One perhaps expected more of Brentford Football Club this season. Clubs that finish comfortably in upper mid table in any given previous year can often be expected to be amid the following’s challengers, untarred as they by the close miss of a play-off disappointment or the departure of players who have caught the eye via multiple television appearances.
We profiled Bees boss Uwe Rösler shortly after an encouraging ninth place finish in May. True, the team had come up short against the better opposition League 1 had to offer but progress had been made. The experienced Jonathan Douglas had been a cornerstone of the midfield all year and marquee capture Clayton Donaldson had performed respectably if unspectacularly. With the roster for 2012-13 looking weaker in these straitened times, a settled squad might be expected to make more of an impact.
So far, fortunes have altered little. The club sit in eleventh and are still very much in contention; an unbeaten tour of the former East Germany in the Summer leading to generally good form on the resumption of hostilities – perhaps the highlight so far has been a 5-1 battering of newly promoted Crewe.
But silly dropped points have permeated the Bees’ record – an early defeat to Yeovil now looks anomalous and can perhaps be excused, but losing 1-0 to Leyton Orient while managing only draws against three of the division’s weakest, Hartlepool, Scunthorpe and Shrewsbury will not have satisfied the German.
I’ve always regarded Brentford as a physical team and their manager’s all action, exuberance as a player would appear to fit with the club’s image. Back in the 1970s, my Dad and I attended a previous home game against the Gresty Roaders after an FA Cup tie at Chelsea was called off and I remember how Andy McCulloch and Gordon Sweetzer revelled in the mud. Incidentally, the west Londoners won 5-1 that day too.
Forward through subsequent years and one recalls the Dean Holdsworth inspired third division Champions of 1991-2 and the muscular likes of Gary Blissett and Lloyd Owusu – the brand of football deployed at Griffin Park has never been for the feint hearted and there is an honesty that is missing from their more pretentious rivals Chelsea, QPR and Fulham.
And so it was on Saturday as the team attempted to put slightly icky form behind them with a visit to Boreham Wood – the peel of a certain yellow fruit mentioned not infrequently in the run up to the game. With the home club sitting comfortably in the Conference South play off zone, having entered into an intriguing youth team alliance with Reading and announcing ambitious plans for a new West stand, these opponents were decidedly upwardly mobile.
We reviewed Richard Lee’s book Graduation in these pages a few months back and Lee was in fine form as the Wood more than held their own in the first half – ex- Trabzonspor and Arsenal front man Ömer Riza causing many problems for a slightly lumbering Bees backline – stalwart Leon Legge and Tony Craig looking occasionally cumbersome against the non-league onslaught.
As the game wore on, however, the away side’s strength began to show and it was from the left side that attacks started to emanate. Jake Bidwell, on loan from Everton and identified as a major full back talent in that aforementioned TTU article looked very composed and linked well with his ex-Toffee team mate Adam Forshaw – the latter having converted a temporary move into a permanent one in the Summer.
In the centre of the park, Douglas, looking all the world like a seventies rocker and perhaps missing his occasionally similarly coiffeured former partner David Prutton nonetheless dovetailed nicely with another loan man, Norwich City’s Tom Adeyemi. Adeyemi, you’ll remember had been at the centre of an accusation of racism directed towards him by a Liverpool fan while playing for Oldham – a charge that was eventually dropped.
Presumably the greater fitness brought about by full time training allowed Brentford to achieve such a grip on the game and it’s always hard to assess a performance when the opposition could be construed as weak (I have already ended with egg on my face this season after eulogising Oxford United before seeing them outplayed by Exeter) but Brentford were starting to look the real deal. ‘Donaldinho’ in particular has begun 2012-13 well and already looks well on his way to improving on his goals tally. Here, he was a handful throughout, combining well with a former favourite player of ours, Paul Hayes.
Indeed, it was Donaldson who was to break the deadlock, cutting inside and netting with a beautifully placed drive. Not long after, Harry Forrester pounced to make capital of a Boreham Wood error and the Bees were sailing at the break.
Thereafter, the second period was something of a bombardment with Forshaw increasingly influential and James Russell saving the Hertfordshire club a heavier defeat. My fellow unfortunates and I left Meadow Park mightily impressed with Brentford and it will be interesting to see how the more direct brand of play they share with Preston North End will fare against the division’s more elegant sides, MK Dons and, surprisingly, Tranmere. A little consistency and they could be in the shake-up.