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Billy Grant takes one step back and tries to take a more balanced view on the whole Mark Warburton debacle – asking whether the manager and the owner were the wrong in the way they acted in the run-up to the story leaking? And was Mark Warburton in his right to show an interest in the Norwich job as has been reported by the press?

Seven days ago Brentford fans were jumping around on the terraces of Leeds – absolutely delighted having seen our un-fancied team take yet another 3 points from one of the so called ‘big boys’.

Our post-match pint was most enjoyable (although we probably timed our exit just right it has to be said) .. and the train journey home was unbelievable.

The lofty heights of the Championship?? We never expected to be here in the first place.

Opposition fans said we were punching above our weight. Maybe we were. Who cares? We were playing some stunning football to boot. And we were having a ball of a time.

Being ‘little olde’ and ‘tinpot’ Brentford, we revel in the fact that we were going against the grain – upsetting people in the process. What one Leeds fans said after the match last week sums it up: “You know when you have been beaten twice by Brentford in one season, you’re not in a good place”.

Even Charlton fans after the match yesterday were singing from that same hymn sheet. Speaking on the Beesotted podcast, they went from suicide watch to world beaters in the space of 90 minutes – simply refusing to believe that Brentford had actually had dropped well below their usual high standards.

So for our opposition, it seems Brentford have become the barometer of how far they have fallen. As opposed to recognising how good we are.

Mark Warburton’s post match comments refused to blame the poor result on uncertainty revolving around the club claiming “It was just a bad day at the office”.

Bees fans tip their hat to Warburton for always being on-point. But I cant believe that even ONE Brentford fan will believe that our embarrassing performance at Charlton wasn’t somehow related to the events off the pitch. Surely that has to be the worst Brentford performance since we lost to Stevenage 16 months ago – the infamous Uwe Rosler “Dressing Room-gate”.

Being realistic, there weren’t many Brentford fans who truly thought we were going to get promoted this season. What we really got off on was the fact that we were pushing the envelope – upsetting lots of other fans in the process.

“Tinpot Brentford” have destroyed yet another team.

And part of our key to victory was the fact we had real passion and togetherness both on and off the pitch. A bond which was seeing us get through the toughest of games.

For whatever reason, that bond has been well and truly destroyed. For the time being anyway. Defeats against a decent Watford team and a poor Charlton team have only go to compound the dejection floating over Griffin Park at the moment.

There are a lot of rumours floating around. Some of them unfounded. Most of them unsubstantiated.

There is also a lot of bad feeling – much of that based on the thought that, quite simply, the wheels have un-necessarliy fallen off the Brentford bus.

What’s more, sadly after all the hard work put in to create the ‘fairy story’ of Brentford’s fight against adversity, there is now a lot of negative press flying around poo-pooing that very tale.

Whereas Brentford has been receiving plaudits for being revolutionary on the pitch, unfortunately this whole sordid affair has majorly exposed us as unfortunately being conference level in our media relations. How a club is portrayed by the rest of the world is as important as how they perform on the pitch.

A decent PR campaign doesn’t just happen. It is carefully shaped. It’s an art form. It’s not as simple as just throwing up a press release on an website. Great PR campaigns involve the strategic working of stories over a period of time and placing them in the right publications using press contacts that have been built upon over a over a number of years.

The papers are currently giving Brentford a bit of a bashing. Surely this is the ideal time for Brentford to be calling on their friends within the media. Who are our friends in the media? Our real friends?

Recent alleged public spats with journalists don’t really help our cause of trying to get the media on-board. We all know the media by and large stick together. I will never forget the moment I was hanging in the Spy Bar in Stockholm with pretty much all the household-name tabloid journalists the night after England lost 2-1 to Sweden. They told me they had decided that night collectively they were going to bring down Kevin Keegan as manager. He lasted barely another month.

It’s fine taking an attitude of “F@ck the press” if you own the press – like Rupert Murdoch. But if you don’t have that monopoly, unfortunately you have to play the game. Or spend lots of money buying media. Or, as is happening now, sit back and take the sh!t that is currently being flung at you at from every angle.

Ignoring the rumours and gossip flying around, there are a few key points for everyone to note here. So I am going to ask a few questions:

It’s pretty conclusive that all the evidence seems to point to the fact that the owner Matthew Benham and the manager Mark Warburton have a difference in opinion on how, creatively, they feel this club should be taken forward.

Is that wrong?

Not really. It happens in business all the time. There are many ways to string a cat. If anything, it’s a positive thing that we have two people here with strong ideas and principals on the way they want to do business. Many businesses just go through the mill with no real clue about how they are going to reach their goal. Situations like this normally get resolved by the two parties coming together and either resolving their differences or coming to some other arrangement.

Assuming Matthew Benham has outlined a strategy of how he would like Brentford to do business on the field, do I feel he has been out of order?

Not at all. It’s his club. He has invested heavily in all aspects of the club – players, academy, staff, land for a new stadium. And he has every right to outline how he would like his company to be run and then employ people to work with him according to his vision.  If he made a decision to investigate other options to cover all bases as this article points out .. he was only, as a good business man, doing due diligence as this article points out – in the same way his manager also has every right to do the same to cover all bases.

He is also a lifelong fan so the need to do a bit more research.

If I were Mark Warburton, would I feel slightly aggrieved if I felt that my boss was investigating options to replace me at the end of my contract despite me delivering unbelievable results during my term at the club?

Without a shadow of doubt. That’s natural. But also being realistic, I would also be wary that myself and my boss were unable to agree on fundamental points and if we to continue to disagree on a way forward of doing business, it would make it difficult for both parties to move forward. I would be expecting my boss to be investigating all options and I would do the same.

If Mark Warburton in the wrong for investigating other options – such as the Norwich job which has been reported in the press?

Not at all. His contract is up at the end of the season with no guarantee of it being renewed. There are creative differences between him and the manager. He is totally within his right to investigate all options as reported in the Daily Mail. It doesn’t mean that he would have taken the job if it were offered. But bases covered and all that.

Assuming Mark Warburton does not agree with all or some of Matthew Benham’s strategies, do I think he has been out of order?

Not at all. He is the successful manager of a football club who knows how to discover good players and get the best out of ‘rough diamonds’. He also has a strong opinion on how he would like to operate. On how to do business. It may differ from the owner’s opinion but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Just different.

Do I hope that Matt and Mark would then sit down and try and resolve their differences in the best interests of the club?

Hell yeah. But my gut says it’s well past that stage now. I may be wrong.

And what if they were unable to resolve it?

I would be disappointed. But would hope that somehow if it couldn’t get resolved to either party’s satisfaction, as good business people some suitable compromise reached.

And what if they weren’t able to reach a compromise?

I’d be absolutely gutted. But would hope that, in the best interests of the club and the fans, both parties would find a way to keep the show on the road .. while working out alternative possibilities. In business this sort of thing happens all the time.

Saying all of this, unfortunately any reasonable path to resolve this mess was scuppered when someone decided to leak the story to the press. What seems from the outside to be a fairly innocuous enquiry into a Spanish manager who may or may not be coming to Griffin Park next season (I say it’s likely he is not … he doesn’t even speak English .. not that that’s stopped coaches in the past), has been blown up beyond all belief – putting the club quiet firmly on the back-foot.

So who leaked the story to the press?

The Beesotted crew have sat around supping many a pint over the past few days mulling over exactly who could have leaked the story … and why?

We still aren’t sure.

There have been lots of unsubstantiated rumours but it’s unfair for anyone to make any assumptions until it has been proven beyond all doubt.

Regardless of who actually leaked the story, it is indisputable that giving this story to the press has caused the real damage. The headline “sacked” – which was apparently an addendum to the original article by a somewhat sensationalist sub-editor – created a veritable sh!t storm.

This whole affair could have been sorted below the radar but whoever decided to speak to the Times was being selfish. He or she did NOT have the best interests of Brentford Football Club or its fans at heart.

Bringing this story into the limelight resulted in folding the players .. the fans …and the rest of the world into the whole debate.

And was completely un-necessary.

So what exactly has giving this story to the press resolved?

Not a lot. But what it has done is highlighted the fact there are differences between an owner and a manager and the fact that the manager could potentially could be available at the end of the season. It also highlights the urgent need for the club to sort its media relations.

Tensions spilled over onto the terraces at the weekend with supporters fighting amongst themselves on the terraces of Charlton. Frustrated fans feeling that Brentford have already blown their season … and it’s not even the final whistle yet.

What a difference seven days makes eh?

Maybe it could have been handled better. I think all parties would agree with that. But the ultimate blame doesn’t like with Matthew Benham … or Mark Warburton for the mess we are in at the moment … both of whom have stuck to their principals of what they believe in.

The blame lies with the person who decided they would take this story to the public arena. I hope whoever you are, you are proud of yourself.

And as a result, you single-handedly (or maybe there are a few people of you) have succeeded in killing this wonderful season whilst dashing the dreams of thousands of Brentford fans who are just getting used to the idea of ‘little olde Brentford’ being not so ‘little olde Brentford’ any more.

Maybe being Brentford fans we were being far too idealistic …

And it maybe the saying is true ….. it is a lot harder for the Brentford leopard to change its spots than one thinks.


Billy ‘TheBee’ Grant

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