Manager’s position looks untenable despite best success
14 February ~ After last weekend, Brentford supporters were basking in a warm glow of satisfaction having just beaten Leeds at Elland Road to go fourth in the Championship. With an owner, Matthew Benham, who is a club supporter and has invested £90 million into the club and a manager, Mark Warburton, who has transformed the playing style with the most talented group of players ever seen at Griffin Park, the club looked on course for a play-off place and we were even contemplating the unlikely possibility of Premier League football.
Then on Tuesday morning, an article in the Times blew everything apart. A few weeks ago a story in the Spanish press had reported that Brentford had held talks with Paco Jémez, the highly rated manager of Rayo Vallecano. At the time we wrote this off as merely sensible succession-planning in the event of Warburton being poached by a Premier League club.
We had thought that Benham and Warburton had a close and solid relationship. However, the story that was leaked from within the club to the Times revealed serious divisions between them. It seems that Benham wished to strengthen the squad during the transfer window to push for an automatic promotion place while Warburton objected to players being brought in over his head. There was even a disagreement about Benham’s desire to recruit a set-piece coach and, believe it or not, a "sleep guru". It appears that they could not resolve their differences and agreed to part ways at the end of the season.
An amateurish club statement, very reminiscent of "old Brentford", only fanned the flames and Warburton was soon being linked with jobs at Newcastle, Leicester, Aston Villa and, god forbid, QPR. The football world wondered how Brentford could even contemplate getting rid of their most popular and successful manager in 80 years. As it stands, while supporters will be hoping that Benham and Warburton can continue working together, the position of Warburton and assistant coach David Weir now looks untenable.
It is possible that very few people have grasped the extent of Benham’s ambition for the club. He has put in place a Premier League academy and coaching infrastructure and the new stadium arrives in 2017. With this ambition, though, comes a ruthlessness that discomforts many of us used to meandering around in the lower reaches of the Football League. Maybe this is what we’ll have to get used to if we want more of the exhilaration and superb football we have experienced these last two seasons. Chris Dean