Regular Beesotted contributor, Jim Levack, contrasts the changing Championship fortunes of Brentford and Leeds United… as well the fortunes of the ‘grass is greener’ ex-Bees who must regret moving on to pastures new.
There’s something quite unique happening at Brentford at the moment. After all, a Championship club with genuine stability, a coach with a long term view and an sustainable well thought-out ethos is quite unusual in these days of instant gratification.
It was hard not to feel sorry for Leeds boss Thomas Christianssen during the post match press conference as the Yorkshire press, haunted by their side’s defeat at the hands of unfashionable Brentford, piled on the pressure.
His side had played well and with passion, but the questioning was all about whether he would still be in charge for the next game, whether he felt under the cosh and whether he felt he had the players to arrest the slump.
Contrast that with Dean Smith’s treatment at the start of the season by the west London media, all of whom appreciated that the performances were deserving of so much more… and adapted a far more moderate tone.
Apart from a fickle minority – the ones who always love to scapegoat individuals – the Griffin Park faithful were just as patient, aware that the results would follow.
So here’s my point. As a unit of players, fans, management and owners, “tinpot” Brentford are arguably the most unified club in the Championship, and that is priceless.
We’re still (just) operating under the radar of the so called experts and eliciting disbelieving tweets from fans of other clubs who variously complain “how are we losing to teams like Brentford?” as they lick their wounds.
But the fact is Brentford are currently arguably one of the best footballing sides in the division, playing with a freedom and joy that only comes with being a smaller club without the massive pressure that comes with the burden of expectation.
Ask Jota, apparently a loner on the Birmingham City training ground without his compadre Sergi, and Dean, now just another player among plenty of gnarled senior pros rather than the big dog, and you’ll see that the grass isn’t always greener.
Hogan, played criminally out of position and misused at Villa, is another whose career has been put on hold since leaving the Griffin Park bubble where expression and performance are regarded as being just as important as three points.
As luck failed to smile on the Bees at the start of the campaign, Dean Smith’s demeanour was almost always upbeat and although his mantra of “total belief in the players” might have worn thin with those who know little about the game, in Matthew Benham we have an owner prepared to look at the bigger picture.
That bigger picture includes the growing prominence of the B Team and the way the football they play – admittedly I’ve only watched YouTube exerpts – complements the ethos running through the club.
This week I saw Ryan Woods – a player who in my view could be irreplaceable (prove me wrong DoFs) – extolling the virtues of B Team players reaching the first team, and I smiled at the training ground ‘graduation board’ … small things that are massively important if we are to keep encouraging the best young players to come to TW8.
When Zain Westbrooke took to the field against Fulham I quietly questioned Dean Smith’s sanity, but he did a good solid job and sent a message to the rest of the B team. Chris Mepham’s no nonsense, mature and assured display against a tricky Leeds side further cemented that progression route.
The emergence of players like him will be pivotal in the future as clubs wait like vultures to take the likes of Woods off us in January.
The money is obviously a temptation, but it’s worth our current crop of players who are part of a much bigger and tight-knit Brentford team, giving some thought to the baggage that comes with a big salary at a club where fans will take no prisoners.
Just ask Harlee.
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