Spread the love


I like Harry Forrester. I don’t know him that well having only met him on a handful of occasions. But the few times that I did meet him he was polite, funny, excitable with a infectious personality. He’s a good footballer as well.

With the new season looming and the team holed up in a German pre-season training camp, Forrester has apparently opted to do his training in a leafy field outside Doncaster. Exotic. The writing is on the table however, Harry has played his last game for Brentford.

Having supported Brentford for 30 plus years I know footballers come and go year on year. Especially the good ones… the only one constant for a club is its fans. Everything else changes at one time or another. It was inevitable that we would lose some of the better 2012/13 players eventually. That’s football. This summer it’s Harry who’s off to pastures new… And good luck to him.

The reality is a footballer’s life is a relatively short one. They have to make choices, ultimately, which are best for themselves and their family… not the fans or the club. Sometimes those are the right decisions (Steven Hunt to Reading was an example of a move that could have failed miserably but worked out perfectly for him) and sometimes they make the wrong choices (Gary Blissett had a great season for the Bees but his transfer to First Division Wimbledon didn’t work out as well as it could have and left him looking back on what could have been.)

I don’t blame Harry Forrester for looking at the opportunities presented to him to play at a higher level. The lad has every right to do that. What is disappointing however is the way he went about it… namely disappearing off in a cloud of dust. Harry is very much to blame for how he has dealt with the situation with Brentford but I don’t blame him nearly as much as his agent.

Agents. A necessary evil in football? There seems to be two sides to that story. I work in music and my job is managing artists. I literally look after every aspect of an artist’s life and spend all my hours (when I’m not watching the Bees of course) mapping out a career for them. My artists have ranged from poorly educated but talented kids from the streets, to a public-school-educated singer that we worked hard to take from Southall to no 1 in USA Billboard chart. All of these artists, despite the difference in ‘stature’ and units they had sold, needed the same level of nurturing. Especially in the early years.

The way artists are managed in the music industry is sometimes paralleled with bringing up small children. You have to literally spoonfeed many emerging artists until they’re at a stage when they are able to finally stand up on their own two feet. You learn when to shield them from the media. Shield them from their fans. Protect them from getting into a pickle.

You may work for two or three years with an artist without getting paid a penny as you put your time and money into developing them in the hope that one day it will pop off and they will pay you back. As it’s a creative field, you have faith in your artist and you want to do what’s best for them. It’s a long-term game. Short-term thinking can often leave you unstuck.

I remember going out to dinner with Chris Kamara some years back and we talked about the similarity between the music industry and football. We went on to talk about music managers and the integral role they play in shaping an artist’s career using a long-term strategy. I questioned why football wasn’t the same. Chris said; “It”ll never happen Bill. We have agents. In football it’s all about the money .. How much and how quickly.” Being a football romantic, I found that mildly disturbing.

Harry’s move to Doncaster has highlighted many horrible points about football. The turning down of Ajax for Brentford was no doubt an agent embellishment. Great. We all love a bit of ‘Jackanory’ as it gives us fans bragging rights. But the reality is he couldn’t even hold down a place in Brentford’s team in his first season, so how was he going to break into Ajax’s side? It was the management team at Brentford who really got behind Harry in the close season and encouraged him to become the player he could be.

To be fair to Harry, he worked hard and the following season he had a blinding first four months. He was still inconsistent but the management, whilst always backing him, were still encouraging him to up his game. We all knew that he was a good player, potentially, but not quite the finished parcel.

Many people probably didnt even realise that his first professional goal was away to Bournemouth back in September 2012 – not even a year ago. He still had a lot to learn.

The hype of his performances and our ill-fated (as it cost us promotion) Cup-run resulted in a bevee of scouts watching Brentford week in and week out. At Yeovil we asked one scout if he was here to see Forrester and he said “No, we’ve watched him. He’s too predictable. We’re here for Simon Moore and Yeovil keeper Marek Stetch”. There was another scout at Griffin Park who we also asked if he was there to see Forrester when the same reply came back… “No, too predictable, but we’re keeping an eye on Harlee Dean”.

The development of Harry’s game was obviously something that Uwe and his management team felt was crucial, but Harry’s agent clearly sold him the “You can play in a higher division. Everyone wants you” story… but after the hype of moves to Ipswich, Leeds, QPR and Aston Villa, the promise of moving onto a much bigger club evaporated and it looks like he’s ended up going to Doncaster – the team who narrowly pipped us to the punch on the last day of the season. Yes he’s gone up one division but, in reality, couldn’t he have waited a season and improved his game, then aim a tad higher than Donny if that chance arrives?

Harry fell on his feet at Brentford. Either by luck. Or by judgement. Being at Brentford was working for him. He was loved by the fans. Rated by the coaches. He was offered a new contract with more money. The club has a vision and is undoubtedly going places. Yes Doncaster is in a higher division ….. at the moment. Surely it’s better the devil you know if things are going swimmingly … Sign a new contract with a ‘big club clause’ allowing him to move as and when. That would be one way of paying back the folk who have put faith in you… And with a bit of class.

Doncaster is undoubtedly an opportunity for Harry. It wouldn’t have been my number one choice, not his probably, but I don’t blame him for taking it. It’s more the way he dealt with the transfer that disappoints me. And the key word here is disappoint. In the music industry this is where a good artist manager earns his crust. He would have stepped in to make sure that the change-over was smooth and not a PR disaster for his client. They would have ensured that Harry didn’t go silent on the management team that supported him.They would have ensured that he had the decency to turn up for meetings, even if the outcome was inevitable. They would have ensured that he would have not simply turned off his phone so that he was not contactable – even if it meant them mediating the calls.

But let’s not forget, as I said in the intro, Harry is only a kid. Yes this whole business ordeal must have been daunting for him. But, in principal, he didn’t have to deal with it. Harry’s main focus should involve concentrating on his football skills and letting his ‘team’ deal with the business.

However, if the team around him doesn’t take the reigns allowing Harry to let himself down badly in the way the business is conducted generating negative PR around their client, then that’s not a good look. And that’s where football so often lets itself down. The babysitting culture seems to be missing. From the outside at least.

Harry Forrester. One full season. Many good memories. Harry hanging out in the square in Leipzig with Brentford fans late into the night after the Lokamotiv Leipzig game was a lovely moment. Scoring that penalty against Chelsea. Taking my flat cap off and wearing it as his post-goal celebration after the last minute winner against Pompey. That wonder-strike against Sheffield United. All great moments. But as the new season approaches… Harry Forrester has gone.

I don’t hate Harry. I quite like Harry. And I wish him luck in his career. But there was no need to end it like that. No matter how big you become Harry, you should have had more respect for the people who had faith in you. Its called manners. The way it has turned out leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the staff and fans who have supported you with so much genuine respect and admiration.

But it shouldn’t be me telling you this Harry. It’s the team around you. Coz all you want to do is play football. But looking at how they have left you hanging during this transfer debacle, and the move it looks like they subsequently landed you with, to be honest, we’re not 100% sure your ‘team’ have your best interests at heart.