After the sucker blow of losing to Millwall and Cardiff in a week, Brentford face another tough, organised side in Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough this weekend. Billy Grant caught up with Rob from Fly Me To The Moon fanzine (FMTTM) to get the lowdown on what is going down in Boro land.
It’s been a bit of a topsy turvy season for Boro. Are you back on track now?
It certainly has when we kicked off away at Wolves in August we certainly didn’t expect such an up and down ride. We had a new manager, we spent big but on paper at any rate it seemed wisely. We were the pre season favourites to go up. With hindsight that 1-0 defeat at Molineux ought to have told us something about the way both Boro and Wolves would go this season.
It isn’t that we were arrogant about. It took us 7 years before we got promoted under Karanka but we thought we had prepared really well. But then we struggled to gel, with damaging defeats at home to Norwich and Derby (3-0) and you rocked us at the Riverside in a game we just about managed to get ouf of gaol to escape with a draw.
It was not what we might have expected when Garry Monk was unveiled last summer.
Garry Monk was manager when we played you on September. He lasted less than 6 months with the club. What went wrong?
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It is very sad really and very out of character at Boro to act so quickly and ruthlessly. Garry Monk looked a great signing as manager. Young, full of great ideas and with vision and drive to build something special.
We spent big but seemed to have bought well. Yet at no time in pre-season or early season did we really see the team fully click. We had some good little runs of results but it was never fully convincing and the worst thing about it was it was difficult to see a pattern of play or a real game plan.
You had to wonder whether that was the case for the players as well as the fans because there were just so many unforced errors. The Boro defence that had been rock solid under Karanka and even hard to break down in a Premier relegation year was leaking goals left, right and centre.
We so often gifted teams an early goal and were left to play catch up. In fact the only real pattern was those errors happening in the same areas of the park week in week out.
But it was so ironic and very, very sad for Monk that he was dismissed straight after a battling away win at Sheff Wed. We came back after once again conceding first. Also, that the game was just before Christmas.
Pulis had a rocky start but things are starting to gel for him. Are you happy with what you have seen him do to the squad?
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Definitely. We looked far more organised from the start. The defensive errors stopped but our lack of firepower made us very vulnerable. Initially Rudy Gestede stepped forward and made an impact before an unfortunate injury opened the door to Patrick Bamford leading the line.
He grasped that opportunity with both hands and both feet, he now cannot stop scoring, with eight in the last five games.
And then there is Adama Traore – always a player with incredible potential but it’s about realising that. He was the Championship player of the month for February and his speed off the mark is devastating for opponents.
I have never seen anything like that turn of pace since Juninho. But what Tony Pulis has done is work on that inner radar and decision-making and now Traore runs at and not across defences and delivers a final ball or shot that hits the mark time and time again.
Winning ugly is Pulis’ strength. Not always easy on the eye. Are you comfortable with Boro playing this style of football?
Maybe you haven’t seen Adama Traore yet. Under Tony Pulis we are seeing probably one the most exciting players to ever pull on a Boro shirt begin to flourish. We might pepper the box with long throws and go heavy with set-pieces but we like to play up through the midfield and down the flanks. You are never going to be all route one if you play to the strengths of the gifted Stewart Downing and skillful Patrick Bamford.
When we played you earlier this season, it was a pulsating 3-3 draw. Boro fans we spoke to on our post-match podcast and video said they felt we were unlucky not to have taken all three points. How did we look at day? How much have Boro adapted since then?
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Oh yes we were very lucky indeed. What I have seen of Brentford since in a live tv game and in highlights has really impressed me. The style of your play is very much to be admired. It is very easy on the eye and must be exciting to watch too.
Some highly skilled individuals fitting into a good team ethic. Earlier in the season at any rate you had a real ruthless cutting edge.
We have changed a lot since those days. In particular we are far more disciplined at the back. We are far stronger in midfield now and rarely surrender the centre of the park now as we did against you at the Riverside although there is still the odd blip.
In Traore we have a real weapon and in Bamford a striker on form. Britt Assombalonga was of course very much in form when we last met but is desperate now for a scoring break.
We’ll chat about this more when you come onto our Love Sport Radio Show on Thursday Night (9pm till 10pm) but Boro and Brentford are similar in the fact that we both seem to have struggled recently when it comes to playing the top sides. Is that where the similarity ends?
For our part we have a terrible return from teams above us. I think we have both got a couple of highly skilled young players in our ranks that could go places, hopefully with our clubs. As for other similarities all might become clearer on Saturday in the contest itself.
Our matches have always been quite tight – with Boro managing to hit us on the break nicking the points. How do you think this match will pan out?
I think it will be tight again. If we do get an early goal we will shut up shop. Sometimes we have been guilty of defending far too deep and building a red wall. The fans then must live on their nerves.
But I am looking forward to a real contest. We may sit back and look to break fast but there are some away games where we do come out and play.
Watch out for Traore!
2-1 to Boro – but this is with fingers firmly crossed. I am expecting a very close and really challenging encounter against a quality Brentford side.
Am desperate for a Boro win to keep ahead of the chasing pack and hold on to that 6th place going into the international break.
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