The season is over. Brentford have shown they can more than hold their own in this division. Regular columnist Jim Levack, who to be fair has not been scared to criticise at times when he feels things aren’t going right, gives his personal view on how he feels The Bees have fared this season now that the dust has settled.
It’s been a funny kind of season for Brentford fans, a roller coaster of anguish, fear, elation and ultimately hope.
With so many new players, many of them foreign imports, it was always going to be a season of adjustment.
Unless I’m mistaken Billy Grant, who with the rest of the Beesotted crew have between themselves incredibly once again failed to miss a game all season, predicted we’d finish 10th (well spotted there Jim – Ed).
I said we’d be 12th but have to admit that my mood seemed to change on an almost weekly basis such is the fickle nature of being a Bees fan.
At one point I feared we’d go down and was assured by Mark Burridge there was “no chance” – not for the first time I was wrong and happily so.
Even the most optimistic among us would have struggled to envisage the season ending as it has, with players who struggled at stages suddenly coming good with a little confidence and the indisputable man management skills of Dean Smith.
So I thought I’d take a look at the squad and give my opinion – and it is only an opinion – of how they did.
Right up there in Player of the Season contention, he has been impressively consistent and continues to improve elements of his game.
Arguably the best ‘keeper in the Championship, he has few peers in terms of shot stopping while his distribution has proved the springboard for many early ball assists from the back this season.
Initially shaky and taken by surprise by the physicality of the second tier, Barbet has stepped up in the final quarter of the campaign to forge a nicely balanced partnership with Harlee Dean.
Cultured and comfortable on he ball, his long-range diagonal balls are exquisite and would have the older Griffin Park stalwarts making comparisons with Ron Greenwood.
Occasionally prone to lapses in concentration that have seen him forced into last ditch tackles, but as his reading of the game improves they will become fewer and fewer.
Inexplicably the target for a handful of idiots on social media, Dean has been the glue that’s kept the back four together this term.
Again, he too can be prone to slip-ups but it’s easy to forget that he’s only 24 and probably four or five years off his peak.
He’s a leader, a key part of the spine and despite a slight lack of pace, would be among the first on my team sheet.
I had my doubts that Jake would make the step up from League 1. He has proved how little I know about the game with an almost ever present string of consistent performances.
I feared he wouldn’t have the drive or zip off the mark to get forward to be the wing back he was a division down, but again he’s proved me wrong.
He’s one of those players who goes about his job, quietly and efficiently and while there were a few raised eyebrows when he was handed the armband, successive managers can’t be wrong.
A shame he doesn’t have a terrace song that reflects how highly regarded he is.
Cultured and classy, he looks like the forward he once was as he surged forward. The only surprise is that he’s still waiting for his debut goal.
I’m guessing the niggling injuries are part of the first season adjustment, but once he’s fully flying with a pre-season under his belt I can see the Frenchman becoming one to watch and a success story for statistical analysis.
What can you say that hasn’t been said before? He’s a Premier League player playing in the Championship.
The biggest tribute to him was probably that every Brentford fan was almost willing him to get an end of season move to the big time until his season was ended by a split second of thuggery.
His mastery of the ball, technique and goals took the club through a sticky patch and without him the season might have ended up being more of a struggle for survival.
His showings at right back, one or two aside, were largely unforgettable as he struggled – in my view – to retain 100% focus on his defensive duties.
But a switch into the busier heart of the midfield has been like a light bulb coming on for the former Arsenal trainee, who has been a key figure in the final games.
Like others he probably can’t wait for next season to start.
The Austrian was unfairly thrown in at the deep end early in his Bees career and looked out of his depth.
There were brief flashes of what he could achieve but his slight frame meant he was always knocked off the ball without a minder like Alan McCormack to guide him through.
One of the highlights of my season was seeing him send a Fulham player flying in front of the New Road with a meaty shoulder barge… and that through ball for the second goal.
Shrewd move to get him on a lengthy contract because if he continues to bulk up, he certainly has an eye for a pass and the engine to go with it.
Like Yennaris, I wondered why Brentford were keen on keeping him after a season on loan in League 2, but there’s no substitute for experience and his has guided us through the final third of the season.
Technically sound, his nous and – I hear – dressing room personality have been instrumental in keeping the club on an even keel.
Every club needs one or two ‘one club men’ to help the new blood realise the ethos and history of the set up.
Frustrating injury-haunted season for a player who is clearly technically sound and effective in and around the box.
Had he carried on and not been injured, his season might have taken off. But he always lacked a robust element to his game that Andre Gray and now Scott Hogan have provided.
There were occasions when I questioned his bravery in front of goal, but it’s his reluctance to run the channels with intent that could see his reign at Brentford end in disappointment.
At just 19 the Spaniard is a star in the making but whether it’s at Anfield or not remains to be seen given the Premier League’s desire for instant success.
I’m sure Dean Smith will be moving heaven and earth to try to secure him for another season which would, I’m sure, establish him as a bigger name in the Championship.
His next goal has to be to pin down a starting place every week, irrespective of whether that’s with Brentford.
He’s established a strong rapport with the Brentford fans with goals like that corker at Reading. But if Brentford fail to land him again he will need to be replaced.
A player that has divided the fans, but who I’d gladly see put pen to paper for an extended stay.
He has that ability to run at defences, weaving seemingly effortlessly in and out of challenges and can also pop up with the odd quality goal here and there, Bolton and Huddersfield away to name a couple.
Let’s be honest he’s a long way down the list of talent at Chelsea and at the age of 20 he needs to be making a dent on the game – what better place to do it than at Brentford.
Don’t forget he’s only 20 so we can excuse his indiscretion.
When he signed, anyone who saw him score a pearler against England under 21s would be forgiven for thinking we’d signed the next Muller.
He struggled with the intensity and physical demands of the Championship to start with, but has very gradually showed that he’s getting more used to using his physique to look after the ball.
He has good feet for a big bloke and is clearly a clever player. But whether he can make that next step to be a viable Plan B for Smith remains to be seen.
Decent and sturdy whenever called upon, he looked lively in a more advanced role against Fulham admittedly with the score at 3-0.
Next season will be a big one for him as he either presses for a first team slot or returns to be a very good player in League 1.
It’s difficult not to love Vibe’s attitude and approach to the game.
He’s a 100% player with a zest for the game, but equally importantly an intelligent sense of perspective on where his life fits within it.
He’s another who I was unsure about as an out and out striker. But again his goalscoring record once he acclimatised to the rigours of English football pretty much speaks for itself.
Quick, elusive and, I’d imagine, a headache to mark. He’s always going to weigh in with around a dozen or so goals each season.
Three touches into his debut at Elland Road, I had Woods down as my potential player of the season.
Calm on the ball, he knits play together tidily and efficiently and has an elusive turn of pace to get him out of any trouble.
His fourth touch at Leeds was when he was caught in possession and handed them a goal. But I’d seen enough to know he’d be a quality addition to the squad.
But for the performances of Judge and Button he’d be up there as one of the stand-out performers of the season.
Plagued by injury the former Chelsea starlet’s Brentford career has never really got going.
When he has appeared in the middle alongside Woods, I’ve felt he slows things down too much to suit the side’s quick pass and move style of football.
As with O’Connell 2016/17 will be a massive season for McEachran who will need to stay clear of injury and possibly adapt his style to make any kind of impact on a midfield which will almost certainly be strengthened further by then.
Brentford’s dodgy spell came when they lacked a leader, a no-nonsense nasty piece of work in the middle to see a young, inexperienced side through difficult patches.
No surprise to me then that McCormack’s return from injury coincided with the dramatic return to form of Dean Smith’s side.
Every decent side in the division has steel and someone who leads by example, gets in players’ faces and reminds referees that they have to be on their game.
McCormack did that job for Brentford and will have a role to play next season, but I’d like to see him pressed with some competition for the ‘hard man’ role.
A natural goalscorer with that wonderful instinct for playing the margins twinned with ice in his veins, if he steers clear of injury he will smash the 20-goal mark next season.
His end of season return and unerring ability to find space in the smallest of channels once again allowed Brentford to get in behind sides.
His interviews show what a level headed and bright lad he is. We just have to hope that Sean Dyche and Steve Bruce aren’t watching.