Results can be deceptive - Interview
Sunday, 26th Nov 2017 15:05 by Clive Whittingham
Brentford's middle of the road results so far this season hide a forward thinking team that's upwardly mobile, according to Billy Grant from the Beesotted blog and podcast.
Assess Brentford’s start to the season for us – good football, loads of shots but mixed results – why is that?
BG: We’ve had a funny start to the season. I think if we were playing bad football, fans would be panicking. But fair play to Brentford fans - overall they’ve been pretty patient.
First game of the season we went down 1-0 to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. We passed them off the park and played very well but they took their chance and won the match. After the game, the United fans commented on our podcast how good they though we were and if this was the standard of the Championship, they were going to be in for a rough ride.
Three months later, they’re sitting in second place. Who would have known that on the day? I had a wee peep on the S24SU forum a couple of days ago and United fans had a thread Who is the best team we’ve seen at The Lane this season? Three months on having played the likes of Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday, Hull, Leeds, Norwich, Cardiff and Middlesbrough a large proportion of Blades fans still cited Brentford as the best team they played - and they beat us too.
We do a post-match podcast at http://PrideOfWest.London after every single match. After 90% of our matches, the opposition fans have told us (unedited) how they felt that they robbed us of points and we were much the better side. Boro we pretty much played them off the park at their place and got a draw. Derby came to us and literally tried parking the bus. The ball didn’t leave their half for most of the second half of the match as Debby fans complained afterwards they should have bought binoculars as the ball was constantly at the other end of the pitch. I think we had 84% possession at one stage. We scraped a draw there in the end though.
Even at Cardiff last Saturday. Again their fans said we were by far the better team but two defensive mistakes, two clinical finishes from them and one terrible TERRIBLE miss from Neal Maupay (which would have bought the game level at that point) saw us go down once again.
It’s almost becoming like groundhog day. Yes we like the plaudits. But would rather have the points on the table.
Ironically, we picked up points recently when we haven’t been playing as well. Against Millwall we ground out a win. Up at Preston we were good in flashes but it was a bit of a ding dong game where we once again gifted them goals. The win at Birmingham was written in the stars after they poached three of our ‘stars’ from under our very noses on the last day of the transfer window - Jota, Dean and Colin. There was going to be one result that day.
But all in all, a combination of poor finishing and defensive errors has cost us this season. Some put it down to bad luck. We hit the post twice I think it was against Sheffield United. We let in a 97th minute equaliser against Bristol City after being all over then for the whole match. The real (but now discredited) Jota should have scored against Wolves from six yards but he was thinking of his Birmingham pay packet. We should have buried Villa and Boro at their place and Reading at ours but once again poor finishing let us down.
On the plus side, we’re playing good football and are creating chances. Apparently we’ve had the most shots and are creating the most chances in the division. That can only be a good thing. If we were creating no chances then I would be worried. Create chances and you always have a chance to put one in the back of the net.
BG: We chat about this a lot on our Pride Of West London podcast - of which Paul Finney from the QPR Podcast was interviewed on this week
The answer is yes and no. The imminent sale of the players was more of a factor than the actual sale. Jota had a great final four months of last season (as QPR fans will no doubt recall when he absolutely kippered Bidwell to score that wonder goal) but for the first month of the season - despite having a fair few assists - he was a shadow of his former self. But we had to play him. So at times it was playing with 10 1/2 players. Harlee Dean was another one. He made it clear he wanted to leave so at times, seemed to be going through the motions. One minute he was in. Then next minute he was out. Then he got the captain’s armband taken off him. In retrospect, we should have stuck with the players who wanted to stay with is. But I guess we had to play these players to put the in the shop window as they were not going to sign new contracts so we had to cash in.
Then on the final day of the window, up pops Harry Redknapp to offer Jota £40k a week. After rumours of him being sighted at the Fulham training ground, this was temporary relief for Bees fans. Until we realised we’d sold him to one of our old school 90s rivals and Brentford social media world went into meltdown.
The fact is - we actually played better once these players left. We were playing as a team. First match back after selling them, we played Villa off the park at their place (again their fans said so). Then we were unlucky to go down at Wednesday. And we should have wiped the floor with Reading. We finally won our first game at Bolton and it wasn’t for another three matches after that we got our first home win against Millwall. But you could see it was coming.
We have a young team. We have players who are still acclimatising to this league. Ollie Watkins is a great prospect. Young. Strong. Hungry. He was playing for Exeter last season. He’s doing well but is still learning and it may be next season when he will really steps up a couple of notches.
Same with Maupay. 21 years old. He was the next big thing in France. Played for every level for the French national team except for the senior team. Highly touted when he was at Nice. He’s a typical Brentford player. Not quite the finished product. But with our ‘statistical’ approach to identifying and analysing players, we see something raw in certain players that we feel we can develop. Maupay seems to create loads of chances to score. He works hard and he harries. But he doesn’t put away nearly as many chances as he should. The plus side is he’s getting the opportunities - a rare quality in forward players. The belief is that the finishing will come in time.
Brentford fans are confident that we will do OK this season. We’re only three or four wins away from being just outside the playoffs so you never know. And we have already signed another player who will join us on January 1 - Emiliano Marcondes. A Danish forward who has scored ten goals so far this season for the team who spent most of the first half of the season in top spot above FC Copenhagen, Bröndby and FC Midtjylland - Nordsjælland. A recent documentary on the battle between Brentford and Bröndy for his signature has really impressed Bees fans.
If we can keep ourselves within spitting distance of the Top 8 between now and Xmas and this kid comes in firing on all cylinders - like Jota did last January - then it could be an interesting final four months to the season.
BG: Dean Smith has come under a lot less pressure this season than he did when he started managing Brentford a few years ago. I think because the football we were playing was so good, the fans were more supportive. The season when we had that terrible terrible run and lost 3-0 to you guys at your place, we were playing some awful football and Smith came for a lot of stick around that time.
There was an article on Sky Sports recently which talked about how Brentford have - despite going through a sticky patch this season - stuck to their guns and continued to play the style of football that they believe is right. And the club has stuck behind Dean Smith whereas other so called bigger teams would have sacked him for having such a dodgy patch.
I think he’s actually done a brilliant job of keeping the whole thing together whilst at the same time getting us to play great football. We had lost a lot of very talented players since he has been here. James Tarkowski. Scott Hogan. Jota. Maxime Colin. But he has dealt with it and got on with his job. Yes he has made some mistakes - and he will be the first to admit it. But at the same time, he has to be given credit for when it goes right. And we have been playing some great football. I have said all season that very soon, someone is going to get a spanking. Will it be sooner than we think?
BG: Whether or not we’ll spend In January depending on our league position. We’re not a team that spends for spends sake. January is notoriously expensive with desperate teams buying players to either go for a promotion push or save themselves from relegation.
We’re lucky in the fact that we will have a boost with Marcondes coming into the side from Denmark. So that’s one new signing there already in the bag. He may take a few months to acclimatise. Who knows?
Alan Judge is also due back from a two-year injury some time in the New Year. You never know how that will go. But if he replicates what Scott Hogan did after two years out injured, then that will also be a welcome boost.
My reckoning (and this is finger in the air) is that we would need 13 to 15 points out of the next 21 - which will take us to the end of the year - to see Brentford spend any money in January (assuming no one leaves of course). That’s a tough task with the likes of you guys, Fulham, Villa, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday coming up but not impossible.
BG: The stadium is finally being build. And very bizarrely I’m even been emblazoned on the hoardings around the building site which my mates were very quick to point out.
There were a number of delays - mainly because the club needed to deal with issuing a CPO for one of the occupiers of the site. This took up a lot of time and cost a fair penny. Also the owner decided that he wanted to change the spec of the stadium as he believed the original spec to have been too ‘risky’ - racking up extra costs and potential delays in build due to cash flow issues and other things.
He also has decided to remove all the elements of the stadium deemed as ‘non football’ (like 7 day a week hospitality, hotel) and focussed the plans only on match-day activity. The capacity has also come down slightly from 20k to 17,250 (to do with the logistics of building the stadium apparently) - with the owner’s thoughts .. he would rather 15k hard core Brentford fans in the ground than a 25k or 30k stadium that the club is working overtime to try and fill and has potentially a terrible atmosphere (have you ever been to Birmingham recently). Oh and there are 3k ‘premium seats’ on the half way line too which has caused some eyebrow raising.
But we do have capacity for ‘safe standing’ and the club is now liaising with fans as to how they can make the stadium spot on for them - which is all good in the hood.
Yes there are people who are not happy about moving. Yes there are some people are not happy with the reduction in size. Yes there are some people are not happy that there is not a 7-day-a-week income from the ground. The club feel they have done their maths and - taking into consideration the risks involved in getting involved in areas they don’t don’t know - have made a decision to plough the money into the playing budget instead.
Personally, I am nervous that the new stadium will not have the atmosphere that the old stadium has. So for me, if had one wish for the new stadium would be to ensure that it was designed in a way that you still maintain a ‘terrace community’. With terraces, the way that you are able to enjoy matches is much more fluid than with seating and enables you to stand week in and week out with whoever you wish. In my experience, standing for whatever reason seems to generate a better atmosphere than seating (maybe this is because fans can spontaneously reorganize themselves to be clustered in singing groups – something much harder with seating).
The design and acoustics need to be spot on. Get yourself a rocking ground and the crowds will come … and stay.
BG: Everyone knows about the ginger Messi - Ryan Woods. When he’s on his game he’s fantastic. Dan Bentley is a great goalkeeper. And we have half of the Danish World Cup qualifying defence in Bjelland and Dalsgaard - although Dalsgaard has been injured the last few weeks. Watkins is strong and direct. Maupay is a pest. Sawyers has had a great season up to a few games ago where he seems to have dropped off a bit. Maybe he’ll come back against QPR.
As for weak links – giving away silly goals I think is a weaker link that our goalscoring. We are not bad at scoring goals - with our 26 goals being the 5th highest number of goals scored in The Championship this season. Cut out the silly mistakes and we’re laughing.
BG: These next few weeks are crucial. Get back on a run and we could go into Christmas with momentum before taking on Villa and Wednesday at our place. If we get decent results then January will be interesting - with Marcondes coming into the frame buzzing off the back of a good half season in Denmark - and we may decide to strengthen.
I can see us being top ten this season once again. But if we get a bit of luck and get a few runs on, we could surprise a few folk.
Links >>> Our reciprocal answers for Beesotted
The Twitter @BillyTheBee99, @loftforwords
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