All too often in football, clubs achieve success from the unstable financial backing of foreign tycoons.
Fans actively encourage investment – and why wouldn’t you, if it leads to success? – but remain extremely naïve in welcoming a ‘sugar daddy’ with open arms. From Vincent Tan’s narrow-minded disregard of Cardiff’s history to Venky’s shambolic reign at Blackburn Rovers, there are much fewer success stories than disastrous ones.
The ultimate example remains the sorry demise of Portsmouth FC, suffering three relegations in four seasons amid financial uncertainty under a number of owners.
It is much like building a house upon sand; things will remain standing for a period of time, but ultimately disaster lurks around the corner as that house crumbles down.
Brentford’s resurgence under businessman and fan Matthew Benham is an example of how to lead the way. Not every club will have a multi-millionaire fan positioned in the stands every Saturday afternoon, but his transformation of the West London club should set the blueprint for other owners to follow.
The Bees’ house is built firmly on sturdy foundations.
In modern day football, investment is almost essential to improve. I would be lying if I said the club was completely self-sufficient; there is no hiding the fact Benham has generously invested both time and money into the football club. The focuses of his investment are the impressive aspect of his reign.
With a new 20,000-seater stadium approved, promotion was imperative. Though the Bees were desperately unlucky last time around (haven’t we all heard enough about that penalty?), no unnecessary knee-jerk reactions took place.
Even during an unsteady start to their 2013/14 campaign, Benham backed his belief in Uwe Rosler and ended up handsomely rewarded.
Rosler set the wheels in motion and new gaffer Mark Warburton continued the momentum over the line, resulting in a first visit to the Championship since they last departed in 1993.
Since the German’s appointment back in 2011, an on field upheaval didn’t come instantly but through shrewd transfer dealings and an impressive, eloquent style of football.
In came a glut of talented youngsters, mostly on loan though some penned permanent deals. Rosler soon implemented a continental style based on quick transitions between attack and defence, working tirelessly to regain possession and clear emphasis on technical attributes. Within two years, Brentford played football even some Premier League teams would be envious of.
The lynchpin is Adam Forshaw, a gifted central midfielder signed from Everton after a brief loan spell. Credit goes to Forshaw, who turned down a contract with the Premier League club in favour of regular Football League action and will eventually reap the rewards of that decision. The 22-year-old has everything required in a midfielder to go to the very top: balance; vision; poise; awareness; a range of passing ability and such a magnificent first touch, a top poet would struggle to describe its beauty.
Other young, relatively experienced players have also proven big hits during their short time at Griffin Park. Harlee Dean, James Tarkowski, Jake Bidwell, Stuart Dallas, Marcello Trotta and George Saville and have all excelled either on loan or permanently.
The biggest compliment of Benham’s regime comes by looking at the terraces, where crowds have responded. As the standard on the pitch continues to improve, crowds are steadily increasing and supporters embracing the new era with a renewed sense of optimism.
New gaffer Warburton seamlessly took over the reins and leads his troops from the front. The ‘Breadman’ as he is affectionately known by some quarters in the stands, his meticulous management positively impacts his side. ‘Warbs’ deflects positive attention back onto his players and often speaks of consistency, application and togetherness, values that can take a football team a long way.
After two decades in the wilderness, Brentford are just one step away from the big time. But perhaps most importantly, the fans know their club is in the hands of a passionate chairman, confident manager and a squad of talented footballers.
Future football investors could certainly take a leaf from Benham’s book. A keen business acumen, clear plan for the future and patience/belief in your managers can take you a very long way.
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