On Saturday he finally gave us a wave. Little did Bees fans realise it would turn out to be a wave goodbye. Just a day before we entertain Birmingham City, and hot off the heels of that agonising last minute defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, Brentford have parted company with head coach Marinus Dijkhuizen (along with his assistant Roy Hendriksen).
‘Parted company’ – presumably the diplomatic term for ‘sacked’ – is something which has taken pretty much everybody (Marinus included) by as much surprise as his original signing. But was it the right move?
A record of four defeats in the opening eight league games, along with the League cup humiliation at home to Oxford United, was hardly the stuff of a solid start. Moreso, given the high on which we finished the last campaign – almost pulling off a shock promotion to the Premiership.
But there were so many factors outside of his control. The atrocious pitch, which eventually saw the Birmingham City game postponed, hardly augured well. Then there were the injuries – how could one person be so unlucky? Josh McEachran was broken before he even played a game. Jota was crocked by Dougie in the season opener. Andreas Bjelland lasted 45 minutes before being written off for the season whilst Maxime Colin, who offered so much in such a short space of time, was yet another to fall foul of the training ground ‘jinx’.
Combine this with the loss, through transfer, of Stuart Dallas, Moses Odubajo and the free scoring Andre Gray to really see just how hard we’ve been hit from a personnel perspective.
Equally, Marinus just wasn’t Mark Warburton. Whoever followed the (now) Rangers manager was on a hiding to nothing. Warbs reeked of popularity with the vast majority of Brentford supporters. His success after taking over from Uwe was there for all to see whilst the dignified manner in which he carried himself after February’s ‘Village-gate’ affair only strengthened that bond further.
But if Warbs had the supporters in the palm of his hand, the apparent lack of touchline body language from Marinus was the polar opposite and made it hard for some fans to bond with him.
Ultimately, it is results that count. Not only had we lost 5 out of 9 competitive fixtures but to fall behind in all but one of them tells it’s own story. The negative brand of possession-based football was frustrating to watch – moreso when that possession was largely in our final third at the expense of genuine attacking intent.
When Marinus pushed the team up we looked a threat – the problem was it took so long to get there. Yet there must have been enough to persuade Matthew Benham to bring him to Griffin Park in the first place. And having spotted this, why end the arrangement so quickly? Surely he would have known what he was going to get?
Was it the results? The very open arrangement he had with the press where the refreshingly honest answering of questions was everything we’d come NOT to expect from a football manager? Or were words exchanged behind the scenes?
I doubt we’ll know for a while, if at all. The club’s opening statement revealed little whilst the subsequent follow up from Chairman Cliff Crown focused more on his successor until the end of the season, Lee Carsley, rather than any real explanation.
The one positive to take from all of this is that we didn’t have a repeat of last season where rumours of a parting of the ways with Mark Warburton were at first ignored, then rebuffed in the bizarre ‘village’ statement before eventually being confirmed a few days later. Although the news has been handled with all the subtlety of a breezeblock, at least this has been dealt with quickly. Moreso given the simultaneous availability of Steve Evans.
I feel desperately sorry for Marinus. He came across as a genuinely likeable bloke and has seen the pitch, and squad, fall apart around him. His press conferences and post match interviews were compelling stuff but, in the end, that wasn’t enough.
Instead, Lee Carsley takes charge and in that wonderful symmetry that football so often throws up, his first game will be against former club Birmingham City.
Life is never dull at Griffin Park, that’s for sure. Now, what price a second home win of the season on Tuesday night? (6/5, for the record).