Welcome to my 2017 Christmas message.
The calendar year of 2017 has certainly had its ups and downs but when I sit back and reflect on the year as a whole it is one that has been both exciting and frustrating in almost equal measures.
We ended last season in a very creditable 10th place and this enabled us to record our 3rd consecutive top 10 finish in the Championship, having played only one season at this level in the previous 70 years. That is the context with which we need to consider our achievements of 2017 and beyond.
The second half of 2016/17 saw us win ten and lose eight of our 22 games with the highlights being our 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa on transfer deadline day and the extraordinary events of our first ever visit to Burton Albion- 3-1 down at half time and conceding two identical goals from set pieces, we came out and scored four great goals without reply to record our biggest away win of the season.
2017/18 has so far been a very odd season starting with no win in eight followed by no defeats in eight followed by one win in six before our win at Norwich last Friday night- an early Christmas present for our fans. And that after the best pre-season we have ever had! What I think we can all agree on is that we have drawn far too many games which in truth we should have won. A look at the table shows we are just seven points off a play-off position-we can all name at least four games this season we have drawn or lost and should have won – think of the chances we missed at Sheffield United, the 97th minute equaliser conceded at home to Bristol City and the very painful injury time at QPR! All of that points to just how fine the margins are in the Championship.
Our big challenge as we head in to Christmas and the start of 2018 is to turn those draws into wins, keep our home run going by building on our ten game unbeaten run, and win a few more away games.
We have seen other clubs of similar stature achieve success and I see no reason why we cannot emulate them. However, we all know just how unpredictable football is and we must take that into account when contemplating our expectations.
As I stood in the changing room at Norwich on Friday night before the game and wished the players and staff a very merry Christmas, Dean Smith’s words struck a chord- a win tonight and that’s just two defeats in 15 games and if we can replicate that form then we’ll be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. It continues to be an enthralling journey and we must continue to enjoy the ride! Even when we don’t perhaps win the games we think we should.
You, the fans, continue to play a vital role in our achievements - an average crowd of around 10,000 at Griffin Park and the huge number of supporters that follow the team to away matches is greatly appreciated by us all – we need to ensure that we continue to create the special atmosphere that a big Brentford home crowd gives – and use it to our advantage.
The year has seen us make excellent progress in moving forward with the plans for our new stadium. Various changes to the design were required with the dual aim of creating a more efficient design which would enhance deliverability and future proofing it by making changes now to account for the pace of anticipated technological change. In tandem with this updated design activity, substantial site enabling works have been implemented, including the demolition of various buildings on site, in preparation for the start of building of the stadium itself. I am especially delighted to confirm that on the 7th December, Hounslow Borough Council approved the modernised plans submitted enabling us to finally to move on with the construction of the new Stadium during 2018 subject to the completion of various other legal documents, including the Sec.106 Agreement with Hounslow, which we anticipate will be completed shortly.
In November, the BFC Community Sports Trust celebrated their 30th anniversary, and held a celebration dinner at Syon House attended by some 120 key supporters of the Trust. It was a great evening and one in which I felt justifiably proud of what Lee Doyle and everyone at the Trust has created – a community facility that delivers over £13m of benefit to our local communities each year.
So much of what we have achieved has been made possible by the vision and financial input provided by our owner, Matthew Benham without whom none of this could have been possible. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for everything that he has done and continues to do for this great club.
Finally, I would like to thank our fans for their continuing support, our players, and all of the people behind the scenes who work tirelessly to help drive us forward.
If I may add a special mention for Peter Gilham who, despite suffering poor health, has fought like a lion in the face of adversity and can look forward to a brighter future. The support he received from fans, players and staff was incredible and proves we have a club we can all be proud of.
I am extremely grateful to the Board and to the management team at Griffin Park, led by Mark Devlin for all their efforts and dedication to achieving our strategic objectives. Their support has once again been outstanding this year and I believe that together we can look forward to a very bright future for the club. We continually strive to improve what we do and how we do it and we will work tirelessly to make our dreams a reality.
May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy and healthy New Year.
Merry Christmas everyone and up the Bees!