“Ho, ho! from all your furthest bounds, pour ye now in, ye bold billows of my whole foregone life, and top this one piled comber of my death! Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” – Captain Ahab
After another well earned win over a cynical/uncompromising Nottingham Forest side, Brentford fans can celebrate a hard fought three points. Significantly, the Bees have speared yet another one of the so called big clubs in the division, bolstering the growing reputation of an established championship side. All considered, there’s not much more satisfying than copping serious flack from away fans, only to score the winner in the face of absolute shithousery tactics. It’s quite the compliment that two-time European Champions (albeit nearly 40 years ago) have to employ said tactics against a team with the third lowest playing budget in the league.
In the past, fans of the old ‘historic’ clubs (Leeds, Forest, Villa, Derby etc), have reacted with outrage to such an embarrassing defeat at the hands of little old Brentford. Normally with fairly predictable condescension; Brentford are shit, lucky, bunch of cheats and completely undeserving of victory. The bitterness often includes a further assessment; Griffin Park is a small shed and Brentford is a tinpot pub team (often somewhat foolishly). We’ve heard it all and some might admit that we’ve actually grown to enjoy it. (For further reading search #teamslikebrentford on Twitter.)
Don’t get too comfortable however…
With Brentford fans seemingly content to lurk under the radar, the tide has begun to turn and those ‘giants’, like Forest, could finally beginning to show more respect for The Bees (their fans and some pundits at least).
Pre match discussions in the build up to Villa away were predominately focused on the Brentford threat. The odds have also shifted this season, with most bookies placing Brentford as 4th favourites for the title. Even the bog-eyed, West country bumpkin and ex-QPR gaffer, Ian Holloway, is tipping the Bees with promotion this year, according to his various media appearances.
With ex players, fans and managers expressing admiration for our little club’s philosophy, structure and pragmatism, will the big boys adopt some of the strategies as their own?
Assuming that there is willingness to change, it will be interesting to see whether those clubs with big traditional structures (and equally big expectations) can really pivot? Or have they grown too bloated and reliant on rich feeding grounds in Premiership, wealthy owners and the deep pockets of fans? Could the size of the club also turn out to also be biggest weakness?
Recent calls from fans Aston Villa, and ex-players, to replace Steve Bruce with Dean Smith, show a desire for change, but perhaps not the full understanding of the approach. As many Bees fans regularly, and expertly, explain to opposing fans on social platforms; DS is a head coach and not a manager, consequently, he influences less than traditional managers would. Furthermore, Brentford FC is organised more like a business than a football club, with a fairly flat structure, implying that no one person is irreplaceable, designed so that departures cause as little disruption as possible.
That’s no to take anything away from DS, a manager with a growing reputation, playing some brilliant football so far this season. But he’s not solely responsible for the style of play. Playing philosophy is determined at board level, defined by research and analysis of successful teams and tactics. The real advantage is clearly having data and evidence to define the strategy, with the execution of the plan second to that. This means for Brentford, if and when DS leaves, promoting someone internally, like Thomas Frank, or King Kev O’Connor, could be a logical step to maintain consistency.
The huge amounts of money in the Championship, and stringent FIFA Fair Play rules, have meant that clubs can’t necessarily try to spend their way out of the division – as Birmingham City, Sheffield Wednesday and others have come to realise. Inevitably, some will ‘go for bust’ and spend big for Premiership glory, but nothing is guaranteed, just ask Birmingham City under chief transfer trawler Harry Redknapp.
However, with the EFL not imposing proper penalties for falling foul of FFP, we can expect to see clubs gambling big in the next few years at least. It seems that as long as the penalty is financial, rather than points-based, many owners can still calculate a risk worth taking for the Premiership millions. For most, it’s still about hard cash, above critical thinking. Ex-Stoke manager, Paul Lambert, said they were “too big” a club to stay down, and they have spent big over the summer.
Sunderland perhaps serve as the biggest warning to others in recent years. They plummeted downwards, away from Premiership glory, washing up on the beach of L1, having squandered millions.
Similarly, with parachute payments drying up, QPR’s future looks increasingly bleak. Without the financial clout previously afforded by a wealthy owner, the Ra Ras are persisting with their tried and test model of signing ‘named’ players like Stoke loanee Cameron Jerome (33) and appointing a traditional 442 manager ‘Shteeve’ McLaren. Some might argue that the most important thing for Director of Football, Les Ferdinand, would be to devise a sustainable strategy for growth rather than bottom feeding for ex Premiership players, contributing to the hefty £30m p/y wage bill?
Conversely, Brentford find themselves in the enviable position of having a squad loaded with future prospects from more sustainable sources, predominantly Scandinavian countries. Ironically, Brentford’s survival could depends on selling those players to the big clubs in the future to cover a annual shortfall in revenue.
With only four teams in the Championship (including Brentford) not having previously played in the Premiership, it was never going to be a fair fight, but this time the little guy could just do it.
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