David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Brentford’ Category

We’re Brentford FC, we win every week

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

MW

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Well, who would have guessed Brentford would be in such a comfortable position at the start of the season? After being tipped for promotion early on after last season’s heart-breaking conclusion, the Bees started the season lethargically, peaking in a disappointing 2-1 defeat away at Stevenage on 12 October.

A lot has changed in west London over the past few months.

Uwe Rosler’s sudden departure for Wigan Athletic in early December came as a huge shock and, after widespread speculation about who would replace the former Manchester City striker, his successor came from within; 51-year-old Sporting Director, Mark Warburton.

The club moved quickly to steady the ship and within a week of Warburton’s appointment, former Liverpool academy boss Frank McParland had filled the vacant role of Sporting Director whilst former Everton and Rangers captain, David Weir was appointed as Assistant Manager; leading to the departure of coach, Peter Farrell and Rosler’s assistant, Alan Kernaghan.

A new philosophy has been set in place, which allows the players more freedom on the pitch, and contrary to Rosler’s strict style of play, Warburton has stressed that he “doesn’t mind” if players make the odd mistake on the ball.

And it has clearly worked, leaving the Bees just one point off the summit of the division and culminating in ‘Warbs’ and midfielder Sam Saunders winning the League One Manager and Player of the Month awards, respectively, for December. Surely it is the first time a football club has won two consecutive Manager of the Month awards with two different managers?

In terms of individual performances, Saunders has been a revelation under Warburton, aiding the promotion push with an impressive return of four goals in six games; helping to shed the ‘super-sub’ label he had earned under Rosler. Meanwhile, tireless midfielder Alan McCormack has displayed his versatility by keeping right-back Shaleum Logan out of the team and helping the team keep eight clean sheets from the last fifteen games; whilst slotting seamlessly back into his usual holding role against Port Vale, in which the Bees ran out 2-0 winners.

Influential centre-back, Harlee Dean and midfield maestro, Adam Forshaw have been absent last two games. Whilst there have been rumours that both were subject transfer bids, in truth (thankfully) the pair are said to be both suffering with knocks after a hectic Christmas period.

Nonetheless, the team have displayed that their extensive strength in depth without the pair, comfortably beating Port Vale then drawing away at in-form Walsall; club legend Kevin O’Connor – approaching his 500th appearance for the club – comfortably partnering Tony Craig in the heart of defence.

Warburton has used his extensive contacts list to acquire some first-class loan signings during the January transfer window thus far; explosive striker Chuba Akpom joining from Premier League leaders Arsenal and winger Alan Judge from Blackburn Rovers, whilst Marcello Trotta and George Saville have both extended their loans until the end of the campaign.

Former Watford academy coach, Warburton, has also made no secret of the fact that he would like to see Cardiff winger Kadeem Harris back in TW8 after he recovers from a hamstring injury that has kept him out since before Christmas. Wigan’s Rob Kiernan is also rumoured to be returning to west London for his second spell as a standby centre-back after Cardiff youngster Ben Nugent’s loan expired.

Social media rumours earlier this week suggested that leading scorer Clayton Donaldson, who scored his 49th goal for the club against Walsall last weekend, was subject to a £1.5 million bid from Wigan. For starters, the club need to keep their leading stars until the end of the season, at least, so that the aim of promotion can finally be realised; and secondly, who in their right mind puts forward such a large sum of money for a player whose contract runs out at the end of the season?!

It is imperative that the squad stays together, and with a gruelling 20-fixture schedule still to be completed including tough games against fellow promotion hopefuls Wolves, Leyton Orient and Preston, anything is possible.

But there is no reason why the club can’t achieve another top-six finish at minimum and, judging by current form, automatic promotion cannot be ruled out as a possibility either.

It must be pointed out that the fantastic support this club attracts is second to none, with the last three home games exceeding the 8,000 mark  and the electric atmosphere created by the diehard Ealing Road faithful week after week no doubt contributing to the the team’s success.

The upcoming mid-week Sheffield United game should attract a large following, with the club generously laying on free coach travel to Bramall Lane. West London neighbours Fulham are rumoured to be taking around 500 fans with the same travel offer this Sunday whilst Brentford will most probably fill the initial allocation of 1,444.

The draw at Walsall may have ended hopes of a club record nine consecutive league wins, however the Bees are still unbeaten under Mark Warburton and improving with each game.

With just 100 days until the season concludes and the Bees sitting pretty in the top two, could this be THE year?

Written by Dan Long, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger

Dan tweets at @_DanLong_ & also writes HERE.

A working life: the football club chief executive

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

MD

A plane crash threatened to put an end to Mark Devlin’s career in professional football, now he is overseeing a revolution at promotion-chasing side, Brentford.

As a lifelong Brentford fan, the club’s 109-year-old stadium, Griffin Park in west London, holds a special place in my heart. I have always been against the plans to relocate, but, on entering, something clicked. The autographed shirt on the wall is ten years out of date and the wooden cladding encasing the cramped lobby transported me into the 1970s. The club’s future doesn’t lie here.

Chief Executive Mark Devlin, 51, emerges from his meeting and with a frantic apology, takes a seat at his desk. “It’s a lovely old, atmospheric stadium isn’t it? But it’s an old stadium and our facilities are not great – we generate little money away from matchdays; we can’t keep relying on [owner] Matthew Benham to put money in.”

In one month, on 5th December, the Council gives its verdict on Lionel Road – the site of Brentford’s proposed new stadium, little more than a mile from their current home. Many “hardcore fans” are sceptical about the motion, having seen Darlington fall from grace after their 2003 move and MK Dons’ relatively new ‘stadium:mk’, known for its lack of atmosphere.

“It’s key that we don’t have 6,500 people in a 20,000 seater stadium. Brentford has a smaller fanbase than previous clubs I’ve worked at; a generation have probably been attracted to top-flight football because Brentford have spent so long outside of the top two divisions.”

The club came heartbreakingly close to ending that absence last season, striker Marcello Trotta missing a penalty on the final day of the season. A stunned silence surrounded Griffin Park. “When you come as close as we did, then naturally there’s an expectation to push on”, he continues, exuding defiant confidence.

Building the fanbase is undoubtedly Devlin’s focus as the club looks to move and marketing initiatives, paying what you can for a ticket the latest, are part of a “robust marketing plan.”

He insists the club will be looking at the possibility of safe standing at Lionel Road as it “aids the atmosphere. I grew up watching football on the terraces at QPR [Queens Park Rangers] and I could walk to Loftus Road in ten minutes.”

This caused a few problems when he joined Brentford in 2011. Historically fierce rivals, Devlin had to “overcome prejudice and suspicion about someone from a QPR background”, something he was unaware would be an issue.

After growing up in Shepherds Bush, in 1986, he joined Ashridge Business School, Hertfordshire, with a career in football far from his mind. “I’ve always played football but saw myself in sales and marketing and started out working at a bank. I was told it was ‘good grounding’”, he chuckles.

Each day is “different” according to Devlin, “which makes the job so interesting. There are some tough times, when fans are unhappy but if you win three on the spin, that all changes very quickly.”

One day in 2006 almost changed his life forever. Working at Swindon Town, he flew with a group of directors, and his son, Stan, to the club’s first match of the season, away to Hartlepool, which Swindon won 1-0. “Just prior to landing [on the return flight], we crashed into a golf course next to Denham airfield [in Buckinghamshire]. What saved our lives was an oak tree which absorbed most of the energy before we hit the ground.”

The aircraft wasn’t filled with enough fuel for journey. Miraculously, the passengers survived – albeit seriously injured. “My son broke both his legs. I fractured a vertebra and broke my shoulder blade so didn’t work for about 13 months.”

“You understand very quickly that the most important thing is family. My family will always come top of my priorities but work is important to me and I know how important Brentford is to a lot of people.”

It is testament to Devlin’s character that he is back in football after quitting in the aftermath of the crash. London’s Westway Sports Centre was the route back in and despite taking some getting used to, Devlin moved onto Notts County as Commercial and Marketing Director before taking up his current post.

I didn’t think I would have been able to cope with the demands of professional football but I do enjoy a challenge”, he grins, “I have to change people’s habits and that’s not easy as football fans get very ingrained in their habits. When you work in football, you are going to come in for criticism. Some will be justified and you have to put your hands up. Some will be unjustified and there will be comments made by people with no understanding.”

Devlin’s business acumen shone through as he introduced a simple weekly meeting whereby heads of department convene to update one another on the issues facing their department. “When I got here, everyone seemed to work in their own silence; I’ve tried to unify the senior management.”

His personal schedule varies weekly but “we’re always revisiting the key components of our strategy. What are we doing with key elements, with retail, with catering? Does the Chairman have any issues?”

Our conversation progressed onto transfers and Devlin shed some light on the role of the CEO in arguably the most exciting part of football for fans, explaining how deadline day “can be stressful, particularly if you are trying to fill one or two positions and those in mind are almost always on the radar of other clubs.

We try to steer away from doing things at the end of the window as the closer it gets to the deadline, the worse the deal will be for the club.” And whilst he plays a key role in the transfer process, Devlin has “no control over whom Uwe [Rosler, Brentford manager] wants to bring in. He has the opinion that matters although I have financial control, making sure that we can afford the players and remain within budget.”

In his spell at Brentford, Devlin has united a club, which, for years, had been happy to simply exist, with no real ambition and which would have deemed a mid-table finish a success. “Now, if we’re not at least in the playoffs, that’s going to be seen as failure.”

“Each of the 80 members of staff wants to do their best, not only for themselves, but for the club and obviously for the supporters. Therefore, there’s no reason why we can’t be an established Championship side and I hope we’ll be there by 2016, when we get into Lionel Road.”

Curriculum Vitae

Salary: A London-based Chief Executive’s salary ranges from £58,000 to £192,000, based on figures provided by www.payscale.com.

Hours: “If you work in football, the set hours are 9-5. For a chief executive the hours are what’s required to get the job done.”

Work-Life balance: “Not too bad. My wife has a business that means she works Saturdays which also means that I can generally get to most of the away games. I will never let work overtake my obligations and responsibilities to my family.”

Best thing: “Just being able to work in football. I think there are a lot of people – friends of mine that are football fans – that would love to work in football. It’s just great to be working in an industry that is as vibrant, healthy and interesting as football can be.”

Worst thing: “Taking a loyal, hardcore fanbase that have been used to doing things in a certain way for a number of years and introducing change. Whether it has been a personnel change, a queuing system in The Hive (Brentford Football Club’s main function facility) or getting people to pay in advance rather than just cash at the turnstiles.”

Hobbies: “Current affairs, politics, theatre, NFL (American Football).”

Written by Dan Long, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger

Dan tweets at @_DanLong_ & also writes HERE.

Brentford’s Future Stars

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

JC

18-year-old winger Josh Clarke, a dead ringer for Patrice Evra, was one of the few to shine in the farce at Derby last week; his first team debut. His electric pace came as a surprise to the hosts as it also did to many Brentford fans who were previously unaware of the raw talent flourishing in the club’s Academy. He couldn’t prevent the Bees being dealt a 5-0 thrashing but gave a superb account of himself to both Uwe and the fans, who were no doubt eager to see more. The youngster was almost ever-present for the Development Squad last season, making seventeen appearances and scoring one goal in his first full-time season after being scouted playing college football. Seeing first-team players playing in the Development Squad has, by his own admission, played a big part in Clarke’s progression and a role to play in cup games this season can only further it. At such a young age his primary focus will be performing consistently for the Development Squad in the seventeen games that remain and aiming to convince Uwe to extend his 1-year contract, which I personally believe he will do with ease.

Luke Norris first came to my attention in a pre-season friendly versus Bedfont Town back in 2011. He looked level-headed; a strong, pacey forward with a keen eye for goal and proved this as he scored in a 3-2 victory. Whilst Norris has been unfortunate with injuries in the past, last season saw him top the Development Squad scoring charts with an impressive ten goals in eighteen appearances as Brentford finished fourth. After the 20-year-old’s stellar display in Tuesday night’s 5-3 win over AFC Wimbledon, where he showed a great understanding with Farid El Alagui, I have no doubt that Norris is ready for first-team football, be it with Brentford or having to get some more experience on-loan at a League Two club first. A great addition to any strikeforce; a natural goalscorer.

Jake Reeves is slowly becoming the next ‘Mr Brentford’, in my opinion. Despite being just 20-years-old, the central midfielder has racked up 28 first team appearances with an almost guaranteed place in the matchday squad so far this season. No fan can doubt his passion and each time he steps onto the pitch, you can expect 100 per cent effort. Reeves has bided his time and slowly worked his way up through the ranks since joining the Bees from Tottenham Hotspur in 2009, gaining further experience on loan at AFC Wimbledon last season. An accomplished passer of the ball, Reeves showed fans his great vision with his cross-field assist for Luke Norris’ goal versus Wimbledon. Uwe has previously described him as “a young player with a relatively old head on his shoulders” and with the hunger and composure he possesses, I think he can play a big role in the promotion push this season.

Goalkeeper Jack Bonham has come under scrutiny recently after some questionable League Cup performances against Dagenham & Redbridge and Derby County. Fans must be reminded however, that the 5-0 defeat at Pride Park was just the towering stopper’s third professional start and at just 19 years old, he is best suited to the calmer environment of Development Squad football. With Liam O’Brien only brought in on a short-term contract to provide emergency backup, the number 1 shirt for the Development Squad is Bonham’s for the taking. He can build his confidence and gain match-fitness, which will prove invaluable whilst working with experienced goalkeepers like Richard Lee and David Button; the former of whom recommended the youngster to the club. Personally, I think he may also need a loan spell before another shot at the Bees first-team but his potential is obvious; one for the future.

New signing Raphael Calvet, a French U20 international, is yet to make an appearance for the club and, with the hype surrounding his transfer, I am hoping to attend some Development Squad matches in the coming season in order to form an opinion. This is in addition to viewing further talented prospects in the form of midfielder Tyrell Miller-Rodney, commanding defender Alfie Mawson and attacking midfielder, Charlie Adams. Brentford’s youth system is finally starting to bear fruit and the future of the team certainly looks bright.

Written by Dan Long, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger

Dan tweets at @_DanLong_ & also writes HERE.

Where do we go from here?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

So, we’ve reached the end of another rollercoaster season and had our hearts broken at Wembley yet again. Oh the joys of being a Brentford fan! But where do we go from here? Can we really keep up the momentum and make this year’s dream, next year’s reality?

Undoubtedly, achieving this will hinge on whether we keep our young squad, the fifth-youngest in the entire Football League, together and Uwe has a tough job on his hands. The majority of the squad is under contract until summer 2014 at the least but wingers Sam Saunders and Harry Forrester are both out of contract next month whilst standout loanees Tom Adeyemi (Norwich), Jake Bidwell (Everton) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (Charlton) will return to their parent clubs after their loan deals expire.

If rumours are to be believed, we could also be hit with the departures of goalkeeper Simon Moore, who has reportedly been scouted by Manchester United, along with last summer’s acquisitions, Harlee Dean and Adam Forshaw both of whose eye-catching performances will have put scouts from bigger teams on alert. Nevertheless, it was today reported that the club will open talks with the pair later this week with regards to extending their stay in TW8.

Four Development Squad players have been offered improved contracts and will be hoping to build on their minimal first team appearances in the coming season. Midfielder Charlie Adams, who made his Bees debut against Carlisle this season, has been offered a new two-year deal whilst strikers Luke Norris and Antonio German along with defender Aaron Pierre have each been offered another year at the club.

To progress next season, I think a few new faces are required in the squad starting in defence. Obviously Jake Bidwell has only been on loan from Everton for the past 18 months and if he doesn’t sign permanently, a new left-back might be required. Tony Craig can play there if needed and Scott Barron should be given another opportunity to impress as he recovers from injury yet many Bees fans would hope to see the young Bidwell, recently named in the provisional England U20 World Cup squad, become a permanent fixture at Griffin Park.

Personally, I believe signing Tom Adeyemi up for another loan spell would be perfect for the team; he has passion, drive, power and is composed on the ball whilst I think we need another striker to complement Farid and Clayton. I liked Paul Hayes and defended him when others doubted but now I don’t think he is what we need; he holds the ball up brilliantly but is not a prolific scorer and if’s there’s one thing we need, it is goals. Clayton scored twenty-four this season and Forrester scored eleven but they did not flow; the former having more than one six-game drought.

Looking at the list of teams we are set to face next season, there are more than 15 teams who we can beat with the squad we have now, hands down. It will not, by any means, be plain-sailing next season, though. You just have to look at the teams who were relegated from the Championship this season, Bristol City, Wolves and Peterborough, all clubs of a large stature with quality and experience of football at a higher level. Wolves will have something to prove next season having been a Premier League side just one year ago and I would go as far to say that they will be favourites for the title already with Bristol City not far behind.

Nonetheless, I would definitely expect Brentford to finish in the top six and if automatic promotion is not a realistic prospect by the end of April, with a few good signings and the same winning attitude as this season, I don’t see why we can’t tackle the playoffs again and finally break the ‘curse’ they have over us. Could it be eighth time lucky?

Written by Dan Long, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger

Dan tweets at @_DanLong_ & also writes HERE.

Winner Takes All

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Ahead of this week’s promotion decider in League One between Brentford and Doncaster Rovers, two fans from each club share their views going into this match, which sees the team with the best home form hosting the team with the best away form.

1. Which team do you think will be considered the favorites for this match, considering the Rovers terrific away form, the Bees’ equally exceptional home form and the fact that Brentford need to win to secure promotion whereas Donny can settle for the draw?

Dan Long (Brentford): That’s very tough. Both clubs have had an excellent campaign, Doncaster’s more inevitable than ours but credit to them for getting straight back in contention after relegation last season. Personally, I would see Doncaster as favourites for the game. They have it all to lose if they don’t at least achieve a draw and I think they will be massively up for it. They sold out their ticket allocation very quickly and they are a big team seemingly ready for promotion.

I think the underdog status will suit Brentford very well. We have come from behind to win on numerous occasions this season and I think the element of surprise may unsettle the visitors. The previous tie between the two saw Brentford dominate possession yet lose 2-1 and they will have to make sure they take their chances if they want to beat a strong Doncaster team on Saturday.

Lee Croft (Doncaster): I think most will see us as favorites; we go into the game having accumulated more points over 45 games than Brentford and the majority of them coming from away games. It’s funny actually, because we are usually the underdogs in situations like this and I’m not sure if being the favorites for this one is a good or bad thing.

2. Just how big a game is this for your club?

DL: Words cannot describe how big a game this is for our club. It is the most realistic chance of Championship football we have had since 2006 and I think most would say the quality and mentality of the team is far superior to Martin Allen’s in 2006. Having lost in the play-offs no less than SIX times since 1991, we are desperate for a positive result on Saturday.

LC: This is our tenth season in the Football League, and in that ten seasons we have won the League Two championship, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the League One play-offs in 2007/08. We spent four years back in the Championship after 50 years and relegation last season was probably inevitable. That said I really want to see us back in the Championship, I think it will really deflate the club if we cannot achieve promotion, even more so considering we have been at the top of the table for the last eight games prior to last week.

3. Who has been your best player of the season so far?

DL: There have been so many stand-out performers this season; Tony Craig and Harlee Dean have been solid at the back, Simon Moore has been incredible in goal and Adam Forshaw has shown, time and time again, why he is too good for this level of football. But for me it has to be Clayton Donaldson. So far he has scored 22 goals, double his total for the whole of the last campaign, and finally showed Bees fans his full potential. Although the goal against Portsmouth was his first for six matches, he has continuously managed to pop with important goals and dealt with the tragic death of his mother like a true professional; a gentleman on and off the pitch.

LC: Chris Brown, of the three strikers (Brown, Paynter and Hume) Brown has scored the least but his work rate and ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play is second to none. He has scored some very nice goals this season and he won’t stop running the length of the pitch for the full 90. Our Captain Rob Jones is a close second though, the giant of a centre back and commander of the team has shown his resilience in his no-nonsense style defending and even managing to bag himself a few goals this season.

4. Which result this season made you think, “You know, we might actually do this!”

DL: There have been some amazing games this season, but it would have to be the 3-2 win against Portsmouth. They proved a very tough side to break down and showed their attacking threat with two great goals and equally impressive build up play. But the Griffin Park faithful sang their hearts out and the passion paid off when Bradley Wright-Phillips equalised five minutes from time. Just one minute later, Clayton Donaldson’s lofted finish sent the crowd into raptures. In my 10 years as a Brentford supporter, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like that; going from settling for a play-off place to being in contention for automatic promotion in two minutes sums up our season in one word, crazy!

LC: The result away at Crewe a couple of weeks back, we were a goal down and weren’t playing great, by no means we were poor but we just didn’t look like a team at the top of the table. However when Paynter was subbed on two quick goals put us in the lead and we held on with a brilliant away crowd to cheer the boys home. Top of the table and two games to go put Doncaster into party mode, something we are hoping Brentford don’t end this coming Saturday.

5. What type of game are you expecting?

DL: I reckon it will be very tight. I would expect Doncaster to be highly defensive and to play for the draw but if a chance arises, I would say they would give everything they have in attack to try and nick a win. We have everything to play for and will go for all out attack. Donaldson has said he is ready to ‘explode’ on Saturday and with any luck, he can convert that energy into goals and take us up.

LC: Brentford have to win, we don’t. That will be key here. Brentford have to attack us, they have to put us on the back foot leaving us the option of defending for most of the game and the counter attack our only chance of scoring. That is what we have done all season, that is where Doncaster Rovers have been most comfortable and that type of game won us all three points at both Bournemouth and Tranmere and why we have the best away record in the Football League. I think it will be tight, but I am confident that the game will suit the Rovers.

6. What threats does your team possess?

DL: Donaldson is back from suspension, there are no major injury concerns and the stadium will be rocking. Bradley Wright-Phillips is on form and only Tony Craig is suspended. The biggest weapon we have is the crowd; we will have over 10,000 home fans and the players have previously admitted that loud support contributes to the way the game will be played. Saturday is no exception.

LC: Our biggest threat at the minute is probably our midfield. John Llundstram and Dean Furman are both on loan at the Rovers from Everton and Oldham respectively. Both centre-midfielders know how to pass the ball and have shown they have an eye for goal and can dictate the play when needs be: Couple that with a back-line and strike force where the majority of players are over 6”2, our biggest threat is our physical presence and a deadly midfield.

7. What do you know about the opponents, and how they will approach the game on Saturday?

DL: When I think of Doncaster, I immediately think of a Championship team. They should not be in League One and they have proved that with their league position this season. Some of the players they have are of a Championship quality and although the loss against Notts County last week came as a big surprise, I would expect that they will be fully confident it will spur them on that they can just play for a draw on Saturday.

LC: When Brentford visited the Keepmoat they played us off the park, if they had a decent finisher, it might have been a cricket score. However we managed to withstand most of the pressure and our only two shots on target in the second half were just enough to see us take the points. But if that is how Brentford play away from home (where their form is – without trying to sound offensive – not above average) then I am a little frightened to think how good they will be at home where they have only lost twice. Brentford will surely be looking to the home crowd to make a great atmosphere that they hope their team can rise to.

8. Did you know that promotion would come down to the final game, or was promotion never an expectation for you this season?

DL: I think I can speak on behalf of many fans in saying that although the dream was in the back of my mind, I never expected that it would become a reality. History shows that we have always been there or thereabouts but never quite had the luck needed to take us up.

LC: At the beginning of the season all I wanted was stability and I said anywhere in the top 10 would be a success. However, when you have been at top of the table in the latter stages of the season you do hope the team can hang on and win promotion. I had a feeling it may come down to the final game this season, but only because of the amount of games in hand the teams below us had.

9. Just how nervous are you about Saturday?

DL: Incredibly nervous because of the past (play-offs) but quietly confident. I’ve experienced a promotion with Brentford back in 2009 and I know how brilliant that feeling is. I hope all the times this season I thought I was going to have a heart attack have been worth it and this can be our year!

LC: I’m nervous, but I know that if we play to our advantages, Brentford will not know what hit them. If it is anything like the majority of our away games this season Brentford will have more of the ball, and probably more chances but are the most efficient team in the division in terms of converting chances and that could be the key difference come 5pm Saturday.

10: Finally, what do you think the score will be?

DL: It’s going to be interesting to see how it pans out. I think Doncaster will give it a good go and score first but I think the fans will play a big part and we will claw it back in the end. I’m going for 2-1 to us.

LC: I am struggling to predict it, but I have to go for an entertaining 2-2 draw, with us probably scoring late on as we have done all season. I wish Brentford all the luck in the future after 5pm, as a trust owned club I admire what they are trying to achieve.

Written by Dan Long and Lee Croft, We Are Going Up’s Brentford and Doncaster Rovers Bloggers

 Dan tweets at @_DanLong_Lee tweets at @mr1croft

Only One Sam Saunders

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Surely Sam Saunders has done enough to earn a new contract now? The pocket-sized winger undoubtedly won the points for Brentford versus Swindon Town on Tuesday with his introduction when it looked as though an underperforming Bees side, still recovering from the knock-on effect of the FA Cup replay with Chelsea, would surrender their place in the League One play-offs.

After a run of two surprising losses, Brentford took the same, unconfident form into Tuesday’s game and went into the break 1-0 down thanks to Simon Ferry’s strike on thirty-two. But Saunders injected the game with his energy and from being behind in the seventy-first minute; the Bees were 2-1 up by the seventy-sixth. Saunders started the comeback; bagging a penalty after Clayton Donaldson was brought down before the latter sealed the win four minutes later. Sam even had time to hit the bar with a trademark free-kick. A big, big win.

Fast forward to the game versus Preston just four days on and he’s done it again. After a frustrating ninety-minutes which saw the Bees have no less than TWENTY-ONE efforts on goal, Saunders won another penalty and duly converted it three minutes into injury-time; an action met by wild celebrations from the Griffin Park faithful. Never has one strike of a ball been so important; both for player and club.

I have always been a big fan of Sam, so I’m going to be a little bit biased but he just seems to have the never-say-die attitude you want in a player.  Yes, he’s had an up and down season, which he admitted was ‘frustrating’ but ever since Uwe was appointed manager back in 2011, Saunders has displayed his full potential which has seen many Bees fans grow to love the ex-Dagger.

He had a stunning season in 11/12, scoring twelve goals and contributing nine assists due to Uwe’s belief in his ability and he was rewarded with a new one-year contract in February 2012 but with just three months remaining on that deal and no news of contract negotiations, Saunders’ future at the club is seemingly in the balance. This is despite a respectable return of four goals and six assists this campaign.

Personally, I think Sam has shown Bees fans what he can do on numerous occasions this season, albeit it mainly from the bench, with his performance at Crawley a few weeks back and the two victories this week the ones that stand out for me. I just hope he can stay fit because we know he can pop up at important moments and at the business-end of the season, that is just what a team needs.

To the delight of many fans, myself included, it has been announced in the press this week that Saunders is set for talks with manager Uwe Rosler within the next fortnight regarding extending his stay in TW8 (no doubt the last two outings have influenced this) as the midfielder has struggled to reach the required number of starts this season to trigger an automatic extension. And if he keeps performing like he has been, then who knows what could happen in the final eight matches? Uwe’s mind could be made up for him.

One moment of magic can be the difference between sixth and seventh and I know that given a chance, Sam will grab it with both hands and fire this club to glory at the end of a memorable season. I’ll even put money on it…

Written by Dan Long, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger

Dan tweets at @_DanLong_ & also writes HERE.

Brentford in 2012: Going anywhere?

Friday, January 6th, 2012

2011 has ended in as much disappointment as it started. January 2011 saw the club win once, draw twice and lose 5, ultimately ending in the sacking of Andy Scott. It ended with the worst performance I have witnessed since a dreadful night in Dagenham that ultimately cost Scott his job; a 1-1 draw with a rejuvenated Bournemouth, only courtesy of a last minute equaliser by Leon Legge, was one of the most abject, effortless and lethargic performances ever witnessed. Things had to change.

They didn’t, and only a monumental second half come back from 0-3 down against the team that shall not be named on New Year’s Eve (but ultimately have been the most impressive side to grace fortress Griffin Park this year) saw the Bees rescue a point.

A 2-0 loss away at Charlton just a few days ago only sought to highlight the problems that have since blighted the Uwe Rosler era. Passing and composed football with absolutely no end product. Charlton on the other hand were solid at the back, got the ball forward quickly, finished when required, and find themselves top of the tree. That’s no coincidence.

Here’s a lesson for Rosler. It was a theme of a previous blog that the team are trying to run before they can walk, play beautiful football before they are doing the basics well; creating chances and finishing. To draw a slight tangent, look at the Arsenal side in the early days after Wenger took over. The flowing football took time to emerge once he had HIS players in place, and the rest they say is history. Rosler doesn’t have his players in place, and some of his players including McGinn, Donaldson and Eger have struggled, although to his credit, the latter has started to play much better recently. It’s the old guard such as Lee, Legge, Alexander and Bean who are putting in the hard yards and scoring the goals.

So what for 2012?

1. A new striker. Although Mike Grella will feel hard done by, one start, 4 goals and a handful of 5 minute cameos have been the extent of his season. Clayton Donaldson puts in effort but looks nothing like the 27 goal man that ravaged League Two last year. Finally, Gary Alexander puts in the hard yards, is adored by the fans, but alas, isn’t the man that he once was.

2. Give Harry Forrester a chance. He sparkled when he came on against they who shall not be named on New Year’s Eve and is a prolific talent. The boy has been injured for a long time, but he must chomping to play. Let him. Please.

3. Don’t be afraid to be direct every now and then. Brentford finished 9th and 11th under Scott playing long ball football. It can work. It’s not pretty but it gets results, and is a viable alternative in this division. Rosler’s aversion to this, whilst admirable, is damagingly stubborn.

4. Reopen the Lionel Road plan. The club recently disclosed that they need 20,000 fans coming weekly to break even. In a 12,000 capacity ground such as Griffin Park one sees obvious problems with that. The new stadium plans up the road are the long term future of the club, rosy economy or not.

5. Realistic expectations for the fans. Grumbles have started about Rosler that the 3-3 game only delayed the fans from getting vocal about further. The club are in 7th, just outside the play-offs, behind a newly promoted team and clearly the five division heavyweights. A dose of realism and humility would be welcomed.

6. Rosler must be given time to build his team.

Hopefully this isn’t too much to ask, or Gary Johnson might start stalking the directors again…

Written by Chris Fairbank, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger

Chris tweets at @crumblechris

 

Waiting for the quiet revolution

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

With a third of the season gone Brentford are sitting where they have been for the last three seasons, just above mid-table, offending none, scaring fewer, occupying ninth spot in the table. The side’s latest outing, a home defeat to table topping Charlton, epitomised what has been a frustrating season so far for a side many tipped to make the play-offs. Most of those doing the tipping were Bees fans, but failure to score goals and finish successfully is hurting the club.

Manager Uwe Rosler, quoted after the Charlton game – which Brentford dominated for 80% of the time – said his side Brentford didnt have a quality goal scorer akin to Bradley Wright-Philips, a player who pretty much wandered round the pitch for 90 mins, but more importantly took his only real chance with ease.

In the summer money was splashed on Crewe Alexandra’s 28-goal man Clayton Donaldson, with the idea that he would be looking at a 15 plus season at a higher level. On recent performances, That wont happen. Gary Alexander works relentlessly, but isnt in the side for his goals, but more for his ‘human wrecking ball’ qualities. Mike Grella looks good and exciting, but doesnt seem to fit a system that favours two big men up top. A worrying statistic for Brentford fans, only one goal since 9th October has come from open play in the League.

Even more concerning is the form of Charlie MacDonald, sold to to that abomination of a club, and has six goals for franchise FC, more than any Brentford player. The club’s leading goal scorer is Sam Saunders with five, four of those have come from free-kicks.

For all the better football that Bees supporters have witnessed, the goals are drying up. 20 in 18 league games is concerning, especially considering that five of the top six have that much, or more just at home. Brentford are in the semi finals of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, amongst three League Two sides, so would hope Wembley beckons for a second year in a row. A favourable home tie in the FA Cup against either Wrexham or Cambridge could see a lucrative third round tie also. But this is Brentford – anything can happen. They certainly won’t make it easy for themselves.

You could accuse me of being overly pessimistic. The club sit 8th in League One, two points of the playoffs and as said, are doing well in two cups. So the future is bright, despite the lack of goal scoring prowess. The football quality is better, and an attendance of over 8,000 against Charlton was pleasing to see.

What is more concerning is the abuse and derogatory comments made by fellow supporters directed at each other. I stand on the Ealing Round terrace, the heartbeat of the home support and the amount of discourse that exists on the terraces is quite staggering. I have been to many home ends across the country in my years, and have never experienced such vitriol dished out to a fellow supporter.

Whilst some results have been frustrating, fans have often turned on each other which is very concerning. The club have their problems, treading water against the financial clout, marketing prowess and lure of premiership football from nearby QPR, Fulham, Chelsea as well as the other London and big teams. Whether this constant fear of financial floundering – helped or not by major investment from Matthew Benham, a professional gambler – plays on fans’ minds, or its the bitterness that comes with years of frustration and ‘what could have been’ situations, the frequency that it bubbles to the surface is worrying.

As the club sets it’s targets higher and higher the agonizing games, such as the 1-0 loss to Charlton, will only stoke that agression. The future, if one of failure, is bleak.

Written by Chris Fairbank, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger

Chris tweets at @crumblechris

5 games in – same old Brentford

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Over the summer tremendous change visited Brentford both on and off the pitch – Uwe Rosler took over, Simon Warburton came in as director of football and signings were made that gave the fans expectations of the playoffs. But five games in very little has changed.

Played 5, won 3, lost 2, 10 goals for, 6 against.

More concerning however has been the general lack of potency in front of goal, never more evident than in the home defeat to Tranmere. Rovers should have been five or six up by half-time and they only started creating chances late on in the game. For all the passing football that Rosler has brought to the club, the directness that Andy Scott and Nicky Forster favoured created chances and put teams under pressure. At the moment I fear that the team are trying to run before they can walk, in this case play attractive passing football without knowing what to do in order to beat teams. The recent prominence of Jake Reeves, a youth team product, is testament to this. Nobody can doubt his ability to pass and read the game, but his lightweight frame and sideways passing threatens little.

A 2-0 defeat away to Sheffield United highlighted how much United were physically bigger than us. They knew how they were going to score, bullied our small players – Shaleum Logan, Jake Reeves, Sam Saunders and Myles Weston – then broke with power. Travelling fans (Brentford always amaze me how well they travel away despite generally poor home gates) witnessed the Bees passing the ball around majestically for the last 15 minutes of the game, keeping the ball for almost all of the finale, however they fashioned one chance during the whole period. There is a distinct lack of cutting-edge, made worse by the sale of Charlie MacDonald to MK Dons. Charlie will be sorely missed, he always showed 100% commitment and worked defences tirelessly – 40 goals in 111 appearances is not to be sniffed at. Mike Grella should do well at this level. One hopes.

Over the season I will try and cover each couple of games with a Good, Bad and Ugly section, starting here;

The good – Leon Legge and Karleigh Osborne, maybe the best defensive partnership in the League?

Good performances from Legge, Jonathan Douglas and Niall McGinn against Leyton Orient.

The Taps pub in Sheffield station – glorious beer.

Beating Orient 5-0, and Sam Saunders scoring two free kicks. Just a shame he has not replicated the form that saw him do so well at the end of last season.

The bad – Sheffield United playing music on the PA after scoring goals. It just isn’t right.

Myles Weston – looks a shadow of a man that tore defences apart for the last two years. Consistently inconsistent.

Half time subs at Sheffield – Rosler took McGinn and Clayton Donaldson off at half time in a tactical move. Granted the pair had started poorly but they were getting into the game. McGinn has since gone on to prove that he offers a massive threat and had genuine quality about him.

The ugly – a morbidly obese, disabled Sheffield United fan waving her walking stick and flicking the V’s at Brentford fans upon United’s second goal, in front of her very young companion. Great role model.

Cheerleaders at Brentford – ugly as sin.

The journey goes on…

Written by Chris Fairbank, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger

Chris tweets at @crumblechris

No pressure, Uwe…

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

The very first words from this new blog should rightfully be a thank you to the management that have filled so many Brentford fans with untold amounts of confidence and excitement coming into the new season. So thank you must be bestowed upon Andy Scott and Nicky Forster. True, the new man at the helm, Uwe Rosler, has bought in some quality players which will be looked at in another blog but most fans can easily see the progression and foundations that have been laid over the last few years that have put the club into a position where Rosler would want to take over, and quality players would want to play in West London. Scott made the team hard to beat, made some good signings and most importantly got the club promoted into League One. He did play some dreadful football but when silverware is won, that can sometimes be forgiven. Games at Leeds, Southampton and Birmingham were personal highlights, and of course the title clincher and subsequent celebrations.

Nicky Forster got the club playing football again, most noticeable at the end of the season in Sam Saunders and Toumani Diagouraga who displayed the promise they were seldom allowed to display under the previous regime. He restored confidence and pride in a club that had seen it erode away and reach a personal low; a rubbish Tuesday night in Dagenham.

A Sunday at Wembley followed and the disappointment didn’t abate, but it was too late, the club was gaining national recognition. Under Scott and Forster the club made serious progress towards be becoming a modern professional outfit, helped by Matthew Benham’s skilfully won monies. This leads us to this summer and the appointment of Uwe Rosler.

The Brentford fans I know are much like any football league fans, cynical, hard to impress and quick to criticise. But something strange is happening in one of our four pubs that sit, guarding Fortress Griffin. People are confident, lavish with praise and hopeful. Rosler has put a spring in people’s steps, made them look forward to the big games this season – I for one have brought into the early signings with long trips up and across the country already booked in anticipation. Tweets exclaim where you can get good odds on promotion, but more lambaste the low odds, proof that it’s not just Bees fans that share the sense of optimism. He has played good football wherever he has gone, and built quality squads.

I’m sure there will be nay-sayers and euro sceptics but this is League One. It’s a risk to take on a manager with no experience of managing in England. That’s a given. But football is all about taking risks. Especially when smaller clubs look to step up a level. Rosler was a good player when he made his name in England. So why not a good manager. The will has long been there, now the players and management capable to take on such a campaign are in place. I and many fans alike can’t wait.

Anyway, we better hope he hangs around; fans are already penning songs of how his dad dropped bombs on Fulham.

Written by Chris Fairbank, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger

Chris tweets at @crumblechris