The Fans Aren’t Too Happy – 11/1/16

There was a lot of muttering after Saturday’s defeat by Walsall regarding the team rotation and selection, the apparently cavalier way it appeared that some of the players treated the FA Cup given the lack of zip and intensity of our overall performance, particularly in the first half,  plus concerns about whether we are likely to recover for the two tough matches that lie ahead this week as well as even the half time parade around the pitch by the FC Midtjylland squad. In fact I think I shall just let everybody vent and offload today given how fed up most of you sounded.

John Hirdle can start us off and I agree with every word he said:

Our First half performance was as insipid and as uninspiring as I have seen in a long time. Dean Smith’s pre match words regarding picking a team to respect the competition and to win the game seemed very hollow indeed. I felt sorry for Hoffman. He is no solo striker and had no support whatsoever from midfield. A baffling tactical line up given Smith’s inside knowledge of the opposition. As you rightly say all will be forgotten quickly if we can get things right both on Tuesday and Friday, and we return to the tempo and energetic game we know we are capable of to prosper in this league.

It does seem that the club and the players these days don’t seem to give a toss about the Cup competitions. Even with reduced admission prices, the inevitable outcome is that the fans will eventually vote with their feet and just give these games a miss in the knowledge that the club has no desire to progress in them. I find this very sad indeed.

Clive Longhurst had lots of questions and absolutely no answers but his comments certainly concentrate the mind!

Great article, as always. My worries are: will this be an “Arsenal week”, when, in six days our season effectively ends? How did our philosophy of attacking, pressing football dissipate so quickly?

The “if Judge goes we’re sunk” therorists seemed to include the rest of the team yesterday! How much strength in depth do we actually have? If Saturday’s team weren’t good enough to beat a team we could be facing in the league next season, which players are pressurising our first team for their places? We have people, but do we have sufficient strength in depth?

Is it a mere coincidence that all the players who have been transfer targets over the summer and January all came from British clubs. Are our European signings still struggling to become acclimatised to British football (I realise that Jota is the exception that proves my rule)?

I overheard our chairman (at a certain book signing in the club shop) say he didn’t think we would “do much business” in the January window. Does that mean the bids for our players have come as a surprise and, if they prove successful, do we have replacements in our sights or will we be forced into more team selections like the one we saw yesterday?

Will a parade of a more successful football team at half time yesterday be an inspiration to our team or fill them with feelings of being the poor relation?

I hate posing questions and not offering solutions but, I just don’t know. My optimism and confidence in the club and its management have been dented. I hope my worries will be reduced in seven days and forgotten by the end of January but, it’s Brentford innit!

Former player Richard Poole puts things into context as he reminds us of a time when players just got on with things and rotation had not yet been invented:

I was not there on Saturday but Brentford, like all the other teams rest their players and don’t bother with the cup competitions  Of course I realise that football is much harder physically than when I played. At that time we had only a sixteen man squad as well as two youngsters.

I rememember at Easter time on the Friday we played at Colchester, on Saturday we went to Chester, two matches in two days, plus all the travelling, then we hosted Colchester, the team at the top of the table, at Griffin Park on Tuesday evening. On the following Saturday we had Bradford at home and at the age of sixteen I played in all of them and just missed the first half at Chester.

Today’s players are, or should be, in top condition. We had poor training facilities and did not even have the use of a gym. Our supporters have to get up every day and go to work and most footballers will tell you that they would prefer to play games rather than just train. All this talk abut tired legs makes me smile. I know that many of our players have been out injured and I would like to know how many games each player has played since the start of the season.

In other words footballers today are totally mollycoddled.

Peter Lumley also wasn’t very happy:

Everyone, however competent, has the odd bad day at the office and I am afraid Dean Smith had one such day on Saturday. I had no problem with the team selection. What bemused me was the way the Bees played so deep in the first half. It was as though they were relying on breakaways without trying to make any! Dean Smith has to take some responsibility. He cannot just blame the players for the unbelievably bad performance.

Tim Ward echoed his sentiments:

That was really frustrating. I, like you, love the cup and had been looking forward to this game. I knew Walsall would be a good side and provide tough opposition but had assumed that we’d be prepared and up for it.

Im not sure what you think but I really hoped that when we needed to make changes we could have taken the game to them by replacing Macca with Marco and playing two up front. I thought The Hof actually played quite well and has the ability to bring other players into the game but was so isolated up there on his own – I felt frustrated for him.

As Clive alludes to above I hope there isn’t a resignation amongst the team that we will lose Judge. It did look a bit like that.

Interestingly I thought we really missed Tarky and Toums – not so much defensively but in the way they bring the ball out and start the counter attack. The replacements just don’t seem to be the same type of players. Early days maybe but the team did look unbalanced and predictable.

One last point. I wish that more players would take responsibility for shooting. I know that Dean said he wanted more shots (and how good was Woods at Reading) but too many times they seem to be trying to craft the perfect goal.

As I said, I fell frustrated!

I quite agree with Tim’s comments and think that a Plan B should be considered where necessary and playing two up front for the last fifteen minutes might have been a good idea unless Hofmann had run himself out.

Michael Ohl also did not enjoy what he saw:

The FA Cup matters to me as well Greville. That it appears to not matter to players makes me sad.

I think we should give some credit to Walsall. They were keener, quite attractive to watch and should they go up I think they should do just fine. They can only play what is up against them and yes Brentford were that bad and if would have been unfair to them if we had sneaked past them and won the game.

There was a lot of negativity from the Ealing Road end, and some pretty vitriolic comments made about Hoffman, unfairly I think.

I hope the saving of players for the week ahead is justified, but I have a gnawing feeling that it won’t be a good week.

I hope I am wrong.

Rebel Bee found fault with pretty much everything and I cannot argue with much of what he said:

A very good selection of comments.

Richard Poole’s reminiscences on squad size and fixture congestion back in the day are something that our staff should read. I’ve been around the block with Brentford FC like you all, and the great moments have to be savoured, whilst the hits are taken on the chin. But we follow a club where everything is analysed, and by many measures we aren’t where we wanted to be in terms of squad strength, depth and our transfer dealings.

Four home cup defeats since promotion is no accident and who can blame fans for not turning out on the evidence seen – 6,500 Bees showed up yesterday for a game versus a League One side – not bad is it?

I didn’t think there was much in the game in truth, they shaded it I guess. Worryingly until Alan Judge’s entrance our only creative spark came from Swift and Canos – two loanees – not good. We won’t score many with Hoff or Vibe as the lone front man and Djuricin is a finisher, he can’t head the ball or hold up up, so for me he needs to play with Hoffmann in a two man front line.

Most of the injured players are now back on the scene,  and it seems that we over estimated the bounce this would give us.

Early days I know, but I feel but Dean Smith needs a decent week on and off the pitch, otherwise we could slump and we are not safe yet.

As for the FC Midtjylland halftime parade – frankly it was ill judged and a bit embarrassing.

I cannot see us changing from 4-2-3-1 as it has worked so well for us, but as I said above, we should show some flexibility when necessary. I think that the more accurate way of looking at it is to realise that none of our three strikers really suit the way that we play and we have yet replace Andre Gray with a player of similar style.

The parade didn’t bother me at all and I think that it just did not help that it came on a day when we so patently underperformed and fans were looking for things to criticise.

beesyellow22 provides some sort of perspective

Another great post, Greville and I agree with many of the comments above.

It was a very curious performance from Brentford. As has been discussed, we backed off them throughout the first half and gave them far too much time on the ball. We weren’t really on it in any department and failed to create anything of any real note.

It was strange, because when I saw the lineup before the kick off I actually felt quite excited. All the changes made seemed entirely acceptable and it looked like a great opportunity to give good players who have been warming the bench in recent weeks a decent run out. To me, our starting eleven didn’t look particularly terrible and I wouldn’t have said that we were either disrespecting Walsall or failing to take the competition seriously. Unfortunately what transpired over the course of that first forty-five minutes proved otherwise.

A weak, insipid, tired, uninspiring performance from a side which displayed none of our usual exciting cut and thrust and devil-may-care free-flowing football. Lots of huff and puff from the Hoff (or should that be Hoff and puff) but no incision and one solitary shot on goal. Canos was completely nullified by Walsall’s left-back who was superb throughout and the team from League One were superior in every department.

Second half we looked sharper, but Walsall never looked like getting beaten and, but for the post, would have wound up winning by even more.

I am reluctant to criticise either the manager or the players but we really did seem curiously subdued yesterday. If anything, it reminded me of watching Dijkhuizen’s Brentford – no sense of common purpose and a general lack of any discernible game plan. This is obviously disappointing, because the FA Cup is still a massive competition and, as a (usually) exciting, high tempo, free-scoring Championship side, I was hopeful that this season we might be capable of a decent cup run.

I thought the manager was right to rest Judge, Tarkowski and Toums because I believed that the players coming in would seize their chance with relish. Yes, I knew the dangers Walsall would pose and I also realised how desperate they would be to have some kind of revenge over Dean Smith. However, I was confident that we would have both the strength in depth and high intensity kind of football to edge it on the day.

How wrong I was.

We now move onto two massive, potentially season-defining games in four days. It doesn’t get any tougher than playing Boro and it will be fascinating to see how we play on Tuesday night. I was genuinely depressed about how easily we got beaten on Saturday and how little fight many of the players appeared to have (with the exception of Judge and also Swift, who I thought had a great game personally).

I still have faith in our new manager and hopefully finally breaking the Middlesbrough hoodoo will go some way to erasing the memories of the Walsall game. But it was a curious one and I, like the rest of us, am still scratching my head as to why we were so awful.

I will end with these comments which are an excellent summation of where we are.

This is a crucial week for the Bees and at the end of it we will know far more about where we are going this season. Saturday left us all feeling flat and we desperately need a spark and some good news given all the uncertainty currently surrounding the future of a few of our best players.

Jota’s loss is also an unexpected and bitter blow that we will just have to deal with and it also did not help how well Kemar Roofe performed yesterday. There have been rumours on social media that we have been looking at Oxford United’s exciting young player and his brilliant two goal performance against Swansea and Oxford’s victory might make it far more difficult, if not impossible for us to sign him if those rumours were in fact correct, given the hype that will now surround him.

I am excited and, I confess, a little bit worried too about how this week will pan out but I expect that we will recover from Saturday and put in two committed and excellent performances – you cannot really ask for more than that.

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A Bad Start To A Tough Week – 10/1/16

Yesterday’s disappointing and frustrating defeat to Walsall in the Third Round of the FA Cup left a slightly sour taste in the mouth so insipid and uninspiring was Brentford’s overall performance and given that fact that this was the first leg of what is certain to be a tough and arduous week that also sees us play two of the promotion favourites in the shape of our nemesis, Middlesbrough and Burnley I intend to be sensible and conserve some of my energy and ration my words in order to ensure that there is something left in the tank for me to cover the next two matches!

To be honest there really isn’t too much to be said as Dean Smith rolled the dice, understandably rotated the team given the need to rest some tired legs and ensure that the squad can cope with the demands of three matches in a hectic six day period and unfortunately his gamble didn’t pay off.

Colin, Tarkowski, Diagouraga, Judge and Vibe were all rested with recalls for Yennaris, O’Connell, McCormack, McEachran and Hofmann.

Conspiracy theorists will point to the absence from the starting lineup of possible transfer targets Tarky, Diagouraga and Judge but I would prefer to believe that they were all being saved for the hectic week that lies ahead.

I have no problems at all in those changes being made as the squad should be strong and deep enough to cope with them but where I do have concerns is in how we sleepwalked through the first half and showed no real interest in competing.

Brentford have built their recent success on high energy, pressing, movement and maintaining a high tempo, all of which were sadly lacking in our play throughout a first half which ranks with the worst seen in recent memory at Griffin Park.

Why should this be the case as the manager was well aware of the threat that his former team presented and their decent and highly committed performance cannot have come as a surprise to him?

So lacking in pace, imagination, tempo and dare I say effort and energy was Brentford’s first half performance that Judge had to be brought on after the break and his skill, pace and enthusiasm revitalised Brentford who dominated the second half and would have drawn or maybe even won an unlikely victory but for a combination of exceptional goalkeeping and profligate finishing.

Dean Smith’s former team played their role as party poopers to perfection. They were neat and tidy on the ball, aided and abetted as they were by a lethargic Brentford team which sat off them, stayed deep, never pressed and allowed Walsall to maintain possession for long periods without benefit of any challenge.

Hofmann was totally isolated up front and a strange team selection which featured three holding midfielders ensured that he lacked any support from midfield runners and we created very little in that appalling first half.

It came as no surprise when Mantom was allowed to run unchallenged from deep whilst we ignored the danger and simply watched, backed off and admired him and his perfectly placed curling long range effort gave Walsall a totally deserved lead.

McEachran looked yards off the pace and the game totally passed him by. McCormack ran down blind alleys and only Woods made any impact through the centre but was too easily snuffed out. The formation for once did not work, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the personnel selected did not gel and merely replicated each other’s style of play.

Swift and Canos flitted in and out of the game and Hofmann showed some clever touches but one soft McCormack shot on target in the entire first half tells its own sad story and left the Bees with much to do.

It gives me no pleasure to say that FC Midtjylland appeared to expend more energy in their languid halftime stroll around the pitch than the Bees did throughout the first half.

After the break Brentford seized the initiative, mainly thanks to the tireless efforts of Judge, who demonstrated just how hard it would be to replace him should he leave in the Transfer Window.

We huffed and puffed and efforts from Judge, Hofmann, Swift and Canos were well saved by Etheridge and Dean missed horribly from a free header.

There was more good news with the return from injury of Djuricin who had a late run out off the bench. He found good positions but understandably lacked sharpness and missed two late opportunities to save the day.

Walsall massed in defence and presented an impassable barrier and always broke quickly with Sawyers prominent and but for a brilliant save from Button and a late header from a well worked corner kick routine which hit the post, the margin of their victory would have been greater, and we could not really have argued.

My memory of the FA Cup goes back over fifty years when I was taken by my Liverpool supporting Dad to the 1965 Cup Final where his heroes defeated Leeds United, much to his delight.

The following year I also saw Everton’s narrow victory over Sheffield Wednesday in a five goal thriller that left me breathless with excitement and my Dad a bit less impressed.

I am well aware of the magic of the cup and the mystic hold it has over supporters of a certain vintage and am saddened that this no longer seems to be the case.

I can also remember some of our wonderful days out against the likes of Cardiff, Chelsea, Southampton and Sunderland as well as the embarrassment of suffering giant killings at the hands of Guildford City and Telford amongst others.

Yesterday was therefore important to me and I resented the fact that it didn’t appear to matter too much that we were knocked out of this famous and august competition at the first opportunity.

I well appreciate the juggling act that we faced given the two tough matches that lie ahead next week and have no problem with our utilising other squad members, as that is what they are there for, although the side selected could have been better balanced.

What rankled and upset me more is that certainly before the break the match and occasion really did not seem to matter to the players so uncommitted, languid and unacceptable was their display which reminded me of the way we strolled through a recent FA Cup tie against Wrexham which also ended in another defeat by lower league opposition.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and should we gain four points or more from our next two matches – a really tough ask, then yesterday’s debacle will be forgotten, at least until Fourth Round day when we will be left kicking our heels and without a match.

I hope we come out fighting against Middlesbrough as we will certainly need to do so. Losing can also kill confidence and I now have  a horrible, nagging and negative thought running through my mind about the horrendous prospect of three home defeats in a week should we play as badly against Middlesbrough and Burnley as we did against Walsall. Surely that will not be the case!

I am just left feeling rather sad and empty that our most famous cup competition has been so devalued and is now seen as a necessary evil rather than something to look forward to with relish and anticipation.

Is this simply the price of progress and if so, is it an acceptable one? What does everyone else think?

It’s FA Cup Time Once More – 8/12/15

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup is traditionally one of the more anticipated and truly magical moments of every season as it is the time when dreams can come true and David gets the rare chance to put Goliath firmly in his place.

A favourable draw can help put a minnow on the map and even mean the difference between surviving for another season or even falling into the ravages of administration.

Just put yourself in the place of Whitehawk’s manager Steve King whose team fully deserved their last gasp equaliser at Dagenham & Redbridge yesterday. They are now just a replay win away in a game that seems certain to attract live television coverage from a money-spinning tie at Premier League Everton, one that will offer an outside chance of glory, put their players in the shop window and probably earn the club more in an afternoon than in an entire season in the confines of the National League South.

Given the occasion, I made a special effort and rushed home from work last night in order to catch the draw which was apparently set for seven o’clock. In retrospect I really needn’t have done so, as like every other sap who was imbued with romantic memories of sepia-lit FA Cup ties in the dim and distant past who had done the same as me, I had to sit through fifteen interminable minutes of boring and sterile filler material – a series of totally unnecessary interviews and highlights intended to set the scene and build the atmosphere and sense of theatre before the numbered balls were drawn out of – not the traditional velvet bag – but a soulless Perspex container. Where had the magic gone?

There was one snippet of previous action that I did enjoy watching over the weekend, Scott Hogan soaring in the air to score a beautifully taken header for Rochdale against Leeds United. We can but hope that we will be seeing him in similar goalscoring action for the Bees in the not too distant future.

Apparently I am now a supporter of one England’s so-called elite clubs given our fairly new-found Championship status and somehow that also makes things feel rather different given that we now enter the competition at the Third Round stage and have not had to fight our way through two previous ties to get to this point.

So what was I looking for from the draw, once it finally began? A matchup against a Premier League big boy and the chance to test ourselves on national television? A lower league team at Griffin Park? An away game at a minnow? Death or glory?

What we actually received highlighted the wonder and the unpredictability of the competition. A home tie against either Chesterfield or Walsall, Division One opposition who should both surely be beatable at Griffin Park. Or so you would thought as you can take nothing for granted when it comes to predicting the outcome of cup matches and as we know to our cost the Bees have been the victims of giant killing themselves. Does anyone else remember Guildford City turning us over in 1968 and the likes of Barrow and Wrexham too in more recent times?

Chesterfield earned a replay with a late scrambled equaliser on Saturday and should they come out on top next week then that would set up the first ever FA Cup meeting between the two teams.

Walsall are a far more enticing prospect given the recent arrival of their former manager Dean Smih as the new Head Coach at Griffin Park. Their supporters would doubtless relish the opportunity to obtain some quick revenge against the team that enticed him away from The Banks’s Stadium.

Since his move was first mooted the airwaves and social media have been buzzing with harsh, ribald and ill thought through comments from diehard Walsall fans on the one hand damning their former manager and his achievements on their behalf with faint praise and also suggesting that he has barely bettered himself by moving to Brentford. Fighting talk indeed and Brentford supporters will also be looking for the chance to refute their assertions.

Walsall currently boast several of the lower divisions’ finest young prospects within their ranks and the Bees will welcome the chance to view the likes of Tom Bradshaw, Rico Henry and Romaine Sawyers at close quarters particularly at a time when the transfer window will have recently opened. It would be an enticing prospect if one or more of them ended up using this match as an audition before a move to us – we can but dream!

Should Walsall earn the right to play us next month then it would be the fourth time that the two teams had been drawn against each other in the past forty-five years and the Bees have come out on top on every occasion to date. Hopefully another good omen.

The Bees defeated Walsall in the Second Round in 1970/71 when we reached the last sixteen of the competition and eventually went out with full honours to Hull City. The match against Walsall was closely fought and after Gordon Phillips had foiled the evergreen Colin Taylor with a series of excellent saves, Roger Cross finished off a carefully choreographed move from a free kick to settle the match.

It was a similar situation in 1988/89 when we reached the Sixth Round before losing at Anfield. Walsall were higher division opponents and a Keith Jones goal earned a draw at Fellows Park before the replay was settled by Allan Cockram who scored joyfully from close range after Fred Barber had parried an effort from Kevin Godfrey.

Our most recent meeting was in 2009/10 when newcomer Leon Legge gave an all action display, winning the match with a typical towering header from a corner and saving it with a perfectly timed and executed sliding tackle to rob Walsall striker Steve Jones who had a clear run in on goal. Unfortunately we were not destined to have a long FA Cup run that season as we went out in the next round to Doncaster Rovers.

Whoever we play it will be certain to be a tough and closely fought match against a team determined to bring its so called better down a peg or two. We now have three home games in a ridiculously short six day period and with promotion challengers Middlesbrough and Burnley due to visit Griffin Park immediately after the cup tie neither League game can be termed a gimme.

The management has always spoken of the need to build up a large squad with excellent cover in every position and our depth will surely be tested as changes will need to be made over this period to ensure that the players are well rested. Lee Carsley certainly picked practically the same team for every match but squad rotation will be a must over this packed period of activity and thankfully, with our stars returning from injury we will be able to cope with the challenge.

It is now almost three years since we last had a decent FA Cup run and I still find it hard to believe that we did not beat Chelsea in that epic Fourth Round clash at Griffin Park but that is a story for another day.

After a slow and difficult start, this season is finally gaining momentum and promises much excitement as Christmas approaches. An FA Cup run would simply be the cherry on top.