Brentford Need More Steel To Toughen Up Their Soft Underbelly

Brentford Need More Steel To Toughen Up Their Soft Underbelly
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Brentford contributor Jim Levack feels that – despite playing some great football in parts over this season – the Bees’ soft underbelly will be the one factor that will hold them back from achieving bigger and better things.

It’s quite rare that I feel much sympathy for football managers, but when my colleague Tom Moore pressed Dean Smith on his side’s inability to hold a lead I have to admit I winced a little.

Dean was clearly not happy with the questioning from the GetWestLondon man, who asked his views on the fact that Brentford had effectively gifted sides 16 points from winning positions as of post-Burton (18 points to date) already this campaign.


He sidestepped the line of questioning with the kind of decisiveness he showed as a player, but secretly – and especially after the QPR debacle – he must be questioning his side’s mental strength.

Let’s not beat around the Bush – yes I can still find room for some humour – the final two minutes of Tuesday night were an embarrassment. But let’s be realistic also… there had been a couple of warning signs earlier in the game, especially after the introduction of the big lump up front.

Back at the start off the season I predicted a second place finish for Brentford so do feel a degree of vindication that my forecast would be pretty much bang on but for the defensive frailty that seems to haunt us whenever the chips are down.
Whatever happens I think we’ve shown enough this season to indicate that we won’t be dragged into a dogfight near the foot of the division – in itself an incredible achievement given where we’ve come from – but being brittle at the back is a recurring worry.

It was ironic that prior to the Rangers game I’d been critical of Neil Warnock’s Cardiff on social media. They’re a side hewn in his own horrible image, time wasting from the 20th minute or the second they get their noses in front and able to make the nasty decision when and where it matters on the pitch.

I hate the way they play the game and sincerely hope they’re not challenging in May, but Im happy to contradict myself here and say I wish we had just a pinch of their cynicism. We’re a young side granted, but we do have two international centre backs who should know what to do at the death.

I can’t imagine a side with a genuine leader at the back gift wrapping two sloppy goals like we did to Rangers. Frankly the defending was amateurish and we got what we deserved.

The argument that it’s down to Dean Smith is nonsense too. He made the right changes, bringing on Sawyers for a blowing Canos and Maupay to hold the ball up, even if the latter went by the wayside as we failed to find the right ‘out’ ball. Bottom line is players have to take responsibility and some went missing or simply panicked when it mattered.

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m a massive fan of the way we play the game and am an ambassador for the now finely tuned system that supports it, but I’ve always had a sneaking feeling that there’s a bit of a blind spot when it comes to having someone ‘a bit naughty’ in the side – someone who plays with a snarl – to put the dark arts into practice when necessary.

I once said as much to Dean and he looked at me as if I’d just dropped in from Saturn. It’s clearly not a route the club wants to go down and that’s fine as long as we accept that there will be more draws and defeats from winning positions.

The argument that refereeing decisions cost us at Loftus Road is a bit of a red herring. Referees at this level are appalling, have clearly never played the game, don’t want help from their erroneously named assistants and are supremely arrogant – that is something we should now expect as par for the course and deal with it accordingly.

If the ball had been played up to Maupay who then took it to the corner – something else I’m not a huge fan of – we’d be celebrating another memorable derby win and a 10th place slot today.

As so often happens, the best bits of the football analysis come at the end, and former Brentford striker Tommy Smith summed it up perfectly when he said the Bees have a “soft underbelly”. At this level there’s no room for that. Lose concentration and you get punished.

Brentford’s players are, from what I’ve seen, by and large all good, decent human beings who will learn from the pain of Tuesday night, and that is to be applauded. But when it comes to getting into the top six, there needs to be more steel, whether that’s from the outside or the result of a steep learning curve.

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What better way to show how much we’ve learned in such a short space of time than with the visit of another old friend – Fulham – on Saturday.

A win then and the result from Monday, which left me with the same night horrors I suffered after that Doncaster game, will be seen as a point gained




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  1. Brighton Bee

    I couldn’t agree more with you Jim about a seasoned pro, well schooled in the dark arts. I have been saying all season that we need a grizzled, seasoned professional to cajole and inspire the younger players whilst at the same time knowing when to leave his foot in to protect them and stop the opposition from getting above themselves. To my mind, we have still to adequately replace Douglas and McCormack.

  2. David Carney

    I think you are off target for once. What is missing is leadership on the field from two or three players that have expressed aspirations for the captaincy and responsibility. That small group needs to stand up and lead the team both by example and instruction. There is no lack of ability in the Brentford playing group but from where I see it no one is standing up on the field of combat to lead the players.
    18 points is a lot to lose through lack of on field leadership. I have no doubt they have all been drilled by the coaches, all players obviously want to respond, but there must be leaders who will stand up and set the example.
    This one is down to the players and they need to collectively look in the mirror and overcome the problem.

  3. grevillewaterman

    There area lot of us who have been saying the same thing ever since we were promoted back in 2014. Nothing seems to change. I once wrote a blog contrasting the strength of our midfielders to Bradley Johnson and the comparison “Pitbulls and Chihuahuas” was not well received by the club!

    I think we can go on until we are blue in the face and that nothing much will really change. We have our style – memorably described as “The Brentford Way” on Monday by Mokotjo and that is how we are going to keep on playing come hell or high water.

    I am sure that Dean Smith talks to them all the time about game management and I doubt if we will see many more long corners when we are winning deep into injury time but the style is set. We play with a quick tempo, the goalkeeper distributes the ball as quickly a possible and we go relentlessly forward.

    The type of player we sign will also not change much – young, promising raw and wet behind the ears as that is what we can afford. We might sign the odd older player to help set an example as I doubt if either Bjelland or Vibe will remain after the end of this season (if not before). Maybe one of them might provide some leadership if the right player with the correct skill set can be identified at the right price (ideally a Bosman free),

    I believe we have made an error in putting so much trust in Egan as I do not see him as a long term solution unless he really kicks on and I am sure he tries to lead by example rather than by force of personality.

    WE have no idea what goes on ion the dressing room or at the training ground but there certainly does not seem to be an natural leader amongst the squad Perhaps Woods at a pinch – who knows – and we will just have to wait for one hopefully to emerge.

    So there we are, we will continue to both delight and frustrate and hopefully learn the odd lesson along the way but I do not see much really changing.

  4. Charlie the bee

    Spot on the loss of Alan McCormack and Johnathan Douglas in recent times has never been replaced with an up and at em player maybe it will come from the inner anger the players will feel after Monday come on you bees

  5. BORU

    Next match; Fulham, great result at The Blades. A draw, at least, maybe a win for Fulham.
    BFC; very inconsistent team, can’t trust them to get a result, from one game to the next, which is a shame, given the individual talents of some of the players.
    Smith, not tough enough to progress; blog silly to attack Cardiff and their management, for success. Just sour grapes.

  6. Adrian

    I hesitate to say this, but I believe much of our troubles (not really troubles, given where we are and the available budget) may be in the goal keeping area. We have conceded roughly half of the shots that have been on target in the championship this season. Given that quite a few of those will have been blocked and not saved, that means that our keeper is saving well under half of the on target shots. When you add to that the dropped crosses and seeming lack of confidence to come off his line and dominate the area, this is not a happy picture. There are many really good aspects of Daniel Bentley’s game, such as distribution and the occasional blinding performance, but overall, really since the latter part of last season, his errors have been frequent and quite costly.

    Daniel Bentley has huge potential, but at the moment is costing the Bees a lot of points. There are of course other issues in the defence, as highlighted in other comments and with which I agree, but with an error prone goal keeper, these issues are made even worse.


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