For Brentford fans, the season ended with the conspiracy theorists working overtime. On-loan Fulham player Marcello ‘Agent’ Trotta, not only missed a penalty that would have sent us up to the Championship, but at Wembley he also failed to mark his Fulham colleague Dan Burn, on loan at Yeovil, allowing him to score the winning goal.
With Fulham being many Brentford fans’ biggest rival, the conspiracy theorists will be wondering why Brentford don’t just avoid similar scenarios in the future by slapping a blanket ban on signing any Fulham (and QPR come to think of it) players on loan. You never know. Funnier things have happened.
To be frank, we needed this new term to commence to eradicate all those skeletons from our rather full-to-the-brim cupboard. And after a solid pre-season, the new campaign is now well and truly underway. Before putting pen to paper for an ‘early season preview’, I really wanted to see how the team performed in their first few competitive games. And to be fair, they’re showing the world that they’ve put their woes of last season right behind them.
Brentford’s pre-season started in Germany, drawing 1-1 against Third Division Rot-Weiß Erfurt. This was the seconnd year running that Uwe Rosler has taken his team to East Germany – this was Rosler’s manor. The week was more of a fitness, conditioning and team bonding exercise than anything else with the new signings getting a chance to really get to know their team-mates.
Back at home, a narrow 2-1 loss against Celtic, whose 6500 exuberant fans arrived from Glasgow at the crack of dawn to heartily celebrate playing the mighty Bees at Griffin Park…leaving well past midnight rather worse for the wear it has to be said; and solid victories against Millwall (3-0), Borehamwood (3-1) and Cardiff (3-2) got the fans’ pre-season hopes riding high.
We lost a couple of players and picked up a hatful. Losing Harry Forrester to the team who pipped us to the post on the last day of the season with that penalty miss, Doncaster, was a bit rubbish and was taken as a bit of a ‘whatever’ by the majority of the fans and management.
Harry was great for us up to the Chelsea cup game just after Christmas. But with his agent working overtime hyping him, constant injuries and a general feeling that his head was elsewhere during the run-in he became, to a certain extent, expendable.
The most disappointing thing about Harry, despite the management and fans backing him whole heartedly – particularly when he wasn’t on his game, was he didn’t pay the fans and management the respect they paid him. He pretty much walked out of the club after the play-off final when his contract expired and no one heard from him again. Cheers.
We also lost Simon Moore to Cardiff. As opposed to Forrester, the fans wished Moore all the luck as his departure was conducted with professionalism and decorum. Seeing that move coming, Brentford had a replacement keeper signed within 48 hours of Moore’s departure – David Button from Charlton the ex-Spurs keeper.
In addition, Rosler was taking no chances adding 20-goal striker Will Grigg from Walsall, tenacious George Saville on loan from Chelsea – who had a great game against Celtic, tricky Czech international winger Martin Fillo, Swindon captain midfielder Alan McCormack, Everton striker the lively Conor McAleney – who scored a brace against Cardiff, Villarreal full-back Javi Venta – who played Champions league football, Cardiff defender Ben Nugent and Watford goalkeeper Jack Bonham.
The quality of the signings has stunned the fans – feeling that this is a real sign of intent that we are not prepared to fall short once again this season. At the back end of the last campaign, suspensions and injuries cost us dear with cover for the missing players being good but not quite doing the job. This season, Rosler has three players lined up for each position on the pitch.
In the first game of the season at Port Vale, Brentford were dominant.
Shaleum Logan scored a scorcher from 25 yards right into the top corner but poor defending let Vale back into the game. In the second half, Brentford’s holding and passing game was tremendous and Vale were literally hanging on for dear life as the Bees squandered chance after chance to put them three or four goals up. The game ended 1-1.
Vale fans said it was unlikely that they would see a better team at Vale Park this season whereas for Brentford fans, it felt a little like a case of ‘same old same old’, just like last season, with Brentford dominating possession away from home but not having that killer edge to their attacking play.
The following Tuesday against Dagenham in the Capital One League Cup, Rosler quite literally did an Arsene Wenger and played a second string side changing 10 players from the team that drew to Port Vale. And we always came a cropper as Brentford bumbled their way through the first half, finding themselves one down to an own goal from the jittery debutant Nugent.
The second half saw the introduction of our fourth striker Farid El Alagui – his first home match since he went down injured 10 months ago. It was like signing a new player.
The ex-Falkirk striker was all over the park and turned the game around – his first contribution was by scoring the equalising goal. Fillo’s goal soon afterwards put the Bees into the lead before the inevitable equaliser from The Daggers. Then just as we were bracing ourselves for extra-time, up pops Farid to head the Bees into a seconnd-round clash with Derby in the second minute of injury time, sending the Bees fans into raptures. 3-2 to Brentford.
That set us up nicely for the visit of Sheffield United. Always a bit of a ding-dong of a rivalry, Brentford got the slight better of the Blades last season beating them at home and drawing away in a game which, in retrospect, probably cost us promotion as Clayton Donaldson, our leading goalscorer, was sent off for – we’re not sure what. The game ended with the Bees down to nine men, Bees missing a penalty and Donaldson missing the crucial game against already relegated Hartlepool.
United have just employed the forward-thinking Everton academy boss David Weir as manager. He signed a few players including El Alagui’s replacement at Falkirk – 29-goal Lyle Taylor. But news came in that 24 hrs prior to the match, big-spending Wolves had a offer accepted for key player McDonald and his name didn’t appear on the teamsheet much to Bees fans’ delight.
Sheffield never seemed to recover from this as from the off, they were on the backfoot reeling from an ever-lively Brentford team. An Adam Forshaw wonderstrike from 25 yards put the Bees ahead. Even an United equaliser did nothing to dampen the Bees’ spirits as they just turned it up a gear.
The midfield was rampant and their passing and possession game went up two notches as United had no reply. A brace from new boy Grigg put the Bees clear. He even had the comfort of missing a penalty as Bees ran out 3-1 winners.
So what does this all mean then?
We are only three games in and it’s easy to get carried away but many Brentford fans are already saying this is by far the best team – and without doubt the best squad – they have ever seen down at Griffin Park. And I would be so bold as to go with that.
Yes the team of the 80s with the midfield of Chris Kamara, Stan Bowles and Terry Hurlock was deadly. The ‘Old Division 2’ championship team with the strike duo of a Dean Holdsworth and Gary Blissett was formidable. Steve Coppell’s ‘close to championship promotion but no cigar’ team with Steve Sidwell, Lloyd Owusu, Ivar Ingimarsson and Stephen Hunt was exciting.
But this team is a different kettle of fish. The strength in depth is incredible. We had goalscoring issues last season with Donaldson (24 goals) being the main man, followed by Harry Forrester (11 goals) who struggled to even get in the side towards the back half of the season.
This year we have added a 20-goal striker (Grigg); we have another fit and deadly striker in the wings (El Alagui); at least three midfield goalscoring options in Forshaw, Saville and Fillo; a real midfield general in McCormack; plus attacking options down the flanks with full-back Logan and Jake Bidwell.
Really exciting times. Never mind the solid pairing of future captain Harlee Dean and Tony Craig in central defence.
Will we get out this division?
On paper of course we should. The bulk of this talented team have been playing together at least for one season now. But things never happen according to plan for Brentford. They always have a knack of making things difficult. Last season Uwe Rosler targeted the play-offs. They achieved this target plus more. This season, promotion is the aim.
But we know it’s going to be tough. Wolves are splashing the cash and have had a solid start. Peterborough always seem to score goals when they drop to our division. Orient are carrying on where they left off last season – on the money. Bradford got to Wembley in a ‘proper cup’ last season so should never be underestimated.
So whatever happens over the next nine months, it’s undoubtedly gonna be a grand prix roller-coaster ride for Brentford fans – we all know that. But for the first time in years, it really feels like we finally have the right formula 1 motor and more than enough fuel in the tank to see us compete in this race and get us comfortably over the finish line.
Billy the Bee writes for Beesotted fanzine. Check out www.beesotted.co.uk for more left-field news and views on Brentford FC.