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Fine margins keeping Bees from play-offs – Interview
Thursday, 19th Apr 2018 23:51 by Clive Whittingham

Despite not winning any of their first 11, Brentford remain in the hunt for a play-off spot with three games to go. Billy Grant from Beesotted says it could have been better still but for points lost from winning positions.

Optimism was high back in August, I think the Beesotted predicted table had you fourth, so why has it not turned out quite as well as hoped?

BG: We finished last season on a decent run with Jota - who had come back from loan from Spain in the January window - on fire (no doubt you remember the goal he scored against QPR). We won five, drew two and lost one match before the last game of the season against bottom placed Blackburn. We ended up losing that match which some conspiracy theorists said was done deliberately to ensure that Birmingham City (who we are not overly fond of) or Forest (who were managed by Mark Warburton) were relegated in Blackburn’s place. As it goes, both teams escaped relegation that day with a touch of the old Houdini despite Blackburn winning.

As for Brentford, our not-winning streak then continued deep into the start of this season with us not winning a match from our first eight league games. We finally secured a 3-0 win away against Bolton in late September for our first win of the season. Saying that, we were playing very good football - seeing plenty of the ball and loads of chances. Either unlucky, letting in silly goals or just not incisive enough.

We were also playing most of the first month with both Jota and Harlee Dean in the team. Both players had showed no intention of signing a new contract for the Bees and were looking to move to pastures new. You could see both players were not playing with their hearts in the game. At times we were playing in reality with ten or ten and a half players as opposed to 11.That didn’t help.

Saying that, with three games to go we’re still only four points off playoffs. If only two of those early draws (or the two goals you scored in injury time at Loftus Road even) were turned into a win, we would be in equal points with Boro in fifth place. To use a cliche …. fine margins.

Do you think you’ll make the play-offs or fall short?

BG: It’s out of our hands. The official statistical analysis folk believe we have a 9% chance of reaching the play offs at the moment. That’s pretty slim. To be honest, playoffs was always a pipe dream - even when we went on our great run - losing four matches in 21 games from September to January whilst winning the vast majority of them elevating us from just above the relegation zone to top ten. It’s highly unlikely we’ll make the play offs even if we win our final three matches. But saying that … funnier things have happened. Us making the playoffs. Fulham losing out on automatic. And Birmingham being relegated. Now there’s a thought.

Player of the season candidates?

BG: Attacking midfielder Ollie Watkins is up there. He’s stepped up well from Division 2 and is highly rated. Brentford believe that he - like Tarkowski before him - will play at the highest level. Midfielder Ryan Woods is also a tremendous player who is always on the radar of so called ‘bigger clubs’. Opposing fans always ask us in the pub after “Who is that ginger kid in the middle. He’s some player’. Attacking midfielder Romaine Sawyers and striker Neal Maupay have proved doubters wrong as the season has gone on. Academy graduate Central Defender Chris Mepham has had an unprecedented rise. From our well respected B-team only a few months ago (I saw him play against QPR U23s at Harlington on Valentine’s Day last year) to rooming with Gareth Bale whilst debuting for Wales in China a few weeks ago. He’s played less than 20 games so not really fair to give him a player of the season shout. But he’s very good.

Weak links in the team?

BG: Our weakest link was losing the lead from winning positions. This really hurt us. Pretty sure we failed to win more than 20 of our matches this season after taking the lead. Since Chris Mepham has come in and we have rotated him in the centre back role with Bjelland and Egan, we seem to have tightened up our defence somewhat.

Any rumoured summer comings and goings as yet?

BG: No-one rumoured but with Bjelland’s contract running down, we would obviously like to keep him in the summer. This is the first time Brentford can say they have one (or two including Dalsgaard) of their players playing in the World Cup. There are always rumours about Woods and Watkins being sniffed around. Plus we need to be on our guard with Eddie Howe at Bournemouth having a £8m bid for Chris Mepham turned down in January when he had barely played 20 games for us. Summer is always a nervy time for Bees fans when so called ‘bigger clubs’ try and hoover up the players that we discovered 12 months earlier.

New stadium update?

BG: We’re looking to move to Lionel Road - which is just by Kew Bridge Station - in December 2019. We had our ‘spade in the sand’ ceremony a few weeks ago with a load of the fan groups and dignitaries present for the occasion. If we don’t make that deadline, it will be August 2020.

Stadium is 17,250 fans. People laugh. But to be honest, I (personally) would rather have a lively stadium full playing in any division with 15k rabid Bees fans than have a scenario like Bolton or Wigan or Sunderland or even MK Dons where the fans are rattling around the place once they have a wee dip - desperately trying to fill the place and generate an atmosphere. If (and I say if) we were ever promoted to the Premier League, do we really want to let 8,000 Man United fans into the stadium and give out Fulham-style clappers to ensure we fill all the seats in a 35k seater ground?

The Twitter @BillyTheBee99, @Beesotted

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TacticalR added 23:43 - Apr 20
Thanks to Billy.

Interesting about Brentford not being able to hang on to a lead. I wonder if that is an indication of lack of experience in the team?

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