The Ten things that have defined this season (so far….)

4 May

With the dust still settling on the stunning events of the weekend as Brentford beat Derby County and Wolves in the race for a play off place (where, of course, we start proceedings against Middlesbrough on Friday) this column has been handed over to a guest contributor.

Long time Bees fan fan and regular Last Word reader Justin (@BeQuietJustin on twitter) outlines his ten things that have defined Brentford’s 2015/16 campaign to date. So without further ado, here are his thoughts….

That leak – February’s main item of club news was that Mark Warburton and Matthew Benham couldn’t reach agreement about the backroom direction of the club which ultimately meant Warburton would leave at the end of the season, coinciding with the end of his contract. This was reported as a sacking by some extremely lazy journalists in the national press and The Football League Show’s Steve Claridge doggedly insisted that the news was the reason behind any time Brentford didn’t win convincingly in a division they’d only just been promoted to.

The fans’ chanting of Warburton’s name during games, and the players’ celebrations with the manager after Andre Gray’s opener against Watford, showed that those a little closer to the club were unfazed by the largely unwarranted media nonsense.

Warbs  - there was no doubt about his popularity with the players

Warbs – there was no doubt about his popularity with the players

Signing woes – This season brought with it half a team’s worth of interesting signings, many of whom were either injured on arrival or ended up that way.

Scott Hogan was hoped to be the eventual number one striker but picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury after playing a mere 30 minutes. Everton loanee Chris Long contributed four goals in some admirable performances with raw willing and talent before being sent back to his parent club for injury assessment and exacerbating the problem in a youth cup game.

The Championship-experienced Nick Proschwitz had potential but his finishing soon left fans recalling such legendary names as Clyde Wijnhard and Murray Jones. Exciting Sporting Lisbon forward Betinho apparently did not adjust well to the English game and disappeared from the matchday squads after playing just 13 minutes.

On top of all this, bright Rangers signing Lewis Macleod’s recovery from a hamstring injury was set back by falling down a rabbit hole and tripping over a twig. Make your own jokes about Brentford’s diminutive central midfield. With even one more fit and in-form striker this season, Brentford may well have been automatically promoted. On the other hand, the players have sometimes engineered their own downfall with some noticeable…

Defensive dithering – The new footballing way at Brentford dictated that no longer would we be pumping a long ball over the top for the big striker to knock down to the little one for a shot on goal. Methodical, patient, possession football in the vein of the Spanish national team was the new style and that brought with it a reduction in long goal kicks. Playing out from the back, enabling the defence to link with the 5-man midfield and draw defensive lines out of position, was something very few expected to see from a League One team and this was refined further this season.

However, it also brought with it a fair share of head-in-hands moments, with goalkeeper and defenders seemingly unaware of what was going on around them at times. Numerous occasions brought a short pass to a defender and back to David Button for him to hurriedly lump the ball up the field under pressure when it would have been easier to clear the lines properly and take a standard goal kick.

While the lack of height further up the pitch dictates that wasn’t always the right idea, the high-risk insistence of playing out from the back has resulted in defenders being robbed and conceding goals. Of course, nobody’s perfect, and it would be remiss to highlight the bad side of playing out from the back without mentioning…

David Button – Where would we be without some of David’s fantastic goalkeeping? The spectacular double save at Carrow Road has to be a major contender for save of the season, closely followed by great performances at home against Bournemouth and Watford, among many others.

View from the terrace - David exerts his influence early, telling referee Madley to button  it,

View from the terrace – David exerts his influence early, telling referee Madley to button it,

With Richard Lee’s recurring shoulder injury ultimately leading to him announcing his retirement and subsequently going on loan to a team whose name escapes me, fans were understandably concerned about what would happen in the event of David’s injury or suspension. Jack Bonham looked comfortable in his single appearance against Brighton in the FA Cup, with defensive lapses giving him little chance against two late goals, but the young number two (technically, three?) wasn’t required further.

A testament to goalkeeping coach Simon Royce, David’s kicking and speed off his line have both improved greatly over the last couple of seasons to match his outstanding shot-stopping ability. He pulled off a fine point blank save at 0-0 to help the team on their way to…

Brentford 4 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 – More money and an established, Championship way of thinking and playing saw Wolves romp home to the League One title last May, finishing 17 points clear of the playoff positions. This game relatively early on in the season was seen as a marker to determine how Brentford would cope in the division against supposedly ‘bigger clubs’.

An emphatic victory rounded off an excellent November consisting of five wins from five games, spawning the infamous #novemberkings hashtag on the club’s Twitter feed. At the end of the regular season, it turned out that this was the result that counted. A 1-0 win for Brentford would have put Wolves in the playoffs and Brentford 7th on goal difference. (editor’s note: (seventh)).

View from the terrace - Wolves perfected their 'kick off' routine at Griffin Park this season

View from the terrace – Wolves perfected their ‘kick off’ routine at Griffin Park this season

A footnote to this game was ex-Bee George Saville, who did not look up to the part having signed permanently for Wolves from Chelsea. I thought George was too indecisive and lightweight last season to make it with Brentford. He failed to impress at Wolves and ended up on loan at Bristol City, registering only 15 total appearances. This match included a brilliant goal in which the entire Wolves back four was taken out of the game in one swift move by…

Andre Gray – Essentially our only true striker this season, Andre massively outperformed early expectations in which he was thought to be playing second fiddle to Scott Hogan. Having jumped up three divisions from the Conference, there was cautious optimism among fans, tempered with a generous helping of wondering where the goals would come from if Brentford were to have a hope of staying in the division.

With Hogan’s early injury turning out to be worse than initially thought, all eyes fell on Andre. Often having to deal with being wrestled, pulled back and kicked to bits by huge defensive lumps, with officials consistently failing to see what 10,000 fans clearly could, Gray has held his nerve, scored 17 goals, set up numerous other chances for his teammates and played a massive part in…

FourFourTwo-2Thumbing our collective noses at the experts’ pre-season predictions – The pundits certainly hadn’t been paying attention to Brentford’s style of play in the previous season and gave them very little chance of making a dent in the Championship promotion race.

As we’ve seen numerous times in the last couple of seasons, underestimate this team at your peril. The most infamous pre-season prediction was that of FourFourTwo magazine, who got numerous things very wrong in their proposed final table (left).

Toumani Diagouraga – Another of my shortlist for the player of the season award. After being farmed out on loan to Portsmouth for eight games last season, many fans suspected that would be the last we saw of the composed, unpredictable midfielder at Griffin Park.

Toumani fought his way back into a midfield that looked like it would never be able to accommodate him due to other players’ performances and has put in 41 appearances so far this season, including numerous man of the match displays. He has been an absolute pleasure to watch, specialising in breaking down attacks with seemingly telescopic legs and twisting opposition players into knots with some brilliant yet, at times, utterly baffling footwork.

Alan Judge – My player of the season. Alan missed games in January and February through injury but it was clear how much we missed his creativity in his absence. Taking over the Sam Saunders mantle as the midfield playmaker, Alan finds space in the centre circle with driving runs to assist or take shots on goal and can spread the play to the wings with ease.

Many Brentford fans have no idea why Blackburn froze him out of their squad, presumably because at only 5’7” he’s not tall enough for their style of play, but their loss is our huge gain. Alan can also strike a sweet free kick, with Good Friday bringing a particularly memorable one…

Bees up, Fulham (almost) down – Perhaps not the biggest thing to happen in the grand scheme of this season, but an emotional choice and an away day that most fans had been looking forward to since the minute the fixtures were released.

Doing the league double over one of our fiercest local rivals showed how far the club has come. From being easily rolled over 5-0 in 2010’s pre-season, to a late home winner and comprehensively spanking that lot down the river in their own back yard, this pair of results gave the long-suffering Bees faithful yet another reason to be proud of what the club has achieved this season.

It’s not over yet, but we have more than enough to celebrate. Here’s looking forward to August, no matter which division Brentford are in!

The win at Fulham was certainly one of the most exciting moments of a great season

The win at Fulham was certainly one of the most exciting moments of a great season

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: