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Experienced sports journalist and Beesotted regular, Jim Levack, contributes his thoughts on the draw with Derby County and the unwarranted criticism that Andre Gray is receiving in some quarters.

Perched high up in the away end at Derby my gut was wrenching as we moved confidently into the final few minutes.

Several minutes later I’d be back beneath the Brian Clough statue with a grin on my face to meet my wife of twenty plus years and one of her school friends.

Born a goal kick away at Derby City Hospital, she’d decided to come to a Bees match for the first time since 1985.

She sat in the diagonally opposite corner from me and despite her not being an avid football fan, I had a warm glow at the fact that she’d be livid that we’d done the double.

Until a scuffed drive ended at the feet of Darren Bent who popped the ball in the net and simultaneously ensured a silent drive home. To be fair my wife’s friend admitted we’d been mugged which, to some extent, sweetened the pill.

Now my wife and her pal also know Rockin Johnny Austin, a cult figure around Derby County (google him), so when he told me Brentford were one of the best three teams he’d seen at the Ipro this season, that also eased my pain.

Note the word team. Because that’s exactly what this Brentford side is… the sum of its extremely impressive and technically gifted parts.

My wife surprised me by picking out Alex Pritchard as a quality player and even reeling off a few stats… amazing what five minutes with the programme can do.

So driving home with honours shared, I got to thinking about just how far we’ve come in a few years. Angry, frustrated and proud all in one strange medley. But if you can be angry at totally dominating a former Premier League side on their own patch then I’ll take that every day.

The frustration remained though, and the temptation when frustrated is to find a scapegoat. Lucky we have Andre Gray then.

On Saturday night I read through social media and message boards open-mouthed as arguably the best young striker we’ve had in decades was criticised by Bees fans. (Click below to hear the Beesotted post match Podcast from the Derby boozer)

Fortunately they are a minority – the Bees faithful who didn’t tap out their vitriol from the comfort of an armchair sang his name loud at the Ipro – but they are a noisy minority who sadly carry some sway.

Now I’m not pretending I’ve ever played at the top level – London Schools and South of England Universities (okay polys) was the pinnacle of my career – but I knew where the goal was. I’ve played up top alone and hated it, holding it up without support and then having to get the goals if and when the ball did eventually come in.

So when I see people slating Andre Gray it makes my blood boil. If I could have one minute with him I’d tell him – and I’m sure he does anyway – to ignore the critics.


But that’s easier said than done in these days of social media, when experts who probably weren’t even at the game, begin describing his performance as “piss-poor” and labelling him “not up to it”.

If I’d bagged 16 goals in my first season out of the Conference after playing virtually every minute of every game, I’d be ecstatic. Gray was earmarked for criticism because he had the chances in a second half which, if Brentford can repeat, will see us ease comfortably into the play offs.

But I was there and I’ve played in that position and I can assure you they were half chances which – and I’ll give the critics this much – he might have taken one of were he a split second fresher. But half chances they were.

Bottom line is he was in the right place to miss them and, as long as he keeps being in the right place to miss them, then I for one am more than happy to see him as one of the first names on the team sheet.

Had Mark Warburton freshened up his striking options then Andre might have been sharper and less tired to take one of them. If Chris Long had played he’d have snapped up the chance – possibly there’s any argument there but that’s not sufficient reason to castigate the player.

Gray, to my mind, has been an utter revelation this season. Strong, quick, powerful, capable of going both ways, decent in the air for his size, with quick feet and a lovely touch and he never hides, so to hear even a minority of people criticising him makes me seriously question my honest belief that Brentford fans are a pretty knowledgeable bunch.

It might have been down to frustration, but let me assure you, my marital situation gave me more cause than most to vent my spleen… but I didn’t because I left the East Midlands proud of my team.

Four games, 12 points, so we have to be ONE team on and off the pitch.

Jim Levack

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