Beesotted contributor, Jim Levack, shares his post-Derby, and post-Rasmus (pictured) statement, thoughts on the current Brentford drama…
Back at the height of Warburton-gate I, like many, was deeply concerned by the departure of such a brilliant man manager from our club.
I felt, again like many, that for the statistics-led system to work to maximum effect, it needed a foil, a balance, someone who prepared to play Devil’s advocate and perhaps push back on certain signings.
Mark Warburton couldn’t buy into that… a great shame but we move on, and ultimately the statistics-led system is essential for the long-term success of the club.
My view at the time went deeper than the rather simplistic ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ argument because, once again as many have said, Warbs would have probably been gone by now anyway.
I accepted – and still do – that the club must find a different way to compete against the big spenders like Derby, so sourcing hidden gems from abroad with decent stats is the only sustainable and financially sensible approach.
Matthew Benham is unequivocally right to pursue it and my loyalty to him, his investment and presence at the head of our club is total.
But I felt, and still feel, that there needed to be a balance… after all, there were statistics-driven signings in the side last season and it didn’t do us too much harm even with an old skool manager who wanted veto over recruitment.
But in the intervening months – during which, ludicrously, anyone voicing an alternative opinion has been branded anti-Brentford and a traitor – the scale and pace of change has come back to haunt us.
I’m writing this after listening to the Derby commentary, likened by the excellent Mark Burridge as a “men against boys” encounter.
As I sit and search for reasons for the current slump, the word ‘naive’ keeps springing to mind.
- Naïve to throw untried players from abroad en masse into arguably the hardest, most physical league in the world and expect them to integrate fully in their first season. League One maybe, but not the Championship.
- Naïve that we could expect to lose a galvanising, none shall pass midfielder like Jonathan Douglas who allowed those around him like Toumani to flourish. He was a troublemaker, we are told – I’d take a few of those at the moment.
- Naïve to think that Alan Judge should be expected to solely fill the creative void left by the invention and goal threat of Pritchard. Currently we are devoid of any invention and carry little goal threat from midfield as we did last term.
- Naïve to dispense with the pace and driving runs of Dallas, who turned defence into attack in seconds and always had the opposition wondering, whilst also fulfilling his defensive duties. He may well have wanted to go but he had time left on his contract.
- Naïve for Cliff Crown to tell supporters at the recent Forum that the squad this season is stronger than it was last. Potentially maybe, but if he truly believes that now, then that is worrying. Potential doesn’t get you points.
- Naïve for Marinus to, presumably, voice the management team’s view that “we are not the most physical side so we have to be better at football”. But you have to win the physical battles first to earn the right to play your football.
- Naïve to think that football alone will see Brentford rise up the table – look at all the top teams in the division and they have an enforcer. We don’t. The new signings are clearly excellent technically and good footballers… but not if they don’t have the ball!
- Naïve and unfair to expect Alan McCormack to be the physical presence in midfield. He wasn’t a regular last season and arguably wouldn’t have been had he been fit. He has already picked up five yellows this season, presumably trying too hard to add the steel the side so badly needs.
- Naïve in regard to the PR surrounding the change from Day 1. I’ve worked on change management projects and it’s a balancing act, moreso when it’s connected to something as emotive as football.
Better communications – from Matthew himself, possibly explaining that this early season slide was expected – would calm the growing sense of unease.
In reality though my first point is the most important. By all means bring in the exciting talents of Vibe, Hoff, Gogia and Djuricin and in a year’s time they will be setting the Championship alight, much like Jota and Gray before them.
But to have the majority of the side consisting of new, foreign players unused to the English game is – as we’re finding out – asking for trouble.
Injury nightmare accepted – and I don’t think we should keep looking to the horizon and December for their return because we need to focus on now – I don’t think things will be too difficult to remedy despite the tweets of apology from Brentford’s players after the Ipro debacle.
Keep three or so of the new foreign lads in the side at any one time and surround them with the protective arm of slightly more experienced players – leaders – who know their way around the division… whether they’re loan signings or not.
To do that though, there needs to be a little bit of a pause from the club and an easing of the ‘stats and foreign’ philosophy to bring in some nous.
Right now the ‘Big New Ambitions’ slogan has a slightly hollow feel to it. That suggests improvement on the previous season when evidently that may be gradual.
Had it been ‘Time for Change’ it would have managed expectations, given some indication that it might not be a smooth transition and kept everyone’s feet on the ground.
That, added to a detailed rationale of how things might pan out from Matthew, would create a calmer foundation for us to move forward – Together.