, ever-ready to shoot off at the mouth if something upset him. He visibly matured, got a lot fitter, benefited from the long-term injury to Andreas Bjelland and the transfer of James Tarkowski, to become an automatic selection, a team leader and a tower of strength. He would not have been Harlee if there had not been one faux pas, in his case, the ridiculous red card he brought upon himself against Nottingham Forest. He read the game well and the blend of a tough traditional defender like Dean alongside a ballplayer like Tarkowski and subsequently Barbet, worked a treat. He won most of his challenges both in the air and on the ground, rarely dived in, showed far more mobility and also demonstrated an unexpected ability to play the ball accurately out of defence. His main weakness was in the opposition penalty area where he showed an infallible tendency to misfire or head the ball wide of the goal. At twenty-four his best is yet to come and he is finally playing for a Head Coach who believes in him and that has made a real difference to him.

7. Sam Saunders. After two injury-wrecked seasons it seemed that Sam might well be on his way out of the club and indeed it appeared likely at one time that he would move to America and play for Tampa Bay. Fortunately Sam chose to remain at Brentford and he more than justified his contract extension with a series of exceptional performances which ensured that he is about to enter his eighth season at Griffin Park. Dean Smith rightly valued his experience and leadership plus his ability to help his less experienced teammates and Sam rose to the challenge as well as scoring three beautifully taken goals against Leeds, Ipswich and, most memorably, his lob against Fulham, which highlighted his talent and growing confidence. He reads the game so well and finds time and space in the crowded midfield area and his bubbly enthusiasm, knowledge of the game and ability to keep possession is of massive value to the team.

8. Marco Djuricin. But for an ill-timed injury at Blackburn a mere eight days after his goal won the long-awaited West London derby against QPR and gave us our first win over the old enemy for fifty years, Marco Djuricin might have ended up as one of the stars of the team, but fate was against him and his season, and almost certainly his Brentford career fizzled out in frustration and disappointment. The Austrian international striker signed on loan from Red Bull Salzburg in late August although his arrival had been rumoured in January 2015. He made an excellent initial impression, scoring a cooly taken goal within twenty-nine minutes of his debut against Leeds United and made it two goals in three games when he scored the winner against Preston a week later. Another goal arrived soon afterwards at Wolves and when he scored the winner against QPR, running adroitly to the near post to convert a Judge cross, it appeared that we had a new hero in our midst. He played on the shoulder of the last defender, was sharp in front of goal and was eager to shoot rather than pass and was beginning to adapt to an unfamiliar role as a lone striker. A serious ankle ligament injury was the beginning the end for him as he was forced to miss two months of action and never regained his fitness or sharpness on his return and drifted out of contention. A real shame, as Marco possesses a striker’s instinct, something instinctive that cannot be taught, and will certainly come again, but surely not at Griffin Park, although his status as a Brentford legend is assured.

9. Scott Hogan. Sometimes people do get what they deserve and receive due reward for all their effort, dedication and determination not to give in when everything appears to be against them. Finally the Gods are smiling down upon Scott Hogan after he suffered and then overcame two career-threatening cruciate injuries and missed the best part of two season’s worth of football. Much was expected of Hogan when he was brought in to play ahead of Andre Gray at the beginning of the 2014/15 season and now he finally has the opportunity to show us why we signed him. He has certainly been a man on a mission since he was introduced as a late substitute on the nineteenth of March against Blackburn Rovers. Further short run-outs followed against Bolton and Ipswich before he finally made his mark by winning and then missing a penalty kick against Bristol City, before netting his first goal for the Bees with a last-gasp predator’s header which earned us a point. Two more clinical finishes against Cardiff made us realise that this was a really special player who was single-mindedly determined to make up for lost time. He was being carefully managed by the medical team and his time on the pitch was strictly rationed, but Lasse Vibe’s injury meant that Scott was named in the starting eleven against both Fulham and Huddersfield and he rewarded Dean Smith’s faith in him with four more goals. He ended up playing less than two full matches, one hundred and seventy-two minutes in all, and yet he scored an incredible total of seven goals and clearly demonstrated that he is a cool, calm and deadly finisher who has the rare ability to ghost in behind defenders and find time and space within crowded penalty areas. He has been compared in style and approach to Jamie Vardy and has already attracted the attention of the Eire selectors. Brentford have certainly been rewarded for their faith in Scott and for extending his contract for another year before he made his comeback and next season cannot come soon enough for him. What a prospect he is and if he can stay fit we will have a magnificent striker on our hands.

10. Josh McEachran. There was much excitement when we signed Josh McEachran from Chelsea for seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds. He seems to have been around for ever but is still only twenty-three years old. But scratch beneath the surface and his CV was slightly concerning as he had had five loan spells at clubs like Middlesbrough and Watford without establishing himself and he desperately needed a home and a role as his career appeared to be drifting. Unfortunately nothing has gone right for him since he joined Brentford. The first half of his season was ruined by a training ground collision with Toumani Diagouraga which resulted in a fractured foot, and, incredibly, he suffered a similar injury in March which ended his season. In between he managed fifteen appearances without really making too much of an impact. He describes himself as a holder and a passer, dictating play and his approach should have suited our play given the manner in which we always try to play through the midfield, but despite showing glimmers of his ability with a dummy here and a perceptive pass there, it never really happened for him and his passing generally lacked incision or penetration and was too often sideways or backwards and he generally hung out a foot rather than tackle properly. Perhaps it is simply a case that he was simply lacking in match fitness and confidence? We can only hope that he recovers in time for the start of next season and that he can then show us what he is capable of.

11. Philipp Hofmann. The enigma that is Hofmann. So much ability but so little end result to date. Expectations were high when we signed the massive German Under 21 international striker and it was hoped that he could provide us with a different type of option upfront given his size and strength. His progress was hindered by a series of niggling injuries and he seemed to find the Championship a massive learning curve and did not appear ideally suited to the lone striker system employed by the club. He did not have the pace or mobility to run the channels and, despite his height, he was not strong in the air. What he did have, though, was an unsuspected ability, strength and trickery on the ball and a real subtlety of pass. He only started six games all season but still managed to score four goals, including a wonderful finish at Bristol City, a calm dribble around a stranded goalkeeper at Wolves and the triple-ricochet winner at home to Nottingham Forest. He also missed a simple headed chance to win the home game against Brighton. I hope that next season he proves that he has a real future with us and that he relishes the challenge of adapting to the Championship. The jury is out.

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The Lowlights Of The Season – 13/5/16

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

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

Paul Grimes Has His Say – 16/3/16

Paul Grimes was not entirely convinced by what both Matthew Benham and Phil Giles said in their recent interviews with Beesotted and myself and given that he remains angry and frustrated about the current situation he has given vent to his feelings and sent me a long and emotive article which clearly sets out his concerns and what he feels must be done in order to improve matters and get us back on track.

I would just like to remind everybody of the immortal comment of Evelyn Beatrice Hall:

I do not agree with what you have to say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

Here is what Paul wrote:

My old drama teacher used to say to me that comedy was all about timing! I then had to take his comments on board and present them and one week as I enacted the role of the drama teacher talking to a pupil I chose my lines carefully;

” Comedy young man is all about t-t-t-t-t-timing”. A little stutter added and then, hey presto, laughter.

As I observed last week’s jousting between BIAS and this blog to get interviews with Matthew Benham and Phil Giles out to the public before the big derby I felt an uplifting chuckle amongst my pre-match nerves. Having read both articles and other social media feedback I found myself thinking about my drama teacher again. 

Pause, take a deep breath and hit your mark!

So that’s what I did and to be fair I needed to because the outpouring of love from the rose tinted brigade and those that can’t bear to read any negative opinions about the club almost had me reaching for the sick bucket.

Let’s break it down a bit.

It was a fantastic article from Besotted first and a great coup for Billy and Dave to get an interview with the usually publicity shy Matthew Benham.

Good set of questions and forthright answers from the owner. But was I happy with what the owner replied? Not really.

Firstly there seems to be this yes men mentality around the club this season and none of the questions really challenged Matthew in my opinion. 

One wonders if there was a remit before the interview such to only ask the type of questions that he was prepared to answer? 

There are no follow up questions to the crucial answers Matthew gives.

On Smith for example, Matthew is very happy with Dean. That’s it? What about the long term plan and Dean’s understanding of it?

What about asking him to elaborate o his win record and underachievement as a lot of the supporters are now doubting him.

Then there is this clamour that Smith has to be given the chance to build his own team. I am not so sure about that!

Isn’t Dean in the Head Coach role? Wasn’t one of the reasons for having a Head Coach to prevent any Manager using the players at his disposal as an excuse for poor performance?

Lee Carsley coached this same set of players to better performances than Smith has done. 

Which brings me on to timing.

Why was this interview given BEFORE the game on Saturday?

The result of the four local derbies and bragging rights amongst friends is all we are clinging onto this season so Saturday’s performance and result was always going to have great significance. 

I can’t comment on the performance as my leg is in plaster so I wasn’t there but I was glued to the live text commentary and the all important stats and my blood was boiling as Smith pondered his next move after the second goal. That had come soon after sending on Vibe and dispensing with the false nine set up. Then it hit him, Saunders and Kerschbaumer! 

Not Djuricin? Not two up top? After all we are two down. Now we are three down and no surprise because we had gone from playing a false nine to playing with only nine because Vibe is knackered according to Smith and Kerschbaumer is contributing absolutely nothing.

Anyway I digress, but that is what this match in particular does to Bees fans of a certain age. 

Back to the article, and in particular the public backing of Smith. It made me wonder if Matthew has decided enough is enough and by hook or by crook we are sticking with this because there is no more money being thrown at it this season.

I have had my Eureka moment and I have just realised This is not a Comedy and nobody is laughing!

Let’s now consider the Phil Giles interview.

Before I do that I wanted to start by reminding the readers that Greville came in for a bit of personal stick from one fan who likened his style of questioning to perhaps that of a blunt instrument and as unfair as that was I have to say that my first thoughts on that matter was to sympathise with the fan’s comment. I think that as Greville is a well respected Bees United Director I think its fair to say that he would not be seen by many fans as a boat rocker and thus I guess the fear was that the questions would not represent the animosity that is felt by many to the job being done by Giles and Ankersen.

So maybe on  behalf of some of those fans that perhaps have a different and in this writer’s case certainly, a less informed opinion to that which Greville has of the club and how this season is panning out here is my thoughts on them both.

To start with I was disappointed that the Beesotted lads gave Matthew just one short question about the supposed alienation of his Co-Directors of Football from fans like me and his answer to me smacks of a pre-interview agreement not to press him on this subject.

So Let me take it apart. and maybe ask some probing questions that maybe the Beesotted boys might have done.

 It’s a team effort. So that is Giles, Ankersen and yourself Matthew? Was Marinus appointed by this team? The mistake that was made by not following up on the poor reference, whose decision was that Matthew?

Was Marinus involved in signing Kerschbaumer, Gogia, Vibe, Bjelland, Barbet, Colin? What did he know about any of them except Bjelland ? What stats were compiled about these players and were these stats put to Marinus to consider or did one of the team take a more proactive lead in this area?

So are we laying the failure of any of these to make any kind of first season impact at the feet of Marinus or are the Directors of Football to blame? Or is it a collective failure?

When were concerns first raised about Marinus and Roy and their training sessions and the ability of the new players within the management team or squad? Was it in Portugal? How were the comments made and to whom? Were those comments passed onto the rest of the team?

Was the whistleblower encouraged to communicate with the executive management team or was he singled out as a troublemaker? Any regrets over that part of this new transition period, Matthew?

I think I have tried to show how the interview could have expanded and I don’t think Billy or Dave who both know me will say I have done them a disservice by making the points I have because they speak to fans every week and they know that some of us want the same thing they do but we have the luxury of not having to take such a soft stance with the questions we would like answered.

So onto the Giles interview and his opening gambit is and I quote

” I understand the current frustration among our fans”. Well without being too disrespectful Phil I don’t think you do.

So let me put it to you straight, The Co-Directors of Football along with the owner selected Marinus and he turned out be a mistake.

Not a great start.

Then there was your colleague’s comments about our short term ambitions. Naïve but once it was out there expectation levels amongst our fans went haywire and on the back of last season’s success we all looked forward to seeing the new look team.  A new look squad signed by the executive team based on the same identification process that had been available to Warburton. So here is a question Phil, were those first seven signings the same seven players that were offered to Warburton that he turned down in January?

If so, on whose expert opinion was that decision made?

Add in Pitchgate, losing to Oxford, losing Bjelland none of which that you can be blamed for and then we lose Jota as well and things are not going well at all.

Then the ineffectiveness of Kerschbaumer, Gogia, Vibe, Djuricin, Hofmann, Barbet and to a lesser extent Colin, and the poor start, and now Phil you might finally be getting an understanding of the frustrations of the fans.

In comes Lee Carsley who starts by contradicting the statement given by the club regarding his appointment and then with the help of an International Break gets the team behind him and the recovery begins. But due to his unwillingness to do the job the executive team are looking for a new man to come in. Paul Williams comes in and Carsley talks him up but he also leaves and is now in caretaker charge at Forest and the executive team settle on Dean Smith as the new man to take us forward.

A centre half in lower league football with a win percentage of thirty-two percent in his managerial career who if he maintains only that form would give us between fifty-eight and sixty-two points in a season with draws thrown in. Inspired choice or just the most cost effective?

Are you getting a sense of the frustration Phil? I hope so and maybe now that you may understand the concerns of Brentford fans perhaps you might want to revisit your answers because had you have been interviewed by me and not Greville you would not be getting off so lightly.

Then to set the tone properly I want to mention George Evans. Smith gave the lad a platform at Walsall and he had been mentioned way back in December as being our first Smith signing so why was he not tied up Macleod style on the first of January before the FA Cup game where he demonstrated clearly what a good player he is going to be? Quite frankly Phil, who bodged this signing, You or Rasmus?

When you are done and you have answered the questions then do I think you are in position to make your opening statement and then you can answer the softly put questions that Greville has compiled and then and only then will I want the chance to re-read your answers.

Ok,  so what next? Well I believe Smith is a short term, cost-effective appointment with poor tactical awareness as was demonstrated on Saturday, not for the first time. The improvement required by him alone in his ability to affect positively his win percentage just does not seem to me to be forthcoming nor likely.

So now or in May he has to go. Sorry if you disagree but the stats don’t lie. He is another mistake by the Co-Directors of Football and (if you like) by the owner if he wants to be seen as in that executive team.

Benham is not shy to address mistakes as proven with Marinus and I expected that decision to be made in the fullness of time right upto that interview last week. Sadly I think results will continue to go against Smith and Matthew Benham will have to take his medicine once more.

Giles makes a point of stating how young our team is and right now this team needs a Darron Gibson type or perhaps come the end of the season we could highjack Tom Adeyemi who will be available from Cardiff, is the right age, ability and who seems to have lost his place at Leeds to Toumani.

Then there is the forward line which can only be described as a complete failure. Short term we need a striker with either pace and/or strength who can play up top alone so Glenn Murray springs to mind short term with maybe Hogan adding the pace very soon off the bench at least. Hofmann needs to learn how to play as a back post striker so I would call up Crawley or Oldham and find a way to tempt them to take him on loan as he might find an ex-Bee or a youth team coach at those clubs who might just be able to bring out the player that lots of fans think could be in there.

Vibe needs a rest so he would be on the bench at best from now until end of season. Djuricin then has a ten match trial to ensure the option is taken up in May albeit for me off the bench.

At the back I think it’s time to add a loanee centre half, yes that’s right five at the back. Macca at Right back. Woods in front.

On the other side Bidwell and McEachran with Judge a loanee midfielder and possibly a loanee centre forward. Quite simply a new spine that in old money has a spine.

Hogan and Djuricin off the bench if we get a Murray in along with Yennaris, Swift, Canos, O’Connell and Bonham.

If I never see Kerschbaumer in a Brentford shirt again it will be too soon.

So what do we need?

Well I think we need three loan signings, yes three, and the reason is not to avoid relegation, it’s to ensure this club remains attractive to the players who the owner wants to target in the Summer and thus the message to Giles and Ankersen would be if you two want another stab at this in the summer right now before the loan window closes, show us you have the ability to get the right short term players in as after a week of interviews and following eight defeats in eleven games right now, actions speak louder than words!

I could go though Paul’s words line by line and try and rebut much of what he says but as I stated the other week I feel that it is important for me from time to time to allow Brentford supporters to have their say whatever their views, as long as they are expressed decently and without abuse. That being said, there are certainly points that Paul makes that will have many supporters nodding in agreement as well as others reeling in horror.

So I have published it pretty much as it was submitted and now it is up to you to comment, agree or disagree according to your own opinion.

A View From Afar – 13/2/16

It is always wonderful to hear from a member of the Brentford family who lives far away from Griffin Park and Graham Tyrrell certainly qualifies as he has spent the last twenty years ensconsed in the United States of America.

Distance certainly seems to lend a sense of perspective and detachment and from what he has written below it is quite obvious that Graham is an astute, perceptive and knowledgeable supporter who maintains his love and passion for the club despite the thousands of miles that separate him from TW8.

Here are his memories of being a Brentford supporter for the last thirty years, and given that I found myself marooned in New York for three years in the mid 80s, far away from my beloved Brentford FC, I can quite empathise with the problems Graham also faced in doing his utmost to keep in touch with everything that was going on at the club as I shared the identical frustrations in those pre internet days of trying to work with all manner of obsolete technology that was patently not yet up to the job.

I’ve been a Bees supporter since the mid 80s.

One of my first games was the Freight Rover Trophy final against Wigan – a precursor to three decades of Wembley misery.

I moved to the US permanently in 1994. So that makes it one decade of living and breathing BFC at close hand and two decades of following their ups and downs from afar.

During this time I can safely say my loyalty to the club hasn’t wavered once. But it definitely requires a different type of loyalty compared to that exhibited by the amazing fans who spend serious amounts of time and money going to games home and away every week.

To begin with, following a club like Brentford required creativity and patience. In 1994, the internet barely existed and was certainly not the endless wealth of information it has become today. This meant that the primary sources of any Brentford news were the BBC World Service (on the elusive long wave) and Richmond & Twickenham Times clippings sent by my Mum (arriving about ten days after the games).

Over time the options to stay in touch with the Bees have grown massively. Initially, the internet at least provided live score updates of sorts but that was basically like watching teletext.

Eventually, once the BBC started putting all of their radio content online – I soon realized I could happily listen to BBC Radio London and the wonderful Billy Reeves. At first this entailed lugging my laptop around the house and hoping the wifi wouldn’t cut out just as the panic-inducing words “there’s been a goal at Griffin Park” were announced.

Today, by contrast I can get the whole thing on my phone whilst walking the dogs, cleaning the car, you name it. Then there’s BFC Talk, Beesotted and You Tube highlights providing a great insight into how the team are performing and what the fans are thinking.

The personal emotional roller coaster is much the same. Standing in stunned silence in my dining room after Trotta’s penalty miss unable to comprehend what just happened or showing up to a business meeting with a huge grin after the 4-1 demolition of Fulham last year, being just a couple of examples.

But the back to reality moment is definitely a whole lot quicker when you’re not surrounded by other football fans, let alone fellow Bees supporters.

In recent years, the US, which traditionally resisted the lure of soccer, has really started to embrace the game – at least in my experience living in a big east coast city.

However, the focus is well and truly on the Premier League. NBC has done a great job of promoting not only the matches but the whole narrative and back stories that make following English football so compelling. And a special mention to Michael Davies and Roger Bennett aka The Men in Blazers. Their podcast does an incredible job of taking the typical pub banter of football fans and making it accessible to expats and US fans alike. Even for people not in the US, it’s worth checking out some time (www.meninblazers.com).

Soccer fans in the US are now starting to better understand the English football culture and, for example, the fact that teams can move up and down through the leagues. This makes for an interesting dilemma as people with no connection to the UK and new to the sport essentially get to pick a team. But what happens when lots of Americans follow Fulham because Clint Dempsey plays for them and they then get relegated…

Last season of course elevated the Bees to the second tier and this made explaining which team I support a whole lot easier. “We’re in the league below the Premier League – you know, like Bournemouth were last year and Aston Villa will be next year”.

They’re also occasionally on TV – the Boro play-off games for example. So to me, as an exiled fan, this higher profile and media coverage is just another important element of having Brentford in the Championship (a bit like skipping the first two FA Cup rounds). And for that, a hearty thanks to Matthew Benham and Mark Warburton for getting us there.

As for debate on whether BFC are moving in the right direction this term, I would say, looking at it from distance, they are, given the highly competitive environment.

It’s an oddity in some ways that US sports leagues tend to be almost controlled economies with salary caps and drafts of new talent, whereas English football is capitalism at its finest – with one significant perversion.

The Premier League now pays off the losers who are relegated. As we all know, this means the teams dropping down have a huge financial advantage and can cherry pick players from the competition. Given that environment (and the fact Mr. Benham is wealthy but not an oligarch or a sovereign wealth fund) I feel the Bees are doing very well to compete with the big boys.

As has been stated in your blog, last year the stars aligned. In my mind Warburton deserves a huge portion of credit for this. He clearly has great man-management skills and works well with David Weir to get the best out of players. I think his background in business, as well as football, has given him a unique skill set and perhaps a model for others to follow?

However, in retrospect, it does seem that other teams figured us out after half a season and those with the cash started circling our best players (an issue Warburton would have faced also). A big disappointment is that they have all gone to other Championship clubs – but again that’s the harsh reality.

One thing that I didn’t see too much mention of is the fact that we have (potentially) two big players to come in next season before we ever spend a pound of the incoming transfer funds in Bjelland and Hogan. Admittedly both are unproven in this league and both had ACLs, which can sometimes never truly be recovered from, but let’s hope both guys prove to be great “new signings” next season along with the ever elusive Mr. Macleod.

So here’s hoping for a strong start to next year (in the Championship of course)!

Naturally, the single biggest challenge of being an overseas supporter is not being able see a live game and it’s too bad that I’ll probably never see Jota ply his trade in a Brentford shirt or a Dallas screamer.

I’m really hoping I can make it back for one more game at Griffin Park before it is torn down. And assuming I do, I know the other fans will welcome a guy with a funny Anglo-American accent – because it’s always been a great and friendly club with pubs on the corners.

Plus I’ll be wearing my 1985 Freight Rover Final scarf, so I must be legit!

Thank you Graham for your contribution which I hope that everyone enjoys as much as I did.

A Missed Opportunity – 27/1/16

Let’s just get things into context for a moment.  I am sure that most Brentford supporters left Griffin Park last night frustrated and not a little fed up after Jake Bidwell’s calamitous and most untypical error gifted Leeds United a late and totally unmerited equaliser that cost Brentford two crucial points as we attempt to stay on the coat tails of the playoff chasing pack.

This morning I have had some time to think more carefully and rationally about the events of last night and now my overriding view is quite simply how far we have come as both a team and a football club when we are moaning and gnashing our teeth at our failure to defeat one of the country’s biggest and most established teams – tarnished and faded glory that they undoubtedly are.

I well remember our inferiority complex when we played Leeds in 2009 after a gap of several decades and our sheer incredulity that the minnows of Brentford were allowed to share a pitch with the giants of Elland Road.

Oh, and by the way, times have changed. Leeds have not beaten us on any of the six occasions that we have played them since then and there was only one team trying to play football out there last night.

It was also Groundhog Day as there was a similar sense of frustration earlier in the season when we totally dominated proceedings at Elland Road, squandered chance after chance to score what would undoubtedly have been a match clinching second goal and then succumbed to a late equaliser after an unforced error when Ryan Woods was caught in possession.

Last night saw us play some quality football particularly in the first half when we totally dominated but failed to make our possession count – a failing that came back to haunt us after the break when we put the handbrake on and created very little.

Had we held on, as we should have done, and emerged with a confidence boosting and much needed and long overdue home win, as well as the first clean sheet of the year, then we would today be congratulating the team for a solid, competent and professional performance.

The fact that we were unable to see the game through was certainly galling and provided further proof, if any was needed, that we are still a work in progress and nowhere near the finished article, but there was also much to take pride and pleasure in.

Sam Saunders was a bundle of energy and effervescence and he frolicked around with the enthusiasm of a new born lamb.

He scored a beautifully taken goal when he ran at the heart of the Leeds defence from the halfway line and distracted as they were by the excellent decoy runs of Judge and Vibe, they criminally backed off him and Sam picked his spot perfectly into the corner of the net from the edge of the area before deservedly milking the applause from the Ealing Road faithful.

Sam is rumoured to be on his way shortly to Tampa Bay but given the sheer professionalism and excellence of his performance last night there is surely still a place for him in and around the first team squad at Griffin Park.

Given the current uncertainty over James Tarkowski, Yoann Barbet needed to step up to the plate last night and he more than met expectations, winning all of his aerial challenges, showing strength and pace as well as demonstrating his skill on the ball and ability to pick out a pass.

He is a real find and there is now a refreshing French feel and Gallic flamboyance in our defence with Barbet and Max Colin both looking as if they will be in the team to stay and I prophesy that it will not be too long before they attract serious attention from other interested parties.

There has been some recent criticism, both veiled and overt, regarding the quality of our recruitment since the end of last season so it is also important and only fair to give praise and recognise the achievements of our Directors of Football whenever it is justified, and in Colin, Barbet, as well of course in Ryan Woods, we have struck gold and made potentially exceptional signings.

We might well be talking about another one very shortly if Josh McEachran continues in the same vein as last night.

Toumani Diagouraga, watching for most of the match from the Leeds dugout where he must have recoiled from the nonstop verbal onslaught from his uncouth new managerial team, must surely have appreciated the sheer quality of his likely successor’s performance as Josh combined some welcome and unexpected grit, pressing and tackling with the eerie ability to find time and space in a congested midfield as well as the vision to invariably find a team mate with his pass.

McEachran clearly demonstrated that given full fitness he will become a massive asset for the club and his burgeoning partnership with the bustling Ryan Woods, lightweights that they both are, augers well for the future and will ideally prove that brain overcomes brawn.

John Swift and Alan Judge too often dribbled into blind alleys and their final ball was often lacking, but we never stopped probing for openings and perhaps the key moment came soon after we had scored when Swift found Judge who turned inside his marker, switched the ball onto his left foot and curled his shot inches over the bar with Silvestri helpless.

A second goal then would surely have put the game well beyond Leeds but we rarely threatened after the break and Leeds finally took advantage when the normally reliable Jake Bidwell shanked his clearance when under no real pressure and Carayol took full advantage with a well placed curling shot just out of the reach of the straining David Button.

So a curate’s egg of a performance which reconfirmed many of our strengths and weaknesses.

We do not make the most of our possession and let teams off the hook and I would hate to count up the number of giveaway goals we have gifted the opposition this season.

The formation we play requires our midfield to flood forward far quicker in support of our lone striker and I am afraid to say that in my opinion we need far better up front than the three strikers we currently possess, as none of them have really convinced that they are the solution to the problem.

We are not using Lasse Vibe to the best of his ability and his minimal threat was easily snuffed out last night which meant that the ball rarely stuck in the final third and the pace and bubbly enthusiasm of the injured Sergi Canos was also badly missed.

However the good easily outweighed the bad and we now move on.

Who knows what might happen in the next few days before the end of the Transfer Window?

Will we escape unscathed or suffer further losses and depredations, and if so who might come in to augment our depleted squad?

That though is a reflection for another day.

 

Tarky’s Tale – 26/1/15

James Tarkowski finally broke radio silence yesterday when he issued a personal statement intended to explain his actions last week when he refused to play against Burnley.

Here is what he had to say:

I wanted to share a message with the fans following last week’s events. My plans were to do this sooner but I agreed with the club that it was better to do so once I’d returned to training.

I have always enjoyed giving 100 per cent playing for Brentford and am always proud to wear the shirt.

As a team, and with your support, we’ve had two years of great progress. From the promotion to the Championship through to last season where we reached the Play-Offs, I have so many special memories of this club and of the backing we’ve had from you, the fans.

I have always had a strong bond with my team mates and the fans. I also have a very close relationship with my family who, like you and my team mates, have been thereand supported me throughout my career.

Unfortunately my mum has a serious, incurable illness and her condition has been getting steadily worse. I live a good four hours away from her and during the autumn, it became clear to me that I needed to get closer to home to support both her and my dad.

I was open and up front about this with the Club, who were sympathetic and said they’d work with me and my agent to try to reach a solution which worked well for the Club whilst giving me the possibility to move to closer to my mum.

We decided to keep this matter confidential in the best interests of everyone. I decided not to put in a transfer request as we agreed it would be better to work together on this.

In the run up to the match against Burnley, I felt completely frazzled and unable to concentrate properly. I felt that to play in the match in this frame of mind may actually do more harm than good. I thought that my distraction may result in an error that would let my team mates and the fans down. After much thought and consultation with the gaffer, my family and my team mates, I felt unable to guarantee my usual standard of performance and said as much to the gaffer.

I would like to apologise to my team mates, the gaffer and the fans. I hope that you can understand the pressure I was under and that no offence or insult was intended to anyone associated with the Club. I have taken the sanction given to me by the Club with good grace.

I would also like to thank everyone who has offered me support over the last ten days, and thank the Club for continuing to understand my situation at home.

I am still under contract at Brentford and am committed to giving my best for the Club, the team and the fans, as I always do when wearing the shirt.

James Tarkowski

When I last looked earlier this morning there were already pages and pages of comments on social media endlessly and forensically examining the runes and entrails and taking every single word apart in an attempt to analyse the exact meaning and nuances of what Tarkowski had said and in many cases comparing his situation with that of Jota who was pretty much given compassionate leave recently given his own personal problems.

Please feel free to wade through them all if you have the time, energy, interest and desire to do so and the general tenet of the comments ranges from a continued and unchanged feeling of anger at his original behaviour to a sense of understanding that the seriousness of the situation relating to his Mother’s illness had led him to behave irrationally and unacceptably.

I have no intention of giving an opinion on the matter as quite frankly I don’t really think that it matters one iota or jot what I think. What is more important is where this now leaves us.

Frankly the club is betting each way and covering the bases as nothing has really changed. Tarkowski still wishes to leave the club and Brentford will still only sell him if they are offered an acceptable sum for his transfer. Everything else is pure gloss and window dressing.

It would be to everybody’s advantage if a club does come in for the player before the end of the Transfer Window and offers a sum in excess of three million pounds. Should that be the case then I would fully expect that Tarkowski will be on his way. The key question is whether clubs will now be looking to take advantage of the unedifying situation and offer us well below market rate?

Given what he had to say yesterday it will be particularly interesting to see how he copes with the dilemma should a club south of the Watford Gap attempt to sign him given his stated intention to return to the North of England.

What the statement did, given that it included an apology to all parties, is open the door to the possibility of Tarkowski playing for us again should his move not come to fruition, and that is where the problems arise.

There is absolutely no point in leaving the player in purdah for the remainder of the season, thus further eroding his transfer value and turning him into damaged and shop-soiled goods.

Tarkowski is finished at Brentford, that is quite obvious to me. A parting of the ways is inevitable and it is just a question of whether he leaves in the next week or at the end of the season.

As for his playing for us again should he still be at the club after the Transfer Window shuts, I would hope fervently that the form of Dean, Barbet and O’Connell makes his presence on the pitch unnecessary and superfluous, not because I feel any personal vitriol towards him, but simply because his presence would be turned into a sideshow which would take attention away and distract everybody from the only thing that matters – winning football matches.

The Tarkowski situation and how we should handle it has totally divided and polarised the supporter base and is just one more unsettling episode in what has been a season that in so many ways has resembled a soap opera in terms of some of the off field happenings.

I have no way of knowing what will happen between now and the end of the month however I believe it would be in the best interests of everybody if James Tarkowski, talented player that he undoubtedly is, finds a new home as soon as possible.

So Who’s Leaving Brentford This Transfer Window? – 9/1/16

I wanted to write some original and perceptive comments about what Brentford should be looking to achieve in the current Transfer Window but we seem to be on ever shifting sands with the situation seemingly changing every day and what I write now might well be totally out of date by the time that you read it.

All my conversations and soundings over the last week or so seemed to reinforce the view that this would be a quiet month for the Bees with a minimum of activity. In other words we would be reactive rather than proactive, not seeking to strengthen or change the squad too much, or even at all, unless our hand was forced by enemy action with players leaving the building.

Now things are completely different with rumours abounding about the likes of Alan Judge, James Tarkowski, Jota, Harlee Dean and Toumani Diagouraga and the prospect of some or all of them finding new homes before the end of the month.

As Phil Giles stated in his excellent interview with Beesotted, we would certainly struggle to cope with all of them going at the same time but he felt that it is very unlikely that all of them would be on the move.

I have already written about our philosophy and how, whilst we are not looking to sell our best players, everybody has his price and if we receive an acceptable offer and can replace the player properly then we will do so assuming that the player wishes to leave the club.

I do not intend to bore you by repeating why in my opinion we are for the time being a stepping stone club, vulnerable to approaches by our richer rivals, but the fact remains that contracts are often not worth the paper they are written on and if a footballer becomes disaffected and decides for whatever reason that the grass is greener elsewhere then it is almost invariably the best policy to allow him to leave as long as it is on our terms rather than his.

Adam Forshaw is a perfect example of this policy as he was made to kick his heels on gardening leave until Wigan finally and belatedly coughed up a high enough fee to persuade us to sell a player who had made it perfectly clear that he wanted to leave.

Footballers are well aware from the grapevine and the bush telegraph just how much other clubs are paying in terms of salaries and given the uncertain nature of their career which can end at any time and is highly unlikely to last for more than eight years, they cannot be blamed for chasing the money and seeking to maximise their earnings.

Sometimes you feel that money is the overriding priority and that ambition and career development can take a back seat.

Only Andre Gray and Moses Odubajo of our recent departures can really be said to have bettered themselves as they are both currently starring in teams challenging for promotion to the Premier League as well as earning sums that they could only have dreamed about at Brentford.

Adam Forshaw has criminally allowed a burgeoning career to at least temporarily wither on the vine as he sits gathering splinters on the Middlesbrough bench instead of playing every week and proving himself as one of the best midfielders in the Championship.

Stuart Dallas has had an in and out season for a massively unpredictable and inconsistent team in Leeds United, Clayton Donaldson plies a lonely furrow as Birmingham’s lone striker and Simon Moore has disappeared almost without trace as he waits patiently for David Marshall to leave Cardiff City. Harry Forrester has had a couple of years in the wasteland at Doncaster – what an appalling career decision he made when he decided to jump ship, and might now finally be on the road to resurrection at Glasgow Rangers.

The point I am making is that sometimes chasing the money does not bring guaranteed career progress and success, a message that some of our current squad might benefit from taking into consideration.

What happens next is to a large degree out of our own hands and we simply have to wait and see if any of the clubs rumoured to be interested in our players step up to the plate and meet our asking price.

Even should that be the case the player will need to decide if he wishes to remain within the positive and nurturing environment at Griffin Park where everybody mucks in and there are no cliques or rampant troublemakers amongst what is a young and dedicated squad.

Looking at the situation with each of the five Brentford players who are rumoured to be attracting external interest, my view is as follows:

Alan Judge has quite simply been the best player in the Championship throughout the first half of the season as his highly impressive tally of goals and assists clearly testifies. No wonder there is serious interest in him from the likes of Sheffield Wednesday who are rumoured to have offered to triple his wages. I also wonder if a Premier League team might yet come in for him.

On the one hand Alan is the man at Griffin Park, everything revolves around him and he is the catalyst and fulcrum for most of the good things that we do. He is the conductor who sets the tempo and the rest dance around him feeding off his magic and inspiration.

He is in an ideal situation to show off his talent and earn a place in the Eire squad for the European Championship tournament this Summer.

But, money talks, and at twenty-seven, he is not getting any younger and might never again recapture his current form. Maybe he should strike while the iron is hot and take the money that will surely be on offer before the end of January.

He needs to play every week and as long as he does not become a bit part player and fall out of the spotlight then I could understand him deciding to move to a bigger club, even in the Championship, despite the fact that he and his family seem settled and happy – such is the nature of football. Opportunities do not come along very often and need to be carefully considered whenever they do and not frittered away.

The situation from Brentford’s perspective is also very interesting. Ideally he will either sign an improved contract, something that I feel is highly unlikely to happen, or we will keep hold of him unless our valuation, and I hear figures of between six to eight million pounds being bandied around, is reached. As for Sheffield Wednesday, they seem to be bidding for all number of players so who knows how serious they are about signing Judge.

We are obviously a far better team with Judge than without him but I can also understand the viewpoint that he is at the absolute peak of his game and is unlikely to improve much or any more and perhaps we should take the money if it is on offer, particularly bearing in mind that promotion is far less likely a prospect this season than it was last, his contract expires at the end of next season and he will soon become a depreciating asset.

Personally I hope that he remains at least until the end of the season as it would be wonderful to see a Brentford player competing at the Euro’s but I think that we will probably have a difficult decision to make about him in the next few weeks.

James Tarkowski is a different kettle of fish as at twenty-three he is still improving and is nowhere near the finished article and given hard work, dedication, good coaching and the right attitude, he could turn out to be pretty much anything he wants to be. He really has the potential to be that good and if he progresses as I hope then I see him developing into a Premier League regular at the very least.

There was talk of interest from Fulham in the last Transfer Window and now Burnley are reputed to be making overtures for him with a fee of around four to five million pounds being mooted on social media. Tarky can be infuriatingly casual and inconsistent and make schoolboy howlers in defence, but he also has games when he resembles a reincarnation of Alan Hansen, winning the ball, selling an impudent dummy and striding imperiously into the opposition half. Of all the players in the current squad I believe that Tarky could go the furthest given his youth and relative inexperience.

I would go so far as to say that given the choice of keeping Tarkowski or Judge then I would choose to sell Alan Judge – as long as Tarky is not allowed anywhere near penalty taking duties at any time in the future.

The Jota situation is totally unexpected and has come as a bolt out of the blue. Unfortunately it appears that he has a serious personal family issue which makes it almost impossible for him to remain in this country if he is to maintain a family unit. This will almost certainly result in his being loaned back to a club in La Liga, perhaps Eibar, where he had a massively successful loan spell a couple of years ago.

This would enable us to keep Jota prominently in the shop window and give us the best chance of making a decent return on him should his situation not change and we are eventually forced to sell him. This is doubly frustrating for us given that we have waited so patiently and with such a sense of anticipation and expectation for Jota to recover from his long term injury and we were all looking forward so much to watching him play every week and entertain us with his genius and magic wand of a left foot.

We will simply have to wait and see what happens over the coming months but if we are forced to sell him to a Spanish club, given the financial constraints of all but a minority of teams, it is very unlikely that we will be able to obtain anywhere near the level of fee for him that at one time looked likely. That is just how it is and we simply have to accept a difficult situation and wish him and his family all the best.

As for Harlee Dean, I feel that there is definitely some brinksmanship being played on both sides. Will the club make him a contract renewal offer that the player deems acceptable or will Harlee allow his existing deal to expire so that he can leave on a Bosman free at the end of the season? Are the club happy to allow him to leave for nothing or will they even try and sell him in the current Transfer Window and get some sort of return for him?

It is almost impossible to answer any of these questions with any degree of certainty and Harlee’s future could also be tied in with whatever happens to James Tarkowski as I cannot see the club allowing both of them to leave this month.

Harlee presents a bit of a conundrum as he is a complete enigma. There are times when he is able to add concentration and discipline to his total commitment and he looks the real deal – a polished mid to high level Championship calibre central defender. At others he lets himself down both on and off the pitch with a combination of sloppy play and thinking and he looks out of his depth.

He is a valued member of the old guard and continuity is precious but I think there also comes a time when every player has had his day and in my heart of hearts I do not believe that Harlee is good enough to help us progress much further than where we currently find ourselves.

The same could be said for Toumani Diagouraga, a veteran of over two hundred games for the club. His play last season was truly astonishing as he raised his game several notches and dominated the midfield. This season has been different and more difficult for him and I think that he has missed the presence of the combative Jonathan Douglas alongside him as he has been forced to forage for the ball and tackling is not one of his strong points.

Toumani has been no better than average this season and has not really stamped his presence on games as was the case throughout last year, and with Ryan Woods and Josh McEachran breathing down his neck and challenging for his position in the team I would not be too surprised if Mark Warburton succeeds in prising him away from Griffin Park either this month or perhaps at the end of the season.

Toumani has been a loyal servant of the club and is quite deservedly a massive fan favourite but I believe that he has jumped the shark and at twenty-eight it is time for him to be rewarded by earning another payday elsewhere at a level where he can shine and become a greater influence on proceedings.

Bill Shankly and Arsène Wenger are both managers renowned for knowing exactly when to sell a player by identifying before any opposition scouts and managers that he is just slightly past his best and I think that Toumani might well fit into this category and that his time might have come.

Hopefully other major influences on the team such as David Button and Jake Bidwell will remain well under the radar and not be subject to any unwelcome bids.

As it is I am feeling a bit conflicted as I am both concerned and yet pretty sanguine about matters at the moment and I would urge others to do the same.

As I stated right at the beginning of this article, things change on a regular basis and I might well be setting off a false alarm, and most importantly, I have learned a couple of things from observing affairs at Brentford since the start of the Benham regime, firstly that nobody is irreplaceable and finally, whoever does leave the club will be replaced, and replaced by somebody who is just as good if not even better.