Ahead of Brentford taking on Leeds United today, I was contacted by supporter Rob Young who has asked if he could share his own thoughts on the season so far. It’s fair to say that Brentford have had a hectic start to the campaign. The departure of Mark Warburton to Glasgow Rangers meant Marinus was on a hiding to nothing from some quarters before before he even joined. And then we had pitch gate. And injuries.
I’m always keen to hear other perspectives and, I have to say, Rob has put into words his feelings an awful lot better than I could hope to ever achieve.
Rob – over to you. Brentford, Marinus, the supporters, transfers et al…..
Firstly many thanks to Nick for allowing me to air my thoughts on the tempestuous start to the season.
I was hoping the dust would have settled a little since the Reading defeat and the influx of 3 new players at the end of the transfer window (and none leaving) may have ‘cooled’ the fervent negativity within our fan base. But reviewing the dreaded social media its seems the two week gap has done little to dampen the plethora of frustrations, anger and derision of the owner, management, coach and players. We are very much a bunch of fans in flux at the moment – bit like Stormont in Northern Ireland. Yes we have two tough games ahead and if we get one point from six I will be happy, but I guess many more will want a lynching if that is the end result.
I genuinely feel for Marnius, new job, new challenge and having to tread in the footsteps of one of the most liked, most successful and best managers our club has ever had. How he must have wished and dreamed for a solid start to win the hearts and minds of the loyal faithful. Only for fate and the power of cash rich Clubs see the backbone of his team ripped from under him. He must have, like many of us do, have had the perfect team in his head, dreaming of them doing the business on the pitch.
He would likely have planned a team built with one of the best Championship keepers in Button, the experienced Bjelland in front, and then Josh McEachran running midfield, Jota doing what he does best out wide and Andre Gray providing the spearhead.
To lose 3 of those to injury and one heading for the ‘out’ door after the first league game must have been a real kick in the teeth. Last season we were blessed with good fortune on the injury front. Yes, we lost Scott Hogan, but by and large we managed to keep the best players fit and on the field which played a huge part in our success.
Luck plays a huge part in success or failure, on the injury front Warbs got lucky, Marinus has not. Add Moses up and going and what Marinus had hoped to be his strongest XI was decimated through no fault of his own. No wonder he looks a somewhat forlorn figure on the side lines. Poor man must wonder what the hell he has let himself in for or what he did wrong in a past life.
I wanted to comment on something Nick did mention in one of his posts about Marinus and his body language. I have a lot of experience of working alongside Dutch people. They, like many different nationalities, have a lot of different traits to us. I also worked in Finland where I found out you were often presented with a stony silence during meetings and presentations, I thought I had crashed and burnt, it took me time to realize this was actually a good thing, they would speak only when unhappy. I have found the Dutch very friendly and passionate people, they can also be very arrogant, stubborn and straight talking but will show this usually on when on the edge. The remaining time they can be reserved and calm externally but fuming inside.
Like Warbs was different to Uwe, Marinus is different to Warbs. Different people, different traits. I recall it was usually David Weir laying into the officials and not Warbs, now I notice its Marinus who sounds off to the officials. Warbs drove his team from the side, Marinus takes a more statuesque role – that’s his way. Warbs liked a suit, Marinus is a clear tracksuit man. I don’t think he doesn’t care about what’s going on the pitch, he just has his own way of dealing with it, possibly that is in the dressing room. The fact he is not screaming and gesticulating shouldn’t be taken as a weakness, I think we just have to adjust to a man from a different culture which can be seen as laid back but is a likely as passionate and caring as he can be in his own way.
It’s only natural that people will compare Marinus to Warbs and how we play now to how we played last season. But this is now and not then. Let’s be honest against Reading we could have been 4 or 5 down at half time. But that happened last season as well. We rode our luck big time last season. How many times did we hear the ‘we’ll learn from it’ comment from Warbs.
I recall some saying ‘yes but when will we learn’. Don’t get me wrong I loved the way we played last season, but I also remember the howls of anguish of how risky we were playing out from the back, how open we were at times in our play. My good friend an Ipswich Town ST holder commented that we were a side with suicidal tendencies.
As we often saw if we didn’t score first we struggled to break teams down. Our strength was the counter attack as teams pushed to recover from being behind to us. High tempo, close passing, pass and move. It was wonderful but it all hinged on taking our chances because we were just as likely to ship two or three ourselves. Teams that did their homework knew how to spoil our game and we all know what Warbs approach to ‘plan B’ was.
Had Warbs stayed would he have changed our style this season? Would teams now we are in the second season syndrome know exactly what to expect and nullified our slick passing game? I didn’t want Warbs to go, I liked him – I liked him a lot, I would have liked him to take a chance on the owner’s new approach but that wasn’t ever going to happen. He moved on and so must we. But let’s give the new man some credit, he will change formation, he will make the substitution we may not expect, he does have a plan B and C.
We all know Warbs view was the ‘on the hour sub’, and usually always the same 3 subs. Marinus has had to juggle his pack given the limited resources to hand and until he has a full complement of resources how can we be sure of what he can do with them. No one wanted this start to the season, but given all that has happened how can we panic so soon until the team is again at the strength that was planned? Was our expectation too high from too many who have only known success of the last 3 years?
I hear the voices of those who have concerns but some of these fans have only known good times over the last 6 years or so, some even less than that. They crave instant gratification and expect we now have a divine right to be top of the league marching to the Promised Land because we came 5th, so now is our turn for automatic promotion! Maybe the disquiet comes amongst the ranks because we expected to keep every member of the squad and only add even better players to that squad.
Life and football, unfortunately is not like that, sometime you have to go back to go forward. Many of us remember the times of 4000-5000 attendances and the dodgy signings and dodgy managers and false hope and promises. We are a million miles from where we were then. Even at this current state of flux we are better off and we must never forget that or how and who got us here.
I heard people say Reading were a ‘poor side’ – I actually felt they were a lot better than last season, stronger at the back, quicker and slicker up front, they signed 11 players changed their squad and are unbeaten. They struggled last season, but so did Brighton and look at them now. We have to accept other teams will improve from last year and others will do worse it’s the nature of the Championship the toughest league to get out of. Just because we have not hit out straps from the start does not mean we are going to do a Blackpool. What right do we have after a mere 1 season and 4 games to be top?
We need to allow the new team, players and management alike, to get to grips to the challenge ahead they are not blind to what needs to be done and we have to stop thinking about last year and stop thinking we are a slippery slope to disaster because we have not started like a train. I am a pessimist and even I believe the glass is half full.
The way some seem to see it the pub is dry let alone the glass! We were going to strengthen this season no matter what but I was always clear in my mind this would be a year of consolidation on our goal to long term sustainability. I would have settled for staying up last year, and would do the same this year as we rebuild. I feel the pain too readily of the last relegation at this level and I don’t want to feel it again. But those times were under a different leadership, different perspective and with a different end game.
Yes we should be aiming as high as possible and never accepting second best, aiming to be better year on year but we also need to do that in a measured way. We over achieved last year in my view, only the fate of others in the last weeks got us into the play offs and it hurts me to say but we were not good enough to go up. I forecasted openly before the end of the season that 5 or 6 players would leave (not including the obvious loan and 1 year contract boys).
I was right on a couple of names in Tony Craig and Dougie but didn’t foresee some of other players going, but was pragmatic enough to know we were never going to keep everyone and it was likely some big assets would be amongst those to move on. Berating the owner and club for the fact some on the team have moved on is nonsensical. Do people really believe Mr. Benham would invest in everything he has done so far just to reap the rewards in the transfer market? People need to understand the current stupidity of the English transfer market which dictates why you have to look at foreign players with lower cost implications for the next rising talent.
Selling Andre was a no brainer at 9 million for me, he could have been the next injury victim and then where would we have been? Look at B’muff, 8 million for Tyrone Mings, now he is out all season, Ipswich are the ones who truly benefited and got a good replacement for minimal outlay. We also need to be clear and understand as supporters that as much as we have great loyalty to our club the likes of Kevin O’Connor are a thing of the past now – players will do what’s right for them and their future in what is a short career. We always say once a Bee always a Bee – but can Moses (or even Andre) ever truly have a level of loyalty after just one season.
Personally I am relatively happy with the influx of new players – ok they may not be all home grown, but go review most Championship sides and you will find plenty of non-home grown players in their squads. We have to find the next ‘star’ by looking outside of these shores due to the costs demanded of quality English players, it is about finding that ‘star’ before someone else does. I like the current new boys, I believe they all have something to offer and once they have settled I am sure things will click and players who are being berated currently will ultimately prove to be of great benefit.
Some may not make it we have to accept that but plenty will. It was interesting to see much being made of the signing of Ryan Woods – “at last an English player” was one comment I saw. I retorted that as long as he can do the job, gives 100% and wears the shirt with pride does his nationality matter? It was mentioned back to me the importance of an Englishman who knew the nature of our game…and who speaks the language. I have no doubt Ryan is an excellent signing, I am excited about him joining but the lad no matter how good he is has league 1 and 2 experience to date, the pace of Championship football is vastly different as those who have come from overseas are finding. I just hope we are not thrusting too much expectation from day one because he is English.
The comment about the pace of the Championship and someone speaking English was I thought interesting. I made an assumption that the correspondent was openly taking a pop at KK – who to be fair has loads of energy but still needs to find his feet. I have seen enough to think he will make the grade. But let’s also be honest and say he was surely going to be a backup midfielder to McEachran. If KK was the player being targeted to be replaced by our English style midfielder let’s not forget Toums was at the heart of the team versus Reading, someone to has played in England for many seasons with plenty of experience of both Championship and League 1, who speaks English perfectly yet was totally off the pace and looked out of his depth.
I think Toums has looked a shadow of the player he was last season, someone commented to me he was back to his pre-Portsmouth loan form, I had to agree. Some said he was missing Dougie, to me he looks to have lost confidence and his composure on the ball – can this be because Douglas has gone, if so I think that a weak excuse, he should be stepping up and being the most experienced on the pitch taking the lead. I thought his removal was the right thing to do, too often he was in no man’s land and Macca gave us a better bite and tenacity.
Talking of Dougie, and I know there are many who point to a void now he has gone, I refer back to my Ipswich Town friend, who has now watched all the games in which he has played for his new club – his view was “what exactly does he do, beyond being slow” – the ground swell is there is Jay Tabb is losing out to Dougie and some locals are not happy!
No one in their right mind can feel happy with the way things have panned out that’s for sure, and that surely includes Matthew Benham and the management of the club. Football as we all know is about opinions and it is everyone’s right to voice their view how they feel they wish. I can remember many years back feeling the wroth of those who stood around me on the New Road terrace (as it was then) as we disagreed with tactics, players and the management of the time. So much so that in the end I chose to view home matches from elsewhere, in the process losing touch with many I had shared space with week in week out for many years. We were each entitled to our views but did it really change anything?
Older and wiser I know now the only thing divided support does is, especially in a small ground such as ours, is transmit the divided views and nervousness of the support or lack of it on to the pitch and to the players. Many have quite rightly voiced their frustrations and anger over the performance against Reading – which needs no further elaboration on.
However the excellent overview from the chairman and the calls from Skipper Jake Bidwell for unity along with the comments from Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen all surely need to be heeded. Much was made last season about the atmosphere at Griffin Park and how it helped the players. This I feel has been sadly missing in both our home league games, split opinions of the fans can only be prevent this atmosphere from being generated. Fans are turning on fans, many are quick to damn the new players, the coach, management and owner.
I stood in the hive having a beer over hearing so much negative clap trap I wondered if this was possibly the same club as last year. Had we transferred in moaning fans from another west London club? Yes, we are all entitled to an opinion but for heaven’s sake this is really achieving nothing, when it’s not running your way the team need us to lift them. Negativity spreads and it’s spreading throughout the club like a virus. I’ll be honest my days amongst the singing section are long past, but when we are up against it, no matter how bad we have played I believe those playing for the club need our undivided support from all sides, no matter how we chose to deliver it.
Now is the time for us to remember where we have come from in such a short period, and that this is about the longer sustainability for our club. We could go the QPR route and break the rules and throw good money after bad. Or we can follow a different path and try and find a different route to success within our means. Then again we could lose our benefactor and slowly slip into the abyss of the lower leagues and go backwards again. I don’t know him but I am pretty sure I know which way Matthew wants to take us and for that I give him, the management, Marinus and our squad my faith and belief that they will do everything possible without risking our club’s future to deliver that success we all desire.
C’mon you Bees!