It is not often that Brentford fans have one of those “Wow” moments of shock at some transfer news at the club.
But the announcement of Gary Alexander’s departure to Crawley Town yesterday was certainly one of those moments.
Top scorer and one of the first names on Uwe Rosler’s teamsheet, Alexander’s move came completely out of the blue and left fans bewildered and perplexed.
“Alexander has not scored in five games which may also have been something Rosler took into consideration when allowing the switch to go ahead.”
And judging by Rosler’s quotes on the Bees’ website, the deal also left the manager very frustrated and disappointed.
For the second time in his nine-month reign, Rosler has lost a player he wanted to keep.
Rosler experienced similar feelings when Charlie MacDonald, Alexander’s strike partner from last season, left to join MK Dons at the end of August in another shock move.
The deals have other similarities. Both Alexander and MacDonald were popular players with the fans and had good scoring record, neither player moved up a division, and in Alexander’s case he dropped down one – and they both left with no ready-made replacement.
MacDonald wanted to go because he was not in the starting line-up while Alexander rejected the first contract offer made to him of a one-year deal with a second to be triggered by a certain number of appearances next season – the same sort of package which was offered to Sam Saunders and which the winger also originally rejected.
While Saunders finally signed on the dotted line at the end of last month, Alexander did not and fans had started to expect his departure in the summer.
Then Crawley, having just lost their two main strikers and banked some money, offered the 32-year-old the security he wanted, and the move to Sussex was on.
So have Brentford done the right thing in letting him go?
In one respect the decision to let him leave makes no sense. The club still harbour hopes of taking the last play-off place so to allow a first-team regular, and leading scorer, to go when they are still in contention seems crazy.
He was part of the regular spine of the team along with Leon Legge and Jonathan Douglas – a player who was always in the starting line-up while others came in and out as part of the rotation policy.
On the other hand, Alexander clearly was not going to accept the offer on the table and once Crawley had shown their hand, Rosler seems to have felt that keeping an unhappy player would not have been good for team morale.
Alexander did a good job in his time at Griffin Park.
Fans will miss his workrate, unselfish play as a target man, his intimidation of opposition goalkeepers before free-kicks on the edge of the area, his penalties, his goals in general and singing his song from the terraces.
The run he had from December into January, culminating in his superb hat-trick against Wycombe, made him one of the top scorers in the division and was inevitably going to attract interest from elsewhere, especially as it was in the public domain that he had not signed his new deal.
However, since that treble, Alexander has not scored in five games which may also have been something Rosler took into consideration when allowing the switch to go ahead.
Alexander’s departure leaves just two recognised strikers at the club – on-loan West Brom player Saido Berahino and Clayton Donaldson, who was signed last summer on the back of 29 goals for Crewe last season but who has failed to notch a similar total this term.
Donaldson does contribute hugely in other ways when he plays – being involved in a lot of build-up play and creating several goals, but recently he has started on the bench including in Tuesday’s game against Exeter when Alexander led the line.
Myles Weston, who seems to have been frozen out of the first team picture recently, has played as a central striker before and maybe someone like Harry Forrester could be tried in the role.
The loan window is still open so there is still the chance that Rosler could bring in someone new, although with the number of loan players already at the club that would probably mean one of them leaving.
Either way, the Bees’ chances of reaching the play-offs are not ended by this news.
As I mentioned in my February column, although they have some tough games like tomorrow’s against Sheffield United coming up they also play some mid to lower table teams like Leyton Orient, Rochdale, Hartlepool and Chesterfield.
They also go into the final part of the season under no pressure, having hardly been in the top six.
If they sneak into the play-offs it will be seen as a bonus whereas if the likes of Sheffield Wednesday or Huddersfield end up there, for them it will be seen as not good enough.
Alexander has more than played his part over the past two seasons and will be remembered fondly at Griffin Park.
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