Book Review: Ahead of the Game
Ahead of the Game by Greville Waterman
Published by Bennion Kearny
This is a remarkable book from Greville Waterman. Weighing in at a colossal 400 pages, it’s a sumptuous chronicle of one of the best seasons in the history of Brentford Football Club, a warts and all expose of club’s march to the Championship play-offs which, although predicted (kind of) in these quarters, obviously came as a surprise to the nation’s press and the bulk of their opponents, such was the inability to cope with the Bees’ fluid passing style and shrewd tactics in 2014-5.
So how did Greville Waterman, an autogenic therapist, find the time to compile such a tome? The answer is incrementally. By piecing together contributions to his excellent blog, BFCTalk, Waterman has opted to republish the whole set of exhaustive posts within the covers of a print edition, supplemented by the odd new entry.
It’s a format which various blogs have followed before, most notably the pioneering sites Pitch Invasion and In Bed With Maradona and serves a useful purpose. Few of us read every word a website produces so to have them gathered under one roof is a logical summarising statement. IPads notwithstanding, there is also the ease of digestion that a hard copy brings.
Of course there are disadvantages — the immediacy of online commentary as a medium is hard to beat and one becomes used to immediate feedback on one’s work via twitter, comments sections and other social media. That’s less the case with a book where the pedestrian process of printing and distribution and the difficulty punters have in immediately responding can leave one wondering what people think of your writing. Hence, a club based project for the specialist reader will rely on distribution through channels such as the club shop and the community of fans — Brentford are one of the best represented among football league clubs in this respect, the excellent Beesotted sitting alongside Waterman’s blog as a home for considered, thoughtful opinion.
Of course no discussion of Brentford in 2014-5 can avoid the unceremonious parting of the ways with manager Mark Warburton in the season’s run in. Avoiding the inclination to side with club policy, Stalinist style, Waterman takes care to provide opposing points of view and this is the correct decision given that none of us know the real story behind the ex-city trader’s departure and the unusual way in which it was handled.
On the face of it, Warburton, now shooting turkeys in charge of Glasgow Rangers, seemed the perfect fit for Matthew Benham’s stat attack. With a background forged among metrics and variables, the fit was obviously a good one and it seems that less than 100% control over recruitment was the sticking point. Waterman correctly predicts the emergence this season of an ‘I told you so bandwagon’ and no sooner was 2015-6 underway than that particular vehicle could be seen riding into town. But Brentford have stabilised quite well under Lee Carsley and have now managed to tempt Dean Smith away from Walsall. Only a fool would write them off just yet.
Meanwhile, Waterman continues to type away and his musings provide much of interest, not just to Brentford fans, but to supporters of all clubs in the division, not to mention football as a whole. That comes on the back of 50 years supporting the club through thick and, let’s face it, mainly thin. So, the enthusiasm that pours from the page at such a stunningly successful season for the Bees is unsurprising; leaving anyone with an ounce of emotion warm inside.