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After Brentford’s FA Cup loss to Chelsea, Billy Grant forgets the match report .. and goes on a ramble instead … weaving between talking about ‘New Brentford’ .. is the club losing soul? … to discussing our obsession with giving the press ammunition to bury ourselves with … to assessing the fans’ views on why the Bees failed to perform at the weekend and more importantly, where they see our season going.

Its FA Cup Saturday. Brentford are being torn apart by Champions elect Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Bees fans stood or sat (depending on if you were in the Upper Tier or Lower Tier) and watched in dismay as they saw their team go down without barely a fight in a match surely every player would have been dreaming of playing in from his Childhood.

And on the Beesotted Post Match Podcast from the pub (click above), fans were stinging in their criticism of the team, the players and the way we approached this match.

One interesting opinion to emerge from the podcast was how one fan viewed ‘New Brentford’.

“We’re medium We’re growing up and paying the bills. There’s no more excitement. We sell players. We pay the bills. We go to games like this and don’t really try. We have talented players who have no heart. This is what life is now. It’s what we could ever have hoped for. You should be grateful for it. Just like you’re grateful for having a house when everyone is renting. But it’s not very exciting.”

Is that really where Brentford is going? Don’t get me wrong. Everything the club is doing makes sense logically. But every time we see ourselves moving forward, we then take a few backward shuffles as the reality strikes home that we are still are unable to compete in the long term.

And as we take these backwards steps, we lose an inch wincy bit of soul. We get excited when we see us moving forward. Then we get every so slightly crushed each time we move backwards. And we just accept … coz that’s the way it is.

But is that the compromise?

A loss of the soul?

We used to not be a very good team on the pitch. But at least we used to have soul. Are we losing that? Is it inevitable as we become bigger? Is it possible to grow and maintain soul?

Or is the above opinion just a a view from the depths of despair of defeat? And tomorrow, everything will be OK again?

Many – not all – of us accept that Brentford have to be on the cutting end and try new things to keep ahead of the game. But whereas Brighton – who run their club in a very similar fashion to Brentford with their owner Tony Bloom (also a professional gambler) running a company very similar in nature to SmartOdds – are very secretive about the way they do their business, we are not. Does it really help to know the ins and outs of how we do our business?

Brentford were the focus of articles in both The Guardian and The Times at the weekend which claimed “Brentford’s Unique Approach To Player Recruitment Could Undo Chelsea”.  Needless to say, our limp performance at Stamford Bridge gave Martin Samuel from The Daily Mail ammunition to shoot us down on Monday morning.

The year we got to the Championship playoff semi-final, Brighton – who use the same stats-type approach as us – just avoided relegation from the Championship finishing 20th. I didn’t see Martin Samuel and half of Fleet Street tearing them to pieces that summer. Of course not. Because they have no idea what Brighton are up to.

Sometimes we don’t help ourselves.

Back to Saturday’s farce. Many of us would have had Chelsea mates in the opposing stands who we would have conducted a post-match analysis in the pub with. Normally you have one boasting moment within a match – even if you get beaten. On Saturday, we did not live up to any of the pre-match hype at all. There was not one moment to brag about in the pub afterwards. It was embarrassing.

Which brings me onto another source of fan opinion from this weekend – our Brentford WhatsApp Banter group. In it going into the match, a comparison was made between the current Brentford team and Uwe Rosler’s team which battled out a 2-2 draw against Chelsea at Griffin Park before going down 4-0 in the replay at Stamford Bridge four years ago.

That side ironically contained Paul Hayes in the squad. Hayes was a player who was deemed not good enough for Brentford’s Division One Promotion winning team. However, while our players were fanning around the pitch teeing the ball up for Chelsea players to bury in the back of the net, Hayes was up at White Hart Lane tearing the Tottenham defence a new @rsehole – banging in two goals to boot as Wycombe battled till the end (and scored three goals) against a top-of-the table Tottenham side.

So as I sat around on Sunday afternoon feeling slightly sorry for myself (I was tired after a long Saturday. I would say hungover .. but I still have to – after 30 plus years on the beers – experience one of those), I started to flick back through the long stream of WhatsApp messages I had received the following day on our Brentford Banter Group.

The ring is made up of all sorts of characters. Some who watch what Brentford are doing from afar and are mildly critical but constructive. Some who were wary of the manager from day one. Some who backed the manager from day one. Some who have gone from backing the manager to being not sure. Some who prefer to bide their time and go with the flow before making an out an out opinion. Some who feel that the Directors of Football need to be more pro-active. Some who sympathise with our lack of clout in the transfer market. Interestingly, quite a few are concerned with the club seemingly not being able to bring in players quick enough to replace outgoing players – despite receiving the transfer cash.

Most of the banter crew believes that Brentford, with their approach, are pretty much on the right track. But they also acknowledge that a few major tweaks are still needed here and there – and making mistakes is just part of the journey.

Saying that, the mood is always measured and balanced. As acknowledging that there are a wide spectrum of opinions out there and everyone is fully entitled his or her point of view, there are some people who – even if we beat Chelsea 10-0 and we smashed Newcastle off the park a few weeks back – still have fundamental problem with how the club is run and will wait for a downturn in results to tell the world that is the case.

That’s fine as it reinforces the plethora of opinions flying around. However, what I never seem to understand – and I am seriously interested to know as I can then get a more rounded perspective on how our club should be run – is how they would do things differently under the circumstances.

Also, and I know many fans have the same opinion as myself in believing that we actually have a decent set of players. A set of players who on the whole are not performing. I know they’re not worldbeaters. And we all know that we need two or three players in key positions that would make an enormous difference to the side. But we currently have players in the team who can more than hold their own in his division.

Interestingly, Ankersen said in his Times interview that Brentford were 10th in the “club’s own league table rather” than the 15th place we currently occupy. Having seen every single Brentford match this season, I would agree that over 46 games, there are probably only nine sides in this division better than us. And lets be honest, we are also better overall as a team of players than that 2013 Uwe Rosler side. If not – especially with the money we have spent – we have to all admit that we have gone backwards.

At times in the last twelve months, we have played some really exciting football. But the key word is ‘at times’.

We’re not consistent.

And very much like with that early Uwe Rosler team, consistency and – at times – motivation is a major issue.

Back in the day, we would NEVER turn up for the big game. We had Big-Game-Itis. We seemed to have overcome that hurdle in the past few years.

However it seems in the last 6 months or so, we are back to square one with Brentford’s Big-Game-Itis.

Coming back to the banter characters … their more balanced opinion made me think “this would make a good article”.
Interestingly, the first message started at just after 15.30 when Brentford were 2-0 down. The fact that someone who is at the match is messaging criticism during a match says it all.

Here’s a transcript of some these Brentford fans’ thoughts over 24 hours during and after the Chelsea match:

15.30 – “Smith standing there with his hands on his pockets is really p!ssing me off. Look at Conte.  Still moving players around even when 2-0 up”

“Completely out of his depth”

“Pointless playing this system with no width. Chelsea use width of the pitch, we keep making it smaller. No space when we do get ball. Bentley waving Barbet in. Does my head in”

“Scandalous that Field isn’t playing”

16.30 – “Interesting that (Thomas) Frank stood up on the bench after the third”

“I’d take Hogan off now”

“Dreadful decision. Play Hogan or don’t . On as sub is ridiculous”

“Yeah. Madness. Hogan has played 3 meaningful minutes of football in 3 weeks and is now risking 20 minutes of pointless football”

“But if he scores. Headlines. No risk when we’re 3-0 down. No battle (from Chelsea to injure him)”

“Maybe. But I’d like to think the market is a bit less reactive than that”

17.00 “Sawyers. Vibe. Nico. Some poor performances out there today. Willian was class”

“Premier league player in men v boys looking good shocker! Rosler’s team looked miles better than Smith’s”

“We were league one then. Meant to be top half champ now. No excuse for poor control and constantly giving ball away in first half or failing to get right side of the man at the back. How long can we continue to start slowly. Why cant we start like we did second half?”

“Some big cup shocks today. Shame we were nowhere near”

“We set up today like we were playing Burton at home without realising we were playing Chelsea away”

“Yep. Plus Hogan fiasco. No left back. Then KK (Kerschbaumer) not deemed worthy of five mins elsewhere comes on against prem leaders”

“Hes clueless he has to go…”

“I genuinely don’t know who is doing what in that midfield”

“Amazing stat that McEachran hasn’t scored a goal in his entire club career, roughly 120 games, and we see him as the secondary attacker! I guess McLeod’s the long term plan for number 10. It’s Sawyers at the moment as best I can make out”

Manager v player recruitment has always been a hot topic:

“Some people blame the DoFs and let Smith off scott free. It’s not so black and white”

“They’re wrong. Formation and team selection and tactics are Smiths. “Not turning up” is Smith. Tempo is Smith. Sawyers is Smith. Yes we need players urgently but that wasn’t yesterdays problem, no one expected a win, just a performance”

“I Agree about formation and team selection. I also thought it was a huge slap in the face for Tom Field, who deserved to be played & was the better fit for the formation. Field, Clarke, Hogan, Jota were 20 times more likely to get us a goal than Vibe, Sawyers, Barbet, Yennaris. Season’s over for me pretty much. Villa & Brighton at home, Burton away & I’ll let the better half dictate my attendance”

“Vibe looked like a kid playing with an older year group.  Barbet looked like he was in the wrong stadium. Smith looked like he is in the wrong profession. Not knocking them tbh, they all try, but some aren’t good enough. Vibe is a waste of a shirt. And have backed Sawyers from day one but he was fkng awful today”

“Too harsh on Vibe, generally,  in my opinion. Fair comment today because the opposition were just too good.”

“I hate knocking Vibe as he tries so hard but to me he isn’t the answer.  Many selection/sub issues today but no Field, and Hogan on when game lost by far the worst for me. Atmosphere poor and v disappointing but not our fault that performance was unacceptable”

“We didn’t just not turn up against the best side in the country. We do it a lot. Then we have a good run. But our poor games are worrying. Our uwe rosler side had more b0llocks than that team. Is it the team. Or manager ? This team is better on paper than roslers team”

“Agree entirely. I see enough games to concur. Smith has to carry the can today. How anyone defend that? Field. Hogan. Kerschbaumer. Lack of tempo. No plan to deal with width. I was sober! I won’t watch us sober again if that’s what you mean!”

And the Brentford crowd got a bit of a panning. Saying that, all the guys in this discussion were in the top tier which apparently was morgue-esque compared to the bottom tier.

“And yet the worst thing today was the crowd..”

“The atmosphere wasn’t great anywhere, but at some point you need the players to give you something to sing about……”

Maybe it was because the eyes of the world were upon us. But it took a defeat against Chelsea to really get fans to put a periscope on our season and where we’re going.

And with two days to go before the transfer window closes shut, the conclusion from the character above is Brentford are lacking consistency, spark and at least a couple of players to keep this season alive.

The chances of promotion are next to nothing. And we’re not going down (and I said the same at this point last season too). So no point in rocking the ship. But the general consensus is on the pitch, Brentford needs to add to the ranks this window regardless to show our intent – moving forward and laying the groundwork for the next season whilst giving the fans a bit of excitement in the back end of season.

And with the likelihood of Hogan leaving in the next 48 hours, the chances of Brentford replacing him (a striker) so late in the window is unlikely considering the options available (or not available) to be honest.

However, if we do not add any other players to our ranks – pulling in a much needed central midfielder and ideally a player like Canos who can play both on both wings and also in an attacking position – you can be rest assured that Brentford fans will be not best pleased with how this season is looking to starting to pan out at all.

Billy Grant