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This time last year almost every football pundit and know-it-all armchair football bore was writing Brentford’s chances of Premier League survival off – ‘Second Season Syndrome’ we all know has been proven to be nonsense in any case – but these hacks tend to hunt in packs regardless of the facts.  After going the best part of six months unbeaten last campaign, the negative chatter from the usual suspects is quieter so far this time round, even with Ivan Toney missing from action for the first half of the season… so we asked Beesotted’s Lewis Holmes to weight up our chances in the season ahead.

When there’s no major tournament on, June and July are the doldrums – that area where the trade winds meet and cancel each other out. There’s been no proper gusts to keep the good ship football moving along for weeks now; everyone is just staring at the clouds and trying to make something exciting out of them, while that great footballing seagull Fabrizio Romano shits ‘exclusives’ all over my freshly scrubbed social media deck. Yes friends, I truly loathe June and July. Truth be told, the transfer window became a laboured cliché years ago, peaking with Alan Irwin getting his ears syringed with a purple dildo and spiralling into clicks and conjecture ever since.

Speaking of laboured cliches, in our smart little hearts we all knew that second season syndrome was a hot pile of donkey dung before a ball was even kicked, right? Hell yeah we did. But that didn’t stop legions of lazy fans and pundits from flinging it our way. Jamie Carragher, Richard Keys, and probably everyone in SW6 – hope you choked down your humble pie while staring dumbfounded at that top half finish.

However, time waits for no man, and there’s a new season about to smack us all in the mush a few weeks from now. Our third season mixing it with monied elites. Is third season syndrome a thing? No, of course it isn’t – if it was you would’ve heard Paul Merson, Clinton Morrison or either of the Redknapp boys braying it out on the regular already.

That difficult third album, however, is definitely a thing. Your neat little garage band has broken out with its debut, gone stratospheric with the follow up, and now you find yourself at a crossroads. You want to grow, you want to broaden your musical horizons, you want to show the world what a goddamn genuine talent you are. There are pitfalls sure, but navigate those carefully kid, and you’ll be a star!

Two of my favourite bands of all time, Faith No More and Soundgarden, smashed into the MTV mainstream with their soaring third album efforts: The Real Thing and Badmotorfinger respectively. (If you ever see me propping up the bar in The Globe, chances are you’ll see me in my Badmotorfinger t-shirt.) Blur grabbed the zeitgeist by the polo shirt when they released Parklife, and Radiohead went gloriously panoramic with OK Computer. Third albums are often the musical highpoint for an artist: Urban Hymns by The Verve, Screamadelica by Primal Scream, London Calling by The Clash, Parallel Lines by Blondie.

I told you to watch out for those pitfalls though. In the quest to go bigger and better, excess often consumes bands on their path to greatness. Guns n’ Roses third release was so bloated they had to put it out across two volumes, while Oasis hit us with the byword for cocaine-fuelled indulgence that was Be Here Now. Artists also must contend with composing to order or potential backlash to their new style; Waiting for the Sun by The Doors was derided for its blatant attempts at commercial appeal, while indie darlings Arctic Monkeys shed fans like a snake sheds its skin when they debuted a much changed new sound on Humbug. Sometimes it all just becomes too much at that point: pop behemoths The Bangles and The Spice Girls both called it quits soon after releasing their third albums.

Right now I can almost hear you going “Blimey what am I reading here, this guy’s audition to Q Magazine?” Still your noise, we’re getting there. Partly, I just had fun researching that bit, but really the point is because there are parallels between the difficult third album and the difficult third season. You know you’re good, you want to push yourself and build on those solid foundations. It could make you but it might just break you along the way.

After three years of that sweet Premier League lucre, the temptation to tinker around the edges and tweak the model must be huge. Maybe your style has been sussed out. Maybe your team is getting on and needs new blood. Maybe your talismanic striker rather foolishly got himself banned for half the season? There’s all sorts of reasons why you might mix it up.

For the band adding a horn section here and there, see the team signing a nifty unknown. It doesn’t always work; in 2013-14 Norwich signed the brass flourishes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and hoped he’d provide the goals to keep them up, ultimately all they got was a load of bum notes. Our friends at Elland Road went hard last season, bringing in Jesse Marsch’s backing singers from his last gig, a couple of virtuosos schooled in jazz while all around them played plodding indie rock, and a lad to stand at the back and give it more cowbell for some reason still unknown to this day. Big roll of the dice, but the resulting hot mess tanked. In 2012-13 Wolves dispensed with Mick McCarthy and gave the job to poor, tortured Terry Connor. That’s the equivalent of a band sacking an experienced producer and getting their roadie in to assemble the album instead. Thing is, the roadie is way more comfortable giving it one-two, one-two during soundchecks. Of course Wolves’ third opus died a death – he didn’t know what that guitar solo needed to make it soar, and he’s never mixed a middle eight in his life (I’m not digging out Terry Connor here, I still legit feel sorry for the guy even now).

Third album or third season, the point I’m making is it’s a transformative time. The budgets get a little bigger, the weight of expectation gets A LOT bigger, and the desire to change things up nags away at the back of the cerebral cortex. In the case of Thomas Frank and The Bees, he has no choice but to make some big changes. Our first choice back three are all in their thirties, so we’re going to see newbie Nathan Collins and hopefully a more robust Kris Ajer. More glaringly, I am of no doubt that we will never see David Raya in a Brentford shirt again – and I’m only about 70% we’ll see Ivan Toney again once his ban is up. Our drummer quit and our lead guitarist is in therapy! So yeah, the team that runs out against Spurs (just 32 days from when I’m writing this) could easily look and play very differently from the one that batted the mighty Man City aside in May.

Fans and music critics are very quick to judge a third album, especially one that deviates so much from what went before. It might turn out great over time, but that first reaction sticks. Football fans do not have that privilege – we’re queuing up outside Our Price on release day (yeah, you bet I know how much that reference dates me) and spinning that hot new slice for months, no matter how it might sound.

So, while excitement is growing for the upcoming season, I’m also slightly wary. Will we see bloated Oasis excess, or The Clash’s glorious reinvention? Obviously, I lean towards the latter – but I also think results may ultimately fall just short of last season, and therefore everyone’s high expectations. We all got a little giddy when European football looked possible, and I don’t think we’ll even get that little tease next season. Spurs, Chelsea and West Ham should all improve, and while Newcastle, Brighton and Villa have more to do with European duties, they’re not going to drop off. I think top half might still be possible but I’m not going to be disappointed with anything down to 12th or even 13th.

There’ll be some wailing and gnashing (there always is), but you won’t hear it coming from my little patch of the North Stand. Because I think Brentford are going to become a much bolder, more impressive proposition than they’ve been thus far, evolving and setting a new standard for themselves just like Metallica did with Master of Puppets. Up the f***ing Bees!

Lewis Holmes